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Stanley Forman dies

20 February 2013

Stanley Forman, Honorary Member of FOCAL International, internationally known documentary film distributor and producer and founder of the ETV Library, died last night (February 7th) at Harrogate Hospital, Yorkshire.

For many years Stanley's company, ETV Films Ltd., was one of the best sources for archive film about the British labour movement and the 'socialist' countries of eastern Europe. Those who knew him, despite any political differences, admired him and were grateful for his help and knowledge.

His funeral will take place at 13.00 hrs. on Monday February 18th at the Stonefall Cemetary, Wetherby Road, Harrogate HG3 1DE.



Stanley Foreman (1921-2013) was proud of being a man of the left. When Lenin said ‘Of all the arts, for us the most important is the cinema’ Stanley took him at his word. He joined the Young Communist League when he was fifteen, and became its cultural secretary in 1937. Along with fellow left-wing luminaries he established Plato films in 1950, and when it seemed that the company might lose a libel case brought by Hans Speidel, a former Wehrmacht general, Stanley set up another company, Education and Television Films, in 1959.

For many years ETV was the preferred source of archive material from socialist countries outside the Soviet Union: its collection of pre 1959 Chinese newsfilm was astonishing, and it even managed to offer a paean to Polish earth-moving equipment in glorious colour…

Because Stanley was so fanatical about film, it is said that when goons from Soviet Ministries offered to replace his worn copies of early Soviet newsfilm with pristine versions, he accepted, but first carefully removed any shots containing images of Trotsky for safe-keeping. The ETV collection is now at the BFI. I’ll bet those images are still there. Stanley would be pleased. 


I remember Stanley Forman with great affection. He was one of the kindest and most caring people in the industry, and when I was a young film researcher in the late 1970s so helpful in making some of my first projects really impressive with the fantastic footage he was able to provide. It was a real treat to visit him and Betty Baker at the ETV Archive and his contribution to the archive world was enormous, not only because of the wonderful collection of films he had but also his good advice and great sense of humour, He was a very special person who I know was admired and loved by all the film researchers who knew him. 


In my early days, when I was a bit perplexed to find myself in a basement in Islington surrounded by film cans, not really knowing what to do or where to start, I was stunned to find Stanley Forman, also in Islington, also surrounded by films. But he knew exactly what to do, and in Stanley I found a guide and inspiration. When he and my father got going…I didn’t want them to stop (I like to think of them now in that great cinema in the sky!). Stanley told me about screening Battleship Potemkin, with my dad synchronising music on 78rpms, sometimes it worked they said, sometimes it didn’t…neither of them really cared, film for them both was such a passion.

Stanley’s ETV and Plato collections were upstairs in an old Georgian building on Upper Street, cans piled high, shelves sagging under the weight,, then up a tiny staircase to another floor, goodness how that house stayed upright ! Bright posters for film festivals in the Soviet block on the walls and card indexes and references books, it was a wonderful place! I really miss him, Stanley was so very very warm and humorous. He was to me a bit exotic as an early British lifelong communist and a man of social conscience. He truly was one of the first to know these old battered movies just must survive and reflect the changing world in which we live. It was him and Betty with Sue (and later Jinny and Zoe) that held together one of the finest collections this country has ever known.
The film world has lost one of its finest characters.


I will always be grateful for his kindness. He really made a difference in my life and I will always remember him with great affection.