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Well, it’s that time of the year again. Time to tot up our visitor figures and enquiry databases to discover how our collections were used by researchers and find the most popular archives of 2016. For the second year running the collection which has topped our end-of-year chart is the NHS Forth Valley Archive. The collection, which includes the records of Stirling District Asylum (Bellsdyke Hospital) and the Royal Scottish National Hospital, continues to be very popular with family historians, providing a wealth of information on the patients who passed through the Victorian health-care system. In 2016 the records of these local hospitals have also increasingly been used by academics and students across a range of fascinating research projects.
In 2017 the University of Stirling will celebrate its 50th anniversary having opened its doors for the first time on 18 September 1967. The interest in, and preparations for, this important anniversary have resulted in the university’s own archives taking the No. 2 spot. The University Archive holds the official history of the institution in its minute books, reports and publications. It also preserves the unofficial story of life on campus through student newspapers, memorabilia and oral history interviews with retired staff and alumni. We are looking forward to making full use of this material throughout next year’s 50th celebrations!
Our film collections remain incredibly popular with academics, researchers and students. In 2016 the personal and working papers of the director Lindsay Anderson ended the year at No. 3 in our chart. In part this was due to a renewed academic interest in his work sparked by the publication of Lindsay Anderson Revisited: Unknown Aspects of a Film Director (Palgrave MacMillan, 2016). The enduring appeal of films such as If…. and This Sporting Life also brought a number of researchers to Stirling. The collection was also a key resource for our own M Litt Film Studies students who worked on Anderson’s papers during their research placements in the archive.
Outside the archives reading room our Hosts & Champions exhibition continued its tour around Scotland, taking material from our Commonwealth Games Scotland Archive to Stranraer, Kirkintilloch, Eastriggs and Grangemouth. Unique items from our collections were also loaned to exhibitions in places as varied as Montrose, Stirling, Paris and Udine!
We ended the year with the launch of an exciting new project to support the cataloguing and conservation of the Peter Mackay Archive, a collection relating to modern African history which was recently donated to the University of Stirling. A crowdfunding campaign has been launched on the Crowdfunder website:
Help us to reach our target by 24 January 2017!
Those results in full:
- NHS Forth Valley
- University of Stirling
- Lindsay Anderson
- NHS Forth Valley
- Musicians’ Union
- University of Stirling
- Norman McLaren
- NHS Forth Valley
- Commonwealth Games Scotland
Last week a major international symposium was held at Lund University to celebrate the work of one of British cinema’s greatest talents. Lindsay Anderson Revisited brought together academics, writers, film critics, filmmakers (and archivists!) to discuss the director’s long and colourful career. The many possibilities for research offered by Anderson’s work were reflected in the packed programme with speakers exploring various aspects of Anderson’s career as a filmmaker, theatre director, author and critic. The symposium highlighted the research value of Anderson’s archive of personal and working papers and also its links and connections with other collections both at Stirling and other institutions.
In his paper on Anderson’s friendship with John Ford Charles Barr presented the early correspondence between the two men, reassembled through archival research. Anderson’s early letters to Ford are part of the extensive John Ford Archive held at the Lilly Library at the University of Indiana, with Ford’s replies forming part of the collection of Anderson’s papers at Stirling University. Barr’s detailed examination of these letters brought to light the historical significance of a seemingly innocuous passage in Ford’s first letter to Anderson. Writing to Anderson in March 1947 Ford thanks Anderson for his letter and invites him to write with his views of his new film The Fugitive. Ford apologises for typing the letter, explaining that “I am as yet unable to write long hand, due to a bathing accident at Omaha Beach.” This was Ford’s typically understated way of describing the injuries he received when shooting footage of the D-Day landings in Normandy in June 1944.
