A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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Home Intelligence Special Report No. 23

25th of June, 1942

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

(released between 26th January and 16th February, 1942)




“100,000,000 WOMEN”

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 News Reels, 23rd March, 1942). This list can be supplied on request.

At the end of this Summary will be found a section dealing with (a) the relative popularity of the sixteen M.O.I. Five Minute Films which have been dealt with in these summaries of Films Correspondents' Reports, and (b) some conclusions arising from them.


30 reports have been received from Correspondents, 3 of which do not go into details.

The majority reaction of Correspondents was one of mild approval .

Their reactions may be classified as follows:

Warm approval 7
Mild approval 12
Inconclusive 6
Dislike 5

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

(a) The film's interest (19)

15 Correspondents thought it interesting , or very interesting.

“One of the best; packed with thrilling interest”.

“Plenty of action, and no ‘slow’ periods”.

4 Correspondents thought it uninteresting .

“It is not a subject in which much interest can be taken”.

“To my mind, a very ordinary film. I did not find much that was either interesting or stimulating.

“It was humdrum”.

(b) The intention of the film (19)

The film was thought to show:

i) The efficiency of army transport under difficulties. (13)

“I see now what ‘lines of communication’ mean, in Libya”.

ii) The details necessary for an army adavnce. (3)

“It also brought to my mind all the items which must be attended to when an army advances”.

iii) That “our lads were not wasting their time in the army”. (2. including one of the 13 above)

iv) Reasons for the cost of the war. (1)

“It gave me a wider conception of one of the reasons for the over £12,000,000 a day war expenditure and income tax”.

v) Reasons for skilled men going into the army. (1)

“It did more in a few minutes to explain why the army needs so many skilled men”.

(c) The Commentary (7)

5 Correspondents criticised the commentary , chiefly for being monotonous.

“The whole was accompanied by the monotonous voice of the commentator. No attempt was made to make his description of the work sound interesting....Immediately afterwards was the March of Time. To this, though no more interested in the subject, I felt compelled to listen because the commentator's voice was more interesting”.

“Commentary rather pedestrian”.

“The voice of the narrator was good, but lacked light and shade”.

2 Correspondents praised the commentary , for being clear.

(d) Comparison with other films . (7)

3 Correspondents compared it favourably with other M.O.I. films

“One of the best of M.O.I. films”.

“This film had everything that ‘Newspaper Train’ lacked”.

3 Correspondents compared it unfavourably with the ‘March of Time’ .

“This film was followed by ‘March of Time’. Interest at once quickened; chatter stopped”.

1 Correspondent thought the title lacked the dramatic quality of “Three in a Shell-hole”, and other M.O.I. films.

(e) Propaganda value (4)

3 Correspondents criticised the value of the film as propaganda .

“Little educational or propaganda value”.

1 Correspondent overheard the remark: “Good propaganda”.

It may, however, be concluded that the 19 Correspondents referred to in section (b), who learnt some new aspect of the army's work, would have considered the film as good - rather than as bad - propaganda.

(f) Special points of criticism (5)

3 Correspondents criticised the film as too complicated .

“It seemed to me that it was too ambitious - tried to deal with too much subject matter in a short space of time, so resulting in a patchy, unsatisfactory production. Feel about this film what I have felt about several others - they move too rapidly for the uninitiated to get a clear conception of the whole story they are attempting to tell”.

“The photography appeared to me to be rather muddled, and never certain what it was trying to show. It hopped about the place too much”.

1 Correspondent criticised the film for claiming that “the men were ‘army craftsmen’, whereas most of them were already craftsmen when they joined up”.

1 Correspondent reported “criticism by several men that there was a certain amount of ‘fake’, especially the snow plough trains, which were thought to be American and taken out of another film”.

(g) Films about the army (2)

2 Correspondents like films about the army as such.

“I feel that if more films were made on the same lines as this one about other branches of the army and the work they are doing, they would increase the confidence of the public in the army”.

“Anything about army life is interesting”.

(h) The audiences (30)

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

Their reactions may be classified as follows:

Strong approval 3
Mild approval 14
Inconclusive 8
Dislike 5

17 audiences were reported to have liked the film: 5 of them applauded.

In the case of 2 audiences, interest was noticed among men only.

5 audiences were reported to have been fidgety, indifferent, apathetic or bored.


40 reports have been received from Films Correspondents.

The majority reaction of Correspondents was one of mild approval .

Their reactions may be classified as follows:-

Strong approval 2
Mild approval 18
Inconclusive 9
Dislike 11

An analysis of the Correspondents' reactions according to sex reveals no difference, the balance being exactly equal, although one Correspondent said “The ladies prefer films of this type better than those of a more technical nature”.

