Ealing's new comedies to laugh at everyone: Revived studio will not bow to political correctness in its films, reports David Lister

THE British sense of humour is to be given a multicultural tinge for the reopening of the bastion of British comedy, the Ealing Film Studios. Otherwise, it will be left much as it was in the 1940s.

Anthony Shaffer, the playwright who is the new head of development at Ealing, said yesterday that he would not bow to political correctness in the scripts he chooses for the new Ealing comedies. Immigrant communities must accept being the victim or object of a joke as much as anyone else.

'People who come to live in England must not be offended if, from time to time, they become the butt of a comic idea, just as a cockney wouldn't mind.' Referring to an Ealing classic of the post- war years, he said: 'It may well be that The Man In The White Suit becomes The Woman In A White Sari.'

Ealing will be making films again this summer for the first time since 1955, when it was sold to the BBC. In its heyday in the 1940s, under Michael Balcon, it made a series of classic comedies such as The Ladykillers, Kind Hearts and Coronets and The Lavender Hill Mob.

The production company BBRK, which bought the studios from the BBC for pounds 6m last year, will shortly announce the first of six films it plans to make over the next year. The first is Rainbow, a children's film directed by Bob Hoskins and starring the American actor Donald Sutherland. Others include stories based on the lives of Lord Lucan and Edward Elgar, and a Beryl Bainbridge story, The Bottle Factory Outing. Most will have a budget of under pounds 2m, and much of the money has been raised from private investors under the Business Expansion Scheme.

But while the reopening of the studios is an enormous fillip for the British film industry, most attention will be focused on its new-era comedies. Already, David Bill, the head of BBRK and a former advertising art director, has invited advertising agencies to produce script outlines, as he believes them to be a good source of comic talent.

The Ealing Comedy of the 1940s achieved an immediately recognisable flavour and philosophy, and was described by the critic Ken Tynan as 'the regimental mascot' of British cinema.

Under Balcon and with a group of actors including Alec Guinness, Margaret Rutherford and Stanley Holloway, the Ealing Comedy often dealt with the little man, sometimes slightly eccentric, fighting against bureaucracy.

Balcon described them as 'comedies about ordinary people with the stray eccentric among them; films about daydreamers, mild anarchists, little men who long to kick the boss in the teeth'. Ealing in the 1940s also clearly defined not only a British sense of humour but an idiosyncratic vision of Britain itself.

The comic vision of Britain that the new Ealing conveys will be in the hands of Mr Shaffer, the author of the successful play and film Sleuth, who will have to approve scripts and script ideas. He will also, he said yesterday, want to emulate Balcon and build up a repertory company of actors and actresses.

Those who have expressed their support, and whom he is likely to approach, include Sir Anthony Hopkins, Helena Bonham Carter, Maureen Lipman, Tom Conti, Nigel Hawthorne, Ian Richardson, Alan Rickman and Daniel Day- Lewis, Balcon's grandson.

Mr Shaffer said yesterday that the revived Ealing would mount a cultural challenge to Hollywood, eschewing the violence, particularly sexual violence, of the American films, and what he termed 'the regrettably called 'feel-good' films which tend to be mawkish. There is a tenderness in the English attitude which I want to recapture'.

'We have to show a multicultural society working tolerantly, but with that slightly dotty English flavour. But while the films will be multicultural, I refuse to bow to the lunacy of political correctness. Black people themselves often call themselves 'niggers', though it is of course quite different if a white person does so.

'What the immigrant races mainly have to share is this all-embracing national sense of humour which I believe is the true guardian of our civil liberties,' Mr Shaffer said.

He predicted opposition to his plans, saying: 'Of course, some will affirm that under no circumstances should we seek to return to such a 'safe, timid, insular, time-warp mentality', or to jokey, unimportant little British films with no international appeal.' But, he added, Ealing at its best 'resuscitated the archetypal spirit of England and Englishness'.

This nostalgic approach to comedy found an unexpected ally yesterday in John Lloyd, producer of the far more anarchic modern comedies Blackadder and Not The Nine O'Clock News, and of Spitting Image, who said: 'We want non-political and non-satirical comedy now, more Mr Bean and Harry Enfield, the Kenneth Williams tradition rather than Spitting Image.

'The problem with contemporary British movies is that they are periodic and whingey, looking down on the nobodies that are around and saying, 'Look at all those people, aren't they naff? You and I aren't'. We need life- enhancing comedies. We should be doing the When Harry Met Sally type of film and the fantasy film, perhaps set in the future.'

(Photographs omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker