Saturday, November 14, 2015

Random thoughts - Earl St John

No one talks much about Earl St John any more - which is surprising because his name is all over a swag of British films from the 1950s and early 60s. He was executive producer and head of production for Rank Films, whose product dominated British box office lists for over a decade. The films aren't highly regarded today, on the whole - Dirk Bogarde "doctor" comedies, Imperial adventures, random tilts at the international market, war films.

It's not that people don't pay attention to Rank, it's just all the credit to the work they did (or, rather, criticism) seems to go to Sir John Davis, chief executive of the Rank Group. Davis is characterised as a penny pincher who helped save the company from financial destruction in the late 40s but essentially ended the Golden Age of British Cinema with his taste. St John if mentioned at all tends to be characterised as a "yes man" to Davis.

Is this fair? Was he simply a yes man for Davis? If so - or not - what did St John do? It must have been something. I'd love to know.

My own take - and this is mostly guesswork - is that St john was far more influential than he seemed to be. Davis would have been too busy doing other things - I feel St John might have blamed a lot of things on Davis eg telling filmmakers "I'd like to give you that extra money but Davis won't let me." But Rank movies had such a uniform look - that colour, brylcreamed stars - St John had to have had more of an impact.

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