It has been terrific sharing our collection with you over the last five years. We do hope you’ve enjoyed these blog posts (if you haven’t, we can only apologise) and that you’ll follow us to our new home. Our blog is leaving WordPress and will now be hosted on the main British Pathé website. You’ll find our favourite past blog posts up there too. And, just like with WordPress, you can enter your email address to continue getting new posts sent straight to your inbox.
Do let us know what you think of the new blog and the sort of posts you want to read. You can get in touch by emailing email@example.com, leaving a comment beneath this post, or connecting with us via FacebookTwitter.
Our very best wishes,
British Pathé is considered to be the finest newsreel archive in the world and is a treasure trove of 85,000 films unrivalled in their historical and cultural significance. Spanning the years from 1896 to 1976, the collection includes footage from around the globe of major events, famous faces, fashion trends, travel, science and culture. The entire archive is available to view online for free via the British Pathé website and YouTube channel.
“The Railway Man” is a new feature film starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman. It follows the true story of Eric Lomax, a POW forced to build the Thai/Burma railway during WW2. British Pathé has coverage of that railway and of other events from the life of Firth’s character.
There is a film from 1945 of the railway itself, known as the “Railway of Death”, which was not used in any newsreels, and is sadly silent, but is nevertheless interesting to watch (the film can be viewed here). Lomax was forced to build the railway after leaving Changi Prison, for which there is also footage in the archive. The reel, from the liberation of the prison in 1945, can be found in this collection.
Also included is coverage of the war in Singapore during 1942, for it was after that country’s surrender that Lomax was captured by the Japanese.
“The Railway Man”, based on Lomax’s autobiographical account, is released in the UK today.
Click here for British Pathé’s collection of films related to “The Railway Man”.
There’s an interesting film in the archive concerning the production of television commercials by Associated British-Pathé (as the company was known from 1933 to 1958). It is introduced by McDonald Hobley, better known for his work with the BBC, who takes the audience – in this case, prospective clients – on a tour of Pathé’s Wardour Street studio, the newsreel archive, and the history of the company. This presentation, entitled Introducing Ourselves, was intended to show advertisers the good work that Pathé could do on television commercials, a new media they had begun to exploit only eighteen months previously (circa 1954).
As Hobley’s presentation reveals, Pathé produced about two hundred commercials a year and some of them are included in the film as a showreel. Hobley tries to limit expectations of the selection, not terribly convincingly, by describing the choice as “random…Not necessarily the best that we have produced, but we have tried to limit our selection to those which offer the types of production which we feel will appeal to you – the advertisers – in this area.”
Some of the ads are really quite entertaining and worth a watch, if you can stomach twenty-five minutes of what we’re now used to just fast-forwarding through. The showreel begins with Dunlop Tubeless Tyres, then moves on to: Max Factor’s Top Secret hair spray, Dunkies doughnuts, Guards Trousers, Amami Wave Set, Hiltone, Mum antiperspirant, Brylcreem, Disprin, Twinings Teas, Maxwell House coffee, Black & Decker tools, another Maxwell House ad, Burtons trousers, Hi Fi Lipstick from Max Factor, Mac Fisheries, Blackstone Opticians, Electrolux vacuum, Fred Fearnley Ltd. Scooters and Motorcycles, Scentinel Quiff air freshener, D.D.D., Dinneford’s, Setlers, Fray Bentos, an ad for bread, Bristow’s Hair Tonic, Tide detergent, Wm Younger’s Beer, another Fray Bentos commercial, Heinz, Brylcreem again, Peter Robinson, another for Dunlop, Huntley and Palmers, M & B Bitter, Tide, and Esso Extra.
What’s somewhat odd is that there appears to be some additional later footage tacked onto the end of the presentation. This dates from the 1970s, and must have been added to the film when the archive was under EMI ownership. These are a trailer for Love Story, starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal and a “rather fab” Chrysler Sunbeam ad from 1978.
Introducing Ourselves is valuable for its enticing glimpse behind the scenes of Pathé in the 1950s, the way in which the newsreel archive has by then already been deemed of historical significance worthy of preservation, and for including the only – at least in our collection – examples of Pathé’s commercial work, often forgotten due to the organisation’s usual focus on cinema news and theatrical films.
Watch Hobley’s introduction and behind-the-scenes footage in Part Onehere.
Watch the various commercials in Part Two of the presentation here.
The British Pathé archive holds nearly 90,000 individual clips. Most of the descriptions you’ll see on the website were taken from handwritten notes, composed either by the cameramen at the time of filming or by former archivists decades ago. The notes were all fed into a computer database at the beginning of the new millennium. Some amendments were made at that time, and steadily since, but there is still much work to be done.
Due to the sheer number of films in the collection, there are a great many that our staff members will never have seen and perhaps never will. This means that we need the help of the public to ensure that the information displayed is accurate. We’ve been fortunate to receive a great many emails over the last few years with some really terrific and helpful corrections to the descriptions, but the volume of them means that we just can’t keep up with all of the necessary changes. In fact, we currently have a backlog of about five thousand!
We therefore launched a comment facility when our new website went live and we’ve just updated the system to make things easier for you. It allows any registered user to leave a comment beneath a clip (to register, just click “join” in the top right-hand corner – It takes a couple of seconds and is completely free of charge). We’re able to monitor all of the comments made, so eventually we’ll be able to correct the descriptions based on what you’ve shared – and, in the meantime, at least all of that information will be available for viewers in the comments section.
We want your help identifying dates, locations, people and events throughout the entire archive. But, just to get you going, we’re making a specific request for information about these films from the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
British Pathé only has a few clips from that conflict and we’re unclear about many of the details. If you know the dates, locations, types of tank and armoured vehicle, information about the troops, etc., do please leave a comment beneath the relevant clip.
We are very keen to make our archive as informative and comprehensive as possible. The details that you provide will be of use to future generations of historians, researchers, programme-makers, and members of the general public. Thank you for your help!
For British Pathé’s collection of Yom Kippur material, click here.
For an interview with Moshe Dayan from around the same time, click here.
Last night, the BBC aired a special edition of its popular Countryfile series, guest-edited by Prince Charles. Reviews today have been good and it seems there is agreement that the Prince came out of the programme very well. Do watch the episode on iPlayer if you get a chance (link).
If you saw the programme, you’ll remember that Prince Charles was shown some archive footage of his time at Balmoral in his youth to stir up some memories.
The footage was from a British Pathé film, “Balmoral Holiday” (1957), which can be viewed in full here. Some additional clips shown to the Prince came from these cuts from a 1955 piece “Royal Family On Holiday”. The completed film can be seen too, here.
The “delightfully informal” footage shows Charles and his family enjoying the countryside, feeding the animals, and spending some time with each other away from their tiresome ceremonial duties.
It was the 85th Academy Awards last night! The winners were all worthy, Daniel Day Lewis was charming as usual, everyone was impeccably dressed, and the great William Shatner made an extended appearance. We stayed up all night as usual, and (as with every year) we regret it. It’s never quite as fun as we think it’ll be, especially when Steve Martin is absent. Martin was, for us anyway, the standout host of recent Oscar times. Seth Macfarlane was okay, but check out this Martin monologue from the official Oscars YouTube channel:
And with Alec Baldwin on Martin’s third appearance:
Disagree with us? Leave us a comment below!
But if, like us, you’re nostalgic for earlier times, you can see highlights from past ceremonies in the British Pathé archive via this link.
For our 1967 Oscar-nominated Documentary, “See You At The Pillar”, click here
In our opinion, this past year has been a triumph for modern cinema and, as usual, the whole of Hollywood will assemble on 24th February 2013 to celebrate its success.
British Pathé has some footage of earlier ceremonies from the late 1940s, the 1950s, and 1960s. You can view them all here.
The 85th Academy Awards are set to be an exciting celebration and it will be interesting to see who scoops the awards this year. We’ve listed all of the nominees below, with links to their imdb profiles. We’ve also scattered a few stills from our collection. Just click on them to be taken to our list of Oscar films.
We also have an Oscar-nominated film of our own that you can watch. The travelogue “See You At The Pillar” was nominated for an Academy Award in the Documentary Short category in 1967. Watch it here.
Michael Haneke, Amour
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Best supporting actor
Alan Arkin, Argo
Robert de Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Best supporting actress
Amy Adams, The Master
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook
Best original screenplay
Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom
Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty
John Gatins Flight
Michael Haneke, Amour
Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
Best adapted screenplay
Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Tony Kushner, Lincoln
David Magee, Life of Pi
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Chris Terrio, Argo
Best foreign film
Amour – Austria Kon-Tiki – Norway No – Chile A Royal Affair – Denmark War Witch – Canada
5 Broken Cameras The Gatekeepers How to Survive a Plague The Invisible War Searching for Sugar Man
Best documentary short
Inocente Kings Point Mondays at Racine Open Heart Redemption
Brave: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman Frankenweenie: Tim Burton ParaNorman: Sam Fell, Chris Butler The Pirates! Band of Misfits / In an Adventure with Scientists, Peter Lord Wreck it Ralph, Rich Moore
Anna Karenina, Seamus McGarvey Django Unchained, Robert Richardson Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda Lincoln, Janusz Kaminski Skyfall, Roger Deakins
Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers, Silver Linings Playbook
William Goldenberg, Argo
Michael Kahn, Lincoln
Tim Squyres, Life of Pi
Dylan Tichenor, William Goldenberg, Zero Dark Thirty
Best sound editing
Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn, Argo
Wylie Stateman: Django Unchained
Drew Kunin, Eugene Gearty, Philip Stockton, Ron Bartlett, D. M. Hemphill: Life of Pi
Per Hallberg, Karen Baker Landers: Skyfall
Paul N.J. Ottosson, Zero Dark Thirty
Best sound mixing
Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin, Life of Pi
Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson,
Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes, Les Miserables
Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson, Skyfall
Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins, Lincoln
John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia, Argo
Best make up and hair
Julie Hewett, Martin Samuel, Howard Berger: Hitchcock
Peter Swords King, Richard Taylor, Rick Findlater: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Lisa Westcott, Les Miserables
Best original score
Dario Marianelli, Anna Karenina
Alexandre Desplat, Argo
Mychael Danna, Life of Pi
John Williams, Lincoln
Thomas Newman, Skyfall
Best original song
“Before My Time” from Chasing Ice
“Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from Ted
“Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi
“Skyfall” from Skyfall
“Suddenly” from Les Misérables
Best production design
Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer: Anna Karenina
Dan Hennah (Production Design); Ra Vincent and Simon Bright (Set Decoration), The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson: Les Miserables
David Gropman, Anna Pinnock: Life of Pi
Rick Carter, Jim Erickson: Lincoln
Best visual effects
Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, R. Christopher White: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson, Snow White and the Huntsman
Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick, Avengers Assemble
Richard Stammers, Charley Henley, Trevor Wood, Paul Butterworth: Prometheus
Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer: Life of Pi
Best costume design
Jacqueline Durran, Anna Karenina
Paco Delgado, Les Miserables
Joanna Johnston, Lincoln
Eiko Ishioka, Mirror Mirror
Colleen Atwood, Snow White and the Huntsman
Best short film (animated)
Adam and Dog Fresh Guacamole Head over Heels Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare” Paperman
Asad Buzkashi Boys Curfew Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw) Henry
For British Pathé’s news coverage of the Academy Awards, click here
For the Oscar-nominated Documentary, “See You At The Pillar”, click here
The most exciting 5 days in fashion begins today as London welcomes designers, press and fashion icons from all over the world for London Fashion Week.
