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Friday, 13 September, 2002, 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK
Hunt for Dylan Thomas film footage
Dylan Thomas
Rage, rage - against the lack of moving pictures

Bob Dylan took his name, millions of people know his words and now there is to be a film about his drunken and tragically short - but verse-filled - life.

Almost half a century after his death, Wales' poet legend Dylan Thomas is finally achieving the stardom already won by fellow compatriots Richard Burton, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Tom Jones.


Because his voice was recorded and there are still pictures of him, people think they have seen moving pictures of him

Dylan Thomas expert, Jeff Towns

His fans include the former US president, Jimmy Carter, and Thomas devotees from America and Japan will no doubt make the pilgrimage to the land of his birth next year for the 50th anniversary of his death.

But organisers of a festival and exhibition marking the event are still searching for what they call the Holy Grail of Thomas memorabilia, film footage - moving pictures - of the man who urged us to "rage, rage against the dying of the light".

For incredibly, despite making two films for the BBC and scores of personal appearances in Britain and America in his final years, there is no archive footage of his life.

Discarded or destroyed

He delivered at least 200 readings during three tours across America in 1952 and 1953, an era when cine cameras were becoming popular.

Plenty of still photographs were taken at these performances, yet it seems no cinematic record was made or has survived.

It is believed the BBC films were also discarded or destroyed long ago.

Dylan Thomas
Dylan Thomas: Short on life, long on poetry

Certainly neither the BBC film libraries in London nor in his native Wales have any, even fleeting, footage of the great Welsh man of words.

Similarly, two film archives which were around when Thomas was creating headlines for his legendary drinking bouts, Pathé and Movietone, cannot lay claim to a frame of cine film footage of the 1950s celebrity.

Even the national film archive of Wales, which is building its own Thomas collection, has yet to move beyond mere recordings of his voice and still pictures of him in life.

The situation leaves Thomas aficionados mystified, even alarmed.

His home city of Swansea in south west Wales is preparing for a festival in autumn 2003 to mark the 50th anniversary of his death.

Dougray Scott
Dougray Scott is to play Thomas in the film

And people organising the event have begun one last, desperate search for their Holy Grail.

Jeff Towns, 53, runs a bookstore in the city dedicated to his poet hero.

"I have been collecting Dylan Thomas for 30 years and I think a lot of people, because his voice was recorded and there are still pictures of him, think they have seen moving pictures of him, but of course there is none," he said.

"Everywhere I have been, I've tried to find them, but I've had no success at all."

"It would be kind of like the Holy Grail, some moving footage of him."

'Sitting in someone's attic'

It is a view shared by David Woolley, manager of Swansea's Dylan Thomas Centre, who is coordinating the 2003 festival, in addition to running the annual Swansea Literature Festival - a programme launched in 1994 by Jimmy Carter.

Mr Woolley said: "Someone must have had a Super 8 camera when he did all those hundreds of readings.

"It's not likely that the BBC stuff still exists, the most likely is that on one the vast tours of America, someone filmed him.

"It could just sitting in someone's attic for the past 50 years."

But the hunt for the Holy Grail of Thomas' life is an urgent one, according to Towns.

Email Newsonline Wales

"Any footage will be from that student generation who saw him, people who will be in their seventies now.

"Once they are gone, nobody will ever know about any film that might exist.

"It's important that we try and flush something out now."

If you can help in the hunt for film footage of Dylan Thomas email: newsonline.wales@bbc.co.uk


Where I Live, South West Wales
See also:

04 Sep 02 | Wales
13 Feb 01 | Wales
01 Jan 00 | Wales
28 Jul 98 | Entertainment
27 Jul 98 | Entertainment
Links to more Wales stories are at the foot of the page.


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