A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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Home Intelligence Special Report No. 28

22nd of August, 1942

Sixth Summary of Films Correspondents' Reports on M.O.I. Films

( Released between 23rd March and 13th April, 1942 )





(The number of Films Correspondents' reports on which this summary is based - 134 - is fewer than the total for the last report, which was 170. This appears to be due to a seasonal decline in cinema-going during the summer months as well as to the failure of a considerable number of cinemas to show M.O.I. Five Minute Films.)

The “ Diary of a Polish Airman ” appears to have been the most popular of these four films, an unusually high proportion (7 out of 36) considering it the best, or one of the best, M.O.I. films they had seen. The emotional nature of the film and the dramatic way in which it was presented seem to account for the exceptionally strong impression which it made on a great many Correspondents.

If “ Builders ” - though liked by the majority and disliked by none - was rather less popular than the Polish Airman, this seems to have been due to the subject rather than to the treatment. The conversational form and particularly the two chief protagonists, Charlie and John Hilton, were much liked.

The popularity of “ Fill the Gap ” appears to confirm what previous reports on diagram films have indicated, that people have no objection to films in cartoon or diagram form provided they are clear. In the present case the cartoons were considered most effective as well as amusing by 29 out of 38 Correspondents, and disliked by only one.

Owner Goes Aloft ” seems to have been one of the less popular M.O.I. films. Neither of the chief characters was much liked, and although the humour was appreciated to some extent there was a feeling that the story was rather artificial, and that it was not very good savings propaganda.

1. Diary of a Polish Airman

36 reports have been received.

The majority reaction of Correspondents was one of strong approval .

Their reactions may be classified as follows:-

Strong approval 19
Mild approval 12
Inconclusive 5
No Correspondent disliked the film.

The following points were commented on by a number of Correspondents:

(a) The film's intention (29)

28 Correspondents mentioned what they thought to have been the film's intention, some referring to more than one. In particular it was thought to show:

(i) The courage and patriotism of Poles, and their faith in victory (21)

“To show to the British people the magnificent example of unswerving courage and determination set by the Polish nation in the face of every setback”. “Patriotism, as displayed by the small number of Poles still able to carry on the fight against Nazism”. “The determination of the Poles to fight until victory”.

(ii) The great part played by the Poles (8)

“The great part played by the Poles, their valour and the immensity of their suffering”.

“The Polish contribution to the allied cause”.

(iii) The horrors of invasion (8)

“To show the horrors of invasion by the Nazis”.

“To press home the seriousness of air raids, and invasion by the enemy”.

(iv) Hatred for the Germans, and desire for revenge (3)

“It roused me to feelings of distrust and disgust at the Germans”.

1 Correspondent felt that great use might have been made in this film for the purposes of “bringing home to the audience the dangers of invasion”.

1 Correspondent thought that “more films of this nature might well be shown in order to bring home to the public what we are up against”.

1 Correspondent thought that there was not very much point to the film.

(b) The “horrors” in the film (17)

17 Correspondents mentioned their own and audiences' reactions at the sight of the corpses in the Warsaw streets;

10 Correspondents approved of these being shown :

“The section of the audience immediately around me (mainly women) had never appreciated what would be the immediate practical results of invasion and/or occupation. It vividly impressed them. Obviously, from their conversation, they should be shown such films; and the horror of the situation should not be spared in spite of criticism”.

“The scenes of Warsaw, etc. at the beginning were effective in that I feel such restatement of earlier campaigns in this war should not be lost sight of”.

6 disapproved, or were doubtful :

“I am inclined to think that some of the shots of Warsaw might well have been cut out”.

“I did not like the pictures of the Air Raid Victims in Warsaw. I think that one or two, instead of several, would have been quite sufficient”.

[Text Missing]I reported members of the audience wondering how the photographs of damage were obtained, “which must have been taken with the consent of the Germans”.

(c) Special points liked (15)

The presentation (7)

“I greatly liked the way it was presented - naturally, yet with dramatic emphasis all the way through”.

“I liked the consecutiveness of the story”.

The ending, with its victorious music (6)

“I liked the ending of the film; the triumphal music made me feel I wanted to go out and do great things”.

“The last scenes, the sound, the look and the sign of V in Polish planes was an ideal ending”.

“The ending - ‘ We will finish this diary’ - most impressive”.

The opening (3)

“One of our aircraft is missing”, a splendid introduction. “Created the atmosphere immediately”.

The contrast (2)

2 Correspondents mentioned the contrast of life before and during the war .

“The contrast in life before and during the war was sufficient to show that the old way was worth fighting for”.

d) The film's impression (12)

12 Correspondents refer in one way or another to the impression made on themselves or on the audience by the film:

“To ‘slam[Text Missing]’ it at one, like this M.O.I.,” seemed to make more impression for a longer period than just explaining things.

