Our latest blog is from volunteer Belle Law, who has been exploring and researching our collection of scripts from the Rank archive.

Since starting at the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum in May 2023, my role has been specialising in the research and cataloguing of scripts sourced from Pinewood Studios. These scripts originally come from The Rank Organisation, dating from as early as the 1930s to the 1990s. However, the vast majority of the scripts are predominantly dated between the 1940s and 1960s. During my time, I have found a variety of materials ranging from unproduced scripts to fully produced films, rough drafts to hidden gems, all of which have been incredibly fascinating to investigate. As an aspiring screenwriter myself, I was pleasantly surprised to see the major roles women were taking in the writing and development of these films, women whose work is often overlooked or in some cases, uncredited. My findings build on the work done by fellow volunteer, Anna Rose Craig, as well as scholars such as Professor Melanie Williams, who looked in detail at the work of Muriel Box and Muriel Sly. Click on their names to find their articles on this site. 

Recently, a name that has been cropping up during my research is Bridget Boland. Boland was an British-Irish screenwriter and novelist and had authored multiple drafts of a screenplay entitled High Pavement, dated 1946. After discovering that the High Pavement screenplay was produced under a different name My Sister and I in 1948, I noticed that all the other writers who had worked on the script had been credited, with the notable exception of Boland: erasing her work on the film, a seemingly common narrative for a lot of female screenwriters during this period. In the archives I also discovered Boland had written a screenplay dated 1947 entitled Face Value, adapted from the short story “The Girl who was Tired of Love” by Leonard Merrick. The plot centres around a girl who swaps bodies with a wealthier, older woman of a different social class; ultimately, the script was never produced. Despite this, Boland had a very successful career in screenwriting, best known for The Prisoner (1955), Gaslight (1940) and Anne of the Thousand Days (1969). Gaslight revolves around a husband who makes his wife believe she is going mad in order to cover up a murder he committed. A poster for Gaslight can be found above, with Boland credited alongside fellow writer A.R. Rawlinson in adapting Patrick Hamilton's 1938 play Gaslight, which provided the source material for the film. Poignantly, Anne of the Thousand Days was nominated for an Oscar in 1970 in the category “Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium”, demonstrating Boland’s prowess as a screenwriter. 

Another female screenwriter that I’ve been investigating is Welsh actress and former Ealing Studios employee Diana Morgan. With Morgan, I uncovered handwritten notes and even a foreword written by Morgan herself throughout her numerous drafts of a film entitled I Capture the Castle.

The film is an adaptation of the 1948 Dodie Smith novel I Capture the Castle, the first novel that Smith wrote during the Second World War before her popular children’s novel, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, was published in 1956. Interestingly, earlier on in the project it appears another female screenwriter, Moie Charles, was working on I Capture the Castle before Morgan became its sole writer. The passing over of scripts from one female screenwriter to another, made me appreciate and admire this feminine collaborative effort in what was a male-dominated film industry. Morgan’s scripts for I Capture the Castle are all dated November 1955, but unfortunately the film was never produced at this time. However, an adaptation of I Capture the Castle was eventually produced in 2003, adapted by another British female screenwriter, Heidi Thomas, best known for being the showrunner of TV series Call the Midwife (2012-2024).

Additionally, Diana Morgan also worked on an adaptation of the 1862 Victorian novel Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Alongside adapting Smith’s work, I first over-optimistically believed this suggested Morgan had an inclination to adapt female authorship, however, it is more likely that female screenwriters were designated this female authorship, or what were considered more feminine genres, to adapt. Many undated treatments and screenplays were written for the adaptation, with the new title Helen Audley being implemented. However, like the I Capture the Castle script, the project was never produced. Although Morgan was also an actress, she is best known for her writing credits which include The Halfway House (1944), Let’s Be Happy (1957) and Pink String and Sealing Wax (1945). Like Morgan, Moie Charles too had a successful screenwriting career, with writing credits on The Gentle Sex (1943), Bad Sister (1947) and Murder at 3am (1953). Before her untimely death in 1957 at the age of 46, Charles was also a playwright, known for her 1949 play Murder at the Vicarage which she adapted alongside Barbara Toy from the 1930 Agatha Christie novel of the same name. This pattern of female writers adapting female authorship is intriguing, shedding new light on the kind of stories these screenwriters were passionate about as well as the kind of narratives they were given to adapt by the film industry.  

Turning to female producers, Betty Box is another name that has continued to appear throughout my research. A prolific British film producer, Box worked on a variety of different films throughout her lifetime. She is also connected to director and screenwriter, Muriel Box, who married her brother, Sydney Box, who was also a producer, displaying the intense family connections she had within the industry. Recently, I uncovered a screenplay entitled The High Commissioner dated July 1967, crediting both Betty Box and Ralph Thomas as its producers. The script is another adaptation, its source material the 1966 detective novel of the same name by Jon Cleary. The film was produced in 1968 and has two titles, the original title Nobody Runs Forever and its later title, The High Commissioner. Additionally, another script dated February 1955 and entitled Green for Love credits Box as its sole producer, however, the film never saw production. Box was notable for producing Some Girls Do (1969), Don’t Ever Leave Me (1949) and Doctor in the House (1954). Notably, Doctor in the House received four BAFTA nominations in 1955; the film was nominated for “Best British Film”, “Best Film from any Source” and “Best British Screenplay”, and won in the category “Best British Actor”, which went to Kenneth More.

Having the opportunity to research a piece of female screenwriting and film history has been an enormous pleasure. I feel privileged to be able to witness firsthand the vital part these screenwriters and producers played in an industry where historically women have been underrepresented. At the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, I am constantly uncovering new female screenwriters and I can only hope this continues throughout my research as I delve deeper into the archives.


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