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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 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!
It’s the most romantic day of the year and in our minds, it’s a bit like Marmite; you either love it or hate it. Have a look at a few figures we found about Valentine’s Day.
The figures show that 40% of people have negative feelings towards Valentine’s Day.
1 billion cards will be sent on Valentine’s Day which makes it the single largest seasonal occasion after Christmas.
Each year in America around 220,000 wedding proposals will be made, but don’t rush out to buy the ring just yet as a recent survey showed that 75% of women find being proposed to on Valentine’s Day cheesy.
It turns out the most romantic day of the year can end in disaster, with 53% of women ready to dump their boyfriend if they don’t receive a gift on Valentine’s Day (better make that dash to the shops after all!).
If you receive flowers this Valentine’s Day you are most likely to be a woman as 73% of men will buy flowers whereas only 27% of women buy flowers for Valentine’s.
It is predicted that more than 35 million boxes of heart shaped chocolates will be sold in the run up to Valentine’s.
In the 19th Century doctors would prescribe chocolates to their patients who were pining for lost love.
And of course, humans are not the only ones who should be expecting a treat this Valentine’s Day as 3% of pet owners will give cards and gifts to their pets.
So really, we all have something to look forward to this Valentine’s Day whether it getting a heart shaped box of chocolates from a loved one or indulging on the reduced chocolate the day after!
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.
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.
There’s been some sad news that the famous liner Queen Elizabeth 2 (or “QE2”) has been sold as scrap. [UPDATE: It appears that these headlines have been exaggerated. Although the QE2 has indeed been sold to the Chinese, there is no evidence that she will be scrapped.] She follows a great many other luxury vessels, such as Titanic’s nearly-identical sister ship Olympic, in this and it would come as little surprise had the announcement not been made in July that she was to become a hotel. The news is a great shame for ship-lovers. In tribute, then, to that great ocean voyager, we thought we’d share two newsreels about the QE2 from our collection (you can search the website for more).
The first is coverage from the launch of the QE2 in 1967. In the clip, the Queen examines the new liner, officially names it (seemingly after herself, though accounts differ as to whether the ship is intended as Queen Elizabeth the Second or the second Queen Elizabeth) and watches as the QE2 rolls down into the water. “May God bless her and all who sail in her.” It’s an impressive sight, as this image reveals:
The newsreel commentator ends with, “Like her great predecessors, the new liner will write a further chapter in the history of ocean travel.” Watch the film here.
The second we’d like to share is coverage of the QE2’s maiden voyage in 1969. The cameras take a brief tour and see the crew on the bridge of what is described as “the greatest ship of her type afloat”. She leaves Southampton and starts ploughing the sea as the passengers drink champagne and enjoy the journey below. Watch the film here.
After this maiden voyage, the QE2 went on to have a long and illustrious career. She left service in 2008 having carried 2.5 million passengers across nearly 6 million miles of water and had even taken part in the Falklands War. Plans to turn her into a floating hotel following her retirement failed, it is believed, due to the economic downturn.
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, 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.
Visit our Pinterest page here or our tumblr blog here.
There’s plenty in the British Pathé archive for those not so interested in history and British politics. For those more intrigued by science and technology, British inventions both good and bad got a great deal of coverage from the Pathé cinemagazines. More specifically, there are some fascinating clips concerning underwater exploration to be found within the Pathé collection as well as some more general underwater footage. Here are some highlights from our Underwater Adventures.
This is just a small selection of the types of clips on offer within the archive. More footage of undersea technology, wreck dives, marine biology and archaeology, and a great deal of fun can be found on our website.
Visit British Pathé’s collection of Underwater Adventures by clicking here.
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.
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.
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.
Today British Pathe paid a visit to 10 Downing Street! (apparently nothing to do with David Cameron’s recent history quiz on Letterman?!) We’re proud to have a wealth of footage in our archive of the iconic Number 10 building and British Pathe filmed some of the most momentous events to have happened there over the last 100 years.
We posted a photo of our staff member John outside the famous black door onto our Twitter page earlier today. But we also managed to take this snap, a photo of the resident cat “Larry” sitting on the windowsill just behind the front door:
Cats have long been in place at Downing Street, sitting in and purring throughout important political discussions, brushing ankles with royalty. In the 1990s John Major’s cat Humphrey became a bit of a celebrity:
Humphrey entered the premises during Thatcher’s time in office. She allegedly made the decision to keep Humphreys, claiming that £100 spent on cat food was better than £4000 spent on a pest control contractor who’d never managed to catch anything. He regularly featured in the tabloid press and even had his own picture book published by HarperCollins in 1995.
