Acclaimed by Paul Rotha as the first ‘story’ documentary, Harry Watt’s The Saving of Bill Blewitt’s conviction owes much to the very real Bill Blewitt, a local postman discovered by Watt.Ostensibly produced to promote the 75th anniversary of the Post Office Savings Bank, Watt’s film dispenses almost completely with narration and instead improvises a story out of the people of Mousehole and the Cornish landscape they inhabit. From the village laundry blowing in the wind to the artist struggling behind an easel, the film exhibits an unforced affection with place and people that was to become Watt’s hallmark.
Harry Watt was born in 1906 and he studied at Edinburgh University. After a spell in the Merchant Navy and a number of short-lived industrial jobs, he joined John Grierson at the Empire Marketing Board Film Unit in 1932. While learning the basics of film-making with Grierson in London, Watt also gained valuable experience assisting John Taylor on Robert Flaherty’s film Man of Aran (1934), on location in Ireland.