Edifying Archive Footage: Thomas Edison – Rare Film Recordings

Film of Thomas Edison in 1928

Today it’s the anniversary of Thomas Edison’s death in 1931. Much to our astonishment there are clips of Thomas Edison in the British Pathé film archive, and various fragments of his film work.

A film by Thomas Edison ‘The Forge’ appears, and is one of the oldest items in British Pathé’s entire archive, dating back to 1894, although the exact date is subject to an academic debate in film history circles.

Then there’s this wonderful clip of Thomas Edison himself on his 84th birthday. He sits on a chair outside in the sunshine and talks about talking pictures:

“I have a little trouble now and then, but that’s because I’m getting old. What do I think of the talking pictures? Well I don’t know, I’ve never heard one!” he chuckles.

“What do you think of the Einstein theory?” asks the man next to Edison.

“I don’t think anything of the Einstein theory because I don’t understand it!”

See more Thomas Edison clips and footage related to the great man here:



The Human Fish: Pescetarian Perversity washed up in Pathé’s archive


This surreal and borderline cult-horror clip ‘Human Fish’ is one of the strangest archive finds from British Pathe to date! The video doesn’t containt any sci-fi amphibian hybrid creatures, the title is just a splash of typical Pathe News creative license. However, the clip is more perverse in its own way:

A flock of pretty local girls from Peckham (yes, we did just write those five words sequentially) cram into a bizarre glassed-off spectator room to watch Harold Elven, a rather hunky swimmer and philanthropist, fasten himself into a festish-esque harnass which is then connected to a fishing line. Then a fisherman, Jack Hargreaves, tries to reel Harold in whilst Harold attemps to swim away from his captor.

The whole affair is just plain scary, and the overall horror effect of this reel is enhanced by the eerie setting, the prototype electro classical score and the anxious narrator. The Human Centipede may be disgusting but this, The Human Fish, could be developed into a psycho-sexual Stephen King novel.

We’ve since learnt that this swimming pool still exists in Peckham but is not open to the public. It’s part of a private appartment building. We wonder if the current tenants know that this was happening in their pool back in 1949?

It seems the war sent Londoners a bit mad. Definitely an archive favourite!

If you come across anything that rivals The Human Fish then please do post it up on our Facebook group British Pathe Film Archive.

Locals in Peckham discuss the location on this forum here, and share some interesting memories of the pool!


The King’s Speech: Hear the original in the British Pathe Film Archive

We’re excited about the release of Tom Hooper’s new film The King’s Speech, starring Colin Firth in the lead role as King George VI. Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush take the supporting roles.

British Pathé material will feature in the film as of course we are one of the few archives to have footage of George VI, in fact, the archive contains a speech by him that the film directly cites.

Here’s the King George clip that the maker’s of The King’s Speech licensed: WATCH NOW!

Colin Firth divides the staff in the British Pathé film archive, with Mavis declaring undying love for him at one end of the spectrum, and archivist Robert protesting at the other – “I just don’t understand why so many women think he’s the most attractive man in the world!”

See Colin and Helena working their onscreen magic in the trailer here.

Cougar O’Clock: A Secret Archive History of Women Who Liked Their Men Young


This morning METRO have been exciting themselves about Courtney Cox and her recent 600k offer to be the face of “Cougar Life”, a dating website for older ladies looking for younger guys.

The usage of the word ‘Cougar’ in referring to a woman who likes a man with a warmer bloodstream didn’t exist in the time of Pathe News but that’s not to say these older women and their devilish ways weren’t caught on camera…

First of all watch this brilliant clip of singer Edith Piaf’s wedding. She married the “handsome young toy boy” Theo Sarapo:

Edith Piaf is British Pathe’s Cougar Queen


Then take a look at this 1964 bachelor fair in Belgium, it’s the same concept of Cougar Life, but weirder. In fact, we’re not entirely sure what is going on in this clip so please do let us know on the British Pathe Facebook Group.

So how does the contemporary Cougar go about finding her prey? Well according to archivists the most popular place for Cougars to pick-up toy boys was at a male model parties, or mens fashion show. For example this dashing young specimen:

Who WOULDN’T you divorce to get THIS hottie?


There are plenty of male models hanging about in the British Pathe archive, we highly recommend you embark on your own bachelor quest.

Another good place to pick up a toy boy off the stage. This boy soprano Graham Payn (below) here may seem a bit young but he later became the lifelong toy boy of Noel Coward (and heir of Coward’s work, copyrights and theatrical estate). You see you have to get in early and plan your toy boy. Noel spotted young Graham singing as a boy soprano.

Singing for his Supper: Iconic toy boy Graham Payn

Some prospective Cougars may be wondering what the point is in scouting a historic film archive for future boys. Well, some of the eligible bachelors in the British Pathe archive are still available on the Cougar market today. Want evidence? Take a look at this dashing young man driving a bus around Chiswick in 1962. Recognise him? We rest our case.

