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La Seconde Guerre mondiale

An Image of Britain during the Second World War: The films of Humphrey Jennings (1939-1945)

Une image de la Grande-Bretagne pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale : les films de Humphrey Jennings (1939-1945)
Elena Von Kassel
p. 149-160


Il s’agit de chercher à comprendre comment le style poétique a pu atteindre des sommets avec les films de Humphrey Jennings dans le documentaire anglais et comment ces films résultent d’un mélange entre deux traditions du cinéma britannique, traditions jusque-là opposées. A l’initiative d’Alberto Cavalcanti, en 1939, The First Days, coréalisé par Humphrey Jennings, Harry Watt et Pat Jackson, fut, au tout début la guerre, le premier film offrant une réflexion sur des réalités, lorsque l’on avait essayé de manipuler le public dans Le lion a des ailes, tourné la même année, mais aussi  le premier film anglais de propagande de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, dont Alexander Korda avait lancé et soutenu la réalisation. Quand, partant pour Ealing Studios, Cavalcanti quitte la direction de la GPO Film Unit, il est remplacé par Ian Dalrymple, le producteur du film Le lion a des ailes. C’est sous la direction de Dalrymple qu’au GPO, désormais appelé Crown Film Unit, un nouveau genre de film put émerger. Dans cet esprit démocratique, après The First Days, fut tourné en coréalisation London Can Take It (1940), par Humphrey Jennings et Harry Watt, le thème portant sur la façon dont les Londoniens supportaient les bombardements. Puis, Jennings a réalisé Heart of Britain, le thème portant, cette fois, sur la résistance de toute l’Angleterre. Words for Battle, qui suivit, était un film de propagande historique. Toutefois, c’est avec Listen to Britain, en 1942, que Jennings put vraiment toucher le public. La guerre n’était pas encore gagnée, mais la propagande dans le documentaire anglais était bien plus efficace que celle de l’ennemi, et parvenait, en même temps, à toucher toutes les couches de la population.

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1This article will attempt to demonstrate how the poetic style of documentary that reached a pinnacle of achievement with Humphrey Jennings’ films was the result of a wartime partnership between two distinct and previously opposed traditions in British cinema―the commercial fictional feature, and the non-commercial sponsored documentary. It was the GPO (General Post Office) Film Unit which produced The First Days, the first wartime documentary, quiet and low-keyed, which offered a recognizable reflection of reality that was notable for the absence of the kind of overt audience manipulation that had characterized The Lion Has Wings, a film initiated by Alexander Korda. Yet, when Alberto Cavalcanti, the then head of the GPO Film Unit, resigned (to join Ealing Studios), it would be Ian Dalrymple, the producer of The Lion Has Wings, who took his place, although his background had previously been in features. His appointment was to lead to the fusion of two different styles.

2It was indeed a new kind of film which began to emerge under Dalrymple’s enlightened leadership at the now renamed Crown Film Unit. The films carried a propaganda message which was truthful and effective, in part because they came to reflect the spirit of democracy in which the Unit was created and came to function.

  • 1  Noam Chomsky, “Collateral Language”, interview with David Barsamiam July-August 2003 (Z-Net) <www. (...)

3The socialist seed of the GPO Film Unit was sown from the moment it was founded by John Grierson. When the young Scotsman from the Clyde with socialist convictions went to the U.S. to study on a scholarship, his research involved the effect Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin had on American audiences. He also met Walter Lippmann, the highly acclaimed journalist who had been appointed by Woodrow Wilson’s cabinet during the First World War to be in charge of propaganda. Interestingly, in the light of subsequent cyclical developments, the model for this organ of propaganda was the Ministry of Information, first set up in Britain during the First World War with the objective of winning the support of the American public.1

