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Stanley Forman

Stanley Forman was born on Boxing Day 1921 in London. In 1936, at the age of fifteen, He was a member of the Labour League of Youth and its national secretary, Ted Willis (see separate entry), asked him, along with others, to join the Mile End Young Communist League. It was the time of the Spanish civil war and Stanley later recalled that the YCL collected milk, money, medical supplies, and other items; “the older ones tried to get into the International Brigade. It wasn’t mass heroics, but that was the struggle.”  He was conscious that it was Lenin who had said: "Of all the arts, for us the most important is the cinema" and this would later forge his interests. But, for now, although he had left school, Stanley’s education now began night after night in the lectures of the Marx Memorial Library. He rose rapidly through the YCL, becoming its cultural secretary in 1937/38. His career with the YCL was followed by working for the British-Soviet Society and the Civil Service Union

 

In 1950, a body was established to provide the Left and in particular the Communist movement with films from the Socialist part of the world. This was Plato Films Ltd and its managing director was Stanley Forman. Among Plato's shareholders were Eva Reckitt (of Collett's bookstore fame), Bill Wainwright, then secretary of the British-Soviet Friendship Society, and composer Alan Bush, who made a substantial investment of £500.

 

Although not, strictly speaking, a Party organisation, Plato could be considered as the “outcome of the desire for the Party to have its own film library”. Using the slogan 'See the other half of the world', Plato was established as a centre for distribution for films that were coming into the UK from countries all over the Socialist world, especially the former Soviet Union. Apart from the Party, most of Plato's customers at that time were groups such as the British-Soviet Friendship Society, schools, the peace movement and even sometimes the army!

 

Plato also filmed and produced many records of events for the Party, often with the cameramen Manny Yospa, Lewis McLeod, or Jeff Perks. Over the years, the unveiling of the Marx memorial, the funerals of Communist leaders, Party Congresses, festivals, demonstrations and the like were filmed. Television, now growing spectacularly, developed a huge appetite for archival material and Plato (and its successor) was able to easily supply this with its highly significant collection of films of Communist and other events.

 

But, in 1959 Plato was hit by a libel suit issued by lawyers on behalf of former Nazi General Hans Speidel and the West German government, which possibly provided the money for Speidel's defence. General Speidel contested the views presented in a GDR documentary, distributed by Plato. In late June 1961 the case ended in the House of Lords: the German Democratic Republic, with the recent construction of the Berlin Wall were forced to go on the defensive and were no longer interested in the case and Speidel was willing settle the matter. Although the case ended inconclusively, Plato had to take precautions and Stanley had been advised to register a new company in case Plato went bankrupt as a result of the verdict.

 

Therefore, on 5th July 1959 Educational and Television Films Ltd was incorporated, which traded up until 2002. A beneficial side-effect of the Speidel case was that Plato/ETV forged strong links with the GDR, resulting in co-productions with their film and television outputs. Educational and Television Films also assisted East German camera crews coming over to the United Kingdom on missions that varied from the making of English language courses to television news items.

 

In the 1970s ETV made a major contribution to the Chile Solidarity Campaign with the film `Companero’.

 

When the lease on ETV’s premises ran out, the company stopped trading after more than 52 years and donated its archive collection to the British Film Institute. It was then that Stanley, his partner Hilda Forman, and assistant, Betty Baker, finally retired.

 

Sources:

www.netribution.co.uk/

www.amielandmelburn.org.uk/

www.bfi.org.uk/