George Pearson

a former Culham student who became a film pioneer

Former Culham College student George William Pearson (1875-1973) took on his first headship in 1896 and in 1907 became headmaster of Staples Road Boys’ School in Loughton, Essex. 

He made an unusual career change at the end of 1912. After submitting some scripts to the British branch of the Pathé film company, he was invited to join them as a director.  He gave up his post as headmaster to begin a forty-year career in the British film industry.

Pearson is included in the May 2015 update to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, in which his career is recorded by Dr Luke McKernan of The British Library. 

Married and with four children, Pearson made the risky move into the film industry at a time when cinema, as Dr McKernan writes, was widely associated with ‘unhealthy venues and unseemly clientele’.

Pearson had an early success in 1914 with his Sherlock Holmes adventure A Study in Scarlet (1914), and following the outbreak of war made The Cause of the Great European War (1914).  He had commercial success in 1915 with Ultus, the Man from the Dead, based on a French mystery series.
But it was in the early 1920s that he made his most popular films in a series starring the actress Betty Balfour.

With the coming of sound, he was mainly given cheap ‘quota quickies’ to direct.

Pearson wrote an autobiography in 1957 which sets out his lifelong idealistic beliefs in the value of film, as well as revealing the integrity and good sense of a figure described by Dr McKernan as ‘a thoroughly decent man in a frequently disreputable business’.

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