Tag Archives: Film

Priestley, Documentary, Realism and Democracy: conference 25 October

Priestley, Documentary, Realism and Democracy: open one-day conference sponsored by the J.B. Priestley Society.

9.45-17.00 West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds.  25 October 2014.

There is still time to book a place at this fascinating conference, which includes Special Collections staff among the speakers.

PRI8_1_11 27 closeIt is eighty years since the publication of J.B. Priestley’s English Journey . The book influenced a whole generation on its appearance and has since inspired numerous responses and sequels. This conference aims both to do justice to that impact and also to consider wider issues raised by the documentary and social-realistic work of Priestley and his contemporaries in the Thirties and Forties.  Alison Cullingford will introduce delegates to the Heinemann Scrapbook, which shows how the publisher whipped up interest in Priestley’s controversial comments on English cities (image above).  Martin Levy will explore belatedness and Priestley’s social philosophy.  Other speakers will cover aspects of cinema, Orwell, Muir, social fiction and Priestley’s wartime suspense stories.

To find out more and book your place, see the conference mini-website.

Download the Programme.  JBPS 2014 Conference Running Order

Download the Poster.  JBPS_Conference_Poster

They Came To A City: Priestley’s 1944 utopian film on show in Bradford

On Sunday 20 October 2013, the National Media Museum in Bradford and the J.B. Priestley Society will show a rare and fascinating film by J.B. Priestley.  Originally a 1943 play, They Came To A City was filmed in 1944 by the director Basil Dearden.  Experts Bill Lawrence, Michael Nelson and John Baxendale will lead a discussion about Priestley’s role in cinema, a comparatively little known aspect of his work.

They Came to a City (PG) + Talk: JB Priestley and Cinema

They Came To A City is part of the conversation that was going on throughout the Second World War in Britain: what should society be like after the War?   J.B. Priestley was deeply engaged in this debate.  He addressed these questions rather gently in his famed Postscripts and much more directly in his essential Out of the People.   He believed that new better ways of living could come out of the War, that the mistakes made after the First World War did not have to be repeated.

In the play and film, Priestley used the idea of a city whose society encapsulated his happy egalitarianism.   Nine characters, spanning Britain’s social classes (bank manager and his wife, a charlady, a plutocrat and so on), are allowed in for a day.  We don’t see the city itself, just their responses to it, which vary widely.  Each character must decide whether to stay or leave …

New! J.B. Priestley Archive Catalogue April 2013

We’ve just put the latest edition of the catalogue of the J.B. Priestley Archive online.

YMCA "On active service" letterhead from one of J.B. Priestley's letters home.

YMCA “On active service” letterhead from one of J.B. Priestley’s letters home.

Lots of new things and improvements in response to readers’ needs, including:

  • Enhanced section on Priestley’s unpublished scripts for books, plays, television and film.  These  include collaborations with Fred Hoyle and Iris Murdoch.  Lots of detail on the physical nature of the scripts e.g. amendments by Priestley.
  • More letters, notably Priestley’s incredible Great War letters from the trenches.
  • Detailed cataloguing of files on Priestley’s art collection, indexing the artists he collected.
  • Programmes, press cuttings and other responses to Priestley 2008-2012.   Definite revival of interest, encompassing several less well known plays, and from scholarly, political and literary angles.
  • Some sections renumbered for ease of use (don’t worry if you’re using the old numbers, we can cross-refer between them).

More on all the above in future blog posts!

Tober and the Tulpa

An intriguing link between J.B. Priestley and the comedian Norman Wisdom, who died earlier this week.

Tober and the Tulpa was a screenplay by J.B. Priestley and Jan de Hartog, written in the late 1940s (archive ref PRI 3/TOB).   It tells the story of lonely musician George Tober,  who learns how to create a magical companion, a Tulpa.  A Tulpa is a thought-form (apparently a Buddhist concept), which for George appears to be a beautiful woman.  It is actually an evil monster planning to destroy the world … the threat of the atomic bomb looms.   A classic plot, with some distinctively Priestley lines.  It reminds me of his experimental play Johnson over Jordan, in which an everyman has to face an ordeal, the  Tibetan tradition of bardo, an intermediate after-life state.

