Betty Box

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Betty Box
Betty Box 1959.jpg
Betty Box in 1959
Born Betty Evelyn Box
(1915-09-25)25 September 1915
Beckenham, Kent, England
Died 15 January 1999(1999-01-15) (aged 83)
Chiltern, Buckinghamshire
Nationality British
Occupation Film producer

Betty Evelyn Box, OBE (25 September 1915 – 15 January 1999) was a prolific British film producer. Usually credited as Betty E. Box, she is considered one of the best of her generation, with a flair for making genuinely popular British films.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Beckenham, Kent, England, she initially planned to be a commercial artist or journalist.[2]

She entered the motion picture industry in 1942, joining her brother Sydney Box and his wife Muriel at Verity Films, where she helped produce more than 200 wartime propaganda shorts.[3] Box:

Sitting around was no good for me, my brother said, and he asked me to work for him. He was running an organisation that made training and recruitment films. I went along as a general dogsbody, and as more men were called up, there were more opportunities for me. We worked from 7 a.m. until 10 or 11 at night. I learnt more in those two years than I would in ten years in peacetime.[4]

Following World War II, she made an easy transition to feature films, beginning with The Years Between (1946).

When her brother assumed control of Gainsborough Pictures that year, he named her Head of Production at the Poole Street, Hoxton studio, where she produced ten films during the next two years.[5] While tight budgets and shooting schedules compromised the quality of some of them, others – such as When the Bough Breaks (1947) – proved to be among the most politically interesting films of the period. "Every story I have at the moment has a murder in it", she said in 1947. "It's no wonder I'm being called 'Bloodthirsty Box'."[6]

She was also known for the trio of popular Huggetts films, starting with Here Come the Huggetts (1948) and followed by Vote for Huggett and The Huggetts Abroad (1949).[3]

The Rank Organisation[edit]

When the Gainsborough studios were closed by Rank in 1949, Box moved to Pinewood Studios, where she collaborated with director Ralph Thomas on some 30-odd films. They began by making thrillers such as Venetian Bird (1952) but then concentrated on comedy.

The biggest success of their career commercially was the seven-film Doctor series, beginning with Doctor in the House (1954) and ending with Doctor in Trouble (1970).[7] The comedies contained a wacky irreverence which clearly struck a chord with contemporary audiences and helped to make stars of the young Dirk Bogarde and Donald Sinden.[8][9]

Towards the end of her career, Box said the genre she preferred was comedy:

You can assess laughter. I get pleasure out of making a movie, but to listen to people laughing at what we have made – this is great. I'm a natural pessimist. Comedies are difficult. You can make a good adventure story if you have the money, good actors, and a good story (more often than not a best-selling book), and you'll know the film will please. Comedy is more of an instinctive thing.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Betty Box was married to Peter Rogers, producer of the Carry On film series, from 24 December 1948 until her death.[11] It was her second marriage – her first, to a pilot during the war – ended in divorce.

Box and Rogers did not have any children, but their godson was actor and theatre producer Marc Sinden, the son of Sir Donald Sinden, who starred for Betty Box in, amongst other films, Doctor in the House, Doctor at Large and Mad About Men.[12]

"We made the choice not to have children", said Box in 1973. "I don't think I would have made a very good mother. You know making a movie is like having a baby – it takes eight weeks to film and nine months to produce."[10]

Box was awarded the OBE in 1958.

She died in Chiltern, Buckinghamshire aged 83 from cancer in 1999.[13]

A posthumous autobiography Lifting the Lid: The Autobiography of Film Producer Betty Box was published in 2000.[14]

Selected filmography[edit]

Gainsborough[edit]

Rank[edit]

Welbeck Films[edit]

Other[edit]

Unmade films[edit]

  • Requiem for a Wren (1959) – story about World War two from a woman's point of view based on script by R. C. Sherriff[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Box, Betty (1915-1999) Biography". Screenonline.org.uk. 1915-09-25. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  2. ^ "FEW OTHER WOMEN DO HER JOB". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane. 20 September 1954. p. 8. Retrieved 17 December 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ a b "She Still Governs the Stars". The Age. Melbourne. 10 February 1951. p. 9. Retrieved 17 December 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  4. ^ "A BOX OFFICE SUCCESS". The Australian Women's Weekly. 11 April 1973. p. 55. Retrieved 17 December 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ "Producers run in Box family". The Australian Women's Weekly. 29 March 1947. p. 32. Retrieved 17 December 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ "Top-Line British Film Producer Is A Woman". The Mercury. Hobart, Tasmania. 21 January 1947. p. 10. Retrieved 17 December 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ STEPHEN WATTS LONDON (16 May 1954). "THE LONDON FILM SCENE: Prize-Winning Movie a Problem to Its Producer -- Money-Maker -- Addenda". New York Times. p. X5.
  8. ^ Morley, Sheridan (1999). Dirk Bogarde: Rank Outsider. Bloomsbury (London) (second edition). ISBN 978-0-7475-4698-6.
  9. ^ "NOW SHE IS BETTY BOX OFFICE". The Mail. Adelaide. 24 July 1954. p. 6 Supplement: SUNDAY MAGAZINE. Retrieved 17 December 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  10. ^ a b "American is big British movie man". The Australian Women's Weekly. 3 December 1952. p. 57. Retrieved 31 October 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ "MOVIE MARRIAGES—1". The Mail. Adelaide. 8 January 1949. p. 2 Supplement: SUNDAY MAGAZINE. Retrieved 17 December 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  12. ^ "Marc Sinden : Biography". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  13. ^ [1] Archived February 20, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ Box, Betty Evelyn (October 2000). Lifting the Lid: The Autobiography of Film Producer, Betty Box, OBE. Book Guild Ltd. ISBN 978-1-85776-489-5.
  15. ^ A. H. WEILER (13 July 1958). "BY WAY OF REPORT: Fox Buyers Eye O'Hara Novel -- Other Items". New York Times. p. X5.

Bibliography[edit]

Lifting the Lid by Betty Box, published posthumously in 2000, ISBN 978-1-85776-489-5

External links[edit]