OBITUARY : Stanley Reed

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The Independent Online
Although Stanley Reed had long retired as director of the British Film Institute, his death marks yet another loss to the world of cinema, following as it does so soon after those of the critic John Gillett, the film historians Bill Everson and David Shipman and the former owner of the Academy Cinema, Ivo Jarosy. Like them Reed had a passionate, lifelong commitment to film, notably to the educative and cultural aspects of the medium.

He began his working life as a teacher, aged 21, in the East End of London, where he had been born and continued to live all his life, despite the surrounding gentrification of the area, which doubtless did not appeal to his leftist principles. The son of a printer, he went to Stratford Grammar School on a scholarship. He later took a degree in English at the College of St Mark and St John, Chelsea, and qualified as a teacher.

It was after the Second World War - during which period he worked with schools' evacuation - that he became first the Visual Aids Officer for West Ham and subsequently joined the British Film Institute as their inauguratory Education Officer. This was during a period of comparative austerity and for a while the BFI remained a small, friendly organisation housed modestly in buildings around the Soho area of London.

Although money was tight, Reed and others began the oddly-titled Experimental Film Fund, which helped aspiring film-makers including Tony Richardson, Karel Reisz, Jack Gold and Kevin Brownlow. At this stage the involvement was in short films. Years later Reed appeared in Brownlow's 1975 feature film Winstanley, as a rather uneasy Recorder.

After a period as Education Officer, Reed began a stint as Secretary to the BFI and in 1964 was appointed its Director. The BFI was expanding during this period and moved from Shaftesbury Avenue to Dean Street, to Waterloo and elsewhere. The change from a distinctly family atmosphere was well under way. But Reed never became grandiose and the BFI under his guidance retained its remit to encourage the art of the cinema. Only in recent years has bureaucracy and aggrandisement sabotaged this role.

During Reed's directorship, the Film Fund blossomed and developed into the BFI Production Board under Mamoun Hassan and Reed's protege Bruce Beresford. And in 1970 the gleam in the eye of the National Film Theatre's controller, Leslie Hardcastle, became a reality with the opening of a second auditorium there, to which I was appointed programme planner. This was after three strenuous years working directly to Reed, as the BFI's first press officer. He had a rather strict view of the BFI's role and eschewed the glossier aspects of PR. He was most concerned about the choice, for example, of the opening programme for NFT2 lest it be too frivolous, and he always made the final decision about the opening film for the London Film Festival. He worked tirelessly for the BFI including on Sundays, when he would regularly attend the John Player Lectures at the NFT and host lunches for the myriad stars and directors involved.

When, in 1972, he retired from the directorship of the BFI, it was partly on grounds of a heart condition, but he soon became immersed in the expansion programme for regional film theatres. For four years he worked with others to open the network of regional film theatres which he believed to be a cornerstone of the BFI's work.

He finally relinquished this consultancy and retired to his garden and workshop at his house in Wanstead, east London. He continued lifelong interests in photography and reading.

It was at school, aged 11, that he had met Alicia Chapman, who in 1937 became his wife, and they shared a life together that ran happily in tandem with Reed's demanding career and their shared love of cinema and the arts. He and Alicia never ceased to be part of the consciousness of those who had met and worked with them.

Stanley Reed was a man of quiet integrity with the manner of a stern yet benign headmaster, who earned respect and expected high standards. He was above all entirely without bombast and I have a notion that he would have approved of a remark made in a Jacques Tourneur Western: "It's not a question of who's right, it's what's right that matters".

Brian Baxter

Stanley Reed, educationist and administrator: born London 21 January 1911; married 1937 Alicia Chapman (three daughters); died London 4 May 1996.