The script attracted interest.  In Margin Released (1962), Priestley discussed why he had done relatively little film work, mainly because he disliked the complexity, effort and time involved in getting films made.  The story of Tober and the Tulpa illustrates this.  “For some years it was always about to be made, that film, by somebody or other … every six months or so, I would find myself having lunch with or giving drinks to a new visitor from the studios, crazy, he would announce, about doing Tober and the Tulpa“.

One of those enthusiasts was Norman Wisdom: the J.B. Priestley Archive includes a 1963 letter in which he was offered an option on the film rights.   Wisdom’s interest in this film (sometimes retitled Adam and Evil) appears in press coverage throughout the rest of his life, even into his 95th year.

A film script would be constantly reworked as years went by and different producers became involved.  We see a little of how this might have happened for Tober in a typescript sheet kept with the screenplay, outlining the scenes in need of updating.  We think the sheet probably dates from the 1960s, around the time when Norman Wisdom became involved.  It includes such gems as “Restaurant – if kept, different dialogue because of food being available now”, i.e. no more rationing, and a radical change of scene at the end: “Perhaps make climax here an airport”.

(Thanks to John Brooker for his help with this post!)

Congratulations to Tom Priestley

I am delighted that the University of Bradford is to award an honorary degree to Tom Priestley, son of J.B. Priestley.  We are honouring him for his efforts in bringing JB’s writings to new audiences.  We are also celebrating his distinguished career as a film editor, a nice link with Bradford City of Film.  Tom will receive the award from the Chancellor at the graduation ceremony in the afternoon of 21 July 2010.

Full text of my Oration for the award of Honorary Degree to Tom Priestley 21 July 2010.  The oration is a formal part of the degree ceremony, in which the person proposing the candidate for the honorary degree explains to the Chancellor why the honour is deserved.  This one tells Tom’s story and shows how we value his contributions to film, theatre and literature.

University awards web pages, including live feed during the ceremony.  Sorry, feed probably not available afterwards.

Photo of Tom in his robes with family and friends before the ceremony

Photo of the new Dr Priestley saying a few words at the ceremony

Interview with Tom showing him being robed and looking at materials in the J.B. Priestley Archive.

Potential Graduates online

Students in 1969, from undergraduate prospectus.

Students in 1969, from undergraduate prospectus.

A much-loved piece of the University of Bradford’s history is now available online for free.  The film, “Potential Graduate” was made by the Audio-Visual Unit between 1968 and 1970 to attract potential students.  It focuses on the new campus, and the range of sporting and social activities available to students.  It gives a wonderful insight into the University, the campus, student life, and how Bradford looked then.   Thanks to Heritage Lottery funding, the Yorkshire Film Archive is making this film available online, along with 21 hours of other fantastic footage from all over Yorkshire.

To see the film, search “Potential Graduate” on the YFA online project website.

Priestley’s Lost City

Delighted to discover that “Lost City”, J.B. Priestley’s 1958 film revisiting the sites of his Bradford boyhood, is available to view on the BBC website.  This film is essential viewing for anyone interested in Priestley’s relationship with his Bradford past, but has been very difficult to access.  We don’t have a copy in the Priestley Archive!


Bradford: City of Film

Some very exciting news for the City of Bradford and, of course, for the University: Bradford has been announced as UNESCO’s first city of film.  The University’s staff and students played an important role in bringing this honour to the city.

Our press release about the University’s involvement

The Bradford City of Film website

The Special Collections do include some historic films, but our particular interest in this news will be in working with University and other film-makers to make creative use of all kinds of collections, both digital and analogue.