One of our archivists has set up a new blog site dedicated to the best images from the British Pathé collection. There’s only a few up there so far, but with a new one added each day, it’ll be sure to quickly become quite a gallery.
Unlike the company’s Facebook or Pinterest pages, the images on the new blog, Archivist @ British Pathé, are shown free of all description or context, allowing the images to speak for themselves. Some of them, out of context, seem really quite bizarre! Which is, of course, part of the fun. Take this one – “A Bath With A View” (1931). But each image has a link to the original newsreel which you can watch online and find out what it’s all about and see if you’ve guessed correctly.
We hope you enjoy the images. Take a look at the new blog here.
Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her bedroom on August 5th 1962 by her psychiatrist doctor Ralph Greenson. She was just 36 years old. The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office ruled the death as “acute barbiturate poisoning” and “probable suicide”. However many people including the first police officer to arrive at the scene of the death believed she was murdered.
For fifty years her death has been a subject of conjecture and conspiracy theories have been rampant. Various people have been implicated in her death from the Kennedys to the Mafia to the FBI, time of death has never properly been established and murder has never been ruled out.
Who visited Marilyn the day before she died?
Like many an iconic figure who have gone to their graves young, the events leading up to Marilyn’s death are as mysterious, ambiguous and unclear as Marilyn herself. Many people supposedly visited Marilyn the day before she died – Bobby Kennedy, the FBI, a “mob boss” and Frank Sinatra’s rat pack.
This part of the puzzle seems to be shrouded in mystery but we know one thing – Marilyn’s close contact with the world’s most elite and powerful meant that she knew things and had information. Did somebody not trust Marilyn and want her dead?
Marilyn’s housekeeper Eunice Murray was a key witness but her version of events were so diverse and inconsistent that they were deemed worthless. We know that Eunice was around the night that Marilyn died. The housekeeper originally said she had knocked on Marilyn’s bedroom door at midnight and after receiving no answer called the doctor who broke in through the window after seeing Marilyn’s lifeless body.
However, Eunice Murray changed her version of events and then said that she actually went to bed at midnight and called Dr Greenson at 3am when she saw Marilyn’s bedroom light on was left on.
She went on to change her story many times and according to police reports, Murray was vague and extremely evasive. Was she being puppeted by somebody?
Eunice Murray took part in a 1985 BBC Investigation into Marilyn’s death. She told the same 1962 version of events. However, not realising her microphone was still on at the end of the interview and as she saw the cameras being packed away she said “Why, at my age, do I still have to cover this thing?”
Apparently she admitted that Monroe was not dead when the doctor arrived but she never revealed any more information and died in 1994.
So how did Marilyn die?
Official records tell us that Marilyn Monroe’s death was “acute barbiturate poisoning.” There was no further evidence of this though and it seems Marilyn wasn’t given a post-mortem, or if she was then it wasn’t recorded.
Basic standard procedures were not followed for some reason, records were not kept of her post-mortem – astonishing when you think how high profile a case this was. And then her organs were “thrown away”.
There has always been rumours that the FBI were at Marilyn’s house the day before she died. It was the time of the Cuban missile crisis, the political atmostphere was intense. The FBI were convinced that Marilyn was mixing with known communists and so they opened a file on her as a possible subversive. Could this have been a factor in her death?
Time of Death
At 4.30 a.m on the 5th August, two doctors indicate that the time of death was 12:30 a.m.
At 5:40 a.m undertaker Guy Hockett arrives and notes that the state of rigor mortis indicates that the time of death would have been earlier between 9:30pm and 11:30 p.m
At 6am both doctors change their stories and now claim Monroe died around 3:50 a.m, so even later on into the evening.
What is baffling though is that Monroe’s lawyer, Mickey Rudin called Monroe’s agent Arthur Jacobs at 10.30pm to tell him that Marilyn had overdosed. Rudin then called actor Peter Lawford at 1am to tell him that Marilyn was dead. So how could time of death be 3.50am?
All we know is – somewhere between 4th August at 9.30pm and 3.50am on the 5th August, Marilyn Monroe died. At least we think…
So was it suicide?
Many camps have quashed the theory that Marilyn took her own life. Her psychiatrist had recorded many interviews with her and when the interviews were analysed it showed Marilyn to be positive and fairly optimistic. These tapes subsequently disappeared.
Marilyn was also looking forward to getting back to filming and she felt that her therapy was working. What’s more – Marilyn bought an expensive piece of furniture the day before she died. Apparently this is not the action of someone who is thinking of taking their own life.
Or was it an accident?
So if Marilyn wasn’t murded and if she didn’t commit suicide, then the most likely possibility is that Marilyn accidentally overdosed on drugs.
An accident could quite easily have been what happened. Yet even this explanation isn’t without its problems. Marilyn, prone to pill-popping, had a good idea of how much was too much, and if in doubt she had plenty of expert medical advice around her. Marilyn Monroe was an intelligent lady and it seems unlikely that she’d fill herself with pills by mistake.
The glass tumbler And then there is the case of the missing glass. When Police searched Marilyn’s bedroom, they noted that there were a number of pill bottles in the bedroom but there was no glass and no water in the bedroom to wash down the pills. Marilyn apparently was known to struggle with washing down pills and needed big gulps of water, so it was strange that there was no drinking vessel in the bedroom. Mysteriously a glass was later found on the floor by her bed but police swear that it wasn’t there when they first searched the room.
Dial MM for Murder
Theories and rumours of murder have always been linked to Marilyn’s death and often the Kennedy’s name has been linked with that night.
She was a security risk to President John F Kennedy’s government having had an affair with him and known him intimately.
The CIA had placed electronic surveillance on Marilyn because of her closeness with the Kennedys.
Did US Attorney General, Robert Kennedy visit Marilyn on the night she died? Her housekeeper seemed to think so. There had been a violent argument in the house that night apparently which Marilyn’s doctor had to calm down.
The boy who was in the house…
But there was someone else there too. In a recent interview, the housekeeper’s son-in-law, Norman Jeffries, said that he was there that fateful night and he said that Robert Kennedy turned up with two men at 10pm on the night that Marilyn died.
He and his mother-in-law were ushered out of the house and when they returned they found Marilyn’s comotosed body in the guest cottage. Jeffries claims that it was the Los Angeles Police Department intelligence division that turned up and moved Marilyn’s body to the main house to create the “suicide in the locked bedroom” scenario.
Or was it a tragic medical accident?
Rachael Bell wrote for Court TV’s Crime library that a sedative enema might have been the cause of Marilyn’s death. Marilyn’s pyschiatrist, Dr. Greenson had been working with Dr. Hyman Engelberg to wean Marilyn off Nembutal, substituting instead chloral hydrate to help her sleep.
Bell theorises that Greenson was unaware that Engelberg had filled Monroe’s prescription for the barbiturate Nembutal a day earlier and when Greenson administered the chloral hydrate, the two substances reacted and killed Monroe. Lawyer Mickey Rudin claimed that Greenson said “Gosh darn it! He gave her a prescription I didn’t know about!”
Did the two doctors screw up and cover their tracks?
British Pathe have a number of clips that are worth watching:
In the grand run-up to the London Olympics we have processed and uploaded 300 archive reels showing Olympics events and behind-the-scenes Olympics footage from across the 20th century. We’ll be blogging in great detail about this soon – but just to get the ball rolling and to give you a heads up, take a look at some of these initial mini collections:
An expedition has got under way [July 2012] to test the theory that the distinguished American aviatrix, Amelia Earhart actually survived her plane crash in 1937 and spent her last months as a castaway on Nikumaroro, a tiny coral atoll in the South Pacific. Earhart was on an impressive round the world flight with navigator Frank Noonan when her twin-engine Lockheed Electra plane disappeared. They had left New Guinea and were due to refuel on Howland Island before setting off on their final leg to California. However, Earhart’s final radio message stated that she could not find Howland Island. A massive air and sea search was subsequently undertaken but failed to find anything. The plane and her passengers simply vanished.
Over the last 75 years several theories emerged. Many researchers and historians believe that Earhart and Noonan ditched at sea and perished with their plane. However, the $2 million July 2012 expedition is working on the hypothesis that Amelia actually safely landed on the Nikumaroro atoll before the plane was washed in to the surf and rising tides. Clues which point to this theory include radio transmissions and calls for help from that area at the time of her disappearance. Previous excursions to the reef have also uncovered exciting artefacts including a bottle of anti-freckle cosmetic cream, a clothing zipper, unidentified bones and a pocket knife [similar to the one that Amelia use to carry]. Researchers believe this evidence points to a 1930s woman having once inhabited the island.
The search team will use sonar technology to try and detect any wreckage on the ocean bed. If they find anything, historians will finally be able to chronicle Amelia Earhart’s fate 75 years after she vanished.
Heroine of the Skies
Earhart was a celebrity of her time – an extraordinary adventurer who set many records. She is ultimately known for being the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932 and her attempt at becoming the first pilot to circle the globe around the equator was to be her last flight before retirement. As such, Pathé News would always be ready to film her latest achievements. See below for some our best clips.
1932 – Good coverage following Amelia’s translantic flight. WATCH HERE
Here in the British Pathé film archive we’ve prepared some exciting themed galleries for you to celebrate Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee. Of course we’re thrilled to be selected by Clarence House to appear on the official Diamond Jubilee website but we also wanted to do something special for our archive’s visitors too.