The discussions which took place during the symposium around subjects including Anderson’s ‘Scottishness’ and his work as a documentary filmmaker brought out the links and relationships that existed across the British and international filmmaking community that Anderson operated in. Some of these relationships are reflected in the film-related collections held at Stirling. Anderson’s Archive now sits on the shelves beside the papers of John Grierson, the ‘father of documentary.’ When Anderson emerged as a young filmmaker with his Free Cinema documentaries in the 1950s he challenged the established British documentary tradition started by Grierson in the 1930s. Grierson’s less than enthusiastic response to this new generation of documentary filmmakers and Anderson’s challenges to his Griersonian predecessors are preserved in their papers, a search across both collections highlighting the critical and theoretical distance between the two men.
Anderson’s connections with his European filmmaking contemporaries were examined in papers relating to his correspondence with the French actor Serge Regianni and his connections with Poland. In 1966 Anderson visited Warsaw to direct a production of John Osborne’s play Inadmissible Evidence which led to an invitation to make a film (The Singing Lesson). Anderson had already visited the USSR in 1957 with the Royal Court Theatre and Czechoslovakia on a number of occasions in the 1960s. The archive includes an extensive photographic collection which includes many images of these trips across the Iron Curtain.
Personal reminiscences, academic investigation and archival research all contributed to an event which opened up many new avenues of research into the life and career of one of Britain’s greatest filmmakers. Thanks must go to the organisers Erik Hedling, Christophe Dupin and Elisabet Björklund for putting together such a stimulating and entertaining programme!
On Saturday we had the opportunity to talk about the Lindsay Anderson Archive at a fantastic conference organised by the Scottish Word and Image Group at the University of Dundee. The conference examined the interdisciplinary relationship and crossovers between live performance, film and television and included a special event celebrating the work of Lindsay Anderson at the DCA.
Our paper was a collaboration with Prof. John Izod from our film studies department which looked at how Anderson directed David Storey’s play In Celebration on both stage and screen. Anderson had a long and fruitful working relationship with Storey. They first worked together when Anderson adapted Storey’s novel This Sporting Life for the screen in 1963. Over the next 30 years Anderson directed 9 of Storey’s plays including Home (1970), Early Days (1980) and Stages (1992). In Celebration was the first of Storey’s plays that Anderson directed. It opened at the Royal Court Theatre in London on 22nd April 1969 and proved to be a critical and commercial success. In a terraced northern house a miner Harry Shaw (Bill Owen) and his wife (Constance Chapman) welcome their sons home to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary; but the reunion brings to the surface long-repressed tensions and conflicts which threaten to wreck the event. The father, last in a family of coal miners, has given everything to ensure that his sons escape the pit. However, the boys’ educational achievements have pushed them into worlds remote from their parents, and severed them from their roots. Andrew (Alan Bates), the ungovernable eldest, is a lawyer who has abandoned his profession to paint. Colin, the second (James Bolam), has risen to join middle management in a car factory. Meanwhile the youngest, Stephen (Brian Cox), is an introverted writer who, riven by unresolved family tensions, has suppressed his account of their youth.
Anderson and Storey returned to the play in 1974 to direct a film version for the American Film Theatre, a company which adapted plays to be shown in cinemas in the United States. In our talk Prof. Izod used Anderson’s production notes, correspondence and diaries to illuminate the process of transforming the theatrical into the cinematic. One of the key elements in the success of the film was Anderson’s insistence on reuniting the original cast of the 1969 Royal Court production for the film. Anderson noted that the actor’s performances had matured, partly because five years on they were closer to their characters’ ages, whereas some had been a little young for their roles in the original production. Their familiarity with the production also contributed to a sense of real family between them.
Saturday’s conference sessions were followed by a screening of Anderson’s film version of In Celebration at a packed DCA which was introduced by the actor Brian Cox. In Celebration was Cox’s first major film role and in an enlightening and entertaining Q&A session after the film he talked about the importance of the film in his career and his experiences working with Lindsay Anderson. He noted Anderson’s skill in getting the best out of his actors and he was struck, as were the audience, by how well the film stood up almost forty years after its original release. In the small claustrophobic sitting room of the family home the dramatic tension was built by the powerful performances of a cast led by a director who understood both the play and the actors, Cox referring to Anderson as “the best psychological director he’s ever worked with.”
