Paul Cezanne: British-owned works

'Les Grandes Baigneuses' by Paul Cezanne

Today’s Google’s ‘doodle’ commemorates the French artist Cezanne.

We found this wonderfully conservative newsreel from 1965 when The National Gallery in London purchased a Cezanne painting ‘Les Grandes Baigneuses’ for a shocking £500,000.

We love the jazzy soundtrack too, take a look:


Susannah York Dies

Susannah York with Maximilian Schell

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:

Star-Studded Premiere

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.

Hilariously Serious Miss World Competition

Here we can see Susannah York acting as a judge at the 1969 Miss World competition alongside Michael Crawford and Peter Dimmock:

Susannah York is probably in more videos but not listed in our canister notes, so if you find her in any other clips from the swinging sixties then let us know!

Peter O'Toole confides in Richard Brooks

King George VI: Video Collection


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:

‘Princess In Kenya’ – WATCH HERE!

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.

Death of King George – WATCH HERE!

The Kenyan clip above was never shown in cinemas due to the death of King George VI, British Pathé issued this clip ‘Britain Mourns’ instead.

“It was announced from Sandringham at 10.45 today February the 6th 1942, that the King that retired to rest last night in his usual health passed peacefully away in his sleep this morning.”

“The King is dead, swift from the press the news flows to the farthest corners of our island. In our hearts we feel this cannot be.” A fantastic piece of newsreel coverage.

Coronation of King George VI – WATCH HERE!

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.

Juvenile Olympiads in 1928 – WATCH HERE!

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.

Funeral of George VI in 1952 – WATCH HERE!

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!

Footage discovered of The Red Woman of Paris – the scandalous Madame Steinheil.

Marguerite Steinheil and Baron Abinger's wedding day, 1917
Every now and again a seemingly innocuous clip is brought to our attention when someone discovers there is more to it than meets the eye. A friend of Pathé, Commander Tony Bullock, who has been kindly researching naval footage within our archive, came across a fairly bland 30 second clip of a 1917 naval wedding. There is not much information attached to the footage apart from one name – Madame Steinheil. 

Boring? Yes perhaps but not until Commander Bullock looked into who this Madame Steinheil was, did he realise that this footage is of a notorious French woman with a scandalous reputation and sensational complex history who was dubbed the Red Woman of Paris. She was most famous for her association with the death of the French President Félix Faure and later she was implicated in the murders of her own husband and stepmother. She was quite possibly the most talked about woman in France at the turn of the 20th century.  

The French President Felix Faure

Marguerite Steinheil, (née Japy ) later known as  Lady Abinger and Mme de Serignac was born in to a wealthy family and after her marriage to a successful painter, Adolphe Steinheil, she immersed herself in Parisian high society and became extremely well connected to influential men within political and social circles, even counting the King of Cambodia as an admirer. Marguerite first met the French President in 1897 when her husband was awarded a contract.  Her husband’s frequent meetings with the President meant Marguerite became well acquainted with Faure and soon she became his mistress, often paying him visits in the private residence of the Palais de l’Élysée.

On 16 February 1899, Marguerite made one of her illicit calls to the palace. Many rumours and much speculation surrounded the events but it was widely reported that when servants were called to the boudoir, Steinheil was adjusting her clothing, her hair was tousled and the President lay dead from a seizure – allegedly brought on by a passionate session. Mme Steinheil was quickly ushered out the back door.

The French Femme Fatale

The embarrassment and shame that surely ensued after her connection with the death of the President did not, however, deter her having affairs with other men; in fact, she became the mistress of many more prominent men. Later doctors would go on to describe her as, “a highly neurotic subject with a pronounced tendency to hysteria, she seems to have exercised a curious spell upon all the men with whom she came in contact”. Her je ne sais quoi and femme fatale charms might explain why there were reports that men including the President even entrusted her with secret documents and manuscripts.

Scandal was not to stop there. On May 31 1908, Marguerite’s husband and stepmother were found dead having been gagged, bound and strangled with a cord. Marguerite was also found gagged and bound to the bed but notably unharmed.  Although she told police that there had been four intruders dressed in long black robes, she was a suspect from the start. The police initially did not have the evidence to prosecute but her stories began to unravel when she went on to deliberately frame her valet de chambre by planting a piece of evidence in his room. When her plot was unveiled she subsequently accused her housekeeper’s son of committing the murders. She was arrested later in the year and charged on complicity in the double murder.