So, this morning we have launched three exciting new galleries, the first in a series that will celebrate the Diamond Jubilee. There are:
We hope that you enjoy looking at these galleries as much as we enjoyed making them. The Queen’s life really is obviously a unique one but we were constantly surprisised to learn new exciting aspects of Her Majesty’s life whilst researching these galleries, and for us the Diamond Jubilee is also a celebration of newsreel and its history. British Pathe followed The Royal Family for decades, working closely with them and documenting their momentous ceremonies and milestones.
Here are three collections of archive footage that you can explore and enjoy for free online now:
We were delighted to win Best Footage Library of the Year at the 2012 Focal International Awards! The ceremony took place last night at the Lancaster Hotel in London and was hosted by former ITN Political Editor and Strictly Come Dancing wildcard John Sergeant.
Although we’re thrilled with our award we were more impressed to see so many documentaries that contain British Pathe footage up for the other awards too.
In the “Best Use of Footage in an Entertainment or Drama Production” award all three nominees used our archive. We highly recommend you take a look at these fantastic programmes by BBC Entertainment:
Night on Film: An A-Z of the Dark produced by Elaine Shephered and researched by Phil Clark
The Story of Variety with Michael Grade produced by Lucy Kenweight, and researhed by Chris Bower and Kelly Quintyne
The Toys That Made Christmas produced by Suzannah Wander and researched by Phil Clark
Entertaining The Troops was also commended in the “Best Use of Footage in a Factual Production”. Our archive has some lovely videos of various acts, both famous and the bizarre performing for British troops who had been conscripted into World War II. Alexandra Briscoe’s production is a vivid and touching piece, we really enjoyed it.
In the “Best Use of Sports Footage” category we were pleased to see , The Bert Trautmann Story for for a nomination, a fantastic biopic about the German paratrooper turned goalkeeper legend! Produced by Steve Humphries and directed by Nick Maddocks, the programme is an insigtful and entertaining portrait of a fascinating figure.
We would also like to say congratulations to archivist, writer and filmmaker Rick Prelinger who collected this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Take a look at this incredible archive here.
For more information on Focal, the archive community’s trade association take a look at their website www.focalint.org
Tomorrow the Cutty Sark will be opened (again!) by Her Majesty The Queen, and so we thought we’d have a rummage in the archive for the old boat, she’s never been very camera shy the Cutty Sark and British Pathe has visited her several times at sea and dock over the decades.
Firstly, for those who might be wondering what the Cutty Sark is, here’s a quick history for you:
Launched in Dumbarton, Scotland, in 1869, the Cutty Sark was used to bring tea over to Britain from China. The ship carried out this task for 50 years, carrying back gunpowder and whiskey in return. After that she was used as a racing ship, breaking her rudder twice in stormy seas. In 1880 her first mate Sidney Smith was murdered onboard by a seaman named John Francis. The murderous sailor managed to escape, out of shame and guilt the captain Wallace “stepped” overboard.
The ship spent a short spell under Portuguese ownership but was eventually brought back to Britain in 1922 and became part of the Falmouth naval college. It is here that British Pathé stepped into the story, filming Cutty Sark on several key occasions and adding her to their wide array of interests and newsreel topics.
With a great classical music score the narrator starts:
“With a heave-ho and a heave-to the Cutty Sark, famous old China tea clipper, arrives at Gravesend from Falmouth to join HMS Worcester at Greenhithe as part of the Thames Nautical Training College”
The narrator then explains that the Cutty Sark has been left to the college by the widow of the former owner Captain W H Dowman, before finishing by saying “With such associations could the boys do other than carry on those fine old traditions?” The clip contains good footage of boys at work onboard the ship.
The reel shows Cutty Sark sailing along the Thames past the Greenwich Meridian “on towards the dry dock where she will remain as a memorial to the days of sail”. The Cutty Sark preservation society are there and British Pathé credits them for their hard work in securing the ship’s safe retirement as a collegiate building.
“Built 85 years ago at the cost of £16,000 the Cutty Sark will become a nautical museum after being fully restored” Although £16,000 pounds would be a lot in today’s money it would still come nowhere near the £50 million figure that has allegedly been spent on this recent restoration.
We imagined it would show boys at the naval college but is in fact covering the news of an evening school on Cutty Sark that is for amateur sailors! Various captains explain maps and move models boats around on a wooden plan of the sea. The class, which includes girls, sit in a classroom inside the ship surrounded by ancient and ornate prow pieces. Sir Roy Gill points various artefacts out to the Pathé camera whilst another Captain demonstrates rope-knots amongst old nautical paintings. A classic piece of British Pathé!
Other newsreels in the archive that contain footage of the Cutty Sark include the following:
We were then surprised to see several comments accusing us of faking the video! “Just a bunch of guys dressed like the date, with a set for the date” suggested one viewer. And so we were forced to come clean and admit that yes, this clip wasn’t actually beatboxing (as we know it today) but was a man impersonating a “big string bass” – but that’s not to say it’s a fake. The video is an original reel from 1938.
The piece actually comes from this video The Radio Revellers from our free online archive, and the song is called “There’s a Tavern in the Town”
For the YouTube version we tightly edited the video, a few seconds prior to where the YouTube version takes off one of the Radio Revellers actually says that the guy is about to impersonate a big string bass (double bass / cello etc.) We also cropped the YouTube video’s frame size so that his hands (which are playing “air double bass”!) are less visible – fortifying the illusion that it is beatboxing. Our hope was that this would help the video fall before the eyes of a younger audience who like beatboxing and so subsequently introduce them to the thousands of delightful music hall clips in our archive.
Then, to our amazement, world-renowned beatboxing superstar Rahzel got in touch with us sharing some insight on the history of beatboxing. Rahzel told British Pathé “Your video is actually of scatting, and if you Google scatting that guy wasn’t the first. When technology kicked in in the 1980s, i.e. drum machines, Grand Master Flash made the Gemini drum machine called “the beat box”, and then a gentleman called Douglas E Fresh was called “the human beat box” because he imitated it so well, hence beatboxing was born.”
We asked Rahzel if beatboxing was derivative of scatting and learnt that it is in a way although if we look back further we can find beatboxing routes in the West African tradition “hocketing”.
Rahzel then asked if we could play the movies “Beat Street” and “Wild Style”. We’re not sure if these are feature movies, Rahzel beats, or just videos on YouTube – we were too shy to ask the mighty Rahzel (although we don’t think he was referring to any British Pathé reels!)
Although you may think us a bunch of archive woolies – we’d actually already heard of the beatboxer Rahzel here in the British Pathé archive as a couple of us here are Bjork fans and Rahzel provided the beats for Bjorks’ single Who Is It, as well as other tracks on her acapella album Medulla (beatboxing percussion is allowed with acapella you see!).
February 10th 2012 is the 50th anniversary of the Soviet Union handing over Francis Gary Powers in exchange for Colonel Vilyam Fisher. One of the highest profile cases in the Cold War, British Pathé followed the story from Powers’ crash through to his safe but controversial return. Other videos on this page include the original trial of Rudolf Hess, a press conference held by President Eisenhower and a British Pathé tour of a famous U-2 plane.
SEE THE FOOTAGE! – Already a Francis Gary Powers expert? To skip the post and watch the footage, click here!
Secret intelligence pilot Francis Gary Powers’ U-2 plane was shot down on the 1st May 1960 by a Soviet surface-to-air missile over Sverdlovsk. The target destination of Powers’ espionage mission had been the site of the Kyshtym Disaster.
Powers parachuted to the ground and was captured by Soviet troops, crucially he was unable to activate his U-2’s self-destruct mechanism before evacuating the plane. Back in America CIA didn’t realise this failure to destroy the vehicle and so when Powers’ plane finally landed (almost fully intact) Soviet intelligence were able to study its surveillance equipment and learn about U-2 technology.
Francis Gary Powers was the first pilot to be successfully hit by a Soviet S-75 surface-to-air missile, new Soviet technology that finally enabled them to counteract US espionage missions which had been taking place some 70,000 feet above the Soviet Union for some years. CIA didn’t know that Soviet Union now had the technology to hit U-2 planes as they were so high up, causing sceptics to doubt the circumstances of Powers’ crash and subsequent capture and some worried how much information has been sucked out of him during interrogations.
On August 17th 1960 following a very high profile trial Powers was sentenced by the Soviet Union and imprisoned for three years and then made to serve seven years of hard labour in Vladimir Central Prison (where Powers developed a good rapport with his fellow prisoners).
This British Pathé has coverage of the 1960 trial. This first reel “Powers Trial – Ike’s Comment” shows Powers’ wife and father entering the court in Moscow, and we see people inspecting the plane’s wreckage and other pieces of evidence. Eisenhower issues a statement from Washington refusing to comment on the trial itself in case this worsened Powers’ position in the trial.
In another reel “The Powers Trial” we can see shots of the trial itself (no foreign journalists were allowed to attend). The narrator suggests the trial is more of an ideological battle than about the specific events of Francis Gary Powers’ mission announcing “Russia directed her venomous attack largely against America itself”
Eisenhower also appears in this British Pathé reel “President Defends Spying” discussing U-2 planes and stating “no one wants another Pearl Harbor. This means that we must have knowledge of military forces and preparations around the world, especially those capable of massive surprise attacks”
On February 10th 1962 Powers was exchanged along with an American student Frederic Pryor for the Soviet Colonel Vilyam Fisher (also known as Rudolf Abel like in British Pathé’s reel) who had been captured by the FBI in Berlin. Upon his return Powers was awarded CIA’s Intelligence Star, but was criticised by some for the various imperfections of his failed mission.
