|Edward L. Alperson|
Grand National Films, Inc (or Grand National Pictures, Grand National Productions and Grand National Film Distributing Co.) was an American Poverty Row motion picture production-distribution company in operation from 1936 to 1939. The company had no relation to the British Grand National Pictures. It was bought by RKO Radio Pictures in 1940.
Edward L. Alperson, a film exchange manager, founded Grand National in 1936 on the heels of the collapse of First Division Pictures, of which he was on the Board of Directors. He began in April, 1936, by taking over First Division's existing product line and contracts and continuing their availability as Grand National Film Distributing Company. By the summer, he had begun development of a California-based production entity, Grand National Productions, at the Educational Pictures studios, to create future product. By October, he had his first original films ready for release. Alperson dreamed up the studio's logo, a futuristic clock tower, with an idea to advertise "it's time to see a Grand National release".
Grand National introduced singing cowboy Tex Ritter, securing the company's position with the public. They produced other Westerns that featured singing cowboy Tex Fletcher and singing cowgirl Dorothy Page in two other series of westerns, and made a series of mysteries with the character of The Shadow. Apart from westerns, its most consistent talent may have been comedy director Charles Lamont. Grand National made a few features in Cinecolor that it called "Hirlicolor", after producer George Hirliman. Hirliman also produced a four film Federal Agent series starring his wife Eleanor Hunt and Conrad Nagel.
In 1937, Grand National was able to sign up actor James Cagney, after he had a falling out with his home studio, Warner Bros.. After making Great Guy, Cagney was offered Angels With Dirty Faces, which Grand National had acquired, but Cagney was worried about being typecast as a gangster, as he had been at Warner Bros., and opted instead for a musical satire on Hollywood called Something to Sing About, directed by Victor Schertzinger. Despite Cagney's presence, however, neither picture turned a profit and, as the company's biggest investment, brought on Grand National's collapse.
The studio went into liquidation in 1939, with its completed but unreleased films sold to Universal Pictures for release under its name. The negatives of Grand National westerns were acquired by Screencraft Pictures, and others were acquired by Astor Pictures, for re-release. The studio complex was acquired by Producers Releasing Corporation.
Grand National released a total of 100 films in its three-year run. Many of its titles have lapsed into the public domain and are legally accessible online.