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Movietone at War: A month to remember

I thought that I might compare what some Movietone people were doing on and after D-Day in various locations.  So, this is the month of June 1944 as seen by Movietone.

5th June 1944 – Movietone released a story from Italy, “Fifth & Eight Fighting Forward” including reinforcements landing at Anzio. At Cassino Piedmont is shelled by Polish forces and long “Highway Six” British troops capture Aquino.

The coverage is credited to cameraman Paul Wyand and, surprisingly, Norman Fisher who had been sent out to Italy.

5th June 1944 – Movietone released a story from Liverpool, “Home From Captivity” when six hundred servicemen, as well as civilians released from German prison camps arrive at Liverpool – greeted by the public.  The cameramen were Graham Thompson and Jimmy Humphries with Jack Cotter conducting the interviews.

D-Day June 6th 1944 – After all the arrangements that had been made for the coverage and dispersal of the film, Gerald Sanger and the Make-up crew at Movietone were expecting a deluge of material.

Gerald Sanger called it “A date to be famous in history“.

He wrote:

The undercurrent of excitement militated against effective work today.  SHAEF’S (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) remarkable arrangements for film digestion, though hardly tested were already in confusion.  Only very little material, and that somewhat antiquated, was on offer during the day.  Tommy Scales preferred to go ahead with Ridley’s * symbolic subject entitled “Attack” using old exercise material matching rhythmically with Tchaikovsky. And, having this at hand, he was able to make a somewhat aloof attitude towards the scramble of other reels for “first pictures” of the landing.

* Charles Ridley had been constructing a short item for use on D-Day since late 1943.  It was made up of scenes previously film showing beach landings that had been taken during exercises. It was originaolly intended to be relased immediately the Second Front opened.

Jack Ramsden and Jack Cotter

Jack Ramsden and Jack Cotter

Jack Ramsden was assigned to the destroyer HMS Scorpion, which was charged with the destruction of shore batteries and with providing covering fire for landing craft. Ramsden later recalled that ‘every ship in the British navy seemed to be firing’; ‘The noise was incredible…only the footage indicator on my camera told me it was still running. It was quite impossible to hear it.’

Alec Tozer was assigned to a troop-carrier.

He later wrote:

“To be the Merchant Navy’s only accredited newsreel correspondent was a great honour and my first assignment with them – the invasion.
My ship, a 12,000-ton troop carrier, was lying out and it was a pleasant afternoon’s trip by launch in order to board her.  We steamed back to the docks to pick up some 3,000 troops.  On the way I got ‘invasion take-off’ pictures of every type of landing craft, troop carriers and their escorts.  The whole sea appeared to be jammed tight with ships.”

English: Picture of Mark Clark from Army Offic...

General Mark Clark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On that day, Paul Wyand was in Rome.  He had arrived the previous day when the Germans had evacuated the city.  He got a ride in the back set of General Mark Clark‘s jeep.   Press headquarters had been set up at the Stampa Estera.  He wrote:

The next morning, June 6th, we went to the Stampa Estera, where we learned that the Second Front had opened.  This was tremendous news. Although I felt it would mean that stories from Italy were now of secondary importance.  I was not to realize until later that censorship of material from Normandy was so strict that the newsreel pool were still glad to receive whatever I sent them…

…during the morning I called at the Fox (Movietone) office, with which we had been out of touch since the beginning of the War. All the staff of the Italian branch of Movietone were assembled there (no doubt including the young Vittorio Della Valle), waiting to greet me as the rich uncle who had food, money, and clothes to distribute, and the power to give them their jobs back. There was little I could do to help them.

Jack Cotter was attached to 9th Air Corps of the United States Army Air Force for aerial photography.  Some time later, he landed on the first air-strip of the Normandy Beach Head.

Gerald Sanger wrote:

This evening U.S.A.A.F. negative was expected to be viewed in Theatre “B”* – there was even some hint of film from the beaches;  but the cynical expectations prevailed that it would only turn out to be scenes covering embarkation in this country.

Theatre “B”, together with Theatre “A”, were the means by which the newsreels were to be able to screen material after it has passed through the censor. Originally, the idea was that the censors would view new material in Theatre “A” and the newsreel representatives would view the censored material in Theatre “B”.

He went on:

For myself, I was a slightly unhinged spare part during the day.  As Ridley’s sponsor, I was consulted in the early hours of the make-up;  but there was no call for my services in Theatre “B”.  I enjoyed a very good lunch at the Bon Viveur Club in Mayfair, caught the 6.9 train (home)…

At home, he changed into his Home Guard uniform and went on duty.