British Pathe have this video of the exchange in the archive called “Headlines In The U.S. – The Abel For Powers Exchange” with a commentary by Peter Roberts. The narrator explains how it was lucky that Abel had not been sentenced to death by the Americans upon capture as this would have meant they couldn’t swap him for Powers.
The original arrest of Rudolf Abel is shown in this 1957 newsreel “Red Spy Nabbed” filmed in Brooklyn. Used a building within view of the Assistant US Attorney’s office and had an office studio with high-powered radios. “He is the highest ranking Russian ever arrested here on spy charges, he could pay with his life”
In this British Pathé reel “Gary Powers Vindicated“, perhaps the most popular newsreel covering this entire subject, we see Powers explaining his crash to the Senate Armed Services Committee, and demonstrating with a model U-2 how his plane should have self-destructed. The press ask Powers what he told the committee, he replies “Well I don’t have much time, all I know is there seemed to be an explosion, I don’t know what caused it but I feel that it was not in the aircraft itself”. “So do you believe it was a rocket?” asks the journalist. “Well I can’t say that, but I think that it was external. How it got there I have no idea.”
British Pathe also have this interview with Powers’ father Mr. Oliver Powers after he attended a trial hearing Russia. He tells the press “We are thankful to have the opportunity of seeing Francis, however briefly, once again. I should also like to voice our appreciation to the Russian people for their courtesy and consideration which they showed us.” When asked is Francis has any requests the father fights tears back and admits that he asked for warm clothing for the terribly cold Russian winter.
Powers died in a helicopter crash in 1977 when his Bell 206 Jet Ranger ran out of fuel. It is thought that at the last moment he’d noticed children playing where he’d intend to land, and so he sought alternative landing place. If he had landed where originally intended then he may have lived.
Today is the 100th anniversary of Franz Reichelt’s attempt to fly in Paris on the 4th February 1912. His choice of venue to demonstrate his solo flying contraption? The Eiffel Tower. The results? Not good.
British Pathé houses the shocking video of Franz Reichelt’s “Death Jump”. You can watch the only existing High Definition version that is viewable to the public for free on the British Pathé YouTube channel here:
The original canister notes are also a fascinating read and can be seen on our archive website here:
The video was never actually issued by British Pathé, perhaps due to its shocking nature as the video shows the exact second that Franz Reichelt dies as he plummets terrifyingly to his death, and the aftermath scene is rather shocking too as Parisien press members rush forward to measure the depth of the hole left by Franz Reichelt’s body.
However today this video is one of the most viewed British Pathé videos. A plethora of low-quality stolen versions appear on YouTube, but British Pathé are proud to have the best quality version of the reel on display.
Last week a lady got in touch with us via the archive’s Facebook page saying that she had discovered a film in our archive of her mother winning the Miss France beauty contest in 1949!
Veronique Tissier’s mother Juliette Figueras won the contest in 1949 before going on to win Miss Europe in 1950 (the contest was held in Sicile, Italy). We are thrilled to say that Juliette lives near Antibes on the Cote D’Azur and is healthy still at the age of 82. You can watch the video by clicking on the image above.
Here are some more recent photos that Veronique sent us of her mother:
Juliette’s sister will be visiting her from the Beaux de Provences soon and so Veronique is going to organise a surprise screening of the British Pathé video for her! Before discovering the video in our free online archive www.britishpathe.com Veronique had no idea that the British Pathé clip even existed and only had photographs of the contest.
If anyone can locate footage or photos of the Miss Europe contest in Sicile, 1950 then please do get in touch. The British Pathé film archive sends its best wishes to Juliette and her family, we hope you all enjoy the surprise screening and enjoy life in the south of France!
There are lots of videos of beauty pageants and contests in the archive, so do have a rummage, you could start with these four videos, or just go to the homepage www.britishpathe.com and start searching!
We enjoyed Shortlist’s feature this week on “Britain’s Hidden Architectural Gems” by Simeon de la Torre and were thrilled to see Maunsell Sea Forts in the top slot. Built in 1942 eight miles off the Kent coast in the Thames estuary these six alien constructions were visited by British Pathé in 1944.
The reel is called “England’s 1940s Sea Wall” and gives a good insider tour to the towers, explaining how they were built, the role they played in WW2 and offering some great shots including one of soldiers playing ludo out on one of the top decks!
Over 100 men lived out on these forts, each tower having three floors. Boat trips occasionally give tours too, more information can be found here.
Another hidden architectural gem in Simeon de la Torre’s feature was the Cruachan Dam up in Argyll & Bute, Scotland. We have some lovely videos of this in the archive too, including The Queen officially opening the dam in 1965.
We’ll have a rummage in the archive soon and pull out our own hidden architectural gems. But in the meantime, enjoy these two:
“Italy In Wales” – A lovely 1962 report on the idyllic ornamental village Portmeirion in North Wales, made famous by the cult TV series The Prisoner.
“Hexagonal Houses” – State of the art new homes are built near Coventry in 1964, we wonder if they’re still there today?
Some of you may have seen this news story today on outdoor news website Grough (as well as other bigger news sites like the BBC) about a 4×4 vehicle that was abandoned near the top of Snowdon after 39-year-old Craig Williams attempted to drive up the 1,130m tall mountain.
The driver is to appear in court charged with driving on common land and neglecting the national park’s code of conduct.
Interestingly British Pathé happened to film a similar incident in the 1920s. You can take a look here:
The archived reel shows a group of people pushing a car up Mount Snowdon in the 1920s. The vehicle gets stuck repeatedly on the rocky path and has to be dislodged by the men. Eventually they reach the train line and they use the tracks as a makeshift road to push the car the rest of the way.
On the 28th July 1945 a B-25 Bomber plane crashed into the Empire State Building, the first airplane to ever crash into a New York skyscraper. The incredible occurrence was lost in the press somewhat amongst much wider news of World War II ending. Still, it was a momentous day in American history, when one of New York’s proudest and most iconic skyscrapers was torn into by an aeroplane.
The plane hit the 79th floor of the Empire State Building at 200 miles an hour. Luckily the event happened on a weekend when few were working, still, 14 people died in the accident. Remarkably one survivor was a woman who fell 75 floors in a freefalling elevator that had had its cables severed by the destruction of the crash! Franklin. D. Roosevelt had had lunch on the 86th floor only a few hours before the crash that day.
If the crash had happened during a working day, and if the Bomber had been loaded, then the event might have been one of the biggest disasters in American history.
Spookily just two weeks after the 50th anniversary of the Empire State Building plane crash, another accident occurred in the building when an elevator failed to stop at the 80th floor and slammed into the top of the shaft. Nobody was killed but several people suffered head and neck injuries.
Today is the 66th anniversary of the B-25 Bomber crashing into the Empire State Building.
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…
Our archive footage of the Chelsea Flower Show is very popular, last year we looked at some wild and wacky 1960s newsreels, but this year we’ve focused on earlier reels, such as this one below with King George VI of “The King’s Speech” fame:
“Lucky Chelsea pensioners to have all this beauty brought to their doorstep, lucky London to have in its midst this loveliest of all flowers shows”
Here we see Prince Albert (later King Georve VI) touring the Chelsea Flower Show with Princess Elizabeth. Of course the pair have been historical celebrities this year thanks to the popularity of the King’s Speech in which the couple are portrayed by Colin Firth and Helena Bonham-CarInterestingly this reel shows a clip of a Japanese garden, and a Japanese gentlemen who is the “architect” of it. This international streak may have been a novel edge to the show at the time for the British Pathé narrator sparks a rivalry when he says “But which Englishman would dare to say that it is more beautiful than our formal gardens?”
Today is the 70 year anniversary of Rudolf Hess parachuting into Scotland. Hitler’s deputy Hess allegedly wanted to negotiate a peace settlement with the UK and so he flew solo across the North Sea in a Messerschmitt 110.
Video footage of Rudolf Hess in the British Pathé film archive includes:
Rudolf Hess’ Aircraft Wreckage (Messerschmitt) – WATCH HERE
This footage was never used by Pathé for a cinema reel, possibly due to censorship in British press at the time. The mute clip contains good pan shots of wreckage of the Messerschmitt plane in which Rudolf Hess flew to Britain.
This clip shows the farmer who captured Rudolf Hess, and also the farmer’s wife! We’d love to know their names, if you can help us here then do leave a comment below. It’s such a peaceful, unsuspecting and scenic looking farm too. Hard to imagine Hitler’s right-hand man crashing into it!
This remarkable montage of Rudolf Hess clips includes a shot of Hess standing in the shadows next to Hitler as he waves from a balcony, a handsome-looking Hess surrounded by female admirers, and talking to a man adorned in medals. The narrator explains a little about Hess’ famous flight from Bavaria to Scotland.
Rudolph Hess and Hitler inspect a Nazi Youth rally – WATCH HERE
Hitler and Hess walk between vast grids of Hitler youth boys on parade. Mysteriously one boy in the clip is singled out, hugged by Hitler and then taken away by Ernst Rohm, but that’s another story!
