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Don't Look at the Camera - Harry Watt

London: Paul Elek, 1974, Paperback.
Condition: Poor. Notably rubbed at the outside edges of the covers and spine. Light reading creases to the spine. Leans.

Uncorrected book proof. Contains: Black & white photographs;

From the cover: “‘Writers on British documentary make it sound like one of the more solemn research foundations,’ writes Harry Watt. ‘No one ever seems to have recorded that we were just a bunch of enthusiastic kids, accepting the basic theme of the dignity of man from our brilliant but erratic boss, learning our job by trial and error, bubbling with ideas but making thousands of mistakes. No one has ever suggested we were happy, that we laughed. And we had a million laughs’.

The bunch of enthusiastic kids included famous names of the film world like Humphrey Jennings and Basil Wright, as well as W. H. Auden, Benjamin Britten, William Coldstream and John Betjeman; the brilliant but erratic boss was John Grierson, father of the British documentary movement, who went on to found the National Film Board of Canada; and the ideas, the mistakes and the laughs are all hilariously recorded here by Harry Watt, who stumbled almost by accident into a fellow Scot’s office in Oxford Street in 1931 and went on to be one of the most important of all realist film directors.

After some basic grounding with the Empire Marketing Board Film Unit he had the luck to go to Ireland to work with Robert Flaherty, already famous for his film accounts of life among the Eskimos and Samoans, on Man of Aran. Documentary was then an assemblage of visuals tied together with a commentary and music. Watt felt immediately that there was scope for a more realistic and yet dramatised approach. His first film Night Mail was a masterpiece of exact detail, including brilliant sound, using the postmen working on a mail train as the actors. This was followed — after a spell with Hitchcock — by other dramatised documentaries using fishermen (such as North Sea), and when war broke out, airmen and soldiers (Squadron 992, Target for Tonight) and civilians under stress (London Can Take It, Christmas Under Fire). Watt was the man who ‘put the sweaty sock’ into an over-refined medium. The success of his wartime films showed how warmly people responded to his down-to-earth approach. His experiments led him inevitably into feature film making (The Overlanders, Where No Vultures Fly), where he showed other film makers how to exploit the drama of real life.”


Size: 8½" x 5½". [VII] 195 pages.
£6.50

This one has already found a new owner.