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

(a) Shows the work of the St. John Ambulance Brigade . (21)

16 Correspondents expressed appreciation at being shown “the thoroughness of the training and the cheerful service of the members of St. John's Ambulance Corps”.

“The film certainly gave an excellent idea of the wonderful work carried out by the St. John's Ambulance”.

5 Correspondents criticised the film as “in no way doing justice to the work of St. John”.

“A better advertisement for St. John's would have been given from the wartime angle. The excellent work done during raids was not mentioned”.

“The merits of the Knights were neither lauded nor enhanced as much as they might have been”.

“Shots of shipwrecked survivors were interesting on their own account rather than as an aspect of the work of the St. John's Ambulance Brigade, which was made to appear incidental”.

(b) Too dark to see what was happening . (18)

18 Correspondents criticised the darkness and fogginess of the film, as a result of which “at times one could hardly see what was going on or distinguish the faces on the screen”.

“To have to view what slight action there was through a thick fog I found extremely irritating”.

“A few complaints that M.O.I. films are rather on the dark side”.

“A large art shown in semi-darkness, shadowy fumbling figures and muttering voices - poor stuff”.

(c) “Interested in the subject, but....” (11)

11 Correspondents expressed an interest in the subject of the film.

“Very good theme”.

“Promising material”.

“I found this film very interesting - I am personally interested in First Aid work”.

8 (of these 11) Correspondents were disappointed in the treatment .

“To me a somewhat disappointing handling of a very promising subject”.

“I was interested in the subject but thought the film not very good. Treatment of the good subject was prosaic, nothing to catch your interest”.

“I felt it might easily have been made much more interesting, as the idea was good, but it was carried out rather tediously”.

(d) The dialogue . (11)

5 Correspondents praised the dialogue , for its naturalness and humour. “I liked the way you gave us the essential factors of the work of St. John's by the extremely natural conversation between the man and the boy, which was heightened by the fact that the conversation was not carried on in one place but moved from the van to the bed”. “The choice of ‘youth and age’ and the different accents was an exceptionally good idea”.

2 Correspondents criticised the dialogue as “weak” and as containing “too much talking by the ambulance driver at the beginning”.

4 Correspondents criticised the sound as “indistinct”.

“The noise of the waves muffled the speakers”.

(e) The ending (5)

4 Correspondents criticised the ending as “too hurried” or “indefinite”.

“Interest was lost at the end, on account of the general indistinctness of the vision and the sound”.

2 Correspondents considered the film “surprisingly short” .

“Could not help feeling sorry that the brief time devoted to these M.O.I. films makes it necessary for so much promising material to be condensed into so short a story”.

(f) Propaganda (5)

5 Correspondents discuss the film from the point of view of propaganda.

2 Correspondents comment on the absence of “a direct appeal either to join or for funds”.

“As recruits were not asked for, one wonders the real reason for M.O.I. showing”.

2 Correspondents comment on the absence of propaganda value .

“If, as I presume, the idea was to attract new recruits I am afraid the response will be meagre”.

“It did not excite me and make me want to do something for the war effort as other M.O.I. films have done”.

1 Correspondent only thought that the film was likely to make people want to join St. John's Ambulance.

(g) Points not understood . (3)

1 Correspondent refers to members of the audience mistaking the ambulance attendants for firemen, which “goes to prove that titles such as ‘Knights of St. John’ are not understood by many”.

1 Correspondent “noticed that the pedestrian used a torch when directing the driver to the scene of the wreck, but, when attending casualties - although still dark and foggy - no light was used by the attendants”.

1 Correspondent remarks that the “majority of the public did not seem to know what the rocket apparatus was”.

(h) The origin of St. John's Ambulance . (3)

3 Correspondents were pleased to learn the history and origins of St. John's Ambulance Association, and particularly “the Crusader origin”.

(i) Not as good as other M.O.I. films (3)

3 Correspondents regarded this as “one of the less successful efforts of the M.O.I.”.

(j) The audiences . (40)

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

Their reactions may be classified as follows:-

Mild approval 16
Inconclusive 20
Dislike 4

8 audiences applauded the film, and 4 laughed occasionally.

(g) The commentary (7)

3 Correspondents liked the commentary .

“The commentator had an extremely attractive voice”.

“Mr. Mitchell's commentating certainly improved the film all round”.

4 Correspondents felt there was “something lacking” .

“I think the film would have been better if, say, a person with a more direct appeal (e.g. a scrap worker) could have done the commentating”.