This month the Filmoteka Narodowa (National Film Archives of Poland) is screening a season of Lindsay Anderson’s films in Warsaw. Anderson would no doubt have been delighted with this recognition for his work as he had a great affection for Poland and visited the country on many occasions. Evidence of Anderson’s Polish connections are scattered through his archive with diary entries and photographs providing a personal record of his visits to Warsaw (a search of our online catalogue will provide a full list of material relating to Poland in the collection).
Anderson worked as both a theatre and film director in Warsaw in the 1960s and the archive includes material relating to his Polish projects. In 1966 he directed a production of John Osborne’s play Inadmissible Evidence at the Contemporary Theatre in Warsaw starring Tadeusz Lomnicki. Anderson kept a detailed photographic record of the production and the collection also includes theatre programmes and posters and cuttings from the Polish press relating to the play.
Anderson returned to Warsaw in 1967 to direct a short documentary film, The Singing Lesson, at the invitation of the Warsaw Documentary Studio. The film featured a class of students from the Warsaw Dramatic Academy performing traditional Polish songs inter-cut with scenes of Warsaw life. Anderson’s initial outline for the film (in both English and Polish) is present, along with correspondence, photographs and promotional material.
Amongst the thousands of pieces of correspondence in the archive one of Anderson’s most cherished items was a letter written by the Polish director Andrez Wajda in December 1983. The letter was written by Wajda after seeing Britannia Hospital, Anderson’s blistering satire set in the chaotic surroundings of a dysfunctional British hospital. Panned by the critics and ignored by the cinema-going public on its release in the UK in 1982 Wajda’s warm praise for the film was much appreciated by Anderson, Wajda writing:
“I very much wanted to write to you. I saw Britannia Hospital in Paris. It is the most Polish film produced anywhere in the world in recent years. Being Polish, I completely understand the way you are using the facts of contemporary life and putting them on the screen. This is really Britain – the only one that truly exists. And it is also Polish through and through, amazing in its ideas…
As in every Polish masterpiece, there is twice as much material in it as there ought to be. It’s as if you were anticipating censorship and counting on it to shape your film by cutting it. Perhaps it’s a pity you’ve no censorship in England. Though really your film would be quite uncensorable: they’d just have to write the whole thing off as a loss – as we say over here. Quite simply the film is superb, and I wholeheartedly congratulate you for it.” (ref. LA 1/9/3/16/62)
As we head towards xmas it’s time to collect and collate the statistics for the use of our collections in 2012 to create our end of year chart. We’ve combined the information recorded in our enquiries database with the records of visitors to our reading room and have a new No. 1 this year, knocking the ever-popular John Grierson Archive into the No. 2 spot.
In 2012 our most used collection was the Musicians’ Union Archive. The collection provides a comprehensive record of the work of the union and its responses to the various challenges (both political and technological) which have faced musicians over the last 130 years. There are a number of factors that contributed to the collection’s popularity in 2012:
- The increased accessibility of the collection due to cataloguing, making previously unaccessible material available to researchers
- The heavy use of the collection by an AHRC-funded project based at the University of Glasgow which is researching the history of the Musicians’ Union
- The centenary of the sinking of the Titanic which led to many enquiries from the media and researchers relating to the musicians on board the ship
The collection also received many genealogical enquiries from people tracing the careers of family members, the membership records providing a wealth of useful information, and a range of enquiries from researchers investigating various aspects of political, social and musical history.
Cataloguing of the Musicians’ Union Archive will continue in 2013 as the records of the local branches located across the UK are added to the catalogue, providing a comprehensive record of union activity from Aberdeen to Exeter.
Further down the chart our Lindsay Anderson Archive made the top 3 for the second year running, the final fruits of the work of our ARHC research project being published in November. It was also encouraging to see the university’s own institutional records being well used (at No. 4) and featured in an exhibition celebrating the 40th anniversary of the macrobert in September and on television in a report on the Howietoun Fishery on BBC 2 Scotland’s Landward in November.
