Alan Lovell obituary

Other lives: Academic who was one of the pioneers of film studies in the 1960s and 70s

My friend Alan Lovell, who has died aged 85, was a pioneer of the discipline of film studies in the 1960s and 70s, first as deputy head of the education department at the British Film Institute and then as a lecturer at Warwick and Staffordshire universities.

His writings on film were published regularly, and his most influential piece was the 1972 essay The Unknown Cinema of Britain, in which he argued for a fresh look at the virtues of British cinema. He also turned his hand to directing documentaries, including Star (1966), about the actor Julie Christie, Traces Left (1983), about the socialist artist Helen Biggar, and The Black and White Pirate Show (1987), which looked at pirate radio broadcasters.

Alan was born in Cardiff, one of two sons of Lillian (nee Martin), a factory worker, and George, a docker who died when Alan was eight. After attending Howard Gardens grammar school, Alan was called up for national service, and during that time developed an overtly political conscience. Three months before being demobbed he refused to put on his army uniform and was jailed as a conscientious objector.

When he returned to civilian life he went to Oxford University to study history and was involved in the foundation of the Universities and Left Review, later writing a film column for its successor, the New Left Review. During this period he was one of the original signatories of the Committee of 100, formed in 1960 to campaign for nuclear disarmament.

In 1962 he married the sociologist Terry Randle, and around the same became film critic for Peace News, after which he joined the British Film Institute in London as a freelance lecturer and then, in 1965, as full-time editor of film study materials. In 1969 he became deputy head of the BFI education department, where, along with Paddy Whannel, Peter Wollen and Victor Perkins, he was a key figure in the development of film studies, giving lectures on film around the country and shaping new attitudes to film education.

In 1971 he quit in protest at cuts to the BFI education department’s budget and a year later moved to Coventry, where Terry had a job at the University of Warwick. He spent the next few years at home looking after their two children, while continuing to write. In 1975 he took up a position in the film department at Warwick, where he stayed for 20 years, combining that part-time work with making documentaries.

In 1995 he became a lecturer on film and cinema at Staffordshire University until retirement in 2000. He wrote five books, including Studies in Documentary (1972) and Don Siegel: American Cinema (1975).

A cricket lover, Alan played for the Ravers club in London and then, from 1976, was a stalwart of the University of Warwick Staff and Graduate cricket club until the mid-2010s.

His marriage to Terry ended in divorce in 1983. He is survived by their children, Howell and Tessa, and two grandchildren, Oscar and Rudy.

Neil Carter

The GuardianTramp

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