Lights, Chutzpah, Action!

1885-06-12 00:00:00

Morris Angel (1823-1885)

Born into tailoring, in 1840 Morris started out by selling second hand clothing at affordable prices in London’s Covent Garden. It became a favourite of actors whose requests to rent rather than buy led to the hiring business that remains the model used by the company to this day. In 1913 they provided costumes for their first film Maids of the Mountains and have since grown the business to become the longest established costume supplier in the world, providing costumes for hundreds of films and winning thirty-six ‘Best Costume’ Oscars. Now based in Hendon, Angels continue to be the lead supplier of costumes to the film, theatre and television industries.

1896-03-06 11:51:58

The Empire Leicester Square

The Empire Leicester Square originally opened in 1884 as a Music Hall, but by 1896 it was already screening films. A film by the famous Lumiere Brothers was the first to be screened at the cinema. In the 1920s the cinema was taken over Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer who demolished most of the theatre in 1927. It re-opened in 1928 with the silent film Trelawny of the Wells based on a play by Pinero; under the new ownership the cinema’s capacity was increased to 3,300. In 1959, The Empire installed a new screen in front of the proscenium to show Ben-Hur, which ran for 76 weeks. In 1961 there was extensive internal reconstruction and the cinema reopened in 1962 with Dumbo. Today the Empire Leicester Square is one of the flagships of Empire cinemas; it has nine screens and has the largest IMAX in the UK by seating capacity.

1908-06-12 09:39:56

Solomon Sheckman [1893-1963]

Founder of the Essoldo chain who bought his first cinema at the age 15, he became of the most influential men in British cinema industry; at its height there were 196 Essoldo cinemas around the country.

1909-11-03 21:59:11

The Invaders

A film about a group of invaders dressed as Jewish tailors who are intent on taking over Britain. Typical of the early depictions of Jews in British cinema, which were often overtly antisemitic, positioning Jews as threating outsiders.

1910-03-19 11:51:58

The Pavilion Theatre

The Pavilion Theatre, on the Whitechapel Road, was originally opened as an opera house in 1828, later becoming a theatre with a focus on a Yiddish repertoire as the community started to change. The theatre was equipped to screen films in 1910 and showed many Yiddish films during this period, reflecting the large Jewish community in the East End of London, until it closed in 1934.

1913-02-06 01:15:49

The Rex Cinema

The Rex Cinema was open in 1913 by George Smart and was originally called The Smart Picture house. Smart created a cinema which could hold up 865 people. George Cole did a makeover of the cinema in Art Deco style and it was reopened in 1938 and still known as The Rex. In 1948 it became part of the Essoldo chain and later in 1954 it became a bingo hall. The building is currently owned by Frankle Trimmings.

1923-01-01 21:59:11

The Wandering Jew

A British silent fantasy film, which follows the story of a Jewish man, condemned to wander aimlessly through the ages. One of the first sympathetic representations of Jews in British cinema.

1925-06-11 18:29:27

Sidney Bernstein [1899-1993]

Born in England, he was one of of the leading cinema impresarios of British film and a key figure in the pioneering organisation called ‘The Film Society’. He went onto establish one of the leading cinema chains in Britain in 1930: the Granada chain of cinemas and theatre. He later expanded into television and established the pioneering Granada Television, which later became ITV.

1930-06-12 02:43:29

Oscar Deutsch [1893-1941]

A legendary cinema owner, who founded the Odeon chain. His first Odeon was opened in 1930 in his hometown of Birmingham; by the end of his life in 1941 there were 258 Odeon’s around the country. The signature art deco of the cinemas’ architecture transported audiences to a world of luxury and glamour.

1933-05-04 07:23:55

The Troxy Cinema

The Troxy Cinema opened in 1933 in Stepney Green, East London and at its height it was one of the largest and most opulent cinemas in the UK, with a capacity of 3,325. The entrepreneur Phil Hyams founded and funded the cinema and wanted to transport East London cinemagoers into a land of Hollywood glamour where “East is Best”. George Coles, the premier cinema designer of the time, designed the cinema, which was at the centre of the Jewish East End. The Jewish Chronicle ran a story about how fascist Blackshirts picketed the cinema a week before the battle of Cable Street in 1936. The cinema was later taken over by Gaumont and closed in 1960. From 1964-77 it became a rehearsal space for the Royal Opera House then until 2006 a Mecca Bingo Hall. After being renovated it became a live venue for a range of events.

