A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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Home Intelligence Special Report No. 18 .

12th of May, 1942

Third Summary of Films Correspondents' Reports on M.O.I. Films (released during January, 1942)





The list of Correspondents on whose reports this summary is based does not differ essentially from those given in our first two film reports (on M.O.I. Films, 12th March; and on Newsreels, 23rd March, 1942); this list can be supplied on request.

1. War in the East

25 reports have been received, 2 of which do not go into details.

The majority reaction of Correspondents was one of strong approval .

Their reactions may be classified as follows:-

Strong approval 11
Mild approval 6
Inconclusive 5
Dislike 3

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

(a) Clarity (18)

(i) The film was clear (12)

“The film was very clear, and to me, very instructive, and was shown in an original way”.

“Excellent and clear presentation”.

(ii) The film was not clear (6)

“It showed too many maps for too short a space of time. It would have achieved its purpose better if the audience had had longer in which to study each map, and if distances and time for voyage had been more clearly set out”.

(b) Its purpose was realised (5)

“It made me realise the enormity of the task before us in the Pacific”.

“Of definite value to show people why we are not making the progress we would like in this sphere of warfare”.

(c) The Commentary (7)

5 Correspondents alluded unfavourably to the commentary :

“The break in the commentary was bad”.

“The action lagged on the commentator's words”.

“A few people (in the audience) complained of the ‘dead’ interval in the commentary, referring to the lapses of several seconds at a time when the commentator was silent”.

2 Correspondents praised it :

“The commentator's voice was good and clear, and his words easy to follow and understand”.

(d) The diagrams (16)

9 Correspondents appeared to approve of the diagrammatic presentation :

“To the man-in-the-street this ‘nutshell’ description is of great interest”.

“The illustrations showing distances were well done and their simplicity made them easily understandable”.

2 Correspondents “thought the indication of distances and relation of places to each other by means of stretched string was very good”.

1 Correspondent, however, found “the arm that kept appearing across the screen to fix the little name tabs was rather distracting”.

7 Correspondents disliked it :

“Plenty of maps to be seen in the newspapers”.

4 Correspondents (including 3 of the above 7) were reminded of school:

“Too much like the geography lessons of old, but I like the Burma Road piece”.

4 Correspondents would have liked some “photographs of places” included.

“I was disappointed that some shots of Japan or the Japanese people themselves were not included”.

“It all seemed very remote, as it held no human interest; the only person we saw was the uninterested gentleman who pointed out places on the map with his pencil”.

(e) Audiences' reactions

The majority reaction of audiences was reported to have been one of approval :

Their reactions may be classified as follows:-

Strong approval 1
Mild approval 10
Inconclusive 8
Dislike 6

6 audiences applauded the film; 7 are said to have been “patient”, “restless”, “listless”, “inattentive”, “critical” or “chattering”.

3 greeted its appearance with groans.

“When the title was shown, a few people groaned - purely from force of habit, I believe”.

(f) “Out of date” (3)

3 audiences criticised the film as “out of date”:

“I consider this film is hopelessly out of date, and that it should have been withdrawn from circulation as soon as we had lost Singapore and Sourabaya to the enemy”.

(Kendal, 23/3/42)

(g) Overheard comments

The following comments were overheard:

“God, I don't want to see this again”. (After the film)

“Let me know when it is finished, I am going to sleep”.

(A woman was heard to say this to her partner as the film began.)

2. Seaman Laskier goes back to sea

16 reports have been received, 2 of which do not go into details.

The majority reaction of Correspondents was inconclusive . Their reactions may be classified as follows:-

Strong approval 1
Mild approval 7
Inconclusive 8

On the whole, little comment seems to have been forthcoming. The following points were commented on by a number of Correspondents:

(a) The object of the film (11)

9 Correspondents realised that the object of the film was to encourage War Savings.

2 (of the above 9) considered the final appeal for savings an anti-climax,

“A very well delivered introduction to nothing. Alter all the preparation for leaving port something should have happened, but you were merely told to put your money into National Savings. It came as an anti-climax to the other well-done preliminaries”. (Similar reactions were expressed in the case of “Sam Pepys Joins the Navy”; vide our Second Summary of Reports on M.O.I. films, 18th April 1942.)