The first fashion week was held in 1984 in a West London car park and the event continued to have great success until the recession in the 90’s with only a few designers would showcasing their new lines at the Ritz Hotel. In 1993, Fashion Week bounced back when Naomi Campbell walked down the catwalk topless for the Philip Treacy.
There will be a major focus on trade. It is estimated that over 100 million pounds worth of orders are placed each Fashion Week and 5,000 photographers, journalists and buyers all flock to London to see what next season’s fashion will hold.
Fashion Week is not without its controversy. In the mid 90’s many fashion houses were criticised for using dangerously-thin models to showcase their work. The Model Health Enquiry was launched to investigate these claims and now designers are being encouraged to promote a healthy body image.
An exciting weekend of fashion fever lies ahead for London. For some inspiration for your own look, these clips from the British Pathé fashion archive might provide some interesting tips!
On Sunday, 10th February 2013, it will have been 100 years since Robert Falcon Scott and his colleagues Henry Bowers and Edward Wilson were discovered dead in their tent in the Antarctic, having failed to reach the South Pole nearly a year before. There’s some really interesting footage in the archive of Scott and the expedition, but much of it is contained within longer retrospectives. Here’s a brief summary of the material to help you locate it:
Film of the Terra Nova, the ship which took Scott to the Antarctic and returned without him, was some of the earliest footage that British Pathé released in cinemas. There is a clip of the ship leaving for the Antarctic in 1910 and one of it returning to Cardiff in 1913.
The classic series Time To Remember, produced by British Pathé in the late 1950s and early 1960s, contains some additional footage that can’t be found elsewhere in the archive. The material appears at the end of Reel 1 and the beginning of Reel 2. You can view the relevant portions of those reels here. Included is a nice close up of Scott himself and some remarkable film of the expedition.
“Here’s to the Memory” also has footage apparently filmed in the Antarctic. It features the men huddled on the ground for dinner and trekking through the barren landscape towards their goal. It appears towards the beginning of this section of the documentary.
The expedition material was shot by Herbert Ponting, who accompanied Scott to the Antarctic with his camera. He survived and later produced the 1924 documentary, The Great White Silence.
Earlier in January, the Football Association kicked off celebrations to mark its 150th anniversary.
The FA was established in 1863 and codified the modern rules of that great English sport. Not too long after, in 1871, the very first FA Cup match was held. Sadly, this was too early to be captured by motion picture cameras and the first FA Cup material photographed by British Pathé seems to be some shots of the winning 1914 Burnley team (they beat Liverpool 1-0). The earliest actual in-game footage, though, appears in the clip “ASTON VILLA WIN English Cup for the sixth time – defeating Huddersfield in Cup Final by a lucky goal after extra time”. The film dates from 1920. Almost all of the Cup Final matches were covered by British Pathé from that date on, until the company finished newsreel production in 1970. A collection of the films can be explored here, in date order.
As well as coverage of the FA Cup, the British Pathé archive holds a wealth of other great games and classic football moments. Simply searching for “football” on our website brings up an astonishing 2333 clips – far too many to detail here! But some particularly interesting material can be found via these links:
Brazilian footballer Edison Arantes do Nascimento (or “Pele”) performed so well at the 1958 World Cup Final v Sweden that it was documented in an episode of A Day That Shook The World. Click here to view the episode.
The year before, it was the Hungary team which was scoring with exceptional skill. Ferenc Puskas, that legendary player and coach, was playing against England when he scored this terrific goal. Click here to view the film.
21st January 2013 is the inaugural Annual George Orwell Day. The date has been chosen for the day of his death (21st January 1950). British Pathé holds three films of direct relevance to the life and works of Orwell.
The earliest is a film entitled “Eton Wall Game” and it shows students at Eton celebrating St Andrew’s Day in 1921. Apparently, the film features a young George Orwell, something which has been verified by one of his biographers, D.J. Taylor. View the film here. If you know which one is Orwell, do leave us a comment below.
The other two clips date from after Orwell’s death. One covers the premiere of the film “1984” in London, along with a glimpse at an art director’s model of London, an arrow pointing to “Victory Square”. See the red carpet activities and the model here.
But the more interesting clip takes us behind the scenes of the animated adaptation of “Animal Farm” in the 1950s. We get to see storyboarding, animating and short sections of the finished film. Watch the fascinating three-minute examination of the work that went into the classic cartoon here.
It has been reported in the papers today that high street retailer HMV has gone the way of Woolworths, Jessops, Comet, Zavvi (until rescued by HMV), and Fopp (until rescued by HMV) – into administration. As more people shop online on sites such as Amazon, stores that you can physically go to, particularly for entertainment products like DVDs or video games, are disappearing. Kindles may well prove to be the death of book stores too. Perhaps all this is no bad thing. But the long history of some of these companies, and their places within the British cultural consciousness, make these changes sad, even if necessary.
Given HMV stores’ association with DVDs, the younger among us might be forgiven for thinking that the company was established relatively recently, but in fact it was founded back in 1921. Originally it was a sound device manufacturer and music retailer and footage of the HMV factories from its early years can be found in the British Pathé archive.
As well as some general shots of an HMV factory in the 1930s (along with a look at a sign reading “His Master’s Voice”, which was abbreviated to HMV), you can also find singer Gracie Fields visiting the huge factory at Hayes pressing her four millionth record in 1933. Another clip worth highlighting is one from 1932 concerning “voice grafting – the latest miracle of sound science”, filmed at HMV studios. View it here.
Interestingly, the history of British Pathé is linked to HMV through the former ownership of both companies by EMI. The archive was at EMI and Thorn EMI from 1969 until 1986 and a visit to the archive during that period can be found here.
View all of the HMV clips within the archive via this link.
Here’s our selection of British Pathé footage that relates to anniversaries coming up in the next two weeks. Click the links below to take a look! You can also keep up to date with aniversaries by following our dedicated Pinterest board.
It will have been 150 years since the birth of David Lloyd George on 17th January 1863. Lloyd George, Prime Minister during the First World War, features in a great many British Pathé newsreels. Explore them here.
Another birthday for January is that of American comedian Danny Kaye, born 100 years ago on 18th January 1913. There is some excellent footage of Kaye in the archive, particularly of his 1948 Royal Command Performance act and rehearsals. Watch them here.
The British Pathé Education service has been nominated for a 2013 BETT Award for its digital resource available to British schools and academies. For any of you who are interested, here’s a bit of information about the subscription.
You can also watch a demo of the subscription in action below:
If this is of interest to you or your school, you can find out more information here and get in touch with us.
Twice a month we blog about footage in the archive relevant to upcoming events or important anniversaries. There are always plenty, so we can only present a selection and you can search the archive for more at www.britishpathe.com
It will have been 100 years since the birth of Richard Nixon on 9th January 1913. The American President, who was disgraced by the Watergate scandal, features in a great many British Pathé newsreels. Explore them here.
85 years ago, the great writer Thomas Hardy died and his heart was buried separately from his body. British Pathé has footage of the burial of the heart in Dorset in 1928. Click here to view the newsreel.
We’ll be publishing a blog post all about this shortly, but we can’t miss it off this list of important anniversaries! British Pathé celebrates 150 years of the Tube with a collection of clips featuring construction footage dating from 1922. You can also see the tunnels used as air raid shelters during the Second World War, extensions of the lines in the late 1940s, and the work of cleaners and technicians after-hours. The innovations of the 1950s also get a look-in, while there is extensive coverage of the building of the Victoria Line, as well as its opening by the Queen. Click here to explore the collection.
Check back in two weeks for our next installment. In the meantime, you can visit www.britishpathe.com for more vintage films.
From 1922 to 1969, British Pathé produced lengthy round-ups of the year’s news stories that collected together the most dramatic images and covered the most important events. Not confined to British politics, these reviews act as a whirlwind tour of the world at the time in which they were made, chronicling everything from war to royal christenings, technological innovations to key sports matches as they go. You can view the entire “Review of the Year” collection here or choose from the list at the bottom of this page.
Now, in that tradition, we take a look at the last 12 months in a review of 2012. Here are some highlights (one for each month) of this tremendous year for which the British Pathé archive holds some relevant footage:
Our review of 2012 begins with something that happened many years before, for January marked an important anniversary. 90 years ago, on 3rd January 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Egyptian pharoah Tutankhamun. British Pathé has footage of Carter outside his discovery, as well as coverage of the treasures found within. Click here to explore the collection.
It feels just like yesterday but it was in fact back in February that we all came out in celebration for the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. There was a royal river pageant (a gallery of previous royal barges can be found here), a concert, a Royal Tour of the country, and street parties across the nation.
British Pathé’s celebration of the life of Elizabeth II can be found here. Beginning with the Queen as a young girl with her grandmother, it features her marriage, her coronation, the royal tours, select royal visits within Britain, and the home life of the Royal Family. The collection concludes with footage of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.
In March, the economic situation in the UK looked no better. Unemployment reached its highest figure (2.67 million) since 1995, though it was still not as high as in 1984. The ups and downs of unemployment can be traced via newsreels in the British Pathé archive. Click here to explore.
The Cutty Sark re-opened to visitors after a dreadful fire. But in April we also commemorated the 100th anniversary of the loss of Titanic. The British Pathé archive contains not only footage of the legendary liner herself, but also of her great sister ships Olympic and Britannic, both of which had accidents of their own. You can explore our centenary collection or read about the footage in the blog post, Titanic and the Other Two.
Yet another important anniversary, this time of Amelia Earhart’s crossing of the Atlantic 80 years prior. Interestingly, an expedition was launched in 2012 in an attempt to discover her remains. We wrote a blog post about it that included links to various clips featuring that amazing personality.
On 14th June 1982, the Falkland’s War came to an end, with Britain having reclaimed sovereignty over the islands following an Argentine invasion. June 2012, therefore, marked 30 years since the conclusion of the conflict. We wrote about it in our blog post When the Falklands Were Forgotten, and you can view relevant footage in this collection.
One cannot think of 2012 without thinking of the Olympics. British Pathé has footage of many Olympic Games, including the two other London years, 1908 and 1948. We also digitised 300 Olympics clips, making them available on the website for the very first time. You can read about them here.
One of the highlights of 2012 was the Paralympic Games, which began at the end of August and were also held in London. The Paralympics started life in the British village of Stoke Mandeville and the Ninth Annual International Stoke Mandeville Games (1960) are now known as the first Summer Paralympics. British Pathé’s collection of material on the Stoke Mandeville Games can be viewed here.
Barack Obama accepted the nomination of the Democrats to run for re-election. He went on to win the 2012 Presidential Election and became the only Democrat to have won the popular vote twice since Franklin Roosevelt. You can see some clips from Roosevelt’s three presidential election wins here.
A YouTube sensation! Felix Baumgartner broke the sound barrier, leaping from a balloon 24 miles above the ground.
It was the Queen and Prince Philip’s 65th (blue sapphire) Wedding Anniversary in November, as well as the 20th anniversary of the Windsor Castle fire in what was the Queen’s “annus horribilis“. You can watch footage of the fire and A Day That Shook The World episodes on the British Royal Family in Crisis and the separation of Charles and Diana, or view the the announcement of the Queen’s engagement and the coverage of her wedding.
In the final month of 2012, the world received the news that Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince William were expecting their first child. We took a guess at possible baby names in this gallery. You can also vote in our poll here.
Have we missed something important for which the British Pathé archive has relevant material? Leave us a comment. You can also search our Ten Most Popular Clips of 2012 and visit our tumblr and Pinterest pages which were launched this year.
We hope you enjoyed 2012 as much as we did. Here’s to 2013!
