Birmingham & Black Country

Sir Michael Balcon honoured in Birmingham film exhibition

Sir Michael Balcon Image copyright Alamy
Image caption Sir Michael Balcon was knighted for his services to the film industry in 1948

One of the UK film industry's "most influential and important producers" is being honoured in a new exhibition.

The late Sir Michael Balcon - former head of Ealing Studios - produced more than 350 films including The Lodger and 39 Steps.

He is credited with giving Alfred Hitchcock his first film role and helped set up the BAFTA awards.

But were it not for a successful bet on football with the last of his cash the story could have been very different.

Sir Michael grew up in Birmingham near Oscar Deutsch, who would go on to launch the Odeon Cinema chain, and Victor Saville, who later became an A-list director in Hollywood.

In the early 1920s, the three men set up a film distribution company called Victory Motion Pictures.

The business struggled and the three men ended up spending the last of their money betting on football results. They won the bet and used their winnings to go into production.

Now the exhibition, Birmingham's Film Knight, which features photographs, film clips and movie memorabilia, aims to bring more recognition for Sir Michael.

Image copyright Birmingham's Film Knight
Image caption Sir Michael named the policeman in the Blue Lamp after his old Birmingham school, George Dixon

"This is about paying honour and homage to an incredibly influential figure," said Prof Roger Shannon, who curated the exhibition.

"I believe his achievements as a film person are not recognised."

Image copyright Birmingham's Film Knight
Image caption The exhibition features photographs, film clips and movie memorabilia

Following the successful bet, Victory Motion Pictures' first film Woman to Woman (1923) credits Hitchcock as a screen writer.

Sir Michael later named the policeman in The Blue Lamp (1949) after his old Birmingham school, George Dixon.

"A lot of people are suddenly finding out a story about Birmingham they did not know existed," Prof Shannon continued.

"If this had happened in Liverpool - there would be statues. If it had happened in Chicago - there would be movies."

Image copyright Birmingham's Film Knight
Image caption Sir Michael was the former head of Ealing Studios

Sir Michael, who died in 1977, was knighted for his services to the film industry in 1948.

His daughter Jill Balcon, is an English film and radio actress, and his grandson is actor Daniel Day-Lewis.

The exhibition is is taking place at the Parkside gallery at Birmingham City University until 27 October.

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