In 1951 the National Film Finance Corporation (NFFC) produced a report that, among its proposals, suggested helping new film makers. New units were to be set up in Rank and Associated British to bring forward new talent, and a third independent unit was to be established: Group 3.
Two well-established talents were enlisted to run the organisation: documentarist John Grierson and producer/director John Baxter. Both had a reputation for bringing on new talent and for developing distinctive bodies of work outside the main studios. They were to produce films on moderate budgets funded by NFFC and Associated British's distribution arm which would also put in some money and handle the films.
During the course of its short history Group 3 produced over twenty films and a loss of nearly half a million pounds. Distribution was the main problem. Getting the films into the cinemas proved difficult. None of the films were obvious hits, even on paper, with the exception of The Conquest of Everest which contained footage of the great climb and which turned a healthy profit.
Behind the distribution problem there was another issue: quality. Many of the films don't stand up to scrutiny. Narrative drive was never John Baxter's strong suit and Grierson was uncomfortable outside the area of documentary. Group 3 was started in a rush and some of the scripts show evidence of this. On top of this there was a big whiff of the old-fashioned about the films just as older audiences were about to abandon the cinema in favour of a night in with the telly.
Another area of criticism was the inability of Group 3 to bring on new talent. New directors needed to be already working in the industry thanks to trade union pressure so Group 3 generally looked to employ people who might well have been on the verge of getting a directing break with one of the main studios.
Looking back on Group 3's achievements there are some minor pleasures. The company made no classics but some of the films are watchable. Despite the problems, the likes of John Guillermain, Lewis Gilbert, Joan Collins and Peter Sellers got early chances with the company.
|1951||Brandy for the Parson|
|1952||Time Gentlemen Please!|
|1952||You're Only Young Twice|
|1952||The Brave Don't Cry|
|1952||Miss Robin Hood|
|1953||Man of Africa|
|1953||The Conquest of Everest|
|1953||The Angel Who Pawned Her Harp|
|1954||Devils on Horseback|
|1954||Conflict of Wings|
|1954||The End of the Road|
|1954||Orders are Orders|
|1954||Make Me an Offer|
|1954||The Love Match|
|1954||The Blue Peter|
|1955||John and Julie|
|1955||The Challenge of the North|
Group 3 Productions on Amazon UK