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Cinema History Sources

The Centre has many archival sources which are of relevance to the history of film and the cinema. Amongst these are the following (the reference codes provide links to on-line catalogue descriptions):

Our online exhibitions include a section on 'The Power of the Cinema: Film in the 1920s and 1930s', featuring archives from the Trades Union Congress collection.

Confederation of British Industry and its predecessors

The Federation of British Industries (FBI), prompted by concern that the film industry was in decline, held a conference on the subject in May 1925. Among those invited were representatives from the Society of Authors and the Victoria League (ref. MSS.200/F/1/1/159). The FBI archive also contains references about child actors (ref. MSS.200/F/3/S1/32/13, 34/2), minimum standards of film equipment (ref. MSS.200/F/3/S1/14/12) and international industrial film festivals (ref. MSS.200/F/3/O2/2/60A). In addition, there is FBI material on training documentaries (ref. MSS.200/F/3/T2/9/7), publicity films to aid exports (ref. MSS.200/F/3/O4/5/4) and industrial film production (ref. MSS.200/F/3/S2/37/5 & MSS.200/F/3/S2/37/6).
The papers of the other Confederation of British Industry (CBI) predecessors and related bodies include material about the use of film for commercial purposes. In the archive of the Dollar Export Council is material on the subject of advertising British goods on American television (ref. MSS.200/DEC/3/3/E20) and correspondence from Foster Films suggesting a film advertising campaign (ref. MSS.200/DEC/3/3/F35).

During an inquiry into the role of shop stewards conducted in 1955, the British Employers' Federation received a detailed reply from the British Film Producers' Association, which contained standard studio agreements from the 1940s (ref. MSS.200/B/3/2/C1143A). In 1972, the CBI organised the production and distribution of introductory films on Britain's entry into the European Economic Community (refs. MSS.200/C/3/A/4/1/1-2 and MSS.200/C/3/IA/1/3). The CBI was also involved with promoting the National Industrial Film Awards (ref. MSS.200/C/3/A/1/3).

Trades Union Congress

The deposited Registry files (1920-60) of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) contain details of the various unions involved in the cinema industry. These included the Cinema Managers' Association, which applied for membership of the TUC in 1944 (ref. MSS.292/91C/49). The Association of Cinematograph, Television and Allied Technicians (ACT, later ACTT), on the other hand, organised workers in the production side of the film industry (refs. MSS.292/85/188 & 210, MSS.292/91C/50). Details of pre-war agreements with Gaumont-British and membership figures are available for the cinema technicians (ref. MSS.292/10.2/15) as is Our case in Parliament, a pamphlet written in 1944 to encourage ATC members to pay the political levy (ref. MSS.292/43.2/1). During the post-war period, concern about Communist infiltration of the ATC was reflected by articles in journals such as Common Cause (ref. MSS.292/770.2/3).

The National Association of Theatrical and Kine Employees (NATKE), which began its activities in the film industry by recruiting cinema workers, eventually represented workers on both the production and exhibiting sides of the industry. The TUC was obliged to intervene in inter-union disputes over representation of workers in the cinema industry in the period 1932-57 (refs. MSS.292/85/98, 103, 188, 210, 233, 323). During the period 1946-7, the electricians' union, the ATC and NATKE all claimed the right to represent the repair and dispatch workers who were employed by film renting companies (ref. MSS.292/85/188). A year later, there was a confrontation between the ATC and NATKE over the organisation of workers involved in the distribution of films (ref. MSS.292/85/210).
NATKE also opposed the application of the actors' union, Equity, to join the National Joint Production Councils for the film industry (ref. MSS.292/85/233). Equity, on their part, became involved in a later dispute with the Variety Artistes' Federation over the representation of artistes (ref. MSS.292/85/323). The TUC correspondence files also contain details of those unions which applied for affiliation to the TUC : the Film Artistes' Association (ref. MSS.292/91F/106-7); the Coloured and Oriental Film Artistes' Associations (ref. MSS.292/91F/108); the Theatrical Artists' Film Society and the National Association of Theatrical and Kine Employees (ref. MSS.292/91T/268, 269 and 270).

Both the production and exhibition sides of the film industry are represented in the TUC files. In 1935, for instance, a delegation from the TUC visited Elstree studios (ref. MSS.292/674.94/5). TUC concern was expressed at the involvement both of children and animals in film production (refs. MSS.292/675.12/1-2, 12/5, MSS.292/675.1/5,6). In addition, the TUC campaigned for better pay and conditions for workers in film studios (refs. MSS. 292/674.94/8 - MSS. 292/675.1/2).

