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Professor Robert Murphy

Job: Emeritus Professor in Film Studies

Faculty: Arts, Design and Humanities

School/department: School of Media and Communication

Research group(s): Cinema and Television History Research Centre (CATH)

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, UK, LE1 9BH

T: n/a




Personal profile

After a good deal of travelling and a variety of jobs, I studied film-making at the London Film School and then History at the LSE.  I worked as a freelance journalist writing about film (mainly for Time Out) and researcher (most productively for the Callender Company on rival underworld gangsters Billy Hill and Jack ‘Spot’ Comer).  An academic career unexpectedly opened up with a research fellowship at the University of Kent, where I wrote a volume of the History of the British Film (on the 1960s).  This was followed by eight years at Sheffield Hallam University and a further thirteen at DMU.

I have written three books on British Cinema and edited three versions of The British Cinema Book for BFI Publishing.  I also wrote a book about the London underworld and edited a massive tome on Directors in British and Irish Cinema.  My current interests are British cinema in the 1930s, and film noir, particularly in relation to British cinema.  My long article, ‘English As She is Spoke’ in The Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television (December 2012) takes a fresh look at the first British talkies.  The book I am currently writing: Shadows Are My Friends, looks at the noir tradition in British cinema.

Publications and outputs

  • After laughter comes tears: passion and redemption in This is England '88.
    After laughter comes tears: passion and redemption in This is England '88. Murphy, R. P.
  • Polanski and Skolimowski in 'Swinging London'
    Polanski and Skolimowski in 'Swinging London' Murphy, R. P.
  • Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451: A World Without Books
    Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451: A World Without Books Murphy, R. P.
  • Dark Shadows Around Ealing
    Dark Shadows Around Ealing Murphy, R. P.
  • Refuge England: Blacklisted American Directors and British Film Noir
    Refuge England: Blacklisted American Directors and British Film Noir Murphy, R. P.
  • English As She is Spoke: The First British Talkies
    English As She is Spoke: The First British Talkies Murphy, R. P.
  • Bright hopes, dark dreams: A guide to new British cinema
    Bright hopes, dark dreams: A guide to new British cinema Murphy, R. P.
  • Strange days: British cinema in the late 60s’
    Strange days: British cinema in the late 60s’ Murphy, R. P.
  • The British Cinema Book (3rd ed.)
    The British Cinema Book (3rd ed.) Murphy, R. P.
  • Directors in British and Irish cinema 
    Directors in British and Irish cinema  Murphy, R. P. Directors in British and Irish Cinema is an assessment of the careers and achievements of over a thousand directors, most of whom have received little scholarly attention. It draws upon the expertise of over sixty contributors. Each of the 1028 entries has been provided with a comprehensive filmography (which for some of the silent film directors includes over a hundred films). Comprehensive coverage have made it a standard reference work. Collaboration with the BFI-based website Screenonline allowed over two hundred entries to be accessed through the internet. Murphy’s essay on Robert Hamer is of the same order as his substantial biographical entries on Alexander Korda, Carol Reed, David Lean, Alexander Mackendrick, Frank Launder, Harry Watt, and Karel Reisz for the Dictionary of National Biography. The bulk of his own writing, however (over 56,000 words), is on new British directors, few of whom have been critically assessed before, despite the very substantial financial funds now invested in British film production. His entries on Asif Kapadia, Shona Auerbach, Emily Young, Mark Evans, Amma Asante, Jonathan Glazer, Chris Smith, Paul Spurrier, Marc Munden, Richard Jobson, David Mackenzie, Kirsten Sheridan, Simon Rumley, Penny Woolcock and Edgar Wright reveal a generation of talented young film-makers around which a viable British cinema might be expected to grow. Here, as elsewhere in other under-researched areas, Directors in British and Irish Cinema attempts to draw new maps of British cinema.


Click here for a full listing of Robert Murphy's publications and outputs.

Key research outputs

The British Cinema Book(3rd Edition), London: BFI Publishing, 2009.

‘English As She is Spoke: The First British Talkies’, The Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television vol. 32, issue 4, Dec. 2012, pp. 611–631.

‘Dark Shadows Around Ealing’, in Mark Duguid, Lee Freeman, Keith M. Johnston, Melanie Williams (eds), Ealing Revisited (London: BFI Publishing, 2012), pp. 81–90.

‘Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451: A World Without Books’, in Melvyn Stokes (ed.), Memory in/of English-speaking Cinema (forthcoming 2012).

‘Refuge England: Blacklisted American Directors and British Film Noir’, in Robert Miklitsch (ed.), Kiss the Blood Off My Hands: Re-Screening Classic Noir (Illinois University Press, forthcoming 2013).

Research interests/expertise

  • British Cinema
  • Film Noir
  • Scriptwriting for film and television
  • Early sound films
  • Blacklisted Americans working in Britain
  • 1960s and Swinging London

Areas of teaching

British Cinema, Film Noir, Scriptwriting, Silent Cinema, European Cinema, Theories of Film


Ph.D (Film Studies), MA (Film Studies), MSc (Economic History), BA (History)

Courses taught

Introduction to Film Studies, Introduction to Film History, British Cinema, Scriptwriting, Art Cinema and the Avant-Garde.

Conference attendance

‘Powell and Pressburger’s Men’, a paper on Mr Dean in Black Narcissus, given at the Michael Powell Centenary Conference, September 2005, University of Wales, Bangor).

