Hitchcock made his masterpiece there, now it's to be a block of flats

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IT WAS to have been the start of a new era of British film-making at the studio where Alfred Hitchcock made The Lady Vanishes. But the landlord has cried "cut'' just weeks after the cameras began rolling after an absence of 44 years.

The film now being made at Gainsborough Studios, in Islington, north London, has now become the first and last to be shot there since 1954.

The cast and crew of British film Anxiety, a black comedy directed by Alasdair Ogilvie, were told yesterday that the studio would close for good as soon as they had completed the film.

The building is to be turned into loft apartments by the owners, Galliard Homes.

Mr Ogilvie, making his first film, has led the campaign to revive Gainsborough, persuading the landlords to let him film there.

He said: "Britain has big studios like Shepperton and Pine-wood, but they are jam-packed. London has small advertising studios. But this is a unique middle-sized space. It is extremely atmospheric with plenty of nooks and crannies.

"For my film, we have managed to make things look grim and grotesque. It's awfully sad that film-making here will cease again."

The studio rose to prominence in the 1920s. It was Hitchcock's base for both his first and last silent films as well as for The Lady Vanishes, his thriller with Michael Redgrave.

Gainsborough was re-nowned for producing classic costume dramas such as The Wicked Lady, starring Margaret Lockwood, and The Bad Lord Byron, with Dennis Price. The highpoint was in 1948 when, headed by Sydney Box, the studio turned out almost one feature a month.

Over the last 44 years, the building has been cast in some unlikely parts. Recently, it was a bottling plant.

The one constant factor has been George the caretaker. He started off at Gainsborough in 1935 as a tea boy on director Michael Balcon's films.

Now in his seventies, he said: "I was heartbroken once in 1954 when they stopped making films here. I thought I was going to see films here again - and now I've had my heart broken for the second time."