The search for the lost film

By Laura Kenworthy 2min read

Unseen for 80 years, a wartime film starring Peter Cushing has been tracked down through the determination of Homerton archivist, Svetlana Paterson

Filmed at Homerton, which was then a teacher training college, the film was made in 1944 to highlight plans for an overhaul in the education system. It follows an idealistic trainee teacher, played by Yvonne Rory, as she studies at Homerton, learns to manage classroom discipline, and enjoys building a first connection with a pupil.

The College had been aware of the existence of the film for many years, owing to still photographs taken at Homerton and held by the archive. But the film itself was feared lost, with appeals to the British Film Institute and the Peter Cushing Society yielding no results.

Svetlana has maintained ‘the search for the lost film’ as a side project for much of the past decade. But this year saw a breakthrough when she received a DVD of the film from Yvonne Rory’s extended family in Scotland.

Not only did this allow Svetlana to view the film for the first time, but it was the first clue that an original film reel must have survived long enough to be transferred to the relatively new technology.

A few months later she made contact with the immediate family, now living in Devon, who had inherited a film reel among their late father’s belongings.

“Yvonne Rory died young, and it appears that her widower asked the Central Office of Information for a copy of the film after her death,” says Svetlana. “Without that, there might not have been a surviving copy.”

The film appears never to have been shown to a contemporary audience, perhaps because its vision for post-war education clashed with the reality. But it has solid cinematic credentials, with not only Cushing’s involvement, but also a musical score by the well-known film composer Benjamin Frankel, and provides a fascinating insight into the educational ambitions of the 1940s.

Homerton plans to screen the film in the spring of 2022.