Michael Relph, the film producer and production designer who was a key figure in the British film industry for over 40 years, died September 30 in Selsey, West Sussex. He was 89.
Relph was the last surviving member of the group of filmmakers who served under Michael Balcon at Ealing Studios during the 1940s and 1950s. His many producing credits included Robert Hamer’s “Kind Heart and Coronets” and BAFTA-winner “The Blue Lamp,” directed by his regular partner Basil Dearden.
After Ealing, Relph continued to work with Dearden on movies including “The Smallest Show on Earth” (1957) and caper comedy “The League of Gentlemen” (1960). He also directed and co-wrote a handful of films himself.
Upon Dearden’s death in 1971, he became chairman of the Film Production Association of Great Britain (succeeding Balcon) and then also chairman of the British Film Institute’s production board (1972 to 1979). At the BFI, he oversaw the funding of the great trilogy of autobiographical movies by Scottish auteur Bill Douglas — “My Childhood,” “My Ain Folk” and “My Way Home.”
He later returned to producing, with the hard-hitting “Scum” in 1979 and his final film “Heavenly Pursuits” (1986).
Relph was the son of actor George Relph, who appeared in the Ealing movie “The Titchfield Thunderbolt.” He began his career as a trainee art director under the legendary Alfred Junge at Gaumont-British, and then joined the U.K. arm of Warner Brothers. He worked simultaneously as a stage designer for the West End theater.
He joined Ealing in 1942, designing three of Dearden’s movies before becoming his producer. Over the next 40 years, he produced more than 30 movies, including “Dead of Night,” “The Ship That Died Of Shame,” “Sapphire,” “Victim,” “Life For Ruth” and “An Unsuitable Job For a Woman
His son Simon went on to become a film producer, chief executive of British Screen Finance and chairman of BAFTA. His daughter Emma is an actress.