David Meeker was the Head of Fiction, at the BFI's National Film Television Archive. He is a film historian and archivist and programmed many seasons of films at the National Film Theatre (now BFI Southbank). With Allen Eyles he edited the BFI's Missing Believed Lost book, which heralded an ongoing search for lost films, and he was the main mover behind the Sight & Sound 360 Film Classics project, which itself spawned a series of monographs. An expert on jazz, David was the author of Jazz in the Movies, and at one time was consultant on film and jazzfor the BBC's Michael Parkinson Show, amongst others. He was also one of the BFI's main links to the Getty family, who gave generous support to the BFI.
David Meeker d. 24th May 2023 [Obit by Professor Ian Christie]
A pillar of the BFI’s film expertise, David became a colleague when I joined the BFI in 1976 and without his encouragement and expertise I couldn’t have mounted the 1978 retrospective that helped bring Powell and Pressburger back into focus after years of neglect. David knew where there were prints of then unknown films and programmes at the NFT depended on his contacts and urbane knowledge.
He didn’t only put P & P back on the map. I did a Mitchell Leisen retrospective at the NFT with David’s backing, no doubt partly because of his regard for some of Leisen’s soundtracks. Because jazz in movies was David’s other big passion; and the subject of his legendary contribution to film scholarship. And although no one would have described Meeker (everyone referred to him thus) as a feminist, he was instrumental in helping Claire Johnson and Laura Mulvey mount their historic Edinburgh Festival programmes of women’s cinema.
David could be sardonic and dismissive – a man of strong opinions who suffered no fools. But he could also be incredibly generous with his vast knowledge. On my first nervous visit to Cannes I the mid-70s he patiently introduced me to everyone who passed us in the street – some of them backroom gurus like him, others famous names of cinema. I don’t think there are any photos or texts of DM online – like his BFI contemporary, Tom Milne – but for my generation, David’s passing is a sad memorial to the history of cinema. And as we celebrate Michael Powell in Bologna this year (with prints and DCPs), I’ll be thinking of David’s masterly ‘print sourcing’.