Charlotte Jennings

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Interview Date(s): 
17 Dec 1990
13 Nov 1997
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Born 1935, Blackheath. Father working at GPO Film Unit studios. Evacuated with mother and sister Mary Lou to the USA, sponsored by wealthy Great Aunt who sent both children to the Doulton School, which she describes. They lived with the aunt on Park Avenue until her mother got a small flat on Lexington. She remembers a dinner party given by her mother for a rather tall man (Len Lye). They returned to the UK in October 1944: she describes what it was like travelling in a very slow convoy, disembarking at Avonmouth, from where they went to live with her maternal grandmother near Oxford. In 1947 they moved into the top floor of a house in Regent’s Park Road owned by Alan Hutt. She talks about her new school, the South Hampstead High and of how little they saw of her father. She then gives her account of how she understood her father died in a very tragic accident on 24th September 1950.

She also relates her own ventures into film making with animations, but her real interest remains in painting. She also relates a prophetic story told her by Dillon Barry, the Continuity Girl on Family Portrait , made for the 1951 Festival of Britain, when she told Humphrey Jennings who had just tripped and fallen, to “slow down”. His reply was “I haven’t time!”   



[David Robson writes as follows:]

This was the second of two interview sessions. The first one occurred in 1990; this one was recorded in 1997.

The summary is not in its usual form, because the tribute is so concise that nothing could be gained by highlighting any particular sequence. The brevity is such that it would pay the reader to listen to side 3 in its entirety.


It commences with a verbatim report of a tribute to her father, Humphrey Jennings, presented to students of Murdock University, Western Australia in 1997, and covers his life and achievements as a documentary film maker from the date of his birth in 1907 to his tragic and untimely death on a tiny Greek island in 1950 at the age of 43.

Charlotte reveals some interesting glimpses of the GPO Film Unit during the run-up to the 1939 War. The film Spare Time, 1939 is mentioned. His work as a painter in the Surrealist movement is also mentioned.

There is also a reference to him being awarded the OBE after the war, possibly for his total contribution. The award was sent to him by post, eschewing the Palace investiture. The following films are mentioned: Spring Offensive, Words for Battle, Listen to Britain, Fires were Started, Diary for Timothy, Family Portrait, Silent Village, A Defeated People and Cumberland Story.


More on Cumberland Story – the last one he made at Crown. Although fully charged up, it is said that he did not talk about his work at home. But on one occasion he tried to shoot a scene for Family Portrait at home against the family’s wishes; the film is discussed in detail. Several other of the films are also analysed. His relationship with his editor is discussed.


The films that nearly got made, but did not, are discussed. The London Symphony Orchestra and its first fifty years was one such. A number of films about music were being planned at this time but lacked funding. Details of Humphrey’s funeral and the lack of finances and how they affected the family are explained.


In conclusion the last words are from Jennings himself in the form of two poems. The first one entitled I See London, and the second, As I Look.

Comment: Many of his colleagues, it was said, considered that the best of his work lay ahead of him. But he surely needed a revolution to bring it about. If his life had encompassed the Falklands War, who knows what realms of poetic imagery might have been achieved arising phoenix-like, as it were, from the ashes of Fires Were Started.

Charlotte Jennings was interviewed by John Legard. David Mather Robson recorded it and wrote the summary.



Alan Lawson  0:00  
The copyright of this recording is vested in the actt history project.Charlotte Jennings, artist, daughter of Humphrey Jennings, the documentary film director, poet, and artist,recorded on the 17th of December 1990. side one interview, Alan Lawson Well was was not, you know, when, when and where were you born?

Charlotte Jennings  0:39  
 I was born in Blackheath, London in August of 1935.

Alan Lawson  0:47  

did you have any schooling before you were evacuated?

Charlotte Jennings  0:53  
Not that I can really remember, although, obviously was some kindergarten year. But yeah, I left for the States. In September of 1940. You left Eastern. This is my mother. And my sister Mary Lou and I left Eastern? in an air raid and took the train to Glasgow, and got on a ship called the Cameroonian which was in convoy with evacuees to New York, and took us 10 days to get to New York with outsight of  land. It was actually torpedoed and sunk on its return journey.

Alan Lawson  1:39  
And before before we start talking about, you know, the the evacuation things have, have you gotten the early memories of your father john, before you went, went?

Charlotte Jennings  1:53  
Yes. I'm afraid not happy ones. We, we moved about quite a lot. The reason the reason it got what I mean that I was born in Blackheath was that my sister been born two years before she was born in Cambridge, and my parents married in 19 29. And both sides of those pet sets of parents and my mother and my father totally disproved the marriage, because my father was getting one pound a week in the price of a postgraduate scholarship. And my mother who came from a fairly well to do successful engineering engineers, family cover off of marrying somebody who was broke continuous. So then they were  came down from Cambridge, I think, Pa  painted furniture. And it was Stuart Legge? who was the coming of the second child who had the family suggested that money would wouldn't come amiss. And they introduced him to Grierson to Pa to Grierson  to the GPO Film Unit. And so we moved out to Blackheath as well close the location of the GPO.

Alan Lawson  3:15  
So I see that's why that's why I was born in Blackheath  again, the Stuart Legge This is this is your father knew him at Cambridge? That's correct. Yes. What did Stuart do then at Cambridge? What was his studying do?

Charlotte Jennings  3:32  
I think Alan  that he was studying history, but don't help me too. And your father, he was studying English, for which he got Oh, first class honours was special. He mentioned in the two part Dr. Boss. He also distinguished himself as an athlete. He equally he had success as an actor, and as a stage designer for sets and costumes at the arts Theatre in Cambridge. Certainly Stewart was prominent at the Film Society and in Cambridge, how prominent Pa was or how much he was involved in? I don't know. The story that I've always heard in the family was that my mother equally, was insistent that there should be some income. And she as as a young girl had a passion for Valentino. And she kept scrapbook and she suggested that Pa went into movies. And it because she thought it was the sort of good thing Pa said not that I remember him actually saying it, but he was supposed to have said that he went into movies to make money. can't recall a very great deal.

Alan Lawson  4:49  
Did your mother work when,

Charlotte Jennings  4:51  
before before we were born, she she and PA at the time of Mary's birth is To say they were married in 1929. The two of them ran a Modern Art  to run a modern art gallery in Cambridge, unsuccessfully, and from time to time, and she was a model fashion model.

Alan Lawson  5:18  
Didn't do what I suppose you were perhaps a bit a little bit too young to realise exactly what your father was doing, or were you or were you aware of what he was doing?

Charlotte Jennings  5:28  
And before going to the States? No, I can't say that I recorded at all You asked me earlier, my earliest recollections of him. We moved from Blackheath to Holland Park. Obviously, smaller rented flat, and the Windows faced on to the square is actually it was called St. James's square. And it's since its names change to St. James's Gardens is just off Addison Avenue. And I recall being picked up by my mother and take me to the window to wave goodbye to Papa because he was going off to work. And that's the earliest memory of always, was always sort of Goodbye, goes away for you. But

Alan Lawson  6:18  
let's come, let's come to your your  time in the states whereabouts you finish up, or did you move around and know

Charlotte Jennings  6:29  
my mother's family was Anglo Irish, at the turn of the century around 1900, the Irish family from the west of Ireland, half of them went to the states and made an absolute fortune. And the other half came in this direction, and didn't do too badly. But they weren't Wilkinson's and Colgate as the American side were . And in those days, if you were evacuated, or you had to be sponsored, and the cousins, second cousins once or twice removed, that we stayed with to begin with the Wilkinsons were , my maternal grandmother's first cousins never in Mrs. Ed Wilkinson, was in her 60s when we arrived, and her husband had been dead some years, I imagined. So we arrived in October of 1940. And went to stay with them on Park Avenue, which my mother utterley loathed , because while she will always be penniless, but on the other hand, had come from, as I said, not too badly off family. And she wasn't really pointed out before her marriage, dressed for the parents and her father there for more money for her clothes. And he gave his wife for housekeeping. This opulence. I actually found quite quite intolerable. And I can't recall how long we stayed there. Certainly through a Christmas of 1940 because I just remember as a kid going into the drawing room and this immense Christmas tree and all these prominent presents you just I mean, you wouldn't believe doll's houses and you know, there's a whole there's actually quite big maps were in this was a map of the United States. And you key in to see if you've got the name of the right state and it lights up. You know, you have two lights. Ohio. I see if it's right. All sorts of dolls and teddy bears. I mean, it was we were absolutely spoiled.

And loved.

Alan Lawson  9:00  
Well, yes. That was six years. Five years. But when you moved away, well,

Charlotte Jennings  9:12  
the trees well the cousins paid for education at the Dalton school which is very, very prominent. And still is advanced co Ed private school in in centrec  of New York, which was absolutely stunning. I we had we had an enormous auditorium where the theatre was carpentry there was a swimming pool. And I still have my earliest diary, because a lot of the teachers operated as secretaries. So big scrapbooks as diary with drawings who myself and it was one of the ship, the one that we sailed on together. If that was camera only and rather values about matter have written with the portholes a little note by itself underneath saying it must have been a rusty ship, because I said I really ought to paint it brown, but that will look stupid. And so I'm painting it  violet. But apparently I was always  in the studio, whatever the proper classes should have been outside of the studio or doing carpentry amazing. That was taught these things at the age of five. Some years back, I went to see Woody Allen's New York, New York, and it's a school the school gates there and the Dalton school.

Alan Lawson  10:38  
Tell me this. Before you left to go to the States, had you seen your father painting or something like this? Did you?

Charlotte Jennings  10:47  
Well, I'm not that I recall at all. I it's not out of any conceit. But, um, unless it has to be, I reckon genetic, because no, I hadn't. I just had this absolute love. of painting For me, and I recall painting, a bunch of tulips bright red. I don't know if you know the painter Matthew Smith. Sure. You did English painyer  Yes.

Unknown Speaker  11:16  

Charlotte Jennings  11:17  
Marvellous. opulent, bunches of flowers. And I recall that this bunch of tulips, bright red are very much like Matthew Smith.