4Grierson returned to Britain and started work for the Empire Marketing Board in 1927. When the government reduced funds for the latter, Grierson took his Film Unit to the Post Office. Although the role of the GPO Film Unit was to make commercials for this service, Grierson seized the opportunity to make educational films.  In order to do this, he recruited young enthusiasts with a keen interest in experimenting with film. Most of them were Oxbridge graduates such as Basil Wright, Stuart Legg, Humphrey Jennings and Arthur Elton. The established Brazilian filmmaker Alberto Cavalcanti came over from France to school this group in film technique. It was Cavalcanti who was in charge of the Unit at the outbreak of war in September 1939, as Grierson had left for Canada in 1937 where he would found the National Film Board. The Ministry of Information had not yet been formed and thus there was no policy about propaganda. Feeling that history was in the making and that the time for action had come, Cavalcanti took the initiative: he sent out directors of the Unit, Humphrey Jennings, Harry Watt and Pat Jackson to film what was going on, or rather what was not going on in this curiously quiet period known as the phoney war.

5The result was The First Days. It begins by showing children playing on captured German guns from the First World War outside the Imperial War Museum. The scene encourages reflection about the past, about the lessons which have and have not been learned since the last war. But there is also an underlying question of what lessons have been learned about propaganda. The voice-over narration says “September 3rd, 1939. London was at peace on this Sunday morning.” There are scenes of quiet streets, with silence, no music or narration on the soundtrack, there are shots of people going to church, children playing by the pond, people strolling on the bank of the river Thames.  Then families are shown in their homes listening to the radio, cross-cut with the Prime Minister’s address on the radio, carrying the fateful words:  “This country is at war with Germany.” The address continues as other images are shown: Londoners enter the air-raid shelters, barrage balloons are put up. The next image is of some people in an air-raid shelter. The narrator resumes: “Friendliness―it has become the wartime equipment of all Londoners. People joke but in their hearts was devastation.” There are also scenes in the East End. Class barriers have begun to be broken down in preparation for the war; and they would stay that way throughout the conflict, at least in propaganda films.

  • 2  Vansittart was Permanant Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office. In the 1930s he formed what became (...)

6Meanwhile another foreigner, Alexander Korda, had the same idea, but on a grander scale. Korda had been Britain’s most influential producer in the early thirties, and his backers included high-powered friends such as Sir Winston Churchill and Sir Robert Vansittart2. Realising that Britain was about to declare war on Germany, with their support he initiated a propaganda film to promote Britain’s cause. He assigned three directors to the project: Michael Powell, Brian Desmond Hurst and Adrian Brunel. Ian Dalrymple, who had first worked as an editor in films and then as a screenwriter with Korda, was appointed to be acting producer.

7Britain and her Allies had not yet developed a strategy for getting people completely involved in their cause, and Korda’s The Lion Has Wings is an example of crude propaganda put together on the spur of the moment. The Germans had been working on their propaganda since at least 1934 using British propaganda tactics from the First World War as their model. It is ironic therefore that The Lion Has Wings uses a German propaganda film as a model. The film not only uses footage from Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, which glorified the 1934 Nuremberg Rally, but imitates that film’s technique of manipulation. In its desperate, hurried attempt to put out a propaganda message quickly the film lacks a realistic human approach. It exaggerates by presenting a picture of Britain in a state of perfect readiness to take on the enemy. Not only was this not true, but also the vignettes of a happy couple―Ralph Richardson as a Royal Air Force pilot and Merle Oberon, as a volunteer nurse―lacked plausibility.

8Moreover, it depicts Britain as a nation where nothing has ever gone wrong―boat races, horse racing, fun and games. All is well. The bitter truth and poverty of the 1930s are not visible, which is not surprising as British feature films up to the 1930s avoided showing poverty in favour of escape into a fairy-tale world, an imitation of Hollywood, which allowed the usually poor cinema audience to escape their reality and daydream. This was especially the case with Korda’s films such as Private Life of Henry VIII and Four Feathers. Some attempts had started being made to depict the working class, such as in Carol Reed’s The Stars Look Down and Penrose Tennyson’s The Proud Valley, but it was the Documentary Movement, and especially Grierson’s GPO Film Unit, that was principally concerned with addressing society’s problems.

