Stuart Legg

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Stuart Legg
Stuart Legg.png
Stuart Legg c. 1943
Born(1910-08-31)August 31, 1910
London, England
DiedJuly 23, 1988(1988-07-23) (aged 77)
Wiltshire, England
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge
OccupationFilmmaker, Author
Known forFilmmaking, Writing
Spouse(s)Margaret Amos
AwardsAcademy Award for Documentary Short Subject

Stuart Legg (31 August 1910 in London, England – 23 July 1988 in Wiltshire, England)[1] was a documentary filmmaker who was a leading figure in both the United Kingdom and Canada as a pioneering director, writer and producer. During his long filmmaking career, Legg's work was largely unknown, although he had won an Academy Award during the Second World War.[2]

Early life[edit]

Legg was born on 31 August 1910 in London into a middle-class household. His father was a solicitor. Legg graduated from Cambridge with a degree in engineering. His first film was Varsity (1931) with the university's Film Society. This was followed by Cambridge (1932), produced with some involvement from British Instructional Films.

Filmmaking career[edit]

After graduation, Legg worked for six months as an assistant to director Walter Creighton at Publicity Films, a commercial company. As part of the British Documentary Film Movement, Legg worked with John Grierson.[3] His first film after being taken on by Grierson was The New Generation (1932) for Chesterfield Education Authority, said to "exemplify an attempt at the Russian technique."Joining the General Post Office Film Unit GPO Film Unit from 1933, Legg replaced Paul Rotha as head of Strand Films in 1937, where he moved from director to producer.[4]

National Film Board of Canada[edit]

In 1939, Legg moved to Canada with his former mentor, Grierson, where he launched the National Film Board of Canada's Canada Carries On and The World in Action documentary film series, for which he made numerous films, as both a director and producer.[5][6][Note 1] Legg's films include Churchill's Island (1941), which won the first Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject, and Warclouds in the Pacific, which was nominated for the same award.[7][8]

International work[edit]

Postwar, after first working in New York, Legg returned to Britain and worked as a producer for the Crown Film Unit between 1948 and 1950. In 1957, he became chairman of the Film Centre International. Legg later produced documentaries for Shell. Legg also worked with the Anglo-Scottish Pictures Ltd. and the Australian National Film Board, where he was involved in the early-1960s.[9]


Legg's interest in history was evident. He recounted: "I'd gone into – documentary, but I don't think I was ever very good at it really –I was interested in history. I was interested in international affairs."[4] His interest in history led him to write The Heartland (New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1970; later reissued as The Barbarians of Asia); dedicated to Grierson. Reviews noted the book, "... gives the grand sweep of European and Asian history in terms of the continual conflict between the great coastal civilizations (China, India, Persia, the Middle East, Europe) and the barbarian horsemen from the central Asian steppes (Huns, Turks, Mongols, and others)."[10]

Family life[edit]

Legg married Margaret Amos (1910–2002), daughter of Sir Percy Maurice Amos KBE KC (of the prominent Amos legal dynasty). However, they lived apart for many years.

Partial filmography[edit]

  • Varsity (UK, 1930)
  • The Coming of the Dial (UK, 1933)
  • Cable Ship (UK, 1933)
  • Yugoslavia (UK, 1935)
  • BBC: The Voice of Britain (UK, 1935)
  • Free to Roam (15', UK, 1938)
  • Youth is Tomorrow (NFB, Canada, 1939)
  • The Case of Charlie Gordon (NFB, 1939)
  • Churchill's Island (NFB, 1941)
  • Inside Fighting China (NFB, 1941)
  • Warclouds in the Pacific (NFB, 1941)
  • The Invasion of North Africa (NFB, 1942)
  • The War for Men's Minds (NFB, 1943)
  • Inside France (NFB, 1944)
  • Balkan Powder Keg (NFB, 1944)
  • Food: Secret of the Peace (NFB, 1945)
  • John Bull's Own Island (UK 1945)
  • Powered Fight: The Story of the Century (UK, 1953)



  1. ^ Legg's close working relationaship with Grierson led others to think of him merely as the NFB founder's assistant.[4]


  1. ^ "Legg, Stuart." BFI, 2016. Retrieved: 2 May 2016.
  2. ^ Khouri 2007, p. 92.
  3. ^ McInnes 2004, p. 27.
  4. ^ a b c "Legg, Stuart (1910–1988)" BFI, 2016. Retrieved: 2 May 2016.
  5. ^ Evans 1984, pp. 128, 296.
  6. ^ Ellis 2000, p. 152.
  7. ^ "The 14th Academy Awards (1942); nominees and winners." Retrieved: 2 May 2016.
  8. ^ "War Clouds in the Pacific.' The New York Times. Retrieved: 2 May 2016.
  9. ^ "Stuart Legg (1910–1988)." IMDb. Retrieved: 2 May 2016.
  10. ^ Alford, Mark. "The Heartland (Stuart Legg)." Mark Alford, 1999. Retrieved: 2 May 2016.


  • Ellis, Jack C. John Grierson: Life, Contributions, Influence. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0-80932-242-8.
  • Evans, Gary. John Grierson and the National Film Board: The Politics of Wartime Propaganda. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984. ISBN 978-0-80202-519-7.
  • Khouri, Malek. Filming Politics: Communism and the Portrayal of the Working Class at the National Film Board of Canada, 1939-46. Calgary, Alberta, Canada: University of Calgary Press, 2007. ISBN 978-1-55238-199-1.
  • McInnes, Graham. One Man's Documentary: A Memoir of the Early Years of the National Film Board. Winnipeg, Manitoba: University of Manitoba, 2004. ISBN 978-0-8875-5679-1.

External links[edit]