The statistics for our flickr pages highlight the success of our Going Wild In the Archives exhibition which took place across the campus in the spring of 2012. The top 10 most-viewed flickr images all hail from the natural history collections which were photographed for the exhibition and include beautiful Victorian illustrations of birds of paradise, sea anemones, butterflies and Himalayan plants. With plans in place to open-up some interesting new accessions to researchers in the new year we’re looking forward to a busy and stimulating 2013!
This week the macrobert is screening Chariots of Fire, the stirring Olympic tale of Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, two British athletes who ran at the 1924 Paris Games. The director Lindsay Anderson, whose papers are held in the University of Stirling Archives, appears in the film playing the Master of Caius college, Cambridge, alongside John Gielgud, who plays Master of Trinity college.
Chariots of Fire was one of the few occasions when Anderson moved from being the director behind the camera to an actor in front of it. In 1953 he appeared in a short film directed by the American artist James Broughton called The Pleasure Garden and played supporting roles in a couple of television adaptations of plays (Inadmissable Evidence and The Parachute) in 1968. His most memorable onscreen performance is probably in his own film O Lucky Man! in 1973 when he plays a director who auditions Malcolm McDowell at the end of the film and proceeds to smack him across the face with a copy of the script.
The extensive correspondence files that are included in Anderson’s archive provide some interesting insights into his appearance in Chariots of Fire. In April 1980 he wrote to a friend describing his experiences on set:
“I’ve been spending a few days on the other side of the camera you’ll be amused (and amazed?) to hear… Doing a small featured role in a picture being done here about young Olympic sportsmen in the twenties. Playing the snobbish, sentimental, class-bound Head of a Cambridge College – three scenes with John Gielgud, and an address to a hundred and fifty undergraduates… I’m afraid I may have over-strained my technical abilities: but one certainly gets an insight as to how totally actors tend to be victimized, exploited and sabotaged in a film studio. It’s true that the last people anybody thinks of in setting up a scene are the actors. I fear I may have made an awful fool of myself: but at least no one can compel me to see it.” (Ref. LA 5/1/2/7/21)
Anderson had directed John Gielgud on a number of occasions at the Royal Court Theatre and was a close friend (the archive contains a file of correspondence between the two men). In a letter to another friend he summed up his performance as follows:
“About myself I’ll only say that I didn’t seem to be a great deal worse than John Gielgud.” (Ref. LA 5/1/1/69/5)
Following the release of the film Anderson received letters from many friends and colleagues congratulating him on his appearance. In reply to one of these letters he wrote this detailed, entertaining response, which also hints at a different direction his career may have taken:
“Well – without wanting to fall into the category of actors who talk endlessly about themselves – I’m glad that appearance in Chariots of Fire seemed okay to a fellow professional. As you can imagine, it was quite a scary thing to do, particularly acting with Gielgud and learning just how self-centered a real star has to be… Also, the director had never made a feature film before and hardly directed any actors, so I was on my own.
I have to admit that I wasn’t as enthusiastic about the film as you were – but then I did see it under rather peculiar circumstances. At the Royal Command Performance, in fact, seated some half-a-dozen rows back from Her Majesty the Queen Mother. I didn’t rate high enough to get into the presentation line-up with John Gielgud, which I thought was rather unfair (after all, I did have one more scene than he did). I tended to close my eyes when my scenes came up, so I suppose I didn’t really give the film a chance. Anyway, I’m pleased by its success.
I myself am hoping to graduate shortly into the category of elderly director-character actor (eg. John Houston etc.). I was, you’ll be amused to hear, offered a Prince of Evil role (at least I think it was an offer) in the new Star Wars sequel. Unfortunately I couldn’t take it because we’ll still be working on Britannia Hospital. I think I’d have enjoyed that.” (Ref. LA 5/1/2/7/23)
Lindsay Anderson as a cult sci-fi character? This is how close the director if If…. came to having his own action figure!