The first Downing Street cat to appear in our archive, to our knowledge, is this one in 1940:
This still image is taken from the British Pathe video “War Cabinet” in which Eden meets Lord Halifax for a critical discussion.
Then we came across this cat sitting on the lap of Harold Wilson’s son at 10 Downing Street:
Clearly Harold’s son hadn’t yet learnt the rule of not looking directly into the lens.
We wanted to find the mouser of Downing Street during Churchill’s time at the top. We’re sure there’ll be a glimpse of cat in one of our Churchill reels. In the meantime we found this pussy who greeted Churchill when he visited Roosevelt in the states in 1940:
The American cats seem to be a more acerbic breed than the more casual and leisurely Downing Street creatures.
Please do help us to find more Downing Street cats in our archive. You can get off to a head start and dive straight into our Downing Street videos by clicking here:
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.
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’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.
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.
We’re thrilled that The King’s Speech scooped four Oscars at last night’s ceremony: Best Picture, Best Actor (Colin Firth), Best Director (Tom Hooper) and Best Original Screenplay (David Seidler). For those of you who are yet to see British Pathé’s online archive footage of King George VI see below:
And for those of you still wanting more then check out our George VI Collection which contains 26 clips in which King George VI speaks, and has some great contextual material such as footage of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (The Queen Mother) who was played by (Oscar-nominee) Helena Bonham-Carter in the film.
The King’s Speech was nominated for twelve awards at the 83rd Academy Awards:
BEST PICTURE (WON)
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE – COLIN FIRTH (WON)
BEST DIRECTOR – TOM HOOPER (WON)
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – GEOFFREY RUSH
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – HELENA BONHAM CARTER
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY (WON)
ORIGINAL MUSIC SCORE
James Franco in Drag as Marilyn Monroe!
The other memorable moment for us from last night’s bizarre ceremony was James Franco, who came out on stage in drag as Marilyn Monroe. In some ways the stunt builds upon the Hollywood connection between James Franco and Heath Ledger, for Ledger’s widow Michelle Williams will play Marilyn Monroe in the forthcoming film ‘My Week With Marilyn’. Not only does James Franco resemble Heath Ledger but he has been tipped to take on his role as the Joker in Batman. Both actors found critical success in playing gay characters on the big screen too – Heath Ledger as the fictional Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain, and James Franco as firstly Harvey Milk’s boyfriend Scott Smith alongside Sean Penn in Milk, and secondly as a young Alan Ginsberg in Howl.
A lot of people are getting excited today because someone has scanned in their old copies of Smash Hits! Magazine and uploaded the pages as images to FlickR, meaning thirty-somethings can pour over their favourite popstars of the 80s.
Now here in the British Pathé film archive we stopped filming circa 1977, and so even Smash Hits! magazine, which is now placed on a pedestal as some kind of retro culture mecca, strikes us as quite contemporary and modern – the affair began years after we finished!
Because whilst it’s fun to look back at Duran Duran interviews and remember the days when Ultravox were looked upon as demi-gods, we actually have tonnes of videos online from the birth of pop culture some twenty years prior to the 1980s.
Just take a look at this fantastic video we have of the ‘Kaleidoscope Premiere’ in 1966, at the Warner Theatre in Leicester Square. Who are these beautiful people? What did they do, and what became of them? If you recognise any of the party folk present, and they’re not already listed in the canister notes (Jackie Collins, Cathy McGowan etc.) then please do leave us a comment.
We were surprised to find this archived newsreel of a plastic surgery pioneer in 1947, Dr Archibald McIndoe, and his harem of men that went under his largely experimental knife.
Known as ‘The Guinea Pigs’ club, these guys were a band of ex-RAF men who had been severely burnt or damaged in service, and so came together in East Grinstead, West Sussex, to have their faces rebuilt by Dr McIndoe in his special ward.
In these early days for plastic surgery, patients were sometimes never expected to reintegrate into society again fully, and so the Guinea Pigs lived in McIndoe’s hospital, where they were allowed to drink beer and wear casual clothes instead of ‘convalescent blues’.
Although the prospect of a ward inhabited by men with plastic faces sounds a bit unsettling, the video depicts these patients as being full of energy and joy. East Grinstead became known as “the village that doesn’t’ stare” and many nearby families would entertain the guinea pigs for dinner.