Alan Lawson  11:32  
How long did you stay at the Dalton 

Charlotte Jennings  11:34  
for the four years that we were there. So we didn't leave New York are good today are going to wear two holidays as well. But for a reason, which I have never been able to ascertain. And my mother, sadly, is no longer alive there. maya have  been to nearly two years older than myself might well know, is the term we left New York to return to England in October of 1944. And the war  obviously was not over. And in looking at fathers, a diary for Timothy. The commentary is absolutely patently obvious. The war is not over and it won't be over by Christmas. The V ones were over? Well, we came back again in convoy and this time in a really rusty tub of a ship. Totally unseaworthy for the North Atlantic during the winter. This time, it took 16 days with no sight of  land. I mean, the ocean was just full of submarines. And there were a lot of very young children. I was nine by this time. But there were a lot of very young children, babies in  arms and three year olds, and there was a kind of matron nurse on board this little French vessel. And every time she thought that we were about to be torpedoed, she will get these young kids out of the cabins, cots in their cabins and take them up on deck. You know, one or two of them actually had pneumonia or already, and very often, what she'd seen was dolphins. And the ooh was a lovely story I must tell you . As I said it was a French vessel, and very small. And there were two dining rooms and to begin with the the parents, the adults and the children all had their meals together. And then some wretched  English parents decided that this French food and Matt Gollum ?is Chef considering the date and the circumstances was made more than a valiant effort to dish out the most marvellous mash. Well, this English parents decided that wasn't on  for kids and they really ought to be having proper English food. What if you can imagine a sophisticated French chef attempting to make English food out of dried eggs with dried milk and what have you. And so we were delegated as kids into the smaller dining room. And this yuck yo see  served up to us and we wrapped it up in our napkins and we used to chuck  it to the seagulls. Well, on one occasion one evening, it was announced to the grown ups that the captain requested their pleasure in his best full dress, evening dress as they could muster up as they all went out in the Hold or whatever. And I remember my mother had a very long, very beautiful brown velvet evening dresses I'm asking wherever the cheap footage he got it on. And in they went, as I said that we're now somewhere in the middle of October or thereabout. The point of this dinner party was that it was De Patinety? birthday. So the captain and the all the tables were laid  with the best plate that the ship had with crystal. And the special menu being prepared, obviously. So everyone is assembled, and the captain stands and requests the guests to stand also, and De Patiny?. And over just about to lift their  glasses, and a great big wave And very unfortunately, whoever's lead was forgotten to put the flaps up.

And the chef, the chef actually had cancer and a believe cancer of the liver. And his one desire  before dying, he was to get back to his beloved France and the doctors in New York and said, Absolutely, absolutely unfit to travel, that he was determined. And he did and he died at sea. And I recall so vividly. That burial at sea was so moving, coffin being weighed, lowered. So we got to Avonmouth on the  fourth or the fifth of November in an air raid, and the Daily Mail, the Daily Express V2's . And so this was our welcome back back home. And we took a train in the blackout. I from Bristol to Oxford, where my  maternal grandmother lived. She lived just between Oxford, and Banbury, and and the weather was foul just as you see it in kimsey. And I'll go on about that. And I remember with these blinds down, and obviously mother was exhausted, but his courage and we play battleships. Sir, I'll go back now to the States. Well, after a while, and mother got herself a job. It was some secret work. I don't know what it was. It was for the British purchasing commission in New York. And that afforded her enough to get a small flat, which we did, which was on Lexington Avenue, overlooking the Third Avenue L which of course is not no longer there. And it was minute, there was a kitchenette. And if you've been have a bathroom it and one bedroom where Mary Lou and I slept and my mother slept in this minute sitting room. But I reckon she was somewhat happier. than staying with his with the cousins. We stayed there for a couple of years and then we moved uptown. Again, just off Lexington Avenue to 93rd Street East. And that was the street that the Marx brothe rs had lived in some 20 years before. And we had a slightly bigger apartment there. And we're still

Alan Lawson  19:03  
going to the Daltons 

Charlotte Jennings  19:04  
 still going to  the Daltons , and my mother is still working . And one day a gentleman came to dinner. Very, very tall and mother made a special meal. And we sat down on the table. And obviously you serve your guests first. And so she said to me, and then she served us and then she said to herself and by the time she finished putting some food on our plate. The gentleman's plate was empty. That was Len Lie?  And that call is so the holidays. And New York in frantically hot very humid during the summer. I don't recall that my mother ever left New York When I was very young and if she did get away, I don't know where to the first summer ie the summer of 1941. The cousins rented a small I don't know what you call  it well, seaside vacation Little House on Cape Cod. And we went there with with Stuart Legges wife and family but not Stuart. All also think I'm correct in saying Bix and Nancy Lie, since they were about that same age as a great number of children. The next two. Next two summers, we spent in Vermont, on a farm up in the hills there with a family who had quite a number of children. And they actually were, they were school teachers, but they had this house. And they went up there every summer. Up in the maple mountains and the pine trees and there were I don't recall seeing any bears certainly deer. But there were bear rugs on enormous marble floors because the side of the mountain had  been  blasted out marble. Marble quarries and marble pools are beautiful pools . And the fourth  summer was spent on a camp and girls camp in New Hampshire. And that was marvellous learning to ride bareback.

Alan Lawson  21:55  
now when you when you came back to England, where did you go for school? Well,

Charlotte Jennings  22:03  
my life  I had to say Alan  I don't know regret seems to have an awful lot of repeat pattern in it. That seems to be an awfully itinerant really, because we arrived back at Oxford on the fifth, fifth or sixth of november of 1944. At some unholy hour and one o'clock or two o'clock in the morning, to be met by my grandmother's chauffeur, what his chauffeur wasn't, he was no longer really chauffeur he was he also was the gardener and did everything and lived in the village, gentlemen. But of course, my mother was deeply disappointed that her husband was not there. And we went to rent to this village and stay with my grandmother. And eventually, sometime before Christmas, I saw for some reason I don't recall that christmas . I mean, sometimes, you know, you can focus on a year of when you're young, because remember, in a particular room, or particular people gathered on Christmas table, but I don't remember that. But he he turned up. But it was perfectly obvious that he was shooting Timothy, because there it is. I do have to say that that particular sequence in Timothy  of the Christmas and the terrible fog before and Michael Redgrave is basically and he said, You know that, foul weather it rained too much in the fog, and said and then Christmas day dawned with loveliness and it is the word that's used. And he was exactly like that, because I woke up on Christmas Day, and I was quite a big garden  And miles out in the country. That was absolute magic, the hoar frost  everything. It was crunchy underfoot. I was it was something unbelievable. Also beautiful, that I remember very clearly. So every time I see Timothy, I say to myself, I know it was like that is still about making documentaries being truthful.

Alan Lawson  24:28  
The the the the word spoken actually were written by your father where they

Charlotte Jennings  24:33  
no they were E M Forster  They're in

Alan Lawson  24:35  
E M Forster  But you say your father came

Charlotte Jennings  24:40  
He came  Well, then from there, we didn't stay long at my grandmother's in I reckon  about February of 1945. We moved to Essex to a very small Tudor Elizabeth and Tudor cottage which was, which was, I mean, it was just was the real thing. It was miles from anywhere. And the only school that we could go to was a convent in Bishop Stortford. And the next two or three, two years, I think it would be something like that, not more. We were up at as far as six o'clock, and bicycle to get a bus or then we moved again, to nearer to the Thaxted  and bicycle to get train on the branch line Thaxted  to Elson and change to the train to Bishop Stortford. And getting back in how to help half past five oor six  in the evening. It was a really pretty long haul. So we lived in two places in Essex, and then and father would come  down for some weekend, but not very much.

It must have been terrible for my mother. I mean, it's I think it's really only in later  life that

that I think that the actual real hurt that my mother  felt, you know, you can feel it's like the person with amputated legs, they can feel the pain of the thing that isn't there, that it really can very much

Alan Lawson  26:32  
was he wound up when he came down? Or did it wasn't good? He relaxed when he came down? Can you remember that?

Charlotte Jennings  26:41  
Well, I remember remember him in his home on army boots, digging in the garden and planting potatoes and cabbages and lettuces. So that he must have come down some sometimes not at the weekend. Because I remember very clearly sitting around the radio and listening with him and splitting with after over eight rounds. Itma  went out Thursday.

Alan Lawson  27:10  
Do you kno w  I forgot, but

Charlotte Jennings  27:11  
I don't think it was a Friday or a Saturday or Sunday. Although maybe it may have been a repeat. Relaxed I couldn't honestly  say,

Alan Lawson  27:29  
Well, yes, he was still only What 9 10? Is what what was your bent at school? Now in England? Did you get the chance to do

Charlotte Jennings  27:42  
a while I meet we won a prize, which was through the Royal Academy of Art for for a painting. both Mary Lou and I got appalingly  teased for our American accents. And that is dreaded St Mary's common British Bishop Stortford. I mean, I've been out and performative for years in the States. And one of the nuns got up and said something and I didn't hear what she said. And I put up my hand and said, What, and I was outside the door where you brought up see what it was standard practice, who said what is an awful lot of fun learning to learn. And

Alan Lawson  28:27  
I noticed in the reverse way, because my young my oldest pension went to state school in this state. So we're in Malibu, and my, my grandson was written rotten about his English. Anyway. Let's carry on. Now your your 10 eleven  What you had you had you made up your mind, what do you wanted to do?

Charlotte Jennings  28:55  
Well, I think that so many of those things were unconscious, wasn't an art studio. And I must say that I had one idea of coming back to England. And that was to give my my father a great big hug and a kiss. And that was it. And I was going straight back because I had all my friends over there  that was my aim and object getting on that boat. None.

Alan Lawson  29:21  
But you didn't see much of your father this particular time. Where do things start to change? Or didn't they?

Charlotte Jennings  29:31  
They didn't really change. We eventually. We eventually in September of 1947, were reunited as a family under one roof here in London. All the top floor of number eight Regents Park terrace  which was the house of Alan Hut was whose father or he always wants to be called papa and So let's call him papa and had a room there during the war. And he was great friends with Alan

Alan Lawson  30:08  
you would have known Jenny, would you?

Charlotte Jennings  30:10  
Yes, indeed, yes. Jenny wasn@t  living there. And we have the top two floors. There was a bedroom, our parents Bedroom Bedroom that Mary Lou and I shared Kitchen Bathroom, and a sitting room with a big round dining room table, which was only cleared when very distinguished people came for a meal. Otherwise, it was scattered with pain to those papers, which were mostly probably to do with pandemonium. And the anthology of the Industrial Revolution, which marilu cMary Lou  in his publish, completed in 1984. And in a corner by window, but it was his easel and paintings that he was working on. Now, he had a perfectly good room, a few doors down to painting, but he didn't like it. And he wanted his family around him.

Alan Lawson  31:14  
So you saw him at work.

Charlotte Jennings  31:17  
So he would work in the evening, which meant that we had to be dead silent, which is

Alan Lawson  31:25  
this evening, he was painting in the evening. Really?

Charlotte Jennings  31:28  
Let's talk about Yeah, relax. It wasn't pandemonium. It wasn't painting, he was on location. It was no. And actually do Dylan Barry whom I mentioned earlier, who was concier to  At the time of father's death, it was actually with him at that accident on the island of Port? Just off the coast of, of Athens, their parent, apparently they were on this little steamer and Dylan got cross with him. I was like, you're always hungry in such a hurry to take it a bit more easily. And he said, I haven't time. And I think this frenetic I'm not suggesting that this is a mental disability that I'm sure we've all experienced, when perhaps one hasn't had enough sleep, and you've got a lot to do that things get a little bit too fast. And that one isn't quite in control. So I'm going to calm this one down. And that I do suggest that was our fault thought being such a creative person. I don't think that he was branded depression. But I do think that he was a very worried man, the folding of Crown After all, the peace when it did come was a very uneasy peace we couldn't say that we had won the wars that cost us a fortune and you cost us in lives. And far too intelligent and man not to realise that this was you know, as it go runway who says intimacy and does this all have to happen all over again. And as if that foreboding were there and of course, it didn't happen all over again. And I suppose we can say well witness to it again here at the end of 1995.