(h) Audiences' reactions (30)

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

Their reactions may be classified as follows:-

Strong approval 9
Mild approval 11
Inconclusive 10

3 audiences are reported to have applauded; 2 to have greeted the demolition scenes with “a hubbub of excitement”, and “squeals of delight”.

The remainder appear to have varied between interest and unresponsiveness.

1 audience was reported to have groaned when the title was screened, but “although they were despondent at the start, they were impressed at the finish”.

4. 100,000,000 WOMEN .

33 reports, 1 of which does not go into details, have been received from Film Correspondents, as well as 2 references in reports from R.I.Os.

The majority reaction of Correspondents was one of mild approval .

Although the majority reaction is only one of mild approval, the proportion of 29 approval to 2 dislike is unusually high, whilst the number of inconclusive reports is exceedingly low. An analysis of the Correspondents' reactions according to sex reveals no difference, the balance being virtually equal.

Their reactions may be classified as follows:-

Strong approval 11
Mild approval 18
Inconclusive 3
Dislike 2

In reporting on this film it should be pointed out that Correspondents' reactions have been largely concerned with admiration of Russia. There is comparatively little comment on its technique or manner of presentation. A Chester correspondent makes this point: “I heard more comments regarding this particular film than any other M.O.I. film I can remember. Here again, it was not the quality of the photography that impressed the audience, but the subject. I have heard this film discussed in the bus, office and even at the card table, the ladies discussing the question whether they were doing enough for their country”.

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

(a) Russian and British women compared (24)

17 Correspondents expressed admiration of Russian women .

“This was a splendid film...It should act as an inspiration not only to the women of this country but to all of us to put forward still greater efforts in the common task”.

It was a tonic to see what the women of the U.S.S.R. were doing for their country”.

It made me feel that whatever war work is offered it should be taken wholeheartedly remembering the wonderful effort of the Russian women our allies”.

6 Correspondents felt shame in connection with British women's war efforts .

“I felt very ashamed of the war effort put forth by the British women”.

“I think many people felt ashamed after seeing the absolute sacrifices of the women”.

“Well, that ought to make us ashamed of ourselves”.

“I realised I wasn't doing my part”.

1 Correspondent expressed doubt as to the success of such methods here .

“I don't think it could work to the same extent in this country, although it was inspiring to see them going all out, even the women with babies”.

This view is confirmed by a report received from R.I.O. London, to the following effect:-

“In one of the poorer East-end London districts women are said to have been appalled at the thought of women fighting, dropping by parachutes, etc. They are said to have remarked: ‘The government won't get me to do that’. Men discussing it are said to have hoped ‘this country wouldn't get too Russianised’, and that they wouldn't like to think of their wives and daughters being treated like that”.

(b) The variety of work (9)

6 Correspondents commented on “the general variety of the work done” by the Russian women .

“There is no industry that Russian women are not employed in”.

“I was amazed to see how thoroughly Russian women are taking over industry and most men's jobs”.

3 Correspondents felt this was overdone .

“I found myself saying...‘Yes, but, dash it, we're doing all this too’. The heavier work in the forges and steel mills struck me as unnecessary. Surely with Russia's tremendous man power such things need not be left to women”.

(c) Mme Nicolaieva (5)

4 Correspondents commented unfavourably on her speech as “completely unintelligible” .

“The one wrong note in this film in my opinion was the speech by the Russian woman at the end... It was impossible to make out what she was saying”.

“Methinks the lady doth protest too much”.

“During the speech at the end of the film, made by Mme Nicolaieva, the sound track did not synchronise with her lips and gestures. Very noticeable”.

1 Correspondent commented favourably .

“The Soviet T.U. delegate was an impressive figure, carrying conviction even over her appalling clothes. She gave an impression of having tremendous reserves of energy. Very comforting, if characteristic”.

(d) Good propaganda (2)

2 Correspondents thought the propaganda good

“There is a growing suspicion that the Russians are so clever at propaganda, and we are so bad, that the difference between the Russian women and our own may not be so marked as might appear in this film. But as propaganda it is magnificent”.

(e) Desire for a similar picture about British women (2)

2 Correspondents would have liked a similar film about British women .

“Could we not have a picture on similar lines about the work of British women as a whole?”

“As there have been several showings of some such or another on the Russian women's war effort it would be a very nice change to see something of the English woman-in-the-street's contribution”.

(f) Points liked (10)

4 Correspondents liked the Creche .

“The babies in the creche brought in the necessary ‘gentleness’ - a good ending to a very good film”.

“I admired the bright looking day nursery, and hope we will emulate them in this respect”.

