Harry Watt

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Harry Watt (18 October 1906 – 2 April 1987) was a Scottish documentary and feature film director, who began his career working for John Grierson and Robert Flaherty.

Harry Watt
Born18 October 1906
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died2 April 1987 (aged 80)
Occupationdocumentary and film director, producer, writer

His 1959 film The Siege of Pinchgut was entered into the 9th Berlin International Film Festival.


He was born in Edinburgh, the son of a Scottish Liberal MP. He studied at Edinburgh University but failed to complete his degree. He enlisted in the Merchant Navy and worked in a number of industrial jobs.


In 1932, Watt joined the Empire Marketing Board Film Unit under John Grierson and began working on documentaries. He was an assistant on Man of Aran (1934).

In 1936 Watt became a director for the London unit of the American newsreel series March of Time, where his films included England's Tithe War (1936).

Watt then joined the GPO Film Unit where he made his reputation as a documentarian with Night Mail (1936) which received much acclaim. He followed it with The Saving of Bill Blewitt (1936) starring Bill Blewitt, who then appeared in Watt's North Sea (1938).

World War II saw Watt make war-themed films: Squadron 992 (1940), London Can Take It! (1940) and Christmas Under Fire (1941). His film Target for Tonight (1941) won an honorary Academy Award in 1942.


Watt made his feature debut with Nine Men (1943), a war movie produced by Michael Balcon. He helped write For Those in Peril and followed this with a comedy, Fiddlers Three (1944) starring Tommy Trinder.

Balcon sent Watt to Australia to find a subject for the film.[1] The result was The Overlanders (1946) which was a big hit and helped make a star of Chips Rafferty. It inspired Ealing to set up production in Australia. However the follow up, Eureka Stockade (1949), was not a success.

Watt went to East Africa on a similar mission to the one he had for The Overlanders – travel around the country, and find a subject for a film. He came up with Where No Vultures Fly (1951) which was another big hit.[2] It led to a less successful sequel, West of Zanzibar (1954).

Watt worked as a producer for Granada Television from 1955–56.

He returned to Australia for The Siege of Pinchgut (1959). He directed some television on shows like The Four Just Men (1959–60).

He died in Amersham, Buckinghamshire.[3]

Selected filmographyEdit


  1. ^ "Harry Watt says great film possibilities here". The Australian Women's Weekly. 11 (49). 6 May 1944. p. 19. Retrieved 12 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  2. ^ "Film circus goes on safari". The News. 58 (8, 900). Adelaide. 16 February 1952. p. 6. Retrieved 12 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ "IMDB.com: Awards for The Siege of Pinchgut". imdb.com. Retrieved 10 January 2010.

External linksEdit