Southall Studios was founded in a converted airplane hangar in 1924 by film pioneer G.B. Samuelson. It seems to have been little used until 1928 when “Two Little Drummer Boys”, a silent movie starring Alma Taylor, was made.
FILM PRODUCTIONS IN THE 1930’s
In the early thirties, the studios had several name changes. In 1931, it was renamed Kingsway General Films Ltd. In 1933, the name changed again, this time to Britone Sound Studios.
From the mid-1930s it was once again producing feature films.
In 1935 “Children of the Fog” was made starring Linden Travers, a popular actress of the 30s and 40s.
1936 was an eventful year, “Dodging the Dole” was produced and directed by John E. Blakeley, founder of the Mancunian Film Corporation and the name was changed again to Metropolitan Film Studios.
The studios were totally burned to the ground on the 29th October 1936 and were later rebuilt with three stages. The dimensions of the three film stages were 50×75, 50×50 and 50×25.
I have been unable to confirm if the studios were closed during 1939 -1945. There is a reference to them being used as the Lucarno Ballroom and then as a roller skating rink in 1940.
We have anecdotal evidence that the studios were used for the war effort like so many other enterprises. Occasionally stray planes from the Luftwaffe would fire randomly on their way back from London: It is likely that Gladstone Road was a target because of the nearby gasometer, engineering works and railway.
POST WAR PERIOD
1946 : Alliance Film Studios under the producer, Sydney Box, acquires Southall Studios. He also owned Riverside and Twickenham Studios.
In 1949 Southall Studios were owned by the Shipman King Group headed by Alfred Shipman. This group also owned Twickenham Film Studios and Riverside Studios.
1950 : Group 3 Film Productions started at Southall with John Grierson as Executive Producer until 1954.
Southall experimented with a speedy film developing process called Ferraniacolor. Ferraniacolor is used for stills these days but back in 1952, respected director Cyril Frankel directed The Nutcracker, a short with ballet stars Belinda Wright & John Gilpin. Frankel followed with the documentary Man of Africa.
TV comes to Southall in 1952 with the first three pilot episodes of “Colonel March of the Yard” starring Boris Karloff were produced. At this time, the studio employed over 96 permanent staff. These three episodes were featured in the 1953 compilation film Colonel March Investigates. Some famous faces appeared in this including:
- Joan Sims
- Patricia Owens
- Dana Wynter and
- John Hewer (“Captain Birdseye”).
A further 23 episodes of Colonel March of Scotland Yard were shot in 1954. These also had their fair share of famous names, past and present, including:
- Christopher Lee
- Sandra Dorne
- Anthony Newley
- John Schlesinger
- Alfred Burke
- Adrienne Corri and
- Richard O’Sullivan.
Robert S Baker and Monty Berman and their Tempean Films were prolific producers of B films at Southall between 1950 and 1958. They often obtained the services of American actors like Virginia Bruce, Scott Brady, Forrest Tucker, and Tom Conway with a view to the US market.
They had a few regular actors who appeared in most of their films, like Dora Bryan, John Horsley, Michael Balfour, Thora Hird and Michael Ward.
By 1956, the studios only employed 47 staff. Pearl & Dean adverts were made here with voice-overs by Arthur Lowe. The photographic work for Boots The Chemist was also carried out here along with the Colgate-Palmolive toothpaste ads.
The final project completed by Southall Studios was a sci-fi horror movie “The Trollenberg Terror”.
This was first produced as a TV series. In 1958 it was remade into a full-length feature film, also entitled “The Trollenberg Terror”, starring Forrest Tucker and Janet Munro.
This film was fairly popular for its time as the public taste for the “B” movie genre was then at its height, particularly among dating teenagers.
From that time forward it has come to achieve a cult status among sci-fi horror fans spanning several generations and is probably the one movie produced by Southall Studios that most people have seen.