Cinema Goes to War - British Films and Their Impact 1939-45

Ref: C3742919

With the advent of war against Nazi Germany in 1939, British film was enlisted to play a vital role in keeping up morale on the Home Front. Cinemas which were initially closed, were quickly re-opened. Both official and commercial filmmakers were enlisted to take the battle to the "Silver Screen." Many did so producing work with the poetic force and dramatic intensity which belied their propaganda purposes. Hollywood too played its part in depicting an heroic image of Britain At War for its audiences. Former BBC correspondent, Paul Legg, relates this fascinating story using a wide range of extracts from the key films.

Course aim

This course shows how British cinema, with a little help from Hollywood, waged the propaganda war against the Nazis. Former BBC journalist, Paul Legg, illustrates with extensive film extracts.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Describe why the British government thought that cinema could play an important part in the war effort and name three key directors from the official film-making team.
  • Give examples of three of the main commercial directors who came to prominence during the period and be able to list some of their output.
  • Explain how the propaganda films varied their depiction of Germany and the Germans during the course of the war and give three examples of this.
  • Comment on the role played by Hollywood and films with an historic theme and name three examples of such output.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning
  • You will be encouraged to consider other students work and give your opinions and suggestions

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful
  • Suggested reading: "The British at War: Cinema, State and Propaganda 1939-45" by James Chapman (I.B. Taurus) "Britain Can Take It: British Cinema in the Second World War" by Anthony Aldgate and Jeffrey Richards (I.B.Taurus).

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Become involved as a volunteer for a WEA partner or another organisation

Download full course information sheet

Cinema Goes to War - British Films and Their Impact 1939-45


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