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Cole, Sidney (1908-1998)

Director, Producer, Editor

Main image of Cole, Sidney (1908-1998)

Sidney Henry Cole was born in Kennington, London in 1908. His film career began at Stoll Studios in the early 1930s as a reader in the scenario department. However, he soon found his way to the studio floor and into the editing suite where he became an assistant to Thorold Dickinson. When Dickinson went to Ealing Studios to edit the Gloria Swanson film Perfect Understanding (d. Cyril Gardner, 1933), Cole joined him as his second assistant.

Cole returned to Ealing in 1941 to edit Went The Day Well? (d. Alberto Cavalcanti, 1942) and stayed for eleven years. He was involved with the management of films, becoming first supervising editor and then producer. He produced the compilation film Dead of Night (d. Cavalcanti/Charles Crichton/Basil Dearden/Robert Hamer, 1945), Scott of the Antarctic (d. Charles Frend, 1948), the masterly Ealing comedy The Man in The White Suit (d. Alexander Mackendrick, 1951) and co-directed Train of Events (1949) with Charles Crichton and Basil Dearden.

In the early 1950s, Cole briefly worked BIP before embarking on television production for the new commercial television stations. He produced the long-running television series The Adventures of Robin Hood (ATV, 1955-59), The Adventures of Sir Lancelot (ATV, 1956-57), The Buccaneers (ITV, 1956-57) and The Adventures of Black Beauty (LWT, 1972-74).

Throughout his career, Sidney Cole was involved in politics inside and outside the industry. At the time of the McCarthy anti-Communist hearings, he employed blacklisted American writers such as Ring Lardner Jr, Waldo Salt, Ian McLellan Hunter and others under pseudonyms to write episodes of Robin Hood. With Peter Proud, he set up the ACTT, which later became BECTU (Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph Technicians Union), periodically serving as its Vice President and President.

While working for the major studios he also made left-wing documentary films about the Spanish Civil War Behind The Spanish Lines (co-d. Thorold Dickinson, 1938), Spanish ABC (co-d. Dickinson, 1938) and about working class life such as Our Film (d. Harold French, 1942), One In Five (d. Michael Paul, 1972) and People's March for Jobs (1981) for ACT Films, the production arm of ACTT. He preferred the term 'realist' to 'documentary' because this is what he felt they were: films about real life.

Ann Ogidi

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From the BFI's filmographic database

Related media

Thumbnail image of Sid Cole: BECTU Interview Part 1 (1987) Sid Cole: BECTU Interview Part 1 (1987)

Memories of Ealing in the '30s and '40s

Thumbnail image of Sid Cole: BECTU Interview Part 2 (1987) Sid Cole: BECTU Interview Part 2 (1987)

An editor at Ealing; observations on directors and Michael Balcon

Thumbnail image of Sid Cole: BECTU Interview Part 3 (1987) Sid Cole: BECTU Interview Part 3 (1987)

Memories of 'The Adventures of Robin Hood', Lew Grade and Pat McGoohan

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of 'Pimpernel' Smith (1940)'Pimpernel' Smith (1940)

Impressive WWII propaganda film updating the Scarlet Pimpernel story

Thumbnail image of Bells Go Down, The (1943)Bells Go Down, The (1943)

Stirring film about the Fire Services in Blitz-torn London

Thumbnail image of Dead of Night (1945)Dead of Night (1945)

Classic Ealing portmanteau film: five tales of the supernatural

Thumbnail image of First of the Few, The (1942)First of the Few, The (1942)

Moving wartime biopic of R.J. Mitchell, designer of the Spitfire

Thumbnail image of Halfway House, The (1944)Halfway House, The (1944)

Unusual cross between ghost story and WWII propaganda film

Thumbnail image of Magnet, The (1950)Magnet, The (1950)

Lesser-known Ealing comedy about a young boy with a guilty conscience

Thumbnail image of Man in the White Suit, The (1951)Man in the White Suit, The (1951)

Ealing classic with naive inventor Alec Guinness up against British industry

Thumbnail image of Nine Men (1943)Nine Men (1943)

WWII drama: a handful of British men hold off an Italian battalion

Thumbnail image of San Demetrio London (1943)San Demetrio London (1943)

Inspiring tale of wartime heroism based on a true story

Thumbnail image of Scott of the Antarctic (1948)Scott of the Antarctic (1948)

Lavish recreation of Captain Scott's doomed expedition to the South Pole

Thumbnail image of Went the Day Well? (1942)Went the Day Well? (1942)

Chilling classic imagining a brutal Nazi invasion of a small English village

Thumbnail image of Westward Ho! (1940)Westward Ho! (1940)

Propaganda film about a wartime school evacuation to the countryside

Thumbnail image of Adventures of Black Beauty, The (1972-74)Adventures of Black Beauty, The (1972-74)

TV adaptation of Anna Sewell's classic children's novel

Thumbnail image of Adventures of Robin Hood, The (1955-59)Adventures of Robin Hood, The (1955-59)

Hugely popular series that gave a ratings boost to the early ITV

Thumbnail image of Adventures of Sir Lancelot, The (1956-57)Adventures of Sir Lancelot, The (1956-57)

Arthurian swashbuckler starring later Dr Who companion William Russell

Thumbnail image of Buccaneers, The (1956-57)Buccaneers, The (1956-57)

Pirate action-adventure starring Robert Shaw

Thumbnail image of Danger Man (1960-67)Danger Man (1960-67)

TV spy thriller series with Patrick McGoohan as agent John Drake

Thumbnail image of Man in a Suitcase (1967-68)Man in a Suitcase (1967-68)

Memorably gritty ITC series about an ex-CIA private investigator

Thumbnail image of Sword of Freedom (1958-61)Sword of Freedom (1958-61)

Artist-swordsman del Monte takes on the Medicis in Renaissance Florence

Related collections

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Meet the team at 'the studio with team spirit'

Related people and organisations

Thumbnail image of Ealing Studios (1938-59)Ealing Studios (1938-59)

Film Studio, Production Company