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Former seliooláearlicr I makes children's films I
Australian Children's Cinema Clubs are greatly re- sponsible, possibly without knowing it, for one of the finest and most sincere aspects of British films.
lt is the department, headed by a child-loving spinster called Mary Field, which makes healthy, entertaining movies solely for children all over the world. And its only profit is the pleasure of delighting children with the sort of movies they understand and enjoy.
THE way it happened was, in the manner of
many good things, an accident. A Gaumont-British executive named Victor Powell picked up an Australian newspaper clipping lying on the desk of his Liverpool office, and got from it the idea of Saturday morning cinema clubs for children throughout his company's powerful cinema circuit.
This was in the early 'thirties. Clubs throughout the country have since grown and prospered till nearly
By cable \
STRUTTON in London
a minion cnnoren come to the
Weekly "orange peel matinees," leaving mother with the comfortable assurance that the little clears would not be getting into mischief, at least not on Saturday morning.
Almost at the same time Britain's other big cinema chain, the great Odeon circuit, started to form its Mickey Mouse Cinema Clubs for
And with these cinema clubs, copied by about 600 small indepen- dent theatres, where suitable movie fare is offered to kiddies for a weekly membership fee of 6d-even less in the poorer districts-an important but natural question was raised: Why not have movies specially made for these children?
Why not indeed? There were still many not-quite-suitable adult pic- tures included to fill out the Satur- day morning programmes and give the children their money's worth.
A new film magnate, J. Arthur Rank, who appeared just before the war and took over three-quarters of Britain's film industry, came to these children as a benign, mous- tached angel. Rank loves and un
KINDLY, sympathetic Mary Field, who has switched over from school teaching to organise film enter-
tainment for child audiences.
In 1944 he put Mary Field, who had behind her twenty years' experience of making child-instructional films, at the head of a Children's Film Department. Mary was briefed to make "good healthy feature films, serials, and shorts, about children and for children, filmed in Great Britain, in the Empire, and foreign countries."
In the first year it made 18 films of varying length; last year, 45; this year 74 are planned.
Tall, brisk, and humorous, Mary Field gestures ex- pressively when in conversation and has a whimsical twinkle in her eye that wins the confidence of children and adults alike.
Right now she has "on the stocks" six travel films, six community singing films, three general interest films, five complete stories, and one five-episode serial.
Although she was once a schoolteacher, there is nothing reminiscent of the schoolroom in Mary's pic- tures. Every now and then people tell her how bene- ficial it would be to include out-and-out instructional films in the Saturday morning programme.
Her retort is quick: "Do you go to the cinema to be instructed-or to be entertained?
"Naturally, all our pictures have an underlying theme of courtesy and citizenship, but children are human, too. They should not be robbed of their money's worth, and they like to get away from class just as adults like to get away from the office."
CHARMING Esther Williams, who stars in MGM'S technicolor musical, "This Time For Keeps," is seen with two members of the cast, Dick Simmonds (left) and Lauritz Melchior, relaxing during shooting of
POPULAR with British child j audiences is the film serial, "The j
Voyage of Peter Joe." Fat boy , Graham Moffat (left) is great < favorite, so are its other stars, Mark Daly (rear left) and title role player Brian Peck (with
plaster on face).
The job of shooting these varied films cannot be handled by the Rank . organisation alone, so Mary Field
farms out the work to fourteen different film companies who have production units not only in Britain but also in Australia, Canada, South Africa, France, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Lapland.
Of these, Australia's own produc- tion, "Bush Christmas," made under the Rank .charter, promises to be adolescent England's major attrac-
tion for 1947. . i
"Typical of the way in which we have combined entertainment with guiding children to see the good things of life is in our latest full-feature film for children which is due for release to the cinema clubs this month," said Miss Field.
"It is a simple tale of a young girl's struggle to pay for her tuition as a ballet dancer, but it is acted against the background of the arduous training a would-be ballerina has to undergo. Children get an early pers- pective by seeing what happens backstage and learning that theatre life is not all glamor and high-paid
"Pay for child film players is good, ranging from £10 to £20 a day for the stars, according to their importance in the cast. Some are chosen from pupils of well known children's academies, like Italia Conti's School, but others come straight before the camera with no previous experience.
"Our scenario department reads a colossal number of children's books in hopes of finding a good film story, which is a rare thing Too much of this cops-and robbers, you know.
"Child reaction is interesting. Their verdict on a film is highly accentuated, and you can gauge what points hold their attention merely by listening. When the action holds them you can hear a pin drop. But sometimes a vast hubbub of talk and shuffling con- demns a film as not at all their cup of tea. Learning from this acute reaction is the principle that guides
the films we make for them."
As for the children's Saturday morning clubs, whose popularity de- manded that films be made specially for them, their activities are not confined to the film shows. Com- munity singing-very lusty, getting lustier by habit and the help of words and action flashed on-screen-starts them off. i
Then an informal talk on affairs of local, ranging to international, interest by an expert who must be able also to "hold" his young audi- ence; then, lastly, the film shows.
Thanks to the subsidies Arthur Rank poured into the making of children's films there is sometimes a small profit which goes into evening get-togethers.
So for six pennies there is not only a Saturday morning of cinema but sometimes several evenings of foot- ball, cricket and the chance for club children to learn about art. drama, and music.
And the growth of this sturdy British industry of making films for children, an idea which so far has counterparts only in two other coun- tries, Soviet Russia and Czechoslo- vakia, springs directly and originally from the earlier children's cinema clubs of Australia. And for these Australian children's clubs it will now cater, by way of a reward.
NEWLY ARRIVED Swedish star Viveca Lindfors and her neto American leading man, Ronald Reagan, pictured on location for the current Warner
Bros. picture, "Night Unto Night."