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Food Flashes

During World War 2 food was in short supply in Britain. Circulated by the British government's 'Ministry of Food' around 1944, the Food Flash encouraged thrift and creativity. From 1936, Cecil Hepworth was technical advisor and producer, National Screen Service and was responsible for many of these informational films. He wrote, directed and sometimes appeared in them. The BBC has a more information on rationing.


A colleague (can anyone name her?) wrote her reminiscences of making them:

How I met Cecil Hepworth

In 1941 I left Art School and went to work as a "background" artist at National Screen Services (N.S.S) in Perivale. They made trailers for feature films. When I started work I noticed that an elderly man was sitting at a desk in a small office adjoining our departmental boss's office.

This "old" man [he was in fact 67] was Cecil Hepworth. I had never heard of him. He had been offered a job by the boss of N.S.S, a Mr. Kimberley, who had been a young assistant to Hepworth during Hepworth's prosperous days. By this time Hepworth had been bankrupted and was down on his luck.

Hepworth still owned an old car and it was possible to receive an extra petrol ration if you gave lifts to work to other people. He discovered that I and another young girl lived in Harrow which was on his way from Northwood (I think). So, in the mornings he picked us up outside Harrow Art School and on the way he would tell us about the films he had made 30 or 40 years before. That seemed to us girls to be live very ancient history.

NSS must have got some government aid to make "Food Flashes" 30 second short films which were shown in cinemas between the two feature films. They were intended to inform the public about foods that were plentiful at the time an dhow to make the most of them.

Making Wartime Food Flashes

The "Food Flashes" were very short 30 second films, intended to inform the public how to make the most of any foods, mostly vegetables, and later on Dried Egg, while they were plentiful.

The building that National Screen Services (N.S.S) was using during the war was a small factory in Perivale, all open plan. [Note: NSS are still listed as being at National Screen Services, Unit 2, Perivale Industrial Park, Horsenden Lane, South Greenford, Middlesex UB6 7RL] There was no special space for Cecil Hepworth to direct and produce these little films, and very little finance.

After we employees had finished our canteen lunch; I can't remember whether we had to hand over some of our food, or coupons for it. I do remember that if you were under 18, and I was, you got a free cup of cocoa. Anyway, after lunch was finished we pushed the tables and chairs against the wall, the movie camera was brought in and the cameraman who normally operated the stills camera for the trailers came.

Hepworth would have written his script and then gone around the factory looking for suitable cast, "actors and actresses" to take part. No one was ever paid to do it but we were all quite pleased to leave desks or drawing boards to appear in a film id only for a few seconds. We might even see ourselves at the local cinema.

> Does the shopkeeper
look rather

Hepworth was in his
late 60's at this time

Having assembled his cast and crew the blackout curtains were drawn as a background and Heppie would start to film.

Filming in the Canteen Studio

One of the Food Flashes I appeared in was to promote cabbage as a beauty treatment. I was often chosen if a young attractive girl was needed, I was only 16 or 17 at the time and quite fancied myself.

The start of the film showed me in a white overall chopping cabbage in a kitchen (I had already removed all the makeup that I wore in those days). The close up shot revealed one looking pale and wan, then I picked up some of the cabbage and ate it. Shooting was stopped while I went to the loo and put on all my make up. Shooting started again and a dissolve showed me looking amazingly healthy!

There was a special editing room in the factory where two young women editors sat at two Movieolas to edit parts of feature films for the trailers. I think they must also have edited Hepworth's Food Flashes as well, but he would most certainly have been standing behind them.

IN all cinemas during WW2 there would be government propaganda, "coming next week" trailers and Food Flashes in between the two feature films. They were usually introduced by a comedian called Cyril Fletcher, also standing in front of a curtain, saved a lot of money not having a set.

From the exhibition "Hepworth Comes Home" 2012 Riverhouse Barn, Walton on Thames.

Read more: Cecil Hepworth - Director - Films as Director:, Publications http://www.filmreference.com/Directors-Ha-Ji/Hepworth-Cecil.html#ixzz29sYXMEIv

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