It wasn’t long after McIndoe’s pioneering scheme that plastic surgery became a more learned and advanced procedure, and vanity-related operations were introduced.
This video from November 1950 shows a lady in Hampstead undergoing a nose job! The narrator announces “even the burden of an outsized inheritance need be suffered no longer, now that the healing hand of plastic surgery can bring relief”.
The surgeon Charles Willi is Swiss and described as “famous”, having already made 15,000 similar operations. We discovered there is even a boof on him called Charles Willi, Life of a Beauty Surgeon. We particularly like the British Pathé flourish – “an inch off Cleopatra’s nose may have changed the face of history”
Today plastic surgery has a negative image in the public’s mind; it refers to the perilous facial reconstruction undergone by vulgar celebrities, never failing to make a good magazine spread with sensational photos and horror stories, cosmetic surgery has come to be seen as a celebrity illness, a fatal anti-ageing ailment for millionaires.
Pictured above: Contemporary American socialite Jocelyn Wildenstein
Will you be having turkey this Christmas day? A lot of people have beef or even fish don’t they, or if you’re a vegetarian, a nice nut roast perhaps.
When Bernard Matthews passed away last week we had to do a bit of turkey research in the archive and were surprised to discover just how many fascinating reels there were related to a topic that we though was, well, a bit parochial.
But no! From Christmas turkey fairs to 1950s communal freezers, from stately turkey farms to the introduction of the new ‘Gobblers’ plucking machine, we were thrilled to find some of these archive nuggets.
Admittedly some of the narrator wise-cracks are a bit cheesy, but to their credit there isn’t an awful lot to say about a turkey. What makes these clips so great however are the visuals, a great insight into Britain’s age-long tradition of having a turkey dinner at Christmas!
Here are 5 favourites to watch, and then a general link to more funny old turkey videos at the bottom.
I don’t imagine this is a Bernard Matthews farm, but quite the opposite as we see gianormous and luxuriant turkey proudly parading around some kind of stately grounds. “But this year’s turkeys can at least console themselves that they’re cheaper than last year”. The clip moves quite suddenly from a regal panoramic shot of the turkeys showing off their glorious tail plumes, to a heartless shot of dozens, killed and plucked, hanging upside down in a shop.
Set at Woolwich Barracks in London, the clip begins with officers inspecting the chefs’ hands, who then proceed to march into the kitchen. A propaganda edge emerges as we the narrator glorifies the wonders of a military camp Christmas, whilst a homesick looking boy gets to work on making a tonne of stuffing. The video ends at Olympia’s poultry show, as people inspect turkeys in lined up in their cages.
“There’s a vast difference between being brought up at Eton and brought up to be eaten” jokes the cheesy narrator in this 1930s clip of Christmas cattle at Norwich Castle in Norfolk. Considerations towards animal rights are clearly evident, even in the 1930s, although everything is still drenched in humour, for example “It may be tough on a turkey, but as long as he isn’t a bit tough on us”.
Perhaps the British Pathé archive’s most sinister turkey clip, this one kicks off all jovial with a title frame announcing “Nature’s prize walking comedians – nearest rivals to the penguin”, followed up by the macabre line “It’s a good job they can’t see their future”, only to be trumped by “And here’s a new device, the automatic plucket – doe s an hour’s work in a minute”. Sure enough the clip continues and a woman demonstrates the plucking machine. Feathers fly everywhere, to say the least!
Over to Newbury in Berkshire, 1959 and Malcolm Warrell has had a brain wave. As so many people can’t afford turkeys in the run-up to Christmas, and have no place at home to freeze them, why not start up a turkey bank! Any kind of poultry is accepted, and so the video depicts two gents marching into the freeze vaults following a spot of game-hunting, pheasants in tow. One lady arrives with a beautiful plate or ornately arranged lobsters!
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 feared that after all the raids people would never want to hear another explosion, but the reverse seems to be the case!” Wonderful footage of girls busy making fireworks in a factory. It’s the first peace time November 5th, great shot of kids pressing their faces against the windows of a fireworks shop. Pathe stage a bizarre drama between a boy and girl but the footage is very sweet.
“London’s east end mirrors the world’s mood on Guy Fawkes day, rearmament programs continue behind an iron curtain of secrecy, but it’s left to the backyard scientists to ensure the biggest bang of the year”. Fantastic clip of London boys making their own explosives. The boys make an Adolf Hitler guy!
