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|Born||6 April 1914
|Died||1 March 1996
|Occupation||Film producer, director and writer|
Life and career
According to his family, Baim left Leeds after the death of his father in 1929 and moved to London in 1931. Baim originally wanted to be a journalist but instead gained employment working the clapperboard for film producers at MGM and Renown Pictures. Baim then worked for film producer and distributor George Minter and moved on to Columbia Pictures selling their films to the Odeon, ABC and Gaumont cinema chains.
Baim became a prolific producer of 35mm short films, creating over 300 titles in his lifetime. The subjects of his early films, made by his company The Federated Film Corporation, were released in the early 1940s and featured well known music hall and variety theatre acts such as Wilson, Keppel and Betty. His later and more well known films were mainly travelogues filmed in England, Europe, the Middle East, South Africa, America and Asia as well as music compilations featuring footage of well-known pop music acts of the era.
Nearly all of the Baim titles released after 1957 are in colour using 'Eastman-color' film stock and were produced for distribution by United Artists in the UK. Many are in wide-screen formats. Baim was keen to use wide screen and the paper archive shows he rented 'Camera-scope' lenses from Adelphi Films in the mid 1950s. A project to restore and digitise the surviving films was started in 1999 by The Baim Collection Limited. After fifteen years work over eighty of the surviving one-hundred and thirty titles have been restored. More than one hundred and fifty films are thought lost.
A selection of more than ninety of the films are available for review by researchers and producers on-line via Vimeo at www.baimenterprises.com
Twelve titles may be found from time-to-time as part of the programming on Sky Arts 1 HD and Sky Arts 2 HD: Swinging UK, UK Swings Again, Floating Fortress, Delta 8-3, S.S. France, Girls Girls Girls!, Big City, Pete Murray Takes You To Nottingham, Telly Savalas Looks At Birmingham, Get 'Em Off, Playground Spectacular and Jugglers and Acrobats.
BBC Television Entertainment Department produced a television programme entitled Harold Baim's Britain on Film featuring 30 minutes of clips from twenty-three of the British films. Part of the "On Film" series it was first broadcast on BBC 4 on 27 July 2011, repeated 29 May 2012. The BBC press release says the documentary:
...recalls the strange Britain of this remarkable film-maker. Working from the Forties to the Eighties, Baim only filmed on sunny days and used the voices of baffled actors, Telly Savalas among them. Despite their weirdness, Baim's films record a Britain that's gone for ever.
The programme was received enthusiastically by reviewers and critics in newspaper reviews after the first transmission in The Telegraph, The Independent, The London Evening Standard and The Mirror which are available on-line.
Clips and excerpts from the Baim Collection are often used as illustrative footage in documentaries seen on BBC Two and BBC Four and by producers of programmes screened by ITV and Channel Four Television in the UK.
The Baim Collection continues to search for lost prints and negatives of over one hundred missing titles produced by Harold Baim. Many of the missing films were produced between 1945 and 1957, the earlier ones most probably on nitrocellulose (cellulose nitrate) film stock which is unstable and liable to spontaneously combust. Surviving films from this time would have been transferred to 16mm or 35 mm safety film stock. One such film is Science Is Golden (1949), which was returned to The Baim Collection Limited in 2010 after a 16mm black-and-white print of the film was discovered in a school cupboard. The film was returned by the Department of English and Media at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. The film features Professor Low, who shows how to make "home made" explosives for use in "magic tricks" and also shows a very early domestic microwave oven and other household labour-saving gadgets for the home, accompanied by the unique Harold Baim script.
In 2013 MGM/UA in London discovered a number of Baim films made in the late 1950s and early '60s in their vaults at Denham and have kindly returned the titles to The Baim Collection. The titles include "Cormorant Fishing", "Cotswold Craftsmen" and "Where The Avon Flows". These films have been digitised by deluxe142 in London and are now added to the Collection. MGM/UA have also returned elements missing from other films, a total of 36 cans of 35mm and 16mm negative and prints.
In November 2013 The Media Archive for Central England (MACE) discovered a16mm print of the "lost" Baim black and white film about magic and magicians, "Say Abracadabra". The film dates from 1952 and MACE kindly returned it to the Collection. The film was digitised at deluxe142 in London who are also undertaking the transfer of the 1946 film "Stadium Highlights" from Nitrate stock. This Nitrate film has been stored for many years by the BFI in the National Archive and has not been seen since its original release. The subject matter is The Empire Pool Wembley.
Digital copies (ProRes files) of these recently rediscovered titles are donated to the BFI's National Archive.
The travelogues are perhaps the best known and best remembered of Baim's output. Baim wrote the scripts which were read by well known actors and broadcasters of the period including the voice-over talents of Valentine Dyall, David Gell, Peter Dimmock, Terry Wogan, Ed Bishop, Franklin Engelmann, Kenneth MacCleod and Nicholas Parsons.
Harold Baim applied a consistent formula to the creation of his films. No one addresses the camera; the camera becomes the narrator's 'eyes' as they interpret the scene. Wherever he went from Alsace to Aberdeen,(alliteration was a well-used device in the Baim formula) he took the same consistent approach in introducing his subjects to the audience. He often opened a travelogue by featuring transport facilities such as motorways, bus stations and airports (a particular favourite). Then he’d record the old town, educate the audience with a bit of history and then contrast this with new "sophisticated" office blocks and shopping centres. The shadow of World War Two looms large in the films. The overseas travel depicted was a world away from the holiday aspirations experienced by the every day British cinema-goer who, at the time, was much more likely to have ventured no further afield than the British seaside. Not everyone in the industry was a fan of Baim and he was attacked in publications, notably in a slim volume entitled "A Long Look at Short Films" published in 1966. In November of that year Baim took part in a BBC television programme entitled "The Look of the Week" where he robustly defended his work.
Baim provided an early career boost for Michael Winner (1935 - 2013) who directed and scripted five Baim films from 1959 to 1963. Winner gained his first Associate Producer credit on Floating Fortress concerning life on aircraft carrier HMS Victorious. Winner also directed the popular comedy about modern manners Behave Yourself. This is one of the few Baim films in which actors speak and is only one of four shot in black and white, the others being Playing the Game, a comic look at the game of golf released in 1967, A Pocket Full of Rye and Science is Golden. Michael Winner also makes a fleeting appearance in the title sequence of Behave Yourself. Also amongst the Winner titles (where he can also be glimpsed as an airline passenger at the start of the film) is the feature-length musical The Cool Mikado starring Frankie Howerd and Tommy Cooper based on the comic opera by Gilbert and Sullivan. An unrestored copy of this film has been released on DVD by Strike Force Entertainment.
Several 'B' features were also made by Baim, including the haunted house thriller Night Comes Too Soon (aka The Ghost of Rashmon Hall) and The Fantastic World of Film a compilation of early silent American comedy films.
The Baim short films were originally created for the British cinema and mainly made mainly for distribution with United Artists features enabling the chain to meet legal requirements for the minimum number of UK-made productions shown. The legislation was first introduced in the 1927 Cinematograph Act. Sometimes these short documentary films were called Quota Quickies in the industry, due to the fact they were made to meet the Quota of UK productions required under cinema distribution legislation of the time.
A radio documentary on Baim's films, entitled Telly Savalas and the Quota Quickies, was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 26 April 2008. Presenter Laurie Taylor investigated Baim's film legacy through the productions Telly Savalas Looks at Birmingham, Telly Savalas Looks at Portsmouth, and Telly Savalas Looks at Aberdeen.
The radio programme together with more detailed information and films clips are available on the Baim Films website.