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Thursday, 21 June, 2001, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
Carry On Pinewood
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Angelina Jolie stars in Pinewood's Tomb Raider
A carefully selected season of films opening in London this week highlights why the UK's Pinewood Studios has been at the forefront of movie-making for more than six decades.

For more than 60 years, Pinewood Studios has been one of the most cherished stars of the British film industry.

Since it was opened by the Rank Group in 1936, everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Pierce Brosnan has passed through the gates.

Some of Britain's finest films have been made there. And its high standards of production have also attracted many Hollywood blockbusters.

Dr No movie poster
Dr No was the first Bond movie made at Pinewood

In celebration of Pinewood's illustrious history, London's Barbican Centre is hosting a season of its films.

They range from the early days of production through to a preview of the much-awaited Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

Series

Robert Rider, the Barbican's head of cinema, had the difficult task of choosing the films to be included.

"I have tried to give an overview of just what has made Pinewood so great," he explains.

Pinewood movies
Dr No (and other Bond movies)
The Carry On Series
The Red Shoes
Mission Impossible
Entrapment
Chitty, Chitty Bang, Bang
The Fifth Element
Interview With a Vampire
Eyes Wide Shut

"Some films have become absolute classics, some are key to a moment in film history. Others reflect the work of important directors or the technical skill of Pinewood."

In terms of British film-making, Pinewood is probably best known for the Bond movies and the Carry On series.

A number of these films figure in the Barbican's line-up, starting with a recently restored print of Dr No - the first 007 film to be made at Pinewood in 1961.

From the Carry On comedy stable, the season will show Carry On Cleo from 1964 and Carry On Up the Khyber from 1968.

Classics

But Pinewood has also made its name producing some of British cinema's best-loved one-offs.

Of these, the season's showing of Genevieve stands out. The 1952 film starring Kenneth More and Kay Kendall centred around the London to Brighton vintage car rally.

Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock: Honed skills at Pinewood

"In many ways this was the comedy equivalent of Brief Encounter and was a huge hit in its day," says Rider.

"It looked wonderful, was beautifully acted and has not lost its appeal."

Of the influential British directors included in the season are David Lean and Alfred Hitchcock. Rider says Hitchcock's Young and Innocent from 1937, chosen for the season, is not one of the master of intrigue's finest films.

"But what it shows is how Pinewood, even in its early days, was able to give the then upcoming Hitchcock the means to develop his skills," he adds.

In particular, the movie includes a tracking shot right the way round a dance floor ending up on the twitching eye of the villain.

The scene was reputedly the talk of Pinewood for many years afterwards.

Stars have also been made at Pinewood. Among them, legendary British actor Sir Michael Caine.

Sir Michael's 1965 spy thriller The Ipcress File has, says Rider, been included, as the film that launched the character of Harry Palmer and brought the actor to international attention.

Another Pinewood protégé was comedy actor Sir Norman Wisdom.

His 1962 film On the Beat will be shown as an illustration of how Wisdom was a huge star in the 50s and 60s.

Technology

When Rank, in partnership with the Pinewood estate's owner Charles Boot, founded the studios, they invested heavily to make them the best and most advanced in the world.

The World is Not Enough
The World in Not Enough boasted extraordinary sets

Pinewood boasted multiple "units" to allow several films to made at once.

This reputation has been maintained over the decades. Steve Norris, head of the British Film Commission, promotes the UK as an ideal location for international film-makers.

He says Pinewood is always at the forefront of his pitch.

"Pinewood offers multi-geared, state-of-the-art studios with every service a film-maker could possibly want."

The James Bond movies have always been among the most technically difficult films made at Pinewood.

The World is Not Enough, from 1999, is an example of how Pinewood has always been able to meet these ambitious demands.

The huge caviar factory in the movie was constructed over a specially extended exterior tank, which was already the largest in western Europe.

Investment

This reputation has attracted many notable American blockbusters to the Buckinghamshire studio.

During the making of Stanley Kubrick's 1999 Eyes Wide Shut, a large area of Pinewood was turned into a chunk of Manhattan in New York.

Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut
Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut

In 2000, Rank sold Pinewood to investors led by former Channel 4 head Michael Grade.

And at the start of 2001, Pinewood merged with Shepperton Studios.

Both initiatives will ensure Pinewood has the means to stay at the forefront of movie-making, as well as encouraging more TV production.

A Celebration of Pinewood Studios runs from 21 June to 5 July at the Barbican in London.

See also:

02 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Bond memorabilia on show
11 Jun 01 | Film
James Bond tops motto poll
20 Jul 99 | Entertainment
Eyes Wide Shut opens on top
12 Jun 01 | Film
Big screen Lara Croft unveiled
09 Aug 99 | Hitchcock100
Hitchcock: A life in film
02 Jun 98 | Entertainment
To Carry On or not to Carry On
22 Apr 00 | Entertainment
The Sid and Babs carry on
12 Feb 01 | Entertainment
UK studios merger takes on Hollywood
02 Mar 01 | Business
Profits fall at slimmed-down Rank
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