George Courtney Ward: Pinewood stills photographer who was a favourite of Dirk Bogarde and Bryan Forbes
Friday 08 April 2011
During a golden era of British cinema at the Rank Organisation's Pinewood Studios, the stills photographer George Courtney Ward was responsible for publicity shots of stars such as Jayne Mansfield, Lauren Bacall, Ralph Richardson, Alec Guinness, Kenneth More, Joan Collins and Michael Caine that were seen around the world.
He displayed great imagination and a variety of styles in his portraits. Some, for instance, reflected the stark, black-and-white images brought to the screen by the director David Lean in adaptations of the Dickens novels Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948).
It was a style that was also evident in Courtney Ward's photographs of Richard Harris for This Sporting Life (1963) and a string of films starring his long-time friend Dirk Bogarde, who called him his "personal photographer". Some are contained in the National Portrait Gallery collection, while many of his images can still be seen on DVD sleeves.
Born in Christchurch – then part of Hampshire rather than Dorset – in 1917, Courtney Ward started taking pictures after being bought a Brownie box camera at the age of 11. He joined the RAF during the Second World War and was seconded to the Royal Canadian Air Force, based in Ontario.
Moving to Buckinghamshire after the war, he became a copywriter in the publicity department of the RankOrganisation's PFF division, based in London, in 1945. He then moved to Rank's Denham Studios, where he designed the publicity poster for Brief Encounter (1946).
He switched to the stills library in London before becoming a photographer on Rank films at Pinewood Studios. His pictures encompassed a wide range of productions – from The Million Pound Note (1954), with Gregory Peck, North West Frontier (1959) and The League of Gentlemen (1960) to Carry on Constable (1960) and The Ipcress File (1965) – until the studio's photographic department closed in 1969.
Courtney Ward then worked at Elstree Studios on films such as The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970), starring Roger Moore, but he left following management changes in 1971. A year later, he moved back to the south coast to live in Bournemouth.
Before retiring, he returned to Pinewood to be reunited with the director Bryan Forbes – who regarded him as "an invaluable asset" – on The Slipper and the Rose (1976) and International Velvet (1978), having worked there the previous decade with Forbes on Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964), The Wrong Box (1966), The Whisperers (1967) and Deadfall (1968). Many of Courtney Ward's pictures were featured in "Pinewood Photography 1950-1970", a 2006 exhibition of his work at the Dimbola Lodge Museum on the Isle of Wight. He never married.
George Courtney Ward, photographer: born Christchurch, Hampshire 1 December 1917; died Bournemouth, Dorset 15 February 2011.
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