2012 has been an ego-boosting year for the British. With the success of the Diamond Jubilee, the Summer Olympics and the Paralympics, it wouldn’t be a bad year to go out on (and we will have to if the predictions of our impending doom become a reality on 21st December). With the aim of blowing our own trumpets a little more, we searched the archive for footage of good British inventions. Unfortunately, there were also many dodgy ones in there too. So, in the interest of balance, we thought we’d share both the good and the not-so-good contraptions created by Brits during the Twentieth Century that footage exists of in the British Pathé archive.
Our collection of good British inventions includes not only the famous ones, but also inventions by members of the public that seem to serve some practical purpose. Here are some highlights. We’re mainly limiting ourselves to technological creations, rather than things like particular sports or habits. In each case, you can click on the still to be taken to some vintage footage of that invention, or you can search the catch-all collection we’ve created here.
In a similar category as the early mobile phone above is this film of what seems to be a 1920s Walkman that we recently posted on our YouTube channel. We’ve embedded it below.
But now onto the bona fide British inventions in the archive that came after the quirky (but impressive) attempts above, the first dating from the mid-1920s:
And now to the disheartening other ones. Contrast the inventions above (even the 1920s Walkman and mobile phone) with these eccentric and/or useless creations. Click the stills to watch the film that they’re taken from or search our collection of dodgy inventions here.
As we mentioned in late November, we’re now doing a regular blog post pointing out events or anniversaries coming up that the archive holds some relevant footage for. So here are our picks over the next two weeks, encompassing the Christmas period…
55 years ago, the “King”was drafted into the United States Army. British Pathé has footage of Elvis Presley as he began his tour of duty, as well as a newsreel announcing that he had left the army a few years later. Watch them here.
2012, if we do indeed survive the predicted apocalypse, will be remembered for many things, but without a doubt it will be considered London’s year. The Diamond Jubilee, the Summer Olympics and the Paralympics all centred on the great city and were enormously successful. (Click the links on those events to see related footage in the British Pathé archive, including the 1908 and 1948 London Olympics.) As a tribute to 2012 and to London, we’re sharing with you themed collections of clips from the city’s past, whether heart-warming or chilling. Explore London as a political, musical, theatrical, busy, fun, popular and tragic place. Click the links below to take a look.
This quick message is to tell you about our brand new Social Media pages. Don’t worry, we’re not neglecting the old ones. In fact, we’ve recently updated our WordPress blog page and started a new series of posts summarising the contents of the archive – such as our Animation Archive, War Archive and Undersea Antics – and the history of British Pathé (see Part I of IV here). But we’ve started a new blog as well. Mostly this mirrors our Facebook page, but there are also exclusives too – such as this article on great goals. You’ll find this new blog, hosted by Tumblr, here: http://britishpathe.tumblr.com/
We also recently started a Pinterest page. If you’ve never tried Pinterest, it can be quite a lot of fun. We’ve got plenty of collections dedicated to certain aspects of the archive. You can explore them here: http://pinterest.com/britishpathe/. We’ve only just begun these boards, so they’re not going to blow you away, but follow them now if you don’t want to miss out on our updates!
We’re delighted with how loyal and active our Social Media supporters have been – and all for what is, essentially, old news!Thank you all. You’ve written so many comments, shared many images and clips, and watched countless videos. Recently we reached 10,000 likes for our Facebook page, and are about to pass the 11,000 mark. Join us there if you haven’t already for daily links to clip collections or films: http://www.facebook.com/britishpathe. Or follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BritishPathe. And don’t forget that we also have a popular YouTube channel.
So take your pick of Social Media platform or follow us on all of them if you like. Let us know what you think and what you’d like from us. If you want to, you can do this anonymously here. And know that we appreciate the interest shown in our archive. It’s fantastic to know that this historic footage is not forgotten.
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There’s nothing like a royal pregnancy announcement to get the media’s mouths watering. So we thought we would join in the speculation and fun of guessing the future King or Queen’s name. We are in no doubt that William and Catherine will stay within the bounds of traditionalism (i.e no Apples or Harpers here) but will they be safe and choose the name of a previous monarch or will they go for something new? We have dug in to the archives to find out some names of previous Princes and Princesses. Scroll to the bottom, to take our poll
Of course Prince William’s Great Aunt was Princess Margaret or “Margot” as she was affectionately called by friends. There hasn’t been a Queen Margaret before, however, although a royal beauty, the Queen’s sister was quite a controversial member of the royal family.
Prince Albert (Bertie)
If you have seen the King’s Speech, you probably feel like you know King George VI rather well. The Queen’s beloved father was a reluctant King; thrown on to the throne after his brother’s abdication, he had the enormous job of restoring the popularity of the monarchy which was at an all time low. He succeeded. He has gone down in history as being a dutiful family man and a King with personal courage. So perhaps William will pay homage to his great-grandfather whose baptismal name was Prince Albert and was known as ‘Bertie’ by his family. There never has been a King Albert as Edward VII (born Prince Albert) decided he didn’t want to diminish the status of his father. The Queen’s (Elizabeth II) father took the regnal name George VI to carry on this tradition.
Princess Mary (May)
We think Mary may be a strong contender for a girl and then with a nickname of ‘May’. Prince William’s great-great grandmother was Queen Mary of Teck (pictured) and Queen Victoria’s great granddaughter was called Princess May of Teck. And of course there hasn’t been a Mary on the throne since the days of Mary II aka “William and Mary” who were joint sovereigns of England, Scotland and Ireland back in the 17th century. Mary is a pretty girl’s name which has fallen out of vogue in the last 50 years but we just have a hunch it could be time for a resurgence.
Prince Henry or Princess Henrietta
We all know how close Prince William and his brother Harry (Prince Henry) are so we think there is a strong possibility that William may choose Henry or Henrietta as a tribute to his brother. ‘Henry’ has been a popular choice for members of the royal family. Prince Henry, seen in this picture with the Queen, was the Queen’s uncle and there have been many Prince Henry’s before him.
Henry VIII was the last Henry to grace the throne though. He was an accomplished and charismatic king although he is often illustrated as a lustful and egotistical character. And although there has never been a Queen Henrietta, apparently the name Henrietta is a “thoroughly upper-class name” and in fact Charles I’s daughter was called Princess Henrietta of England. It’s not very popular in England anymore but perhaps it’s time for a renaissance.
Could there be another Victorian era ahead? It is some 111 years since Queen Victoria’s reign ended. If William looks to his family history for inspiration, he will know that Queen Victoria’s reign of 63 years and seven months, is still the longest reign of any British monarch and the longest of any female monarch in history. Although she was officially Alexandrina Victoria (nicknamed Drina), her first name was withdrawn at her own wish.
Victoria was the symbol of the British Empire. She displayed fortitude and strength when there were seven separate attempts on her life. Her popularity was temporarily affected by her depression but ultimately she was a popular Queen who remained dutiful to the end. As William is 4th great-grandson of Queen Victoria, we think Queen Victoria II is a strong contender.
And how about Charlotte? Of course Charlotte is the female name of Charles so this would be a great tribute to William’s father. There was Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz who was the Queen consort of the United Kingdom as the wife of King George III. If it is a boy though, we don’t think William and Kate will choose Charles – just because there is already one in line to the throne.
Pathe’s Final Prediction
Our wholly speculative final guess is: a girl called Charlotte
Around the time that what was then called “British Pathé News” was producing A Day That Shook The World with the BBC, work also began on a companion series entitled Twentieth Century Hall of Fame. Both series are important additions to the archive, for they bring its content into the 21st century (Pathé News ended in February 1970). It was not until this year, however, that the series were made available to view on the British Pathé website.
Twentieth Century Hall of Fame chronicles the lives of the most important and well-known figures of the last 100 years, whether they be politicians, musicians, or sports stars. This is a diverse collection of biographies, including such characters as Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, Grace Kelly, and Muhammad Ali. Each episode succinctly summarises in four-minutes the life of the subject, serving as a useful introduction.
Many of the episodes are made up of footage already contained within the British Pathé archive, but some footage is unique to this series. This is the case primarily with those people who came to prominence in the 1970s, 80s, or 90s. These include Princess Diana, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Mother Teresa.
The episodes are dated by the year in which the subject was born.
Earlier in November we blogged about four upcoming anniversaries which may have been of interest (see here). From now on, we’ll be doing this on a regular basis, pointing out events coming up in the calendar that we have some relevant footage for. So here’s our picks for the next two weeks…
80th Anniversary: In 1932 England went to Australia to compete in cricket Test matches which would be known as the “Bodyline Tour”. 2nd December marks the opening day of the first Test, which England won. Watch the match here.
It has also been announced that a statue of Basil D’Oliveira will be erected at Worcestershire County Cricket Club. See some footage of D’Oliveira in the archive.
70th Anniversary: Days after Winston Churchill announced that Italy would continue to be bombed until they surrendered, the United States Air Force launched its first air raid on Naples. British Pathé has footage of USAF attacks on Naples, released in cinemas in January of 1943, as well as footage of the RAF missions. See the collection here.
A few years ago, what was then called “British Pathé News” began a production with the BBC called A Day That Shook The World. Two series were eventually made, the first narrated by John Humphrys, and they are available on our website to view (for free) in our programmes section. The last Pathé newsreel was released in February 1970, so this series and the associated series 20th Century Hall ofFamebring the archive beyond the twentieth century.
Topics covered by the series include September 11th, the Iraq War and the Capture of Saddam Hussein, the collapse of Enron, the Asian Tsunami, and the London Bombings. From this period, the series also covers the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla – not quite an event that “shook the world” but certainly an interesting one.
From the latter part of the twentieth century, the series documents the impeachment of President Clinton, the death of Diana, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first Gulf War, Chernobyl, and the Falklands Crisis. Prior to that we are in classic Pathe territory, with episodes succinctly summarising key events using Pathe footage that was captured at the time – the Somme, Hiroshima, Queen Victoria’s funeral, to name but a few. The series therefore acts as a useful entry point into an archive of 90,000 clips to wade through.
Every now and again there are some important anniversaries that are worth blogging about. As it happens, there are four all coming up in the next few days. So here’s some relevant links that may be of interest to you.
On 26th November 1922, the archaeologist Howard Carter entered the tomb of the famous Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun. British Pathé has some shots of Carter at the tomb, as well as of the treasures found within. Our Tutankhamun collection can be found here.
As well as producing regular news stories, British Pathé often included additional forms of entertainment mixed in to add a bit of variety. These pieces could be more comedic or quirky in tone, such as the Pathé Pictorial series, or entirely fictional pieces such as Dave and Dusty. In the early days, they also produced some animated shorts. In the late 1910s, there was a series of John Bull cartoons, which sadly we cannot find in the archive. There was also, most notably Jerry The Troublesome Tyke and the somewhat similar Adventures of Pongo the Pup, both from the mid-1920s.
The archive also contains a great deal of other animated productions and series. But of immense interest are the war propaganda shorts, particularly the marvellous “Britain’s Effort“, made by Lancelot Speed, but also the Sinking of the Lusitaniaand the brief Star-gazer, a still of which is below.
The Pathé Animation archive also contains plenty of educational and information cartoons, such as this Ministry of Information film “Peak Load Electricity“ from 1943. Plus, there’s a lot of fun John Noble shorts and film of cartoonists at work. Pathé had fun with its shorts by showing the animators interacting with their creations, sometimes (in the case of Jerry), arguing with them.
So there’s a wealth of different styles and genres within the archive to explore. We’ve presented just a taster of them here, in our efforts to promote aspects of the archive which have been somewhat neglected by the understandable focus on Twentieth Century politics, royalty, and the two world wars. For an introduction to “Alternative Pathé”, read our previous blog post, “That’s all very well, but what has the Pathé archive got for ME?”
“That’s all very well, but what has the Pathé archive got for ME?”
It can be tempting to think of the British Pathé archive as being only of interest to those with a passion for the history of the Twentieth Century. After all, the bulk of the footage comes from around 1914 to 1969 – the earliest clip in the archive is from 1895 (New Blacksmith Shop) with the most recent material contained within a BBC/British Pathé co-production covering the collapse of Enron in 2006 – but there is in fact plenty for those with a preference for other historical periods, or those who have specialist interests, to explore. The Pathé archive isn’t all about the Queen and British politics.
An obvious starting place for those with an interest in history prior to the Twentieth Century, is the archive relating to Ancient Egypt. We have footage of Howard Carter in front of the tomb of Tutankhamun, as well as shots of the treasures found within. (Visit our Tutankhamun collection here.)
But as well as that famous pharoah and his discoverer, our extensive archaeology archive (click here) contains coverage from all parts of the world. You’ll be able to see Tudor and Roman Britain excavations, tour Pompeii, the Middle East, and dive the oceans to explore shipwrecks.
It’s true that none of these clips are necessarily going to help you study these periods (unless you want to look at how they were portrayed in the Twentieth Century), but they are surely of interest. What Egyptologist wouldn’t marvel at seeing Carter at the tomb, or the glistening treasures on display?
There’s also stuff for people who don’t even like history (if such people exist). Here we present just a few ideas for exploring the archive for those with specialist interests.
Fascinated by science, animals, or insects? Try the classic Secrets of Nature – it covers the amazing life-cycles of plants, via some stunning microscope photography, as well as detailing the lives of many species of animals, birds, and insects.
Haven’t travelled enough? Take the cheap option and travel the world through British Pathé’s collection of travelogues. Escape the humdrum of everyday life with these clips (for the most part in colour) of numerous sites – from the ancient cities of Jerusalem, Rome, and Thebes, to the culturally rich capitals of Paris and Moscow, to the childish delights of Disneyland in sunny California.
Like animation? See Jerry the Troublesome Tyke, a classic animated series from the silent era, addictive due to its immense charm and wealth of humour.
Always wanted to be an astronaut? Rewatch the moon landings or other significant events from the Space Race in our collection.
Or just want to pass the time with some wacky stuff? We’ve got a collection of crazy inventions, or just try searching for something. The still below is from our “Robot Boy” video, which has been popular recently. We found it by accident when looking for something else.
So search the archive for hidden gems at www.britishpathe.com. There’s 90,000 clips with something for everyone! Thought of some topics we’ve missed? Leave us a comment below. Happy searching!
It’s that time of year again. We hope you’ll all be out having a good time (we will!). To get you all in the mood, here’s one of our previous blog posts that present some of the previous Guy Fawkes Nights that we’ve captured on film…
Today is Guy Fawkes day and so we had a dig in the archive for some footage of yesteryear’s heretic-honed celebrations. British Pathé have so much brilliant archive footage of Guy Fawkes celebrations, bonfire parties and fireworks displays. Some of the best are from the 1940s, when explosives and large fires had a much deeper cultural significance to war-torn Britain and the escapism of a festivity and pyromania was a much needed indulgement.
We are now entering into the period leading up to Remembrance Day. We have already blogged this week about the history of poppies and why we wear them (see Poppies: An Illustrated History), but there is plenty more to discuss and explore. Since Pathé’s war archive is extensive, we present here some potential starting points, with links here to key collections that can act as a way in.
The archive of World War Two material filmed by British Pathé is wide-ranging. Pathé cameramen went with the troops all around the world, and documented the destruction at home. Footage details warfare on land, at sea, and in the air. Some collections that may interest you include our D-Day clips, coverage of the Battle of the Atlantic, the dramatic escape from Dunkirk, and the devastation of the Blitz.
The Korean War is often referred to as “The Forgotten War”. Two and a half million people lost their lives in this conflict, including many British soldiers. Our Korean War Collection (just a selection) can be found here, or you can search our website for what you want.
The 1960s saw Hugh Hefner opening up his Playboy Clubs across the world. Those hostess showgirls wedged in to satin corsets and sprinkled with bunny ears and bow ties are still seen as one of America’s lasting sex symbols.
Our Playboy blog post, Bunny Girls: British Pathé Go Inside The Playboy Paradise (Never To Return), is the most-read article we have published since setting up the British Pathé blog in 2010 by a substantial margin. We can’t imagine why! When we reblogged the article just a few days ago (see here), more of you visited the page than we imagined. So we thought that given the interest out there, instead of simply republishing one of our golden oldies, that we’d treat you to something new.
Therefore, we proudly present our new VINTAGE BUNNY GIRLS GALLERY. In the gallery you will see shots that we didn’t include in the original blog article (which you can still find via the blog’s home page) as well as links to the films from which they’re taken.
So if you’re bored at work, or simply interested in fashion and cultural history, click THIS LINK to view the gallery.
Or if you aren’t a fan of the gallery format, you can go straight to the films featured within it. Just click on the titles below:
Playboy Magazine and the notorious Bunny Girls charmed their way into Metro yesterday with the announcement of a new Mayfair Playboy club opening in London. We were surprised to learn that it was as early as 1966 that Hugh Hefner opened his first popular London nightspot, and so we had a cheeky browse through the British Pathé archive to see if there were any Bunnies in there and WOW:
Sexy seductive videos of 1960s Bunny Girls…
Why did nobody mention that these reels existed before? It just goes to show, there’s nothing unworthy of a search in British Pathé’s colossal online archive. These bunnilicious archive clips are a dream:
“A race called Bunnies. A Bunny is an American creation, she’s a cross between a hostess showgirl and a barmaid waitress, well versed in the art of charming the cash customers in a string of international clubs.” This 1960s newsreel ‘Inside The Playboy Paradise’ is a now…
Since Arnie has a new book out, we thought it appropriate to reblog our Schwarzenegger article. We’re not ones for reblogging, but in redesigning our blog page, we’ve discovered some old gems that we thought we’d share with you.
We were searching body builders in the archive today for one of our clients and suddenly stumbled across this freak discovery – a mega rare clip or Arnold Schwarzenegger in a 1966 contest. The star is only 19 years old in this clip, and yet his muscles are already titanic! “What a super sight” the narrator staggers as the reel’s first scene shows about two dozen 1960s muscle men standing on stage looking as casual as their biceps permit. This is of course the international body building contest, where men have muscles “that the average man has never heard of”.
Bizarrely the narrator declares that such muscles would be “wasted on a girl”. Arnold Schwarzenegger sadly doesn’t win the contest and the title is won by a much older looking man. The shots of bemused female spectators are priceless, with their beady bespectacled eyes and 60s fashion trends.
In 1958, Warner Brothers merged with Associated British Picture Corporation (parent company of Pathé-branded newsreel and feature film producers, Associated British-Pathé) to form Warner-Pathé. The new management oversaw the introduction of colour into regular news production (it had hitherto been saved for special documentaries such as Elizabeth Is Queen). But Warner-Pathé needed more than colour in order appeal to consumers who were increasingly getting their hard news from live television. Other newsreel brands went out of business, and the company needed to adapt if it was going to survive. The answer it found was to focus on the quirks of humanity.
“Cinemagazines” were not an invention of the 1960s. They actually date right back to 1913 and the Kinemacolor Fashion Gazette, though it was Pathé-Cinema which perfected the form with 1918’s Pathé Pictorial. But the 1960s were the cinemagazine’s heyday. Colourful, quirky, and fun, they were also light on information and hard news. In some ways, this footage is more valuable today than when it was filmed. At the time, mere light entertainment, it now serves as a window into the leisure activities of the British people in the 1960s. Indeed, the collection was used extensively in the 2012 BBC Four series British Passions on Film.
Regardless of the merit of the output, the company could simply not compete with the rise of television. In 1969, the final Pathé Pictorial cinemagazine was released, shortly followed by the last edition of Pathé News. This was when Associated British-Pathé went through a radical transformation, from an active news and film production house, into a dormant film archive.
As the Warner-Pathé staff on Wardour Street were wrapping up their long history of news and feature film production, they were purchased from Warner Brothers by EMI (which later became Thorn EMI). The cameras in Wardour Street may have stopped rolling, but an archive of historic importance remained. The value of its content was immediately clear and television programmes featured visits to the archive. One was Clapperboard with Chris Kelly, which was broadcast on ITV. The collection was now available to be mined by future generations of filmmakers and documentarians, and licensing became the chief occupation of the archive staff.
After a long period without much change, a significant development took place in the later 1980s. Thorn EMI was purchased by The Cannon Group in 1986, which sold the Associated British-Pathé newsreel archive the following year. Cannon did not, however, sell the assets of the feature film arm of Associated British-Pathé. Thus, for the first time, the Pathé-branded UK feature film and newsreel arms were separated, as they remain today. (The feature film assets now lie with StudioCanal.) By 1990, the archive was operating as British Pathé News. It was at this time that the company produced the respected series A Day That Shook the World and Twentieth Century Hall of Fame, as well as Year to Remember, which is still popular on DVD today.
1995 marks an important year in the recent history of the archive. Firstly, British Pathé News was purchased by the Daily Mail and General Trust. Secondly the name was shortened to British Pathé (plc, later Ltd). From 2003 to 2009 the archive was represented by ITN Source and became a respected resource for filmmakers, museums and educators. During this time, the entire archive was digitised in an effort funded partly by the National Lottery.
The Independent Archive
In 2009, British Pathé Ltd became, in essence, an independent archive (as opposed to a part of a larger corporation) for the first time in its history. This new era saw the introduction of a museum subscription service, an increase in licensing and programming (notably including The Story of British Pathé, a four-part BBC Four series), and an expansion in the company’s online presence (the entire archive is available to view online for free and is complemented by Facebook, Twitter and WordPress pages, as well as a YouTube channel). In 2012, the archive was awarded “Footage Library of the Year” at the Focal International Awards.
For the foreseeable future, British Pathé looks set to remain a remembered and respected brand within the British cultural consciousness.
British Pathé is always keen for corrections and additional information about its footage and corporate history. Please email us or leave a comment beneath the relevant clip on the website.
In 1933, British International Pictures purchased the Pathé newsreel and feature film brand from Warner Brothers-First National. Associated British-Pathé was born, under the umbrella of the Associated British Picture Corporation, and soon the Pathé brand was enjoying something of a golden age in the United Kingdom.
In the 1930s, the newsreel staff became increasingly ambitious, providing audiences not only with quantity (one only needs to see News In a Nutshell to know that audiences were enjoying this regular dose of news enough to warrant 340 episodes of it), but also with variety. Would You Believe It?, for instance, is a little-known gem assorting footage of various unusual things from around the world, such as oddly-named streets, strange animals, and bizarre technological breakthroughs. At the same time, Feminine Pictorialities continued the company’s trend of providing for all audiences that had begun with Eve’s Film Review in the 1920s. This “special selection for the ladies” covered bathing and hat fashions, hairstyles, and women’s sport.
Following the war, despite having been completely separate companies for two decades, the newsreel companies Associated British-Pathé (UK), Pathé Journal (France), and Pathé News Inc (USA) began a unique partnership. In a move celebrated by President Truman, these organisations began sharing footage and cameramen in order to enable news to be more easily distributed worldwide. Pathé Gazette also rebranded itself – from 1946 until 1970, it would be known simply as Pathé News. One of the major stories from this period was the Korean War, that sometimes criminally-forgotten conflict that claimed an estimated 2.5 million lives.
