By Jaume Giró.
I am a former media student and for many years I have been researching the history and films of the former film studio, Welwyn Studios. The studio was based in my home town of Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, and during the time when the building operated as a film studio, between 1928 to 1950, the Welwyn Studios were involved in the production of a variety of many different feature films and documentary films.
Many of these have become highly regarded classic examples of British filmmaking, such as Brighton Rock, Cottage on Dartmoor and the Secrets of Nature documentary film series. Several key figures in British cinema such as Alfred Hitchcock, Richard Attenborough, Alec Guinness, Anthony Asquith, Rex Harrison and Roger Moore worked in films made at the studio. It is said that the last silent film to be made in Britain, Chamber of Horrors, was made at Welwyn Studios 1929.
At the moment, I am trying to produce a website about the sadly forgotten Welwyn Studios and am also trying to raise the profile of its films, especially in Welwyn Garden City, so that this important piece of our town’s and of Britain’s cinema history is remembered. I am currently very involved in researching this website, searching through old periodicals, books, archive photos and documents, watching DVDs etc.
In my research, I have discovered some information about a short documentary film that was made by Welwyn Studios in 1941 called The Team, and which apparently starred the Arsenal football team of the time. This short wartime film was made for the Ministry of Information with the aim of helping to encourage people to work together as a team.
I discovered a review of this film in a 1941 edition of Documentary Newsletter, and this review describes the film’s content:
Documentary Newsletter, 1941
NEW DOCUMENTARY FILMS
- The Team. Production: Welwyn Garden Studios.
- Uion: Leslie Arliss and Norman Lee.
- Cameras; W. Hervey and R. Anscombe. M.O.L
- 5 minutes.
DID you ever think how much a five-minute film like The Team costs you? Making the film, cost of copies, distributing them and a proportion of the Film Division overheads come roughly to £4,000. Making an allowance for people who go to the cinema twice a week — 12 million people see it. So it costs you a penny to show the film to thirteen people.
Which is not bad. The only reason you don’t get your money’s worth is that a lot of cinemas don’t show the films. Especially the big circuits.
The Team is well worth thirteen for a penny even though its theme, “It all depends on me” is the most meaningless slogan of the whole war. Could anyone involved in the war read it and take it seriously? Could anyone say it out loud? . . . No! It is the kind of chant that might be sung in the snug valleys of Devon and Cornwall.
Leslie Arliss and Norman Lee have made a film that almost makes “It all depends on me” mean something. A crowd of boys are playing football with shovings and trippings. George Allison stops and tells them they must work together and not all try to get goals. Then he shows them an Arsenal game which makes you remember the pleasure to be had out of watching I game, with 80 or 90 thousand other people. It’s a pity our slogan-spouters didn’t go to football matches before the war. If they had they might have been able to make slogans that meant something to people, and were not curates” duckings to a Band of Hope.
The film ends with all sorts of people saying “And me”, “And me”, “And me”.
Without even considering the disadvantages of its subject, it is a good solid film associated with people, not preaching, not priggish.
I would like to know if you have any information about this film and its making. Also, although the Documentary Newsletter article states that Arsenal football club features in the film, (as does the then manager of the club, George Allison), I would like to know what parts of it were shot at Welwyn Studios. I would be grateful if you could also find the time to answer the following questions about it:
- What information/materials about The Team do you have in your archive (scans of books, old photos, documents, archive interview material etc.)?
- How did Arsenal Football Club become involved in the making of this film?
- Did George Allison and the Arsenal football team actually visit Welwyn Studios to make The Team?
- Do you have any information about how the film was made, (when and where filming took place, what role the Ministry of Information played during filming etc.)?
- What did George Allison and the Arsenal team think about their experiences of making The Team?
- Had the Arsenal team members that appear in The Team already been called up for military service during the war? If so, did they have to get special permission to be able to appear in this film?
- Do you know if any military personnel visited Welwyn Studios or Highbury stadium to work on The Team?
- Where would The Team have been shown to audiences?
- Do you have any information about how audiences of the time reacted to The Team?
- It is said that the Arsenal manager George Allison spotted a young Welwyn Garden City player, Tommy Southren while making The Team. Do you have any information about this?
I am particularly fascinated by Welwyn Studios activities during the war, and I would be so grateful to you for any help that you could give me in researching this period of its history. As I am sure you can understand, I want my website to be as comprehensive and as accurate as possible, which is why I am so desperate to find out more about The Team, as there seems to be so little information about its making. I would, of course, clearly and most gratefully acknowledge any contribution that you and your website would be able to make to my website.
I would be grateful for ANY help that you could give me with my research. I thank you for taking the time to read this letter, and for any time and effort that you take in dealing with my enquires. I look forward to your response.