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Press Release for The Volunteer

"The Volunteer" is being released for the Ministry of Information by Anglo-American and opens its pre release run at the Odeon, Leicester Square on Friday October 29th [1943].



Ralph Richardson and Pat McGrath
"The Volunteer"
a Ministry of Information Film.
A Production of The Archers.
Written Produced and Directed by

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

This film is made with co-operation of
the Royal Navy and is dedicated to the
Fleet Air Arm.



     A stage group photograph stands on Ralph Richardson's mantlepiece. It was taken in the Summer of 1939 when the company was playing "Othello". Everyone is there; Richardson as Othello, Desdemona, and the rest, and of course, right in the middle, the man who put up the money. [meant to be J. Arthur Rank, actually designer Alfred Junge] At the sides are stage hands, carpenters, electricians. Right at the back there is half a head. This is Fred.

     Fred Davey was Ralph Richardson's dresser. He was clumsy, ham-fisted and generally pretty useless, but sonehow his enthusiasm and perpetual grin got him by. When war was declared Fred decided to join up and, after a lot of deliberation [in the studio restaurant at Denham] , he decided to join the Fleet Air Arm. As a reserve pilot, Richardson joined the same service and from time to time, in the course of the war, they met.

     The first time was at the Naval Training Establishment where Fred was training to become an Air Mechanic (E). E for engines. Fred, who couldn't hit anything with a hammer but his thumb was becoming a skilled engineer.

     About two years later Richardson visited an aircraft carrier that had just returned from operations in the Mediterranean. There was Fred again. Now a fully-fledged mechanic with an aircraft of his own to service. That evening ship's company was to see a film that had been taken during the trip. Some of it was taken on the way out and showed glimpses of life aboard a carrier; rum rations being doled out, gun practice. Then shore leave at Algiers; the Kasbah, a wardroom party on the u.S. cruiser "Havana", General de Gaulle arriving at H.Q. And then real action stuff when the ship was attacked by enemy planes. Seafires taking off to engage the bombers and then coming in again for repairs. The maintenance crews, and the gunners at their posts, were hard at it the whole time. Several near misses rocked the ship - and the camera. Then a bomb found the deck and accounted for a number of casualties. Maintenance men got it mostly; the deck is their workshop during an action. As they were taken off to the sick-bay an aircraft came in with a broken airscrew. There was nobody to fix it and it looked like being "Unfit for Service" for the rest of the day. But suddenly a figure appeared with one shoulder bandaged. It was Fred, a fugitive from the sick-bay, but still on the job. The aircraft took off again, after all.

     One fine day Ralph Richardson took his niece for a walk in St. James' Park. He wanted to watch the ducks and she wanted to see the changing of the guard. So they went to the Palace. But it was investiture day and suddenly they saw Sally, Fred Davey's fiancee, looking eagerly through the railings. She was waiting for Fred, and there he was with his proud parents. The D.S.M. was pinned on his jersey. Richardson asked for Fred's autograph to give to his niece, and just as the book was signed a press photographer [Michael Powell] snapped them.

     To-day the photograph stands on Ralph Richardson's mantlepiece, next to the group of "Othello". In one Fred Davey is half a head - in the other he is a hero.


     "The Volunteer", the story of a typical youth - any youth from London, from Penzance, Liverpool, Newcastle or Glasgow. In the film he is called Alfred Davey, but it could as easily be Smith, Davis or McGregor.

     The film was made by The Archers for the Ministry of Information at the request of the Admiralty. It tells the story of a youngster who joins the Fleet Air Arm and traces his career from the day he enters - so ham-fisted he can hardly hit a nail with a hammer - until the day he finds himself responsible for the maintenance of a Seafire aircraft in the height of an attack by enemy planes.

     In order to find out what happens to the typical recruit when he joins the Fleet Air Arm, Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell visited pilots and ground crews on Aircraft carriers, in training establishments and air stations. The camera unit itself visited nine Naval Establishments - six in Great Britain and three in the Near and Middle East.

     A number of scenes were shot on the Aircraft carrier "Indomitable" whilst she was on active service in the Mediterranean. Among the scenes aboard the aircraft carrier there is a film show - a film within a film - for which the commentary is given by Lieutenant Commander Tommy Woodrooffe, who happened to be aboard.

     Lieutenant Commander (A) Ralph Richardson R.N.V.R. plays himself in the film, and the part of the typical recruit Alfred Davey is played by Pat McGrath.

     The film was writted, produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. It is being released for the Ministry of Information by Anglo-American, and opens its pre-release run at the Odeon, Leicester Square on Friday October 29th.



Ralph Richardson

     Lieutenant Commander (A) Ralph Richardson, R.N.V.R. has been a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm since the beginning of the war and he worked on this film at the express wish of the Admiralty.

     As an actor Ralph Richardson needs very little introduction, although since the war he has made few appearances on the screen. One of his war-time films is a recent production of The Archers "The Silver Fleet" in which he plays the part of a Dutch patriot. Well-known to the London stage through many excellent performances, such as the title role in "The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse", Ralph Richardson made his screen debut in 1933. His sincerity of acting soon made him a top-line star and he will be remembered for his success as in "The Shape of Things to Come", "South Riding", and "Four Feathers".

     rn in Cheltenham in 1902, he made his first stage appearance at the Little Theatre, Brighton, in 1921.

Pat McGrath

     Pat McGrath began his stage career as a ballet dancer at Sadler's Wells. Not, he says, because he knew anything about ballet, but because early athletic training enabled him to leap higher than most professional dancers.

     He migrated from ballet to Charlot revues and later was given the chief singing role in "White Horse Inn". At the outbreak of war he joined the Army and served with the Royal Corps of Signallers until he was invalided out of the service in 1942.

     Apart from "Freedom Radio" in which he played a small part just before joining the army, Pat McGrath is new to films. He appeared in "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp". [As Cpl Tommy Tucker] He will be seen again shortly in "Halfway House".

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