1933-06-02 04:56:50

Alexander Korda [1893-1956]

One of the founding fathers of British Cinema, he was born in Hungary in 1893. In 1932 he founded London Films. He tended to downplay his Jewishness and set out to make films, which were thoroughly British, believing that to be really international a film must first of all be “truly and intensely national.” This was exemplified in his lavish international hit, The Private Life of Henry Vlll (1933)

1933-06-06 17:47:02

The Troxy Cinema

The Troxy Cinema opened in 1933 in Stepney Green, East London and at its height it was one of the largest and most opulent cinemas in the UK, with a capacity of 3,325. The entrepreneur Phil Hyams founded and funded the cinema and wanted to transport East London cinemagoers into a land of Hollywood glamour where “East is Best”. George Coles, the premier cinema designer of the time, designed the cinema, which was at the centre of the Jewish East End. The Jewish Chronicle ran a story about how fascist Blackshirts picketed the cinema a week before the battle of Cable Street in 1936. The cinema was later taken over by Gaumont and closed in 1960. From 1964-77 it became a rehearsal space for the Royal Opera House then until 2006 a Mecca Bingo Hall. After being renovated it became a live venue for a range of events.

1933-07-14 21:59:11

Loyalties

A ground breaking film, which tells the story of a Jewish entrepreneur who breaks ranks with the British upper classes, and reveals the deep-laid prejudice that existed at the time towards the Jewish community.

1934-07-12 20:16:09

Jew Suss

A historical film focusing on the life of an 18th century courtier who is persecuted for being Jewish. Produced by Michael Balcon as an attack on antisemitism that was developing in Germany, it was later produced by the Nazis in 1940 as antisemitic piece of propaganda.

1936-03-12 11:51:58

The Mayfair cinema

The Mayfair cinema was located in Brick Lane in the East End of London. It was built as an independent cinema in 1936 for D.J.James. It seated 1,500 people and the Mayor of Stepney Green attended the opening. There are many stories of how local kids bunked into the cinema via a side door causing mayhem when discovered by attendants. D.J.James was taken over by Eastern Cinemas in 1937 and they merged with Oscar Deutsch’s Odeon Theatres in 1943. The Mayfair was renamed Odeon in 1950. It was closed by the Rank organisation in July 1967 and was sold to an independent operator who reopened it as the Naz Cinema, screening Bollywood films. The Naz was subsequently closed and became used as a shop and an indoor car park until the 1990’s when it was demolished and a block of flats known as Odeon Court was built on the site of the auditorium and a restaurant, Café Naz was built on the site of the original foyer area. The original Mayfair name has been revealed again after being concealed for several decades.

1937-07-08 08:32:27

Gaumont State Cinema

Gaumont State Cinema, also known by its nickname the Kilburn State Cinema, was opened in 1937. Designed with a magnificent interior by George Cole the centrepiece was an iconic art deco tower, with “STATE” embossed across the face of it in bright neon lights. Alongside its use as a cinema, the venue has also hosted live events with some of the leading lights in the entertainment industry from Louis Armstrong, The Beatles and David Bowie. By the 1980s the venue had become a Mecca Bingo hall, but in 2007 Mecca sold up. After a local campaign against property developers, the venue has not been sold for commercial redevelopment and at the time of publishing is being used as a church.

1937-07-16 20:16:09

Yiddle with His Fiddle (Yidl Mtn Fidl)

This classic of the Yiddish film canon follows the fortunes of a father and daughter who are musicians or klezmorim. Impoverished and evicted from their home, they embark on a career of a travelling band, but fears for the safety of his daughter on the dangerous roads convinces the father that his daughter would be safer if she dressed as a man. Produced in Poland - there was no home-grown Yiddish film industry in the UK.

1939-06-01 22:18:59

Gaumont State Cinema

Gaumont State Cinema, also known by its nickname the Kilburn State Cinema, was opened in 1937. Designed with a magnificent interior by George Cole the centrepiece was an iconic art deco tower, with “STATE” embossed across the face of it in bright neon lights. Alongside its use as a cinema, the venue has also hosted live events with some of the leading lights in the entertainment industry from Louis Armstrong, The Beatles and David Bowie. By the 1980s the venue had become a Mecca Bingo hall, but in 2007 Mecca sold up. After a local campaign against property developers, the venue has not been sold for commercial redevelopment and at the time of publishing is being used as a church.

1939-06-08 04:56:50

Leslie Howard [1893-1943]

The suave and dapper actor was born in London in 1893. Best known for his role in Gone with the Wind (1939) as the honourable and refined Ashley Wilkes. He was known as playing the archetypal British Gentleman, in many films produced by Alexander Korda.

