On May 26th, 1926, Charles Kingsley Pattinson was born in London. He went on to become one of the most respected producers of the modern era, with a career that spanned more than 60 years and included major movies like Scottish Rite, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The First Legion, and The Man Between. His work was often compared to Hitchcock’s, with whom he shared a studio in the 1950s and whose films he occasionally produced. 

A life dedicated to film seems almost unimaginable today, but for an era when Hollywood was literally ‘light and sound’ film, Charlie’s path was entirely logical.

‘Films were big, bold, and often hilarious adventures that would play to packed houses all around the world,’ he recalled. ‘The industry just wasn’t prepared for people who wanted to stay at home and veg out on the weekend. It was the Great Depression, after all, and most families simply didn’t have the luxury of time off to go to the pictures.’

But Charlie preferred to look at the positive side of his profession. He was widely credited with having invented the art of film editing, having established a revolutionary system of cutting films together. In the words of one commentator, ‘Charlie’s editing was so good that Hitchcock was inspired to adopt similar techniques in his own films.’

The Early Years

Charlie’s father was the noted Shakespearean actor Wyndham Lewis, who had met and married Charlie’s mother, Emily, in 1907. The family lived in London’s elite Belgravia district, where Charlie grew up surrounded by famous faces. Most notably, his godfather was William Randolph Hearst, the American newspaper publisher and one of the richest men in the world.

Although he didn’t begin his career in the film industry, Charlie’s early work did involve the medium. In 1924, he began his studies at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London, where he learned the fundamentals of film-making. His formal education was cut short, however, when the Great Depression hit the following year and his family could no longer afford to pay for his lessons. He then found work teaching music and film at a London private school. In the late 1920s, he briefly worked in a cinema before landing a job in publicity at Gaumont British Studios. There he learned the ins and outs of the trade from Arthur Pearson, who would later become head of the British Bioscope filmmaking school. In the early 1930s, Pearson recommended Charlie for a job at the Ufa-Film subsidiary of the German Ufa-Film company, where he was put in charge of production. It was at Ungfa that Charlie began developing his skill as a producer, overseeing the production of more than 30 films in Bioscope‘s modernist Ufa-Cinema tent.

London Studios & Elstree

In 1933, Charlie moved to the United States for a spell, where he became a naturalized citizen. After a few years in California, he returned to England and settled in London. In 1937, he established himself in a large house on Chesham Street in London, which would serve as his production hub for the rest of his life. The same year, he began working with the British Bioscope company and Transparency Film, where he set up his own production company, Charlie Productions. Charlie Productions was responsible for many commercials and some major feature films, among them Whisky Galore!, The Informer, and Whistle Down the Wind. A highlight of Charlie Productions’ brief, yet distinguished, existence was Scottish Rite, a thriller about a gangland kidnapping, which was the first of four films in the Scottish Rite series. The series was directed by Compton Gurland, who went on to direct The Man Who Knew Too Much, which Charlie produced, and whose work Charlie admired. In the words of one reviewer, the Scottish Rite series ‘established [Gurland’s] reputation as a clever, assured thriller director.’

During a time of great change in the film industry, Charlie saw his role as a producer evolve from being a commercial entity, focused on maximising profits, to being a creative entity, dedicated to challenging the status quo and trying new things. In the mid-1940s, Charlie began to experiment with color film and sound in films like The Man Between. This was before TechnicolorCinemaScope, and Surround Sound were even invented, and the status of the color film as an element in cinematic storytelling was being called into question. Color film was largely seen as a marketing tool and a way to make money, rather than a way of storytelling in its own right.

Hollywood, Los Angeles & Rome

Just as the film industry was evolving, so too was Charlie’s role in it. In the mid-1940s, he began producing for Hollywood studios, working on The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Battleship Potemkin. During this time he also served as a producer on several films that were partly shot in Europe, including The Iron Curtain, The Sound of Waves, and The Long Farewell. He also became interested in making documentaries, working with Hockney Photo and Gaumont-British Picture Corp on Wartime Britain 1939-1945, an account of life in England during the Second World War.

Charlie stayed in Hollywood for a number of years, working with some of the biggest names in the business. These included such luminaries as Stanley Kubrick, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, and Richard Britton. It was during this time that he worked with Alfred Hitchcock, who had begun making Dial M for Murder in the UK and was putting the finishing touches to Stage Fright, on which they were both working. The pair would remain friends all their lives and, in later years, work together on several commercials and the critically acclaimed Marnie.

After spending over 20 years in Hollywood, Charlie landed back in England in the early 1960s. He continued to make occasional trips to the US, where he worked with Darryl F. Zanuck, David O. Russell, and Lawrence Kasdan on the screenplay for The Man Who Loved Cat Braddock, a film loosely based on the Broadway play The Man Who Loved Cat. In the 1970s, he made a trip to India to join a group of British film producers trying to establish a foothold in the lucrative Indian market. He served as producer on such films as Soumitra, Sudan, and The Far Pavilions, which was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Film in 2002. In the 1980s, he began to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, which he later declared to be his greatest challenge. He died in 2005, just three weeks before his 92nd birthday.