Arthur Crabtree

Arthur Crabtree (29 October 1900 in Shipley, Yorkshire, England 15 March 1975 in Worthing, Sussex, England) was a British cinematographer and film director. He directed several of the Gainsborough Melodramas.


Crabtree earliest credits as a cinematographer were at British International Pictures. He shot Out of the Blue (1931) with Jessie Matthews; Verdict of the Sea (1932); and The Maid of the Mountains (1932).

Crabtree did some films for Michael Powell, Lazybones (1935) and The Love Test (1935). He was a camera operator on First a Girl.[1]

Gainsborough Pictures

Crabtree joined Gainsborough Pictures. He worked on The First Offence (1936) with John Mills; Pot Luck (1936) with Tom Walls and Ralph Lynn; Everybody Dance (1936) with Cicely Courtneidge; and All In (1936) with Lynn for director Marcel Varnel.

He went on to Good Morning, Boys (1937) with Will Hay; The Great Barrier (1937) with Richard Arlen, shot partly on location in Canada; Said O'Reilly to McNab (1937) with Will Mahoney and Will Fyffe; and Oh, Mr. Porter! (1937) with Hay.

Crabtree shot Bank Holiday (1938) for director Carol Reed starring Margaret Lockwood. He did Convict 99 (1938) with Hay; Alf's Button Afloat (1938) with The Crazy Gang for Varney; Old Bones of the River (1938) and Hey! Hey! USA (1938) with Hay; The Frozen Limits (1939) with The Crazy Gang. Most of these films were directed by Marcel Varnel. So was Where's That Fire? (1940) with Hay; and Band Waggon (1940) with Arthur Askey. He did some photography work on Neutral Port (1940).

Crabtree shot For Freedom (1940) with Will Fyffe; Charley's (Big-Hearted) Aunt (1940) with Askey; and Neutral Port (1940) with Fyffe. He did a short for director Anthony Asquith, Channel Incident (1941) and one for Herbert Mason, Mr. Proudfoot Shows a Light (1941).

After doing Gasbags (1941) with the Crazy Gang, Crabtree was used by Carol Reed on Kipps (1941) at Fox. For that company he also did Inspector Hornleigh Goes to It (1941); and Once a Crook (1941), and another short for Asquith, Rush Hour (1941).

Back at Gainsborough Crabtree shot I Thank You (1941) with Askey. After doing South American George (1941) with George Formby at Columbia, he did Uncensored (1942) for Asquith at Gainbsorough.

He did another with Formby at Columbia, Much Too Shy (1942), then went back to Gainbsorough for King Arthur Was a Gentleman (1942) with Askey.

Gainsborough Melodramas

Crabtree was cinematographer on Gainsborough's The Man in Grey (1943), a huge hit which started the Gainsborough melodrama cycle and made stars of James Mason, Margaret Lockwood, Phyllis Calvert and Stewart Granger. He shot a comedy with Lockwood, Dear Octopus (1943), then did another melodrama, Fanny by Gaslight (1944), directed by Asquith and starring Calvert, Granger and Mason, another huge success. Crabtree followed this with Waterloo Road (1945) starring Granger and John Mills, directed by Sidney Gilliat.


Crabtree had filmed some of Gainsborough's biggest successes and the studio promoted him to director for Madonna of the Seven Moons (1945) with Calvert and Granger.[2] Phyllis Calvert later recalled:

Arthur was a very good cinematographer, but there weren't enough directors, and so people who were scriptwriters or were behind the camera were suddenly made directors. It wasn't that Crabtree was an unsatisfactory director, just that we found ourselves very satisfactory – we did it ourselves. But the fact that he had been a lighting cameraman was wonderful for us, because he knew exactly how to photograph us.[3]

The film was very popular at the box office. So too was Crabtree's second effort as director, They Were Sisters (1945) with Calvert and Mason, and his third, Caravan (1946) with Granger.[4]

Crabtree directed a thriller with Eric Portman and Greta Gynt, Dear Murderer (1947). He followed this with The Calendar (1948), with Gynt,[5] and was one of the directors on Quartet (1948).[6]

Post Gainsborough

Crabtree directed Don't Ever Leave Me (1949), a comedy, then Lilli Marlene (1950), a war film. He made Hindle Wakes (1952), The Wedding of Lilli Marlene (1953) and Stryker of the Yard (also 1953). Crabtree moved into television, directing episodes of Colonel March of Scotland Yard, The Adventures of Sir Lancelot, Rheingold Theatre, and The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Crabtree moved into "B" films. He made Morning Call (1957), then did West of Suez (1958) for producer Richard Gordon starring Keefe Brasselle. He made Death Over My Shoulder (1958) with Brasselle, then did another for Gordon, Fiend Without a Face (1958).

After directing episodes of Ivanhoe he helmed Horrors of the Black Museum (1959) for producer Herman Cohen and a 1961 episode of the Stryker of the Yard series.

Selected filmography


  1. "Film Gossip". The Telegraph (SECOND ed.). Brisbane. 19 November 1935. p. 6. Retrieved 27 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  2. Madonna of the Seven Moons – Sue Harper explores the wider cultural resonances of an escapist gypsy romance and how it tapped into 1940s feminine fantasy History Today; London Vol. 45, Iss. 8, (Aug 1, 1995): 47.
  3. Brian MacFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen 1997 p 110
  4. "Menuhin music in British film". The Sun (2201). Sydney. 17 June 1945. p. 3 (SUPPLEMENT TO THE SUNDAY SUN WEEK END MAGAZINE). Retrieved 27 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  5. "MAGAZINE". The South Coast Express. 1 (2). Queensland, Australia. 15 September 1949. p. 5. Retrieved 27 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  6. "NOTES ON FILMS". The Sunday Herald (Sydney) (38). New South Wales, Australia. 9 October 1949. p. 4 (Features). Retrieved 27 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
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