Nuremberg Trials – Rudolf Hess (1946) – WATCH HERE
This Nuremberg Trials reel was never issued by Pathé as a cinema newsreel. Not only does it show Rudolf Hess in the witness box but it shows Hermann Goering and Hitler’s chauffeur Sagt Aus too. The narration is in German, if anyone would like to attempt a translation then post it in the comments below!
Time to Remember – The Powers That Were (1930s) – WATCH HERE
This is the third reel from an episode of British Pathé series Time to Remember (a series which was recently reworked by the BBC). Towards the end of this reel, following a clip of Hitler meeting Mussolini, we see Rudolf Hess.
There are more clips of Rudolf Hess in the British Pathé archive, so do have a rummage, search ‘Rudolf Hess’ in the homepage’s search bar and you’ll find all sorts from the Nuremberg Trials, anti-Semitic marches, Hitler youth footage and other reels from Nazi Germany.
Today is the anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and remarkably, despite the earthquake being over 100 years ago, we have found video footage of the events in the British Pathé film archive:
The astonishing footage of the San Francisco earthquake is from British Pathé’s Pinewood vaults, it depicts the flattened streets and mass destruction in the aftermath immediately following the earthquake, with a dramatic newsreel ‘finale’ in which a large building collapses.
The rare newsreel shows American firemen typical of the turn of the 20th century, trying to put out fires in the rubble with hoses. Large emergency tents are erected for nursing and providing food to those who were made homeless by the earthquake. If you have any information on this clip then please let the archive know, find them on their Facebook page ‘The British Pathé Film Archive’. They are also on Twitter @BritishPathe
This video is taken from 90,000 archived newsreels that are now available and accessible to the public in the online archive www.britishpathe.com
AuthorTara Hankswrites on British Pathé’s footage of Marilyn Monroe and the story behind it…
Marilyn Monroe was one of the most-photographed women of the last century. Beyond her acting roles, however, footage of the legendary star is fairly thin on the ground. During the 1950s, when her career soared, television was still a new medium. Her occasional public appearances, at press conferences and glittering premieres, were chronicled by newsreel-makers like Pathé, and shown in cinemas worldwide.
‘Marilyn Monroe in Korea’ was filmed in March 1954, near the end of the four-year conflict. Monroe interrupted her honeymoon in Japan with Joe DiMaggio to entertain US troops. Standing on an outdoor stage before 10,000 fellow Americans, she quipped, ‘I never saw so many men in my whole life!’ ‘Film Fanfare’ featured the celebrity news of the day, though its reverential tone is world away from today’s gossip websites. Monroe’s arrival in Britain in the summer of 1956, to film The Prince and the Showgirl, with Sir Laurence Olivier, provoked intense media coverage.
Though some found Monroe too ‘aloof’, Pathé gave her a warm welcome. ‘We were delighted by the quickness and the mind and her intelligence,’ reporter John Parsons commented after a press conference at London’s Savoy Hotel. He was filmed in conversation with Marilyn, but unfortunately, the footage is mute. The fanfare surrounding Marilyn’s stay in Britain took Bob Stanage, publicity director for Warner Brothers, by storm. She attracted huge crowds wherever she went, adding a touch of authentic Hollywood glamour to a country steeped in a post-war ‘age of austerity.’
Earl Wilson, an American columnist who first encountered Marilyn in 1949, also attended the meeting at the Savoy. Interviewed by Parsons, he noted the formality of the British press, in contrast to the USA. In England, Marilyn was seated apart from journalists and politely applauded. Her co-star, Olivier, had been startled by the rowdiness of a previous events in New York. He asked Marilyn, ‘Are they always like this?’, to which she replied wryly, ‘Well, this is a little quieter than some of them.’ As part of the build-up to The Prince and the Showgirl – produced by Marilyn’s newly-formed, independent company – Hollywood mogul Jack Warner gave her the keys to his studio.
Despite her apparent mastery of publicity, Earl Wilson remembered the younger Marilyn as ‘shy’, even ‘wooden’, but he soon warmed to her ‘honest, direct’ manner. Recalling a trip to a bookstore frequented by Marilyn, Wilson said the manageress had observed, ‘You can never tell what’s under a head, just because it’s bleached.’
Monroe had flown to England with her third husband, playwright Arthur Miller. ‘A marriage of brains and beauty,’ a narrator remarked as they arrived at London Airport. ‘But don’t let anyone tell you Arthur’s got all the brains!’
Weeks before, the newlyweds had been filmed at Miller’s farmhouse in Connecticut. During the rush to the countryside, one journalist had been killed in a car crash. Understandably, Marilyn seemed pale and nervous that day, clinging to Arthur and seeking his approval as she answered questions about their honeymoon plans.
During her time in Britain, Monroe met Queen Elizabeth II at a Royal Command Performance. Both women had celebrated their thirtieth birthdays in 1956, and together they seem to epitomise different ideals of femininity. In a tribute reel made after Marilyn’s death, a narrator comments, ‘She was a queen in her own realm…the world lost something radiant when she took her leave of us.’
Monroe’s impact can also be felt in other Pathé newsreels, including ‘This Light Must Not Go Out,’ a public information short from 1957, urging Anthony Eden’s government to reduce taxation on the film industry.
In later years, Marilyn would be glimpsed at other events, both public and personal: whether shaking hands with a security guard before being introduced to President Khrushchev, during his visit to Hollywood in 1959: or attending the christening of John Clark Gable in 1961, clad in black – in memory of the baby’s father, and ‘King of Hollywood’, Clark Gable – who had died months earlier, after starring with Monroe in The Misfits, which would also be her final appearance on the big screen.
Monroe memorabilia is now a lucrative industry. Rumoured ‘sex tapes’ have repeatedly been discredited, but last year a short clip of Monroe sharing a cigarette with friends became an internet sensation, leading to speculation that she was smoking a ‘joint’ – although closer examination may suggest otherwise.
But the rarest films of all have resurfaced via the auction circuit – a star off-duty, playing golf, shopping in New York, sightseeing in Mexico. Or else the young, brunette Norma Jeane, performing cartwheels on a Californian beach. These shaky home movies, made in colour, remind us of a lovely, eternally young woman behind the dazzling façade.
We’re looking for guest bloggers to write pieces for this British Pathé archive blog! Over the last year this blog has dipped its toe into all sorts of areas – whether it be 1960s bunny girls, speeches by King George VI, travelogues in Baghdad or our favourite black and white Oscar ceremonies – with over 90,000 newsreels in the British Pathé archive there are all sorts of topics.
It’s got to the stage now where we’d love some fresh ideas from people with interests that are different to our own (we’ve done a lot of quirky showbiz posts, how about some more academic posts? Although more showbiz is always good – everyone has their own take on celebrity!)
Perhaps you’d like to take a modern day TV show or piece of pop culture and compare it to clips in the archive, showing how it owes something to the past.
Perhaps you’d like to hone in on your specialist subject, be that butterflies, lifeguards or snooker.
Simply write 350 to 800 words on your topic, with links to the clips from British Pathé that it discusses or mentions, and email it to Jack on firstname.lastname@example.org We’ll sort out stills to accompany the piece and publish it on our blog!
If you’re not sure whether your idea for a blog post will work then please send us a quick email first and we’ll let you know!
We cannot pay people to write on this blog, but we can share your piece with friends of the archive on Facebook, Twitter and through our internal mailing list, a total audience of about 6,000 people. This might be ideal for people who love archive film, don’t want the laborious task of keeping their own blog, but occasionally feel like writing something!
We can also have a link in the blog post to your own website, fanzine or Twitter page.
In May, just days after the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton, The Queen will be paying a visit to Ireland, astonishingly the first reigning monarch to do so in one hundred years.
The last time someone on the throne popped across the Irish Sea was George V (or as one Guardian journalist put it – “That bearded fellow who shouts at Colin Firth in the King’s Speech”) and his wife Mary. British Pathé has the video of course in their free online archive:
Simply titled George V and Queen Mary, the canister notes suggest there was nothing particularly extraordinary about this being a visit to Ireland. In 1911 the whole of Ireland was still part of Great Britain. It’s a fun video, The Duke of York is there, as are other officials from London, as the King and Queen greet people, including an “ancient man wearing plumed hat who shakes the King’s hand vigorously for a long time!”
Going back further we were thrilled to find another British monarch visiting Ireland on film, none other than Queen Victoria in Dublin, on the 4th of April 1900. Only nine months before her death, the video shows a lengthy and very Victorian procession that climaxes with the Queen pulling up in her carriage to meet some important folk, before speeding off again.
The British Pathé archive is popular in Ireland as we have so much footage of Irish history. Recently the Irish Independent wrote an article on our election footage, notably our De Valera clips. Other popular Irish reels include this one of a gun-running funeral procession way back in 1910, and this famous reel entitled ‘Irish Revolution’ in 1922.
Then’s there the JFK workspace, the American President that Ireland treated as one of their own. And finally, I quite like this old barmy reel of some men going for a brisk winter swim on Christmas Day in 1933!
We read this morning that 16-year-old Dakota Fanning might be playing a young Princess Margaret in an upcoming project Girls’ Night Out, a film that will focus on the two princesses who were allowed out of Buckingham Palace on the night of VE Day to join in with celebrations across the city to mark the end of the Second World War.
Well we had a rummage in the British Pathé archive and found footage of Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth on that very day, greeting crowds outside the Palace with their parents King George VI and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (The Queen Mum)
We also found some wonderful shots of the celebrations and parties that Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth might have attended. Click on the link below to find great clips of men climbing lampposts, people doing the conga around Marble Arch, toasts and speeches being made in restaurants and busy clubs full of Londoners and dancing and drinking late into the night!
We wonder if Dakota Fanning will watch our archive footage of Princess Margaret to pick up some style and hair tips, not to mention her distinctive facial expressions and composure. There is no news yet as to who might play the young Queen, although here in the archive we think Rebecca Hall, Andrea Riseborough or Carey Mulligan would be good choices (“Rebecca might be too tall?” – ed). If only Elle Fanning was a little older she could play a young Queen alongside her big sister Dakota.
We wonder where exactly the Princesses went on their night out? We’re sure it wouldn’t have been a disorganised crawl along Brick Lane, and much more likely the girls went for a quiet gin and tonic in a private members’ club. Who knows, we’ll have to wait and see.
It would be good to see a film that focuses on the royal family’s participation in the war effort, Princess Elizabeth took a very hands-on approach. Here is a clip of The Queen driving a military truck, she even take a look under the bonnet!
The King’s Speech has evidently triggered a regal trend at the movies. How long will it be before Hollywood takes on the Diana story, or Wills and Kate?
We’re so excited here in the British Pathé archive to hear that Jane Pritchard, curator of the V&A’s recent Ballets Russes exhibition, has made such an intriguing discovery in the British Pathé film archive, announcing on her blog last week that she had identified footage of the Ballets Russes, a phenomena considering previous claims from various respected corners of the dance world that no such footage existed.
The tiny fragment of film in our online archive is called ‘Festival of Narcissus’ and depicts the Ballets Russes performing Les Sylphides at the 1923 Fêtes de Narcisses at Montreaux in Switzerland. The influential director Sergei Diaghilev never allowed his incredible dancers to be filmed, claiming (quite cleverly from a financial perspective according to some cynics) that their brilliance could not be captured on camera, which makes this clip all the more rare.
Well evidently such beauty could be captured on film, and this beautiful fragment of a performance was hidden away for over 80 years in British Pathé’s Pinewood vaults under the misleading title ‘Festival of Narcissus’! Not only was the formidable dance troupe cited incorrectly, but the lead dancer Serge Lifar was noted down as being a woman, as a result of his rather splendid wig and finely toned legs, no doubt causing more confusion for researchers at the V&A as they tried to identify this piece of potentially groundbreaking or possibly extraneous footage!
It has now been confirmed, with the help of a London Ballet Circle member Susan Eastwood, that this mysterious (and secretly recorded) reel does indeed show the famous Ballet Russes, making it the only known existing footage of Sergei Diaghilev’s divine project.
The Pathé cameramen who wrote the original canister notes in pencil would have been stunned if they knew that the entire world would one day have access to their hectic reel notes, as would the groovey archivists of decades past who added their own mad and frantic scrawlings along the way!
If you are a dance or ballet enthusiast then please do have a good rummage on www.britishpathe.com – it is a colossal digital archive, and as Jane Pritchard has proved, there is still much to be uncovered and understood within it.
British actress Susannah York died on Saturday. A great performer and an emblem of 1960s chic, we suspected the British Pathé archive might have some archive films of Susannah York, and….. we found these:
Premiere of Lord Jim in 1965, Susannah York can be seen chatting to Maximilian Schnell. Also in the clip are Sean Connery with his then wife Diane Cilento, and a great close-up of Peter O’Toole looking very handsome too.
Thanks to the recent film ‘The King’s Speech’ (which we really enjoyed) there has been a spate of interest in our footage of the Royal Family, especially the reign of King George VI and those that were closely connected to him.
Of course clips that show George VI stuttering and stammering were initially the ones everybody was eager to see, spurred on by Colin Firth’s performance, but the British Pathé archive has a lot more to offer, and so we thought you might like to watch these clips too:
The young Princess Elizabeth makes a state visit to Australia via Kenya in 1952. But she never got as far as Australia because her father died and so she flew back to England, this time a Queen.
Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip is with her “from the chills of London to the warm sun of East Africa and another world”, “Some favour western styles, others the savage grandeur of tribal dress for this great occasion”
In the clip Princess Elizabeth meets a boy called ‘Prince Selim’, he was named Prince because he was born on the same day as Princess Elizabeth’s son Prince Charles (we wonder where Selim is now?)
They retire to Sagana Lodge, a beautiful “wood and stone” house, which was a wedding present from the Kenyan government, on the fringe of a large game reserve.
Set across two reels, one showing the procession, another the ceremony, this is the elaborate (and supposedly calamitous) coronation of George VI. We suspect Lionel Logue (George’s voice coach, played in the film The King’s Speech by Guy Pierce) is in this footage. You can also watch the Royal procession leading up to the ceremony too.
King George VI was noted for his enthusiasm for youth games and summer camps. Here we see the Juvenile Olympiads. The clip comes across a little controversial now as the children give what we now know as a Nazi salute to the King, of course it was a universal signal back then before Hitler adopted it.
It still astounds us that funerals of such importance were recorded and can be watched back today. Think George VI’s funeral was a long time ago? Try searching for Thomas Hardy, or even Queen Victoria!
We’re delighted to have been featured on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Making History’ and are thrilled that the subject was archive footage of ladies fighting!
The feature ‘Lady punch ball champion of the world’ came about after a listener Jill Bernardotte in France contacted the programme about her Great Aunt who became the star of “a fabulous Pathé news clip” in 1933. Ida began her life as a music hall artist and her real name was Harriet Ida Waite-Gibbs.
Vanessa loved the clip, calling it “Incredibly quirky and incredibly, incredibly British!”
She then spoke to Professor Toulmin, Director of the National Fairground Archive at the University of Sheffield who put Ida’s achievements into their historical context, asking: “Are women like Ida fulfilling a late Victorian / early Edwardian sporting pornography?” To which Professor Toulmin replied: “Even though these women were athletic they still had to maintain a maidenly decorum. It would have been more shocking to have worn trousers than to punch a man.” Which is why Ida is to be seen sipping tea gracefully between taking deadly lunges at a punch bag in her newsreel.
Inspired by this “Relationship between a big surge in physical culture, physical fitness and sport” we had a rummage for more great historical clips of women fighting. Here are six of the best (and three more for good measure – there were too many good clips to narrow it down!).
My favourite is ‘Judo Debs’… ! After you’ve watched these let us know what you think on our Facebook group ‘British Pathe Film Archive’. Enjoy!
British Pathé are back on The One Show! Thanks to followers of the Pathé archive on Twitter who gave us their comments and feedback last Friday, it really is super to see these AMAZING newsreels enjoying a second life on primetime television.
Alex Jones presents the new One Show series alongside the 1990s wonder Chris Evans. On Friday’s episode they were joined on the studio couch by Good-Life-come-Strictly star Felicity Kendal.
Giles Brandreth made technology and retro gadgets the focus for his fun-sized multipack of British Pathé footage:
“The kitchen is a delightful place in which any woman would be happy to defrost a packet of peas” marvelled one British Pathé narrator in a clip about domestic mod-cons, whilst Giles offered some insight as to why Britain was obsessed with techno gimmicks, “They were a happy distraction from other more pressing post-war issues such as rationing and re-building the shattered economy.”
For anyone who fancies watching some more great technocentric clips, we recommend this British Pathé collection simply titled ‘Inventions’. 36 great clips from the archive that includes every retro invention under the sun, from water cycles to roboticised teddy bears.
Thanks again to Giles Brandreth for his wonderful on-going exploration of the archive. We loved his sign-off comment:
“The British Pathé archives didn’t just capture a snapshot of life fifty years ago, they immortalised our hopes and dreams. Some of those dreams may have seemed a little far-fetched, others turned into reality. What we still share is a thirst for gadgets to make our life a little bit easier.”
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 a historical treasure, an in-depth British Pathé reel exploring the Playboy world of Bunny Girls. Once again, ‘Charity’ is put forward as the reason behind making the clip, but today we can all see it as an intelligent advertisement for Hugh Hefner’s nightlife funworld that simultaneously exposes for the viewer some trade secrets of Hefner’s world.
“A Bunny is paid the best part of £2000 a year, she is trained to perfection, meticulously groomed and rules are strict – no dating customers for instance” A ‘Bunny Mother’ then teaches the Bunnies how to dip – a way of serving drinks to avoid thrusting “busty substances in the punters’ faces.”
“Quite a job! Quite a sight!” marvels the narrator. 148 models attended this London contest, all vying for the prize of a Caribbean Cruise, a screen test (not a screening), and presumably a husband. The Bunnylicious girls stand in line whilst judges George Lazenby, Stuart Whitman and David Niven Junior make their decision. Diane Turner from Nottingham is crowned the winner. We prefer the high society girls sat in the background smoking, joking and having a whale of a time.
A wonderful clip of a 1960s fashion party held in the former Playboy Club, attended by The Duke and Duchess of Bedford, the Earl of Lichfield, stars of The Avengers Patrick McNee and Linda Thorson, and of course a cast of Playboy girls (and some rather sharp male models too). The whole event, rather bizarrely, is to raise money for the National Association of Boys’ Clubs, whatever that is. We love the “Playmate of the Month” award. Oh behave!