Alan Lawson  33:39  

the thing that I find interesting is the GPO Did you ever think of going into films at all?

Charlotte Jennings  33:53  
The answer is in a sense, yes. I did. But I can't remember quite why I think probably it was out of grace. You can do things with film You know, it was a bit like the Pope s really. I have actually did do quite a few and credit titles for British transport films.

I've been not with father but been on location once or twice with movies. I found the whole thing so tedious. Hi around waiting for a take and I thought there's an also I had the feeling you can't touch it. You know this film, you can't see it. Whereas with painting, you know you're working like okay, I don't like that and that will do that. And this. I've also done quite a lot of printmaking. So you don't really know what you got because it's a reverse process. You Have you taken a call to a friend, but when I think, you know, I felt as though I had too many cooks spoil the broth. I also have the feeling that if the painting goes wrong, there's nobody to blame but myself. And this film, crew business and all the rest of it, no. However, I have actually made two films, but they're both animation films. They have no commentary. The first one is completely abstract. It's abstract images by myself. It's called images. And it's to a work of Schoenberg's called accompaniment to film scene. And we never was a film. And I reckon  that it was much more film treatment music. And that was made. And actually, it was made under the supervision of Bob privet at the Central School of Art on what is called a no budget. And it was made with my own film  company, which is no longer trading, which is called r s, t. c, rosc. And rosc is the Gaelic Irish word for poetry of vision. That's the reason why it's called rustc. They also made a film, a full blown production called John and  the magic Music Man, which is, oh, it's a contemporary version, similar to Britain's young person with music and words by Anthony Hopkins, and we shot this the Fairfield halls, and it actually won. It won a gold prize at the film festival and music was awesome. This is back in 1975. And not being union person. I didn't have quite the correct credit, as opposed to being a production assistant, I was an assistant to the producer, because that was all right. I quite enjoyed that was a very funny sequence when we were doing First of all, we had to rehearse or obviously in time. And as I say, it was the end it was actual kids concert halls. And you know, we'd pay dlcc or GLC and I was dedicated to stand on top of the camera box and time the real concert the take. So I was standing down that that valley orchestra with a stopwatch See, coming down, I was very, very fear schoolmistress etc. And she came up to me, and she said, uh, you the director here? And I see no, you're the producer. I said no. More, where is the producer? And his name is Taylor kind of funny. And he looked actually tell out winter, he had a big coat on,

he got lucky I

was actually Lebanaese. And I said, and she said, I told you, I told him, no lights, no lights, I thought, well, I understand if I know absolutely nothing because I was gonna shoot this film. Without the lights. I don't that well, that's really my own experience. And then the other animation film that I made is called the big hit. And the central story is a journey from Earth to the Sun. And back then. And this is literally inspired by another of the enterprises, we got up to as young kids at the Dalton that our initial science lessons were done in the gym. And when we started on the universe, the teacher would say now you, you can be the sun, and then all the planets on all the satellites. And this was setting it sort of embedded in my memory. And it was almost like the dance the gesture, and it seemed to me that you know that you want to put it put it very simply in visual terms. Well, to all in order to make it a bit more plausible. It starts at the outs the beginning and the end are actually live action shot at the oval Cricket Ground and creditor wax is six which takes off and all the effects were done by camera effects and an actual cricket war, which was photograph is superimposed photographically on the art animated artwork and it has to do with the sun that comes down again. And then the cricketer runs that catch the ball capture it because it's hot and drops it both as an eight minutes long. That was actually shown at the Cambridge animation film festival. But even that I found a slog, at least I wasn't going through all the cell's slog, but it took so long internet you didn't try and do Len

Alan Lawson  40:29  
lies being unfair doing I tried

Charlotte Jennings  40:31  
doing that I did actually got a got a cigar box and kind of hole and made a grid and got some 35 mil film, you spooled it through, and it was having a valve on the inside, which would light up so you could see films actually called I was going to call it the metamorphosis of a tulip very simple. That were of course, the inside of the box kept on heating. So

Alan Lawson  41:00  
registration was really good. You say you did watch your father painting? Because it was at an influence on you, do you think?

Because you know, I

Charlotte Jennings  41:21  
don't think so. By this time, we were back in London, and I went to South Hampstead High School for Girls in Nashville. And there was a big studio there. And at the age of 11, I saw my first picture. montages came up to me and said, That's marvellous. Can I buy it? And I was sure. And I've got three and six. That's it fortune.

Alan Lawson  41:52  
Can you remember what it was? Yes, it

Charlotte Jennings  41:54  
was a tree in the fog. And I remember very well sort of foggy winters in the trees without leaves. And I thought it was very like

Alan Lawson  42:08  
and from from from Sout Hampstead High  where did you go after that?

Charlotte Jennings  42:14  
Well, first of all, I was at South Hampstead from 1940 the autumn term 1947 to July of 1942 5252 a bit apart and 52 of course. And of course Papa had  died in this accident and perhaps I'll give you details on what what I know of this. Yeah, well, what

Alan Lawson  42:44  
I'll do is I think I'll turn over okay.......................................................

Transcribed by

Alan Lawson  0:01  
Side three. Now, Charlotte Jennings is going to give us a tribute to her father, the late Humphrey Jennings. And this is something that she addressed to the students in Australia earlier in the year  Charlotte Are you would you like to carry on

Charlotte Jennings  0:22  
next john. This is a tribute to Humphrey Jennings by me Charlotte  Jennings. This address was offered to students of documentary at Murdoch, University of Western Australia on the 21st of May this year 1997. It gives me great pleasure to present to you this tribute to an of my father Humphrey Jennings, who would have been 90 this year, the tribute with a screening of three of the outstanding films he made in England during World War Two. Firstly, an outline on my father's life, thought and achievement. Then the film's giving each a brief introduction. Frank Humphrey Sinkler Jennings was born in a small fishing village, the village of Walberswick, on the East Anglia and Suffolk coast in 1907. He was the elder of two sons. He died in 1950, falling 30 feet from a cliff on the Greek island of Paul Ross. He was 43. His father was an architect, specialising in the reconstruction of Tudor, and Elizabethan houses with original materials. His mother was an accomplished artist, an excellent business person, running a pottery shop in Walberswick, and later in London, the pottery was mostly French, and as a young child, Humphrey accompanied his parents on their frequent visits to France, learning on route to speak excellent French. He attended the purse school in Cambridge, and from there won a scholarship to Pembroke College, also in Cambridge, reading English literature, for which he gained first class honours in both parts of the tri pass with a mark of distinction. Throughout his school, I pick a pattern throughout high school and university days, he active in design sets and costumes for numerous stage productions. He was fluent in Greek and Latin, and also excelled as an athlete. He was well acquainted with then contemporary films of France and Russia, and probably Germany too. And he was painting also. In 1929, he married Cecily Cooper, only daughter of an Anglo Irish engineer. She had four brothers, two of whom became distinguished linguists, a talented amateur singer. She was tall, dark and beautiful, and dress from Paris. Here I should add was tall ish and slim, with ash, blond hair, and pale blue eyes. There was great opposition to the marriage from both sets of parents. He had an income of one pound a week, and she had no income at all. She hated Cambridge, very shy, she could not join in the heady lives of her husband and his colleagues and understandably, resented the poverty and making endless cups of tea, not only for the elite, but also the stream of wafting hangers on in the early days of married life, Jennings worked on several literary theses and further theatrical productions with a painter friend Julian Trevelyan, he attempted to run the Gallery of Modern Art. He was very up to date on the art scene, particularly French Irv. He was strangely handsome, and with all his brilliance, both charming and inspiring with his associates, adding to his spectral talents was that most elusive of the arts conversation, though, I guess, that it was as often as not more of a monologue than a dialogue. My sister Mary Lou four named Mary Louise was born in Cambridge in 1933. The economic situation then became even more critical, and with it came severe emotional stress. No claims could be made that Jennings was a good To adequate husband and father, though he professed that he adored his wife and two daughters, which I am sure he did. But added to his sensuality, he was unable to express his love and concern for them for us. And financially, he offered far too little support.

At some time, my mother worked as a fashion model to make ends meet. Father's painting materials were always of the best and most expensive. I don't know if he ever sold any of his paintings. During his lifetime, though he was generous in giving them away to admirers. His library was extensive, and ever augmented with up to date and rare and out of print additions. His clothes were first class, and I never saw my mother, anything but elegant, clear, tired, and we children were always beautifully dressed. Both my parents had very, I put here actually I said it. In old fashioned language, what is called good taste. I don't think it is good taste, I think they, they had an intrinsic sense of style. I think that's much more the way to express it. After father's death, mother lost something of this. But throughout her life, she maintained to this a sense of style and economy. I think this came from my personality, and not from her, excuse me, her somewhat indoor indulged upbringing.

Alan Lawson  6:41  
Was your mother rhetoric were she interested in in the cinema as well. And the same way as your produce? she sort of was interested in the work that he was there,

Charlotte Jennings  6:49  
she was a fat john, she was a fantastic cinema  buff, and she kept scrapbooks. And he had a genuine crush on Valentino. She, she and she actually was very instrumental instrumental in suggesting that pa go into films. Really? Yes.

Alan Lawson  7:11  
This is an interesting, interesting point. So in other words, you were very influenced the cinema in your case to possibly your mother, rather than your father. And she obviously took you to the pictures when you were very small.

Charlotte Jennings  7:25  
Oh, yes. As I as I will put in, later on, no, no, what? No, I think we can put it in here that I was brought up with, with my sister, and my mother in New York during the war. And I remember seeing dad's films in New York and also being taken to see Bambi and Pinocchio Oh, yes.Snow White 

Unknown Speaker  7:54  

Charlotte Jennings  7:55  
Oh, yes. I remember very much being taken to the movies.

Alan Lawson  8:00  
Although you're sort of first experience, how old were you when when you arrived in New York, five or so rarely does he also almost your first impression. Will travelling across? course you're no longer with your father then because he he was he made?

Charlotte Jennings  8:19  
He was he was here making the wonderful films that he made. Well, the Crowne film unit.

Alan Lawson  8:28  
Okay, sorry.

Charlotte Jennings  8:29  
Not sorry at all. As I say she, I think this sense of style and economy came over from her personality and not from her somewhat indulged upbringing. I mean, she was the only daughter and she was very beautiful and pretty spoiled, particularly by her father. So I think it came from her personality very much. She was converted to Roman Catholicism some years after her husband's death. And she died of cancer in 1975 25 years to the day of her husband actually. She was in a way a saint, albeit, a reluctant and long suffering run. She was desperately shy and withdrawn. And with her being so tall, I mean, she was six foot one. She was very statuesque and, and I have to say somewhat flatulent as well. She hated the country. She hated bright sunlight, and with which is a curious twist in her personality, because being so shy, she adored the bright lights of London and she couldn't wait always going  down to the national film theatre 

Alan Lawson  10:04  
absolutely  into it loved it it is that's what she was after all she was did have quite a lot of time in the country Isn't she in her childhood.

