15 May 2008
The Bodleian Library has recently acquired Harold McCarthy’s film archive, a collection of over 11,000 film reports produced by the McCarthy agency of London.
An obscure reviewer, recently described as ‘the most influential film critic in England’, Harold McCarthy worked as a free-lance reviewer providing the independent cinemas around the UK with information sheets to help them make booking decisions.
Watching on average one film every day, McCarthy built up the archive single-handly, helped only by his wife who handled the clerical work. Covering the years 1933 – 1965, the archive consists of duplicated typescripts on A4 proforma sheets listing categories such as Studio, Title, Type, Length, Release Date, Date of Trade Show, Rating Certificate, Director, Recording type, Cast, Entertainment Value, Suitability, and Story.
The current collection is the only surviving archive of such size. It was owned for more than fifty years by a family which ran a now defunct provincial British independent cinema in Bristol, before it was purchased by the bookseller Ed Maggs.
Chris Fletcher, Head of Western Manuscripts, said: 'The Bodleian is delighted to have acquired such an important archive for the study of film history. It is possible that this collection provides the only evidence that certain films ever existed and it provides a remarkable insight into the commercial and social implications of the British cinema through a major slice of the twentieth century.'