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The Whitman of the Blitz

Humphrey Jennings was a unique filmmaker whose personal and innovative work captured the spirit of the home front. So why isn’t he a household name?

By Kevin Jackson   185

Humphrey Jennings’s Fires Were Started (1943): one of the director’s wartime masterpieces

It is now more than half a century since Lindsay Anderson asserted that film director Humphrey Jennings (1907-1950) was “the only true poet” of British cinema. Yet very few of those who care about such matters would find the sentiment outdated. To be sure, there are now some additional contenders for those poetic garlands: Derek Jarman, Bill Douglas, Terence Davies—perhaps even Lindsay Anderson himself. But admiration for any or all of these talents should not lessen our regard for Humphrey Jennings’s magnificent accomplishment, which has been summed up…

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