If you thought the British film industry was a genteel, conservative sort of business, then think again. This is a history of home-grown movies that includes the scandals, the suicides, the immolations and the contract killings - the product of thousands of conversations with veteran film-makers. Here you'll meet the actress who remembers the night in 1920 when her father cheated her out of a Hollywood contract; the screenwriter who, one night in 1924, watched his film idols snort cocaine from an illuminated glass dance floor on the bank of the Thames at Maidenhead; the movie columnist of the 1930s whose sense of job satisfaction increased with every writ that landed on her editor's desk; the model who escaped Soho's gangsters to become the queen of the nudie flicks; the genteel Scottish comedienne who, at the age of fifty-five, reinvented herself as a star of exploitation cinema, and fondly remembers 'the one where I drilled in people's heads and ate their brains'. A Babel of voices from the lost worlds of British cinema.
Matthew Sweet is a writer and broadcaster with a doctorate in Wilkie Collins. He presents Night Waves and Free Thinking on BBC Radio 3 and The Philosopher's Arms and The Film Programme on BBC Radio 4.
He is the author of Inventing the Victorians and Shepperton Babylon: The Lost Worlds of British Cinema - which he adapted as a film for BBC Four ("the best documentary I've seen all year" - Daily Telegraph). He's also edited and introduced the work of Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle, William Thackeray, George Eliot and Edward Bulwer-Lytton.
His TV films and series include Silent Britain (BBC Four) Checking into History (Channel Four), British Cinema Forever (BBC2) and A Brief History of Fun (Channel Four).