In pictures: Women at work in the 1950s film industry

This gallery celebrates some of the remarkable women at work in the British film industry in the postwar era. Although these women were typically invisible from public view, the photographs show them at work with the tools of their trade – the camera, the script, the brush, the pen, the scissor, the makeup and the Moviola.

Many other women working in the film world at the time were often uncredited, such as script supervisor June Faithfull or stills photographer Lynda Swarbrick, but each left their indelible mark on the history of film.

Nigel Arthur

<strong>Alma Coles</strong>, ink and paint artist, Animal Farm (1954). Coles is at her desk working on pen and ink drawings of Snowball the pig. Animal Farm was the first postwar animation feature made in Britain

Alma Coles, ink and paint artist, Animal Farm (1954). Coles is at her desk working on pen and ink drawings of Snowball the pig. Animal Farm was the first postwar animation feature made in Britain

<strong>Carmen Dillon</strong>, art director, at work in her studio in 1949. Dillon is acknowledged as the first female art director to work at a British film studio.

Carmen Dillon, art director, at work in her studio in 1949. Dillon is acknowledged as the first female art director to work at a British film studio.

<strong>Julie Harris</strong>, costume designer, photographed by George Courtney Ward in 1956. She later worked on a number of Beatles and James Bond films, winning the Oscar for best costume design for the swinging 60s classic Darling in 1966.

Julie Harris, costume designer, photographed by George Courtney Ward in 1956. She later worked on a number of Beatles and James Bond films, winning the Oscar for best costume design for the swinging 60s classic Darling in 1966.

<strong>Muriel Box</strong>, screenwriter and director, The Truth about Women (1957). Box directed 16 films between 1941 and 1961.

Muriel Box, screenwriter and director, The Truth about Women (1957). Box directed 16 films between 1941 and 1961.

<strong>Wendy Toye</strong>, director, ‘In the Picture’, one of the three segments of Three Cases of Murder (1955). Toye directed nine British films, getting an Oscar nomination for her short film On the Twelfth Day… (1955).

Wendy Toye, director, ‘In the Picture’, one of the three segments of Three Cases of Murder (1955). Toye directed nine British films, getting an Oscar nomination for her short film On the Twelfth Day… (1955).

<strong>Anne V. Coates</strong>, editor, To Paris with Love (1955), photographed by Ian Jeayes. In 1963 she won the best editing Oscar for Lawrence of Arabia.

Anne V. Coates, editor, To Paris with Love (1955), photographed by Ian Jeayes. In 1963 she won the best editing Oscar for Lawrence of Arabia.

<strong>Connie Reeve</strong>, makeup artist, The Tales of Hoffmann (1951), photographed by Bert Cann. Reeve was a pioneer makeup artist who worked on several Technicolor films for Powell and Pressburger.

Connie Reeve, makeup artist, The Tales of Hoffmann (1951), photographed by Bert Cann. Reeve was a pioneer makeup artist who worked on several Technicolor films for Powell and Pressburger.

The photographs in this gallery are all from original works drawn from the BFI National Archive’s Special Collections, a world-class resource for understanding the art, history and impact of moving image in Britain. 

The BFI National Archive, John Paul Getty Jnr Conservation Centre in Berkhamsted will be open to the public on Sunday 16 September as part of the nationwide Heritage Open Days. Opening times and further info.

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