In April 1985 Wham! became the first western pop group to perform in China. The band’s management hired Lindsay Anderson to direct a documentary recording this historic event. Unfortunately this was an ill-fated project with Anderson being removed from the film in October 1985. His portrayal of the Chinese tour did not meet with the approval of the band or their management. A new director was brought in and a shorter film, very different from Anderson’s documentary, was produced. This article draws on Anderson’s correspondence and diaries to provide the story behind the directors ‘lost’ film.
Lindsay Anderson accepted the invitation to record Wham!’s visit to China at a time when he was finding it increasingly difficult to get his own films made. In 1982 he released the film Britannia Hospital, a biting satire set in a hospital preparing for a royal visit to celebrate its 500th anniversary. It was a critical and commercial flop, its prospects not helped by the film appearing to be ‘unpatriotic’ at a time when Britain was fighting the Falklands War.
Britannia Hospital had failed to repeat the success of Anderson’s earlier films. In the years following its release he turned to the stage, where he always found it easier to work, and directed a number of productions in London and the US. At the start of 1985 he had just returned from Washington DC where he had directed a troubled production of Hamlet which was plagued with problems and closed after a short run.
Anderson rarely worked as a ‘director for hire’, preferring to have total control over the films he made. However he was tempted by the offer of returning to his documentary roots. Anderson had begun his filmmaking career in the 1950s making documentaries. Indeed he won an Oscar for a short documentary, Thursday’s Children (a film about a school for deaf children) in 1954. In a letter to a friend written in January 1986 he explained that he undertook the Wham! project “in a spirit of curiosity. Curiosity about China and curiosity about the odd confrontation of China and Wham! – and even a certain curiosity, not very great, about the phenomenon of Wham! itself.” (Ref. LA 1/10/3/8).
Anderson travelled to China with Wham! in April 1985. The tour began with two concerts in Hong Kong and then moved to China where Wham! performed in Beijing and Canton. During the tour Anderson suffered a fall and spent much of his time in a wheelchair. His diaries also reveal that he was suffering from arthritis in his legs and hands (something he hoped Chinese medicine might cure).
The summer and autumn of 1985 were spent editing the footage shot in China. In October 1985 Anderson screened his film for Wham! and their management. The film was far from being a straight pop promo as it looked away from the band and spent some time examining China and its people. It also stripped the glamour away from the event, showing the tedium of touring. A few days after the screening Anderson was informed that he was being removed from the project because his film was not what was expected or required. Before he left Anderson’s made a copy of his version of the film, which he called If You Were There and it is this tape which is part of the Anderson Archive.
Following Anderson’s removal a new director was brought in and additional concert footage was shot in London at great expense. A new version of the film entitled Foreign Skies was screened at Wham!’s farewell concert at Wembley Stadium on 28 June 1986. This film was 20 minutes shorter than Anderson’s, added far more concert footage of Wham! and removed most of Anderson’s documentary footage of China.
In If You Were There Anderson attempted to do far more than just produce a pop promo. The visit of Wham! to China came at a time of great change as consumerism, pop music and western tastes and fashions began to be absorbed by the old communist state. Anderson captured a society on the cusp of change. As with his award-winning documentary films of 1950s Anderson treated his subjects with warmth and compassion. The people the camera encounters are full of life, friendly and enthusiastic, and Anderson captures the vibrant atmosphere of street life in Beijing and Canton.
He does not forget, however, that this is a film about Wham! and their historic visit to China, live performances of the band in Beijing and Canton forming the climax of the film. While George Michael and Andrew Ridgley sometimes seem bemused by the welcome extended by their Chinese hosts (there are only so many members of the Communist Party you can shake hands with) Anderson manages to catch some unguarded moments of fun and laughter where the excitement of being performers at the peak of their popularity shines through.
Angered by the rejection of his film Anderson wrote an open letter to the crew who worked with him on the documentary in November 1985. In it he detailed the circumstances surrounding his removal from the project. He also summed up his frustration with the situation in characteristically bullish style (Ref. LA 1/10/3/7). Anderson never had an opportunity to release his version of the film. Such are the complexities of the rights relating to If You Were There that it has never been publicly screened. The story of this most unusual project can, however, be traced in Anderson’s personal and working papers.
