The British Film Institute presents the best global cinema on-demand:
From classic and contemporary films to the best of the BFI National Archive.

They Forgot to Read the Directions
They Forgot to Read the Directions

They Forgot to Read the Directions 1924

Close

This film is certified

Please confirm that you accept our terms of use.

Close

They Forgot to Read the Directions 1924

19 mins United Kingdom

This amateur black comedy offers revealing insights into some of Britain's 1920s elite. Shot at the majestic Surrey home of media magnate Lord Beaverbrook, it features a cast and crew of his celebrity friends. The racist and sexist attitudes on display here aren't so surprising coming from Daily Express proprietor Beaverbrook, who would a decade later be a prominent voice for appeasing Hitler. But more curious is the involvement of socialist HG Wells and pioneering feminist Rebecca West - who is credited with the ('ironic'?) script.

In what might seem another sign of the relaxed upper-crust morality of the time, Rebecca West had by this time ended a long-term love affair with Wells and is thought to have also had an affair with Beaverbrook. Rebecca West's calling as a novelist rather than a screenwriter is clear from the often amusing but rather wordy intertitles, and the in-jokes inevitably lose something in translation. One reference that can be cleared up is the use of Yadil to cure the poisoned wives. Yadil Antiseptic Jelly was a 'wonder drug' widely advertised after the post-WWI flu epidemic, but in 1924 a chemist discovered it was basically scented formaldehyde. The film was produced on professional 35mm stock for private screenings in the gardens of Beaverbrook's palatial Cherkley Court home, near Leatherhead.

Featuring

Rebecca West

H.G. Wells

William Maxwell Aitken

Genres

Home movie

Tags

Aristocracy

Collection

Pioneers of Personal Film Amateur Auteurs

Released

1924

Country

United Kingdom

Read lessRead more
Part of

1,000s of beautifully preserved films, capturing 120 years of Britain on Film

Explore
The map

Subscription

View All

Welcome to a new subscription service like no other.

>100s of hand-picked classics and critically-acclaimed films

>Critic Mark Kermode picks a must-see film every week

>No contract, cancel anytime

Cookies Policy

This website uses cookies, as explained in our Cookies Policy.

To accept the terms and hide this message please click 'I accept'.

I accept

Passionate about film? So are we…

Don't miss the email made for the in-the-know film fan:

New releases — on the same day as in cinemas Special collections & unheralded classics Exclusive news on discounts


Never ask | Ask me later