1 thought it was “too short to make any lasting impression”.

(e) Comparison with other M.O.I. films (10)

7 Correspondents thought it the best, or one of the best M.O.I. films they had seen :

“Thought this a really magnificent film, the best M.O.I. I have seen yet...”

“The usual ‘Oh! dears!’ when M.O.I. appeared; but, judging from the interesting comments passed, the M.O.I. gave them a pleasant surprise. I noticed that during the whole of the film, as far as I could see, not one person left the cinema, which, during an M.O.I., is very unusual”.

2 thought it “above standard...first class”.

Only one thought it was “not among the best of M.O.I. efforts”.

(f) The Commentary (4)

3 Correspondents praised the Commentary :

“I liked the running commentary of a Polish voice and the break in the narrative made by shots of two airmen studying the diary”.

1 disliked it :

“The commentary would have been better if it had been put over in a strong, clear English voice; the lispy style of the commentator distracted, rather than attracted attention”.

(g) Points criticised (3)

The beginning (2)

“The sudden start of the picture, which tended to suggest it was a trade “trailer” rather than a complete picture”.

(h) The Audiences (35)

The majority reaction of audiences was one of mild approval , and may be classified as follows:-

Strong approval 12
Mild approval 18
Inconclusive 5

8 audiences applauded:

“The audience were more enthusiastic over this film than I have ever seen them before”.

6 audiences received the film in “grim” or “tense” silence, followed, in three cases, by outbursts of applause.

2 audiences expressed horror or disgust at the corpses.

Other audiences were either “attentive”, “blank” or “indifferent”.

(i) The following comments were overheard :

“At last they are avenging Warsaw”.

“Plucky devils, but I don't like them; you can't trust them”.

“Now I realise how and why those Poles are helping us”.

“How dreadful for the Poles; I wonder if it will ever happen here”.

“How horrible....Makes you think”.

(At the destruction of Warsaw:) “That's far-fetched, it couldn't be like that”. (In connection with this comment the Correspondent remarks, “Kettering has not been bombed”.)


31 reports have been received.

The majority reaction of Correspondents was one of mild approval .

Their reactions may be classified as follows:

Strong approval 11
Mild approval 16
Inconclusive 4
No Correspondent disliked the film.

The following points were commented on by a number of Correspondents:

(a) The point of the film (20)

10 Correspondents thought that the film was intended to point out the importance of the builders' war effort :

“The chief point appeared to be that the Builders are one of the most important factors of the war, and a striking power of the nation. The film proved that without such men the war would be lost as they are the commencement of the armament factories where vital supplies for our own and allied forces are manufactured”.

7 Correspondents, thought that it was meant to show the importance of “every minute, every man and every job” .

“The fact that however small and unimportant one's own particular contribution to the war effort might be, it really does count, and not a moment should be wasted”.

3 Correspondents thought, or hoped, that it foreshadowed an improvement in social conditions after the war :

“That the Government is conscious of the demand by the working classes that after the war social conditions shall be given prior place in the peace programme”.

(b) Charlie and the other workmen (13)

7 Correspondents liked Charlie and his comrades :

“Charlie was an instant success, owing to his natural human way of expressing himself”.

“I found the natural voices of Charlie, Bob and their comrades most refreshing”.

“The patter of Charles and old George both natural and amusing”.

4 liked their cheerfulness :

“The cheerful way in which the men were going about their work”.

“I liked the way in which the builders carried on working while chatting”.

1 thought them self-conscious :

“They all seemed to speak and look straight at the audience. This always seems to me that they look self-conscious and uncomfortable”.

(c) Points specially liked (16)

(i) The personal contact between the unseen interviewer, the actors and the audience . (6)

“The personal contact with the characters was a very good idea, and gave that personal touch to the film which made it outstanding in this appeal”.

“The intimacy between actors and audience”.

(ii) The dialogue (7)

“The dialogue form was quite an interesting innovation, although the voices were a little indistinct at first”.

(iii) The working man's point of view (2)

“The part where the men were able to voice their opinions regarding the world today at their own free will, I thought was very good”.

(iv) “The newness of the theme” (1)

(v) “The wonderful performance of the “Bull-Noze” Caterpillar Tractor”

(d) The Commentator (9)

7 Correspondents liked the Commentator, 4 praising his method of approach :

“The commentator, John Hilton, was very good indeed and was partly responsible for maintaining the attention of the audience”. “The voice of John Hilton conversing with various workmen was a refreshing change”.

