What became of SOLDIERS WITHOUT UNIFORM (1941) ?

Open, general discussion of classic sound-era films, personalities and history.
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todmichel
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What became of SOLDIERS WITHOUT UNIFORM (1941) ?

Unread post by todmichel » Wed Dec 20, 2017 9:25 am

Now, this is a REAL mystery.

This featurette was - apparently - never distributed anywhere.
Several films of the same title were produced, one in Australia, another in Russia, etc. but were totally different projects.
However, the existence of this British production is absolutely certain, as it was submitted to the BBFC for certificate on Dec. 16, 1941. It got an "U", without cuts.
According to BBFC, the running time was 33mins 19secs. (2,999 ft)
The producer was Widgey R. Newman, who died some months later. As a director, Newman produced the two first British horror features in the early 1930s (one of them under the pseudonym "R.W. Lotinga"). So i's quite possible that he also directed "Soldiers Without Uniform", the BBFC has no information on this point.
The production company was Associated Independent Producers of Great-Britain, Ltd.
I first heard of this featurette in the book "British Sound Fims 1928-1959" by David Quinlan. As a featurette it got only a short mention, with the words "starring Tod Slaughter".
I wrote to Mr. Quinlan but he was unable to give me other informations. However, in another of his books upon British Character Actors, the same title appeared in the credits of two of them, Ellen Pollock and Ian Fleming.
Mrs Pollock was a stage & screen actress ("Horror Hospital", etc.) but also runned a little "Antiquities" shop in a gallery in London, I asked her if she remembered it, and the fact that Tod Slaughter was also in the featurette, but apparently she didn't remember anything, and argued that her first encounter with Tod was one or two years later, on stage, when both of them appeared in a famous series of Grand-Guignol plays...
Curiously, the late Denis Gifford knew absolutely nothing about this film neither, and in fact it's not mentioned (under any title) in his famous "British Film Catalogue". He was interested by my letter and was planning to make some research but died before.
Later, in a very short notice about this featurette in the US magazine "Billboard" I found another name to add to the cast: Margaret Yarde, who also was in two other Tod Slaughter films, "The Face at the Window" and "Crimes at the Dark House".
According to Billboard, the film, then in production, was treating of "sabotage in Nazi-oppressed lands".
So it COULD have been a kind of propaganda film (but apparently with some screenplay), and I wrote to War Film Archives with no result.
According to BBFC, it was scheduled for distribution by General Film Distributors.
When this company ended, their stock became the property of Rank.
So I also wrote to Rank and they were totally unaware of "Soldiers Without Uniform"

Apparently this movie disappeared from Earth's surface. Totally.

moviepas
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Re: What became of SOLDIERS WITHOUT UNIFORM (1941) ?

Unread post by moviepas » Thu Dec 21, 2017 4:10 am

Wow!!!! You have found a mystery. I have done a good check around and nothing and it is not in Margaret Yarde's filmography. She died in 1944 aged 65. Many of her films do exist but not the several she made in the 1930s for Warner Bros(Teddington) Studios. The Warner destruction(believed to be around 1970 according to Leonard Maltin but could also have happened in early 1945 when the studio complex was V2 rocket rained on. The Australian film was made by an independent producer, Charles Chauvel(I knew his daughter's son who screened film in Queensland/Australia and did not believe in non-film formats), who produced the first film Errol Flynn appeared(1933) but Flynn's next film made at Teddington is on the list of most wanted to find. That 1944 Australian film survives in various 35mm reels and was about 1000 feet or 10mins.

GFD or General Film Distributors was founded in 1935 by a British film pioneer(CM Woolf) and within 2 years J Arthur Rank and another talked Woolf into folded this new business into Ranks's new film company that included Gaumont British and new studios at Pinewood which still exist. GFD was used as a name for Rank products and others like some Ealing films or about 20 years. Rank often financed other people's films like Ealing Films.

It surprises me that nothing appears under Widgey R Newman for this title at the British Film Institute Collections listings. Loads of stuff does(may not all be to do with him) but unlike titles attributed to Margaret Yarde. many don't seem to exist in the archives.

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todmichel
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Re: What became of SOLDIERS WITHOUT UNIFORM (1941) ?

Unread post by todmichel » Fri Dec 22, 2017 5:01 pm

Thank you for your detailed answer ! What became of this featurette really remains a mystery. The presence of Margaret Yarde in a Widgey Newman short is not too surprising as I have a video of another of his titles and she is in it as well. However, I don't have the David Quinlan book at hand, I just consulted it in a movie library in Paris, and it's in this book that I found the title "Soldiers Without Uniform" among the credits for Ian Fleming and Ellen Pollock. So of course I added them to my (very) short cast list. It's only much later that I found the name of Margaret Yarde among the players, in the archives of BILLBOARD in line.
Thank you for the information about GFD and Rank.
The movie career of Tod Slaughter has some mysteries, even if he made a limited number of movies. One of his features is lost (Darby and Joan, 1937), another is sometimes listed but was never made (The Vengeance of Magnus Vann, mentioned in the 1946 edition of The British Fim Yearbook of Peter Noble, but not in the following editions), only 7 of the 13 episodes of his 1952 TV series "Inspector Morley, Late of Scotland Yard, Investigates" were shown in UK, not on TV but in theaters in the form of two features and one featurette - but the entire series WAS shown in USA on WGN-TV, and perhaps others, in 1954/55 - and I have one of the titles never shown in England on video, and so on !

moviepas
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Joined: Tue Jan 19, 2010 12:51 am

Re: What became of SOLDIERS WITHOUT UNIFORM (1941) ?

Unread post by moviepas » Sat Dec 23, 2017 3:14 am

Thanks. Happy to help. Mysteries happen so often. I assume you have looked at the Archive,org film magazine scans. There is lots of odd stuff there. One example for.

In one for 1932 or 33 I saw that Columbia US was to make a film called Phar Lap but it was never made. Phar Lap was a New Zealand horse who was shipped to Australia and was a champion and won the famed Melbourne Cup in 1930. He had been housed in a stables not far from my home and I see that street everytime I travel by train to the city from my home. His strapper, Tommy Woodcock lived in later years in a suburb close to my home and my dad fixed his TV. The horse died in 1932 suspected of being poisoned in USA. Being so famous I guess prompted Columbia to plan a film but it was not until 1983 that a film called that was made and released in Australia. They stuffed the body and it is on display in our major city museum in Melbourne and the heart is preserved in our national capital, Canberra. Woodcock in later years admitted it was his fault the horse died. Another is the 1946 The Yearling(MGM in Technicolor). This was planned for a black and white film with a different cast before the war started and never happened then. I have an MGM short c1939 which focuses on films MGM made or was making based on famous novels and The Yearling was one of them. Title changes are another. Judy Garland made a film before she died called I Could Go On Singing(1963). I have a trailer that film that appears on discs formats as The Lonely Stage. Somewhere along the line they decided to change the name after the trailer was made. And so it goes on.Forces Sweetheart, Vera Lynn(now over 100)msde three films in WW2. I have them all in a box set. One has the release title on the cover but the film has the USA release title because the only copy of the film survived in USA but as things were then it was missing about 10mins from the British release footage that we have to accept now. Research can be fun and rewarding but at the same time very frustrating.

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