The TUC files also bear witness to the organisation's concerns with the exhibition side of the film industry. Thus there are files on conditions of cinema staff (ref. MSS.292/675.1/1 and MSS.292/675.1/2), the price of cinema tickets (ref. MSS.292/674.94/7), cinema licences (ref. MSS.292/674.94/8), Sunday performances (ref. MSS.292/675.12/7) and the ban on non-flammable film (ref. MSS.292/675.12/3). Correspondence on working conditions generally within the cinema industry was maintained over the period 1927-60 (refs. MSS.292/674.94/3 - MSS. 292/675.1/1-2). In addition, the TUC made its views known on violence in films (ref. MSS.292/675.12/6).

The TUC was aware of the importance of film as a means of persuasion, hence the correspondence on publicity films, cinema vans, local TUC and Labour Party film societies, and circulars such as Labour cinema propaganda (refs. MSS.292/23.1/14, MSS.292/675.5/3 - MSS.292/675.752/5). Film played a significant role in the commemoration of the centenary of the Tolpuddle martyrs in 1934 : a film was made of the celebrations and proposals were aired for a feature film (refs. MSS.292/1.91/38). The latter suggestion was not realised until the 1980s.

The TUC collaborated with the British Productivity Council on a number of film projects in the 1950s. Included in these records are minutes and papers of the latter's Film Approvals Committee and numerous film scripts (refs. MSS.292/552.435/1a and /1b). In addition, the TUC maintained links both with the Workers' Film Association (refs. MSS.292/23.1/17, MSS.292/675.97/1 - MSS.292/675.971/5) and with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). Correspondence with the latter concerned the ICFTU International Labour Film Institute and film festivals (ref. MSS.292/675.971/6 and MSS.292/675.971/7).

There is a separate series of reports of TUC deputations to government departments (some of which also appear in the relevant subject files). This includes reports relating to: the film industry, 25 Apr 1932 (MSS.292/712.5/1/27-29); the Cinematograph Act 1909 and other enactments and regulations, 12 Feb 1935 (MSS.292/712.5/1/137-139); the Cinematograph Films Bill, 24 Nov 1937 (MSS.292/712.5/1/264-266)

Lady Allen of Hurtwood

The Centre contains many of the surviving papers of Lady Allen of Hurtwood, campaigner for child welfare and landscape architect. Lady Allen was at one time chairman of the Advisory Council on Children's Entertainment Films and her papers include the minutes of the first meeting of the Council in September 1944 (ref. MSS.121/FI/1/1), correspondence about the British Film Institute (ref. MSS.121/P/3/1/41-47) and correspondence with J. Arthur Rank concerning various aspects of the cinema in relation to children (ref. MSS.121/FI/3/1/1-31). Notes and texts for Lady Allen's speeches on the latter subject are also included in her papers (ref. MSS.121/FI/7/1/1-11) as are press-cuttings on children's films of the 1940s (ref. MSS.121/NS/10/2).

Austin Motor Company (C.R.F. Engelbach)

Charles Engelbach spent the years 1921-38 as Works Director of the Austin Motor Company. His papers contain a prospectus from Gee Films for the Austin film This Progress, dating from the early 1930s (ref. MSS.305/10/2).

Maurice Edelman MP

Maurice Edelman was a Labour Member of Parliament for Coventry and a best-selling author. His papers include material on the film industry in the 1960s and 1970s, including files on the British film industry (ref. MSS.125/1/3/54), British Lion Films Ltd (Shepperton Studios) (ref. MSS.125/1/3/11), the Parliamentary Film Committee (ref. MSS.125/1/4/2) and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Films Bill (ref. MSS.125/1/4/6).

Film Industry Employees' Council (Transport Salaried Staffs' Association)

The Transport Salaried Staffs' Association deposit includes a copy of the report on the Film Industry Conference of January 1951 and a policy statement of the Film Industry Employees' Council, The crisis of British films (ref. MSS.55/1/EC/42).

Tom Flinn

Flinn was a young cycling enthusiast living in Plaistow in east London who began a detailed diary in 1932. As well as his cycling activities, the diary records his other leisure pursuits, including his frequent cinema-going. The films he saw and his comments on them are listed in this summary of his cultural and hobby-related activities. More information about Flinn and his diaries.

Frank Forster

The 1934-1938 diaries of Frank Forster (b.1910), labourer, contain detailed observations on his daily life and views on the contemporary political and social scene (ref. MSS.364/1-11). They include accounts of cinema-going and comments on and analysis of particular films.

