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Craigie, Jill (1911-1999)


Main image of Craigie, Jill (1911-1999)

Jill Craigie was born in Fulham, London on 7 March 1914 to a Russian mother and Scottish father. She left school at 18 to work as a journalist but by 1937 had become a film actress, playing a small role in the circus drama Make-Up (1937). However, as Craigie became more politicised by the turbulent events of the 1930s she decided that her future lay in filmmaking.

Contacting the British Council led to a job offer as a documentary scriptwriter from 1940 until 1942 when she left to write a feature-length screenplay, The Flemish Farm (1943), which was directed by Craigie's then husband Jeffrey Dell. Thinking there was no reason why she shouldn't direct a film herself, Craigie scripted, produced and directed the half-hour documentary, Out of Chaos (1944) about Graham Sutherland, Stanley Spencer, Henry Moore and Paul Nash for the Rank subsidiary, Two Cities Films, garnering praise for its sincerity and intelligence.

After the war, Craigie's interest in the arts, and architecture in particular lead to the making of The Way We Live (1946) and it was during the making of this film that she met her future husband, the Labour MP Michael Foot, whom she married in 1949.

Her next film was Children of the Ruins (1948), a short documentary about UNESCO's efforts to improve the living conditions of children displaced by two world wars. This was followed by the fiction feature Blue Scar (1949) about the poverty and conflicts in a South Wales mining village. Made by Outlook Films, the production company she had formed with William MacQuitty in 1948, the film featured an entire cast of unprofessional actors drawn from the local population. The villagers were also actively involved in the scriptwriting process. Her final film for Outlook was the documentary short, To Be a Woman (1951), arguing the case for equal pay for women.

Frustrated by the film industry's obstructive attitude to female directors, Craigie gave up directing and wrote two screenplays for Rank, The Million Pound Note (1953) and Windom's Way (1957). She then retired from the film business until the 1990s. Appalled by what was happening in war-torn Yugoslavia, she financed and directed a documentary about the ravaged city and people of Dubrovnik. Two Hours from London (1995) was shown on BBC television and was to be her final film. She died in Camden, London on 13 December 1999.

Sarah Easen

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Blue Scar (1949)Blue Scar (1949)

Welsh coalmining drama dealing with ambition, class and gender

Thumbnail image of Children of the Ruins (1948)Children of the Ruins (1948)

Documentary about postwar child poverty, made to promote UNESCO

Thumbnail image of Way We Live, The (1946)Way We Live, The (1946)

Documentary about the postwar rebuilding of Plymouth

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