  • 3  Public Record Office, FO371/22841, cited in Charles Drazin, Korda: Britain’s only Movie Mogul, 222
  • 4  Ministry of Information Report, ibid., 229.

9Yet The Lion Has Wings was important in that it was the first propaganda film to be made and distributed outside Britain. Whether it was a good or bad film was not a critical question if it was the only one available to convince American audiences of the danger of Hitler. However, this one-sided propaganda was not completely effective. Although it depicted the evil of Nazism truthfully and helped make people understand the gravity of the situation, it neglected a way to make people become more involved in the war effort. If the democratic side did not conceal its faults, which were human and redeemable, while the totalitarian side tried to conceal its monstrous faults, it could perhaps make more effective propaganda. Therefore in order to be successful, propaganda had to be subtle and truthful. As the Foreign Secretary at the time, Lord Halifax, realized, the public in the US was already behind Britain. They were also attuned to crude propaganda. “Nothing therefore should be done which could be misinterpreted as an attempt to influence U.S. opinion in our favour”, he said. No overt propaganda.3  Similarly, the Ministry of Information which had been set up in 1940, adopted a policy of “no propaganda”. In other words in the future British propaganda should just show the truth, the bare facts.4

  • 5  Dai Vaughan, Portrait of an Invisible Man, London: BFI, 1983, 62.

10This, contrary to The Lion Has Wings, was exactly what Alberto Cavalcanti had been doing with The First Days, as described above. Yet Cavalcanti wanted to go back to features and had been negotiating for some time with Michael Balcon to go to Ealing. It was therefore highly appropriate that the person who had been responsible for Korda’s commercial attempt at documentary, Ian Dalrymple, should be assigned by the Ministry of Information to the GPO Film Unit, which by now had renamed itself the Crown Film Unit. An example of the spirit in which this easy-going group of filmmakers functioned is given in an anecdote recounted by Dai Vaughan, who later worked with a member of the Unit and editor of many of Humphrey Jennings’ films, Stewart McAllister, of how they came to be called the Crown Film Unit. Once the question of changing names arose: “Someone suggested that, since the crown was a feature of the familiar GPO logo, this should be retained and the name simply changed to the Crown Film Unit. I do not know how innocently the suggestion was made; but it was innocently accepted: a piece of audacity which allowed this dubious band of pirates henceforth to speak with all the authority of our highest national symbol―the authority of the throne.”5

  • 6  Charles Drazin, The Finest Years, London: André Deutsch, 1998, 141.
  • 7 Ibid., 142.

11More seriously, the Crown Film Unit welcomed the appointment of Ian Dalrymple. In fact, it was the Unit itself along with the Ministry that had asked Dalrymple to join. He came from a fiction film background and had been an editor and sreenwriter, which appealed to them, as they had always been drawn to fiction film. There was often a story to their commercials. In 1936, Harry Watt made the Savings of Bill Blewitt, which was to be described by Paul Rotha in The Film Till Now as “a film that was to influence others in the movement and give a line of development towards the use of story and actors”.6  “So the ‘story-documentary’ was born”. And North Sea made in 1938, again by Harry Watt, was another feature.7

12For his part, Dalrymple wanted to learn about documentary. He had had the experience of The Lion Has Wings. He had become aware of its weaknesses. This would be for him an opportunity to learn to make effective, subtle propaganda. He found this brilliant group of young enthusiasts, all living on nothing and being paid nothing, ready to share what they had learned about making documentary, and ready to do something for the war effort. Although they had ample opportunity to experiment, these filmmakers up to now had to stick to a central theme, which was the Post Office: postage stamps, postal delivery, the telegraph service and the telephone. An exhaustive and altogether everyday theme. With the war they had an opportunity to say something to the world.

  • 8  Elizabeth Sussex, The Rise and Fall of the British Documentary Film Movement, London: University o (...)
  • 9  “Only Connect: Some Aspects of the Work of Humphrey Jennings”, Sight and Sound, April – June 1954.
  • 10  Clive Coutlass, Images for BattleBritish Films and the Second World War 1939-1945, London and To (...)

