Located twenty miles west of London and named after the pine trees in the grounds, Pinewood has been at the heart of both British and international film production. The property, Heatherden Hall, was bought by Charles Boot in 1934, and he and J. Arthur Rank became partners in the project to build the studios. Pinewood proved groundbreaking in its use of the ‘unit system’ that allowed more than one film to be made at a time, and this enabled Pinewood to achieve the highest output of any studio in the world. The first film to be completed at Pinewood was Talk of the Devil (1939, Reed) while the immediate postwar period (Pinewood had been requisitioned and hosted the Army Film Production Unit during the Second World War) saw six major productions including the acclaimed Oliver Twist (1948, Lean) and The Red Shoes (1948, Powell and Pressburger), a landmark film in British cinematography for its bold and expressive use of colour.
The 1950s saw numerous productions including the Doctor series, medical farces which were the predecessors to the Carry On films; the series commenced with Doctor in the House (1954, Thomas) and led to a further six films. Other notable films of the 1950s era include the Prince and the Showgirl (1957, Olivier) starring Marilyn Monroe, Reach for the Sky (1956, Gilbert), Carve Her Name with Pride (1958, Gilbert), North West Frontier (1959, Thompson) and The Thirty-Nine Steps (1959, Thomas). This latter film was a reworking of John Buchan’s novel, originally filmed by Hitchcock in 1939. Because of its innovation and expertise, American production companies flocked to Pinewood and a major reinvestment was required. During the 1960s, four new stages were built to accommodate every aspect of film and television production. This period also saw the start of the association between Pinewood and the James Bond series, which commenced in 1962 with Dr No (Young). The studios have continued to produce imaginative and technically challenging material, such as Superman (1978, Donner), Superman II (1980, Lester), Superman III (1983, Lester), Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987, Furie), Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988, Gilliam) and Batman (1989, Burton). It has been heavily involved with notable television productions such as The Camomile Lawn, Jeeves and Wooster and the Minder series. Today it boasts the world’s largest silent stage and Europe’s biggest exterior tank, and is carrying on the commitment to modernization.