Auden: the film, the poem, the murder


Some time ago we wrote about W.H. Auden on stage, in a new Broadway musical. But how many know of his work on film? David Collard writes in England’s Literary Review about Auden’s lifelong fascination with film. For six months from 1935 to 1936, Auden worked for the General Post Office Film Unit (GPO), which included the time that it produced Night Mail, the Citizen Kane, Coal Face, Negroes (released as God’s Chillun), and The Way to the Sea – “all four films featuring brilliant modernist scores by the young Benjamin Britten,” according to Collard. “No artists of comparable stature had collaborated so closely since 1691, when John Dryden and Henry Purcell worked together on the ‘dramatick opera’ King Arthur.” Collard also writes that GPO, “despite its prosaic-sounding title, was for five years the most exciting, innovative and progressive cultural project in Britain, staffed by a dazzling cohort of international talents. In a short-lived flurry of commitment to the cause, Auden also lectured on film, wrote reviews, provided subtitle renderings of Russian peasant folk songs for Dziga Vertov‘s Three Songs of Lenin, and collaborated on various other projects, even appearing in front of the camera (disguised as a department store Father Christmas in Evelyn Spice‘s spirited Calendar of the Year).”

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