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Twickenham Studios: Home to the Beatles, Silent Stars, Hollywood Elite

Cream of Hollywood thesps have called studio home over the past 100 years

Based about 9 miles southwest of central London, Twickenham Studios was built on the site of an old ice-skating rink that was acquired in 1912 by Dr. Ralph Jupp. One of the U.K.’s oldest surviving studios, the site opened in 1913. The studio’s first release, The House of Temperley, was released the same year and major stars including Ivor Novello, Dorothy Gish, Gladys Cooper, C. Aubrey Smith and Herbert Tree worked at Twickenham during the silent era.

Jupp was forced to sell the studio in 1920 due to financial and health problems. After the new owners went out of business in 1922 the studio was leased to various companies until Julius Hagen and Leslie Hiscott took over in 1928.

During the 1930s the studio produced a raft of “quota quickies,” low-budget features created to fill the quota requirement established by the Cinematograph Films Act of 1927. Such features were notoriously low quality but provided valuable training opportunities, with helmers such as Michael Powell cutting their teeth at the studio.

Twickenham took a direct hit by a bomb during World War II. After rebuilding work the site was taken over by Alfred Shipman’s Alliance Film Studios. In 1959 Guido Coen was invited by Shipman’s sons to join Twickenham as studio and production controller and revitalized the studio, building its international profile and attracting such productions as Karel Reisz’s “Saturday Night” and Sunday Morning, Roman Polanski’s “Repulsion” and “Cul-de-Sac” and Richard Lester’s Beatles starrers “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!” He remained with the studio until he retired in 1996.

Michael Caine would also become a Twickenham regular throughout his career from 1960s classics “Zulu,” “Alfie” and “The Italian Job,” through John Sturges’ 1976 World War II thriller “The Eagle Has Landed” and more recent titles such as “Little Voice” and “Sleuth.” “Before we started shooting “Sleuth” we had a read-through at Twickenham,” says pic’s producer Simon Halfon. “It was Michael Caine, Jude Law, Harold Pinter, Kenneth Branagh and myself. Michael and Harold would wax lyrical about all the films they’d shot there. ” Pinter’s “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” also shot at Twickenham in 1980.

“When you look at movies made here, not just British films, they were some of the coolest movies ever made and we want to get it back to that place,” says studio chief operating officer Maria Walker.

The studio’s post-production facilities were also became a major draw, attracting such productions as Labyrinth and Little Shop of Horrors, “The Fly,” “Cry Freedom,” “The Mission,” “The Last Emperor,” “Henry V” and “Braveheart.”

Steven Spielberg’s War Horse and Simon Curtis’ “My Week With Marilyn” were two of the last major productions to use the Twickenham stages before the studio entered administration in February 2012. Then Sunny Vohra, a self-confessed movie-lover and director of the Sarova Hotel Group, stepped in to save it.

“I decided that anything that had survived that long has to have a pedigree worth saving,” says Vohra. “We want to take Twickenham back to how it was in its heyday, to provide a state-of-the-art facility where filmmakers from all over the world are able to produce the projects they want as they want.”

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