Monarch News: Long Live the Cinema!

1943: The allies capture Tripoli from the Nazis; Television Broadcasting continues to be suspended; George Harrison is born; and two St. Andrews students begin their film magazine, Monarch News!


The ambitious Monarch – a hand-made magazine – was produced from 1943-1944. Manufactured against the backdrop of war, it provides a valuable glimpse into the period from the perspective of students, prospective film critics and members of the armed forces – all rolled into one. Founded by two St Andrews Students, Rollo Mitchell and Bob Edwards, and produced in Cowdenbeath, Monarch’s influences, and reports, came from far and wide: from London, to Hollywood and even Egypt.

The magazine is a testament to the enduring popularity of film throughout the war, highlighting and discussing many war films across its pages. It included film reviews which often celebrated patriotic war productions, such as In Which We Serve (Noel Coward, 1942, Great Britain), which the magazine praised as ‘one of the best films we have ever made’ [Monarch News, May 1943, issue 7].

The pages of the magazine also reveal the impact of war on the nation.  Conscription, bombing and rationing are all mentioned in the articles, while these challenges are more acutely felt in Monarch’s own efforts to source film and complete work on its own short production.

From May 1943, Monarch would also include short cuttings of ‘Stars Who Serve,’ which would detail each actor’s latest films alongside a small portrait. Star profiles included the likes of the British star, ‘Major’ David Niven, member of the Rifle Brigade (Monarch News, May 1943, Issue 7), and ‘Lieutenant’ Laurence Olivier who joined the Fleet Air Arm (Monarch News, July 1943, Issue 10). American stars like ‘Lieutenant’ James Stewart were also included in the sections (Monarch News, July 1943, Issue 9).

The ‘Stars Who Serve’ sections were cut outs from other newspapers and work to emphasise the film industry’s contribution to the war effort. Even those involved in propaganda films, like ‘Lieutenant’ Olivier, felt a strong obligation to ‘sign up’.

While stitched together in Scotland, each issue of Monarch was filled with references to war, both at home and further afield. Weekly interviews with the magazine’s collaborators, titled ‘Confess, Brother! Confess!”, detail the intimacies of the lives of these young adults. When asked what the worst experience of his life was, ‘photographic expert’ John Short answered: ‘The Blitz in Greenock’.

Even the satirical ‘Sadie Tripe: Don’t Believe it!’ column, would address female volunteering for the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) or the WRENS (Women’s Royal Navy Service), noting that Sadie knew it was her ‘turn to do my bit’ [Monarch News, January 1944, Issue 18].

The magazine even included articles in two issues from an ‘overseas correspondent’; overseas because he was serving with the armed forces. One of these articles discussed ‘South African Cinema’ (Monarch News, October 1943, 14), while the other was entitled ‘Church Bigotry versus Sunday Cinema’ (Monarch News, September 1943, 13). In discussing the relationship between cinema, war and Sunday screenings, the author, R. G Matthews (RAF), expressed his frustration at the closure of cinemas on Sundays, arguing that they could provide a source of moral education. Matthews also tells readers about his experience working in South African cinemas – an article he sends from his new post in Egypt!

The magazine’s contributors – predominantly young men – were inevitably also involved in war work. President Bob Edwards was waiting for ‘summons’, and producer and star of Monarchproduction, And So Goodbye, Rollo Mitchell was a member of the RAF. Rollo’s wartime role can be traced throughout the magazine. Monarcheven includes a newspaper’s report on Mitchell’s success in Frankfurt, where his plane came in on a “wing and a prayer” (Monarch News, February 1944, Issue 19).

While wartime is a recurrent topic throughout the articles, it does not hamper the predominantly optimistic tone of the magazine. Just as wartime film can be read as an escape from day to day life, Monarch allowed these young adults a chance to explore their own interests, away from the pressures of war, jobs or university.


Francesca Woulfe (2018)