Charlotte Jennings  10:16  
She went to St Paul's  school girl school where Imogen Holst  taught  music. And at her father's retirement, her parents moved to to Oxfordshire, in but by this time she would have been married. I think I'm correct in saying that. In 1934, the family moved to London where Jennings was introduced to john Grierson, founder of the GPO, General Post Office Film Unit. He joined the unit as far as I can make out as an editor, and was quickly designing and directing documentary films. I went into films to make money he was later to say he never made much money. And at the time of his death, there was only the one pound in the bank with which he had started out married

Alan Lawson  11:18  
life. How did he get to meet Grierson  in the first place? And what was the sort of contact was there? I will link that got him into the GPO Film Unit I wonder of interest.

Charlotte Jennings  11:29  
And Stuart Legge was a contemporary of father at Cambridge. I think Stuart was reading history. I think I'm correct in saying that. And they they were both of the members of the film guild in Cambridge. How Stuart went into films or got to know Grierson I don't know. But it was certainly through the auspices of Stuart leg. that pawas introduced

Alan Lawson  12:02  
to Grierson  do it and got to know Grierson and very early on didn't do anything mean he and Edgar and your father when he went in in 1934. And of course people like Edgar and Stuart had already been involved and they quite a bit. Edgar, certainly because he started in 1931. Did with with Grierson  was the Emperor marketing board . Well, this was gonna say with him. He had helped edit industrial Britain, and grant and trawler and so on. The very, very first films that were made under the auspices of Steven Talents. Yes, that's right. Yes. And then and then Gierson  was asked to set up the GPO to manage and Edgar was put it to show he started to Shell Film Unit 1934. And your father presumably came in that from Cambridge, you're gonna get about that time, I guess

Charlotte Jennings  13:01  
is our news. at  the time  just just off to about his death. I said that was just the one pound in the bank, which he had started up married life, and perhaps had to go round raise distraught and grieving widow and two teenage daughters. We didn't even own our home. Jennings and Grierson  never saw eye to eye either in concept or direction of public service movies. For Jennings, it was propaganda for the human race, a humanistic poetry countering, I don't know quite how to express this john, perhaps the end trying to express Griersons ethos and I can't find a phrase for it, perhaps you can. But certainly the the, I used here in talking to the students at Murdoch University, the nuts and bolts approach or Grierson  but it was

Alan Lawson  14:13  
use the old cliche, the creative interpretation of

Charlotte Jennings  14:16  
reality what exactly, but it i think is the basic also also, I think, as I do say later, as from father's words, it was the imaginative interpretation of reality, which it will the earliest Grierson  did not have the aesthetic background and training out of which my father Humphrey Jennings had emerged.

Alan Lawson  14:51  
Grierson  was much more political in a way it wasn't a he was a he was a he was more political in the whole idea of putting across the state of the nation and But aspects of life that was, and it was very direct. I mean, think of those early films like housing problems and so on. They were very sort of flat where they they were just photographed, statement they weren't. They weren't presented in a impressionistic or creative way, not creative, unquote. Whereas Your father was doing it very differently later on, or from then on. That's what you're saying, isn't it? That's why they didn't really well, they had a lot in common but, but not sort of, from the day to days and did they actually did Gierson  produce any of your father's films directly? I wonder?

Probably not.

Because Grierson never produced any film really, because he was always there in the background. rushing around and seeing rushes. Yes, yes. He was never

Charlotte Jennings  15:53  
keep Grierson  produced posthaste. post-haste odd 1934. And you produce patent pot.

Alan Lawson  16:03  
Is that is actually Cavalcanti wasn't the director that I thought. Anyway.

Your father was born?

Charlotte Jennings  16:12  
No, Grierson  was the producer. Yeah. And Patenet Pot the sets will by dial That's right. Yeah. But yes, but it was directed. Directed script writer editor was Cavalcanti. Yes. With associate directors. Basil Wright t. And Stuart Legge  Yeah, right. That's

Alan Lawson  16:29  
the full team. That's

Charlotte Jennings  16:30  
an absolutely the 14th with music with music by By water. Lee, right. going on from where we left off the difference between Jennings  and Grierson  around about the age of 12. I asked my father why he didn't make films like other people did. His reply was because they're not true. And I was born in 1935. Father continued at the GPO unit, and he continued to paint becoming involved with surrealist artists. He became a founding member of the surrealist movement in England, and was on the Organising Committee of the International surrealist exhibition, held in London in 1936. This was at Burlington house, where he exhibited along with Dali and Picasso  to mention but a few. After the war, he was honoured with an OB E, which he had sent to him by post eschewing the palace investiture. Nevertheless, for its acceptance, and I may say his lack of hubris, he was expelled by it and from the surrealist group, an organisation of one can call an art movement such that scarcely could be numbered is a paid up Trades Union. 1936 saw also a stunning batch of black and white still photographs. And then there was a controversy surrounding the conduct of Edward the eighth and Mrs. Simpson with Edwards ABS abdication  1937 coronation of George the six, Jennings involved himself in mass observation, observation and reports on what ordinary people thought and did on the day of crowning the 12th of May. This led directly and indirectly into his 1939 film, spare time, what do people in the major industries do when they are not working? It was this film and mass observation was also seminal to his great anthology of the Industrial Revolution. pandemonium, which he never completed, but was edited by Mary Lou and first published in 1985.

Alan Lawson  19:16  
Can we just go back for a second? We're talking about this ob what is the actual citation or whatever you'd call it for the

Charlotte Jennings  19:26  
I'm not quite sure of that. JOHN. I would imagine it would be for services rendered during during the war. He he was he I have it still. He was a war correspondent and I have that badge  that is so everything it was services to his country.

Alan Lawson  19:47  
I just wondering what it was because it could have been about the same time as sheKen  Cameron got an OBE and that was for, you know, the sort of business keeping recording the time we were flying bombs and stuff. And I was running with perhaps  dad  got more or less at that point during the war, but

Charlotte Jennings  20:07  
I think

Alan Lawson  20:08  
I didn't realise that he did have an OBE is the first time I I knew that very interesting.

Charlotte Jennings  20:13  
I'm trying to think I think it was 19 I something rings a bell says, I'm trying to think could it be see where where it happened in I seem to remember it came by post to my maternal grandmother's house. She then moved to Buckinghamshire, right, I said is about 1946.

Alan Lawson  20:33  
All right. So just after the war, yes. So that was probably an OBE for the total contribution he made. That's right.

Charlotte Jennings  20:42  
Perhaps you could ask Ken Cameron? Because might, he might

Alan Lawson  20:49  
remember . He might indeed because they were very close to where they worked so much together. It's a good point. I certainly I never knew that before. I don't remember him ever seeing it. You know, I'm pretending as OBE  whereas Ken  cameras always ob. Anyway. Sorry. That's interesting to know. Good point.

Charlotte Jennings  21:05  
What he never really talked about it. I mean, the fact that he didn't go to the palace wasn't because

Alan Lawson  21:14  
the Beatles sent their MBE back 

Charlotte Jennings  21:18  
He didn't really want it.

Alan Lawson  21:23  
He thought he was an irrelevant. Perhaps he did.

Charlotte Jennings  21:27  
So I think he was he was he was obviously quite miffed when the surrealist got up and said you accepted the OBE when he'd been in great pains to say, Well, okay, I'll take it but just put it in the post  I'm not into

Alan Lawson  21:40  
thinking isn't it that extraordinary?

Charlotte Jennings  21:47  
The shall I go on 

Alan Lawson  21:49  
Yeah, carry on. Yes, that's a good point i diverged of it so you can good up to where you were, from where you were.

Charlotte Jennings  21:56  
These storm clouds of war had marshalled themselves unmistakably over Europe, and were with fury unleashed on the third of September 1939. And we were unprepared, a small, vulnerable Island or islands, France fell in June 1940. And the invasion of our fragile shores was much more than just a possibility. The GPO was disbanded and the official government Film Unit was born, the Crown  Film Unit. Jennings went to crown in September of 1940, my mother, Mary Lou and I sailed in convoy to the haven of the new world to New York, what ship did you go on your travel on you being Cameroonian and she was torpedoed on her return journey to to port Glasgow. We were evacuees on that ship, the Cameroonian perhaps never to be united families again, or regain a united Europe.

Alan Lawson  23:08  
Can we just go back a little bit. He was saying that the crown for the GPO film and it was disbanded in the crown film and it was formed. In fact, the GPO for a minute, I'm pretty certain that they were actually commandeer, they were taken over by the Ministry of Information and renamed the Crown  film in it. And in fact, I saw a film once where they it the beginning it said GPO Film Unit presents, and it was a film called merchant Seaman that was directed by Jack Holmes. And at the end title said, the end crown Film Unit literally changed in the middle of the film. And

Charlotte Jennings  23:48  
the one that's quite possible because there has to be an actual, whatever month it was, that crown was set as beingaugerrated And the film could have been before it got its official title. That's right. Yes.

Alan Lawson  24:05  
Yeah. In fact, they, they did have a bit of a problem. I remember john Taylor saying that they were hanging around at the beginning of war, wondering wondering what on earth to do. They eventually worked out a little film called the first days. It was established that that I think, was the very first complete crown  film in production.

Charlotte Jennings  24:29  
first days, which has the alternative title of a city prepares,

Alan Lawson  24:34  
city prepares.

Charlotte Jennings  24:35  
And that's GPO Film Unit, ABPC 

Alan Lawson  24:41  
associated British picture Corporation. That must have been It must have been distributed byABPC that would be sort of the end of 1939 it was a sort of phoney war, wasn't it? When they win nothing. We were all expecting things to happen. And all they did was they felt sand. bags and there was a lot of that sort of work being filmed in preparation the air raid wardens been going through the motions rehearsing for down

Unknown Speaker  25:09  
that question supervisor with the rat. At that time, it'll be lovely, you know, stuck with it until it started

Alan Lawson  25:18  
until they started in the spring of 1940. And you had probably barrage balloons.

Charlotte Jennings  25:25  
I remember barrage balloons

Alan Lawson  25:27  
Yes, that's another thing. They had barrage baloons all went up

Charlotte Jennings  25:30  
In 1940. We, the family had a flat not very far from here in it was then called st James's squares now some James's garden is on him. And I remember being taken for walks or ready on a bus and Kensington garden and the barrage balloons in the sky. Remember that very clearly. is

Alan Lawson  25:55  
very interesting. Yes, sorry. I

Charlotte Jennings  26:00  
think I remember sheep therer too, but maybe but maybe that was a bit later but maybe I was told that but I seem to remember seeing they did have ups.

Alan Lawson  26:15  
So we got to Yes, right.

Charlotte Jennings  26:18  
Oh, we've we've got to hit 1940.

Alan Lawson  26:23  
And you were on

Charlotte Jennings  26:24  
and, and in passing the in going  from Port Glasgow  to New York in convoy. It took us 10 days

Alan Lawson  26:38  
and speed of the slowest ship

Charlotte Jennings  26:41  
ten days in convoy.

Alan Lawson  26:42  
Can you remember much about the convoy itself? The Can you remember?

Charlotte Jennings  26:47  
I we came back in convoy in 1944. This time to Avonmouth  to Bristol. But being convoy, not not only did you not have sight to land ever, and I've no idea what route we took because it took 16 days coming back. And that was really that was really Kevin's What's the date today? The fifth?