Finally we’d like to show you this archive clip of a real cougar. We’re scared that in this modern METRO age of Courtney Cox and her Cougar Life, people may start to forget that a cougar is, in actual fact, part of the animal kingdom, and so wanted to cite a real cougar in this post.

What more does a woman need in her life?

Today’s song was almost going to be ‘Wired For Sound’ by Cougar-delight Cliff Richard, and it was almost going to be Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing In The Dark’ – the momentous pop culture moment in which Courtney Cox decided that she definitely preferred younger men. But at the last minute we changed our mind, following the Cougar Quen Edith Piaf theme, and opted for Grace Jones ‘La Vie En Rose’. Turn your headphones up, get your packed lunch out and enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYkVtz6ozJE

Chilean Miners Rescued: Hidden Footage of Similar Crises Comes To Surface

Ring any bells?

Today popular news sites are packed with video coverage of the wonderful rescue of these Chilean and Bolivian miners who have been trapped underground for months. We’ve put together a selection of films to remind us of the perilous hazards that miners across the globe have to face, many never seen by the public before. (Shortcut to films)

Often there are tragic outcomes but our particularly favourite clip is from 1964 in France where miners are finally rescued in very similar style to today’s rescue in Chile.

The rather creatively titled newsreel ‘Entombed Boy Snatched From Death’ is a real nail-biter, whilst this 1957 Belgian mining disaster ‘260 Trapped!’ really captures the community anxiety when these perilous scenarios emerge.

In June BBC Derbyshire did a great piece on British Pathé’s local newsreel of a ‘Pothole Tragedy’ in which villagers and experts attemped to save 20 year-old climber Neil Rose from a Derbyshire cave, but in vain. Again, British Pathé manage to masterfully capture on camera the intimate emotions and perplexity of an emergency situation.

British Pathé were always very talented as a news team at documenting man’s struggles against nature and society’s constant readjustment and acclimitisation to technological advance. Even today in 2010 so much can be learnt about current crises, even in the craziest dark depth of Chilean soil.

“Dangers of Mining” – Archive Footage Collection – WATCH NOW

“Pothole Tragedy” – BBC Derbyshire archive footage – WATCH NOW

Travelators: Are You Ready?

A wooden travelator in New York, 1924

A couple of weeks ago the BBC article used some British Pathé footage in their article ‘Why Travelators Still Trundle On’

In the piece Jon Kelly wrote “They belong to an age of hovercraft and monorails, a Tomorrow’s World imagining of the 21st Century rooted firmly in the past. Even their name – travelator! – evokes the sci-fi innocence of a post-war world which had not yet learned to be cynical about the transformative power of technology.”

Well today we came across this fantastic short clip of a 1924 travelator in New York.

A far cry from Heathrow Terminal 5, it’s a wooden model that has four lanes: stationary, slow, medium and fast. The fast lane holds seating, described in the British Pathé canister notes as a “bizarre adult merry-go-round”

What was the name of that incredibly fast conveyor belt contestants had to run up on Gladiators? Weren’t they called travelators?

We think travelators are overdue for a major comeback. There are more clips of these remarkable moving sidewalks in the British Pathé film archive, but it’s 6pm and we’re off home to watch Time To Remember on BBC4, so you’ll just have rummage in the archive yourself!


British Pathé visit a 1940s Dating Agency

"Hmm, you might want to take that bit out actually"

Online dating is widespread and very much taken for granted in Britain today, with an entire range of online facilities, from popular dating websites like Match.Com or eHarmony, to more sophisticated set-ups like Guardian Soulmates or the more adventurous online destinations like Gaydar.

So we were delighted to discover a much simpler and slower-paced world of dating, albeit a little stiff upper lip, and that’s the Marriage Bureau, a 1940s dating agency that Pathé News made a little film about. Their mission statement is “To introduce to each other people who normally meet very few members of the opposite sex”.

I think you’d agree – not the catchiest jingle, and already flawed on several levels, but still, let’s press on … we’re enticed by the Marriage Bureau’s charm…

In case you were expecting a line-up of men in briefs, rest unassured that the Marriage Bureau can offer any such thing: “You can’t walk in and pick yourself a man just like that. First the whole issue has to be discussed. There’s a long form to fill in” The clips follows a woman and a man who sign-up in the Marriage Bureau’s office and then meet each other rather awkwardly in the park. The narrator is quite an unusual British Pathé voice over artist, who gets quite carried away by the various dramatic perspectives, it’s nail-biting stuff.

We’d love to know which London dating agency this was, where exactly they were based, and possibly discover the names of these people. We wonder too how the end of the War was connected to the birth of the dating agency industry, with all those torn apart couples and fractured social groups.

We’ll keep you updated if we learn more. In the meantime, for any archive film enthusiasts who are single and looking for love might, may we suggest ‘The British Pathe Film Archive’ group on Facebook, there are reels of fascinating people in there, you may well meet the perfect partner!