Field, Mary (1896–c. 1968)

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Field, Mary (1896–c. 1968)

English filmmaker. Born Agnes Mary Field in Wimbledon, England, in 1896; died in 1968 or 1969; attended Bedford College for Women, London; received M.A at the Institute of Historical Research; married Gerald Hankin (a Ministry of Education official).


Secrets of Nature (series, 1922–33); Strictly Business (1931); The King's English (1934); Secrets of Life (series, 1933–43); This Was England (1934); The Changing Year (1934); They Made the Land (1938); Shadow of the Stream (1938); The Medieval Village (1940); Winged Messengers (1941); I Married a Stranger (1944).

Mary Field was born in Wimbledon, England, in 1896 and began her professional life as a high school history teacher. In 1926, she accepted an offer from Bruce Wolfe to join British Instructional Films as education manager. The following year, Field moved to the production side of the company. Soon thereafter, she became a director on the acclaimed series Secrets of Nature. Field almost single-handedly invented cinematic techniques still used in nature cinematography.

In 1933, she went to work for Gaumont British Instructional Films (GBI) where she pioneered Britain's nascent children's film industry insisting that children need films about and for children. After making films for 11 years, Field headed the entire Children's Entertainment Division for GBI, while also acting as executive producer on Arthur Rank's Children's Cinema Clubs.

Her focus shifted during World War II, as it did with most documentary filmmakers, when she agreed to make a series of official films for the Ministry of Information. Immediately following the war, she lobbied for the establishment of the Children's Film Foundation and ultimately traveled the world lecturing and attending conferences on this subject. She wrote a book, Good Company, which analyzes children's responses to films (1952), and chaired Brussel's International Centre for Films for Children (1957). From 1959 to her retirement in 1963, Field worked as a children's programming consultant for ATV/ABC television. She was made CBE in 1951.


Foster, Gwendolyn. Women Film Directors: An International Bio-Critical Dictionary. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995.

Kuhn, Annette, and Susannah Radstone, eds. The Women's Companion to International Film. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1990.

suggested reading:

Field, Mary. Good Company: The Story of the Children's Entertainment Film Movement in Great Britain, 1943-1950. London: Longmans, 1952.

Deborah Jones , Studio City, California

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