British Universities Film & Video Council

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Gerald Fountaine Sanger


23 May 1898
7 October 1981
Newsreels / Cinemagazines
British Movietone News
Search for all stories where Gerald Fountaine Sanger is credited
There is a photograph of Sanger in Kinematograph Weekly, 14/11/1935, supplement p.11, and another in the issue for 12/1/1939, p.45.


Gerald Sanger was educated at Oxford and served in the Royal Marine Artillery from 1917 to 1919. In 1921 he became Private Secretary to Esmond Harmsworth of Associated Newspapers, but in 1929 left to become the first editor of British Movietone News. Associated Newspapers had a 49% shareholding in Movietone, and Sanger was their nominee, whilst Fox, which owned 51%, nominated Sir Gordon Craig [qv] as general manager. Sanger was in overall control of the newsreel, but shared the actual editing and the writing of commentaries with Ivan Scott [qv], and a number of specialist commentators. Sanger retained close links with Associated Newspapers, and in September 1929 was featured presenting prizes in the Daily Mail ‘LOVELIEST CHILDREN IN GT. BRITAIN’ competition in British Movietone News No.16.

As an editor Sanger was on the political right, and supported the Conservative Party. In October 1931 British Movietone News No.124 included an item entitled ‘BRITAIN’S DESTINY AT THE BALLOT BOXES...GENERAL ELECTION 1931,' which included film of Arthur Henderson speaking at Burnley. The reel declared that ‘British Movietone News...does not identify itself with the views of any one leader or party,' but Sanger delightedly informed the Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, that the film of Henderson ‘demonstrated the feebleness of the official Labour programme, and as such, was an extremely welcome item.' In the following issue, No.124A of October 1931, Sanger included a speech by Sir John Simon, noting privately that its inclusion was ‘propaganda, pure and simple, for the National Government.' Despite this closeness Sanger resisted direct government interference, arguing in 1932 ‘that newsreel editors should censor their own work by eliminating anything which in their opinion is not in the public interest.' However, Sanger interpreted public interest as support for the government, arguing that, with the recent hunger marches, ‘the exhibition of the pictures showing the clashes which took place in Hyde Park will undoubtedly exacerbate the situation, and it is for this reason that the editors of British Newsreels either forbore to cover the subject or to release such pictures as they obtained.'

In April 1935, as part of a redesign of British Movietone News, Sir Malcolm Campbell [qv] was made nominal editor, in an attempt to give the newsreel what Sanger called ‘star value.' Sanger himself was now described as ‘producer’ of the newsreel, but he retained full editorial control. In September 1935 the New Statesman claimed that under Sanger and Campbell the British Movietone News was moving further to the right, adopting a pro-Hitler stance, but in November 1935 Sanger declared ‘that ‘British Movietone News’ never has and never will abuse its influence as a news publishing medium to distort the significance of events or to give them propagandist flavour.' In the same month Sanger was shown casting his vote in ‘POLLING SCENES IN TOWN AND COUNTRY’ in British Movietone News No.337, and few in the industry can have doubted the way he was voting. In 1936 Sanger became a director of British Movietonews Ltd., and the reel’s political bias was again criticised during the Spanish Civil War, when the World Film News described ‘the Rothermere-controlled British Movietonews’ as biased towards the right-wing rebels in its use of language. A specific example was ‘ANTI-RED ADVANCE IS PUSHING REFUGEES OVER INTO FRANCE’ which appeared in British Movietone News No.379A of September 1936. Sanger consistently argued against any form of political censorship of the newsreels, but remained a strong advocate of self-censorship in support of the status quo.

In May 1937, when the Duke of Windsor married Wallace Simpson, there was thus a meeting of newsreel editors at the British Movietone News offices, involving Sanger, R.S. Howard [qv] of Gaumont British News, Cecil Snape [qv] of Universal News, Louis Behr [qv] of Pathe Gazette, and G.T. Cummins [qv] of Paramount. They agreed not to run the story, Sanger announcing that ‘it was felt that to release films of the wedding might reawaken painful emotions and even lead to invidious demonstrations in the theatres.' Sanger still insisted that he was not editor but ‘producer’ of the British Movietone News, ‘which means that I am ultimately responsible for producing the news-reel in a state ready to be shown on the screens of the country.' However, by September 1937 it was publicly accepted that Sanger was ‘the power behind the Movietone throne,' and that, as the World Film News expressed it, Campbell’s role as editor was ‘practically nominal.' In November 1937 Sanger was credited with writing the ‘TRIBUTE OF REMEMBRANCE’ for ‘Armistice Day 1937’ in British Movietone News No.441, and he produced similar items for 1938 and 1939.

