In brief

3rd October 2003 at 01:00
The Encyclopedia of British Film Edited by Brian McFarlane Foreword by Philip French MethuenBritish Film Institute pound;24.99

This is a brilliantly useful book for student, specialist and ordinary filmgoer alike. British cinema is marginalised by Hollywood in most reference works. Here is a book that provides a breathtakingly comprehensive, authoritative and entertaining look at the subject, from the silent days to The Lord of the Rings.

Most of the 5,800 entries are potted biographiesfilmographies of actors, directors, producers, cinematographers, designers, writers and others. They cover the essential facts, but also include opinions - sometimes provocative, often quirky, racy or witty, always enjoyable. One notable feature is the number of characters actors featured - where else could you check up on such stalwarts of yesterday as Amy Veness, Geoffrey Keen, Wally Patch or Gladys Henson?

Equally valuable are the many general entries, on topics ranging from the use of classical music in film to gay and lesbian representation, from British-Asian film-making to Ireland and the British cinema. There are excellent pieces, too, on adaptation, and the contribution to film of writers such as DH Lawrence, George Bernard Shaw and Graham Greene. Brian McFarlane and his team have produced a work of great scholarship that deserves to be up on the shelves alongside Halliwell, Gifford and Thomson.

Jonathan Croall is the son of John Stuart Croall, a star of the early British cinema

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