Sometimes a filmmaker can find themselves in the fortunate position of making a film which perfectly echoes and reflects the mood of its time. Lindsay Anderson’s second feature film, If…., released in 1968 certainly achieved this feat. Starring Malcolm McDowell in his first major film role it is a lyrical tale of teenage rebellion set in an English public school. Filmed at Cheltenham College, where Anderson was a pupil in the 1930s, the harsh brutalities and rigid structure of public school mirror the wider inequalities of British society. The iconic image of McDowell, machine-gun blazing, at the end of the film resonated with an audience bombarded with images of protest during the student riots of 1968. The film was swept along on a revolutionary tide to the Cannes Film Festival in 1969 where it won the Palm d’Or.
- the original script for the film entitled Crusaders, written by David Sherwin and John Howlett, based on their own experiences of public school
- letters of praise for the film from friends, colleagues and fans including Akira Kurosawa, Alan Bennett, Rex Harrison and Harold Pinter
- an extensive photographic record of the making of the film
- a large collection of press cuttings from the British and American press reporting on the film’s release and reception, and the European press reporting on the film’s success at Cannes
The Lindsay Anderson Archive also includes a large amount of personal memorabilia including a selection of material from his schooldays, a period of his life which he drew on when he came to make If…. in 1968. Cheltenham College was a school with a strong military tradition which specialised in preparing the sons of officers for the army training colleges at Sandhurst and Woolwich. Coming from a military family the choice of Cheltenham for Anderson was not surprising. The school prospectus noted that “all boys in the Senior School are instructed in military drill and the use of the rifle… with a view to the special preparation of Boys for the Army” – an aspect of his education that was reflected in the schoolboys military manoeuvres in the film. The discipline enforced in the school is reflected in Anderson’s copy of the College Rule book which consisted of 12 pages of rules and regulations governing behaviour and conduct with a fold out map showing the areas of Cheltenham that were out-of-bounds to students.
Anderson kept a number of souvenirs of his schooldays including postcards of the College, school prospectuses, his school crest and cap, exam certificates, programmes for theatre productions in which he appeared, school notebooks and a run of The Cheltonian, the school journal, covering his time at Cheltenham.
When it came to making If…. these souvenirs of his schooldays could have provided some useful reminders for Anderson – the rules and regulations, the military tradition, the Speech Day reports in The Cheltonian (including the speeches of the Headmaster and distinguished guests). As well as drawing on his own personal collection of memorabilia Anderson also carried out some up-to-date research purchasing a copy of Eton: how it works by J. D. R. McConnell in 1967. In a commentary on the film written by Anderson in 1994 he noted how useful this book had been when it came to shooting the scene where Travis, Johnny and Wallace are called to the headmaster’s office after shooting the chaplain during a military exercise. He noted that “it is interesting that a lot of the headmaster’s dialogue in that scene was taken from a book written by an ex-housemaster at Eton, so some of the more idiotic things spoken by the headmaster are real.”
This month sees the release of a new adaptation of Wuthering Heights, in which the director Andrea Arnold moves from the contemporary council estates of Glasgow (Red Road) and London (Fish Tank) to the wild countryside of nineteenth century Yorkshire.
In 1964 Lindsay Anderson unsuccessfully attempted to film his own version of the novel. Buoyed by the success of his 1963 film This Sporting Life Anderson developed the project with the film’s writer, David Storey, and star, Richard Harris. Anderson’s experience of directing Harris on This Sporting Life had been an explosive, bruising affair but such was his desire to work with the actor that he noted in his diary his “inability to think concretely of any project – except in terms of Richard Harris”. Anderson saw Harris as the perfect lead for his version of Wuthering Heights, as indeed did the actor. In April 1964 Anderson visited Harris in Mexico City, where he was shooting the western Major Dundee, to discuss the project. After being shown to his room Anderson found a note on his pillow written by Harris – it read “I am Heathcliff”.
