Today we’re fascinated by these great clips of chimney felling. Vast, towering brick chimneys, often designed by celebrated architects, and built with the blood and tears of hundreds, indeed some men will have died in the dangerous sky-high construction and bricklaying of these giant structures. They were the emblem of a vast industrial past that spanned decades, and then in a matter of minutes stuffed with explosives, or in some cases straw soaked in paraffin, and destroyed forever, leaving nothing but an absence on the horizon.
It’s incredible that British Pathé has eight videos of chimney felling, the preparatory work, close-ups of the men’s faces as they pack the foundations with explosives, and then those final graceful seconds – a huge chimney slowly falling, then comes the crash, then nothing but thousands of bricks scattered across a field, and a cloud of dust.
The latest evidence of our long-term suspicion that Lady Gaga is inspired almost exclusively by the British Pathé film archive comes in the form of Kitchen Hats, a 1959 newsreel in which British housewives literally shove a kitchen appliance on their head and pose for a designer who then recreates it in fabric.
“The days when diamonds and furs didn’t mix with pots and pans appear to have gone for good” marvels the narrator. Above is a photo of Lady Gaga having forgot to put the lid on a blender of cake mix.
Our first uncanny canister moment that just screamed Gaga, also known as a “Garchive discovery”, was on the 24th of August when we stumbled across a lady in the 1950s wearing gigantic telephone earrings:
Below are photos from our latest Garchive discovery Kitchen Hats. Click on the stills to watch the wonderful 1950s newsreel. And if you happen to know of any other Garchive moments in British Pathé then please do get in touch via our Facebook group.
Are you related to anyone who once worked for Pathé News? If so, BBC4 want to hear from you and may be interested in interviewing you for their upcoming TV series The Story of Pathé.
Pathé was one of the biggest news companies of their day, employing hundreds of cameramen, writers, editors and production staff.
Pathé stopped producing newsreels in the 1970s, and so it is likely to be older generations who are still alive today who worked for them, so make sure to ask your Grandparents!
BBC4 are interested in hearing from anyone whose parents or grandparents worked on Pathé News, but in particular the families of the following six individuals:
Bob Danvers-Walker: One of British Pathé’s most recognisable narrators, who later on became one of ITV’s first announcers, providing the voice for iconic shows like The Wheel of Fortune. Bob had two children, Michael and Suzanne. Michael was an actor and Suzanne appeared in this newsreel about Ealing Art School (click here to view)
Terry Ashwood: Terry was a long-serving cameraman and producer at Pathé, whose daughter Gaye Ashwood features in several newsreels including this fantastic Egypt Travelogue (click here to view)
G Clement Cave: A Pathé news editor
Howard Thomas: Another key team member who has two daughters Rosemary and Carol
G Thomas Cummins: (aka Tommy Cummins) If you have any information related to Pathé’s staff from yesteryear, or know anything that may be of interest to BBC4 in making this exciting series then please get in touch via British Pathé’s free online newsreel archive: http://www.britishpathe.com with the subject heading ‘Story of Pathé’
Pathé News first opened a British office on Wardour Street in London, 1910. Producing biweekly newsreels that were distributed around cinemas in Britain, Pathé became the first major source of news through moving pictures. During the First World War, the cinema newsreels were called the Pathé Animated Gazettes and for the first time this provided newspapers with competition. After 1918, British Pathé started producing a series of Cinemagazines, where the Newsreels were much longer and more comprehensive. The ‘classic’ Pathé style is that of the WWII years and after, especially the ones with the voice of Bob Danvers Walker doing the commentary. After 1928, sound was introduced and by 1930, British Pathé were covering news, entertainment, sport, culture and women’s issues through programmes including the Pathétone Weekly, the Pathé Pictorial, the Gazette and Eve’s Film Review. By the time Pathé eventually stopped producing the cinema newsreel in 1970, they had accumulated a rich assortment of historical footage including Queen Victoria’s funeral, the Hindenburg disaster, Elvis Presley and Albert Einstein.
90,000 digitised clips from Pathé’s vaults at Pinewood Studios can be watched for free in their National Lottery supported archive www.britishpathe.com
The series was originally produced in the 1950s by renowned documentary maker Peter Baylis. The episodes worked their way chronologically from the late Victorian era through until 1945. The series employed quite romantic titles that roll off the tongue like a list of post-war novels – “The Tough Guys”, “Teenage Flapper” and “Edwardian Summer” to pick three at random.
