George Groom

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George Groom (1917-1992) was a cameraman and film producer.


English-born George Henry William Groom originally came to South Africa as a cinematographer to join Gaumont-British Africa, a short-lived subsidiary of Gaumont-British Instructional that was established in Johannesburg towards the end of 1946. The company’s manager was Harold C. Weaver, who was to become the first full-time producer for the South African Tourist Corporation. Groom was one of the cameramen on Rhodesia Welcomes Royalty (1947), shot Robin G. Last’s Pitaniko (1947), Donald Swanson and S.G. Fergusson’s Mining Centre, Johannesburg (1949), Frank Cadman’s Tsetse (1950) as well as various copper mining documentaries. For Cadman he also filmed Mystery of the Snakeskin Belt (1950), a production for Rank’s Children’s Entertainment Films.

After Gaumont-British Africa closed down he continued to work for Weaver on films like Travelways in South Africa (1952), South African Highways (1952), which he also directed, and A Preview for the Visitor (1954). Subsequently he formed his own production company, which he called Cineunion, and established a partnership with J. Blake Dalrymple’s Films of Africa. Because of local problems with processing, they decided to set up their own plant, purchased equipment from a laboratory in Nairobi that was closing down and, taking on Vernon Whitten in the process, transported it all to Gatooma in an ex-army lorry. Their most notable film in those days was Dalrymple’s The Captive River (1960), made for Shell Rhodesia. In 1956 Cineunion had moved down to Johannesburg. When South Africa became a republic, it was decided that Cineunion didn’t sound quite right and Films of Africa became the flag bearer until Raymond Hancock joined the company and the Independent Film Centre (IFC) was founded.

During the sixties and seventies Films of Africa became one of the most prominent producers of documentaries in South Africa, with Groom usually acting as producer and Dalrymple as director. Other directors who worked for Films of Africa/IFC were Antony Thomas, James Robb and Edgar Bold. The firm’s bread and butter were sponsored documentaries for companies like Shell South Africa (Open Road, Gone Fishing, The Castle), Gold Fields of South Africa (A Mine in the Making, The East Driefontein Story, A World of Difference), the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (Hollard Street Story), Anglo American (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: the Story of the Carlton Centre), the Chamber of Mines (The Goldminers) and also the Department of Information. For the latter Antony Thomas directed River of Diamonds (1965) and The Light Ahead (1966). They also acted as distributors for these films and many were shown as supporting programmes in the cinemas and were made available for educational purposes.

Over the years he played an increasingly administrative role and during the sixties he was Chairman of the local Motion Picture Producers’ Association, sometimes representing South African filmmakers abroad. He had married Vera Gunn in 1944 and died on 31 August 1992.


Mangin, Geoffrey - Filming emerging Africa (1998)

Ogterop, Freddy - A conversation with J. Blake Dalrymple (The Cape Librarian, March 1975)

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