In focus: Made famous by the British Council film archive collection

Find out about the illustrious filmmakers who had their big break working on our archive films.

Geoffrey Unsworth

A gardener waters plants with a hose in a hothouse.

Geoffrey Unsworth was a cinematographer who worked on dozens of feature films during his lifetime. Unsworth’s debut as a cinematographer was on our archive film The People’s Land (1941), though he soon moved his focus to feature films.

Unsworth continued to make films until his death in 1978, receiving many prestigious awards for his efforts. Today he is known for such classics as Cabaret (1972), Superman (1978), and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

Geoffrey Unsworth's archive films:

  • Gardens of England (1941)
  • Make Fruitful the Land (1945)
  • The People’s Land (1941)
  • Power on the Land (1943)
  • Teeth of Steel (1942)
  • World Garden (1942)

Jack Cardiff

A steelworker works with molten metal.

Jack Cardiff is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest cinematographers of all time and is renowned for his use of colour film.

Cardiff was the first person in Britain to shoot with Technicolor film when he made Wings of the Morning (1937). Following this, he made several short travelogue films before working on the British Council film archive.

Cardiff would go on to provide colour cinematography for such eminent directors as Alfred Hitchcock and Powell and Pressburger. Perhaps his most famous films were Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948), the former of which won him an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for cinematography. In 2000, he also received an Academy Honorary Award in recognition of his work.

Jack Cardiff's archive films:

  • Border Weave (1941)
  • Colour in Clay, (1941)
  • The Green Girdle (1941)
  • Queen Cotton (1941)
  • Steel (1945)
  • Western Isles (1941)

Ken Annakin

The Royal Family standing on a stage in London in 1942.

Kenneth (Ken) Annakin was a popular director who produced over fifty films during his lifetime.

The British Council film archive features some of Annakin’s earliest film-work, including his first proper foray into directing - London 1942 (1943) - and the dramatic English Criminal Justice (1946), which Annakin described as ‘a wonderful break’ leading to his first feature film.

Among Annakin’s most well-known feature productions are Swiss Family Robinson (1960), Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965), and Battle of the Bulge (1965).

Ken Annakin's archive films:

  • English Criminal Justice (1946)
  • London 1942 (1943)
  • Make Fruitful the Land (1945)
  • We of the West Riding (1945)

Mary Field

A small dish containing three sausages.

Mary Field was best known for producing and directing educational children’s programmes.

Originally a teacher and historian, she became Educational Manager at British Instructional Films in 1925. There she learnt the filmmaking trade and helped to produce the pioneering Secrets of Nature wildlife series with F. Percy Smith. When the company later became Gaumont-British Instructional, she directed the new Secrets of Life nature series as well as other educational programmes.

During the Second World War she directed a number of films on similar topics for the British Council, though these often held a social or political subtext.

Following the war, Field focused on improving informative-yet-entertaining children’s programming until her retirement in 1963. During her lifetime she received an OBE for her work and became a Fellow of the British Film Academy, and her legacy can be seen today in programmes such as Blue Peter.

Mary Field's archive films:

  • Atlantic (1940)
  • Development of the English Town (1942)
  • Development of the Rabbit (1944)
  • History of the English Language (1943)
  • The Life Cycle of the Maize (1942)
  • The Life Cycle of the Newt (1942)
  • The Life Cycle of the Pin Mould (1943)
  • The Life History of the Onion (1943)
  • Magna Carta (1946)
  • Market Town (1942)

Muir Mathieson

Children slide down a grassy hill on sledges in the sunshine.

Muir Mathieson was a composer and conductor who conducted hundreds of films scores and was an influential figure in the history of British film music.

After graduating from the Royal College of Music, Mathieson became head of the music department at Denham Film Studios. He went on to establish the London Symphony Orchestra’s reputation as a film orchestra and also influenced renowned contemporary composers to write film scores.

During the Second World War, he became the musical adviser to the Ministry of Information and British Council amongst others, and frequently appears as ‘Musical Director’ throughout the British Council film archive. He also made a brief foray into directing with Steps of the Ballet (1948).

Muir Mathieson's archive films:

  • A.1. at Lloyd’s (1942)
  • Architects of England (1941)
  • The Green Girdle (1941)
  • Health of a Nation (1943)
  • Julius Caesar (1945)
  • Let’s See (1945)
  • London 1942 (1943)
  • London Terminus (1944)
  • Macbeth (1945)
  • Oxford (1941)
  • Papworth Village Settlement (1945)
  • The People’s Land (1941)
  • Power on the Land (1943)
  • The Second Freedom (1943)
  • Steps of the Ballet (1948)
  • Ulster (1941)

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