Alan Lawson  27:11  
Yes, it's the seventh Guy Fawkes Day, isn't it today,

Charlotte Jennings  27:15  
we arrived in Avonmouth  on the fourth of November, the day yesterday as it were 1944. So and the Atlantic had been very, very rough. You know, the the Atlantic and autumn and winter is, is no joke and ship coming back whose name I don't remember what it was a rusty little tub. French rap certainly unseaworthy, that the outward journey and the return journey. Not only did we not see any land, nor do we know the route that we took, but you never saw any of the other ships at the convoy, either, or you didn't know No, no, absolutely not.

Alan Lawson  28:04  
No, did you hear regularly when you are an American, you do hear pretty regularly from your father when what he was up to, and how the films were being made?

Charlotte Jennings  28:16  
Well, the he was not good at writing letters. But he can be excused that he was working terribly hard. You know, he said, in letters, particularly to two mothers saying I've never worked so hard in my life. We're doing 14 hours a day. But

Alan Lawson  28:41  
that would have been 1940 onwards. The films like the one he did

Charlotte Jennings  28:49  
in the past was a little bit later. The Britain listened to Britain. Yes.

Unknown Speaker  28:58  

Charlotte Jennings  28:59  
Don't forget that. We should not forget. So whatever information he wished you were saying was censored aside. Yes.

Alan Lawson  29:08  
Yes, he wouldn't be able to give you details, but he then very used to working very long hours. And he made that rather interesting agricultural filmcalled spring offensive that was about that time, wasn't it? 1940 that was that was before the vows were started and listen to

Charlotte Jennings  29:28  
those definitely.

Alan Lawson  29:29  
Well, it was like to actually think that the 1940of snake had. I always like to spring offensive on that.

Charlotte Jennings  29:41  
Farm. Yes, spring offensive was 1940 And it had it had an old it had a different title, which is an alternate an unrecorded victory unrecorded victory.

Alan Lawson  29:52  
And there were shades of that. I remember later on in Diary for Timothy some of those sort of farming stuff. in Diary for  Timothy reminded me Have a spring offensive?

Charlotte Jennings  30:02  
I don't think I've ever seen spring offensive.

Alan Lawson  30:05  
I don't think I've got that. I've got most of his films that I haven't got spring offensive. So anyway, Yes, right.

Charlotte Jennings  30:16  
The first I hope this doesn't sound too stilted. But this really is because we were looking no because this these were the films that we were looking at. And this

Alan Lawson  30:26  
is established if you're giving your address on the west sort of going interpolating as it were.

Charlotte Jennings  30:33  
The first film which we'll see today is words for battle, made in 1941. At the height of the Blitz, it was a short declamation of what we were fighting for. Our second film 1942 is listened to Britain, the sound of Britain at war, the third film made towards the end of the war. 1944 45 is a diary for Timothy, a chronicle addressed to a baby born on the anniversary of the outbreak of war September the third, recounting what has been happening in these last recent years. It is one of Jennings's masterpieces. Unfortunately, term does not allow us to look at his other masterpiece. Fiers were  started of 1943. I do urge you to see it if you possibly can. fires, as it is affectionately known shows better than any other office movies, the extreme hazardness of filming at that time. JOHN, I hope that what I said is correct. And you could please mark my paper as it were, one, all the 35 mill equipment was cumbersome and very heavy. Because of all the destruction through bombing roads and streets were torn to pieces. So not easy to manoeuvre the heavy gear. Three, filming needs lights, and the cities of Britain were under constant curfew, and constant after dark blackout. All the film stock was highly inflammable nitrate, not fun to use with bombs exploding anywhere, anytime, and retakes an added nightmare, if at all possible. And I think it's worth noting here, that partly through the necessity, because of the dangers of of filming, that Jennings made a great emphasis on the use of natural light. And where this was possible. He employed this he got

Alan Lawson  32:57  
a wonderful sort of early morning stuff, grey, after the bombing and all that a lot of the time that sort of grey London, this natural light was crucial, isn't it? That sort of natural light. But of course, the bombing, the fires were started that was reconstructed with Sean Bell, as he was saying it had to be reconstructed during blackout time. And I I don't know how they got around that I suppose they had special dispensation It must have been a time during a lull , in between  the air raids in general, I suppose. Because it was a very competent, and that was his nearest to conventional feature film. Yeah. Well, it was a it was a conventional feature film and very

Charlotte Jennings  33:42  

Alan Lawson  33:42  
with it. It was a, quote, tightly scripted story and very dramatic.

Charlotte Jennings  33:48  
Somewhere, he notes in saying that the making fires were  started with its reconstruction as opposed to you know, it actually being a fire. He said that the making of it was actually more dangerous he considered than if it had been real fire 

Alan Lawson  34:09  
Yeah, because they had to be fairly high up to date with all those settings larger the woodwork on all the hoses. Yeah. And, and the fact that they were having to do it fragmented with camera angles. And so yes, I can understand that. It would be better if you've been able to shoot it at Pinewood Studios on a set, but they didn't do that they shot it at a an actual warehouse.

Charlotte Jennings  34:35  
After the war, and up until his untimely death. Then Jennings continue to make films and just talk about sorry, I'm

Alan Lawson  34:42  
sorry. Please talk about words for battle. Did he have any particular I mean, did he talk to you at all about words the battle I always thought that was such an interesting film. And it was just sort of people really doing going about their daily Work and walking along the streets and it was it is unusual because you had this these quotations and drew all these lovely quotations from Blake and Shakespeare and and with the music of Handel 

Charlotte Jennings  35:13  
if, since I have got the brief descriptions of the three movies that we looked at on that day, we think perhaps, if, if I can answer your question excuse me in that order as I as I did it, because otherwise they were going to lose the room, but I fear of the continuity, you

know, so, so, RPG after the war and up until his untimely death, Jennings  continued to make films and to paint and work on pandemonium, but none of these films has the punch of his wartime work. In five short years, he had produced his unequivocal luminosity. Late in 1944 mother, Mary Lou and I recross the perilous Atlantic in convoy again 1947 Sawus  all housed together, again in London, are things out of store on par with his paintings and books. Thus, we were in name at least, a reunited family for just three brief years. The war was the inspiration or hook for the synthesis of Jennings his thought and feelings expressible in film, he had a good war. Extraordinary that his personal touch should have succeeded against the official drum of propaganda campaign. With the war he could indeed release his passion, sometimes accused of being too intellectual to be a painter, such a quality or attribute has not hindered him in these wonderful and heartfelt some pictures. The unconditional peace patch of 1945 were uneasy. We had to rebuild, but there was a nebulous, numbed sense, where now, what next, Jennings needed a new impetus said several projects were aired, he drafted sketches for a film on the London Symphony Orchestra, which, with his unerring musical sensibility, could have or at least, or might have been at least a pointer. But research on this and he baits is the purple plane for which he went to Burma in 1946, or 47. Came to nothing. His last completed film, family portrait made for the 1951 Festival of Britain presents in scrapbook lanten slide format, a history of Britain and the British people or family, comprehensive and imaginative as it is, it somehow lacks the fire of conviction, the enthusiasm he had previously engendered. No, I cannot but conjecture, that he is concerned for history got in his way, or the tea allowed it to do so. He couldn't or wouldn't walk sufficiently away from the past. His marriage and family life was not in good repair. And as always, there was little enough money. Until very recently, I have considered mythically speaking, that is tragic deaths on that tiny island could be expressed as he did not look where he was going. I now think he did not see did not perceive where he was going, which is fundamentally a different concept. Was he trying to find tomorrow by looking back where the mistake was he the Orpheus, to Eurydice  engaged with the furys turning on that rock face to lend a hand to his companion, his continuity lady, his push his foot dashed against a stone, he lost his foothold. He the athlete, he who had combated with the Blitz, with Nero scratch on him had dropped And lost his life. You're always in such a hurry. Dylan Barry continuity had said to him, you don't understand was his retort. I don't have the time. One commentator has suggested that Gen that what Jennings needed was a revolution. I propose that what he needed was evolution, a greater involvement and concern for those close to him.

His abstraction from the near and immediate, contributed to his literal down for his, his perception of the present, as opposed to the historical could and would have saved him. Tragically like the French poet Apollinaire, he professed to stand with the his Back to the Future, because we cannot see it. This seems to me to be perversely anti an existentialist in a stance for the artist is in a unique position to predict and to create a measure of the future. At the time of his death, Jennings was in Greece to make a film on European recovery, title, the good life. He is buried in Athens and as your a gn skies, guarded by that emblem of mourning, the Sentinel sweet scented Cyprus, Greece has claimed another parrot. Before we watch the films and I apologise, Rypien overlong wish to make a very strong point. Apart from the myriad talents Jennings had, and the work that I have summarised here, he was also a foreign poet and to broadcast and wrote on the nature and function of poetry and the visual arts. These critiques are always constructive. His is always the imaginative not imaginary interpretation of reality. He does not dissect, what do we learn of creation by disassembling it, nothing of how it came about in the wondrous mystery. Therefore, in the attempt at further understanding the core a nexus of these films or any other works of art, for that matter, I beg of you to use your poetic sensibilities as to their composition, construction and meaning and not the surgeon's scalpel. If you use the knife, you will destroy the very soul you are trying to find and unravel. Along with Jennings himself. I recommend Beaudelairer Sorry, I recommend the adherence to the creative methods of interpretation of grey Coleridge, Shelley Beaudelaire  Paul Renoir r TS Eliot, and that fine German literary critic critic Walter Benioff, Minh no doubt many an Australian writer whose works I regret that to date. I'm not acquainted

Alan Lawson  43:55  
with How do you spell that? venue? I can.

Charlotte Jennings  44:00  
It's as in water valter and Ben young

Alan Lawson  44:04  
him as in Benjamin Benjamin. Yeah, right. Yeah.

Charlotte Jennings  44:06  
Very, very distinguished. German literary critic.

Alan Lawson  44:12  
Yeah, no, that's very interesting. That's another nice not to go to talk about some of the individual films as we rather I'd rather implied when when I interrupted you last time. Because the one or two like this, the ones that are rather sort of forgotten, like have a silent village and and defeated people and Cumberland story. You see, that was an unusual film. You know, that was his film. Well, he didn't. That was a I suppose you could argue that Cumbrland  story is a natural progression after the war comes because the silent villagers about coal mining.

Charlotte Jennings  44:55  
I tell you, john, the last time that I had the pleasure meeting  with john Taylor was at the BTF reunion of whichever year it was a few years ago, nine to one 92 I mean that and john sat me down and she said, shall I do make this suggestion go now Cumberland story, again is a very good interest in removing

Alan Lawson  45:23  
is very much going

Charlotte Jennings  45:26  
in. Yes, press that point very strongly.

Alan Lawson  45:32  
Because you might have remembered a bit about that being made because you were back at home. Oh,

Charlotte Jennings  45:37  
we went we want Yeah, we went on holiday to to, uh, to the Lake District. You and I actually visited the hotel where we stayed on Lake bassenthwaite.

