J.O.C. Orton | World War Films

J.O.C. Orton was born in 1889 in London, England as John Overton Cone Orton. He was a scenarist, a screen and script writer, who also directed during the 1920s and wrote original satirical stories. It seems he was known best for films such as Born for Glory (1935), and comedies such as Hi Gang! (1941) and Oh, Mr. Porter! (1937), which broke box office records in Britain. He died in May1962 in London. As a Script & Scenario Writer he has 43+ Credits (IMDB) and thanks to BFI, at least 12 more MIA unearthed/restored films where he worked as both Assistant Director, Scenarist and Director prior to becoming a staff writer for Gainsborough Pictures (1930-48). Imaginative writers and scenarists appear to engender far less credit than might be their due and even when JOCO's initials are on film scripts, reviewers credit innovation and creativity solely to the Directors - Shooting Stars (1928) is a great example.

JOC worked on productions from 1925-1946 with such luminaries as Adrien Brunel, Walter Summers, Gustaf Molander, Walter Forde, Miles Mander and Sir Michael Balcon (as Producer) at Gainsborough and British-Gaumont, alongside such colleagues as Hitchock who was also one of their 'contract writers'. The four films shown on this page demonstrate JOC's serious work as the scenarist of early sound, epic, war footage, action films. Originally with the Norfolks, he flew early bi-planes as an Observer with the RAF, in such war theatres as Kut in Mesopotamia, from 1916-1918. These films reflect his contributing wartime experience as a decorated veteran of WWI, who began work in films as a Cutter and Scenarist and ended as a Screen Writer and satirist.

During 2018 and 2019, I will be compiling a complete filmography for J.O.C.O. both to celebrate 100 years since the end of WWI and to document his amazing life and contributions across two World Wars. - Writer: Chrystine A Walter

For Those in Peril -1944

Directed by: Charles Crichton Writers: Harry Watt, J.O.C. Orton, Richard Hillary, T.E.B. Clarke Starrring: David Farrar, Ralph Michael, Robert Wyndham, John Slater, Robert Griffith. (92 mins), UK. DVD Release April, 2009. Producers: Michael & S.C. Balcon. Ealing Studios 1944. Available on DVD.

BFI Information: http://www.bfi.org.uk/films-tv-people/4ce2b6aa7bc21.


For Those in Peril was designed to publicise a then little-known unit of the British Royal Air Force, the Air Sea Rescue Unit which was set up in 1941 with the aim of saving those in distress at sea, particularly airmen who had been shot down or otherwise forced to ditch their craft in the water. In common with a number of other war-related films made by Ealing at this time the plotline was subservient to the propaganda message, so name actors were generally not used, and genuine sailors featured in the action scenes.

Location filming took place mainly in the area around the port of Newhaven in Sussex, with the English Channel sequences being shot off the Sussex coast. Crichton, on his first directorial assignment, later recalled: "(My) first picture ... was a propaganda picture called For Those in Peril where we rushed around the Channel in high speed motorboats, boats which were used for picking up crashed airmen and so on. It's a horrifying thing to say, but it was very exciting."

Principal photography took place in mid-1943 at the Ealing studios and on location. With the active participation of the Admiralty and Royal Navy in filming, Royal Navy Patrol Service armed trawlers and other auxiliary craft, Royal Navy coastal craft (motor launches and torpedo boats) located at HMS Aggressive, Shoreham, were made available. A Royal Air Force Supermarine Walrus air-sea rescue aircraft of No. 28 Air Sea Rescue unit and a Douglas DB-7 Boston bomber was also featured.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_Those_in_Peril_(1944_film).

A WWII wartime story of air sea rescue: part-fiction, part-documentary, part-propaganda.

S Source: YouTube

"Looking back on it now, For Those in Peril should not be considered a movie as such, more a fascinating historical account of the dark days of war in the English Channel. -- Mark Walker

Charles Crichton is fondly remembered for his Ealing comedies, The Lavender Hill Mob and The Titfield Thunderbolt as well as for his later swansong, A Fish Called Wanda, but long before those he directed this little-known Ealing drama in 1944.

