We were very sad to hear of the recent death of one of our foremost donors, Roy Fowler. Roy was 92 when he died and had a full and fascinating life in film.
Roy was something of a cinematic prodigy; in a typically entertaining piece on his career in our collections (EXE BD 78556) he describes his adventures as a ‘film barmy’ teenager. Obsessed with the film industry he visited sets and met filmmakers, determined that this would be the life he would lead. After service at the end of the war he then published two beautiful books in the Pendulum Popular Film series on ‘The Film in France’ and the first ever book biography of his great hero Orson Welles. He was just 19 at the time!
Roy's biography of Orson Welles published in 1946
Roy's study on Film in France, published in 1946
Faced with austerity and an industry in crisis at the end of its 1940s golden period in Britain, Roy then moved to the USA and worked as a producer in film and television. He then returned to Britain in the 1970s and became closely involved with the film industry’s trade union, the ACTT. It was in the mid-1980s that a conversation with the producer Robert Dunbar (whose papers are also held by the museum) led to Roy setting up the BECTU (as the Union was now known) History Group. This proved to be one of his greatest achievements and hundreds of former industry personnel from household names to vital but little known workers on set were encouraged to tell their stories and the recordings were made available to researchers via the British Film Institute library. Now the British Entertainment History Group, this continues to go from strength to strength and Roy was involved right up to his death in August. Without his passion and energy this testimony would never have been captured for posterity.
Roy also wrote for BECTU and other publications in a trademark witty and acerbic style and collected some wonderful books and ephemera on cinema. At The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum we were very fortunate that since the 1990s he generously donated thousands of books, film stills and pieces of ephemera to our collections for others to enjoy. This included marvellous material on Welles, the French cinema of the ‘30s and ‘40s, Eisenstein and much else besides.
The Roy Fowler Collection at the museum, together with the History Project, forms a legacy for this remarkable man and our thoughts are with his family and the many people in the film world who enjoyed his company, stories and knowledge.
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