January 2, 2017


Maurice Ostrer (1896-1975) b. London, England.

Maurice Ostrer was born in 1896 in the East End of London, the youngest of the five sons of Nathan Ostrer, a jeweller’s salesman who had left the Ukraine to escape anti-Semitic persecution in the 1870s. In the 1920s, the Ostrers, brothers Maurice, Mark and Isidoee, were responsible for a number of company flotation’s, the most important of which was the Gaumont-British Picture Corporation in 1927. Having created a circuit of over 350 cinemas, the Ostrers turned their hand to film production. The old Gaumont studio at Lime Grove, Shepherd’s Bush, was rebuilt and Michael Balcon was appointed to carry out an ambitious production programme. In October 1941 the Ostrers sold their shares to J. Arthur Rank, though it was not until 1944 that the conflicting interests in the corporation were sufficiently reconciled for Rank to assume complete control of the Gaumont-British empire. Maurice’s role in the corporation was hazy, but by the mid-1930s he was active on the production side at Shepherd’s Bush. Balcon left for MGM in December 1936, but it was not until 1939 that Maurice assumed the credit `In Charge of Production’ on Will Hay‘s Ask a Policeman (1939).Ostrer’s greatest success was The Wicked Lady (1945), but afterwards its director Leslie Arliss was lured away by Alexander Korda to continue his collaboration with Ted Black. Val Guest, Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat had already gone, and Ostrer was now dangerously dependent on two men who were outstanding cameramen but less competent as directors: Arthur Crabtree and Bernard Knowles. Rank were uncomfortable with the responsibility for a series of salacious films which sat ill with his Methodist principles and his reputation for moral responsibility and a successor to The Wicked Lady (1945) was vetoed, and little was done to promote the international distribution of Madonna of the Seven Moons (1945). Rumours of Ostrer’s increasing discontent with the bureaucracy of the Rank Organization and Rank’s dissatisfaction at Gainsborough’s low level of production were followed in May 1946 by an announcement that Maurice Ostrer was to resign when his contract ran out After Gainsborough R.J. Minney and the Ostrers formed an independent production company, Premier Productions, and recruited Leslie Arliss to direct Idol of Parts (1948) to the Gainsborough formula of bodice-ripping flamboyance. It was produced for less than £100,000, but the film failed to make enough to keep the company afloat. Maurice Ostrer subsequently left the film industry to join Isidore in taking control of the textiles conglomerate Illingworth Morris. There were two lesser known brothers, David who was engaged in European sales and scenario editor Harry.

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