For Those in Peril belongs to that peculiar genre of wartime features that are part-fiction, part-documentary, part-propaganda (Coastal Command in 1942 was another in similar vein).

In this case, the flimsy story is designed to raise awareness of a little-known branch of the RAF, the Sea Rescue Boats. Pilot Officer Rawlings (Ralph Michael) reluctantly joins the crew of a rescue boat and is introduced to nautical life by skipper Murray (David Farrar).

After experiencing the mundane day-to-day routine, Rawlings learns how important their task is when they are called in to rescue the crew of a bomber shot-down in mid-channel. Not only is there thick fog and a minefield to deal with, but a German gunboat is looking for the airmen, too. And just when they seem to have accomplished the rescue, they are shelled by long-range guns from the French coast and strafed by the Luftwaffe. All in a day's work.

Crichton injects some melodrama into proceedings--one of the principal characters dies at the end--but his close ups of nervous faces and effects shots of exploding ships and planes exist simply to enhance the documentary aspect of the story. Actors and dialogue take second place to the depiction of what was, at the time of filming, an important part of the war effort. "Of course, the RMLs have got that pom-pom on the foc'sle," comments Murray matter-of-factly amid a barrage of similar naval jargon."

Source: amazon.co.uk: Film Description

Forever England - 1935

Directed by: Walter Forde | Written by: C.S. Forester (novel), J.O.C. Orton (Adaptation / Screenplay), Gerard Fairlie (Dialogue) | Starrring: John Mills, Betty Balfour, Barry MacKay, Jimmy Hanley. (70 mins), UK, A Gaumont British production. Available on DVD.


Confusingly, this one film has gone by four different titles over the years. It’s adapted from a book by C.S. Forester, and on first release in the UK and Australia (May,1935) it took the novel’s title, Brown on Resolution. However, the US release (Oct,1935( went for a snappier title, Born for Glory – and when the film was re-released in the UK it acquired a more memorable title here too, Forever England.  For good measure, it was also reissued as Torpedo Raider in the US!

During all those title changes, a lot of footage was cut, and the film now feels rather disjointed and rushed at just 68 minutes long. According to the IMDB, originally it ran for 80 minutes. Some of the cut scenes involved a sexually daring storyline involving Balfour, so it seems likely that the censors had a hand in this. She now has all too little screen time, but still makes a strong impression during the opening scenes.

Banned in the USA
"When Brown on Resolution (released in the U.S. as "Born For Glory"), the 1935 Walter Forde English high seas World War I (WWI) military thriller ("The Big Parade of the High Seas"; "Story by C.S. Forester") starred Barry Mackay, Betty Balfour, John Mills (very young in this role, in his second year of making movies!), Jimmy Hanley, and Howard Marion-Crawford." - Anthony Slide

A lot of footage has been cut, though the original New York Times review of the film by Andre Sennwald gives the gist of what’s been lost. It seems that in the uncut film Elizabeth (Balfour) discovered she was pregnant, but, even so, refused to marry Somerville (Mackay), insisting they couldn’t be happy because of the class divide. Instead, she told her family she would bring her baby up alone.

This has now all been cut, sadly – it certainly sounds like an unusual take on the “fallen woman” theme. Even as the film stands, though, the romance across the class divide is a striking element. Of course, this is also a theme of another famous film based on a book by Forester, The African Queen, which also has some similarities with this film’s war story.

A war movie set on the high-seas during WWI. It chronicles the exploits of a brave English sailor who is captured by a German cruiser.

