film auden


For some six months in 1935–6, W. H. Auden was employed by the General Post Office (GPO) Film Unit on a modest salary of £3 a week, even less than he had made in his previous job as a schoolmaster. (His friend and collaborator Christopher Isherwood, by contrast, would soon be earning £200 a month working for Alexander Korda at Shepperton Studios.) For this whole period Auden would be intensively and productively engaged – as scriptwriter, assistant director, lecturer, writer and, on one occasion, in front of the camera, dressed as a department store Father Christmas. Harry Watt, the co-director of Night Mail, the most celebrated product of Auden’s time in the film industry, recalled him at work (in his memoir Don’t Look at the Camera): Auden sat down to write his verse . . . . He got a bare table at the end of a dark, smelly corridor. We were now bursting at the seams, and the last corner available was in what was inevitably called “the back passage”. It ran parallel with the theatre, where films were constantly being shown. At one end, a bunch of messenger boys played darts, wrestled, and brewed tea.

more from the TLS here.