British Universities Film & Video Council

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Edward V.H. Emmett ("Ted")

Profile

Born
17 June 1901
Death
7 June 1971
Dates
1929-1959
Role
Commentator; Film editor
Newsreels / Cinemagazines
Gaumont Sound News; Gaumont British News; Look at Life
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Notes
There is a photograph of Emmett in Kinematograph Weekly, 26/11/1936, advertisement ‘Gaumont-British News: E. V. H. Emmett: the man behind the voice’.

Career

Ted Emmett originally ‘trained for the stock exchange,' before joining the silent Gaumont Graphic as a cutter. Emmett transferred to the Gaumont Sound News on its launch in 1929, and reportedly ‘was sent out on one of the earliest sound stories ‘just to point out the important items’ via the microphone.' His first commentary, as Roy Drew [qv] recalled, was for a story on Princess Elizabeth’s birthday presents in April 1930. His humorous comments were very well received, and eventually Emmett became both the film editor and commentator of the Gaumont Sound News. This put him in a unique position, and in 1937 the strength of the newsreel - now called the Gaumont British News - was put down to the fact that ‘the entire make up of the reel, the cutting, commentating and re-recording is under the control of the commentator Emmett’. Emmett’s commentating style was praised by a rival as fast and sophisticated, and his voice as ‘light, witty, tongue-in-cheek.' In December 1937, in a review of newsreel commentators, the World Film News called him the ‘most famous of Britain’s voices’: ‘His style is a rather dull monotone, livened by a natural wit that must be almost unique, and puts him in the world class as a laugh raiser.' The paper added that Emmett’s control of cutting was ‘the secret of his invariably perfect comedy timing,' but there is no doubt that overall editorial control remained with R. S. Howard [qv].

Emmett also wrote the script for the film ‘The Gap’ (G-B Instructional, 1937), which depicted the bombing of London and was sponsored by the government as recruiting publicity for the Territorial Army. The first British Technicolor film, Wings of the Morning (1937), features an extended close up sequence of E. V. H Emmett commentating on the crowds at Derby Day. He commentates in a "newsreel" style over images of bookies, wealthy racegoers and gypsies, "without whom Derby day would not be Derby Day". Credited as E. V. H Emmett (courtesy of Gaumont British News) at the start of the film and at the end of the film as E. W. H Emmett. He also appeared in front of the camera, in August 1938 recording an interview for a local edition of Gaumont British News No.487. In August 1939 Emmett became involved in the first official propaganda film of the war, collaborating on the script of ‘The Lion Has Wings’ (London Films, 1939), and also acting as its narrator. He also was one of several commentators featured in Paul Rotha’s film about a post-WW2 global food policy, World of Plenty (1943). Emmett apparently left Gaumont British News in 1944, but he returned after the war. Gaumont British News was finally closed down in February 1959, but Emmett was announced as the commentator for a new weekly colour cinemagazine that replaced it, ‘Look at Life’.

Sources

World Film News, August 1936, p.41, ‘Personality - the Problem of Commentary,'; February 1937, pp.42-3, ‘Newsreel rushes by The Commentator’; December 1937, p.39, ‘Newsreel rushes: newsreel notes by The Commentator’: L. Pontecorvo ‘The British Newsreel Companies: Staffing 1910-45’ in J. Ballantyne (ed) ‘Researcher’s Guide to British Newsreels’ (BUFVC, 1983), p.94: K. Brownlow ‘David Lean’ (London, 1996), p.71: K. R. M. Short ‘Screening the Propaganda of British Air Power’ (Trowbridge, 1997), pp.3-5.

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