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Ralph Keene Biography

Ralph Keene, one of the foremost British documentary filmmakers of the 1940s and 50s was born in Mysore, India on 7th July 1902.   With Donald Taylor, Keene founded the Strand Film Company in the mid-30s.   In the space of the four years from 1936 to 1939 the company produced around 80 films for such varied sponsors as the National Book Council, the National Council of Social Service, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, and various government departments.

In 1940 Keene founded Greenpark Productions and remained there until 1947.  In 1951 he was Chief Producer of the Government Film Unit in Ceylon, a position he held until 1953.   Under Keene’s leadership, the unit toiled in a disused RAF wartime Nissan hut from which emerged a quality of film that marked those years as a golden era in the history of Ceylonese documentary film-making.   Among Keene’s apprentices at this time were such noted filmmakers as Lester James Peries and Pragnasoma ‘Hetti’ Hettiarachchi.  

From 1955 until his death in Ipswich, Suffolk in January 1963, Keene worked for British Transport Films.

 Sources: The Documentary Film Movement: An Anthology. Contributors: Ian Aitken - editor. Publisher: Edinburgh University Press. Place of Publication: Edinburgh. Publication Year: 1998. Page Number: 6; The People's Films: A Political History of U.S. Government Motion Pictures. Contributors: Richard Dyer MacCann - author. Publisher: Hastings House. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year: 1973. Page Number: 25.

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Ralph Keene

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