Humphrey Jennings is an attractive figure for historians of inter-war Britain and the Second World War. Mass Observer, Surrealist, patriot, historian, and maker of exquisitely observed documentary films, he appears (perhaps too neatly) to channel the complex artistic, cultural, and political sensibilities of the 1930s generation. The everyday sinew and contradictions of life in modern Britain, which Orwell pinpointed in prose, Jennings captured on celluloid.

Philip C. Logan's Humphrey Jennings and British Documentary Film: A Re-Assessment is built upon the premise that the magpie nature of Jennings' various activities needs to be considered cumulatively; that his multi-media dabblings coalesce into an aesthetically coherent and culturally important whole. Although the bulk of the book is concerned with the period 1938–50, Logan tries to avoid focusing disproportionately on the trio of films (Listen to...

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