13The filmmakers introduced Dalrymple to their work by showing him some of their films. Jennings’ Spare Time and Spring Offensive8 came last. Dalrymple realized straight away Jennings’ singular talent and the potential he had for something quite different. Spare Time portrays the working class as no-one had ever portrayed it before. It takes neither a paternalistic attitude (although this was much debated when the film came out), nor does it concentrate on labour. It shows how the workers spend their leisure time instead. “An affectionate response to simple pleasures”, as Lindsay Anderson, would point out, “[was] characteristic of Jennings’s later work, rather than any emphasis on satire”.9Spring Offensive is also different in that it does not paint a quaint, stereotyped picture of life on a farm, but shows a decrepit farm, which was a more accurate representation of the state of British agriculture, a long neglected sector by the government.10

  • 11  Published posthumously: Humphrey Jennings, Pandaemonium 1660-1886, edited by Mary-Lou Jennings and (...)

14Humphrey Jennings might have had only five years of experience in filmmaking before the war, but before that he had been a painter. He had also been importing surrealism from France since his university days at Cambridge, was on the organization committee of the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London to which he contributed works. The list of his exceptional qualifications goes on having been one of the founders of Mass Observation along with Charles Madge and Tom Harrisson, he began work on an anthology on the Industrial Revolution, Pandaemonium11. These artistic and poetic attributes, along with his scholastic excellence at Cambridge, where he read English and wrote a doctoral thesis on Thomas Gray, gave him solid ground to combat the enemy. He was equipped creatively and intellectually for subtle propaganda.

15When the blitz began on August 23rd 1940, following the example set by Cavalcanti with The First Days, Humphrey Jennings, Harry Watt, and Pat Jackson made London Can Take It. The film was shot and edited in two weeks while London was being bombed. It is the story of one night of the blitz from sunset to sunrise, and the theme, as Harry Watt has said, is how extraordinary it was that London returned to normality so quickly. The directors decided to add a commentary. They asked Quentin Reynolds, the London correspondent of the American magazine Collier’s Weekly, to write and narrate a commentary. There is a close-up of the journalist sitting at his desk. He looks reassuring and relaxed, as he smokes a cigarette. His presence and deep voice inspire confidence. He is addressing the British people directly, but indirectly the Americans. “As an American war correspondent in this country, I send every week to my readers in the United States a dispatch about how you people are fighting the war for democracy. Last week I sent a new kind of dispatch, a film dispatch. Here it is […]” There are scenes of London preparing for a night of being “blitzed”: Quentin Reynolds continues, “I’m speaking from London, it’s late afternoon and the people are preparing for the night. Many of the people at whom you are looking now are members of the greatest civilian army to be assembled.” There are scenes of the streets, people waiting at bus stops, and people going into the Underground, while the commentary goes on: “Now these men and women who’ve worked all day in offices and markets are hurrying home to change into the uniform of their particular service.” Then there are ferocious scenes of the bombings, which are real scenes. The next day however, Londoners clean up the debris with humour. “Stores are open,” Reynolds continues, as a shop-keeper enters her shop through what used to be the shop-window, and now has been shattered. “In fact some are more open than usual.” Scenes of the King and Queen amidst the damage caused by the bombs like ordinary people serve as another contributing factor towards effective propaganda.  

  • 12  Pat Jackson, A Retake PleaseNight Mail to Western Approaches, Liverpool University Press and Roya (...)
  • 13  Pat Jackson in Elizabeth Sussex, The Rise and Fall of the British Documentary Film Movement, Londo (...)

