The reason for the creation of Warwick Films was a successful combination of several economic factors in the 1950s.American film companies were forbidden by the Marshall Plan to take their film profits in the form of foreign exchange out of European countries.
To use these profits in Britain, film companies would set up production companies using the required amount of British film technicians and actors to qualify as British productions in order to take advantage of the Eady Levy.
At the same time Americans working outside the USA for 510 days during a period of 18 months would not be taxed on their earnings by the Internal Revenue Service. Though this scheme was developed for the aid of American humanitarian workers redeveloping nations destroyed in World War II, agents discovered that Hollywood actors, directors and screenwriters would qualify for the tax break by working outside the USA for the same period.
Albert R. Broccoli, who wanted to become a producer and Irving Allen who had both produced and directed several films discovered that they would have more creative freedom and control over their films by being based outside Hollywood.
British labour and thespians were not only of high quality but also more economical to use than the conditions and salaries set by American film unions. Columbia Pictures agreed to match Allen and Broccoli's funding dollar for dollar; in other words for every dollar/pound the producers raised, Columbia would provide the same amount.
Broccoli was a former agent who knew that Alan Ladd had left Paramount Pictures over monetary disputes. Ladd and Sue Carol, his agent and wife agreed to a three-picture contract with Warwick Films on condition that Ladd's personal screenwriter Richard Maibaum co-write the films. Their first film based on a best selling book was The Red Beret (1953) that was titled Paratrooper in the USA. Based on Operation Biting and economically filmed with Parachute Regiment extras at their installations in England and Wales, the film cost US$700,000 to make and grossed US$8 million worldwide leading to more Warwick films.
Warwick followed this with two more films with Alan Ladd, Hell Below Zero and The Black Knight Both were popular and Columbia signed another three-picture contract. Broccoli said in a 1954 interview:
We're not making British pictures, but American pictures in Britain. We're trying to Americanize the actors' speech in order to make the Englishman understood down in Texas and Oklahoma - in other words, break down a natural resistance and get our pictures out of the art houses and into the regular theatres. And we're doing it. Furthermore, we'll soon be shooting all over the world, bringing to the public the beauty and scope of the outdoors in new mediums - real backgrounds, but always with an American star.
Warwick's budgets were around $1 million a film with $200,000 allocated to the American star.
Warwick made their first Cinemascope film Jose Ferrer's The Cockleshell Heroes a story of the Royal Marines based on Operation Frankton filmed at RM establishments and in Portugal in 1955. They also made A Prize of Gold and Safari.
In 1956 Warwick negotiated producing nine films in three years for a cost of £6 million for Columbia Pictures. Warwick also arranged the shooting of several 30 minute films for television that would advertise Warwick's cinema releases. At the end of 1956 it was announced they would make thirteen films for a total of $18 million.
Warwick later took advantage of an Empire development scheme that provided British grants to producers who filmed on location in British Commonwealth nations. The company filmed in Kenya (Safari and Odongo (1956) were scripted and cast in five weeks in order to shoot them back to back on location), Trinidad and Tobago (Fire Down Below (1957)) and India (Zarak (1956)). Warwick also filmed in non Commonwealth nations such as Portugal and Morocco that had suitable climates for outdoor filming and low costs.
Despite the worldwide success of their films, Warwick had to limit the cost of their films to US$1.5 million as their Fire Down Below failed due to it costing $2.5 million. The high cost of the film plagued by problems with its mercurial star Rita Hayworth led to a temporary strain in their relationship with Columbia Pictures.
At the end of 1957 Warwick ended their arrangement with Columbia.
It was announced that Ladd would make three more films for the company, but he did not appear in another Warwick film. Two of the films were made with other actors, The Man Inside and Killers of Kilimanjaro.
Irving Allen once espoused his philosophy behind filmmaking to a journalist in 1959:
If somebody sends me a literate script do you know what I do with it? I throw it in the waste paper basket, that's what I do with it. I make films to appeal to the lowest common denominator. That's why I'm still in business while the other arty-farty boys are not. I just want to make pictures to make money. That is a rat race and you can't afford to be a rat in a rat race... If I'm not tough I'm going to have my brains eaten out. The art of surviving in this business is never to let on whether you've got fifty million bucks or fifty cents... I wouldn't see my own films. I've got more taste than that. Does Barbara Hutton buy her jewelry at Woolworths?
"We're not making British pictures but American pictures in Britain," said Broccoli.
The director of the initial Warwick Films was Terence Young who not only directed several more films for the company but acted as an uncredited story editor for Warwick. The Red Beret also used Ted Moore as a camera operator and Bob Simmons as a stuntman who both would work on more Warwick productions as stunt man, stunt double and stunt arranger.
Mark Robson directed several films for Warwick. John Gilling wrote and directed several Warwick films as did Ken Hughes.
As a condition of doing his final film The Black Knight with Warwick, Alan Ladd insisted on Warwick employing his friend Euan Lloyd who worked as a publicity agent for the company and directed the 1954 short April in Portugal. Later, Warwick used Victor Mature, Bonar Colleano, Anne Aubrey and Anthony Newley in several films.
Other British film technicians getting their start at Warwick were future art director Syd Cain, story editor Peter Barnes and sound editor Alan Bell.
Harold Huth was a director of the company from 1956 onwards.
Towards the end of 1959 Warwick announced they were reducing production to one film a year. "In five years costs have doubled and earnings have halved," said Allen at the time. "When those two graphs meet you're out of business" Warwick sold its office business in central London, disposed of technical equipment and terminated staff contracts.
Allen and Broccoli also had a disagreement about filming the James Bond series that Allen thought was beneath him. Broccoli was prevented from meeting Ian Fleming's representatives due to his wife's serious illness with Allen meeting them and insulting the Bond properties.
After filming many successful action films, Warwick failed at the box office with the critically acclaimed The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960). After several disagreements with Columbia Pictures, Warwick attempted to become independent distributors by taking over Eros Films an established British film distributor that distributed that film as well as Johnny Nobody.
Allen and Broccoli went their separate ways with Broccoli forming Eon Productions with Harry Saltzman to film the Bond series using many of the same crew from The Red Beret.
In 1962 Warwick Films announced they would make two films with Joan Littlewood but this did not happen.
Projects announced by Warwick but subsequently not made include:An Englishman in Las Vegas - a comedy starring Norman Wisdom and Anita Ekberg
The Rolls Royce Story - a comedy starring Cary Grant
The Death of Uncle George
The Naked Lady
The Long Ships - originally announced for Warwick but later made by Allen in 1964
Trail of the Badman - a suspense Western with Don Burnett
It's Always Four O'Clock - script by Irwin Shaw starring Alan Ladd
The Unloved - written by Celin Morris
a version of Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham