Jason Donovan: Who Do You Think You Are?

We were thrilled to receive our copy of Who Do You Think You Are this morning, the BBC’s family history magazine. Not only are British Pathé featured on page 11, but it’s the Jason Donovan issue! Is there a better way to spend a dark Friday morning tea break than linking Australian popstars from the 1980s to their dazzling criminal ancestral pasts? If there is, we want to know about it.

Who Do You Think You Are is a tour-de-force of family history, with some really interesting features, whether it’s Devon locals looking for marriage records from the 1830s, or the architectural history of Edinburgh, or even the life and times of Bruce Forsyth, British Pathé have tonnes of relevant material in their free online archive that correspond with its pages. (Yes – even Bruce Forsyth is in our archive, judging a beautiful baby contest in the 1960s!)

Below you can watch the Lancing College clip that Who Do You Think You Are published a still from. Click on this still to watch the archive clip:

The famous Ladywell game at Lancing College in 1957

And here is a link to some great Edinburgh history newsreels featured on the BBC Edinburgh website:

On a separate note, we think the magazine should adopt the 1993 pop song ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ by St. Etienne as its official theme tune. We know several pop acts including The Spice Girls and Cascada have also released songs in the past with the same title, but St.Etienne definitely capture that essential sense of ancestral pride:

They even have a historical castle backdrop to their Top Of The Pops set and a keyboardist dressed up as a medieval king! When the December issue of Who Do You Think You Are comes out we’re expecting to hear Sarah Cracknell’s voice singing at us from the centrefold like a musical Christmas card. Talking of which, here’s a clip of Bruce Forsyth judging a childrens Christmas card competition in 1968. No, really.


Tony Curtis dies Aged 85

Tony Curtis in a British Pathé newsreel (1959)

Oscar-nominated actor Tony Curtis has died aged 85 at his home in Nevada. One of the greatest actors of his day, famous for his roles in Spartacus, The Defiant Ones and for starring alongside Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot.

Is Tony Curtis in Pathé News anywhere?

Like anything that happened between the 1890s and the 1970s, the answer is YES! The British Pathé film archive has several great clips of Tony Curtis, including the 1959 Oscars which he attended with his then wife Janet Leigh. Alongside Natalie Wood and Marilyn Monroe, Janet Leigh was one of the many gay icons that Tony Curtis attached himself to throughout his life, famous for her drag-queen ketchup stabbing shower-scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

Was Tony Curtis gay?

A bit of a discussion kicked off in the archive today as to whether Curtis’ womanizing was a ploy to cover his homosexuality? Did Tony Curtis never admit his sexuality to himself? Or was Tony a textbook example of the Hollywood closet-case showbiz/PR leading-lady relationship reel?

Search Tony Curtis in the British Pathé film archive here.

Buried Alive: British Pathé Unearth the 1949 Stunt that went wrong.


A few of you have been talking about Rodrigo Cortés’ latest film Buried, an “indie-thriller-horror” film starring Ryan Reynolds*. From glancing at the plot to Buried it seems to be a less exciting version of the buried alive scene with Uma Thurman in Kill Bill 2, except it doesn’t have the fabulous Uma Thurman, and it goes on for the whole length of a movie.

So, why not save your money and watch some real buried alive videos in the British Pathé archive. We wouldn’t like to send you links to all of it, as it’s pretty controversial material. But a light-hearted place to start is this 1940s escapologist Alan. In a homage to his hero Houdini he buries himself alive, but it all goes wrong… and to make it even worse, for some inexplicable reason, he chose Cobham in Surrey as the place to bury himself!

We don’t know why he’s called Alan Alan, and we’re pretty sure he shares that name with a Northamptonshire drag queen. We’re also dumbfounded as to why we attempted auto-burial in nothing but his pants, we imagine the excitement of the Pathé camera team got to him. Oh well, live and let live. Enjoy!

 “Houdini II Buried Alive” (1949) – WATCH NOW!

*Don’t worry, we haven’t heard of him either, checked Wikipedia and all his films sound like Mariah Carey singles.

Time to Start Watching ‘Time To Remember’

BBC4’s series ‘Time to Remember’ is already snowballing a popular audience after the first two episodes ‘Screen and Stage’ and ‘Pioneers of Aviation’.

Today Metro newspaper chose the series as one of their recommended picks for tonight’s telly:

Time To Remember is on BBC4 tonight at 8.30pm.

All of the archive footage used is from www.britishpathe.com and can be watched there for free in the online archive.

What’s she gonna look like with no chimney on her?

Chimney felling videos combine the grace of archive footage with the adrenaline of Jenga

 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.


Kitchen Hats: Where No Gaga Has Gone Before

The pot calling the kettle yellow: We love Madeleine's steamy number.

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:

HELLO BERYL: Was Lady Gaga’s Telephone Obsession Inspired by British actress Beryl Reid?

Then when Lady Gaga marched up to grab an award in a meat dress, our telephone ears started ringing once more as we recalled this 1920s video of men wearing exclusively calves tails:

According To Custom (1928): Young apprentice butchers celebrate an initiation by wearing calves tails and dancing in a public fountain.

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.

Deirdre causes a fashion pan-demic with this saucy headpiece.

Lady Gaga’s bad romance with the British Pathe archive continues on www.britishpathe.com

Who made Pathé News?

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’


Watch this great 1953 newsreel of staff working in a Pathe office (click here to view)

Busy cutting!

A brief history of British 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.

Terry Ashwood's daughter Gaye Ashwood in Egypt, 1956

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