Tag Archives: cinema

Stamps @ The Movies

Everyone has a favourite film, whether it’s a mushy Rom-Com or an Action Thriller, they bring stories into our lives and create characters you remember forever. Many different aspects of the film industry have been portrayed on stamps; here are just a few examples.

30p, Old Cinema Ticket from 100 Years of going to the pictures - A Cinema Celebration (1996)

30p, Old Cinema Ticket from 100 Years of going to the pictures – A Cinema Celebration (1996)

Iconic film legends have appeared on stamps over the years including English born actress Vivien Leigh, best known for her academy awarding winning role as Scarlett O’Hara in ‘Gone with the Wind’ (1939).  Leigh has actually appeared twice; once in 1985 for ‘Great British Film’ and again in ‘Great Britons’ from 2013.

1st, Vivien Leigh (1913-1967) from Great Britons (2013)

1st, Vivien Leigh (1913-1967) from Great Britons (2013)

31p, Vivien Leigh (from photo by Angus McBean) from British Film Year (1985)

31p, Vivien Leigh (from photo by Angus McBean) from British Film Year (1985)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Niven has also featured in his role as Peter Carter in ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ 1946, where after falling from a Lancaster bomber without a parachute, he argues his case in court to remain on earth. Niven also played British spy James Bond in the independent 1967 spoof of Casino Royale.

1st, A Matter of Life and Death (1946) from Great British Film (2014)

1st, A Matter of Life and Death (1946) from Great British Film (2014)

Many films are adapted or based on books or plays and stamps throughout the years have commemorated both films and their inspirations. The Rocky Horror Show was initially a book created by Richard O’Brien transferred to the stage and finally made into a film in 1975 featuring Tim Curry.

97p, Rocky Horror Show from Stage Musicals (2011)

97p, Rocky Horror Show from Stage Musicals (2011)

1st, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone from Harry Potter (2007)

1st, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone from Harry Potter (2007)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Harry Potter Novels have been hugely popular in recent years documenting the childhood of one boy wizard and his friends. Now made into eight films it is a huge franchise with its own theme park in Orlando. The above stamp from 2007 features the first book cover, ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’.

Carry on Hammer 50p Stamp (2008) Carry on Cleo

Carry on Hammer 50p Stamp (2008) Carry on Cleo

Stamps also celebrate the films themselves, appealing to all ages. The above stamp ‘Carry On Cleo’ from 2008 references the huge Carry On franchise synonymous with British humour. C.S.Lewis’ fantastical Chronicles of Narnia novels have been made into 3 movies, with key characters featuring in 2011’s Magical Realms issue.

97p, Aslan from Magical Realms (2011)

97p, Aslan from Magical Realms (2011)

Star Wars 1st Stamp (2015) Yoda

Star Wars 1st Stamp (2015) Yoda

 

Contemporary cinema also appears in stamp design. October saw the release of Royal Mails commemorative stamps to celebrate the new Star Wars movie. New and old characters are depicted alongside iconic spacecraft like the Millennium Falcon.

Star Wars 1st Stamp (2015) Millennium Falcon

Star Wars 1st Stamp (2015) Millennium Falcon

34p, Alfred Hitchcock (from photo by Howard Coster) from British Film Year (1985)

34p, Alfred Hitchcock (from photo by Howard Coster) from British Film Year (1985)

 

Many films are created by talented producers and writers. Alfred Hitchcock is probably recognized as the greatest British filmmaker, directing ‘To Catch a Thief’, ‘North by Northwest’ and his infamous ‘Psycho’. He was nicknamed ‘The Master of Suspense’ and made many cameo appearances in his movies.

 

 

Writers like Arthur Conan Doyle have had their literary creations celebrated on stamps. Doyle’s most iconic character Sherlock Holmes had his own stamp issue in 1993. Holmes has been portrayed in many films by the likes of; Christopher Lee, Basil Rathbone and most recently Robert Downey Jr.

1st, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1859-1930 from Eminent Britons (2009)

1st, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1859-1930 from Eminent Britons (2009)

Sherlock Holmes 24p Stamp (1993) The Reigate Squire

Sherlock Holmes 24p Stamp (1993) The Reigate Squire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The influence of film making is wide reaching and will inevitably continue to be a key theme in stamp design.  The characters and actors are easily recognisable, creating a fun and interesting way of celebrating our favourite films. I wonder what movie will appear next…..

-Georgina Tomlinson, Philatelic Assistant

Britten Films: An Exploration

The young Benjamin Britten wrote:

1936… finds me earning my living – with occasionally something to spare – at the GPO film unit… writing music and supervising sounds for film

In 1933 Britten became a member of the General Post Office film unit, which was originally set up to produce sponsored films relating to the GPO’s activities. As a result of Britten composing the music for the short films, there was a quick turnaround time and this helped Britten to refine and nurture his compositional tools.

The nine short films he worked on – covering subjects ranging from postage stamps to pacifism, the abolition of the slave trade to the electrification of the London-Portsmouth railway – are wonderfully made and fascinating historical documents. For example, Night Mail is a documentary about a London, Midland and Scottish railway mail train. The rhythm of the poem imitates the stages of the train journey, where the increasing rhythmic pace throughout the poem symbolises the acceleration of the mail train.

A still from Night Mail showing the mail train on its journey

A still from Night Mail showing the mail train on its journey

Britten’s music brilliantly reflects, amplifies and underpins the screen images with scores of rich variety and invention. It is a celebration of composer’s craft and filmmaker’s technique, an insight into 1930s Britain, and a snapshot of the art of propaganda before the term became besmirched forever by the extreme forces of political repression.