Anderson’s papers include some fascinating material relating to this proposed adaptation including correspondence, scripts, progress reports and location photographs. Anderson’s diaries also provide an account of the project’s development. In David Storey’s adaptation the doomed romance at the centre of the story ends in a rather dramatic fashion with Heathcliff stealing Cathy’s body from her coffin and taking her to Wuthering Heights. He is followed by an angry mob that sets fire to the house, Heathcliff dying in a raging inferno with Cathy in his arms. Notes written by Richard Harris in April 1964 commenting on Storey’s script are also present. Harris didn’t like the ending devised by Storey – he instead suggested a more romantic end for Heathcliff and Cathy. The mob burns an empty Wuthering Heights and the following morning, when their anger has subsided, they find Heathcliff lying dead, next to Cathy’s body, on the moors.
By the summer of 1964 Harris began to succumb to the lure of Hollywood and started to show a reluctance to work with Anderson in England. His behaviour increasingly annoyed and frustrated Anderson. In a letter to his agent Sandy Liberson in April 1965 Anderson reflected on the change in his relationship with Harris, noting that “It really seems to me that his ‘success’ of the past eight or nine months has changed Richard. Or shall I say taken him beyond the sphere in which he and I can work together?”
It was around this time that Anderson (reluctantly) came to realise that the projects he was developing for Harris would not come to fruition and gave up on the idea of directing Harris in Wuthering Heights – indeed after months of planning he never even got as far as casting a Cathy to Harris’ Heathcliff. The material relating to Wuthering Heights is part of a fascinating series of files detailing the various unrealised projects which Anderson attempted to produce including historical epics, noir remakes, literary adaptations and a sequel to his 1968 film If…. For those interested in the ‘what ifs’ of cinema history a chapter on Anderson’s unmade films can be found in the book Sights Unseen: Unfinished British Films.
Another great new addition to our Lindsay Anderson Archive arrived in Stirling this week in the form of an envelope containing eleven letters written by Anderson to Edmund Papst covering the years 1945-1948. Anderson met Papst while on military service with the Intelligence Corps in Delhi, India, in 1945 and kept in touch with him after the war. The seventy five pages of news, reviews and opinions that constitute these letters cover the period of Anderson’s return from India (including a stop-off in Palestine); his resumption of his studies at Wadham College, Oxford; his work, with Gavin Lambert and Peter Ericsson, on the film journal Sequence; and the beginnings of his filmmaking career in Wakefield with Sutcliffe Engineering Ltd.
The letters provide further information on a period of Anderson’s life that is not as well documented in the collection as his later years as a film director and complement the extensive diary entries he wrote at the time. Anderson writes about his plans for the future and the letters show him slowly moving towards a decision to commit to a career as a filmmaker. In April 1946 he writes:
“What about the future? I can think of no niche in society into which I could fit entirely pleasurably. O for an independent income! Or ten million pounds with which to make films.”
The lure of the cinema was hard to resist for Anderson. In another letter to Papst in June 1947 he noted that:
“I shouldn’t be surprised if, in the end, I tried to do something in films: it’s a pity in a way that one should be interested in them since they are so heartbreakingly commercialised – but devilishly attractive at the same time.”
A letter written in September 1945, when Anderson was on leave in the Tamil Nadu region of India, shows that his confidence in his artistic abilities wasn’t lacking:
“I have become implicated, rather foolishly, in a variety show which the local dramatic society are putting on next week: agonising to have to sit silently and watch the producer bungling everything when I could do it so brilliantly myself.”
On his return to England in 1946 Anderson sent detailed reviews of films and plays he had seen in London to Papst, who was at university in Cape Town, South Africa, at the time. In April 1946 he sent a review of a production of Henry IV Part I at the Old Vic in which he thought Ralph Richardson’s performance as Falstaff “not quite up to expectation.” Twenty five years later Anderson was directing Richardson on stage and screen, in Home at the Royal Court, and in the film O Lucky Man!