16Quentin Reynolds took a copy of the film back to America. He showed it to President Roosevelt, “who was fighting hard against the isolationism of the States and struggling, on Churchill’s behalf, to get the Lend-Lease scheme through Congress”12. Roosevelt was able to show London Can Take It to Congress and to convince them to engage in further support towards Britain.13

17After the success of London Can Take It, Jennings wrote and directed a film that had the same theme of how the whole country was facing up to the bombings, The Heart of Britain. It becomes obvious from the third sequence that this is not like any other documentary film about the war. It begins with a shot of a sign reading the “Hallé Orchestra is playing in Manchester”. The narrator says, “But in Manchester today they still respect the genius of the Germany that was”, as there is a cut to the Hallé Orchestra beginning to play Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. While the music carries on, the camera leaves the interior and starts panning outside showing skeletons of buildings, the ruins of Coventry, the Cathedral in ruins. Seeing destroyed buildings while hearing “the music of the enemy” who has destroyed them, paradoxically suggests the triumph of Britain rather than the triumph of Germany.

18Another powerful sequence with music begins with a cut to the Huddersfield Choral Society singing the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah. The narrator observes: “People who sing like this in times like these cannot be beaten. These people are slow to anger, not easily roused. Now they have been subjected to the most savage ordeal ever inflicted on human beings. But these people have the power to hit back and they will hit back.” There are everyday scenes of bombed buildings and rescue workers while the narrator continues, “They are going to hit back with the skill of their hands, the tradition of their craft and the fire in their hearts.” The majestic Hallelujah chorus is still heard over landscape shots of Britain. It is through the music of Beethoven, Mozart and Handel that Jennings suggests that not all Germans are bad, or always were, but rather that it is the seed of evil, Nazism, that should be combatted. If this was not subtle propaganda, what was?  

  • 14  Mary-Lou Jennings, Humphrey Jennings, Film-maker, Painter, Poet, London: BFI, 1982, 28.

19Jennings’ background was perfectly suited to help him find his own voice for making propaganda films. His next work, which he would make in the Spring of 1941, can be considered a pure propaganda effort, Words for Battle. This eight-minute film, in seven parts with a coda,14 is made up of carefully chosen quotations, from poets and historical figures, and images by Humphrey Jennings. Laurence Olivier speaks the commentary voice-off, which consists of a description of Britain, four well-known English poems and two famous speeches. These texts are, specifically, Camden’s description of Britain, Milton’s “Aeropagitica”, Blake’s “Jerusalem”, Browning’s “Home Thoughts from Sea”, Kipling’s “The Beginnings”, Churchill’s speech of 4 June 1940 and Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. There is no additional commentary to hold this “patchwork” together, other than Laurence Olivier’s voice as narrator. The shift from one passage to the next is indicated through the images. For example, we assume there is a change of text from Churchill’s “We shall fight on the beaches [...]” to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address because there is a scene of tanks driving past Lincoln’s statue in Parliament Square when we hear “[...] that the government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”   

  • 15  America would enter the war fully after Pearl Harbor when Churchill went to Washington for the ‘Ar (...)

20Words for Battle is patriotic. Yet its resplendence of what would develop to be the poetic Jennings style does not give an uncomfortable feeling, and it is touching. There are very subtle nuances, arguably a device most suitable for persuasion, but these subtle nuances are more than just a device for convincing people that they have to co-operate in the war effort―they are powerful and moving. It addresses the individual, in an indirect way. The commentary of the film fulfils the promise of the title, “words for battle”, but the images are doing something quite different. They are suggesting inward reflection. They are “thoughts for battle”. A seemingly spontaneous juxtaposition of images and sounds celebrates individuality. Another interesting aspect of Words for Battle is that it combines British history and American history and presents it as one joint endeavour―it is as if the American Revolution never happened, or if it did, it happened so that Britain and America could be the best of allies. This idea, which is expounded through the editing, served as the key underlying element of propaganda to encourage the United States, which had not yet entered the war, to give more support to Britain.15

21The very last sequence of Words for Battle does away with commentary. It leaves the historical to show the present: crowds in the street. It focuses on two men and a woman in uniform, cheerful and determined. Handel’s Water Music can be heard on the soundtrack. Perhaps it is of consequence that it is music by a composer of German origin celebrating a British event. Yet, the actual scene is an indication of Jennings taking free reign to talk about the present, about the war.  As Lindsay Anderson comments:

  • 16  “Only Connect: Some Aspects of the Work of Humphrey Jennings”, Sight and Sound, April – June 1954.