A Manchester cinema offer a large box of fireworks for the best Guy. The competition is judged by local heartthrob, former Butlins redcoat and pop singer Russ Hamilton, who later moved to Nashville, Tennessee and was signed up with MGM Records.
“In Devon they encourage youngsters to play with fire” – The video shows Devon locals running down the street with barrels stuffed with burning straw, a local tradition apparently. One boy get injured and the canister notes explain: he is covered in black soot and has nasty burns on his face, looks to be in pain. Narrator makes inappropriately light-hearted comment about man’s injury; “he’ll be back in the running next year”.
And then for more Guy Fawkes videos check this general collection. There are videos from celebrations in London around Big Ben, and at UCL, as well as mad little places up and down the country like Shere in Surrey:
Despite the dangerous endeavours of the daring boys in this footage we would like to ask all of our readers to enjoy Guy Fawkes celebrations in a responsible manner, to keep at a safe distance from fire and DO NOT attempt to make your own fireworks or explosives. Thank You.
Anyone up for a holiday in Iraq? It does seem a fairly fanciful idea when Iraq has been synonymous with war, violence and oppression for such a long time and for anyone born after the 1960s the idea of Iraq ever having been a holiday destination seems fantastically peculiar. However, wind back 40 years and Iraq was in fact a popular destination for tourists and now there are signs, indeed very small, that international tour operators could be taking visitors back there one day.
The Pathé documentary unit shot a two reel documentary called Ageless Iraq back in the 1950s. If you disregard that the films were probably made for propaganda reasons (the notes say the film was made for the Iraq Petroleum Co.) and instead just view them as travelogue films; they paint a fascinating and extremely appealing picture of this ancient land.
It is easy to forget that Iraq is in fact a country steeped in rich history and culture and as the first film tells us, the very beginnings of civilisation started here. This is a country where writing was conceived and where man began cultivating the land. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers flow through Iraq, fertilising the plains and during the 1950s agriculture production was thriving and self-sufficient. Iraq is also home to the ancient walls of Bablyon and is the birthplace of the prophet Abraham.
Both films show images of a landscape, culture and society that we just don’t associate with Iraq: art, horseracing, music, cuisine and boats leisurely sailing down a canal in Basra otherwise known as “The Venice of the Middle East”.
The narrator states at the end: “Ageless Iraq, a new country but one that hasn’t forgotten the glories of its history. A country that is now emerging from the shadows of it past to a future bright with promise.” Let’s hope that this time it is true and perhaps one day we will be able to book a flight to explore this fascinating land.
We all know Twister! The embarrassing MB game that always ends up with a pile of panting bodies with minor injuries. I used to fear the moment when a friend’s parent would drag out the dreaded Twister mat. The game fuses three of my biggest hates: Being trapped underneath another person, being physically stretched, and colour coding.
Disguised as a game that awards those with a flair for amateur acrobatics, Twister actually favours those with a talent for amateur dramatics, because it’s all about cheating. Victory depends on switching your left foot from green to yellow, or your right hand from red to blue in those snatched seconds when the loathed judicator isn’t looking. Although if you had my child minder, she was always looking. Enough said.
British Pathé have this newsreel in their online archive of the launch of Twister! The video shows several games of Twister being played at once on a lawn at Butlins. The canister notes admit that this reel would have been 1960s advertising for the game.
I’ve no idea why the teenagers have to play in their underpants, and some of the older spectators look a bit too thrilled for my liking, but it wouldn’t be a 1960s family holiday camp without scenes that combine nudity and old age would it?
Going on holiday and being forced to play Twister with strangers is my vision of hell, but these guys seem to be having the time of their lives.
In this Butlins version the red coats announce the positions, and when opponents fall they are immediately replaced with a new eager contestant, like the dashing chap in yellow and black boxers who turns out to be no match for the brunette girl in a yellow knitted jumper. It’s like a predecessor to speed dating.
In the 1960s before the complete world domination of Barbie, and before the invention of those insipid ‘Bratz’, Britain had a glorious dolls industry of its own. The video above is a preview from 1968 of Rosebud Mattels new dolls for that year’s British Toy Fair. New dolls included robotic walking dolls, dolls that could cry and dolls with pullstring phrases. Take a look at the video and marvel at just how much detail and care went into the manufacturing of each and every doll. It’s remarkable!
