Charles Ashton and British Silent Films

British Silent Film Star – Charles Ashton

Maurice Elvey

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Image of Maurice Elvey is held at ScreenOnline accessed 30 November 2010.

Maurice Elvey was born William Seward Folkard on 11 November 1887 in Stockton-on-Tees. He left home while still a child, seeking his fortune in London, where he worked variously as a kitchen hand and hotel pageboy, and later as an actor and stagehand. Ambitious and hard-working, Elvey rose quickly to directing and producing plays, establishing his own theatrical company before switching to films in 1912. He directed an array of comedies and dramas for the Motograph company and British and Colonial, most of them starring Elizabeth Risdon and Fred Groves, including the melodrama Maria Marten : Or The Murder in the Red Barn (1913), an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Suicide Club (1914), and a version of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, more plainly titled Love in a Wood (1916).

By the end of the First World War, Elvey was making popular features in a variety of genres. Best known are his biographical films, of Florence Nightingale, Nelson, and Lloyd George. The rediscovery of his Life Story of David Lloyd George (1918) forced a re-appraisal both of British cinema in this period generally, and of Elvey’s (largely lost).

By the early 1920s Elvey had become the chief director at Stoll Films, a studio that gained a reputation for swift, unimaginative literary adaptations, but was one of the first to model itself as a major producer with a distinctively national output. In 1924 he went to America, where he made five films for the Fox Film Corporation. He returned in 1925, putting his experience to especially good use on the psychologically sophisticated Anglo-German melodrama Human Law/Tragödie Einer Ehe (1926), and Hindle Wakes (1927), Roses of Picardy (1927), Palais de Dance (1928) and High Treason (1929): films that display an awareness of visual storytelling and spectacle often lacking in his later work. Hindle Wakes is a particularly successful example of Elvey’s blend of realism, melodrama and sense of location.

During the 1930s Elvey’s worked on ‘quota quickies’ as well as on ambitious productions such as The Tunnel for Gaumont-British. At Ealing he made Gracie Fields‘ first film, Sally in Our Alley (1931) – notably more realistic and downbeat in tone than her later vehicles – and subsequently This Week of Grace and Love, Life and Laughter. During the Second World War he worked with Leslie Howard on the critically praised The Gentle Sex (1943) and took over direction on The Lamp Still Burns (1943) after Howard’s death. Medal for the General, his wartime production for British National, and his big-budget post-war melodrama Beware of Pity are also worthy of consideration. Elvey continued to direct a wide variety of dramas and comedies until failing eyesight forced his retirement in 1957.

Taken from ScreenOnline Accessed 1 December 2009

Berry, David and Simon Horrocks (eds) David Lloyd George: The Movie Mystery, (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1998)
Wood, Linda, The Commercial Imperative in the British Industry; Maurice Elvey, A Case Study (London: British Film Institute, 1987)

Lawrence Napper, Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors

Films with Charles Ashton

Smashing Through (1928): Producer


Written by anneramsden

April 28, 2010 at 2:00 pm

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