2 Correspondents liked the nurses .

“Their fearlessness in jumping from the plane almost caused me to exclaim aloud”.

2 Correspondents liked the Commentary .

“The soft pleasant voice of the commentator”.

1 Correspondent liked the photographs of Russian agriculture

“Film not particularly liked - except photography of Russian agriculture”.

1 Correspondent liked the putting out of the fires .

“The part showing women putting out fires from incendiaries was really fine”.

(g) Points disliked

“The speech by the Russian woman at the end”. (4) See section (c).

“The greeting between mother and son”. (1)

“The woman commentator's voice was very indistinct and difficult to hear”.

(i) Audiences' reactions (32)

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

Their reactions may be classified as follows:-

Strong approval 7
Mild approval 18
Inconclusive 7

9 audiences are reported to have applauded; 4 to have commented on or discussed it; 2 to have been pleased with the creche; 4 were “passive” or “unmoved”. In 2, women are thought to have felt “abashed” or “small”.

1 audience received it with “stunned admiration”.

1 audience is said to have been “charmed with its simplicity”.

1 audience is reported to have “received it with groans”.

5. Order of popularity, and some conclusions .

(a) This summary brings the number of M.O.I. Five Minute Films reported on in this form up to 16, representing the output of these films for the four months between 3rd November, 1941 and 16th February, 1942.

An analysis of these summaries makes it possible to place the films in their order of popularity - at least in so far as the Films Correspondents who reported on them are concerned. The order is as follows:-

1. Arms From Scrap

2. Venture Adventure

3. 100,000,000 Women

4. Royal Observer Corps

5. Three in a Shell-hole

6. Special Despatch

7. Seaman Laskier Goes Back to Sea

8. War in the East

9. W.R.N.S.

10. Sam Pepys Joins the Navy

11. The Army Lays the Rails

12. Rush Hour

13. Hospital Nurse

14. Naval Operations

15. Knights of St. John

16. Newspaper Train

About the position of the first five and the last two there appears to be little doubt, but there might have been some readjustment in the order of the others had a greater number of reports been received. This particularly applies in the case of the films at present placed between 8 and 11, in whose popularity there did not appear to be a great deal of difference. The first 3 films were all liked by the majority of Correspondents, but while Arms From Scrap and Venture Adventure were disliked by nobody, 100,000,000 Women seems to have been less popular than the other two, largely as a result of Mme Nicolaieva's appeal at the end, which some people disliked as being incomprehensible. Three in a Shell-hole was, unfortunately, only reported on by a very few Correspondents, and there is some reason to suppose that, had more reports on this film been received, it might have been found to be as popular as 100,000,000 Women .

(b) Several general factors may be noticed:

  1. M.O.I. films improving : On the whole, M.O.I. films are thought to be improving. There is also a tendency to compare the less popular M.O.I. films with what are considered to have been the best, and to compare them all with what is felt to be the standard of M.O.I. films. A number of audiences are still, however, reported to receive the appearance of an M.O.I. film with groans, but not infrequently these are turned to applause by the end.

  2. Regarded as propaganda for action : There is a persistent tendency to regard M.O.I. films as “propaganda for action”. When, as in Rush Hour , this element is obvious, there is criticism, not on the grounds that propaganda is intended, but that it is likely to be ineffective. The only criticism of Arms From Scrap seems to have been on the grounds that an insufficient appeal had been made for domestic scrap.

  3. Diagrams not objected to : There appears to be no objection to maps and diagrams as such, provided they are clear. Even in the case of Newspaper Train , which seems to have been the least popular of all these films, the diagram was liked. On the other hand the diagrams in Naval Operations were found difficult to follow by some people and there were complaints of the “confusing effects” of switching from photography to diagrams. The maps in War in the East were found clear and instructive, though there was some feeling that not enough time was allowed in which to study them.

  4. “I had no idea” : Most people seem to welcome being told about some aspect of the war effort which they knew nothing about, such as the A.T.C., the Royal Observer Corps, W.R.N.S., etc. The only complaints in this connection are that people are not told as much as they would have liked and that “too rosy a picture” is painted of conditions in these Services.

  5. “Can't see in the dark” : criticism of Knights of St. John , and of an earlier film Danger in the Dark , stressed the fact that if people can't see what is happening they lose interest in a film.

  6. Change half way through : Sam Pepys and, to a lesser degree, Seaman Laskier seem to have disappointed some people by the sudden introduction of the Savings appeal towards the end: there was some feeling that people's interest had been aroused on false pretences and that the Savings appeal had been an anti-climax.

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