Jeffrey Richards / “8. Imperial Policy” / The Age of the Dream Palace: Cinema and Society in Britain, 1930-1939 / 1984

The British Board of Film Censors rejected a proposed remake of King of the Khyber Rifles in 1939.

1927, in the House of Commons, Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister, President of Board of Trade: “The cinema today is the most universal means through which national ideas and national atmosphere can be spread.” Winifred Holmes, 1936, Sight and Sound: “It is essential for the continued unity and goodwill of the Empire that more and better British films should be distributed everywhere and that films should add to England’s prestige and show more of her ideals and epic qualities than before.”

Nonetheless, government reluctant to get directly involved in a feature film production, and hostile to concept of positive propaganda. British producers like Alexander Korda and Michael Balton made several, however. Why? Paul Holt, Daily Express, 1938: “Patriotism goes with profit.” The imperial epics produced with cooperation of colonial authorities in India, Nigeria, and the Sudan. Winston Churchill was hired to script a Jubilee film on Alexander Korda’s payroll, about King George V [!!!]. Never made.

AMERICAN FILMS and DRINK. American films often banned in Empire. Imperial themes, miscegenation, etc. See The White Captive, 1931, jilted English doctor moves to Malayan Jungle, becomes drunkard. Censor Colonel Hanna: “The sight of a white man drifting to degradation through drink in native surroundings is always unpleasant and the amorous desire of a native to get possession of a white woman is almost, if not quite, a prohibitive theme.” 1939, remake of King of the Khyber Rifles submitted. Suggested eliminating scene of Captain Boyd drunk and fighting in the officers’ club. Colonel Hanna: “The story might be convincing, or perhaps plausible if the author was dealing with units of the American army, but the officers as here portrayed do not exist in the English army… The story in itself is not prohibitive, if this ridiculous caricaturing, for it is nothing else, of English officers is cut out.”

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