2 Correspondents thought the film was intended to convey the dangers of the Battle of the Atlantic, “and the loss of life in bringing the goods across the seas”.

2 Correspondents did not realise it was an M.O.I. Film as “it was indicated that it was a War Savings film”.

(b) Frank Laskier (9)

9 Correspondents referred to Frank Laskier.

6 praised his[Text Missing] “unique voice”.

“I could have listened for quite some time to the sailor's voice”.

3 emphasised the personal interest taken in Laskier:

“Very interested in the fact that this picture features the famous broadcaster”.

(c) Commentary (4)

3 Correspondents praised the “very well worded commentary” “Change from Commentator's voice to Frank Laskier's was distinct without being obvious”.

1 disliked it: “The speaking was not too good, but otherwise the appeal was very successfully done”.

(d) The sea (5)

5 Correspondents enjoyed the “nostalgic charm” of the sea: “The ending depicting the perfect peace of sea life”.

(e) Not enough action (3)

3 Correspondents regretted that there was not more action.

“It seemed to be lacking in action and rather slow moving”.

(f) The audiences (11)

5 Correspondents did not refer to the audience's reactions.

The majority reaction of audiences was reported to have been one of mild approval :

Their reactions may be classified as follows:-

Strong approval 2
Mild approval 6
Inconclusive 3

6 audiences are reported to have watched the film “quietly”, and “attentively”; 2 being described as “enthralled” and “gripped”.

1 audience is reported to have given “generous applause”.

3 audiences are said to have been “disappointed”, and some tittering and ironical comment was overheard when the object of War Savings was announced.

“How the Hell do they expect any more National Savings with Income Tax what it is?”

3. Rush Hour

39 reports have been received from Films Correspondents, as well as 2 references in reports from Regional Information Officers.

The majority reaction of Correspondents was one of strong approval .

Their reactions may be classified as follows:-

Strong approval 20
Mild approval 6
Inconclusive 4
Dislike 7
Strong dislike 2

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

(a) Propaganda (30) (Good...18: not good...12)

30 Correspondents regarded the film as propaganda, “to show the selfishness of people travelling to the discomfort of war workers”.

18 of these considered the film likely to have good results .

“Definitely made me decide to avoid rush hour at all costs”.

“There was no preaching, yet the action showed only too plainly the lesson to be learnt”.

12 of these considered the film was not likely to have any effect .

“The film was received a genuine entertainment, its lesson being of no interest to the audience”.

“Neither subtle enough or clever enough to teach a lesson by jest, nor funny enough to be a comedy”.

(b) The humour (20)

(i) Amused by the humour (11)

11 Correspondents were amused by the humour.

“Highly amusing, but very instructive”.

“I thought it very funny indeed; I enjoy the Laurel and Hardy type of humour, and think this is a good vehicle for conveying propaganda”.

(ii) Not amused

Although 8 Correspondents imply that they were not amused, only one says so in so many words:

“I thought it was silly. I do not like low comedy humour, but appreciate the wittier films”.

(iii) Too comic (10)

10 Correspondents thought the film was too comic, and that the audience treated the film towards the end as a comedy, and had forgotten the moral”.

“In my opinion the film was not treated seriously enough”.

“It was ridiculed, rather than impressed in any sound way”.

“The central character of the old woman was too much a figure of comedy for anybody to feel that she had done any great wrong”.

(iv) Problem too serious (6)

5 (of the above 10) Correspondents, and one Regional report, considered the problem was too serious for humourous treatment.

“Not emphatic enough for such a serious problem”.

“Although I was amused, I thought the humour a bit overdone - after all, the workers affected by this transport difficulty do not find it humourous, surely?”

(v) Light treatment approved (7)

7 Correspondents particularly liked the light treatment, and the “absence of moralising”.

“It was a pleasant change to see humour under an official heading; although it is undoubtedly an important subject, I do feel that far more people are likely to remember and act upon its moral when it is dressed in bright, rather than sombre, colouring”.

(c) The acting (12)

10 Correspondents praised the acting .

“The acting, and the characters portrayed, which were so typical, added to the value of the film”.

“The character sketching of the stout woman was excellent”.