Priceless footage of the iconic Jane Marlow singing ‘What’s Love About?’, but it’s the “countertop caberet” that British Pathé were interested in. This ‘Gaiety Bar’ brings on the dancing girls in a horse-drawn carriage, who then proceed to jig on the stage before drunken and delighted old gentlemen. The waitresses are our very Bunny Girls, and so we had to add the clip to our cute collection.
“It wasn’t coppers they wanted, it was folding money” quips the narrator as a group of Bunny Girls chat up some police officers with their fundraising shakers. This fun 1967 clip has great shots of the Bunny Girls dancing and celebrating their fundraising efforts in a nightclub. Does anyone know who the band are?
This surreal and borderline cult-horror clip ‘Human Fish’ is one of the strangest archive finds from British Pathe to date! The video doesn’t containt any sci-fi amphibian hybrid creatures, the title is just a splash of typical Pathe News creative license. However, the clip is more perverse in its own way:
A flock of pretty local girls from Peckham (yes, we did just write those five words sequentially) cram into a bizarre glassed-off spectator room to watch Harold Elven, a rather hunky swimmer and philanthropist, fasten himself into a festish-esque harnass which is then connected to a fishing line. Then a fisherman, Jack Hargreaves, tries to reel Harold in whilst Harold attemps to swim away from his captor.
The whole affair is just plain scary, and the overall horror effect of this reel is enhanced by the eerie setting, the prototype electro classical score and the anxious narrator. The Human Centipede may be disgusting but this, The Human Fish, could be developed into a psycho-sexual Stephen King novel.
We’ve since learnt that this swimming pool still exists in Peckham but is not open to the public. It’s part of a private appartment building. We wonder if the current tenants know that this was happening in their pool back in 1949?
It seems the war sent Londoners a bit mad. Definitely an archive favourite!
If you come across anything that rivals The Human Fish then please do post it up on our Facebook group British Pathe Film Archive.
Locals in Peckham discuss the location on this forum here, and share some interesting memories of the pool!
This morning METRO have been exciting themselves about Courtney Cox and her recent 600k offer to be the face of “Cougar Life”, a dating website for older ladies looking for younger guys.
The usage of the word ‘Cougar’ in referring to a woman who likes a man with a warmer bloodstream didn’t exist in the time of Pathe News but that’s not to say these older women and their devilish ways weren’t caught on camera…
First of all watch this brilliant clip of singer Edith Piaf’s wedding. She married the “handsome young toy boy” Theo Sarapo:
Then take a look at this 1964 bachelor fair in Belgium, it’s the same concept of Cougar Life, but weirder. In fact, we’re not entirely sure what is going on in this clip so please do let us know on the British Pathe Facebook Group.
So how does the contemporary Cougar go about finding her prey? Well according to archivists the most popular place for Cougars to pick-up toy boys was at a male model parties, or mens fashion show. For example this dashing young specimen:
There are plenty of male models hanging about in the British Pathe archive, we highly recommend you embark on your own bachelor quest.
Another good place to pick up a toy boy off the stage. This boy soprano Graham Payn (below) here may seem a bit young but he later became the lifelong toy boy of Noel Coward (and heir of Coward’s work, copyrights and theatrical estate). You see you have to get in early and plan your toy boy. Noel spotted young Graham singing as a boy soprano.
Some prospective Cougars may be wondering what the point is in scouting a historic film archive for future boys. Well, some of the eligible bachelors in the British Pathe archive are still available on the Cougar market today. Want evidence? Take a look at this dashing young man driving a bus around Chiswick in 1962. Recognise him? We rest our case.
Finally we’d like to show you this archive clip of a real cougar. We’re scared that in this modern METRO age of Courtney Cox and her Cougar Life, people may start to forget that a cougar is, in actual fact, part of the animal kingdom, and so wanted to cite a real cougar in this post.
Today’s song was almost going to be ‘Wired For Sound’ by Cougar-delight Cliff Richard, and it was almost going to be Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing In The Dark’ – the momentous pop culture moment in which Courtney Cox decided that she definitely preferred younger men. But at the last minute we changed our mind, following the Cougar Quen Edith Piaf theme, and opted for Grace Jones ‘La Vie En Rose’. Turn your headphones up, get your packed lunch out and enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYkVtz6ozJE
In the piece Jon Kelly wrote “They belong to an age of hovercraft and monorails, a Tomorrow’s World imagining of the 21st Century rooted firmly in the past. Even their name – travelator! – evokes the sci-fi innocence of a post-war world which had not yet learned to be cynical about the transformative power of technology.”
A far cry from Heathrow Terminal 5, it’s a wooden model that has four lanes: stationary, slow, medium and fast. The fast lane holds seating, described in the British Pathé canister notes as a “bizarre adult merry-go-round”
What was the name of that incredibly fast conveyor belt contestants had to run up on Gladiators? Weren’t they called travelators?
We think travelators are overdue for a major comeback. There are more clips of these remarkable moving sidewalks in the British Pathé film archive, but it’s 6pm and we’re off home to watch Time To Remember on BBC4, so you’ll just have rummage in the archive yourself!
We would love to track down one of the beauty queens or bonnie babies from our archive footage of 1960s Miss Great Britain competitions, or Blackpool’s ‘Baby of The Year’. Recently the Lancashire Evening Post wrote the centre-page feature (pictured above) to try and help British Pathé find some of these characters caught on camera.
Here is a link to the footage and clips featured by the Lancashire Evening Post:
Jenny Simpson of the LEP wrote about British Pathé: “They entertained, they informed and they were a window to the world for generations. British Pathé newsreels captured many of the most significant moments of 20th century history, from the launch of the Titanic in 1912 to the Blitz attacks of World War II.”
Below is an unknown winner of Miss Great Britain. How sad that all her efforts and past glory have become a cloud of mystery and anonymity.
The Miss Great Britain tournament is still running today, managed by former winner Liz Fuller, details can be found on their website which also contains information on the history of the tournament. We’re hoping somebody who works on the tournament with knowledge of the contest’s history will be able to help. It would be so wonderful if we could identify the ladies in these videos and update our canister notes so that future generations will know who these fabulous people were.
We were thrilled to receive our copy of Who Do You Think You Are this morning, the BBC’s family history magazine. Not only are British Pathé featured on page 11, but it’s the Jason Donovan issue! Is there a better way to spend a dark Friday morning tea break than linking Australian popstars from the 1980s to their dazzling criminal ancestral pasts? If there is, we want to know about it.
Who Do You Think You Are is a tour-de-force of family history, with some really interesting features, whether it’s Devon locals looking for marriage records from the 1830s, or the architectural history of Edinburgh, or even the life and times of Bruce Forsyth, British Pathé have tonnes of relevant material in their free online archive that correspond with its pages. (Yes – even Bruce Forsyth is in our archive, judging a beautiful baby contest in the 1960s!)
Below you can watch the Lancing College clip that Who Do You Think You Are published a still from. Click on this still to watch the archive clip:
And here is a link to some great Edinburgh history newsreels featured on the BBC Edinburgh website:
On a separate note, we think the magazine should adopt the 1993 pop song ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ by St. Etienne as its official theme tune. We know several pop acts including The Spice Girls and Cascada have also released songs in the past with the same title, but St.Etienne definitely capture that essential sense of ancestral pride:
They even have a historical castle backdrop to their Top Of The Pops set and a keyboardist dressed up as a medieval king! When the December issue of Who Do You Think You Are comes out we’re expecting to hear Sarah Cracknell’s voice singing at us from the centrefold like a musical Christmas card. Talking of which, here’s a clip of Bruce Forsyth judging a childrens Christmas card competition in 1968. No, really.
Oscar-nominated actor Tony Curtis has died aged 85 at his home in Nevada. One of the greatest actors of his day, famous for his roles in Spartacus, The Defiant Ones and for starring alongside Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot.
Is Tony Curtis in Pathé News anywhere?
Like anything that happened between the 1890s and the 1970s, the answer is YES! The British Pathé film archive has several great clips of Tony Curtis, including the 1959 Oscars which he attended with his then wife Janet Leigh. Alongside Natalie Wood and Marilyn Monroe, Janet Leigh was one of the many gay icons that Tony Curtis attached himself to throughout his life, famous for her drag-queen ketchup stabbing shower-scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.
Was Tony Curtis gay?
A bit of a discussion kicked off in the archive today as to whether Curtis’ womanizing was a ploy to cover his homosexuality? Did Tony Curtis never admit his sexuality to himself? Or was Tony a textbook example of the Hollywood closet-case showbiz/PR leading-lady relationship reel?
A few of you have been talking about Rodrigo Cortés’ latest film Buried, an “indie-thriller-horror” film starring Ryan Reynolds*. From glancing at the plot to Buried it seems to be a less exciting version of the buried alive scene with Uma Thurman in Kill Bill 2, except it doesn’t have the fabulous Uma Thurman, and it goes on for the whole length of a movie.
So, why not save your money and watch some real buried alive videos in the British Pathé archive. We wouldn’t like to send you links to all of it, as it’s pretty controversial material. But a light-hearted place to start is this 1940s escapologist Alan. In a homage to his hero Houdini he buries himself alive, but it all goes wrong… and to make it even worse, for some inexplicable reason, he chose Cobham in Surrey as the place to bury himself!
