Star Archive

Rodney Ackland (1908 - 1990)

Over the life of this website we've often noted how distinguished stage actors dabbled in cinema as a lucrative sideline which served to subsidise their "art". However, it wasn't only actors who slummed it in pictures for a bit of spare cash. Many writers also took to cinema and made contributions just as great as the showier actors. Rodney Ackland was one of those.

Ackland was born in Southend. His theatrical leanings came from his mother who was a music hall turn and performed at the Follies Bergere. Ackland studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama and was busy on the theatre club scene. His first play, Improper People, was produced in 1929 and he got a position writing at British International Pictures. He lost that position in 1931 when he scored a success with his play Strange Orchestra and BIP decided he was perhaps a bit too arty for them.

Several successes followed, though mainly in small theatre clubs: Ackland's work was too dark for the West End. He came back to cinema with Bank Holiday. He established enough of a reputation as a screenwriter to be offered the chance to direct, though Thursday's Child was his only feature as director.

His film career came to an end with Queen of Spades. He co-wrote the Pushkin adaptation and began directing the production but was replaced a few days into the shoot by Thorold Dickinson. It's unclear why he was replaced though there is speculation about personality clashes between him and actors Anton Walbrook or Edith Evans. Certainly his relationship with producer Anatole de Grunwald was bad enough for Ackland and co-writer (and probable lover) Arthur Boys to later sue over the size of their writing credits. They won, but Ackland never worked in film again.

Ackland's theatrical career was drawing to a close too. In 1952 his play The Pink Room was condemned by critics as grubby. And when the Angry Young Men revolution hit theatres a few years late, Ackland was lumped together with all the other practitioners of the well made play and dumped. Though his writing career was effectively over, his personal life took a turn for the better on his marriage to Mab Londsale.

Ackland lived long enough to see the beginning of the restoration of his literary reputation, though it was after his death with the NT's production of The Pink Room (unexpurgated and renamed Absolute Hell) in 1995 that the real breakthrough happened.

Filmography (writing credits unless indicated)

1931 Shadows
1931 The Skin Game (actor only)
1932 Number Seventeen
1935 The Case of Gabriel Perry (actor only)
1938 Bank Holiday
1938 Yellow Sands
1938 Keep Smiling
1939 The Silent Battle
1939 Young Man's Fancy
1940 A Call for Arms!
1940 An Englishman's Home
1940 Under Your Hat
1940 Miss Grant Goes to the Door
1940 George and Margaret
1941 Lady Be Kind (short + dir)
1941 Dangerous Moonlight
1941 Night Watch
1941 49th Parallel
1941 Rush Hour
1941 Letter Home
1942 Hatter's Castle
1942 Alibi (actor only)
1942 Uncensored
1943 Thursday's Child (+ dir)
1943 The New School (short + dir)
1944 The Hundred Pound Window
1944 Love Story
1945 En Ny Dag Gryer
1946 A Voice in the Night
1947 Temptation Harbour
1948 Bond Street
1949 Queen of Spades

Rodney Ackland at Amazon UK      

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