Early in 1939 Sanger planned the evacuation of Movietone’s editorial staff to Denham in the event of war, working with his assistant editor Tommy Scales [qv] and Pat Sunderland [qv], Movietone’s chief sound engineer. This was successfully carried out in September 1939, but they returned to Soho Square after producing just sixteen issues. Sanger continued as editor of Movietone during the war, although he later recalled that ‘my main undertaking, apart from filling in for Tommy Scales occasionally and keeping a watchful eye on our production activities generally, was to attend to the making of short films, in conjunction with Raymond Perrin [qv] and Peter Whale [qv], for various government sponsors.' During the war Sanger argued in favour of showing controversial images, claiming that ‘it would be very wrong and misleading of newsreels to present a picture of war from which all its realism was deliberately suppressed.' Sanger was shown talking to the Queen in ‘PRINCESS ELIZABETH’ in British Movietone News N.776A of April 1944. Sanger was also in the Home Guard, and featured in ‘HOME-GUARD STAND-DOWN’ in British Movietone News No.805 of November 1944. In the same year he became a director of Associated Newspapers Ltd., which strengthened his association with the Daily Mail. In March 1946 Sanger appeared in the report on the Daily Mail ‘BRITISH FILM FESTIVAL’ in British Movietone News No.874A, and in May 1947 he appeared in the report of the ‘DAILY MAIL FILM AWARDS’ in British Movietone News No.935. Sanger also featured with Lord Rothermere in the report of the launch of the ‘NEW SCOTTISH DAILY MAIL’ in British Movietone News No.914 of December 1946, and in March 1948 he was shown shaking hands with the Queen at the Daily Mail ‘IDEAL HOME EXHIBITION’ in British Movietone News No.979.

Reg Sutton [qv] who joined Movietone in 1946, remembered Sanger as ‘a real gentleman.' The Chairman of his local Conservative Association, Sanger was also Honorary Production Adviser to the Conservative and Unionist Films Association from 1948 to 1959. Before the 1949 General Election there were complaints that the newsreels were working against the Labour Government, and that British Movietone News had actually made a film for Conservative Central Office. Sanger replied that the newsreels had no political bias, and that the production was merely ‘an instructional film commissioned by the Conservative Central Office for the instruction of Party Agents and workers.' The cameraman on the project was Norman Fisher [qv]. Sanger remained as editor of British Movietone News until 1954, when he returned to Associated Newspapers as administrative director. In 1955 Sanger became a director of Television Corporation Ltd. (Sydney), and by 1956 at least was director of the television production company Future Productions Ltd. He was also a director of the Daily Mail Trust.


J. Gammie ‘Better newsreels campaign’. Film Weekly, 11/11/1932, p.11: Kinematograph Weekly, 5/7/1934, p.23, ‘Newsreels co-operate’: G. Roberts ‘News-Reels,' New Statesman, 7/9/1935, pp.304-5: G. F. Sanger ‘Star Values in News,' Kinematograph Weekly, 14/11/1935, supplement p.11: World Film News, October 1936, p.41, ‘Newsreels Show Political Bias’: Motion Picture Herald, 12/6/1937, p.54, ‘Duke of Windsor’s wedding films banned in Britain by ‘agreement’': World Film News, July 1937, p.29, ‘Newsreel Rushes’; September 1937, p.32, ‘Newsreel Rushes: A Wide-open Letter to Mr. Gerald Sanger’: G. Sanger ‘How News-Reels Are Made,' Listener, 23/2/1938, p.421: G. F. Sanger ‘Freedom for the newsreel!' Kinematograph Weekly, 12/1/1939, p.45: G. F. Sanger ‘A news reel man’s conscience,' Sight & Sound, Summer 1941, pp.22-3: The Times, 19/9/1944, p.5, ‘News Reels’ [letter from Sanger]: G. Sanger ‘The Story of British Movietone News in the War Years,' c.1946, copy in BUFVC: Tribune, 5/8/1949, pp.l-2, ‘Beware of the newsreels’: G. F. Sanger ‘Beware of the newsreels,' Tribune, 12/8/1949, p.14: P. Noble (ed) ‘British Film and Television Year Book 1956/57’ (London, 1956), pp.270, 408: T.J. Hollins ‘The Conservative Party and Film Propaganda between the Wars,' English Historical review, April 1981, pp.359-69: L. Pontecorvo ‘The British Newsreel Companies: Staffing 1910-45,' in J. Ballantyne (ed) ‘Researcher’s Guide to British Newsreels’ (BUFVC, 1983), p.86: Who Was Who CD-ROM.

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