Images From The Archive



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’s Last Night

Marilyn Monroe

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.

Marilyn Monroe

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?

US Attorney General Bobby Kennedy and his wife 6 months before Marilyn’s death

The Housekeeper
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?

The memorandum showing the FBI had opened a file on Marilyn.

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.

President John F Kennedy and his wife Jackie

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.

Marilyn’s Coffin

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:

Mini Documentary on Marilyn Monroe

Death of Marilyn Monroe – Retrospective story on Marilyn

Marilyn arrives at London airport 1956

Marilyn meets the Queen in 1956


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:




TOKYO 1964


Follow us on Twitter @britishpathe or join our Facebook page “The British Pathe Film Archive” to be kepy abreast of developments over the next few days.

The Hunt for Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart – July 24, 1897 – disappeared 1937

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

Amelia Earhart

1932 – Amelia’s ticker tape parade in New York. WATCH HERE.

Amelia Earhart’s wonderful reception in New York, 1932

1932 – Filmed inteview with Amelia Earhart. WATCH HERE.

1937 – A Tragedy of the Pacific – Newsreel reporting Amelia’s disappearance. WATCH HERE.

Last footage of Amelia as she inspects her Lockheed Electra plane before she sets off to circumnaviage the globe.

Diamond Jubilee: Galleries and Collections by British Pathé

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:

Princess Elizabeth: A Young Queen




The Queen’s Hats: 20 Fantastic Headpieces




Queen Around The World: A Lifetime of Travelling




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:

The Diamond Jubilee Collection

The Royal Coronation Collection

Princess Elizabeth: A Young Queen

Keep an eye out for forthcoming galleries, and please do let us know what you think – either by leaving a comment below, or on our archive’s Facebook Page or by tweeting us @britishpathe.

Best Footage Library of the Year!

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

Cutty Sark: Historical British Pathe Newsreels of the Famous Ship Afloat Unveiled


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.

Here are some of those videos…

Famous Cutty Sark Arrives at Gravesend in 1938


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.


Duke of Edinburgh Views Cutty Sark in 1953


This interesting piece of silent footage shows Prince Philip inspecting sailors on the Cutty Sark not long after the coronation.


Cutty Sark’s Last Home in 1954


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.


In 1957 British Pathé recorded this newsreel called “To School on Cutty Sark”


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:

Ship of Adventure” (1966)

Two Hundred Kiddies Day Treat” (1963)

Navy Cadets School” (1958)

Thames By Night” (1963)

And you can find even more with this web search here:

Cutty Sark Search in the British Pathe Film Archive 

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