‘Women in British Film Noir’, PEC5: 5th Conference on Popular European Cinema, Paris, June 2007.

‘Spoiling the Party: Roman, Michelangelo, and Otto in Swinging London’, Continental Connections: British Film and Television in their European Contexts, De Montfort University, July 2007.

‘Truffaut in London’, Anglo-French cinematic relations since 1930, University of Southampton, September 2007.

‘Lean Noir: Dark Passions in the Films of David Lean’, David Lean Centenary Conference, Queen Mary University of London, July 2008.

‘Colour Film Noir: A contradiction in terms?’, Colour and the Moving Image Conference 10–12th July 2009, University of Bristol.

‘English as She is Spoke’, ‘Le cinéma parle: mots, voix et langue’, 14e Congrès de la SERCIA à Paris X (Nanterre-la Défense) 17–19 September 2009.

‘Skolimowski and Polanski in Swinging London’, Polish Cinema in an International Context, 4-5 December 2009, Manchester Cornerhouse, organised by the University of Central Lancashire and the University of Salford.

‘Always Look on the Dark Side of Life: British Crime and Horror Films in the 21st Century’, British Film 2000 – 2010, Johannes-Gutenberg University Mainz, 18 – 21 February 2010.

‘Red Riding: Hell is a West Yorkshire City’, Bloodlines Conference, De Montfort University, 4 – 5 March 2010.

‘London Noir: Night and the City’, Lost London: Explorations of a Dark Metropolis Conference, Sheffield Hallam University, 14 - 15 June 2010.

‘A World Without Books: Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451’, at 15th International SERCIA Conference, University of Franche-Comté, Besançon, ‘Memory in/of English-speaking Cinema’, 8 –10 September 2010.

‘Gutter Modernism in British Cinema’, Rewriting, Remixing, and Reloading: Adaptations across the Globe, Centre for British Studies, Berlin, 30 September to 1 October 2010.

‘The Great British Talking Picture Show’ (with Geoff Brown), 14th British Silent Film Festival, the Barbican, London, 7–11 April 2011.

‘George and Jerry in Darkest England’, Creative Accounting: British Producers/British Screens Conference, University of the West of England, 19–20 April 2011.

 ‘Jules Dassin: An American Abroad’ at 16th International SERCIA Conference, ‘Cinema and the Crossing of Frontiers’, University of Bath, 8–10 September 2011.

‘David Mercer: No Easy Answers’, Marx at the Movies Conference, University of Central Lancashire, March 16-17, 2012.

Consultancy work

I was consultant on ‘The Lime Grove Story’ (1991)’ and ‘Flames of Passion: the Other Side of British Cinema’ (2007) for BBC2 and ‘Big Shots: the British Gangster Film’ (2002) for Channel 4. 

Current research students

Since 1998 I have been external examiner for eight Ph.D students and internal examiner for three.  I am currently 2nd supervisor for Alex Rock, who is writing a Ph.D on the history of collaborations between the British film industry and the state from the formation of the Metropolitan Police Press Bureau in 1919 until the demise of Ealing Studios in the late Fifties.

Externally funded research grants information

I was awarded an AHRB Research Leave Grant of £11,529 in 1999 which I used to write British Cinema and the Second World War.

I received a British Academy Small Grant of £1,299 in 2001 to give a paper and write the DNB entry on Robert Hamer.

I was given an AHRB Changing Places Award of £16,000 in 2002 to work with Mark Duguid of the BFI on writing and preparing entries on directors who had played a crucial role in British and Irish cinema for the Screenonline website.

A British Academy Small Grant of £1,474 in 2003 and an AHRC Research Leave Grant of £13,153 in 2003 allowed me the time to complete editing and write additional entries for Directors in British and Irish Cinema.

An AHRC Research Leave Grant of £32,566.00 in 2006 (deferred till 2007) gave me the opportunity to prepare the first draft of Shadows Are My Friends: British Film Noir.

A British Academy Small Grant of £1,185 in 2009, supplemented by a £500 grant from De Montfort paid for the archive viewing fees for over 70 British films made between 1929 and 1931, the essential research for my paper ‘English As She is Spoke: the First British Talkies’ presented at the 14th SERCIA Conference in Nanterre, Paris, September 2009 (and published in the conference proceedings in 2012), reworked and revised as a presentation (with the use of extracts from a dozen 35mm films) given with Geoff Brown at the 14th British Silent Cinema Conference at the Barbican in April 2011, and finally published as a long essay in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television in December 2012.

Professional esteem indicators

I have been asked to review research proposals by the AHRC and the Leverhulme Trust, write book and film reviews for Screen, The Journal of British Cinema and Television, Sight & Sound, Film International, Anglia and The Journal of British Studies; peer review articles for Contemporary British History, Scope, SERCIA, The Journal of British Cinema and Television, Public Understanding of Science, Screen and Feminist Media Studies; and book proposals for Routledge, BFI Publishing and Palgrave Macmillan.  I act as advisor to the Dictionary of National Biography on the eligibility of deceased actors and directors and suggest suitable people to write about them. 

Case studies

I wrote and recorded commentaries for BFI Distribution’s DVD release of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and wrote essays to accompany the release of Gerry O’Hara’s All the Right Noises and Peter Watkins’ Privilege.  My British Cinema and the 2nd World War was the main source book for BBC4 War Stories, broadcast in December 2008.

Robert Murphy