British directors are a much-maligned bunch. Only a handful of them are reckoned to be world class. Humphrey Jennings is one of that handful.
He was born in Suffolk into a middle-class family. After getting a First at Cambridge he drifted through a number of arty jobs. He fetched up at John Grierson's GPO film Unit and began creating his special brand of documentary. Unlike his colleagues, he was not interested in educating his audience. The Mass Observation Studies of the thirties were a major influence on his work and he concentrated on capturing "real life".
His early films have interest, but it took the war and a move to the Crown Film Unit to really bring out the best in him. The "all in this together" spirit of the Blitz tied in perfectly with his view of Britishness. His films capture the feeling of the time. It could be argued that the work is just propaganda to bolster the war effort; but the strongest form of propaganda is the truth, and Jennings' films feel truthful.
After the war he carried on film making, though the results lack the urgency of the best of his wartime work. He died in Greece from a cliff fall while researching his next film.
|1935||The Story of the Wheel|
|1936||The Birth of a Robot (co.)|
|1938||Her Last Trip|
|1938||Speaking from America|
|1938||Design for Spring|
|1938||S. S. Ionian|
|1939||The First Days (co.)|
|1940||Welfare of the Workers (co.)|
|1940||London Can Take It (co.)|
|1941||Heart of Britain|
|1941||Words for Battle (co.)|
|1942||Listen to Britain (co.)|
|1943||Fires Were Started|
|1943||The Silent Village|
|1944||The True Story of Lilli Marlene|
|1944||The 80 Days|
|1945||A Diary for Timothy|
|1946||A Defeated People|
|1949||Dim Little Island|
|1951||The Good Life (co.)|
Review of Humphrey Jennings by Kevin Jackson
Humphrey Jennings at Amazon UK
Humphrey Jennings at Amazon US