1946-06-14 22:23:58

Emeric Pressburger [1902-1988

Born in Hungary, Pressburger would go to form one of the most pioneering and dynamic partnerships in British Film with the director Michael Powell. Under the title of the Archers (their symbol – an archery target filled with arrows) they produced some of the most innovative films of the first part of the 20th century such as A Matter of Life and Death (1946).

1947-06-05 04:56:50

Michael Balcon [1896-1977]

A seminal film producer first with Gainsborough Studios and Gaumont-British, where he gave Alfred Hitchcock his first directing opportunity and gained a reputation for producing high quality films. In 1934 he produced Jew Suss a portrayal of Jewish persecution in Nazi Germany, which he hoped would draw attention to the Nazi atrocities. In 1938 he moved to Ealing Studios, where he oversaw the release of the much-loved Ealing Comedies. In 1947 he produced It Always Rains on Sunday a gritty portrayal of Bethnal Green in the East End of London that was suffering the effects of bombing and post-war deprivation.

1947-06-05 12:35:16

Alfie Bass [1916-1987]

Started his career in the Unity Theatre, and the Berliner Ensemble of London, he embarked his acting career in classic British Jewish films such as It Always rains on Sunday (1947), and The Bespoke Overcoat (1956). Bass also took over from Chaim Topol in the role of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof on the West End stage.

1947-11-01 20:16:09

It Always Rains on Sunday

An atmospheric and tense thriller set in the heart of the East End of London in Bethnal Green. Centred on an escaped convict who is found by his former lover, trying to avoid the grasp of the police. Several of the film’s major characters are Jewish and Yiddish is heard spoken in the street and at the dinner table. Produced by Michael Balcon during his Ealing Studios period it launched the career of several Jewish actors.

1948-06-04 20:16:09

Oliver Twist

David Lean’s controversial take on the Dickens story, with Alec Guinness’s contentious Fagin played against a cheeky fresh faced Anthony Newley as the Artful Dodger.

1952-06-12 12:35:16

Miriam Karlin [1925-2011]

Karlin became one of the first Jewish actresses to become an established figure in film and television. After her film debut opposite Peter Sellers in Down Among the Z men (1952), she took notable roles in The Small World of Sammy Lee and is best known for her role Paddy in the 1960’s sitcom The Rag trade.

1954-05-14 11:27:16

David Kossoff [1919-2005]

Kossoff had a long and illustrious acting career, winning a BAFTA in 1954 and then a year later starring in Wolf Mankowitz’s classic A Kid with Two Farthings (1955), and The Bespoke Overcoat (1956).

1955-05-12 11:27:16

Peter Sellers [1925-1980]

One of the defining comic actors of the 20th century, Sellers made his film breakthrough with films such as Michael Balcon’s production of The Ladykillers (1955) and then went to worldwide fame with his portrayal of Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther (1963).

1956-05-10 11:27:16

Wolf Mankowitz [1924-1988]

Wolf Mankowitz [1924-1988] Born in the heart of the East End, along with figures such as Arnold Wesker, he was pivotal in capturing the change in post-war British Jewry; most notably in in his Cannes nominated film A kid with Two Farthings (1955) and in the Oscar Winning The Bespoke Overcoat (1956).

1956-06-15 20:16:09

The Bespoke Overcoat

An Oscar winning film that focuses on the trials and tribulations of poor Jewish tailors in the East End of London based on the 1953 play of the same name by Wolf Mankowitz.

1956-08-03 20:16:09

A Kid for Two Farthings

The film charts the dreams of a boy in London’s East End, who hopes a unicorn, (actually a little goat) will bring fortune to the community. Once again, as with The Bespoke Overcoat, Wolf Mankowitz channels the magic realism of Jewish storytelling to bring to life a story about aspiration.

1960-06-16 15:41:27

Sid James [1913-1976]

Born in South Africa, he became a UK national treasure. One of his first appearances was in Emeric Pressburger’s The Small Black Room (1949) and later became a household name after his Carry On debut with Carry on Constable (1960).

1960-07-15 23:57:30

The Odeon: Stamford Hill

The Odeon Stamford Hill was opened in 1929 as part of the Gaumont chain. The style of the building was very much in keeping with its time. The Art Deco style with classical Italian influences included marble floors and columns, and beautiful doors decorated with Art Deco figures. The cinema was renamed Odeon in 1962, and closed in 1972. It is now a Sainsbury’s supermarket.

1960-08-05 20:16:09

Exodus

A generation defining film which bought to life real life events surrounding the ship ‘Exodus’ before the formation of Israel.