Below is another clip, of a dolls factory in Battersea, South London. Again, it’s just magical how much attention and love is poured into each dolls. We also love how much make-up the designers have put on for work. Perhaps they knew British Pathé were coming?
Admittedly, not many people would be interested in watching two minutes of footage taken in Piccadilly Circus in 2010 but it is quite different when the film is 110 years old. Whether it is of Sunderland Bridge or Bradford Square in Yorkshire, there is something quite absorbing and fascinating about a silent, grainy Victorian recording – especially when you are familiar with the location.
Piccadilly Circus in 1896 – any similarities to today? The horse-drawn buses look overcrowded and as the original mobile billboard, the buses flaunt rather bold and confident advertisements such as: “Cadbury’s Cocoa. ABSOLUTELY PURE – therefore BEST”.
If there was ever a time for the congestion charge – the traffic looks worse outside the Bank of England in 1897 than it does today. You can watch more of some of the oldest online moving footage here.
I came across this canister of 1970s Hollywood footage (click on image below). The clip shows 1970s shots of people in the neighborhood, spinning signs that say ‘FAMOUS’ etc, and some nice footage of the Hollywood Sign looking pretty rough in the 1970s.
I decided to have a rummage for some other Hollywood footage, having been inspired by the Hollywood Sign’s Wikipedia page, and a bit of a Google maps binge looking at Griffiths Park (where the sign is) and how it’s a popular destination of not only tourists, but actress suicides, sexual cruising and illicit affairs. Does British Pathé have any film footage to shine a light on the controversy of California?
I started off with some commercial Hollywood advert newsreels, for holiday adverts weren’t as flat and full of stock footage as they are now, and you often catch glimpses of inside secrets –
This first Hollywood advert reel has great footage of The Great Race being filmed. Natalie Wood, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon stand on an artificial sheet of ice in the studio. We see Joan Crawford’s handprints and some re-enacted Wild West shoot outs.
This clip above shows helicopter footage of Mount Lee, and shots of the Universal City Sign. It’s a good clip for getting a perception of the landscape, the distances between the Hollwood sign and the mansions of Hollywood.
This San Francisco reel calls itself ‘Hollywood’s Playground’, filming wealthy yachting parties and private beaches. The narrator declares “The most mixed-up seaport that could ever exist”, “Even the oil workers look like actors”. This video goes behind the scenes on rehearsals, and has great clips of an American Football match. “You don’t need to understand the game to get the flavour of it all”.
The English British Pathé narrators in these clips seem passionate about Hollywood, eager and even desperate to convince the viewer that California is the end of the rainbow. Just type in ‘Hollywood’ into www.britishpathe.com and find dozens of clips like this, so full of praise for Holllywood, but slightly unnerving too.The numerous clips of unknown starlets, mystery millionaires, golf buggies, gardners and steak diners. Is there an underlining sense of isolation and artifice beneath these vintage Hollywood clips of the past?
British Pathé featured on Woman’s Hour today, as Jenni Murray’s guests chatted about the forgotten scheme called ‘Fathercraft’, in which welfare specialists taught fathers in the 1930s and 40s how to raise children, following high levels of male unemployment and an increase in jobs for women.
Here’s is a fascinating extract from the show. Make sure to watch the Fathercraft video too.
Jenni: How did the depression of the 1930s effect the role of the father?
Nick Maddocks: “It had a huge influence. Interestingly, alongside our oral history, we use a lot of archive films to illustrate the stories that appear in the program and I spent hours going through film archives looking for images that show fathers spending time with their children. Surprisingly, there aren’t that many from the earlier part of the century. Often in home movie type films Dads were behind the camera and so that’s the reason they didn’t appear. It’s not until the Great Depression that we start to see moving images of Dads with their children more. For Dads who lost their jobs in the recession, especially in the North East where unemployment rates reached as high as 70%, industries like mining and ship building, were suddenly forced to spend more time with their children as Mums went out to work.
Jenni: And so what’s this British Pathe clip about Fathercraft? What’s going on there?
I think we could spend a whole hour talking about Fathercraft, It’s fascinating! We came across a bit of Pathe newsreel from the 40s that shows Dads being taught how to bathe and put nappies on their children. Now we’d never heard of fathercraft before and we think it’s something that is long forgotten. At the beginning of the 20th century child care was aimed directly at the mother and there were welfare institutions and health institution visitors would come to the working class home to show mothers how to raise their children, but Dads was very much excluded from this. There was a perception amongst some midwives that men were obstructive and uncomfortable with looking after babies.
