Jack Beddington

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Jack Beddington
BornJohn Louis "Jack" Beddington
OccupationAdvertising Executive

John Louis "Jack" Beddington (1893–1959) was a United Kingdom advertising executive, best known for his work as publicity director for Shell in the 1930s and as head of the Ministry of Information Films Division during the Second World War.


Early life[edit]

Jack Beddington was born in South Kensington, London in 1893 to Charles Lindsay Beddington and Stella Goldschmidt de Libantia. He was educated at Wellington College and Balliol College, Oxford.

During World War I he served with the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. In January 1918 he married Olivia Margaret Streatfeild.[1]

Shell-Mex and BP Ltd.[edit]

After a period working for the Asiatic Petroleum Company in Shanghai, Beddington became publicity manager for Shell UK in 1928. During the 1930s, Beddington worked as assistant general manager and director of publicity for Shell-Mex and BP Ltd, a joint marketing venture started in 1932 between Shell and British Petroleum. He employed a number of artists such as Paul Nash, John Piper, James Gardner and Graham Sutherland to produce artwork for Shell.

During this time, he spent a significant amount of money on producing films through the Shell Film Unit, on various topics. This unit was established by Edgar Anstey in 1934 as a result of a report written by documentary film-maker John Grierson about how Shell could make better use of film publicity.[2] Rather than being direct advertising, the films produced served to promote a more positive image of Shell as existing for the public good rather than merely for profit.[3] He also established, with John Betjeman, the 'Shell Guides' to English counties.

Second World War[edit]

In April 1940, Beddington was appointed director of the Ministry of Information Films Division,[4] replacing Kenneth Clark. He remained in this post until 1946.

In August 1940, he renamed the GPO Film Unit as the Crown Film Unit, with Ian Dalrymple as its head. This unit focused on the production of documentary films, which Beddington supported even in the face of opposition from the Select Committee on National Expenditure.[5] Almost three-quarters of all films produced or commissioned by the Films Division between 1940 and 1945 were written, directed or produced by members of the documentary film movement, a group of film-makers brought together by John Grierson.[6] Although many of these documentaries were for non-theatrical distribution, under Beddington's tenure, the Crown Film Unit produced such feature-length documentaries as Target for Tonight, Desert Victory and Western Approaches.

After the war, Beddington and Barnett Freedman helped launch the Lyons' Lithograph series.


  1. ^ Johnson, 'Beddington'.
  2. ^ Aitken, Film and Reform, p. 136.
  3. ^ Pronay, '"The land of promise"', p. 57.
  4. ^ Aulich, James (2007). War Posters: Weapons of Mass Communication. New York: Thames & Hudson. p. 167. ISBN 9780500251416.
  5. ^ Aldgate and Richards, Britain Can Take It, p. 7.
  6. ^ Aldgate and Richards, Britain Can Take It, p. 8.


  • Aitken, Ian (1990). Film and Reform: John Grierson and the Documentary Film Movement.
  • Aldgate, Anthony; Richards, Jeffrey (1986). Britain Can Take It: The British Cinema in the Second World War. New York: B. Blackwell. ISBN 0631135499.
  • Aulich, James (2007). War Posters: Weapons of Mass Communication. New York: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 9780500251416.
  • Johnson, V., ‘Beddington, John Louis (1893–1959)’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004. Oxford)
  • Pronay, Nicholas, '"The land of promise": the projection of peace aims in Britain', in K.R.M. Short (ed.), Film & Radio Propaganda in World War II (1983)
  • Artmonsky, Ruth (2006). Jack Beddington: The Footnote Man. London: Artmonsky Arts. ISBN 0955199409.

External links[edit]