Forever England Source: YouTube

The plot is centred on the illegitimate son of a British naval officer singlehandedly bringing about the downfall of a German cruiser during World War I. The on-land section of the film is quickly over, and Albert (Mills) heads off for sea, as one of the crew of an ageing, small ship, the cruiser HMS Rutland. His father is still a serving officer on another ship, but neither of them knows of the other’s existence. The first shipborne scenes are fairly lighthearted, including a sequence where the boys invite some young German sailors aboard. Albert has a boxing match with one of the German lads, Max, and  they strike up an instant friendship. However, even before the pair have finished singing Danny Boy together, the Germans are ordered back to their ship – and by the next scene the First World War is under way. (The actor cast as Max, Howard Marion-Crawford, played Doctor Watson in a 1950s TV series with Ronald Howard as Sherlock Holmes, while Mills played an elderly version of Dr Watson in 1980s film The Masks of Death.)

After the Rutland is sunk, Albert and a gravely ill Ginger are plucked from the sea and rescued by the same German battle cruiser where they have friends among the crew. Max is delighted to see Albert and is soon sneaking him cigarettes and chatting to him, only shutting up when he sees an officer. Strikingly, there’s no hint of any personal enmity among the ordinary sailors, even though you might expect that in a film with such a strong vein of patriotism.

In any case, despite his friendship with Max, Albert is determined to stop the German ship from getting away – and, when it moors off the Galapagos islands for repairs to be carried out, he sees his chance. He escapes to the island of Resolution and hides in the mountains with a gun, picking off the German sailors one by one.

I won’t give away the rest of the plot, but you can probably guess it all. Despite some melodramatic scenes, in particular when Brown is on the island, the film as a whole feels down-to-earth and enjoyable, and Mills is very good as Albert. He has quite a few wordless scenes in the island section, and expresses a lot with just his eyes. These island scenes were directed by Anthony Asquith.  I’m impressed by how much versatility Mills showed in his 1930s films and indeed all through his long career."

Source: https://britishfilmclassics.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/forever-england-aka-born-for-glory-walter-forde-1935/


Goofer Trouble - 1941

Goofer Trouble Goofer Goofer trouble / the Ministry of Information presents ; directed by Maurice Elvey ; screenplay by J.O.C. Orton and Val Guest. (click the above image to link to Indiana University's copy)

Publisher: Ministry of Information - Known as a 'Public Information Filler'
Genres: Public service announcements (Motion pictures); Fiction films.; Short films.
Subjects: World War, 1939-1945; Aerial operations; Air defenses; Civil defense
Physical Description: 1 film reel (8 min.) : sound, black and white ; 16 mm
"A Short informative fictional film asking people to help the war effort by staying under cover during air raids. A group of English and Canadian fighter pilots report the number of German planes they have each shot down. The rivalry between the British and Canadian pilots is intense and later in the pilot's hut one of the English pilots is asked why he did not "kill" a German plane when he had the chance. He replies that the problem was "Goofer trouble". "Goofers" are people who are seen leaving a shelter to watch a dog fight. Because these "Goofers" were in the street, the pilot could not open fire without running the risk of hitting them."-- British Film Institute website.
Elvey, Maurice, 1887-1967; Orton, J. O. C. (John Overton Cone), 1889-1962; Guest, Val; Emney, Fred; Chapman, Edward, 1901-1977; Rolfe, Charles, 1890-1965; Farrar, David, 1908-1995; Chamberlain, Cyril, 1909-1974; Andrews, Ted, 1907-1966; Beatty, Robert, 1909-1992; Forsyth, Frank, 1905-1984; Bennett, Compton, 1900-1974; Cross, Eric, 1902-2004; Great Britain. Ministry of Information; Indiana University, Bloomington. Audio-Visual Center.
Location: Great Britain

Editor, Compton Bennett; assistant director, Arthur Banks; sound, A.W. Watkins; production manager, H.G. Coward; photographer, Eric Cross.

Fred Emney, Edward Chapman, Charles Rolfe, David Farrar, Cyril Chamberlain, Ted Andrews, Robert Beatty, Frank Forsyth.

The Ministry of Information presents ; directed by Maurice Elvey ; screenplay by J.O.C. Orton and Val Guest.