“John Hilton's clever way of drawing the various characters into conversation was really intriguing”.

1 thought he would do a lot to increase output :

“I think that the way Professor Hilton talked to the men would do a lot to increase output, in spite of our awful critics”.

1 found him irritating : wa

““When I saw that the commentary to this film was to be spoken by John Hilton I groaned inwardly, for even five minutes of John Hilton irritates me”. (Single female typist)

(e) Builders and Postwar reconstruction : (6)

6 Correspondents connected the film with postwar reconstruction :

“One could not help but feel what an indispensable element these men will be after the war in reconstructing the blitzed towns and cities, and continuing the unfinished job of building improved houses for the poorer class of people”.

“The idea of the builders' work was linked up with reconstruction”.

(f) Comparison with other M.O.I. films (6)

2 Correspondents thought the film “the best M.O.I. I have seen yet”.

2 thought it “one of the M.O.I.'s best pictures”.

1 found it “much more entertaining then usual....The majority of M.O.I.s have been 10-15 minutes of exasperation or boredom”.

1 quoted the following comment by a companion:

“Why don't the M.O.I. go in for more blood and thunder, and less milk and water?”

(g) Points not liked (5)

(i) The last point (2)

“‘If we are spending millions on this war why can't we spend more on social progress after the war;’ this seemed to have been put in as an afterthought and was not necessary”.

(ii) The fact that “the same building site and workmen were seen throughout the film”. (1)

(iii) The crane driver was “too aristocratic” (1)

(iv) “One word in the bricklayers' script”. (1) (married man, aged 47.)

(v) “The film was rather slow”. (1)

(h) The audiences (31)

The majority reaction of audiences is reported to have been one of mild approval, and their reactions may be classified as follows:-

Strong approval 7
Mild approval 18
Inconclusive 4
Dislike 1

9 audiences are reported to have laughed

7 audiences are reported to have applauded

4 audiences are reported to have been interested

2 audiences are reported to have been amused

2 audiences are reported to have been indifferent

(i) Comments overheard during the performance include the following :

“What a waste of time - what was it all about?”

“Would you believe they could make building so fascinating?”

“What! again!!” (bored murmurs were “plentiful”).

“If building is such an important job why take practically all our builders just when our (Ebbw Vale) slums were being cleared?”


38 reports have been received.

The majority reaction of Correspondents was one of approval .

Their reactions may be classified as follows:-

Strong approval 13
Mild approval 17
Inconclusive 7
Dislike 1

The following points were commented on by a number of Correspondents:-

(a) The intention and effect of the film (33)

33 Correspondents thought the film was meant to encourage “Digging for Victory” .

“A very fine “Dig for Victory” film, one that was just required for the present time... Being a member of the local Allotments Committee, I feel it will help us greatly. Very clear film”. “Growing vegetables to replace the loss of imported food”. “It meant more or less that to feed the populace this winter we must grow more food in any place, even in a flower box!!”

11 of the above 33 also thought it was intended to show the need for saving shipping space” .

“The chief point was obviously the importance of growing as far as possible our own vegetables, and utilising every piece of land available for the purpose, in order to save shipping space, which was formerly used for importing vegetables, for other war materials”.

“The necessity for using every bit of usable land as a food producer. No piece too small. No effort too great to save shipping space”.

1 Correspondent was inspired to start an allotment; but without success :

“I wonder how many people 'phoned their Town Hall and were told that nothing at all could be done for them because all their recognised plots were full up and they could not see their way to producing any more allotments. I did, and my name has gone down on a long waiting list. Couldn't such facts be checked before films of this type are shown in local cinemas?”

(b) The presentation by means of cartoons (30)

29 Correspondents liked the cartoons and found them amusing .

“Clever cartoons always appeal to me and this one was extremely good and was the very best method of putting the message across. I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it was extremely funny”. “I believe all adults love these cartoons as much as children do!”

“I prefer this method of production to more serious treatment of subject”.

“This cartoon method is most effective; it's slick, gets the sympathy of the audience and therefore their co-operation”.

1 expressed dislike :

“It was far too long, too amateurish and too scrappy”.

“Film suitable for quite small children, not adults. Everyone I know who has seen this film has expressed irritation at having to sit through it. As a cartoon the technique is so amateurish and compares so unfavourably with the present standard of cartoon entertainment”.

(c) Points specially liked (15)

The figures in the film (10)

“The changing expression of the cartoon's principal character and of the cow specially liked”.

“The ships suddenly turning round, returning home at full speed; emptying of vegetable and milk compartments”.

The ending . (4)

“The last few feet were absolutely A.1. This coming winter will be the testing time - or something similar”.