So a scheme called Fathercraft was set up to teach fathers not how to look after their children, but why they should and why it was important. Fathercraft began in the 1920s and as it progressed through the decades Dads were taught more how to do things hand on. It was seen by many as the middle classes interfering with working class lives, and in fact, Dads already knew how to do a lot of these things.”
Julie-Marie Strange: “Yes, I have strong feelings about father craft. A lot of fathers were doing this already, and they resented these busy body women coming into their homes and telling them how to raise their children.
British Heat Waves: Three words you don’t often see together. Rumour has it things are going to start getting hot on Wednesday. Suddenly we’ll no longer be able to ignore bottles of overpriced suncream, the great British summer will be here, and following the trend of recent summers – hotter, and hotter, and hotter. Yet despite increasing environmental fears heat waves have struck London for as long as the city can remember, just look at this 1910 clip of people swimming in Trafalgar Square.
The photos on this post are taken from footage of an English heat wave back in the blissful post-war summer of 1949 – great shots of people enjoying the sunshine, sitting out at their local lido or buying refreshments from a pop-up wayside stall. The photo below shows a young couple from this clip keeping cool in a public fountain.
In this earlier heat wave clip from 1947 ‘Britain Warms Up’ were see Londoners rushing out to enjoy the freak sunshine, people passing out in parks and pigeons drinking up all the remaining puddles that they can find! Our favourite piece of heat wave history is this late 1970s clip though. This time the cameraman seems a bit obsessed with a group of cool girls who are strolling the sunlit streets of London in tiny shorts and slogan t-shirts. Not too sure about the heavy metal beards though.
Tomorrow will be the 47th anniversary of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s Everest conquest. Still an impressive feat today, it is hard to conceive just how famous Hillary was following his successful expedition to the summit of the world’s highest mountain. Amost every world leader was popping the kettle on for Hillary, welcoming him into their palaces, temples, castles and luxury villas with open arms. British Pathé followed Edmund Hillary on his incredible 1953 publicity tour, and here are links to some of the footage they captured:
Sir Edmund passed away in 2008. As well as the clips highlighted in this blog post there are tonnes of old newsreels and videos related to Everest, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, and mountain climbing videos in general. So make sure to browse the archive.
Only this month rugby hero Josh Lewsey failed to climb Everest, abandoning a group expedition in which only 4 members made it to the summit. Josh explained to BBC News that he was daunted by the physical challenge but also psychologically upset by the dead bodies they had to pass along the way, including one explorer who had died only 2 days before. The fact that internationally appraised rugby stars cannot faces the slopes of Everest go to show just how brave and skilled Hillary was, to achieve such a feat in the early 1950s.
Today we’re intrigued by this late 1950s colour video called ‘Large Girls Club’. Set against the aristocratic backdrop of the Duke of Bedford’s home Woburn Abbey, a rather grand woman arrives by helicopter at the start of the clip, Madame Mag Cournou, described as being “prominent in the world of fashion and in practically every other way”. Three photographers who look more like amateur actors cower before her, camera poised.
According to the narrator Madame Mag is a bit of a big deal in France, as the owner of the Large Girls Club over there, and has arrived to launch the British branch, already 7000 strong. (?!) Any information on these characters or this bizarre club would be much appreciated. One guest seems to be a Nigerian prince with a flair for womens fashion, Simon Oyeniyi, who stands outside Woburn Abbey looking thoroughly thrilled. Just watch it.
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.
Who said fashion shows had to be morose? In 1965 fashion legend Jean Varon took the popular television series The Avengers (starring a young Joanna Lumley) as his source of inspiration and had models conducting theatrical fights on the runway! Varon’s innovative designs often drew from contemporary artists from the period, notably the Op-Artist Bridget Riley, although it is his daring leather catsuits that the fashion world remembers him most fondly for. He even dressed Diana Rigg in one!
Click on the still above to watch our fantastic clip from this 1965 catwalk show. Having thrown a man to his apparent death, the model then continues to strut down the catwalk nonchalantly while a bemused frontrow of Sloan Street fat cats sit by and watch with crossed legs and cigars. The footage contains some brilliant pieces from Jean Varon’s 1965 collection, particularly a “bull’s-eye dress”.
The clips also shows Jean Varon’s dog range, then known as his “poodle pants”. 50 years before Paris Hilton the London fashion scene went crazy for dressing up their doggies!
For a collection of fashion videos from the British Pathé archivesclick here