Humphrey Jennings was born in 1907 in Suffolk. After getting a First at Cambridge he drifted through a number of arty jobs. He was involved, with his friends poets Paul Eluard and André Breton in staging the first Surrealist exhibition in Britain, in which he also exhibited his own surrealist paintings and photos. He was also one of the founding members, along with Tom Harrison and Charles Madge, of the anthropological movement Mass Observation.
He joined GPO Film Unit, then under John Grierson, in 1934. The GPO Film Unit became the Crown Film Unit in 1940, a movie-making propaganda arm of the Ministry of Information.
His films are inclusively patriotic in sentiment and very English in their sensibility, such as: London Can Take It! (1940), Fires Were Started (1943), A Diary for Timothy (1945), or Family Portrait (his last completed film, 1950). Probably Jennings' best remembered short film is Listen to Britain (1942). Excerpts from it are often seen in other documentaries about wartime.
Throughout his life Jennings also worked on his great anthology on the Industrial Revolution and the human imagination. "Pandaemonium" a monumental achievement, was finally published in 1985.
Jennings died in 1950 in Greece from a cliff fall while researching his next film.
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