We don’t know why he’s called Alan Alan, and we’re pretty sure he shares that name with a Northamptonshire drag queen. We’re also dumbfounded as to why we attempted auto-burial in nothing but his pants, we imagine the excitement of the Pathé camera team got to him. Oh well, live and let live. Enjoy!
Today we’re fascinated by these great clips of chimney felling. Vast, towering brick chimneys, often designed by celebrated architects, and built with the blood and tears of hundreds, indeed some men will have died in the dangerous sky-high construction and bricklaying of these giant structures. They were the emblem of a vast industrial past that spanned decades, and then in a matter of minutes stuffed with explosives, or in some cases straw soaked in paraffin, and destroyed forever, leaving nothing but an absence on the horizon.
It’s incredible that British Pathé has eight videos of chimney felling, the preparatory work, close-ups of the men’s faces as they pack the foundations with explosives, and then those final graceful seconds – a huge chimney slowly falling, then comes the crash, then nothing but thousands of bricks scattered across a field, and a cloud of dust.
The latest evidence of our long-term suspicion that Lady Gaga is inspired almost exclusively by the British Pathé film archive comes in the form of Kitchen Hats, a 1959 newsreel in which British housewives literally shove a kitchen appliance on their head and pose for a designer who then recreates it in fabric.
“The days when diamonds and furs didn’t mix with pots and pans appear to have gone for good” marvels the narrator. Above is a photo of Lady Gaga having forgot to put the lid on a blender of cake mix.
Our first uncanny canister moment that just screamed Gaga, also known as a “Garchive discovery”, was on the 24th of August when we stumbled across a lady in the 1950s wearing gigantic telephone earrings:
Below are photos from our latest Garchive discovery Kitchen Hats. Click on the stills to watch the wonderful 1950s newsreel. And if you happen to know of any other Garchive moments in British Pathé then please do get in touch via our Facebook group.
Are you related to anyone who once worked for Pathé News? If so, BBC4 want to hear from you and may be interested in interviewing you for their upcoming TV series The Story of Pathé.
Pathé was one of the biggest news companies of their day, employing hundreds of cameramen, writers, editors and production staff.
Pathé stopped producing newsreels in the 1970s, and so it is likely to be older generations who are still alive today who worked for them, so make sure to ask your Grandparents!
BBC4 are interested in hearing from anyone whose parents or grandparents worked on Pathé News, but in particular the families of the following six individuals:
Bob Danvers-Walker: One of British Pathé’s most recognisable narrators, who later on became one of ITV’s first announcers, providing the voice for iconic shows like The Wheel of Fortune. Bob had two children, Michael and Suzanne. Michael was an actor and Suzanne appeared in this newsreel about Ealing Art School (click here to view)
Terry Ashwood: Terry was a long-serving cameraman and producer at Pathé, whose daughter Gaye Ashwood features in several newsreels including this fantastic Egypt Travelogue (click here to view)
G Clement Cave: A Pathé news editor
Howard Thomas: Another key team member who has two daughters Rosemary and Carol
G Thomas Cummins: (aka Tommy Cummins) If you have any information related to Pathé’s staff from yesteryear, or know anything that may be of interest to BBC4 in making this exciting series then please get in touch via British Pathé’s free online newsreel archive: http://www.britishpathe.com with the subject heading ‘Story of Pathé’
Pathé News first opened a British office on Wardour Street in London, 1910. Producing biweekly newsreels that were distributed around cinemas in Britain, Pathé became the first major source of news through moving pictures. During the First World War, the cinema newsreels were called the Pathé Animated Gazettes and for the first time this provided newspapers with competition. After 1918, British Pathé started producing a series of Cinemagazines, where the Newsreels were much longer and more comprehensive. The ‘classic’ Pathé style is that of the WWII years and after, especially the ones with the voice of Bob Danvers Walker doing the commentary. After 1928, sound was introduced and by 1930, British Pathé were covering news, entertainment, sport, culture and women’s issues through programmes including the Pathétone Weekly, the Pathé Pictorial, the Gazette and Eve’s Film Review. By the time Pathé eventually stopped producing the cinema newsreel in 1970, they had accumulated a rich assortment of historical footage including Queen Victoria’s funeral, the Hindenburg disaster, Elvis Presley and Albert Einstein.
90,000 digitised clips from Pathé’s vaults at Pinewood Studios can be watched for free in their National Lottery supported archive www.britishpathe.com
The series was originally produced in the 1950s by renowned documentary maker Peter Baylis. The episodes worked their way chronologically from the late Victorian era through until 1945. The series employed quite romantic titles that roll off the tongue like a list of post-war novels – “The Tough Guys”, “Teenage Flapper” and “Edwardian Summer” to pick three at random.
BBC4 have re-worked the episodes so that they are now thematic. Tomorrow night’s episode is called Pioneers of Aviation, and will showcase fantastic British Pathé footage, from a jazz band performing on the wings of a flying aeroplane to a gentleman who sits himself in a bath and straps it to a giant, ascending hot air balloon.
Originally each episode had a famous narrator, usually a well-known 1950s actor, including everyone from Michael Redgrave to Anthony Quayle. “Teenage Flapper” was narrated by the famous comedienne Joyce Grenfell, “The Tough Guys” was narrated by John Ireland(perhaps most famous for his role as Crixus in Spartacus, or for dating a teenager Tuesday Weld!) and film legend Sir Ralph Richardson provided the commentary for the beautiful and elegant “Edwardian Summer”. Links to all three of these episodes are below.
In the new Time To Remember series, each episode will offer an exotic medley of these various voices but with the additional gloss of a contemporary narrator to navigate the audience from clip to clip.
With the fascination and depth that only an archive like British Pathé can offer, and with the bite-size beauty of You’ve Been Framed, the return of Time to Remember promises to yet again captivate audiences of all generations and demonstrate its wide and enduring appeal.
BBC4 is a great channel to screen the thirteen part series. Each episode is only half an hour, so make sure to jot Tuesdays 8.30-9.oo as a Time To Remember in your busy diaries. (We’ll let you know about repeat screenings soon)
To watch episodes from the original series, see below. It may be fun to compare the new series and see how the historiography might have changed. We love the sombre introductions:
To see footage from the British Pathé archive of Joyce Grenfell, Sir Ralph Richardson, Michael Redgrave and Anthony Quayle, see below. It seems they all found time out of their busy voiceover schedules to attend parties and premieres!
Joyce Grenfell at Noel Coward’s 70th birthday, in a fetching bright green dress – WATCH NOW!
Michael Redgrave at a star-studded Daily Mail Film Awards event – WATCH NOW!
Sir Ralph Richardson with Rita Tushingham at the premier for ‘Doctor Zhivago’, and shaking hands with Princess Margaret – WATCH NOW!
Make sure to tune in for the brand new series Time To Remember, Tuesdays on BBC4, at 8.30pm.
Nigel Cole’s new movie Made In Dagenham uses some footage from the British Pathé film archive. From the photo above you can see how the archive was relevant. (I’m pretty certain the originals to each of those late 1960s outfits feature somewhere in our Fashion Archive!)
The footage used in the new film is mainly of action-packed Ford strikes and shots of the pressure imposed by threatened closures. Shouting through megaphones, police barricades and furious marching workers, it’s great that the unrest of this period was captured on film and is available in the British Pathé archive.
We love this fabulous Heinz film “The World in a Can” from 1962 that shows and explains what goes into a can of Heinz. From jolly men in the Caribbean bashing spices to laughing ladies picking only the most ripe and shapely Italian plum tomatoes!
The ladies working on the factory belts look particularly thrilled at the prospect of sorting onions, whilst the lady in the supermarket at the end is positively delighted with her salad cream, so much more English than a ghastly French dressing.
A wonderful crossover between documentary and advertising, “The World in a Can” could be a slogan to represent the cultural phenomena of mass-production in the early 1960s and its enigmatic effect on family life. As massive supermarkets became commonplace across the land and tinned food conquered some serious territory in Britain’s kitchens, it’s fascinating to see this piece of historical spiel from Heinz on the matter, quite humorous with the benefit of hindsight.
To celebrate the release of Shimmy Marcus’ latest film SoulBoy, British Pathé caught up with the gorgeous singer Gabriella Cilmi, whose new single Magic Carpet Ride features on the movie’s soundtrack. We’ll be giving away a copy of the SoulBoy soundtrack on our Twitter page @BritishPathe soon!
Some of you may know Gabriella for her 2008 hit ‘Sweet About Me’, whilst others may have seen her live on the recent Leona Lewis tour. We selected some clips to show Gabriella from the British Pathé film archive that relate to the 1960s Northern Soul scene. Here’s what she thought…
Gabriella: Haha! I love this. Some hot moves going on there- they looked as though they weren’t enjoying it too much towards the end though… Not sure I’d be tempted to try it myself, think I’ll be sticking with disco….!
What’s your first memory of going out clubbing?
Gabriella: I’ve been performing since I was a kid so I guess I’ve been ‘dancing and clubbing’ weirdly before I knew it was cool! Going out in Melbourne was always fun, its really laid back and there’s always loads going on. Its great to be with all my old school friends on a night out in Melbourne.
