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Jerome Jackson

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Jerome Jackson was an American-born lawyer-turned-producer who fostered several important careers in England during the 1930's, most notably that of director Michael Powell. The son of a prominent New York attorney, Jackson was sent to England in 1928 by Nathan Burkan -- the attorney best remembered for representing Mae West in the legal dispute over her censored play Sex -- on behalf of United Artists chief Nick Schenck in a legal capacity. As Michael Powell recalled in his autobiography A Life In Movies, no sooner did Jackson see London for the first time, however, then he was overwhelmed by the beauty of the city, and also attracted to the opportunities that he saw there. In America in 1928, the talkies had already begun their inexorable supplanting of the silents. This technological revolution and the aesthetic upheaval that it entailed had yet to arrive in England, but Jackson knew that it would get there within a year, and recognized that anyone with a head-start in dealing with the technology would have an enormous advantage; and that he not only had a head-start, but he was already in England -- and he was staying.He set up an office above a shop on Gerrard Street in London, and it was there that he first met Michael Powell, then a would-be filmmaker, just promoted from stills-man to writer. Powell's first job for Jackson was to recut a German-made comedy by Lupu Pick called A Knight In London, starring Lilian Harvey -- it was a silent, of course, and the cutting only required some taste and skill and common sense, and the picture was a reasonable success when Jackson released it in England. It marked the beginning of what would become a seven-year professional relationship between the neophyte producer and the aspiring director. Powell's next project for Jackson came in 1930 with the movie Caste; Powell had hoped to direct this movie as well as co-writing the screenplay, but ultimately it was original play author Campbell Cullen who directed it. Finally, in 1931, Powell moved into the director's chair on a Jackson production, Two Crowded Hours, starring Jerry Verno and John Longden. An inexpensive thriller, it was not only a success, but showed a good deal of promise on the part of this director, and over the next five years, Powell and Jackson went on to make a string of profitable low-budget thrillers, comedies, and dramas. Indeed, low-budget is almost too grand a word -- minuscule would be more like it. The films that Powell and Jackson made together were called "quota" pictures or, sometimes, "quota-quickies," and they were a unique product of the British film industry's troubles. In order to forestall the complete dominance of American-made movies in England, Parliament passed a law which required that a certain percentage of British-made pictures be shown in British theaters -- the result was that American studios sometimes financed ultra-low-budget films that they could distribute themselves in England, to facilitate the release of their American-made movies; and enterprising producers like Jackson would make such quota films, and sell them to the distributors and theater chains. And the economics of it all were mindbogglingly small-scale and straightforward -- quota-quickies were budgeted at one pound (then about $6) per finished foot of film; the job of the producer, director, cast, and crew was to deliver a picture that cost no more than 17 shillings and six-pence (about $5.25) per finished foot to make and deliver; and the two-shillings-and-six-pence (around 75 cents) per finished foot of film left over was the profit. Next to many of these productions, all but the most emaciated American B-pictures were opulent. But making such pictures as Rynox, Red Ensign, Crown V. Stevens, and Lazybones taught Jackson and Powell what they needed to know in order to make better movies, and by 1938, both were doing just that. Powell had graduated to the august surroundings of Alexander Korda


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