English: Members of the Royal 22e Regiment in ...

Members of the Royal 22e Regiment in audience with Pope Pius XII. 1944 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

June 7th 1944 –  Paul Wyand, believing that there was no longer any interest in the War in Italy, decided to seek an interview with the Pope, Pius XII.  His office in London had told him that this would be impossible.  Paul Wyand was made of sterner stuff and he immediately sent in a formal request.  He became a persistent enquirer of the Vatican Film Unit. After several weeks, he got his interview.
But before he got his interview, Paul Wyand attended an audience given by the Pope to 800 Allied servicemen.  There were divisions of the servicemen, Catholics on one side, non-Catholics on the other.  As the Pope passed between them borne on high in a litter…….

Paul Wyand wrote:

But at that moment a sporting British padre yelled “Three cheers for the Pope ! Hip ! Hip !”   The “hurraaaaahs !” must almost certainly been heard back at Anzio, and, as if that was not enough, the Pope made his exit to the thunderous chorus of “For he’s a jolly good fellow”.  My film finished to the sound of the studded boots of the Tommies stamping applause on the marble floor.
Then the panic started.  “This film cannot be shown” I was told.  “It’s quite impossible”. I was inclined to agree.

The film was sent to London for processing and a print returned to Rome for the Pope to see before it was released.

Paul continues the story :

I received a message that a car was on its way to take me to the Vatican.  it was clear that the Pope did not even want to see the film before condemning it.  The official in the car did not speak to me as we drove across Rome, and on arrival I was rushed straight to the Pope’s Secretary.
“His Holiness wishes to know”, said the gentleman gravely, “whether you took pictures of the troops cheering ?”.
“Yes, I’m afraid I did”, I replied.   The secretary’s face broke into a smile, “I’m so pleased.  His Holiness was delighted to receive such an unique reception.  He thought it would be ideal for the film”.

7th June 1944 – The Make-up Department had been called in at 06.30 to received a batch of film from SHAEF.  Tommy Scales regarded it as indifferent material, consisting of troops embarking, ships moving across the Channel and aircraft bombing the French coast. However he did get 200 feet out of it which he put alongside Ridley pre-prepared item.  Movietone put the SHAEF material out because they needed something authentic.

8th June 1944 – Gerald Sanger wrote:

Good sense has even prevailed in the news-reel business and SHAEF’S intricate system of censorship and screening having gummed itself up, Theatres “A” and “B” are to b amalgamated.  One representative of the news-reels is to be present at the censorships sessions in the old Theatre “A” (Davies Street) and indicate what subjects are to be lavendered copied)  for the five companies.  A rota of the usual kind is to be instituted to furnish the one representative daily.  The only condition stipulated  is that this privileged representative shall, not question the censorship.

So the newsreels were still finding it difficult to get their hands on authentic pictures of the battle raging in northern France.

15th June 1944 – Movietone released Paul Wyand’s story from Rome: “Rome Greets Allied Armies” – the first pictures of the capture of Rome with the Allied troops driving through the city, General Clark was met by Marshal Juin, commander of the French forces.  Soon after the Allies arrives, a large crowd gathered in St. Peter’s to listen to the pope.

15th June 1944 – Gerald Sanger, who spent the night on Home Guard duty, wrote:

It was about this time that the “Alert” sounded.  A solitary searchlight was chasing an invisible aircraft, which sounded like “one of ours”.  I was getting too wet to speculate about its identity.   However, this was the opening overture in the melodrama of Hitler’s new secret weapon.

19th June  1944 – Movietone issue a story from Rome mainly shot by Paul Wyand called “Italy – Alexander’s Contribution“, showing General Clark and General Alexander reviewing the troops, Alexander then addresses the American troops on the significance of the Italian campaign.

22nd June 1944 – Movietone issue their story of The Derby: “Ocean Swell Swamps the Derby” while war was raging across the Channel.  It was the fifth Derby of the war, run at Newmarket, the winner was “Ocean Swell” owned by Lord Rosebury.  The camera team comprised Alec Tozer, Alf Tunwell, Graham Thompson, Bunny Hutchins and Dick Harris.  It was only a couple of weeks since cameraman Alex Tozer was filming D-day.

29th June 1944 – Movietone issue a story shot by Norman Fisher, “Occupation of Elba“, the story shows the French forces under General de Lattre de Tassigny, taking the island of Elba.

Eventually, the work of the cameramen spread around Europe would come together at 22 Soho Square.  Later the supply of film via the censor became routine and regular, but, on occasion, delayed.
A month to remember.

For other articles about Movietone click here.

© Terence Gallacher and, 2014.  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.

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