Gabriella: What’s with the fat hippie?! loving “One of the biggest hippy happenings ever”! So funny, really random, I love the craziness of this!
The Isle of Wight holds some major festivals. Do you have a favourite festival that you’ve performed at?
Gabriella: This has to be the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury last year, its the main stage it was a really cool crowd. Everyone is just up for a good time and enjoying the music it makes performing scary but loads of fun! Then there is always the party after…
Gabriella: Liverpool really led the way back then. Although I don’t agree with the narrator that the haircuts “baffle you as to a person’s gender”. I think they’re great!
The narrator of this clip is quite sceptical of youth culture. Do you remember any moments when your parents said ‘You’re not having your hair like that’ or ‘You’re not wearing that’?
Gabriella: Not my parents – they’re cool cats. If anything, I copy them!
Watch the clips that Gabriella watched by clicking on the thumbnails above. They’re hyperlinked to the correct places in the British Pathe free online film archive! Also – take a listen to Gabriella’s great new single Magic Carpet Ride below. Let us know what you think!
Today is the 75th anniversary of Malcolm Campbell’s famous smashing of the land speed record in 1935. So off we plod into the archive to dig out some mad Malcolm footage, and realise that actually this chap broke an awful lot of records and was a bit of a celebrity back in the day.
Even if you’re not a Top Gear enthusiast, these clips are a real thrill –
Fantastic footage of Malcolm Campbell setting the World’s Land Speed record on Daytona Beach on February 24th 1932, in his reconditioned ‘Bluebird’, beating his own record by 8mph. The jolly musical score suddenly gives way to the roaring of an engine that sounds more like a low-flying plane than a car.
The aerial views in this video of Campbell speeding along the beachscape are breathtaking. Upon smashing the record Campbell pulls up and gives his wife a hug and a kiss, shucks. (Is she wearing the same hat that she wore in the 1928 newsreel!? We suspect as much)
This clip shows Malcolm being lifted into the cockpit of the car, wearing his helmet. One of the crew shouts “Three cheers for the skipper –come on!”. Campbell comments on his new record and thanks his “little band of mechanics”.
Great footage of a 1935 test run, with mechanics working on the car and spectators lining the beach front. Campbell talks to the camera “We reached a speed of about 200” which he seems pleased with for a first run.
These ‘Review of the Year’ videos have all sorts in them, as the title suggests, but Malcolm features in this one – “The young crowned King of Speed does it again. Sir Malcolm Campbell puts the land speed record at Daytona Beach up to 276.816 mph, a record that he himself beats later on in the year.
This lovely 1928 reel shows Malcolm’s wife at home with the children, and shots or ‘Mrs. Malcolm’ cleaning up the car and working on it. The footage of female racing drivers was used in the Pathe Eve series.
Malcolm broke water speed records as well as measly land racing. Here we are in 1939, Lake Coniston, Lake District and Malcolm is “Faster than any man has ever skimmed the water before. And back again just about as fast!”
The famous car Bluebird ended up disused and abandoned near Wembley, as the narrator explains: “The world’s braves car which won Sir Malcolm Campbell his knighthood, and won the world land speed record 5 times for Britain. Now she lies unwanted…her speedometer is zero, her cockpit is empty”
The sorrowful music accompanies shots of a Wembley car dealer and his employees working on the car. “Let us hope that someone will buy and preserve her”
So there we have it, Malcolm to the max. There’s still plenty more where this came from in the British Pathe film archive, have a rummage.
Who famously had 6 wives? You guessed it – David Lean, one of the founding members of BAFTA!
Continuing our mini-series celebrating the history of BAFTA, we’ve dug out footage of another of BAFTA’s four founding members – the director David Lean. Lean is perhaps best remembered as the director of Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago. He was voted 9th Best Director of all time by the British Film Institute’s Sights & Sound magazine. He was also a bit like Henry VIII in that he was married six times throughout his epic and illustrious life. We found this great video in the British Pathé archive of the 1945‘British Film Festival’ where David Lean talks with Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard (at least we think it’s 1945 as the cast of Wicked Lady are there). David Lean says “When we are shooting a film on the studio floor the film actors are always complaining, that he hasn’t got a live audience to play to, well this afternoon you two are going to play to thousands – what is it like?” – “Very frightening” jokes Celia in her extravagant fur coat. “I love ‘em” says a smug Trevor, “But I’m frightened of newsreel cameras” and he grins at the Pathé cameraman.
Dame Celia Johnson was nominated for 5 BAFTAs and won two in 1969 and 1973. However, the lady who really stole our attention in this clip was the fabulous Welsh actress Tessie O’Shea. What a marvellous personality Tessie had! And we’ve never seen a slice of cake so far. I recognised her face from somewhere, and thought it was possibly Brighton Rock, but The University of Wikipedia soon put my mind at rest – Tessie was in Bedknobs and Broomsticks!
Some of the mute clips are often overlooked by visitors to the archive, possibly because Pathé News were so widely known and admired for their narrations, or possibly because we’re all so used to audio when watching video. Yet some of the most marvellous footage in the archive is mute.
There are literally hundreds of examples, but to pick one, take a look at this incredible dance sequence starring Robert Quinault, titled “Bacchanale”
The video is worth watching for June’s headpiece alone! It’s like something from a Cher farewell tour.
A Bacchanale is a dramatic musical composition and so of course it would be splendid to hear the sound to this piece, still – the visuals are just as full of splendour. Some might frown upon Robert Quinault’s ‘ethnic’ make-up for the dance, which makes him look a cross between Aladdin and the Tin Man, but these things have to be looked at contextually.
The video is credited as being “by courtesy of Mr. C.B. Cochran” and so I had a look at who this man is/was…
Charles B. Cochran was a famous theatrical manager and a successful talent scout, spotting and launching the careers of many, including Noel Coward and the likes of The Dolly Sisters.
According to The University of Wikipedia, Cochran died in 1951 after being trapped in a bath of scalding water in his London home!
The name Beryl Reid is barely known amongst today’s hipster crowd but having seen this video ‘Beryl Reid At Home’, I think her legacy deserves some street cred for her wacky earring collection which makes Camden market as boring as a box of All-Bran.
Beryl was a big deal in her day, winning a Golden Globe for The Killing of Sister George and a BAFTA for Smiley’s People. And now it seems, years after her death, Beryl has become an unwitting muse to the pop star Lady Gaga too. I’m sure Lady Gaga’s heard of Sister George, so perhaps she visited the British Pathé film archive and fell in love with Beryl’s fetching Telephone earrings?
We can’t confirm whether Lady Gaga is a fan of the British Pathé Film Archive, but we can confirm that Beryl was more than 40 years ahead of the Gaga wave. Take a look at her other crazy accessories. Look out for Lady Gaga wearing buckets on her ears – it’s surely only a matter of time before Gaga ditches her dog and bone for another Beryl Reid look?
The video itself is a brilliant clip about Beryl’s eccentric home-life. A bit like MTV Cribs, or for our older readers, Through The Keyhole:
“Situated on the Thames within easy reach of London. The easiest way to do the shopping, in good weather, is by dingy. A favourite mode of transport for actress Beryl Reid, better known to thousands as Marlene Queen of the Dance halls. The aptly-named cottage, which closely resembles a couple of thatched honey pots is also the home to the probably the most bizarre collection of earrings in the country”.
Marlene Queen of the Dance halls? We’re going to research this later, it sounds exciting.
We’re a bit concerned about Beryl’s hubby Derek though. He suddenly appears, shooting a rifle from a deck chair. The narrator describes him as double-bass player with part-time penchant for shooting squirrels. Eat your heart out Snoop Dogg, Beryl’s crib is truly gangster.
In this miniseries of BAFTA themed blog posts we plan to explore some of British Pathé’s brilliant archive footage of the BAFTAs, formerly known as the British Film Academy Awards.
First up it’s one of BAFTAs four founders, the splendid Charles Laughton. We’re backstage in 1930 watching Laughton demonstrate to aspiring actors how to become a “swell fella”… This could be the oldest make-up tutorial on the internet today.
Born in Scarborough, Laughton became one of Hollywood’s biggest names, famous for playing period drama parts and characters with lavish costumes such as Henry VIII, Nero and Rembrandt. And evidently he was not scared to over indulge in the powder room.
Today Laughton wants to be an Italian gangster. He claims the point of make-up is “To make myself look less like a pudding, and more like a Chicago-Italian gangster than usual”. Compared to modern-day make-up tutorials with their nauseating airbrushed perfection and seemingly invented scientific terms, Laughton’s make-up tips are refreshing, matter-of-fact and quite comical. “Observe the secrets of the boudoir” Laughton teases before embarking on a rigorous routine: “First an Italian complexion… Greta Garbo eyelashes…Some dark red lips.”
Several of the stages he claims to be horrible or uncomfortable! He applies dark brown shading to get the effect of dark eyes, gives himself “villainous eyebrows and a nasty little black moustache” and explains how he must paint his hair black to match.
There’s a striking resemblance between Charles Laughton and the contemporary British actor and comedian Matt Lucas. Perhaps Laughton’s husky voice and mannerisms inspired Matt Lucas’ parody of Shirley Bassey or the glamorous authoress in Little Britain? Keep checking the British Pathe blog for more backstage BAFTA footage from the glamorous days of old soon…