Ray Alan dead: 79-year-old ventriloquist Ray Alan dies in his Surrey home.

By Jove!

The popular British ventriloquist Ray Alan, most famous for his exceedingly posh and slightly peverse puppet Lord Charles, has died aged 79.

Ray Alan and his puppet Lord Charles used to star in the British Pathé travelogue series Britain By Jove, which is where this brilliant 1960s clip of Ray Alan on the beach comes from. We like the slightly abstract and unexplained lines like “Sorry dear, my monocle’s steamed over” during the night scenes onboard a boat in this clip.

Watch this video of Ray Alan and Lord Charles visiting Newcastle, the hub of the North East. Excuse the overly dramatic music. When the chauffeur sings appraisals of the city, Lord Charles blares out accusingly – “trying to sell it to us Lord Cavendish?”

Here in this Scotland travelogue Lord Charles makes inappropriate propositions towards a make-up girl, declaring “I wish you were coming to Scotland, I’ve booked a luxury retreat for us you know, it’s a distillery.” When the girl outrages “Lord Charles!” he replies “Oh don’t be so formal, you can call me Sir!”

The sincerity of Cavendish, considering he’s playing chauffeur to a puppet, is just brilliant. We’re not too sure about the little intermittent car horn peeps and the recurring union flags that punctuate the program, but televised serial sketch shows was still a relatively young genre in the 1960s.

Watch clips of Ray Alan with Lord Charles here in the British Pathe film archive

Grace Kelly: Archive Icon

Grace Kelly with her children in 1969

The V&A’s indulgently stylish exhibition Grace Kelly: Style Icon opens tomorrow and naturally several British Pathé clips will feature. After all, Grace was a popular focus for the British Pathé lens for several decades, from her glamorous silver screen presence of the 1950s all the way through to her notorious marriage to the Prince Rainer III of Monaco.

Dozens of Hollywood actresses have tried in vain to convey the elegance and effortless stardom of Kelly, a gift from God that the V&A’s site refer to as “her cool beauty, subtle sex appeal and professionalism”.

The photo above is taken from a rare holiday video of Grace Kelly in which the star tours a zoo with her children in Monte Carlo. Grace spends some fun time with her children, feeding seals and driving along the beautiful beaches of Monaco.

See another dozen rare pieces of Grace Kelly footage in the British Pathé Film Archive here.

Learn more about the exhibition here on the V&A’s site here

Grace Kelly: Style Icon is at the Victoria and Albert Museum from 17 April to 26 September

“Vesuvius – Terror of Italy!”

Volcanoes never fail to make the news. These sleeping giants that populate various parts of the earth are dangerous, merciless and – despite advanced geology and knowledgeable modern-day volcanologists – their activity remains largely unpredictable.

British Pathé documented dozens of volcanic eruptions over the years, sending brave cameramen up the Martian terrain of these exploding beasts to capture priceless footage of lava flows and toxic ash. The clip above is some brilliant 1935 footage of Mount Vesuvius erupting.

The rather poetic narrator romanticises this famous volcano that gives “voice to the penned up energy of the powers of the earth”, and he continues to warn the viewers that “one false step means a dreadful death.” This footage is genuinely unique and yet only one clip amongst hundreds in the archive that relate to volcanoes. Expect more detailed volcano posts from us in future.  For now, you can see 12 archive videos of volcanic eruptions here on the British Pathé Film Archive

The Guardian’s bulletin on the current Icelandic saga

Taking in the toxic view

Halloween Come Early: Jaunting Easter Hat Parade

Don't move Margaret

A fan of British Pathé, Sam in Leamington Spa, emailed asking if we have any footage of tarantulas. We may well do, although tarantulas wouldn’t have been jotted down in the canister notes unless they were the main content, which is unlikely for a newsreel. However, this rather terrifying tarantula hat stars in an Easter bonnet parade from 1955. Easter has several odd traditions, and sadly hat parades are in decline, but they were one all the Easter rage. Hundreds of women would line up to flaunt their homemade creations in front of a panel of fashion experts and town councillors. This clip shows helicopter hats, race horse hats, a ballerina hat, hats that have been fashioned from straw, paper and plants. Watch this Easter Hat parade and others here

One Archive To Rule Them All: British Pathé Star on The One Show

British Pathé was the star of The One Show yesterday, in what was the first chapter of a four-part mini feature exploring the famous archive. Former-MP-turned-telly-historian Gyles Brandreth guest-presents the features in which he delves into the British Pathé archive and pulls out his personal favourites. You can tune in to see last night’s episode of The One Show on their BBC iPlayer page.

Presenters Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley were thrilled with the British Pathé footage as Gyles Brandreth took them on a tour of old reels from Australian ballet of the 1960s and action-packed war clips to the nationwide announcement of King George’s death. As Gyles Brandreth put it – “It really has got the whole history of our nation.” You can watch all the British Pathé clips that featured on The One Show here.

Parts 2, 3 and 4 of British Pathé’s mini-feature series with The One Show are scheduled for 14 April, 26 April and11 May. Make sure to tune in!

Easter Eggs Through The Years: The wood, the clad and the ugly

It’s Easter at the weekend and so we’ve pulled something from the archive for you. Interestingly, chocolate wasn’t always the gift du jour and easter eggs have a long and varied history, as this peculiar 1954 news reel demonstrates.

The Romans once used stone eggs to cool their hands, while in Russia (or “from behind the Iron Curtain” as the presenter prefers to say) the tradition was to give wooden eggs.

Silver nutmeg graters were once the buzz craze at this time of year, whilst the very wealthy occasionally gave each other ornately decorated ostrich eggs. One such specimen from 1900 can be seen in this clip. Enjoy!