Basil Dean

Basil Herbert Dean CBE (27 September 1888 – 22 April 1978) was an English actor, writer, film producer/film director and theatrical producer/director.[1][2] He is perhaps best remembered for the Entertainments National Service Association or ENSA, an organisation set up in 1939 by Dean and Leslie Henson to provide entertainment for British armed forces personnel during the Second World War.


Born in Croydon, south London, Dean started his career in showbusiness in London as a West End stage actor, and then later became a theatrical producer. He later moved into the film industry and in the early 1930s founded Associated Talking Pictures (later, under Michael Balcon, to become Ealing Studios). He publicised and worked alongside Gracie Fields and George Formby, among other entertainers.

When World War II started, he left the film industry and became the head of ENSA, the government-sponsored body responsible for bringing live performances to the armed services. He was awarded the CBE for his work with ENSA, which he described in a book called The Theatre at War.

His wives included Lady Mercy Greville and Esther Van Gruisen; also, from August 1934 until 1939, he was married to British stage and film actress, Victoria Hopper. Earlier, Dean had a relationship with one of his theatre and film stars Meggie Albanesi and after her early death in 1923 continued to be obsessed with her.


Dean died in Westminster, London in 1978 from a heart attack at the age of 89.[2] His son Winton (1916 –2013) became a musicologist.[3]

Producer filmography

Director filmography

Writer filmography

  • The Constant Nymph (1928) (play)
  • The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1929)
  • Escape (1930)
  • Birds of Prey (1930)
  • Looking on the Bright Side (1932)
  • The Water Gipsies (1932)
  • A Honeymoon Adventure (1932)
  • The Constant Nymph (1933) (play) (dialogue)
  • Autumn Crocus (1934)
  • Sensation (1936) (play Murder Gang)
  • The Show Goes On (1937)
  • Penny Paradise (1938) (story)
  • The Constant Nymph (1938) (TV) (play)
  • 21 Days (1940)
  • The Constant Nymph (1943) (play)

Selected Stage Works


  1. "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  2. BFI biodata
  3. Sadie, Stanley. Winton (Basil) Dean. In: The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. Macmillan, London & New York, 1997.
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