Missing wartime movie rediscovered

Peggy Cummins with Martita Hunt in Welcome Mr Washington

Peggy Cummins with Martita Hunt in Welcome Mr Washington

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A wartime film which was believed to be lost for over 50 years has been found again.

Made in 1944, Welcome Mr Washington directed by Leslie Hiscott was last seen in the UK on television in 1961.

Since then the film has been missing, presumed lost, and was on the British Film Institute’s Most Wanted Films list issued in 2010 to mark the 75th anniversary of its National Archive.

Now, the star of the movie. Peggy Cummins has just seen the film at a private screening, the first time since 1944, and just in time for her 90th birthday.

She said: “I am absolutely delighted to be able to see this early film of mine again. It was at a key stage in my career and it was very important to me. I am very pleased that the film has been brought back to the BFI.

“I’m also very grateful for the effort the BFI has gone to in order to bring the film back to the screen.”

The 16mm re-released print of Welcome Mr Washington was discovered by an eagle-eyed film enthusiast in the Cinema Museum collection in London.

The BFI acquired this print, then, during discussions with Paramount it emerged that they too had a print, also 16mm and also cut for re-release.

It means that there is now a version of this light, warm-hearted Home Front tale in the BFI National Archive with a sparkling performance by Peggy Cummins.

Robin Baker, head curator of the BFI National Archive said: “The rediscovery of a ‘lost’ British film is always cause for celebration, but goes to underline quite how fragile our film and TV heritage is.

“It’s great to be able to present this charming wartime drama featuring the wonderful Peggy Cummins.

“It’s an important addition to the riches of our holdings of the cinema of World War Two.”