History of The Rank Foundation
The Founder - Lord Rank
Lord Rank was born in 1888, the son of Joseph Rank, a prominent Yorkshire mill owner. At the age of 17 he joined his father's flour milling business, in which he was employed throughout the earlier part of his life.
Lord Rank was a devout Christian and it was his interest in showing religious films to children in the Sunday school of his local church that first brought him into the work of cinema and so changed the course of his career. Starting by financing the production of films, he went on to acquire and develop interests in all areas of the industry - exhibition, distribution, production, studios and technology.
By 1941 he was the dominant figure in British films. Since that time, the company that he founded, The Rank Organisation PLC, has greatly expanded in the fields of leisure, entertainment and technology.
Lord and Lady Rank undertook a wide range of charitable work through out their lives and in 1953 they set up the J.Arthur Rank Group Charity (now The Rank Foundation).
The following is an extract from "Foundation of Faith : A History of the Rank Foundation", a private publication by Mr Robin Cowen. This is a copy of the preface written by Lord Rank's daughter, Shelagh Cowen.
This Foundation was indeed founded on faith - the faith and belief of one man, J Arthur Rank, my father. Several books have been written about him but always from the angle of big business and never giving a picture of the man himself. As the Foundation is truly a testament to his whole character and beliefs, I feel it would be fitting to write a little about this exceptional man and by someone who probably knows him as well as anyone.
My father had a wonderful simple faith and trust in the Almighty. He put his whole life in the hands of God. It was a faith envied by many who knew him well and the object of cynical disbelief by others. Every morning of his life he walked in his garden, praying and seeking advice from God in his public and private life, for the coming day and living it out with this help from above. A fellow director of one of the boards of which he was chairman said after a very controversial meeting "It is no use arguing against J Arthur and God!".
He was a man of the greatest integrity and believed that your word was your bond. During the difficult post-war days of the Labour Government, he had been promised in a letter help by the Government for the showing of his films in the United States. Subsequently the Government reneged on this, and when the Minister said "But it was only a piece of paper, Mr Rank" my father never did business with him again.
My father was truly blessed by the unswerving love and devotion of my mother. She had as strong and as deep a faith as my father. She was a rock of support and help, but not beyond advising or even criticising him if she felt all was not well with his plans. Together they were a wonderful team and devotedly gave my sister and myself a marvellous home and childhood.
J Arthur was always interested in the thoughts and problems of young people as is vastly illustrated by the great concern shown by the Foundation for them and the great amount done to help them. He felt strongly that, in the past, Youth Clubs had done much to get young people off the streets and occupied them but did not really help them to help themselves. He thought that to learn about leadership was very important and also to learn to organise their own projects and lives. These young people were, he said "the seed corn of the future and the leaders of tomorrow."
Thus amongst all this lay the heart of a very human being. He had enormous enthusiasm and determination which influenced everything he did - his shooting, his gun dog training and his golf. He brought his handicap down to two by playing and learning from the top professionals of the day. He had a putting green on the lawn and delighted in challenging his friends to a game - with local knowledge he always won. He played with us children with equal enthusiasm. I can remember our summers at the seaside and when the tide was out my father marshalled every child on the beach to dig a complicated system of castles and ditches. The whole beach gathered to watch the tide come in and slowly fill the ditches and sink the castles. He had thought it all out and it had to work.
He had the gift of being able to put his problems aside, having once thought them out and realised there was nothing he could do for the moment. Thus at home and amongst his friends he was always cheerful - sometimes maddeningly so - and the life and soul of the party. He was a life long teetotaller, but people who did not know him well have imagined he had had a drink or two. He was a tremendous tease to his intimates and a source of delight to his grandchildren.
But his great, great belief in the power of the Holy Spirit led him to his lifelong work to bring the joy of his belief to other people, starting with his teaching at Sunday School. One of the clearest memories of my father, during the War, seeing him set forth, come rain or shine, his overcoat streaming behind him as he bicycled to Sunday School in Reigate Methodist Church School. Petrol rationing was not going to stop him.
From Sunday School to Family Services, compulsory attendance for the family, to his great crusade for Religious Films. He believed that the media of films and the cinema would be a way to reach out to the people. Those who were not churchgoers might learn of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. The progress of this crusade is dealt with in this book.
Yet together with the grand vision of this crusade, nobody's troubles and anxieties were too trivial and he made time to advise them. There are countless people, young and old, who have benefited from his help both spiritually and practically. I am sure he was an inspiration to many people and certainly to myself. To this day as I walk up the stairs and look at my father's portrait smiling down at me, I still think what he would have done about any of my problems that I am trying to deal with, and the memories of his wisdom and beliefs help me.
Altogether a great man of many parts and through it all shone his faith.