Associated British-Pathé was also busy producing feature films and commercials, and even expanding into the television market. One such production was Film Fanfare, a charming 1950s film magazine show that presented viewers with footage from recent glamorous premieres as well as featuring in-studio interviews, quizzes, and reviews of what are now classic motion pictures. However, the most impressive example of the television work done was the company’s involvement in Peter Baylis’s Time To Remember. This epic series touched on all aspects of life in the first half of the Twentieth Century, using the original newsreel footage, and was narrated by celebrated actors, including Sir Michael Redgrave and Sir Ralph Richardson. Its charm was such that in 2010, the BBC re-edited and re-broadcast the series for a modern-day audience, retaining much of the original commentary.
But television posed more of a threat than an opportunity for the company, especially for the newsreel staff. They could release the Queen’s coronationin glorious colour, and even film it in 3D(!), but it was not a live broadcast like that of the BBC coverage. Viewers were increasingly not willing to wait. The newsreel format was also beginning to look tired, with outdated patriotism at odds with the postcolonial attitudes of the British public (particularly during the Suez Crisis). By the end of the 1950s, Pathé News was already struggling to compete. The 1960s would witness a shift in the nature of the company’s output as it tried to survive.
British Pathé is always keen for corrections and additional information about its footage and corporate history. Please email us or leave a comment beneath the relevant clip on the website.
By the time Charles Pathé opened the UK newsreel arm of his company CGPC (established 1896), the Pathé brand was already influential in the world of film production and distribution, as well as a notable record label. A Westminster distribution office had opened as early as 1902, and Pathé-branded movie theatres were spreading across Western Europe. CGPC had invented the newsreel in 1908 for French audiences, and in 1910 spread this innovation to other markets as well. One result was the UK newsreel office located on Wardour Street which produced its first newsreels under the Pathé Animated Gazette label. (That same year, Pathé News was set up in the United States).
Many of these early newsreels are sadly missing. One of the earliest still within the archive is believed to be the departure of the Terra Nova, Captain Scott’s famous ship that took him to the Antarctic. It was a section of the 87th newsreel package, released in cinemas in December of 1910, and was one of eight stories that included flooding in Worcester and a railway crash in Willesden. Other early footage of note includes the coronation of George V, the RMS Titanic, and the death of suffragette Emily Davison.
The archive also contains an extensive collection of World War One material, much of which remains unidentified. Dates and locations are often unclear. Cataloguing is not helped by a lack of clarity over which events have been captured as they occurred and which are staged (photographers and cameramen were not above posing corpses for a better shot). Regardless, the material remains incredible to view. Though silent, grainy, and black-and-white, the footage is often awesome and sometimes harrowing. The faces of the daring recruits, huddled in their trenches, many about to die, are preserved for posterity. It is a shame that we cannot put a name to them.
From 1918, CGPC began to be run as two separate divisions, with Pathé-Cinema (films and newsreels) under the control of Charles Pathé, and Pathé Records (music) overseen by brother Émile Pathé. This was the first step towards the eventual splintering of the company that can cause endless headaches for anyone attempting to trace the history of the Pathé brand:
The USA Pathé-Cinema arm (including Pathé News) was sold in 1921. It was run by Pathé Exchange and then RKO Radio Pictures, which shut down the film production arm. Warner Brothers purchased the newsreel arm in 1947 before selling it to Studio Films. Pathé News disappeared from cinemas in the 1950s.
In 1927, CGPC also sold the UK arm of Pathé-Cinema, which included both the film production office and the newsreel office, to First National, forming First National-Pathé.
In 1928 CGPC sold the French and UK arms of Pathé Records to the British Columbia Graphophone Company. The USA arm of Pathé Records was sold the following year to the American Record Corporation. Its assets now lie with Sony.
The remaining assets of CGPC (such as the French film production arm, the international cinema chain, and the French Pathé Journal newsreels) were taken over by Bernard Natan to form Pathé-Natan. It changed hands a few times after that before becoming the present-day film company “Pathé”. Pathé Journal continued until 1981. Its newsreel archive now lies with Gaumont-Pathé.
This was the complicated process by which the UK newsreel company became divorced from its overseas parent and sister companies, never to be reunited. Pathé-branded newsreel and film production in the UK was now on its own.
As First National-Pathé, newsreels were released under the name of Pathé Gazette and an internationally-distributed newsreel was produced from Wardour Street – Pathetone Weekly. But the great innovation of this period was, of course, the introduction of sound in 1930. This brought a new immediacy and reality to the footage, despite the limitations of early technology.
Sound also allowed newsreels to start including interviews, and one early interviewee was the Editor of the Pathé Gazette himself, upon the occasion of the UK newsreel’s twenty-first anniversary. In the clip, the Editor takes the opportunity to look back on what his company has achieved so far and on the recent history that has been captured by the Pathé cameramen. We may not be able to witness the Norman Conquest or the Great Fire of London, the Editor says, but we can relive history which has been preserved through the magic of newsreels: “One of cinema’s greatest privileges is to be able to bring back the past.” The company had proven its worth.
But in 1931, Warner Brothers purchased First National and formed Warner Brothers-First National and the future of the Pathé brand looked uncertain. That is, until 1933, when the golden age of British Pathé really began.
British Pathé is always keen for corrections and additional information about its footage and corporate history. Please email us or leave a comment beneath the relevant clip on the website, www.britishpathe.com.
A quick search of the 90,000 films in the British Pathé archive reveals 139 clips which are currently dated as being from before 1910, the year in which the first newsreel from the newly-established UK arm of Compagnie Générale des Établissements Pathé Frères Phonographes & Cinématographes was released in cinemas. 1910 was thus the year that gave birth to what is now known as “British Pathé”. So what are these 139 additional clips?
The earliest footage in the British Pathé archive today is probably the Edison Manufacturing Company production New Blacksmith Shop (1895). The film, not to be confused with the earlier Blacksmith Scene (1893), was directed by William K. L. Dickson. It lasts for a mere thirty seconds, features no discernible plot or characters, and might not prove particularly interesting to modern viewers. Nevertheless, given its short running time, it is well worth a watch (it can be viewed here) as a typical example of early cinema. Film was still new, the first motion picture images having been captured by Louis Le Prince in 1888 in Leeds. Short, every-day subjects still had the power to thrill (such as in the famous Lumière film The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station). But this was an era of great experimentation and innovation, as can be seen in Robert W Paul’s The Vanishing Lady.
It was in this context that Charles, Émile, Théophile and Jacques Pathé founded Société Pathé Frères in France in 1896 and began film production. It is difficult to be sure, but footage in the archive that appears to date from this year includes film of Hyde Park Corner and Brighton.
These brief glimpses of Victorian life are as fascinating today as they were when they were shot – then because the technology involved was so new, and today because the footage is so old. The Victorian era was the first to be documented in moving images, yet still with a rarity that makes viewing them an awe-inspiring experience.
In 1897, Société Pathé Frères went public under the, rather lengthy, name Compagnie Générale des Établissements Pathé Frères Phonographes & Cinématographes (or CGPC). Doubt remains about some of the clips in the archive from the early CGPC era in terms of their locations and dates. Records were either not made at the time or have been lost. The material which can be identified with at least some confidence is often of great historical interest. There is the funeral of William Gladstone, footage of the Boer War, and the coronation procession of Edward VII. The archive also contains film of Queen Victoria at a garden party, her Diamond Jubilee, and her funeral. Material from the Edwardian period includes the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and the 1908 London Olympics.
CGPC continued filming for many years, distributing films and expanding its theatre empire across much of the Western World. It was not, in fact, until 1908 that the company invented the newsreel. The first was Pathé-Faits Divers in France, though it was renamed Pathé Journal in 1909. The following year, CGPC launched an American newsreel arm to produce Pathé News, as well as opening a newsreel production office on Wardour Street in London. The first UK newsreel was thus produced, under the Pathé Animated Gazette brand, in February 1910. The French, British, and American newsreel arms would often share footage, and it seems that this is how the pre-1910 material came to be in the hands of the UK newsreel staff. They often made use of it too, producing retrospectives which included flashbacks to 1896.
The American newsreel arm of CGPC was eventually sold in 1921 and was run by Pathé Exchange, RKO Radio Pictures, Warner Brothers, and finally Studio Films, before disappearing as a brand in the 1950s. The British newsreel arm was sold too, in 1927. It passed through various hands before ending news production in 1970. The archive was preserved, however, and can be viewed in its entirety for free on the British Pathé website.
British Pathé is always keen for corrections and additional information about its footage and corporate history. Please email us or leave a comment beneath the relevant clip on the website.
Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her bedroom on August 5th 1962 by her psychiatrist doctor Ralph Greenson. She was just 36 years old. The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office ruled the death as “acute barbiturate poisoning” and “probable suicide”. However many people including the first police officer to arrive at the scene of the death believed she was murdered.
For fifty years her death has been a subject of conjecture and conspiracy theories have been rampant. Various people have been implicated in her death from the Kennedys to the Mafia to the FBI, time of death has never properly been established and murder has never been ruled out.
Who visited Marilyn the day before she died?
Like many an iconic figure who have gone to their graves young, the events leading up to Marilyn’s death are as mysterious, ambiguous and unclear as Marilyn herself. Many people supposedly visited Marilyn the day before she died – Bobby Kennedy, the FBI, a “mob boss” and Frank Sinatra’s rat pack.
This part of the puzzle seems to be shrouded in mystery but we know one thing – Marilyn’s close contact with the world’s most elite and powerful meant that she knew things and had information. Did somebody not trust Marilyn and want her dead?
Marilyn’s housekeeper Eunice Murray was a key witness but her version of events were so diverse and inconsistent that they were deemed worthless. We know that Eunice was around the night that Marilyn died. The housekeeper originally said she had knocked on Marilyn’s bedroom door at midnight and after receiving no answer called the doctor who broke in through the window after seeing Marilyn’s lifeless body.
However, Eunice Murray changed her version of events and then said that she actually went to bed at midnight and called Dr Greenson at 3am when she saw Marilyn’s bedroom light on was left on.
She went on to change her story many times and according to police reports, Murray was vague and extremely evasive. Was she being puppeted by somebody?
Eunice Murray took part in a 1985 BBC Investigation into Marilyn’s death. She told the same 1962 version of events. However, not realising her microphone was still on at the end of the interview and as she saw the cameras being packed away she said “Why, at my age, do I still have to cover this thing?”
Apparently she admitted that Monroe was not dead when the doctor arrived but she never revealed any more information and died in 1994.
So how did Marilyn die?
Official records tell us that Marilyn Monroe’s death was “acute barbiturate poisoning.” There was no further evidence of this though and it seems Marilyn wasn’t given a post-mortem, or if she was then it wasn’t recorded.
Basic standard procedures were not followed for some reason, records were not kept of her post-mortem – astonishing when you think how high profile a case this was. And then her organs were “thrown away”.
There has always been rumours that the FBI were at Marilyn’s house the day before she died. It was the time of the Cuban missile crisis, the political atmostphere was intense. The FBI were convinced that Marilyn was mixing with known communists and so they opened a file on her as a possible subversive. Could this have been a factor in her death?
Time of Death
At 4.30 a.m on the 5th August, two doctors indicate that the time of death was 12:30 a.m.
At 5:40 a.m undertaker Guy Hockett arrives and notes that the state of rigor mortis indicates that the time of death would have been earlier between 9:30pm and 11:30 p.m
At 6am both doctors change their stories and now claim Monroe died around 3:50 a.m, so even later on into the evening.