Alan Lawson  45:50  
All right. Yes. Oh, yes. Yes.

Charlotte Jennings  45:54  
Yes. Keswick  The fells ?, typos. A

Alan Lawson  46:00  
Cumberland f story was in fact made for um. Was it the national coal board was that had just been? I mean, it was a Crown  film and production, but it was the very beginning of the nationalised coal industry was really about the history of coal mining. There was that particular mine up in come and Cumberland

Charlotte Jennings  46:21  
is a lovely...................................................................................

Transcribed by

Alan Lawson  0:01  
Side five, right? Ah, yes.

Well now,

we've talked quite a bit about the films that actually, you know, obviously completed the repertoire. Now, what about the other films that he had in mind, which didn't get made or nearly got made and so on? You mentioned the London Symphony Orchestra from that would have been a wonderful subject from that potential

Charlotte Jennings  0:28  
at is it I don't remember the exact date, but it would be 4647

Alan Lawson  0:40  
right. So be early Wessex

Charlotte Jennings  0:43  
The London Symphony Orchestra was was preparing to celebrate 50 years since its founding, which I think was 1904. So it would actually be 1954 quite quite a few years in advance at that point, and the assistant director of Weeesx PA, on both the West productions of Demeter, Ireland and family portrait was Harley Usil And Holly, like, like PA, neither of them were musicians per se, had an enormous sensibility to to music. And, of course, after Pa's death, Harley set up the Argo record company, which when when Argo expanded into greater and more outside and elaborate productions, came under the wing of the Decca record company.

The idea was that Wessex would make a film off and for the London Symphony Orchestra, and its first 50 years, and |muir Matheson have

Alan Lawson  2:15  
been involved. Perhaps we didn't even get as far as that stage. I imagined it would have been because he was

Charlotte Jennings  2:24  
that, to be honest, john, I don't know that. And I say no.

Alan Lawson  2:28  
Because Muir  used mainly the London Symphony Orchestra in those days for the music sessions. Right. And indeed, instruments of the orchestra was London Symphony Orchestra. And so I would think that he would have come in very early on. Well, so yeah.

Charlotte Jennings  2:47  
So more pa went to a number of the rehearsals. I had great fortune of going to one or two of them myself at the Royal Albert Hall. Joseph Crips was the conductor. They're great. Yeah. And it was a wonderful session on freezing cold Sunday morning, with Kathleen Ferrier and fur coat with Crips and the LSOof course, rehearsing Marla's kindergarten leader, and she's so beautiful. And her wonderful voice. The warmth of this voice is warm. fur coat and freezing  was freezing cold Royal Albert Hall. frosty, frosty December morning is that was 1946 a person and wrote, wrote what are called what he called mornings with the orchestra. Now that title mornings with the orchestra, it was the rehearsals. There were others at the Kingsway Hall I think with with then Malcolm as opposed to Sir Malcolm's not

Alan Lawson  4:07  
their regular conductor wasn't at that time it was.

Charlotte Jennings  4:14  
I'm feeling the Crips was did as it were a stint as regular conductor but certainly Sargent was. And that was soloists like more or Moira Limani?as well as the George Stratton. Leader George Stratton. Yes. Yes.

Alan Lawson  4:40  
And john miles on the viola.

Charlotte Jennings  4:42  
Oh, no, I don't think john john I don't think it was john might have , I think was ever involved in the lso. Yes,

Alan Lawson  4:48  
he was he was he was the orchestra. You can see you can see the back of the violas as well. I mean, you know, yes, it was definitely because I think I must have talked to him about it. said, you know, we did this filming. So the officer and he said, Oh, I was in that. And that's why I had a new look at the film. I've got it on tape you're sorry. Anyway.

Charlotte Jennings  5:13  
So, pa jotted down notes of what rehearsals were. The Happening of a rehearsal with the orchestra and the soloist and people who came in late, is very atmospheric and detailed. But the fact that he called the notes, the synopsis that he made towards this film on 51st 50 years, and Symphony Orchestra of mornings with the orchestra is he is taken from Ecto Berlioz?who wrote, whose memoirs are called Swasi de low caste? evenings with the orchestra. So that is a kind of what Mr. Pan really well, that film never came to anything.

Alan Lawson  6:05  
It only got to the sort of well was synopsis or in the research stage, is it? Well,

Charlotte Jennings  6:13  
I don't know what happened where the funding just wasn't there. And the perhaps 

Alan Lawson  6:17  
was the funding. I wonder who's going to finance it. It may be in British Council or somebody. Somebody

Charlotte Jennings  6:24  
on board. There was

Alan Lawson  6:29  
just it was about that time that me see, incidence of the orchestra was 1946. And that was London Symphony Orchestra. And then we ordered another one called steps to the valley, which was also with them. Oh, no, I suppose that would have been was sadlers wells orchestra something. No. Okay. But it was about that time, there were a lot of musical films sort of being either made or planned. And there was another one going to be voices as the opera, which would again would have been cancelled.

Charlotte Jennings  7:02  
I seem to remember that our friend john Myers, Principal, theviola  player was beach, zero for a minute, and that Beecham re auditioned in 1947, said that john Myers  would have gone to Royal Phil

Alan Lawson  7:23  
They started later. Didn't they Royal Phil It wasn't wasn't going as early as 4748. I think they started about 1950. My hunch was, yeah, they hadn't been a Royal Phil had that before. They know it was a new orchestra because I I'm pretty certain

Charlotte Jennings  7:43  
Yes, it was the new orchestra. And I'm,

Alan Lawson  7:45  
you may be right,

Charlotte Jennings  7:46  
but certainly, certainly, john Myers had played in an orchestra that was

Alan Lawson  7:58  
conducted byBeecham which

was to speak aBeecham  orchestra. London Philharmonic,

I wouldn't be in the London Philharmonic, London Philharmonic came along. I mean, during the war Beecham  came over from America and conducted the London Philharmonic at the Albert Hall because I was there for three of them. But that was, and then he went back to America. And then he came, continued with the London Philharmonic, until he set up his own orchestra, which was the Royal Philharmonic Should I guess is about 1950. Anyway, we've looked that up.

Charlotte Jennings  8:31  
There's I'm not quite sure where this come where this comes into and what film but Harley  used to as assistant to dad. Yeah. Harley 

Alan Lawson  8:43  
Usill you s I double l

Charlotte Jennings  8:45  
Yes, that's great. went over in advance of pa the director to the house of Sir Thomas Beecham  in St John's wood. And he didn't advance partially to, to inform Thomas, of how he was to compose himself. And in the presence of the director Pa apparently said, Now, Holly, you just tell us at Thomas Beecham. This you see is Harley  arrives at the big cast in St. John's Wood, and there is Beecham , right big, whopping great cigars. And Harley, who is quite shy actually. He said, Good morning, Sir Thomas. Morning, and the director has asked me to say to you, please don't over act. God is awesome. It is tarnish the usual Beecham  and performances, not what was wanted. He wanted to at pa also wanted to make A Midsummer Night's Dream. And he was of course a Shakespearean scholar as you wanted to make Midsummer Night's Dream in colour. I see I think he was the keirsey is that he was this athlete and he'd gone in July of 1952. Geneva for a meeting for it was the EEC, the European Economic Commission, who had who were commissioning these films on  European recovery. And you've gone Geneva in July. And he came back whether it was late July or early August and he'd hurt  his back Oh, he'd slipped not in this wasn't winter times. And normally a place like Geneva  in the summers is whether it's good, whether it was you know, those paving stone was cracked or whatever. But when one thinks that he had gone through the Blitz and as was said earlier with near a scratch on him, which is of course the the virtually the last words in in fires were started when the munitions vessel loaded with explosives is on the Thames and one of the fireman  says the other site was sore I notice. Now, whether they genuinely was something like your rugs where you can trip yourself more whether he was very tense, because, you know, when when when when we're tense s, we we we slip more easily always right. Side slightly obstructed or preoccupied? I think he, I think he was worried of a sense of direction.

Alan Lawson  12:35  
Because he did say he was very intensely thinker and caught up with ideas.

Charlotte Jennings  12:40  
You know, he did, he always said, If I'd had a private income, I would know I would just be an painter. But he did have a would he be able to say that he

Alan Lawson  12:53  
was perhaps very slightly accident prone because of his sort of slight? So we could call it absent mindedness  We're not really sort of abstractness there are people like that aren't  who was?

Charlotte Jennings  13:05  
I don't think so. No, I don't think so. I think that it was, I think it was much more likely to be a genuine. What do I do now? Because the the impetus of the Second World War had fed his his imagination and his abilities, and it was, it just flowed out of him. But now we had this uneasy peace and what was going to happen to Europe and, and his children were growing up, and, you know, there wasn't enough space, and what was he going to do a lot of things, you know, and crown crowns had folded or was about to fold, you know, and when he left crown,

Alan Lawson  13:56  
he didn't interest anymore crown is showing different sort of work by them.

Charlotte Jennings  14:02  
So, you know, it was, and at 43, I suppose you could say it was a midlife crisis.

Alan Lawson  14:13  
What was that series called? which involves called  something like the grand design with a hole in it. That was one of them was made, wasn't it? And I can't remember what it was called. And the one that he was doing in Greece, or planning in Greece. That was, that was the second one, isn't it? I understood that it was several films made for whatever organisation,

Charlotte Jennings  14:36  
it was the your European Economic Commission,

Alan Lawson  14:40  
European Economic Commission. And I wonder, where did that get funded from I suppose again, it

was a it was

it being made through the central office?

Charlotte Jennings  14:52  
Was it being was it being funded through the Marshall Plan

Alan Lawson  14:55  
that might have been could have beenyeah

Charlotte Jennings  14:59  
I don't No,

Alan Lawson  15:00  
I think that Graham Wallace made one.

Charlotte Jennings  15:03  
Well, he he he worked on the one that Pa had so to speak started getting graded. Oh he was he was in Athens at that time was quit immediately after yes my father's death he there there are several letters that he wrote to mother arranging the funeral and and was it was the Greek embassy and various formalities.

Alan Lawson  15:33  
Right Yes. Because Graham  and worked with him on Fires are  started didn t and I remember Graham .

Charlotte Jennings  15:39  

Alan Lawson  15:40  
Cuz I remember you telling me that he was the person who used to whose job was to throw the Roman candles on to into the middle of the fire to get it sort of going.

Charlotte Jennings  15:52  
That's a good job.

Alan Lawson  15:55  
Good job in that famous final sequence. But Graham is heated look, record a lot of films s. So he did that one then. So I wonder what it was called. And whether that whether I

Charlotte Jennings  16:05  
think it was called the good life, the good life? It will I think it was a I think whether it was all going to have a whether the locations were purely going to be in Greece, I don't know. Because I have a feeling that the Pestolozzi village village was was supposed to come into it as well.

Alan Lawson  16:31  
Interesting to look up the archive, because unfortunately, the centre of information has all sort of come to an end now all that library, and it's in the hands of a private company holding the archive. But unless the Imperial War Museum, because they've got a lot of those films. I think they made two I think they made two films. There was one the Graham  Wallace had directed before that one. Anyway, he so now, you said Midsummer Night's Dream.