VENUE/EVENT DATE: "Made at D&P Studios"--Title frame. Available via Streaming.

Other Identifiers: Catalog Key: 7818164; OCLC: ocn900646858; OCLC: 900646858

Information from: https://media.dlib.indiana.edu/media_objects/gx41mh98g


Bon Voyage - 1944

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock | Scenario/Writer: J.O.C. Orton, Angus McPhail. (Uncredited) From an original 'subject' by Arthur Calder-Marshall. Director of Photograpy: Gunther Krampf. Sets: Charles Gilbert. Studio: Associated British. Distributed by: Milestone Films Principal Actors: John Blythe, The Moliere Players (A French company that had fled to England). (26 mins), French with English subtitles. A Ministry of Information production. Available on DVD.



Bon Voyage (1944) is a short French language propaganda film made by Alfred Hitchcock for the British Ministry of Information. Although the film is short (26 minutes), it is interesting for its use of two radically different interpretations of the same events, a technique not unlike that used by Akira Kurosawa in Rashomon (1950), Errol Morris in The Thin Blue Line (1988), and Fernando Meirelles in Cidade de Deus (2002).


Hitchcock had offered his services to the British government after his former producer in the UK, Michael Balcon, made a statement about overweight British directors who had left the country for Hollywood "while we who are left behind short-handed are trying to harness the films to our great national effort." Later, Hitchcock told François Truffaut "I felt the need to make a little contribution to the war effort, and I was both overweight and overage for military service. I knew that if I did nothing, I'd regret it for the rest of my life; it was important to me to do something and also to get right into the atmosphere of war." Hitchcock soon began development of Bon Voyage, which he described as "a little story about an RAF man who is being escorted out of France through the Resistance channels. His escort was a Polish officer. When he arrives in London, the RAF man is interrogated by an officer of the Free French Forces, who informs him that his Polish escort was really a Gestapo man.


Upon that startling revelation, we go through the journey across France all over again, but this time we show all sorts of details that the young RAF man hadn't noticed at first, various indications of the Pole's complicity with the Gestapo detail.

At the end of the story there was a twist showing how the Polish officer had been trapped. At the same time, the RAF man learned that the young French girl who'd helped them, and had spotted the Pole as a spy, had been killed byhim."[1]


Hitchcock cast John Blythe in the lead role, and the remaining members of the cast came from the Molière Players, who had escaped from France after the German invasion, and whose names were not revealed so as to protect their relatives still in France.[1]


Bon Voyage was filmed from 20 January to 25 February at Associated British Studios. Hitchcock was paid ₤10 aweek. It is uncertain whether Bon Voyage – which was a disappointment as a propaganda film to the Ministry of Information – was ever shown in Britain or in France. The MOI's intention was allegedly to encourage French citizens to become resistance fighters. However, both it and Aventure Malgache were shelved by the Ministry and were not seen again until the 1990s,[1] when they were restored by the British Film Institute (BFI).

[1] LoBianco, Lorraine "Bon Voyage (1944)" (article)(http://www.tcm.com/thismonth/article/142631%7C103568
/Bon-Voyage.html) TCM.com

A downed Royal Air Force gunner, previously a prisoner of war, explains the difficulties of his journey through German-occupied France.

Bon Voyage Source: YouTube

Milestone Films has released Bon Voyage, paired with the other 1944 French language Hitchock short film Aventure Malgache, on VHS and DVD (French subtitles). Source: Wikipedia

Notes: A 'Scenario' is: a written outline of a film, novel, or stage work giving details of the plot and individual scenes; a postulated sequence or development of events; a setting, in particular for a work of art or literature. A Scenarist is a writer of Scenarios. Often associated with Film Noir or from an era with a low-key, black-and-white visual style.

World War Sound Films

Detailed info about four of the dramatic War Films JOC was scenarist / screenwriter for. Three can be streamed (2018).

JOC Orton | 1889-1962

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