Sir Victor Gollancz

The papers of the publisher, writer and humanitarian Victor Gollancz contain some approaches to him concerning film and the cinema. In 1949, he discussed a proposed film of the life of David with Ben Arbeid (ref. MSS.157/3/JE/8/92-3). A decade later, he exchanged correspondence with Guy Belmore regarding the latter's appeal for the Lobenyka Film Unit (ref. MSS.157/3/AF/2/80-8). In 1952, Gollancz was sent material in German, which described the controversy surrounding the film Unsterbliche Geliebte, directed by Viet Harlan (ref. MSS.157/3/GE/28/45-46). Correspondence also exists from 1955, regarding the possibility of Gollancz becoming Vice-President of the Council for Children's Films (ref. MSS.157/3/CF/1/1-9).

Reg Groves

Reg Groves was a left-wing activist, journalist, screenwriter and historian. Among his papers are a synopsis of a proposed film on the post-war Labour government, including correspondence with Francis Williams (ref. MSS.172/RG/1/1-13). Groves became interested in scripting films about football and trade unions (ref. MSS.172/RG/2/1-153) and was an occasional film critic during the 1940s (ref. MSS.172/RG/5). His papers also contain draft outlines and film scripts from the 1940s on such diverse subjects as anti-fascism, the Canadian army's participation in the Second World War, pest control, the town of Aylesbury and manpower strategy (ref. MSS.172/RG/3/1-9).

Sir Joseph Hallsworth

Sir Joseph Hallsworth was the first General Secretary of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers. His interest in the British cinema industry was prompted by a concern about the employment conditions of children in films. The correspondence files on this subject cover the years 1915-36 and include minutes of the relevant Trades Union Congress committee in addition to reports and statements of the League of Nations and the International Labour Organisation (ref. MSS.70/3/2).

Incomes Data Services Limited

Incomes Data Services Limited was founded in 1962 as an information service for industrial relations. The files on the cinema industry in the 1960s and the 1970s include newspaper cuttings, a copy of an agreement between the cinema employers' association and the National Association of Theatrical and Kine Employees (NATKE), and details of a dispute between NATKE and Clyde Leisure Pastimes Limited (ref. MSS.333/1/V/3.4).

National Federation of Professional Workers

The NFPW briefly considered financing a short film on the subject of white-collar workers. Scepticism that the project would succeed in its aim of increasing recruitment forced the idea to be abandoned in 1961 (ref. MSS.239/3/1/129).

National Union of Seamen

The film England Expects was made in 1938 about attacks on British shipping in Spanish waters during the Spanish Civil War. A very small amount of material (some correspondence, a press-cutting) exists in this collection about the film (ref. MSS.175A/142).

National Union of Women Workers (Young Women's Christian Association)

The YWCA papers contain a printed circular dated February 1917 from the NUWW to the licensing authorities re model conditions for licences and censorship (ref. MSS.243/42/1/9).

Wilfrid Roberts

Wilfrid Roberts combined his role as the Liberal MP for North Cumberland (1935-50) with being a leading campaigner for the Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War. His papers contain details of the exceptions which the British Board of Film Censors took to films made at the instigation of the National Joint Committee for Spanish Relief (ref. MSS.308/3/ME/1-2).

Sign and Display Trades Union

Contained within the papers of the Sign and Display Trades Union is correspondence with publicity firms in the cinema industry from the years 1939-44, covering such topics as wage claims, the Cinema Poster Trade Joint Agreement and holiday allowances (refs. MSS.106/3/2/2, MSS.106/3/3/1). The Sign and Display Trades Union signed an agreement of mutual recognition with the National Association of Theatrical and Kine Employees (NATKE) in 1944 : the relevant file contains material on demarcation between the two unions in the cinema industry from 1944-47 and a list of the range of tasks undertaken by signwriters in film studios (ref. MSS.106/3/4/3).

Transport and General Workers' Union*

In 1947, the Transport and General Workers' Union seriously considered the possibility of a film being made as part of the union's jubilee celebrations. The project was eventually aborted but there remain correspondence and papers about the proposal (MSS.126/TG/662/1/2 and /3)
*Access restrictions apply

A.P. Young

Arthur Primrose Young was an innovatory works manager with the firm British Thomson-Houston, who became chairman of the Works Management Association. Young did not confine his activities to works management and his papers contain correspondence regarding Young's suggestion that a film be made of the life of Robert Burns (ref. MSS.242/SO/1).