1961-06-15 08:58:38

Jack Rosenthal [1931-2004]

Starting his career as a staff writer at Granada TV writing many of the early episodes of Coronation Street, he went on to produce a number of classic of British Jewish Films including the BAFTA award winning Barmitzvah Boy (1976) The Evacuees (1975), and he co-wrote Yentl with Barbra Streisand in 1983.

1962-01-03 20:16:09

The Barber of Stamford Hill

Ronald Harwood’s drama follows the trials and tribulation of a lonely Jewish bachelor and hairdresser in the East End of London.

1962-05-10 19:53:28

Ronald Harwood [b.1934]

Born in South Africa, one of his first screenplays was The Barber of Stamford Hill (1962). He subsequently went on to have huge success as a screenwriter and playwright, most notably being nominated for an Oscar for his the play The Dresser and later film (1983) and for Roman Polanski’s The Pianist (2002) for which he won the 2003 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

1962-06-07 16:05:10

The Vanishing Street

A documentary charting the vanishing way of life of the Jewish community of Hessel Street in London’s Jewish East End.

1963-04-11 13:13:42

The Small World of Sammy Lee

The film follows Sammy Lee (played by Anthony Newley) a Jewish compere in a seedy Soho club as he ducks and dives around 60’s Soho trying to keep one-step ahead of the East End gang leader he owes money to.

1963-11-16 00:00:00

Anthony Newley [1931-1999]

An all around entertainer; actor, singer and songwriter, he made one his first film appearances in David Lean’s Oliver Twist (1948) and, later, went on to star in films such as The Small World of Sammy Lee (1963), and to be nominated for an Oscar for his score for Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory (1971).

1969-06-12 00:17:29

John Schlesinger [1926-2003]

One of the leading British cinema directors of the post war period. His magnum opus Midnight Cowboy (1969) with which he won The Academy award for Best Director, defined the disillusionment of a generation, and with Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971), also Oscar nominated, he took his lens to a Jewish character.

1971-07-01 13:13:42

Sunday Bloody Sunday

John Schlesinger traces the relationships of a young bisexual artist, and his simultaneous relationships with a female recruitment consultant (Glenda Jackson) and a male Jewish doctor. One of the first depictions of a Jewish gay character on the big screen.

1971-12-10 13:13:42

Fiddler on the Roof

The classical musical of shtetl life, and migration from the Pale of Settlement in Imperial Russia.

1973-03-16 13:13:42

Hard Labour

Mike Leigh’s TV film, which captures the insidious class divide between a middle class housewife and a cleaner. Set in the Broughton suburb of Salford where Mike Leigh grew up, this is one his most autobiographical films.

1973-07-04 23:51:37

Mike Leigh

One the leading auteurs of British cinema with his signature gritty realism and distinctive process for making films out of improvisation. He has created some of the seminal pieces of post-war British cinema such as the BAFTA and Palme d’or winning Secrets and Lies (1996), and Hard Labour (1973), which focuses on a Jewish subject.

1975-03-06 16:24:00

The Evacuees

Jack Rosenthal’s classical tale of two Jewish evacuees having to adapt to a new life, as they are evacuated during the Second World War from Manchester to Blackpool.

1975-04-01 08:33:10

Maureen Lipman

An actor who has became a household name, she has had a strong connection with Jewish content throughout her career first with her collaboration with her husband Jack Rosenthal in TV films such as The Evacuees (1975) and then following this Solomon and Gaenor (1999) and The Pianist (2002) and as Beattie, the irrepressible Jewish grandmother in a series of television commercials for British Telecom.

1975-07-11 23:57:30

The Phoenix cinema

The Phoenix cinema was opened in1912, as the East Finchley Picturedrome. In 1924, it was renamed The Coliseum and in 1930, following an Art Deco makeover it was renamed The Rex, finally becoming The Phoenix in 1975. During World War II (1939-1945). It was on a list of places for refugees to stay but this never happened. From the 1970s it has shown mainly art-house, independent and classic films.

1976-12-16 00:02:11

The Barmitzvah Boy

Barmitzvah boy Eliot Green gets cold feet in this affectionate satire about the rituals of Jewish community.

1981-05-01 16:24:00

Chariots of Fire

David Puttnam produced one of the nation’s favourite films about two young runners training for the 1924 Paris Olympics: one a determined Jew and the other a devout Christian. Exposes the undercurrent of antisemitism that was prevalent in the upper classes in the 1920s.

1981-06-11 02:31:43

David Puttnam

Renowned producer who followed in the tradition of Korda and Balcon. He has produced populist classics such as Bugsy Malone (1976) and most notably the Oscar winning Chariots of Fire (1981).

Lights, Chutzpah, Action!

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