Charlotte Jennings  17:05  
That was that that was that was an idea

Alan Lawson  17:08  
that didn't get get any further than just sort of

Charlotte Jennings  17:10  
it was an idea that it was going to be

Alan Lawson  17:15  
yes. And and then they will you said that he was working on a script screenplay for the purple plane out and went out to

Charlotte Jennings  17:27  
I don't know why that fell flat on its face. But that would have been you see  his second

Alan Lawson  17:31  
go at a proper feature. Yes. Ordinary conventional. He base isn't it?

Charlotte Jennings  17:38  
stunning, stunning. photographs in Burma. Stunning. Really?

Unknown Speaker  17:43  
How long? Was

Alan Lawson  17:44  
he out there for? with whom  was the

Charlotte Jennings  17:48  
john I don't know. I don't know. Several months. I see it was remembered.


Alan Lawson  17:58  

Charlotte Jennings  17:59  
the purple plane eventually made by directed by Robert Parrish, I

Alan Lawson  18:03  
guess I have a preset notes in my mind

Charlotte Jennings  18:07  
Peter Finch in it. The purple

Alan Lawson  18:11  
plane was made in 1954 and Gregory Peck, hand was in it and Morris Denham and Brenda de Banzi and Bernard Lee and Anthony Bushnell and Ram Gopal. And it was the screenplay was by eric ambler from making beats, and it was directed by Robert Parrish and photographed by Geoffrey Unsworth, and it was a gene GFD two cities production produced by john brown as he got us got one star from Leslie Halliwell said the psychological study and Eastern adventure combined not the best of either but a potent crowd puller as a typical typical thumbnail that Halliwell so what else now? Any other did he have other plans for further filming any other subjects?

Charlotte Jennings  19:20  
Not that I know of.

Alan Lawson  19:25  
I just go back to Stuart McAllister again, I thought perhaps I was didn't sort of say enough about him because he was such a remarkable Film Editor. And he was quite different from the normal. He wasn't the man who said you know as a writer, I want all these rushes all lined up. I want to put on the gloves and he'd he'd go into the cutting room McAllister and he just simply on the flat bench he would get hold of a roll of rushes and you just wind very slowly through. Looking at it the way you did you know just looking at his sideways not Putting it through a drum machine at all movies. And he'd wind backwards and forwards. And then he'd go away, have a cup of tea and have a smoke, come back again. And then of course, he, he likes working when everybody had gone home, you know, like working late. And I think I never actually I wasn't his assistant, but I had sort of seen him at work. And he used to take out shots just occasionally and hang up that might possibly be useful. He worked quite differently from anybody else. He worked as a true artists really. And that's why the two of them going on chemistry work with those two. And your father being able to say he wasn't an editor wasn't really too happy in the cutting room  I know that too. JOHN trumper practically had a nervous breakdown. When Humphrey came into the cutting room and Jenny had wasn't there and and Humphrey wanted to look at a lot of shots. And so he got one of these cans and wound them down onto the floor, you know, and the left john could hit pile of stuff. Well, I mean, if you're, if you're the director, and he wants to see the things and that's the way you do it, that unless you happen to be in an editor to start with, then you would be more concerned i'd overflow it was clean nitrate film to

now. Well, I

had the same with Justin Jackson, who was where she was an editor who always used to get it film all over the floor. It's really hard work for the assistants when you have to pick up the bits and have it ready for the following morning. No, we used to get I use this anytime I think that I ever lost sleep working in films when I was an assistant and and there's all that film and I used to have nightmares about it coming spring out of the cans.

Charlotte Jennings  22:01  
Awful these snakes. Yeah, that's right.

Unknown Speaker  22:06  

Charlotte Jennings  22:07  

Alan Lawson  22:09  
Medusa. Just chip McAlister, he did a lot of very good films. I mean, apart from he, I think he edited Target  for Tonight and what else and then he was often Africa for some years with a somebody called Kingston Davis shooting films. And then he joined British transport films to McAllister he was the supervising editor when I joined. And it was through him that I joined British transport films because I, I'd worked. I knew him through the crown film, and it's in the past. And he was Edgar's, supervising editor and associate producer for many years. But he was quite a quirky man. Quite, quite difficult, very demanding.

As a supervising editor, particularly he did he had disapproved of widescreen.

Yes, and, you know, when the sort of widescreen came in, as opposed to Academy masking, and we used to allow for widescreen screening when we shot the stuff, but it's a just conventional, it wasn't anamorphic anything, but some cameraman like to see their rushes on wide screen to see what they would look like, you know, when they're showing the cinemas, McAllister refused to watch the rushes. If they were on widescreen, he said I want to see the whole frame. When you when you take out that lens and put it in the grid, and then I'll come and see the rushes that sort of thing. He was very,

Charlotte Jennings  23:45  
actually this is very, this is very much like something that father said in in Greece to Dylan Barry said when continuity is that in the construction, whether you're talking about films or or painting or writing is that you want to be very careful not to take out what appears to be insubstantial, the little tiny word or the this or that that are very often the structure of the whole thing. You can take out a whole passage, just leave out that sequence, but don't take out what appears not to have importance, because you find it that is the that is

Alan Lawson  24:41  
the weight or something.

Charlotte Jennings  24:42  
It carries the I was gonna say the flavour the significance of it.

Alan Lawson  24:50  
He told me about talking about the picture and sound helpers. I mean it might be a word in the sentence or or a scene are a part of a shot we all know or even, you know, allowing a shot to go on long enough. You know, sometimes the editors like to get, keep it short. But by taking a piece out, you might get lose an emphasis on you

Charlotte Jennings  25:14  
remember, you remember the theme the children dancing in the playground is Britain to Britain. And they go clockwise and they go anti clockwise. And one of the little girls make some mistake, because without that, you know, if he's just ordinary kids dancing in the playground, it doesn't it doesn't really say anything. But the fact that the human error element is the one who thinks Yes, I think this is this is that's a

Alan Lawson  25:52  
sort of a slightly sort of charming rather natural, a natural mistake, which is very much part of assess, right who would have been as you say, with ordinary otherwise, although it's very nice, some little movements they were doing the clapping your hands that that and then you had to cut to the bren gun carriers coming past that was a very typical Stuart McAllister editing I would say I mean, that was Mac at his best and obviously working in the two of them of quite right they both got the similar credit, didn't they? Just it was filmed was made by Humphrey Jennings and Stuart McAllister, or directed by was

directed, directed, edited and directed and edited by

nonprint. Jennings and Stuart McAllister. like Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, you know, written and produced by and directed by that was the only time I think that the Mac and again, I suppose, you know, that would probably be burning the midnight oil and getting inspirations and they, they used to go walking around day at night, London, the Mac told me when they were working, I suppose they cut it. Blackheath would would listen to rip Blackheath, or would it be Denham  But I know that they were out and about quite a bit during that sort of time of the bombings just being part of London, in the middle of war and and of course, it came over so strongly didn't didn't those films. I don't know what modern generation think of it. Well, you've seen it happen with your university people in Australia, how did they How did they receive those films when you ran them?

Charlotte Jennings  27:48  
Well this afraid is I can't really, I can't really say, because I've actually deleted out of this, that I was reading earlier . Because I said, we'll divide the session into three parts. Just a brief on father's life and work and achievement. And then the film's leaving plenty of time for you to ask me any questions that you'd like to watch? I hope you may. So we got to the end of the films. And thank you very much for me. And as I said, not any questions?

Alan Lawson  28:39  

Charlotte Jennings  28:40  
And I have a friend and Australian friend who teaches dramatic studies at another university near to Perth, and and I said Marie, he was there the screen? Yes. Did you know I don't know what that what the felt.

Alan Lawson  29:02  
where people are very interested. And they're still mulling over what's been said. They haven't got time to think of question.

They would think about it afterwards as in,

I find this.

Charlotte Jennings  29:17  
It's you know, I've personally found a little bit disconcerting, because if you're not getting any feedback, and you wonder, did what does it mean to them?

Alan Lawson  29:28  
generally a good idea if it's like a chairman, can I ask you just a chairman, can I ask you a question then you can respond to people off it's happened the other evening at BAFTA You know, when this Kathy Burke was being interviewed to begin with, nobody asked me questions, that huge audience and after and then Derek  Malcolm asked her a question and, and then it's then hands started going up and couldn't stop them. Absolutely current.



what was the projection like?

Charlotte Jennings  30:01  
The projection wasn't bad. But but a deep print of is I knew this would have been Timothy I think, right at the end. And so not exactly 10 years ago, I presented some some films at the Perth Cultural Centre in association with the film and television Institute. And they had plenty new prints and I've never seen anything so good at the bridge. So and so I found out where the prints would be being hired from which was the, what's called the Alexandra library in the Perth Cultural Centre. And I asked to speak to the boss. And and I said, you know, do you check your films? Because it's not very good. So we asked, we check

Alan Lawson  31:10  
out all those bits of the tone, you know, we joined up.

Charlotte Jennings  31:12  
Yeah. And I said, well, yours. Very great pity because both for the students and in a sense for as I represent being an ambassador, on behalf not only of my father but of Great Britain

Alan Lawson  31:33  
should be in pristine condition.

Charlotte Jennings  31:35  
But it's people like you who've phoned  up, it does help an awful lot.

Alan Lawson  31:41  
Yeah, but it's terribly important for the UK, particularly if it's a 16 milll showing or No, it isn't. And you may not have a very large screen, but it's

Charlotte Jennings  31:51  
exactly I

Alan Lawson  31:52  
have the prints absolutely spot on and check the sound and know otherwise. Otherwise, you know, if he's got little bits missing and sound a bit wooly, then no impact. So there's nothing there's

Charlotte Jennings  32:03  
no impact. No, no. See, I see. I think that there are still a lot of people. It's like, it's like art students who say, Oh, you have seen reproduction, you know, but it's in the National Gallery. Go and look at it. Yes. Because you got the physical presence of the actual work. And if films that Oh, yeah, I've seen spare time. Yes. No, that one Oh, yes. It obviously in that job is is if it's a bad print, you're not going to get the impact of perspective.

Alan Lawson  32:37  
That's why I think television is so good now. Because then they take an immense amount of trouble over print quality, although you're only seeing it on a small screen. I

Charlotte Jennings  32:46  
mean, I got this so good. I mean, you go to go to a rock band, and, you know, the instruments are all busted . Oh, yeah. We went we went there last Saturday. We went to

Alan Lawson  33:00  
Yeah, we happen to be there. And therefore it's a vexed question that that I would have thought that those films shown an ideal condition, like listen to Britain would be just as powerful to have more so but because of the young generation such a long time ago that it would be their grandfather's telling them about it rather than their fathers.

Charlotte Jennings  33:29  
I had a nice little interview in Manchester, in doo doo doo doo doo doo in June of 1982. And it was just the the onset of the Falklands War. And I was asked to come into BBC worship? studio in manager in Manchester. And I said all that this was at the time of in the retrospective of dad's work would you've gone up from Riverside studios in Hammersmith, here in London, and we've gone up to the Bolton Art Gallery, very much tied up with with with with spare time and around the photographs of Humphrey Spender and mass observation. And so the interviewer said, Do you think that the films of your father are relevant for us today? And I say, Well, if you look at words for battle, and you apply to the Falklands War today is to the beginning of the Second World War. I think you'll find it just as pertinent.