What is baffling though is that Monroe’s lawyer, Mickey Rudin called Monroe’s agent Arthur Jacobs at 10.30pm to tell him that Marilyn had overdosed. Rudin then called actor Peter Lawford at 1am to tell him that Marilyn was dead. So how could time of death be 3.50am?
All we know is – somewhere between 4th August at 9.30pm and 3.50am on the 5th August, Marilyn Monroe died. At least we think…
So was it suicide?
Many camps have quashed the theory that Marilyn took her own life. Her psychiatrist had recorded many interviews with her and when the interviews were analysed it showed Marilyn to be positive and fairly optimistic. These tapes subsequently disappeared.
Marilyn was also looking forward to getting back to filming and she felt that her therapy was working. What’s more – Marilyn bought an expensive piece of furniture the day before she died. Apparently this is not the action of someone who is thinking of taking their own life.
Or was it an accident?
So if Marilyn wasn’t murded and if she didn’t commit suicide, then the most likely possibility is that Marilyn accidentally overdosed on drugs.
An accident could quite easily have been what happened. Yet even this explanation isn’t without its problems. Marilyn, prone to pill-popping, had a good idea of how much was too much, and if in doubt she had plenty of expert medical advice around her. Marilyn Monroe was an intelligent lady and it seems unlikely that she’d fill herself with pills by mistake.
The glass tumbler And then there is the case of the missing glass. When Police searched Marilyn’s bedroom, they noted that there were a number of pill bottles in the bedroom but there was no glass and no water in the bedroom to wash down the pills. Marilyn apparently was known to struggle with washing down pills and needed big gulps of water, so it was strange that there was no drinking vessel in the bedroom. Mysteriously a glass was later found on the floor by her bed but police swear that it wasn’t there when they first searched the room.
Dial MM for Murder
Theories and rumours of murder have always been linked to Marilyn’s death and often the Kennedy’s name has been linked with that night.
She was a security risk to President John F Kennedy’s government having had an affair with him and known him intimately.
The CIA had placed electronic surveillance on Marilyn because of her closeness with the Kennedys.
Did US Attorney General, Robert Kennedy visit Marilyn on the night she died? Her housekeeper seemed to think so. There had been a violent argument in the house that night apparently which Marilyn’s doctor had to calm down.
The boy who was in the house…
But there was someone else there too. In a recent interview, the housekeeper’s son-in-law, Norman Jeffries, said that he was there that fateful night and he said that Robert Kennedy turned up with two men at 10pm on the night that Marilyn died.
He and his mother-in-law were ushered out of the house and when they returned they found Marilyn’s comotosed body in the guest cottage. Jeffries claims that it was the Los Angeles Police Department intelligence division that turned up and moved Marilyn’s body to the main house to create the “suicide in the locked bedroom” scenario.
Or was it a tragic medical accident?
Rachael Bell wrote for Court TV’s Crime library that a sedative enema might have been the cause of Marilyn’s death. Marilyn’s pyschiatrist, Dr. Greenson had been working with Dr. Hyman Engelberg to wean Marilyn off Nembutal, substituting instead chloral hydrate to help her sleep.
Bell theorises that Greenson was unaware that Engelberg had filled Monroe’s prescription for the barbiturate Nembutal a day earlier and when Greenson administered the chloral hydrate, the two substances reacted and killed Monroe. Lawyer Mickey Rudin claimed that Greenson said “Gosh darn it! He gave her a prescription I didn’t know about!”
Did the two doctors screw up and cover their tracks?
British Pathe have a number of clips that are worth watching:
The great British summer is here! You might not be able to tell from the sky but there lies a clue in the sudden splurge of diet fads and health initiatives. Food packaging and advertising that is suddenly noisy with buzz phrases like “summer glow”, “feel-good skin”, “beach body” and “shaping up for summer”. All that these companies really care about is your cash. They couldn’t care less if the WWF’s Whale Rescue Operations Team rush towards you the second you step onto the beach next month.
We here at British Pathe do care however. We may have closed our production doors in the 1970s, but that’s not to say we don’t have some darn good fitness tips for you. Britons have always been body-conscious and if anything we should know best because people looked a lot healthier in the past. Here are 5 archive favourites for you:
NUMBER 1: THE BATTLE OF THE BULGES (1941)
“Girls, after you’ve helped to win the war you’ll still have another battle on your hands – the battle of the bulges!”
This cheeky newsreels is essentially eye-candy for wartime soldiers, packaged by British Pathe under the guise of health and fitness advice. Sadly not many of us have a harness room full of metal wheels and rubber hoops to tone ourselves with, so let’s try another one…
NUMBER 2: EAT FAT AND GET SLIM (1958)
“Millions want to get back their youthful lines yet middle-aged spread remains unconquered. Eating fat is the latest theory!”
Way before the Atkins diet British Pathe was showcasing a no-carb all-fat diet that mimicked that of a neanderthal. This approach is still popular today. We love the British Pathe musical score on this one, and the fact that nothing has changed – “Every paper and magazine you pick up tells you how to do it”. But 50 years later and we’re still struggling, and the problem with Atkins diet is your can still join that ice-cream van queue on the beach…
NUMBER 3: EASY STEPS TO GET SLIM (1931)
“British Pathe present Edit Mezey, Hungarian Physical Culture Expert, showing you the best ‘slimming’ exercises”
Everyone loves a Hungarian Physical Culture Expert. This lovely 1930s workout video could teach Davina McCall a thing or two, firstly – wearing high heels! We love that the word slimming is put into inverted commas as if to say “Is this really a thing?” Let us know how you get on with the routine, we’re a bit worried you might develop an insane indelible smile though. Fourth time lucky…
NUMBER 4: SLIMMING BEDS (1966)
OK, we’re speechless. We’ve never seen anything that looks so painful! These springy machines that essentially look like perverted deckchairs are supposed to help the body stretch, tone and slim? They were most probably taken off the market after the first ten hip-replacement law cases came through. We’re left with one last chance of getting slim for summer…
NUMBER 5: MISS FAT AND BEAUTIFUL (1965)
Finally, our favourite approach! Just embrace who you are and stop worrying. Life’s too short!
This video “Miss Fat and Beautiful” is a celebration of curviness and having a bit of junk in the trunk. Some would argue these ladies aren’t even that fat by today’s supersize standards. Indeed, there are baffled Americans leaving comments beneath this video on YouTube like “What? Where are the fat people?”
Wherever you are going on holiday this summer, forget what anyone else thinks, roll out your beach fat with your beach mat, have a paddle, get stuck into a good book and just get on with enjoying those short-lived well-earnt summer days. Of course you can always enjoy a spot of looking at other peoples’ beautiful bodies whilst enjoying a cooling pint of lager, they wouldn’t have gone to all that effort if they didn’t want to be gawped at. And if you do really want to get slim then here is our British Pathe secret, don’t tell anyone else, we’ve never put it in a newsreel before:
THE SECRET: Wake up early, walk to work, drinks lots of water and stop eating crap after 8pm.
We learnt today from Ben Child’s film column in the Guardian that Nicole Kidman will be playing Grace Kelly in a new Hollywood blockbuster. The film will be directed by Olivier Dahan whose biopic of Edith Piaf was received well by the critics and saw that Marion Cottilard won Best Actress at the Oscars in 2008.
The British Pathe archive has a wealth of great Grace Kelly newsreels and archive video footage, including some quite intimate ones when Pathe were given access to her private family life in Monaco.
You can see some of the best Grace Kelly reels here:
Also, on our YouTube channel VintageFashions you can watch this great clip of Grace Kelly modelling as a student in this video 1940s Evening Fashions:
Do you think Nicole Kidman will be good in the role as Grace? The Australian actress certainly knows how to flick between between partygirl and austere – as we saw in Moulin Rouge, and Nicole Kidman has strawberry blonde hair like Grace.
Finally – we wonder if the new film will make use of some archive footage? We hope so!
A friend of the archive sent in a link to a Herald Tribune interview with 82-year-old Bill Crawford, discussing his fame as a balloon stunt child star. Crawford used to hang for dear life onto a giant balloon and hop all over his home town of Bradenton, and our friend was convinced they’d seen a video of this in the British Pathe film archive. We’re thrilled to say that yes, we do have a video of little Bill Crawford flying balloons at the tender age of just 4! We’ve uploaded the video onto our YouTube sister channel Sporting History so that you can all embed it into your own blogs, share it and enjoy it. Here’s the video:
Remember all 90,000 British Pathe reels are searchable and viewable for free on www.britishpathe.com
If you find anything too good to keep to yourself then you can share it on our Facebook page, or share it with us on Twitter @britishpathe
We’ve been enjoying Joanna Lumley’s recent ITV documentary series ‘Joanna Lumley’s Greek Odyssey’, and were motivated by it to dig out our own documentary series on Greece. That’s right, British Pathé toured Greece with Sabena airways in the 1960s and recorded about ten detailed travelogues, one focusing on each of the following key places: Rhodes, Athens, the Temple of Apollo, Mykonos, Hydra, Delphi, Thasos, Corfu and Crete.
Not only are these travelogues an important document in that they capture Greece over 50 years ago in colour, featuring some of the first high quality colour footage of that nation, but they are also a brilliant piece of social history – an insight into the 1960s, not only the fashions and decor but also the beginning of something arguably more colossal than any of the temples – the beginning of the tourist industry.
Click on the stills to watch each video. Enjoy the retro swimwear!
‘Island of The Sun’ is an introductory video to British Pathé’s 1960s tour of Greece. It focuses on the luxury airline service (Sabena airlines!) that gives Greece-bound holidaymakers traditional Greek dishes and even dolls. Upon landing we see some scenic shots of Rhodes, the Parthenon and ruins at Lindos.
We are shown a state-of-the-art 1960s Greek hotel which looks rather like a British council flat block, and Pathé focuses its attention on a lady showering and bathing in the hotel pool! At the end of this clip a boy commands a host of black and gold butterflies by whistling, much like the community of whistlers that Joanna Lumley visited in Episode 1 of her documentary series.
We start off with Gaye Ashwood (the daughter of legendary British Pathé journalist Terry Ashwood) walking up the steps of the Acropolis. There some lovely shots of a neat and tidy 1960s aeroplane landing scene. The 1960s transport on the streets is fantastic too!
Here we are at Cape Kennedy, visiting the temple of Apollo. British Pathé compare Apollo the Greek God to Apollo the space rocket. We see shots of the famous amphitheatre that Joanna Lumley also visited in the first episode of her documentary series.
In this 1965 video on Mykonos the island is described as “a short sea trip from Athens, yet there’s a Dutch flavour about the water windmills which twirl in the Mediterranean breeze. There are tourists, but not enough to completely commercialise the old fishermen who make their souvenirs with pride and patience”
Whether Pathé were aware that Mykonos was a gay island we cannot be sure, they don’t acknowkledge the fact explicitly in the video but they do offer some strange pieces of narration that could be seen as metaphors running in tandem with gay culture such as, “Nothing seems to shake the islanders out of their leisurely stride.” The camera then follows a domesticated pelican who becomes a sort of mascot for Mykonos, described as being “no ordinary pelican”, he is “liberated” and has “no interest in settling down”. It speaks volumes that Pathé decided to focus so much of their Mykonos travelogue on an estranged pelican bird! Were the cameramen a little reluctant to capture the real Mykonos?
Although this footage of Hydra and Delphi is mute it offers beautiful and colourful shots of an unspoilt Greece in the sunshine. Lots of healthy and glamorous holidaymakers and young couples sunbathe, swim in the sea and potter about the harbour’s edge. It’s quite romantic to think that this almost 50 years ago. It is most interesting too to study the holidaymakers’ faces, one can really sense the nature of their relationships with each other, and the conversations and arguments that are having, a time capsule of one sunny afternoon by a Greek harbour. There are good shots of the ancient Greek ruins at Delphi and some art students sketching them.