It is perhaps significant, though, that the film springs to a new kind of life altogether in its last sequence, as the words of Lincoln at Gettysburg are followed by the clatter of tanks driving into Parliament Square past the Lincoln statue: the sound of the tanks merges in turn into the grand music of Handel, and suddenly the camera is following a succession of men and women in uniform, striding along the pavement, cheery and casual, endowed by the music, by the urgent rhythm of the cutting, and by the solemnity of what has gone before (to which we feel they are heirs) with an astonishing and breathtaking dignity, a mortal splendour.16

22Anderson suggests this last sequence of Words for Battle is a cue for Listen to Britain, Jennings’ “stylistic triumph” made in 1942, which dispenses with commentary altogether. Indeed, after having established the basic principles of liberty and democracy, which the enemy seems to have forgotten, through The First Days and London Can Take It collaboratively, and thendirecting Heart of Britain, and Words for Battle, Jennings himself takes liberty with the camera. He had the structure at the Crown Film Unit to do so and Ian Dalrymple gave him the go-ahead.

23Listen to Britain achieved, with the help of editor Stewart McAllister,   “a symphony of sounds and images” of a country at war. Among the sounds and images are: the BBC announcing the time in different languages while there is a shot of waves breaking on the beach; Canadian soldiers singing “Home on the Range” in a train car; the sound of songs and machines clanking at a factory; Flanagan and Allen, two popular singers of the day, entertaining workers at a factory canteen. A cut to the National Gallery blends two worlds, two kinds of music, popular and classical, two classes. Inside there is a concert, the famous pianist, Myra Hess, is playing Mozart. The Queen also is in the audience; she is listening just like everyone else. A reflective atmosphere prevails, leaving room for spontaneity and freedom of thought. The atmosphere is very different from Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, where there is no room for thought or individuality, and people are not free. Fires Were Started (1943) and A Diary for Timothy (1945) were two more films that Jennings would make highlighting a country where class barriers were broken down and people would show friendliness, and determination in their everyday tasks in order to fight the enemy.

  • 17  Ibidem.

24The war was not yet won, but Nazi propaganda had long been beaten with the films of Humphrey Jennings and the other directors of the Crown Film Unit. The lesson from the first propaganda film, The Lion Has Wings, had been learnt. Most of the documentaries made during the war did not set out to project an ideal or an objective view of Britain during the Second World War, but showed individuals “in service and in cooperation”17. The images and sounds were blended to show the country at its best. The GPO Film Unit had started as a socialist dream by John Grierson in the 1930s, but would end up working at its best as the Crown Film Unit under a government led by a Conservative Prime Minister during the Second World War.

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ALDGATE Anthony and RICHARDS Jeffrey, Britain Can Take It―The British Cinema in the Second World War, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, (1986) 1994.

COUTLASS Clive, Images for Battle―British Films and the Second World War ―1939-1945, London and Toronto : Associated University Press, 1989.

DRAZIN Charles, The Finest Years, London : André Deutsch, 1998

JACKSON Pat, A Retake Please―Night Mail to Western Approaches, Liverpool University Press and Royal Naval Museum Publications, 1999.

JACKSON Kevin (ed.), The Humphrey Jennings Film Reader, London: Carcanet, 1993.

JENNINGS Mary-Lou, Humphrey Jennings, Film-maker, Painter, Poet, London: BFI, 1982.

SUSSEX Elizabeth The Rise and Fall of the British Documentary Film Movement, London: University of California Press, 1975,

VAUGHAN Dai, Portrait of an Invisible Man, London: BFI, 1983.