2 Correspondents considered the acting exaggerated .

“The two women characters who were the shoppers were very overdrawn, accent theatrical, behaviour too obvious”.

(d) The contrast (between the restaurant and the factory) (7)

7 Correspondents noticed this with approval.

“Parallel shots contrasting the actions of the leisured housewife with those of the factory worker were especially good”.

“I liked the ‘cross-cutting’ e.g. a shot of the tea pouring out of the spout suddenly giving place to a ‘suds’ pipe on a capstan lathe”.

(e) Not applicable in certain areas (3)

2 Correspondents considered the film “not applicable to rural areas so far as the lesson it teaches is concerned”.

1 Correspondent said “it missed fire in a town like Dumfries where workers have special trains and buses”.

(f) Chief character not unpleasant enough (2)

1 Correspondent “thought the fat lady might have been made a bit more unpleasant. You couldn't help admiring her ruthlessness”

1 Correspondent reported that “the remark by the ‘villainess’ that she could not go home in a tank, appeared to endear the character to the audience”.

(g) The audiences (36)

29 audiences were considered by Correspondents to have given the film a favourable reception. 27 audiences of these 29 were reported to have laughed , or to have been amused.

6 audiences applauded .

The audiences did not take it seriously (9)

9 Correspondents (of the 10 referred to above, in b, iii) considered that “the audiences found the film mildly funny and learnt no lesson from it”.

(h) Overheard comments

Overheard comments reported by Correspondents, include:

“Serves her right!” (6 audiences)

“I liked that film. It made you ‘see’ what you are asked to do, instead of just reading it”.

“Why can't they miss out these films and show the big picture straight away?”.

“Isn't that like Aunt Maggie!”.

4. Newspaper Train

37 reports have been received, 1 of which does not go into details.

The majority reaction of Correspondents was one of mild approval .

Their reactions may be classified as follows:-

Strong approval 1
Mild approval 17
Inconclusive 5
Dislike 11
Strong dislike 3

Of the twelve films covered by this and the two previous reports on M.O.I. Five Minute Films, “Newspaper Train” appears to have been easily the least popular. “Naval Operations” comes a long way behind (4 out of 14 Correspondents disliked it), and “Hospital Nurse” next (4 out of 22 Correspondents disliked it).

(a) The Commentary (12)

11 Correspondents criticised the Commentator as being “boring” “unreal”, “unclear”, “uninspiring” and “inaudible”: “Cut out Americanisms in these films”.

“Man who was explaining did not make himself understood”.

1 Correspondent praised his “calm, unassuming voice”.

(b) “Makes you realise....” (10)

10 Correspondents appreciated the “triumphs over difficulties during bombing of London”:

“I had not realised so much arranging had been necessary in London”.

(c) Propaganda (4)

4 Correspondents commented on the film as propaganda.

2 felt the film contained “more of truth than propaganda”; 2 felt that the propaganda was “poor”, “valueless”.

Exception was taken by 1 Correspondent to the emphasis on the Daily Express , the Editor being recognised in the final sequence.

(d) The Diagram (8)

6 Correspondents praised the diagram as being very illustrative.

“Was particularly struck with the clever idea of illustrating the bombing of the various points, with the deflection of the train route”.

2 Correspondents found it “inadequate” or “dull” .

(e) Audiences' reactions (31)

The majority reaction of audiences was reported to have been inconclusive .

Their reactions may be classified as follows:-

Mild approval 10
Inconclusive 14
Dislike 6
Strong dislike 1

18 audiences are reported to have followed the film attentively, 7 applauding, and 3 watching it with “intense interest”.

11 appeared either indifferent or inattentive.

1 gave vent to groans.

(f) Overheard comments

The following comments from audiences are reported by 2 Correspondents:-

At the beginning of the film : “What a funny beginning!”
“Has it really started!”
“What is it supposed to show?”
At the end of the film : “What was all that about?”
“I never thought of it before, but the papers did come every day, as usual. I just took it for granted.

Dr. Taylor.

Mr. Bargley.[Text Missing]

Mr. Hodgkin.

Mrs. Pearsall.

Miss Ffrench.

Mr. Fawcett.

Mrs. Binnie.



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