Book Archive


The British Film Catalogue by Denis Gifford

In some countries film buffs have it easy. If they want to know which films were made in their country and when, there's a central register they can consult. Take America for example. Any film maker who wants to copyright their film must register it with the Library of Congress. 

In Britain it's not been so easy. During the run of the quota and its successors such as the Eady Levy, films were registered with the Board of Trade, but there are large chunks of film history not covered by these periods. Denis Gifford, script writer and film buff,  set out to rectify this oversight by cataloguing every film made in this country.

The first edition was published in 1973. Now we're on to the third with the added bonus of a second volume listing the non-fiction films. These take the story up to 1994. Sadly, Denis Gifford died last year so he didn't live to see this volume come off the presses.

These volumes come with a hefty price tag so what do you get for your money? A total of 1600 pages with each film listed chronologically. Here's a typical entry from November 1933:

08260 Catalogue number
ROME EXPRESS (94) (A) Title, running time, certificate
reissue: 1940 (IFR) reissue date, distributor
Gaumont production co, distributor
p     Michael Balcon producer
d     Walter Forde director
s     Clifford Grey story

sc    Clifford Grey, Sidney Gilliat, Frank Vosper, Ralph Stock

screenplay

Esther Ralston ................. Asta Marvelle

Conrad Veidt ............................... Zurta

Joan Barry ...........................Mrs Maxted

Harold Huth .................................Grant

Gordon Harker .....................Tom Bishop

Cedric Hardwicke ...........Alastair McBane

Donald Calthrop ............................Poole

Hugh Williams ...............................Tony

Frank Vosper ..........................Insp. Jolif

Muriel Aked ..............................Spinster

Eliot Makeham ................................Mills

Finlay Currie .............................Publicist

main cast list
Crime Blackmailed film star helps crooks steal painting aboard continental train. Genre, brief plot summary

Of course, for a film as well-known as Rome Express this information is available elsewhere. The Catalogue comes into its own with the obscure films and shorts. A casual browse will uncover lots of little facts and I've already used it to settle several nagging queries.

Since most filmographies don't include shorts (this site included) you can come across some intriguing combinations of talent. How about the 1934 film Inasmuch with Donald Wolfit and Greer Garson (Religion: Guide captain reads about St Francis to her troop) or George King directing Laurence Olivier in the 1930 film Too Many Crooks (Comedy: Broke playboy lets flat, burgles it, and catches spy)?

Volume 2 throws up some fascinating (and not so fascinating) films. Here are some of the delights that awaited 1957 audiences. Silver Paperland (Processing scrap silver paper into ingots), Land of Laughter (Limbo dancing in Trinidad), The Land of Bengal (Jute around the world), Henry Moore - A Sculptor's Landscape (Interpretation of the sculptor's work), Men on the Mend (British Rail's injured employees).  

The price probably puts it out of the reach of the casual reader, but any serious researcher into British films should have a copy on their shelf. If your main library doesn't have a copy, ask them why.

The British Film Catalogue Vol 1

The British Film Catalogue Vol 2

Pub: Fitzroy Dearborn

ISBN: 1 - 57958 - 199 - 4 (vol. 1)

       : 1 - 57958 - 200 - 4 (vol. 2)

       : 1 - 57958 - 171 - 4 (the set)

Price: 120 (vol. 1), 75 (vol. 2), 185 $275(the set)

The British Film Catalogue Vol 1: from Amazon UK

The British Film Catalogue Vol 2: from Amazon UK

or Amazon US