“The well-introduced statistics” (1)

(d) This and other M.O.I. films (9)

8 Correspondents thought this compared well with the average for M.O.I. films, 5 expressing preference for the cartoon treatment :

“A change from the rest. I think if most of the M.O.I. films could be shown in cartoon fashion they would be liked better”. “It was much more refreshing than the old type of M.O.I. film”. “If M.O.I. propaganda is trying to become direct rather than indirect by straight commentary, this cartoon method is most effective”.

1 reported an unfavourable comment :

“A companion asked me, why don't the M.O.I. films really grip you like most of the commercial films, instead of letting you sit back with a feeling that it's a cheap way for the management to make up the two hours or so”.

(e) Not serious enough (4)

“In my opinion the film was in rather too light a vein...I hardly feel it would leave a lasting impression”.

“An amusing cartoon, but too grotesque to be treated seriously”.

“I felt as though I had seen an entertaining Silly Symphony but I did not feel inspired to go straight home and start Digging for Victory”.

“I doubt if after leaving the cinema anyone would give it a second thought”.

(f) The audiences (38)

The majority reaction of audiences is reported to have been one of approval .

Their reactions may be classified as follows:-

Strong approval 16
Mild approval 20
Inconclusive 1
Dislike 1

10 audiences are reported to have laughed; 4 to have applauded.

(g) The following comments were among those overheard :

“Aye, there's much need to save”.

“Our Jimmy's thinking about an allotment”.

“Gosh, I must put some lettuce in to-morrow”.

“Rather depressing”.

“Oh God! this damn thing again”.


29 reports have been received.

The majority reaction of Correspondents was of mild approval.

Their reactions may be classified as follows:-

Warm approval 4
Mild approval 13
Inconclusive 5
Dislike 7

The following points were commented on by a number of correspondents.

(a) The intention of the film (2)

20 Correspondents realised that the film was intended to encourage “savings, to buy more planes”.

“To make the public realise that it is their war and it is their efforts and savings that will end it”.

“Those who save, own the planes”.

“To show that public money is being well used”.

(b) The “Owner” (12)

7 Correspondents disliked him

“Misrepresented the British citizen as an inquisitive, almost incredibly stupid little man”. (5)

“The friend I was with said she hoped the little man in a bowler hat was not meant to represent Everyman as he really was stupid. I thoroughly agree”.

5 Correspondents liked him .

“The suggestion of the adventurous spirit of the prosaic everyman” (2)

“The suggestion that he was the owner or one of the owners” (2)

Because he was “a typical man in the street”. (1)

(c) The humour of the Film (8)

8 Correspondents thought the film amusing.

“It was humourous, well acted and good entertainment”.

(d) The story was disliked (6)

“There was an atmosphere about this particular ‘short’ which I can only describe as amateurish”.

“The story was highly improbable and made one inclined to treat the whole affair as a fairy tale”.

(e) The dialogue (4)

2 Correspondents disliked the “forced style of the dialogue”.

2 Correspondents like the “humourous conversation between the R.A.F. Officer and Mr. Smith”.

(f) The R.A.F. Officer (4)

4 Correspondents criticised the officer .

“Utterly superior and patronising”.

“The supercilious and condescending attitude of the Commander”.

(g) The following points were criticised by a number of Correspondents :-

(i) The savings appeal (5)

“It was quite laughable in parts, but not in the least the type of film to promote greater saving of money by the public”.

“People would have been more inspired to save by seeing something heroic done as a direct result of their sacrifice”.

“Have yet to see a good savings film”.

The savings “appeal was camouflaged a bit too much”.

(ii) It was thought to “ridicule our defence system by allowing an unauthorised person to obtain entry to an operational station”. (4)

(iii) Some Correspondents thought they had seen the flying scenes before. (3) “In practically every war film I see there is always an enemy plane which receives a direct hit, and it also comes into this film. (It's as old as the hills and dreadfully boring.)”

(iv) 3 Correspondents compered the film with the “Owner comes aboard”. “Not quite up to the same standard as a previous film, ‘Owner goes afloat’”. (sic)

“This is the second of these ‘owner’ films I have seen - both improbable and unclever.

(h) The Audiences (29)

The majority reaction of audiences was reported to be one of mild approval.

Warm approval 3
Mild approval 15
Inconclusive 6
Dislike 5

7 audiences were reported to show amusement at the film, three of which were reported to be contemptuous; “there were peals of laughter - ridicule all the time”. The film was “a comic turn to most of the audience, not to be taken seriously”.

4 audiences were reported to dislike the film; it was considered “poor, weak, and confusing”.

Only 2 audiences were reported to have applauded the film.

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