The Company of Youth

The Company of Youth was an acting school for young contract players for the Rank Organisation who were being groomed for stardom. It was commonly known as the Rank Charm School.


The Company of Youth was a conscious attempt by J. Arthur Rank to manufacture stars similar to the Hollywood studio system. He was also inspired by the success Gainsborough Pictures had in developing British stars such as Stewart Granger, James Mason and Phyllis Calvert.

Producer Sydney Box originally set up a Company of Youth at Riverside Studios in December 1945.[1] Box put half a dozen young actors under contract and placed them in bit roles while they learnt their craft. Box transferred the company to Gainsborough in 1946 when he was recruited by the Rank Organisation.

The school was based at the church hall next to Rank's "B picture" studio at Highbury in London. Students were given an allowance of around £10 a week and trained in breathing, deportment, movement and mime, fencing, accent correction, play reading, script study, rehearsing of excerpts, remedial exercises, and diction.[2] One writer described it as "a sort of cross between Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio and a London finishing school for young ladies".[3]

The school's main acting teacher was Molly Terraine with Olive Dodds the administrator. Many of the students were called on to do publicity appearances for Rank at garden parties, cinema openings and the like. Producers who worked for the Rank Organisation seemed reluctant to use the students in many roles, and eventually the school shut down in 1951.[4] However many alumni went on to have notable careers, such as Christopher Lee, Diana Dors, Petula Clark, Joan Collins and Claire Bloom.

Most good looking British actors of the 1950s who were under contract to the Rank Organisation were considered to be graduates of the school, even when they were not, such as Maureen Swanson.[5]

Rank later briefly ran a "charm school" for cinema managers.[6]

The company was the subject of a 1982 documentary, The Rank Charm School[7] and a 1998 radio documentary, The Rank School of Charmers.[8]

Notable alumni


  1. Variety January 1946 p 5, 19
  2. "Hard work and no glamor for starlets". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 23 August 1947. p. 40. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
  3. Geoffrey MacNab, J. Arthur Rank and the British Film Industry, Routledge 1994 p141 accessed 21 May 2012
  4. "They Left School". The Sunday Herald. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 7 January 1951. p. 5 Supplement: Features. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
  5. Ronald Bergan, 'Maureen Swanson obituary', The Guardian, 1 January 2012 accessed 21 May 2012
  6. "NOTES ON FILMS Life Is Spartan At Mr. Rank's Charm School (for men only)". The Sunday Herald. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 26 November 1950. p. 4 Supplement: Sunday Herald Features. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
  7. The Rank Charm School at BFI
  8. 'The Rank School of Charmers' at the Sexton's Tales accessed 21 May 2012
  9. Coleridge, Nicholas (13 June 1993). "The Viscount of Middle England: Lord Rothermere is the last of the grandee press barons, a product of old money and social privilege, living in maverick style. But his empire has at its heart the new-monied aspirational conservatism of the Daily Mail". Independent. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  10. "EXPELLED but it didn't keep Diana down". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 22 August 1956. p. 12. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
  11. "New star fluffed lines in test for part". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 31 January 1948. p. 32. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
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