BBC4 have re-worked the episodes so that they are now thematic. Tomorrow night’s episode is called Pioneers of Aviation, and will showcase fantastic British Pathé footage, from a jazz band performing on the wings of a flying aeroplane to a gentleman who sits himself in a bath and straps it to a giant, ascending hot air balloon.
Originally each episode had a famous narrator, usually a well-known 1950s actor, including everyone from Michael Redgrave to Anthony Quayle. “Teenage Flapper” was narrated by the famous comedienne Joyce Grenfell, “The Tough Guys” was narrated by John Ireland(perhaps most famous for his role as Crixus in Spartacus, or for dating a teenager Tuesday Weld!) and film legend Sir Ralph Richardson provided the commentary for the beautiful and elegant “Edwardian Summer”. Links to all three of these episodes are below.
In the new Time To Remember series, each episode will offer an exotic medley of these various voices but with the additional gloss of a contemporary narrator to navigate the audience from clip to clip.
With the fascination and depth that only an archive like British Pathé can offer, and with the bite-size beauty of You’ve Been Framed, the return of Time to Remember promises to yet again captivate audiences of all generations and demonstrate its wide and enduring appeal.
BBC4 is a great channel to screen the thirteen part series. Each episode is only half an hour, so make sure to jot Tuesdays 8.30-9.oo as a Time To Remember in your busy diaries. (We’ll let you know about repeat screenings soon)
To watch episodes from the original series, see below. It may be fun to compare the new series and see how the historiography might have changed. We love the sombre introductions:
To see footage from the British Pathé archive of Joyce Grenfell, Sir Ralph Richardson, Michael Redgrave and Anthony Quayle, see below. It seems they all found time out of their busy voiceover schedules to attend parties and premieres!
Joyce Grenfell at Noel Coward’s 70th birthday, in a fetching bright green dress – WATCH NOW!
Michael Redgrave at a star-studded Daily Mail Film Awards event – WATCH NOW!
Sir Ralph Richardson with Rita Tushingham at the premier for ‘Doctor Zhivago’, and shaking hands with Princess Margaret – WATCH NOW!
Make sure to tune in for the brand new series Time To Remember, Tuesdays on BBC4, at 8.30pm.
Anyone up for a holiday in Iraq? It does seem a fairly fanciful idea when Iraq has been synonymous with war, violence and oppression for such a long time and for anyone born after the 1960s the idea of Iraq ever having been a holiday destination seems fantastically peculiar. However, wind back 40 years and Iraq was in fact a popular destination for tourists and now there are signs, indeed very small, that international tour operators could be taking visitors back there one day.
The Pathé documentary unit shot a two reel documentary called Ageless Iraq back in the 1950s. If you disregard that the films were probably made for propaganda reasons (the notes say the film was made for the Iraq Petroleum Co.) and instead just view them as travelogue films; they paint a fascinating and extremely appealing picture of this ancient land.
It is easy to forget that Iraq is in fact a country steeped in rich history and culture and as the first film tells us, the very beginnings of civilisation started here. This is a country where writing was conceived and where man began cultivating the land. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers flow through Iraq, fertilising the plains and during the 1950s agriculture production was thriving and self-sufficient. Iraq is also home to the ancient walls of Bablyon and is the birthplace of the prophet Abraham.
Both films show images of a landscape, culture and society that we just don’t associate with Iraq: art, horseracing, music, cuisine and boats leisurely sailing down a canal in Basra otherwise known as “The Venice of the Middle East”.
The narrator states at the end: “Ageless Iraq, a new country but one that hasn’t forgotten the glories of its history. A country that is now emerging from the shadows of it past to a future bright with promise.” Let’s hope that this time it is true and perhaps one day we will be able to book a flight to explore this fascinating land.
Nigel Cole’s new movie Made In Dagenham uses some footage from the British Pathé film archive. From the photo above you can see how the archive was relevant. (I’m pretty certain the originals to each of those late 1960s outfits feature somewhere in our Fashion Archive!)
The footage used in the new film is mainly of action-packed Ford strikes and shots of the pressure imposed by threatened closures. Shouting through megaphones, police barricades and furious marching workers, it’s great that the unrest of this period was captured on film and is available in the British Pathé archive.