I learned today from film historian and Cecil Hepworth expert Simon Brown that Valerie Williamson, Hepworth’s daughter by his second marriage, has died. As Simon explains in this short notice which he has kindly supplied, Val Williamson did much to ensure that her father’s legacy was understood and respected, and her sad passing means that the last direct generational link with the British film pioneers has been broken. Simon writes:
I am sorry to have to announce that Valerie Williamson, daughter of pioneer British filmmaker Cecil Hepworth, died on Thursday 8th October after a battle with cancer. Val was born well after Hepworth stopped making films at Walton Studios, but after the death of Elizabeth Hepworth in the 1990s, Val took over the mantle of keeper of her father’s memory. Although she resisted the limelight, rarely attending screenings of her father’s work, she nonetheless became a great friend to academics, historians, documentary makers and archivists over the years, helping to ensure the long-term legacy of Hepworth through careful managing of how her father’s surviving films were used. She will be particularly missed by those historians of early British cinema with whom she freely shared her memories of her father and his work. As one of the few surviving family members with direct links to the pioneer days, her contribution to our understanding of Hepworth has been considerable and her death is a tragic loss for us all, particularly for those of us lucky enough to call her a friend. Outside of the film world Val was a potter of considerable talent and lived quietly near Guildford with her husband and her two beloved daschunds.
For information on Cecil Hepworth, the leading figure in British dramatic film production before the First World War, and a significant creative filmmaker into the 1920s, here are a few links:
- Hepworthfilm.org – website dedicated to Cecil Hepworth
- Heppy’s Daughter – description of a documentary interview with Val Williamson, show at this year’s Pordenone silent film festival
- Screenonline – biographical piece by Simon Brown
- Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema – biographical piece focussing on his earliest film years, by myself