George Berthold Samuelson (1889-1947): Britain’s Jewish film pioneer*

Jews played a decisive role in the American film industry’s growth and development,1 yet their pioneering contribution to the industry in Britain tends to be overlooked. When motion pictures were still in their infancy (1900-19 10), they were generally considered to be “a low-grade form of enter- tainment – suitable only for the immigrant or the uneducated masses – rather than a valid art form, and those connected with films were held in contempt”.

Not having to contend with powerful vested interests, enterprising Jews in Britain and the United States opened little picture houses for the less affluent, enabling them to enjoy the latest silent films. “Jews moved into motion picture production and exhibition for the same reasons they had gravitated to fields like small merchandising and the garment trades: little skill and little capital were required to participate. And since it was a new industry, all entrepre- neurs were

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