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The Story Of Movietone

Last night was the first episode of a four part series on BBC4 of “The Story Of British Pathe“. It was a story worth telling, and worth watching but of course it’s not the only story.

There’s the story to be told of the British newsreel itself: British Movietone News, Pathe News, Topical Budget, Gaumont British News, Warwick Bioscope Chronicle, Universal Talking News, Paramount News, MGM News of the Day and many others.

The programme mentioned a lot of the above newsreel companies, but didn’t mention their great rival, British Movietone News once.

I worked at Movietone from October 1945, starting as Office Boy, then General Office Manager, Foreign Editor and when I returned from Australia in 1961, Assignments Manager.

On this site I’ve already published some of my recollections of the Story of Movietone:

British Movietonews – the process from idea to screen – describes how a typical edition of the twice weekly Movietone News was put together, how the stories were chosen, the resources needed to capture it, the editing, titles and commentary and the personalities involved.

Derek Evans’ article Derek Evans: Movietone – making the news, is a first hand account of Movietone during it’s heyday, Derek recalls his encounters with colleagues of the time and starting as an editing trainee and becoming a Movietone film editor.

Norman Fisher

Movietone and the Ministry of Information 1945 – concerns the wartime regime Movietone was still under, even though the war was already over by the time I joined. I had to visit the Ministry of Information at Senate House in London to collect negatives and dupe negatives after they had been released by the censor.

Of course, Movietone, like all the newsreels, were there for the major events, in the article: Early Days’ at Movietonenews 1946, I describe accompanying cameraman Martin Gray to film the Victory Parade in London in 1946, from the top of the Odeon Marble Arch.

In June 1953 was the Coronation where I was working alongside cameraman Alec Tozer, a week later was the Queen’s first Trooping The Colour, I was stationed at the Queen Victoria Memorial with Norman Fisher. The Coronation and Trooping the Colour were two events where I was able to use my Finetta camera, both from advantageous positions. Later in 1965 I was the Assignments Manager who assigned the crews to cover Churchill’s Funeral.

Mark McDonald on the left with Cedric Baynes filming the Grand National

Movietone covered the great sporting events of the calendar, such as The Grand National, The Epsom Derby and the FA Cup and I’ve written articles about Movietone’s coverage.

I’ve also written about individual events, such as the editorial decision of Movietone and it’s coverage of the 1955 Le Mans Crash, Ken Hanshaw and Malcolm Furness’ adventures during the Algerian War in 1962, the opening of Coventry Cathedral in 1962 and cameraman Ian Grant and the 1963 Libyan Earthquake. There’s also the filming of the introduction of Parking Meters and Betting Shops, and the story of Sir Laurence Olivier being described as “Some guy leaning on a fence” at the opening of Chichester Festival Theatre.

There have been articles on how the recording of sound progressed under Movietone, in the article, The Sound Of Movietonews (Movietone were the first newsreel company to use sound), The Music Of Movietone and I recall the Movietone Commentators and my experiences working with people such as Leslie Mitchell.

Useless If Delayed by Paul Wyand

Useless If Delayed by Paul Wyand

There are also articles about individuals, including cameraman and later Production Manager Jack Ramsden, cameramen Dick Harris and Norman Fisher. I’ve written two book reviews, one, the famous “Useless If Delayed” by my colleague and legendary newsreel cameraman, Paul Wyand and “Cameramen at War” by former Movietone cameraman Ian Grant.

It’s almost been a year since this website started and there are still many stories to tell, I plan to write future articles on Movietone colleagues such as Martin Gray, Pat Wyand, Paul Wyand, Robert (Bob) Frost, Dick Davies, Greville Kent, Ian Grant and Ron Collins. There will also be stories on the coverage of the Death of King George VI, the Movietone feature documentary: Flight Of The White Heron (the first use of Cinemascope by a newsreel) and an article on my very first days at Movietone over 65 years ago.

If anyone wants to ask question about Movietone or the newsreel in general, or suggest an idea for an article, please leave a comment or use the contact page.

© Terence Gallacher and, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

To see all my articles about British Movietone News click here.

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