The First Days (1939)

This very accomplished documentary is an evocation of the spirit of London during the early days of WWII.

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Film details

Alternative titles

  • A City Prepares Alternative


Beginning with Chamberlain’s historic BBC radio announcement, the film records the way Londoners go about their business making preparations for the events that lie ahead.

Almost the last film to be produced by the General Post Office Film Unit before it moved to the Ministry of Information as the Crown Film Unit, The First Days was co-directed by three of the finest documentarists of the wartime period: Pat Jackson, Harry Watt and Humphrey Jennings.

Although the film is made up of a patchwork of styles – from the plainly explanatory to beautifully impressionistic – it is the influence of Jennings that is most easily recognisable. Not only a filmmaker, but also a poet, artist and designer, Jennings had a remarkable eye for capturing the sights and sounds of wartime Britain. These skills were honed in his later films such as Listen to Britain (1942).

Cast & Credits

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