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Britain and the Entertainment Industry

Brits in Film

The Brits have been part of Hollywood since the beginning. Charlie Chaplin was a key figure in the creation of the movie industry. Boris Karloff (whose brother was a senior British diplomat!) and Stan Laurel were among the many influential Hollywood Brits of that era. Fifty years ago, Cary Grant (a Bristol man) was the leading Leading Man, and Alec Guinness and David Niven won Oscars®. Over the ensuing years, Britain has amassed an amazing tally of around 320 Academy Awards.

The Brits have excelled not only in acting, but also in directing, screenwriting, music, costume design, animation and special effects. The Star Wars movies were made in Britain because of the strength of special effects expertise there. Many American filmmakers choose to make all or part of their movies in the UK, even if the story is set elsewhere.

British film organizations in Los Angeles include BritWeek's partners BAFTA/LA and the British Film Commission.

Brits on TV

British television formats have been popular in the US since the sixties. Several successful TV shows in America have been based on British originals. These include Sanford and Son, Three’s Company, All in the Family and more recently The Office. Today reality TV show formats from the UK reign supreme in America, including Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Dancing With the Stars and American Idol.

Many landmark British shows have been exported to the United States without being adapted for American audiences. These include numerous British comedies, from the zany Monty Python’s Flying Circus in the Seventies to Ricky Gervais’ original version of The Office. British crime dramas like Prime Suspect, historical epics, and costume dramas remain perennially popular. Most recently, the Golden Globe and Emmy Awards winning global phenomenon Downton Abbey has taken the US by storm.

Finally, innumerable Brits have been involved in purely American TV shows, often in the lead roles, from Angela Lansbury in Murder She Wrote and Jane Seymour in a variety of series, to Ian McShane in Deadwood and Hugh Laurie in House today. Everywhere in the TV industry, as in the movies, there are Brits behind the scenes, as producers and production experts.