Alan Lawson  34:52  
That must have been rather interesting occasion. What else did they show him?

Charlotte Jennings  34:58  
Oh, there it is. Demand dad. I think it went on for several weeks and then then the show went to Nottingham. Oh, really? I

Alan Lawson  35:08  
didn't know. That was originally This is the riverside? Yep. package as it were

going up to

Bolton. Why did they choose Bolton why was built? And because of that?

Charlotte Jennings  35:23  
Because of mass observation . I spare time. And a lot of the paintings and photographs for the project were done in underground Bolton 

Alan Lawson  35:38  
Would it be relevant? Well, it would be really to talk a little bit more about the mass observation and when it was, at what point? Well, he only got so far. And because it was something it was an ongoing,

Charlotte Jennings  35:51  
it was an ongoing, yes. Well, there is the mass observation

Alan Lawson  36:00  
survey, which is about that sort of report

Charlotte Jennings  36:04  
is started just for the coronation. I think

Alan Lawson  36:07  
as early as that was it? Yes.

Charlotte Jennings  36:08  
It was first kind of market research how Really?

Alan Lawson  36:15  
Yes, market research. But who are the three people? The four people or perhaps I'm forgetting Humphrey Jennings

Charlotte Jennings  36:20  
I'm Tom Harrison. I'm Harrison. Charles, Mann

Alan Lawson  36:37  
So I mean, from the point of view of me, it was a photographic exercise, wasn't it? I mean, outwardly.

And that was

it was Will you say sorry,

Charlotte Jennings  36:52  
but it was? No, it was more the documentation written documentation of what ordinary people were doing on a particular day. Yeah, a rather special day, but

Alan Lawson  37:14  
one particular day and, and backed up by the Fed. The photographs are What I remember most I never actually am. I regret to say I haven't read that book. pandemonium.

Charlotte Jennings  37:27  
Well, it's not penbode Smith, mass observation survey, and book which was came out in paperback.

Alan Lawson  37:41  
Sort of

Charlotte Jennings  37:47  
May the 12th, mass object observation surveys re published in 87 87? Yeah.

Alan Lawson  38:00  
Then Yes.


no, perhaps there's not much more to be said about that. I was thinking about it from the sort of those things wonderful photographs.

Charlotte Jennings  38:11  
Yes. photographs, wonderful photographs.

Speaker 1  38:15  
But Humphrey  hadn't met with that unfortunate accident in Greece. How do you think he would have gone on from there if everything had been okay? Because he seemed to want something to spur him on to make good films for the war. There was nothing going on at this time. So what do you suppose he would have done?

Charlotte Jennings  38:42  
All right. He said, Dave, he was very adamant about certain things. He refused to have a record player weren't that are very nice radio, which was the first one on first FM signals just after the war. That was very good. It was specially built for a top quality music. But he wouldn't have a record player. And he said, I will never have television until those colour television. Whether you would whether you would have gone into television. I don't know. It's it's difficult because mother with this dreadful accident, and mother was I think the only thing one could say is Beatrice went into a great depression. And she didn't want to talk about it. And she could be honest, Deb I would say that none of us properly went through a grief process. And he his paintings had it were turned against the wall. Oh, it was it was out there. There are several months immediately after his death that I do not remember at all. We just don't remember it. Not. You see, he died on the line and in for us. He's buried it the British semuc Cemetery in Athens, which is basically for those those who died in action, literally war. Soldiers and Sailors airman  is beautiful, beautiful  cemetery. But obviously, it's offered to mother that the body be flown back here, or that we be flown there for the funeral. She refused both. She never during our lifetime even went to Greece. Remote Control, she sent over 25 pounds a year for the grave to be cleaned and for flowers to be put on only on the anniversary of his death. But it was, and there was a film made for the BBC, directed by a Hungarian Robert Vash. was from misstep made in the 60s john, was it late 60s, or something like that? And Robert interviewed my mother and said, what was your first reaction when you got the news? And she said I was so angry. You left me so often allow your free effort. And that if you really want not too fast, not one. And she became as this she eventually, no, not eventually, a few years later converted to Roman Catholicism. But she then became it was rarely silent, tight, difficult, and didn't want to talk. And I remember her saying wrote a letter to  Edgar Anstey she'd gone to a screening of the SN t f that we use,

Alan Lawson  42:27  

Charlotte Jennings  42:29  
know, the Society of you know, before, before it was BAFTA,

Alan Lawson  42:34  
what was it called? FTA.

Charlotte Jennings  42:36  
She was a member of this and she went to a screening of some films. And Edgar and Daphne Anstey  were there  where they called her Mrs. Jennings or Sicily. I said, Oh, please, at the end, may we buy you a drink? And mother refused, really refused. And she got back home. And she went into absolute self torture, I should have not accepted it. better, right sound sorry, and what can Daphne have thought  but it's just absolutely cut out. And she went on, she went on seeing all her favourite films and all new new films, but she out there, you know, is

Alan Lawson  43:32  
sort of understand her state of mind. Actually, it does make sense in a way doesn't it? always sort of going away.

Charlotte Jennings  43:39  
The emotions that she felt was torturous. I think she really felt she'd been let down. And never been any money. And, and, and really, the was the one pound. Dad never earnedlike know what his salary was with crown. There were no, there were no royalties because they were all government films, you know, so he was 42.

Alan Lawson  44:13  
He might bit more if he if he did manage a purple plane, I must say.

Charlotte Jennings  44:18  
But he was so extravagant. Because all these books just before we went to Greece, he went to an antiquarian bookshop. And she bought this is 1950 he bought a book, about 12 inches high, quite thick, which was on parrots, and it was hand tinted. It was a 19th century book. And he paid 25 pounds for it God and so when he does is a joint bank account and there's a miserable one pound Marylou and I growing up We need new uniforms to go to school Creek brown ouroutism. Where you  going to pay the rent, how are you going to pay the rent? And this is damn book Tintin. And mother had to go back and they gave her 25th. She can't

Alan Lawson  45:15  
get the money, right.

Charlotte Jennings  45:19  
And this is a professional family. And she's a lady. She I mean, she was absolutely a lady. And the indignity of the hat going round  because there was the memorial service at in Charlotte Street. And so

Alan Lawson  45:39  
I remember that was a wonderful Memorial tribute to women's a Scala in Charlotte Street. That was a wonderful, wonderful show. You were there. Of course. We're in yes long time  before we met. Yeah, it was it was 1950. It was 1950. It was

Charlotte Jennings  46:00  
I think, was just just after Christmas, or maybe it was 51 on January 51.

Alan Lawson  46:06  
I've got a little booklet on that and all those years, but yeah, very interesting. Yes, I've got two minutes. Yeah, we're nearly at the end of this juice. Are we are we getting near the end of

Charlotte Jennings  46:22  
it? We could. I think I can't answer your question, Dave. I don't know. But But thanks for the marvellous movies that someone was paintings. Writing and just wishes wish. wish to hear.

Alan Lawson  46:43  
Thank you very much as some great, very good.

Speaker 1  46:56  
That was not the end. The interview continues on side six. So please turn over....................................................

Transcribed by

Alan Lawson  0:01  
Side six. NowCharlotte I gather you have something else to tell us? 

Charlotte Jennings  0:09  
That right? As you will recall, Dave asked me a john. What did I consider? Father would have done had been lived. Magic recall, it was a bit vague. We were a bit vague. Let's be somewhat more positive. Many of his colleagues considered that he had the best of his work ahead of him. Exactly what that work would have been with obviously . We don't know that. That certainly was the you know, the general feeling Yes, that's right. I remember. I remember that being said myself. You do. Yeah. But when when we were still working at Beaconsfield, that time was 19 50 years. Actually, in France as a, an artist is referred to as La run in Napa calm Tom, which is he's a young one, he's only 40. And as in the accumulation of experience and technique through to the age of 14 and natural father was 43. At his death, the the statement that he had his best work ahead of him, makes a great deal of sense. Right. I'd like to conclude in this way. I'd like to leave the last words to Jennings himself into his poems. They are an auto  Biograph of his vision, the immense importance he laid on the image and the imagination. I see London. I see in London, I see the dome of St. Paul's, like the forehead of Darwin. I see London, stretching away north, the Northeast, along dockside roads and balloon haunted allotments where the black plumes of the horses proceed, and the White Helmets of the rescue squad follow. I see London, I see the grey waters of Thames, like a loving nurse unchanged, unruffled flooding between bridges and washing up Wharf steps, and endless flowing eternity that smooths away the sorrows of beautiful churches, the pains of time, the wrecks of artistry along her divine banks, to whom the strongest towers are better moments mark, and the deepest cleaving bomb, and untold regret. I see London at night, I look up in the moon and see the visible moving vapour trails of invisible nightflyers I see a luminous glow beyond Covent Garden. I see in mind's eye the statue of Charles the first riding in double darkness of night and corrugated iron on the corrugated on ice rink rays of fresh flowers. I see the black helmeted night and the blue helmeted morning, I see the rise of the red helmeted sun, and at last, at the end of Gerrard Street. I see the white helmeted day, like go rescue man, searching out the bottomless dust, the secrets of another life. I see 1000 strange sights in the streets of London. I see the clock on both church burning in daytime. I see a one legged man crossing the fire on crutches. I see three negros and a woman with white face powder. reading music at half past three in the morning. I see an ambulance girl with her arm. Full of roses, I see the burnt drums of philarmonic I see the green leaves of Lincolnshire, carried through London on the wrecked body of an aircraft. The second prime is in titled as I look. As I look out to the window on the roof scape of smoke, the factory chimneys standing up as rocks stand in the sea, the glistening slates lying along what would be the shore. As I look into the mist and let my vision dive, as Coro and compania. When the sun descended, mix the paints together. I perceive in the grey picture, all the colours that were once there not only the simple divisions of the prison, brilliant iron ore, peacock coloured coal, I perceive also the queues of men who built the city. The quarry men cutting the slate, the furnace men, men underground, men felling, timber, each a brain of a curious skill, or not of passions, breathing, being living soul, each slate in its place. Everyone put there by a man, this smoke itself which swirls and settles like flakes of snow, all got out of the earth, under the earth by men. And all this work, coloured with men's blood, men's ideas, men's fancies and regrets. coloured with love, friendships, hates, unspoken wishes, outspoken words. And now, like the see each individual wave, individual work, washes and mixes in with the rest. And the exact day fades and the exact man yet to the mind's eye that looks out this evening, and dives into the depths. Every single colour is still there. Nothing loss. Not one of the things done. Not one man who's cunning produced the littlest part of what I see him the whole, but is represented by some stroke of brush flake  of snow speck of suit in a picture of how many million touches.

Alan Lawson  8:27  
Thank you very much, john.

Charlotte Jennings  8:28  
Very good. Thank you, john. And thank you, Dave.................................................................

Transcribed by


Daughter of Humphrey Jennings