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. Box put half a dozen young actors under talent 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. One writer described it as "a sort of cross between Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio and a London finishing school for young ladies".
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. However many alumni went on to have notable careers, such as Christopher Lee, Diana Dors, Petula Clark, Joan Collins and Claire Bloom.
Rank later briefly ran a "charm school" for cinema managers.