The Perse School
 

Humphrey Jennings (1924)

Biography

Humphrey Jennings (1907-50) was a documentary filmmaker. His work Pandaemonium, 1660–1886: The Coming of the Machine as Seen by Contemporary Observers was the inspiration for part of the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.

After graduating from Pembroke College, Cambridge with a starred First Class degree in English, he started post-graduate study on the poet Thomas Gray, which he left to pursue more creative industries. Jennings was a photographer, painter and theatre designer before joining the GPO Film Unit in 1934.

Whilst most of his works were short films of a mainly patriotic nature, he made a feature length film Fires Were Started in 1943. This film, about the work of the Auxiliary Fire Service in London, blurs the lines between fiction and documentary because the scenes are re-enactments. It is considered a classic of the genre by film makers.

Alongside his film work, Jennings edited texts for Mass Observation and the London Bulletin. Inspired by one ‘collection of texts on the Impact of the Machine’, he was offered a contract to write a book. Jennings had almost completed this work by the time of his death in 1950. It was published posthumously in 1985 as Pandaemonium, 1660-1886: The Coming of the Machine as Seen by Contemporary Observers.

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