“The Greek islands hang like an enchanting necklace around the throat of Greece. One of the loveliest jewels in the necklace is Aegina.” Pathé follow couples taking donkey rides from the shore up into the hills. The travelogue also covers the island of Poros. The narrator tells us that there are 1,800 Greek island, with almost half of them unoccupied! We visit the National School of Fine Arts, and see a boy sketching holidaymakers in Hydra.
Thasos is described here as an “undiscovered Greek island bypassed by the holidaymaking throngs”. With some lovely traditional music the reel takes us on a tour of Greek villas in Thasos. The video discusses a “breeze of change” and the sense that tourism will change Thasos (which is ironic considering British Pathé have sent themselves out there to record everything!)
The British Pathé Crete travelogue kicks off with a couple waterskiing. There are fantastic shots of the cliffs and some seashore caves that remarkably double up as holiday accommodation (is this still the case today?). The narrator talks about forgotten civilisation and sunken ports, suggesting that the ancient Cretans travelled to England in the past which is why Stone Henge shows a few similarities. We see ancient Greek laws carved out in rock, including references to adultery and adoption, before seeing the ruins of Knossos where legend states the Minotaur used to live.
If you’ve actually got this far, then well done and thank you! In this clip we see more of the same really, but if you’re enjoying the retro fashions, holidaymakers of yesteryear and fabulous details – then go ahead and have a garner at Pathé’s video of Corfu in the 1960s!
“The seaside became the world’s most glamorous stage on which all who visited it could play whatever role they fancied for a brief space of time”
As the new season collections begin the rounds in New York, a recentVogue guide to pyjama dressing is a reminder that one of summer’s biggest trends is far from dead. Pyjama dressing, while sounding like something dreamed up on the pages of fashion magazines never to see the light of day, actually ties in with theChinoiserie trend and also the70s revival that was prevalent all over the catwalks and High Street last season. So much so that it has found favour everywhere fromHarpers Bazaar toRefinery 29 andFur Coat, No Knickers, whilean influential Style Bubble post sawAlfie’s Antiques Market swamped with requests for similar pyjama sets. Even Ryan Gosling and Rachel Roy have picked up the mantle. My own minor obsession unfortunately doesn’t reach the lofty heights of Marc Jacobs or Louis Vuitton but does feature three different pyjama sets from three different eras.
The main inspiration behind this trend is the beach wear of the 20s and 30s. According toSun, Sea and Sand: The Great British Seaside Holiday, beach pyjamas first surfaced in 1927, worn over swim suits by the smart set at the Riviera and then became a common sight throughout the 30s on the beaches of Britain. The Art Deco craze meant they often had geometric prints, and the Depression-era interest in creating synthetic fabrics ensured that the modish new beach suits could be made of silk but were more often made from crêpe de chine, éponge (early towelling) or jersey. Perfect examples of this chic beachwear are shown in this fashion show on the Thames from 1932 from British Pathé:
‘Father Thames’ Daughters’ from 1932 also found here
The newsreel clips at British Pathé are the perfect way to explore these inter-war fashions on the screen. As you will know if you’ve been followingThe Story of British Pathé, ‘Eve’s Film Review’ was a weekly cine-magazine series aimed at women that ran from 1921 to 1933 which often featured the latest fashions from around the globe. Due to losses during WWI, the majority of cinema attendees at the time were women, so the glamour and glitz of holiday retreats and styles were given ample exposure on the big screen before the main feature films began.
‘Nautical Naughties’ beach fashion show from 1933 also found here
By the end of the 1930s beach pyjamas were typical sights along the coast, as you can see in these stills from this ‘Why the Waves are Wild!’ clip (1939) – Click the still to watch this video
“The seaside holiday was a marvellous opportunity for dressing up, especially for the young. Holiday makers could leave behind their drab office suits or factory overalls and go to the sea looking like movie stars” – from Sun, Sea and Sand: The Great British Seaside Holiday
But flamboyance at the beach was nothing new. The beach has always been a site of fashionable spectacle since spa towns first gained popularity for their health-giving qualities in the 18th century. By the mid-Victorian period, a growth in the number of public holidays along with a rise in wages led to an explosion in the number of holiday makers and a trip to the coast became essential for maintaining a fashionable lifestyle. Promenading had such social significance that you could even say that the pier was the first catwalk. (You can see my favourite Victorian beach exaggerations fromPunch right here.)
The beach has long operated as a site of transgression. Throughout the 19th century the coast was a public arena for private leisure; leisure that maintained the appearance of fashionable life but often subverted the more rigid rules and customs that operated in urban centres. Social and class boundaries were reinvented in this more relaxed atmosphere, and as such jokes were rife about the itinerant ‘Lords’ you could meet who might turn out to have considerably less links to the nobility than was initially implied. The ambiance of coastal towns – reliant on glamour and fashion as selling points – ensured that a certain extravagance in dress was allowed at the beach that would have been condemned as tasteless in urban fashion centres, and the seaside promenade was the perfect platform upon which to perform one’s fashionability. Piers became increasingly important at resorts as architectural innovations and centres of pleasure and fashion, and were regularly used to parade the season’s finest attire across the water.
An air of danger co-existed alongside the glamour and fashion. The theme of many popular music hall songs hinted at the physical pleasures that could be found at the beach and the voyeuristic nature of the seaside space. Marie Lloyd is the perfect example of this, a late-Victorian and early Edwardian music hall star who was well renowned for her risqué themes, many of which focussed on the temptations of the beach. You can listen to Marie Lloyd singing her risqué number When I Take My Morning Promenade from 1908here, which features such suggestive lyrics as: When I take my morning promenade/Quite a fashion card, on the promenade/Oh! I don’t mind nice boys staring hard/If it satisfies their desire… (you can read the resthere).
Beach holidays grew ever more popular throughout the 1920s due to the aspirational Riviera culture that was growing in popularity, as advocated by Coco Chanel and the smart set she partied with. The ballet ‘Le Train bleu’ – staged by the Ballets Russes in 1924 – gently mocks the superficiality of this leisured life, and also happens to read like a ‘who’s who’ of Modernism: it was masterminded by Diaghilev, written by Jean Cocteau, costumed by Chanel and featured a stage curtain painted by Picasso. The ‘blue train’ was the colloquial term for the train that rushed rich English tourists to the Côte d’Azur for the season, and Cocteau’s idea was to recreate a series of living picture postcards, so contemporary crazes like sunbathing and snapshots mixed with gymnastics and Cubist-inspired sets to provide a perfectly stylized look at 1920s beach life (you can see pictureshere). But the exclusive and artistic milieu of the Riviera wasn’t within reach of everyone, and so Billy Butlin brought his unique vision of luxury on a budget to the nation in the 1930s with the idea of replicating film star holidays as depicted in fan magazines: the holiday camp was born.
While 1920s and 30s beachward bound leisure-seekers were aspiring to seasons by the Riviera, fads for keeping fit and sunbathing also attracted visitors to the coast. The keep-fit craze in the UK and Germany was featured in BBC4’s series The Story of British Pathé; growing from late-Victorian interests in cycling and walking it had blossomed into more robust athletic prowess by the 1920s. Hollywood stars were often photographed exercising and fan magazines were full of tips on how to work out just like your favourite star. Sunbathing was an entirely new phenomenon in the 20s. Previously the association of tanned skin with agricultural and other outdoor work led to aristocratic woman in courts across Europe striving for a lily white pallor (a glance atElizabethan lead poisoning shows how dangerous this obsession could be). But, according to fashion legend, an accidental tan acquired by Coco Chanel as she was yachting sparked a trend that has continued through to the heady orange heights of TOWIE and Geordie Shore today.
Below: An amusing idea for decorating that beautiful bare brown back” – sun bathing tips from “Why the Waves are Wild!” from 1939:
The transgressive nature of the seaside ensured it was easier to make outlandish fashion choices that might have been less acceptable back at home. The beach pyjama trend of the 20s and 30s is notable as it allowed women to wear bifurcated clothing at a time when the idea of women in trousers was still fairly shocking. Until the Land Girls of WWII made it a more common site, bifurcated clothing for women remained somewhat taboo; admissible only within the confines of the domestic sphere (lounging pyjamas) or at the liminal site of the beach. Initially associated with eccentric clothing revolutionaries like Amelia Bloomer or the Rational Dress Movement in the 19th century, women in trousers in the early 20th century were linked with all sorts of daring activities from tantalising beach holidays to smoking. Before the beach pyjama fad really gained ground in the 1930s, many 20s pyjama suits were advertised for smoking as you can see below. This serves to connect bifurcation with modernity, as although theNew Woman of the 1890s was partial to the odd cigarette, smoking for women only become acceptable (if still somewhat daring) for the Flapper of the 1920s.
And so ends our seaside odyssey. But if your thirst still isn’t quenched, you can see lounging pyjamas disrobed to reveal a swimsuit inthis Pathé clip from 1930, and more poolside fashions from British Pathéhere from 1932, a clip which also features the wonderfully androgynousHouston Sisters. Susie Bubble featured the inspirational blogLa Mode Pyjama as well as some of thepyjama posts onPainted Woman, and you can see more pictures of beach pyjamas at the Painted Womanhere andhere. But in case you were wondering, the 1930s certainly didn’t signal the end for pyjama suits. They were revived throughout the 1960s and 70s and it was these reinterpretations of 20s and 30s trends that theMarc Jacobs S/S 2011 collection referenced. As ever, the fashion cycles keep spinning.
1960s and 70s: Jane Birkin in Ossie Clark; Bill Blass from Fashion by Jane Dorner; Biba jumpsuit.
Below: Marc Jacobs S/S 2011; for more information you can read more in my previous post on the 70s trend.
Who knew there used to be cinema carriages on trains? Or “saloons” as they were called…
Today we came across this exciting poster on the National Archives’ Flickr stream which reads – “There is a Comfortable & Luxurious Cinema Attached to this Train” – “Special Programme Compiled Exclusively For This Train by PATHE GAZETTE”, Commencing Monday, May 16th, 1938.
The poster is for an LNER train, which is the London North Eastern Railway service, so trains going from Kings Cross to places like Edinburgh. We can just picture the classy and demure travellers as they relaxed in the “Pathé L.N.E.R. Saloon”, the countryside silently sliding past them as they tucked into a feast of the latest British Pathé reels.
The films shown on the train were actually issued only 7 days before the scheduled event, so it was pretty hot off the press. It’s interesting to see that Ireland is quite well covered, and also that boxing appears to be the most highly-sought sport.
The train’s cinema carriage wasn’t free – it cost 1 shilling – so it would have been a bit of a treat, but think about it – people didn’t have televisions in the 1930s and they had to go to a cinema house to see moving footage. We love that the poster tells customers that the Pathé saloon is non-inflammable too! Of course earlier newsreels were made out of nitrate, and almost everybody smoked, so you can understand the concern.
ANYWAY. We were delighted to see that the poster then lists each reel that would feature in the screening. Using the date as a guide and searching the titles in the British Pathé film archive we’ve managed to find 32 out of 34 of the items on the trains bill, and we’ve put online links to each below so that you can pick and view the ones that interest you, or perhaps even re-live the experience and watch them all!
Most of us are lucky enough to go about our daily lives fairly inconspicuously but there are some men and women who literally stand out from the crowd. Super sized humans have always attracted much attention and fascination and even our clips about the tallest people in the world are very popular with our viewers. So we thought it was time to dig the films out and celebrate these great ones.
