British Pathé has posted a short film about Carl Giles, one of Britain’s most-loved newspaper cartoonists, at work in 1945.
At this point, Giles was working for Express Newspapers, but some of the very best of the cartoons he produced between 1939 and 1945, many created for Reynold’s News were brought together in 2017 in Giles’s War, edited by Tom Benson, including many that have not seen the light of day in over 75 years.
As a young cartoonist at Reynold’s News and then the Daily Express, Giles’s work provided a crucial morale boost – and much-needed laughs – to a population suffering daily privations and danger. Giles’s War his takes on the great events of the war – from the Fall of France, via D-Day, to the final Allied victory – but also his wryly amusing depictions of ordinary people in extraordinary times, living in bombed-out streets, dealing with food shortages, coping with blackouts, railing against bureaucracy and everyday annoyances.
Giles should need no introduction to most downthetubes readers: he started his career for Reynold’s News, but he’s probably most famous for his work for the Daily and Sunday Express, a creator who was once voted Britain’s favourite cartoonist of the 20th century and whose work influenced artists such as Leo Baxendale, Steve Bell and many more.
His characters were – and still are – adored by millions, particularly his formidable, spiky-haired Grandma. In all, it’s estimated there were approximately 7500 official Giles cartoons for newspapers – many archived at the British Cartoon Archive at the University of Kent’s Templeman Library – but he also drew many more private sketches, charity Christmas cards, and a calendar for Guinness. At one time, he was the highest paid cartoonist in Britain, earning a salary of £8,060 in 1955, the equivalent of £150,000 today.
He was born in 1916 and grew up in London but made Suffolk his home just after the World War Two. He lived in Tuddenham, near Ipswich, where this film was largely made, and a statue in his honour stands in Ipswich town centre, near his former office at Giles Circus.
The short film introduces Giles, firstly recreating his wartime sketching then at a couple of locations, gathering reference, before settling down in his garden to draw, distracted only by a bird and a coffee break.
There’s a huge amount of comics and cartoon-related films on the British Pathé web site, including artist Frank Holland drawing a caricature of politician David Lloyd George some time during World War One; actress Eileen Bennett posing for News of the World cartoonist Arthur Ferrier, as he turns her into “Sally” for the eponymous comic strip in 1944; various artists at a life drawing class at the Sketch Club in 1953, including Norman Pett, creator of “Jane” and Eagle artist Norman Williams; artist Frank Hampson at work on “Dan Dare” for Eagle in 1955; Punch artists vision of the school room of the future at the 1955 Schoolboys Exhibition; and pop artist Roy Lichtenstein at a London exhibition in 1968.
In addition to its own films, British Pathé also represents the Reuters historical collection, which includes more than 120,000 items from the news agencies Gaumont Graphic (1910-1932), Empire News Bulletin (1926-1930), British Paramount (1931-1957), and Gaumont British (1934-1959), as well as Visnews content from 1957 to the end of 1979.
• All footage can be viewed on the British Pathé website: www.britishpathe.com and is available for licence
• Giles’s War: Cartoons 1939-1945 is published by Random House
• British Cartoon Archive: Carl Giles
A great introduction to Giles with a detailed biography and links to examples of his work that reflect his personal life
• The Guardian, 27th October 2008: Dark side of Giles, scourge of Rupert Bear and authority
• The Guardian, 4th July 2017: Secrets of much-loved wartime cartoonist Giles revealed in new book
Carl Giles’s work in the Daily Express did much for morale in the second world war and his spirit of fantasy extended to the stories he told about his own life
• Carl Giles: Independent Obituary
With thanks to Davey Jones from VIZ
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