Aldeburgh Festival will be screening Britten’s nine GPO films in June with a live orchestra in the event Britten Films. Before the screening commences there will be an illustrated discussion, Britten Films: An Exploration, looking at the astonishing artistic collective which was the GPO film unit and how some of Britten’s very first professional commissions were to leave a powerful impression on his future creative life.

For more information on the events visit www.aldeburgh.co.uk or phone 01728 687100. The website’s ‘visiting us’ page helps you find out about where to eat, where to stay, and how to find us of course. Tickets can be purchased from the website and through the box office on 01728 687110.

Leanne Cox – Aldeburgh Festival

The Projection of Britain: A History of the GPO Film Unit is available from the BPMA Shop.

Night Mail: a classic?

Night Mail holds an iconic place in British culture. Say the words ‘this is the Night Mail crossing the border’ and you’ll likely get the response, ‘bringing the cheque and the postal order.’ But critics haven’t always been so impressed. There’s a strand of thinking that says Night Mail is a classic of British documentary by virtue of being the one that everyone knows. This is a critical assessment worth picking apart, because Night Mail is far more than the film of the poem.

Commissioned in 1935 to commemorate the centenary of the travelling post office, Basil Wright sought to apply the lessons of silent Soviet cinema to inter-war Britain. Viktor Turin’s Turksib was an important model. Borrowing techniques from Hollywood (Turin was obsessed by Westerns) Turksib tried to turn social, political and technological exposition into an exciting tale of progress. He cast the train between Turkestan and Siberia in the role of the lone gunslinger bringing order to the frontier. Night Mail apes this approach, albeit modestly, it illustrates how Britain is socially, economically and technologically bound together.

However, Wright’s love of the expressive grammar of silent cinema was disrupted by co-director Harry Watt, who wanted to focus on the life of the postal workers. It is creative tension in the best sense of the term. Interestingly, Watt’s eagerness to get across a flavour of the workers’ lives meant that the train interior had to be shot in a studio. Night Mail’s ‘realism’ was achieved by building a set of the travelling post office and scripting the workers’ dialogue.

Night Mail was also funded by the GPO to help improve morale. Beset by the industrial disputes of the slump era, the film was supposed to help staff understand how even the most humdrum of jobs could be of crucial importance. Not only is Night Mail probably the greatest train film of all time then, it’s also possibly also the greatest training film.

Night Mail’s unique sensibility remains key to its appeal. The dialogue may be flat, and the acting might be wooden, but the film retains a whiff of authenticity. ‘There’s something in these bags all right, Bert’, a postman says at one point, to which the sparring reply is, ‘must be old Fred’s coupon night’. There is something about the dialogue that makes you believe it, and more than that, makes you trust the sentiment that underpins it. Then again, Myles Burnyeat has argued that the meaning of great works changes over time. The fact that every time you watch Night Mail it says something different might be what, in the end, makes it a classic.

– Scott Anthony

Dr Scott Anthony is a Fellow of Christ’s College, University of Cambridge, and co-editor of a new book The Projection of Britain: A History of the GPO Film Unit.

The BFI have produced a new DVD The Soviet influence: From Turksib to Night Mail, featuring GPO films.

We Live in Two Worlds: The GPO Film Unit Collection Volume Two

The second of three deluxe double-disc box sets presenting all the key films of the GPO Film Unit on DVD for the first time was released on 23rd February 2009. It includes the much loved Night Mail and the experimental animations of Len Lye and Norman McLaren.

Created in 1933 out of the ashes of the Empire Marketing Board Film Unit, the GPO Film Unit was one of the most remarkable creative institutions that Britain has produced. A hotbed of creative energy and talent, it provided a springboard to many of the best-known and critically acclaimed figures in the British Documentary Movement, including John Grierson, Alberto Cavalcanti, Basil Wright and Harry Watt. Their work embraced public information films, drama-documentary, social reportage, animation, advertising and many points in between.

The British Postal Museum & Archive, in partnership with The BFI National Archive, Royal Mail and BT Heritage, has been working for several years to curate and preserve the work of the GPO Film Unit. Volume One, Addressing the Nation was released last September. Volume Three, If War Should Come, will be released on 13th July 2009.

We Live in Two Worlds covers 1936-1938 and represents the Unit at its creative height. The films included on the disc are:

Disc One
Rainbow Dance (1936)
The Saving of Bill Blewitt (1936)
Calendar of the Year (1936)
The Fairy of the Phone (1936)
Night Mail (1936)
Roadways (1937)
Trade Tattoo (1937)
Big Money (1937)
We Live in Two Worlds (1937)
N or NW (1937)

Disc Two
A Job in a Million (1937)
Book Bargain (1937)
What’s On Today (1938)
Love on the Wing (1938)
The Horsey Mail (1938)
The H.P.O. (1938)
News for the Navy (1938)
Mony a Pickle (1938)
North Sea (1938)
Penny Journey (1938)
The Tocher (1938)
God’s Chillun (1938)

The discs are presented in a deluxe box with a 100-page bound book containing introductory essays, film notes and selected biographies.

We Live in Two Worlds is not just important in cinematic terms, but provides a valuable and fascinating insight into 1930s Britain. It is now available from the BPMA Shop.

For more information on the GPO Film Unit please see the Screenonline/BT Archive Interactive Derek Jacobi on the GPO Film Unit.