Robert Wadlow (1918-1940) – 8ft11
Born in 1918, Robert is still to this day known as the tallest person in medical history. When the Pathe cameras went to film him in 1935, he was a mere 8′ 1 1/2″. When they returned the next year, he was 8ft4″. By the time of his death at just aged 22, he had grown to 8ft11’’. In this clip, he is surrounded by his family and even though his father was 6ft, none of them stand much above his waist.
Ted Evans (1924-1958) – 7ft8
According to the Pathe notes, Ted was “the tallest man in the world at 9 feet 3 1/2 inches”. This is actually a gross exaggeration because we now know that Robert Wadlow is officially the tallest man ever at 8ft11″. Ted’s height was greatly amplified during his lifetime most likely for publicity reasons. He was in fact 7ft8.5″ but still at this great height, he was the Tallest Man in Britain at the time. Take a gander through some of our clips on Ted going about his usual day to day business.
Also known as the Scandinavian Giant, our footage makes reference to Clifford Thompson’s height of 8ft7” but other sources have noted that he was more than a foot shorter than this; he was actually nearer 7ft5”…….tiny!
John Aasen (1890-1938) – 7ft2″
There seems to be a running theme within our footage where people’s heights are somewhat embellished. This 1920s film tells us that Scandinavian John Aasen is 8ft10″ inches tall and is the tallest man in the world. John was in fact 7ft2″; petite compared to Robert Wadlow’s final height. However, he was one of the tallest actors of all time and according to folklore his father was 8ft and his mother was 7ft2″ – statistics that we perhaps should take with a pinch of salt!
Swiss Miss – 8ft
I’ll gloss over the man this woman is chatting to at the Chiswick baths in London…Anyway this woman is called Colossa – the Swiss Miss. At the time of filming (watch here) she was 18 years old and apparently 8ft high! We would love to hear from anyone who has more information on this lady. And was she really 8ft? The screen grab below suggests she was but we all know how cameras can lie…
In 1967 the Daily Mail conducted a survey to establish who teenagers idolised
Although Hollywood was already a strong force and pop music had major clout over kids’ imaginations, it was still a very different world to the celebrity-driven egomaniacal world that we live in today. Supermarkets were new, televisions were only just becoming commonplace and teenagers weren’t as image-conscious as you can see from the video. It’s amazing who British teenagers voted as their top 10 idols:
1. Their Mothers
That’s right. Teenagers voted Mum as their number one role model, a warm and family-focused gesture from a generation who perhaps depended more on their parents to receive information and education than young people do today.
2. The Queen
The recent royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton proved just how popular the monarchy is, yet a teenage poll in 2011 would never rank The Queen so highly. Lady Gaga, Victoria Beckham and Jordan would be much more likely candidates.
Prime Minister Harold Wilson was voted 4th biggest icon to teenagers in 1967, remarkable! We wonder where teenagers today would place David Cameron? Probably three hundred and forty-eight places beneath rapper Dizzee Rascal.
5. Their Fathers
Good old Dad, in at fifth place, not quite as cool as the Prime Minister evidently. Still, defying Freud nevertheless.
6. President Johnson
It seems even back then in 1967 teenagers were aware how chained British politics was to activities across the Atlantic. Interestingly, Barack Obama could well feature on a list of teen idols today, the first African American President and more liberal than his predecessor.
7. “Young husband”
We don’t understand this one? Presumably teenagers didn’t have husbands. Is it a person called Younghusband? We can’t keep up. Do leave a comment below if you think you can help us out here, thanks!
The first pop star on the list, it’s Elvis alright, shown here with his bride Priscilla. Elvis is still an icon today, although perhaps not a role model that teenagers relate to. Still, he’s the first entertainment sector entrant on his list, a sign of times to come. (Good clip: Elvis weds Priscilla in 1967)
9. U Thant
Who on earth is U Thant? He was the United Nations Secretary. We’re starting to think teenagers’ Dads filled the questionnaire out now. Admittedly they were Daily Mail readers, still, could any teenager in Britain name the current UN Secretary? What about the current presenters of T4? As we thought.
10th equal. Prince Philip
Prince Philip, a teen icon. Now 89 years old we think it’s fair to assume teenagers wouldn’t place him up there in 2011, although he’s definitely cooler than Will.I.Am.
10th equal. Bobby Charlton
Bobby is still seen as a legend and a hero thanks to the 1966 World Cup victory. We’re sure David Beckham would rank today, and of course footballer Ronaldo, although both are businessmen and fashionistas as much as they are footballers, and neither men have achieved anything on the pitch to compare to Sir Charlton. (Good clip: World Cup Final 1966, colour footage)
If you were a teenager in the 1960s who would you vote to be your 10 role models and/or icons? We’d definitely have Mick Jagger, Brigitte Bardot and David Hockney in there. And what if you were a teenager today, in 2011? Would you vote into the top 10? A few suggestions from the staff at British Pathé: Lady Gaga, Prince William, Rihanna and Karen Brady. Goodness.
British Pathé guest blogger Meghan Purvis has pieced together her own music video for Rebecca Black’s hit ‘Friday’, using 8 fabulous clips from the British Pathé film archive. Here’s what she did:
If you’ve spent any time on the internet in the last few weeks, odds are you’ve been exposed to Rebecca Black’s video for “Friday.” It’s racked up nearly seventy million views (and counting!) on YouTube, despite being widely described as the worst music video ever made.
If you’ve somehow missed out and can’t be bothered to watch for yourself (it’s a music video about a girl going to school, debating which seat to take in a car, and then showing up at a party with a disturbing number of vehicles, given that the singer in question is all of 13).
It’s also very literal: if there is a lyric about sitting in the backseat, rest assured, it will be accompanied by a shot of three girls sitting in the backseat of a car. The isn’t great: the weird line-drawing animations, the cheesy imagining of what a preteen party might look like, the strangely unenthused extras.
Because I love a challenge I’ve scoured the British Pathé film archive subbing in clips that are historically and artistically meaningful, therefore surely elevating the song somewhat?
Perhaps a more high-minded video is just what Ms. Black’s music career needs! My project was clear: to make a different, better video, using footage from the British Pathé archive.
Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend, weekend
Gettin’ down on Friday
Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend
This weekend definitely looks more wholesome than what Ms. Black has planned. Fishing for some serious localvore credibility, a nice stroll in the park, some al fresco dining…all while wrapped up in a nice overcoat. This is a British summer, after all.
PARTYING WITH A CHIMP ON A BICYCLE. I DEFY YOU TO TOP THAT.
Look, I believe the music video speaks for itself: “1940s Friday” gets up earlier, has a better ride, and throws way better parties than its 2011 iteration. It’s no contest. Now, if only we could get some 1940s lyrics to go with it…
Today one of our archivist’s turned up at work with a magazine called MODE, by the people who make Shortlist, one of those trendy free mags that they distribute outside tube stations. We’re not sure how new MODE is, but it’s quite a good read with some interesting pieces on, surprisingly, the history of mens fashion.
One feature was a numerical list of this season’s ‘rulebook’ for mens fashion. We were interested to note how quite a few of the items on the list took inspiration from events and occurrences that happened within the age range of the British Pathé archive (1897-1977), and so on our lunch break today we decided to see if we could dig out some good relevant material.
1. The Playboy Club Returns to London
Number One on MODE’s list took direct inspiration from London’s Playboy Club and its return to our capital in 1966. We were instantly reminded of our pivotal 1966 video reel Inside The Playboy Paradise.
5. Jimmy Choo turns his attention to mens fashion
Footwear legend Jimmy Choo ranked 5th on MODE’s rulebook list. Jimmy Choo’s co-founder Tamara Mellon has a connection with our archive in that her father used to run a raunchy life-drawing café in Soho, and British Pathé went along to make this video of it in 1959 called Coffee Bar Studio.
7. Remembering Concorde
As soon as we read the words ‘Remembering Concorde’ we knew just the archive clip to match. Here you can watch colour footage of Concorde’s first ever flight at Filton near Bristol in 1969 – Concorde 002 Flight. We like the white boiler suits too! In fact, just search ‘Concorde’ in the British Pathé film archive and you’ll find loads of great stuff.
8. Remembering Paco Rabanne
We were pleased too to see Paco Rabanne in MODE’s rulebook. For those of you wanting to remember him we have several good clips in the archive, but our favourite has to be this newsreel entitled Metal Fashions, the girls are stunning and the scenery is as mind-boggling as you’d expect.
11. Bjorn Borg
If only British Pathé had continued making cinema newsreels throughout the 1970s we’re sure we’d have some great Bjorn Borg footage. However, we do have our own tennis fashion icon in the archive – Rene Lacoste
We’re looking forward to the next issue of MODE. Also, if their editorial team have one of those Ralph Lauren Home crystal decanters knocking about their office then we could sure as hell put it to good use!
Big Fat Gypsy Weddings has been a surprise TV phenomenon here in Britain this year, with its sometimes hilarious sometimes sad voyeuristic insight into gypsy life here in the UK. It’s that time of year when there’s a bit of a telly slump anyway, audiences want to fill the hole that X Factor / Strictly / I’m A Celeb has left, and TV critics are desperate for something sensational to write about. Big Fat Gypsy Weddings hits just the spot, but it’s not the first time Britain’s been fixated on its traveller communities.
Gypsies have long been a subject for news, documentaries, discussion and conflict in the UK, which is why British Pathé has several films related to gypsy weddings and other social issues in their archive. Here are the best clips below, enjoy!
Set in Bailsdon this is the magical wedding day of Maralene and Mariano. The rituals of this gypsy wedding include the mixing of blood of the bride and groom, and jumping across a fire as newlyweds. The video has a very “them and us” attitude, making borderline indignant comments about the gypsies’ dancing.
A dashing gypsy lad with an earring who is given a record contract. He sings “It must be the gypsy in me..” for the Pathé cameramen on a camp in St. Paul’s Cray, Kent. It’s rather odd how in both Danny Purchase clips he has his arms around his elderly mother!
A dramatic and fascinating 1970s newreel that discusses the problem of a gypsy community.
Dame Patricia Hornsby declares – “We’ve now had far more than our fair share and whatever we do we just get more. We’ve had upto 40 caravans with mountains of junk, as many of them engage in breaking down cars and selling the bits. We’ve done our stint! We’ve done our full whack. Kent has always been a mecca for gypsies. It wasn’t so bad when they came here seasonally for fruit picking but now they have very substantial trade in selling broken down cars”
“Tom with his knife and nine children brought his family here for the hop picking”. This fantastic 1950s newsreel is set in Penshurst, Kent, and it depicts a family of gypsies who earn a ‘real home’.
The Rector William Peers helps Tom to find a house by allotting the Jones’ family a council house, and the villagers donated the furniture. Mrs. Martin goes round to teach the gypsy wife what living indoors is like (!)
This gypsy camp near Waterdale by the side of the M1 is described as “A big headache for Hertfordshire country council who own the field. No good just shifting the headache somewhere else, so the council make the site an official one”. But then more gypsies “pour in from Wales and everywhere else”. The clip highlights problems with sanitation, lack of education for the gypsiy children and the famililes’ need for a permanent home.
“A new kind of squatter, the woodland gypsy, has set a problem for the authorities.” The gypsies again live in hut-like dwelling as opposed to a vehicle, described as “18 families living rent-free but comfortless”.
Set in Italy, this clip features some great shots of a Gypsy Queen around a campfire at night. The musical score is every bit as whimsical and melodramatic as you’d expect a British Pathé newsreel focusing on gypsies in rural Italy to be.