Repositoryniversity Archives & Special Collections Centre
Ref NoTD
TitleThorold Dickinson Archive
DescriptionThe Thorold Dickinson Collection contains material relating to his work in Spain during the Civil War, for the Ministry of Information During the Second World War, for the United Nations, and for the Slade School of Film, as well as for organisations he was involved with, such as the Association of Cine Technicians and the American Film Institute, and events he was involved in, such as film festivals or conferences. It also contains material relating to unrealised projects, and Dickinson's personal papers.

The collection includes scripts, screenplays and treatments, notes, press cuttings, reports, letters, films programmes, teaching notes, and conference papers. It also includes an extensive collection of books and periodicals relating to different aspects of film making and film theory, as well as on poster design and the theatre.
CreatorDickinson, Thorold
Individual or organisational biographyThorold Dickinson (1903-1984), film-maker, editor, director, writer, producer, supervisor, and film-educator, was born in Bristol, 16 November, 1903. Dickinson attended Keble College, Oxford, but departed from his studies due to his growing interest in film. In the 1920s he began assisting the director George Pearson in various capacities, and gained a reputation for his strong editing techniques. His editing skills lead him to act as editor or editorial supervisor for other directors, including Basil Dean, Sinclair Hill, Carmine Gallone, and Carol Reed.

In 1934 Dickinson joined the Association of Cine-Technicians [ACT], in which he was a highly active member, shaping the newly formed union. He held the position of Vice-President of the ACT from 1936 to 1953, and created the journal of the ACT 'The Cine-Technician'.

In 1937 Dickinson directed his first film, 'The High Command' [Fanfare Pictures and Associated British Film Distributors], and in 1938 co-directed and co-edited two films with Sidney Cole, both relating to the Spanish Civil war: 'Spanish ABC: A Film Report of the Work of the Spanish Ministry of Public Instruction', and 'Behind the Spanish Line', both with the Progressive Film Institute.

In 1939 Dickinson directed 'The Arsenal Stadium Mystery' [G & S Films], set in the Arsenal Football Club Stadium in Highbury, London, and starred some of the 1939 Arsenal team, with the Arsenal manager, George Allison, taking a speaking role. The film was shot at Denham Film Studios, which might have influenced Dickinson's next project, a sequel to 'The Arsenal Stadium Mystery' entitled 'The Denham Studio Mystery', co-written by Dickinson and Donald Bull. The film got to the final stages of production in 1940, but was abandoned.

Dickinson went on to make 'Gaslight' in 1940 [British National Films], which, although a success in Britain, was not distributed in America. Instead, British National Films sold the rights of the film to MGM, who remade the film [starring Ingrid Bergman], destroying negatives of the original film.

During the Second World War, Dickinson was appointed by the Ministry of Information to make a series of propaganda films, and became the head of the Army Kinematograph Service (which he also founded). During this period he directed the feature film 'The Next of Kin', directed or supervised shorter films such as 'Westward Ho!', 'Miss Grant Goes to the Door', 'Yesterday Is Over Your Shoulder', 'Tank Tactics', and also aided in the production of Carol Reed's 'The New Lot'.

After the War, Dickinson made the film 'Men of Two Worlds in 1946 [Two Cities Films]. Then, in 1948 published his first book, 'Soviet Cinema', co-written with Catherine de la Roche, with Dickinson's contribution being on silent cinema. From here, he continued to direct films, including 'Secret People' in 1952 [Ealing Studios], which Sidney Cole produced. The film director, Lindsay Anderson, was on set for much of the filming, keeping a diary of events which he published as 'Making a Film: The Story of Secret People'. He also directed two films relating to the Israeli armed forces: 'The Red Ground' [1953, Israel Defence Forces] and 'Hill 24 Doesn't Answer' [1955, Sikor Films].

From 1956-1960 Dickinson was appointed as Chief of Film for the United Nations Department of Public Information, and moved to New York. During this period Dickinson supervised the making of various films for the department, including 'Out', 'Question in Togoland', 'Three of Our Children', 'Blue Vanguard' [all 1957]; 'Overture', 'Exposure', 'Pablo Casals Breaks His Journey', 'Big Day in Bogo', 'Power Among Men' [all 1958]; 'In Our Hands', 'A Scary Time', 'Workshop For Peace', 'Geneva 'Round the Clock' (Dateline: U.N.)', 'Paris Unesco (Dateline: U.N.)' [all 1959], and 'The Farmers of Fermathe' [1960].

On his return to England in 1960, Dickinson began working for the Film Department at UCL's Slade School of Art, where he spent ten years teaching an interdisciplinary film studies course, and became the first professor of film in the UK. It was during this period that Dickinson set up the British Universities Newsreels Database [BUND - now the BUFVC]. As a consequence of the courses he taught at Slade, Dickinson wrote his second book, 'A Discovery of Cinema' in 1971.

After leaving his post at Slade, Dickinson spent much of his time involved in projects relating to film education, and film as an educational resource. This involved promoting film archives and libraries, presenting papers, attending conferences, and actively being involved in the initial set-up of film-related organisations, such as the American Film Institute Centre for Advanced Film Studies in America, in which Dickinson was a special advisor. Dickinson also spent much of his time attending festivals and award ceremonies, often serving as a jury member at such events.

Dickinson died 14 April 1984, at his home in Berkshire.
Extent30 boxes, and approx. 3000 books and periodicals
Access ConditionsThe University Archives and Special Collections Centre is open Monday - Friday 1-5pm. It is advisable to book an appointment in advance.
Custodial HistoryThe collection went to Camberwell College of Arts in two parts in 1979 and in 1984. Camberwell College became a constituent part of the University of the Arts London in 2004, and the Dickinson collection relocated to the University's then newly built Archives and Special Collections Centre in 2008. Part of Dickinson's archives were originally donated to the British Film Institute, who house 56 boxes of his archives.
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