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PRINT September 2003

film

James Quandt on Richard Massingham

HOW IS IT THAT A BRITISH DOCTOR fifty years dead, an oddball amateur who made advertisements and corporate training films, instructional works, and propaganda for the Orwellian-sounding Ministry of Information, is suddenly being discovered as one of the great eccentrics of film history? The coercive power of arcana has seen masters displaced by marginals in many fields, but until recently it did little for the reputation of Richard Massingham (1898–1953). Massingham once seemed destined for posthumous stardom after Henri Langlois, cofounder of the Cinémathèque Française and mentor to the French New Wave, called him “the great English director . . . the king of suspense . . . the greatest technician and the greatest poet of British cinema” and compared him to Vermeer, Méliès, Vigo, Sennett, Buñuel, Daumier, and van Gogh. But the fog of obscurity closed in again, and Massingham has gone

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