Selected Films


London Can Take It

Black and white 10min. Alternative title: Britain Can Take It

Directors : Humphrey Jennings, Harry Watt. Photography : Jonah Jones, Chick Fowle. Monteur : Stewart McAllister. Commentary : Quentin Reynolds.

Production : GPO Film Unit for the Ministry of  Information.


Heart of Britain

Black and white 9min. Autres titres : This is England and Undaunted

Director : Humphrey Jennings. Photography : Chick Fowle. Sound : Ken Cameron. Edited by : Stewart McAllister. Commentaire : Jack Holmes. Production : Ian Dalrymple for the MOI.

Words for Battle

Noir et blanc, 8min.

Director : Humphrey Jennings. Sound : Ken Cameron. Edited by: Stewart McAllister. Narrator: Laurence Olivier. Production : Ian Dalrymple for the Crown Film Unit.


Listen to Britain

Black and white, 20min.

Directed by: Humphrey Jennings, Stewart McAllister. Photography : Chick Fowle. Edited by: Humphrey Jennings, Stewart McAllister. Production: Ian Darlymple for the Crown Film Unit.

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1  Noam Chomsky, “Collateral Language”, interview with David Barsamiam July-August 2003 (Z-Net) <>.

2  Vansittart was Permanant Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office. In the 1930s he formed what became known as “Vansittart’s Private Detective Agency” to gather information on the rise of Fascism in Germany.

3  Public Record Office, FO371/22841, cited in Charles Drazin, Korda: Britain’s only Movie Mogul, 222.

4  Ministry of Information Report, ibid., 229.

5  Dai Vaughan, Portrait of an Invisible Man, London: BFI, 1983, 62.

6  Charles Drazin, The Finest Years, London: André Deutsch, 1998, 141.

7 Ibid., 142.

8  Elizabeth Sussex, The Rise and Fall of the British Documentary Film Movement, London: University of California Press, 1975, 125.

9  “Only Connect: Some Aspects of the Work of Humphrey Jennings”, Sight and Sound, April – June 1954.

10  Clive Coutlass, Images for BattleBritish Films and the Second World War 1939-1945, London and Toronto: Associated University Press, 1989, 20.

11  Published posthumously: Humphrey Jennings, Pandaemonium 1660-1886, edited by Mary-Lou Jennings and Charles Madge, London: Picador 1985.

12  Pat Jackson, A Retake PleaseNight Mail to Western Approaches, Liverpool University Press and Royal Naval Museum Publications, 1999, 74.

13  Pat Jackson in Elizabeth Sussex, The Rise and Fall of the British Documentary Film Movement, London: University of California Press, 1975, 128.

14  Mary-Lou Jennings, Humphrey Jennings, Film-maker, Painter, Poet, London: BFI, 1982, 28.

15  America would enter the war fully after Pearl Harbor when Churchill went to Washington for the ‘Arcadia’ conference on December 13, 1941.

16  “Only Connect: Some Aspects of the Work of Humphrey Jennings”, Sight and Sound, April – June 1954.

17  Ibidem.

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Elena Von Kassel, « An Image of Britain during the Second World War: The films of Humphrey Jennings (1939-1945) »Revue LISA/LISA e-journal, Vol. IV - n°3 | 2006, 149-160.

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Elena Von Kassel, « An Image of Britain during the Second World War: The films of Humphrey Jennings (1939-1945) »Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], Vol. IV - n°3 | 2006, mis en ligne le 21 octobre 2009, consulté le 26 septembre 2022. URL : ; DOI :

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Elena Von Kassel

Dr. (Paris X, France)
Elena Von Kassel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College, New York, a Maîtrise from Paris I in Cinema Studies and a DEA in cinema from Paris I – Paris X and was awarded the Prix Simone Genevois for a thesis proposal on Humphrey Jennings and defended her doctorate on Jennings in 2003 (Poésie et sciences sociales, sources du documentaire anglais des années 1930-1950. L’exemple de Humphrey Jennings). She has taught British and American civilization at Paris X-Nanterre.

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