Steinheil explains herself in court

The events surrounding the murder and the trial caused a feeding frenzy in Paris and there was a gender divided opinion.  And although the court had called her stories a “tissue of lies”, the rather theatrical trial climaxed with Mme Steinheil’s unexpected acquittal. After her narrow escape from the guillotine, Steinheil moved to England and in 1917 she married the 6th Baron Abinger, Robert Brooke Campbell Scarlett who served in the Royal Navy.

And so here you have it, British Pathé captured this newly married couple leaving the church on their wedding day. At first it seemed a fairly unexciting clip except now we know that this is footage of a woman embroiled in two of the biggest scandals of her time.

Behind every face, there is a story

Watch the short clip HERE.

History of Plastic Surgery: Pathé News went under the knife

Envisage: Was this the future that Dr. McIndoe had in mind?

We were surprised to find this archived newsreel of a plastic surgery pioneer in 1947, Dr Archibald McIndoe, and his harem of men that went under his largely experimental knife.

Known as ‘The Guinea Pigs’ club, these guys were a band of ex-RAF men who had been severely burnt or damaged in service, and so came together in East Grinstead, West Sussex, to have their faces rebuilt by Dr McIndoe in his special ward.

In these early days for plastic surgery, patients were sometimes never expected to reintegrate into society again fully, and so the Guinea Pigs lived in McIndoe’s hospital, where they were allowed to drink beer and wear casual clothes instead of ‘convalescent blues’.

Although the prospect of a ward inhabited by men with plastic faces sounds a bit unsettling, the video depicts these patients as being full of energy and joy. East Grinstead became known as “the village that doesn’t’ stare” and many nearby families would entertain the guinea pigs for dinner.

It wasn’t long after McIndoe’s pioneering scheme that plastic surgery became a more learned and advanced procedure, and vanity-related operations were introduced.

This video from November 1950 shows a lady in Hampstead undergoing a nose job! The narrator announces “even the burden of an outsized inheritance need be suffered no longer, now that the healing hand of plastic surgery can bring relief”.

Plastic Surgery in 1950:

The surgeon Charles Willi is Swiss and described as “famous”, having already made 15,000 similar operations. We discovered there is even a boof on him called Charles Willi, Life of a Beauty Surgeon. We particularly like the British Pathé flourish –  “an inch off Cleopatra’s nose may have changed the face of history”

Today plastic surgery has a negative image in the public’s mind; it refers to the perilous facial reconstruction undergone by vulgar celebrities, never failing to make a good magazine spread with sensational photos and horror stories, cosmetic surgery has come to be seen as a celebrity illness, a fatal anti-ageing ailment for millionaires.

Pictured above: Contemporary American socialite Jocelyn Wildenstein

Watch over 90,000 archive newsreels on British Pathé.

Christmas Stuffing: British Turkeys Through History. (No, Really.)

Will you be having turkey this Christmas day? A lot of people have beef or even fish don’t they, or if you’re a vegetarian, a nice nut roast perhaps.

When Bernard Matthews passed away last week we had to do a bit of turkey research in the archive and were surprised to discover just how many fascinating reels there were related to a topic that we though was, well, a bit parochial.

But no! From Christmas turkey fairs to 1950s communal freezers, from stately turkey farms to the introduction of the new ‘Gobblers’ plucking machine, we were thrilled to find some of these archive nuggets.

Admittedly some of the narrator wise-cracks are a bit cheesy, but to their credit there isn’t an awful lot to say about a turkey. What makes these clips so great however are the visuals, a great insight into Britain’s age-long tradition of having a turkey dinner at Christmas!

Here are 5 favourites to watch, and then a general link to more funny old turkey videos at the bottom.

“A Short Life and a Gay One”(1921)

I don’t imagine this is a Bernard Matthews farm, but quite the opposite as we see gianormous and luxuriant turkey proudly parading around some kind of stately grounds. “But this year’s turkeys can at least console themselves that they’re cheaper than last year”. The clip moves quite suddenly from a regal panoramic shot of the turkeys showing off their glorious tail plumes, to a heartless shot of dozens, killed and plucked, hanging upside down in a shop.

“Britain’s Christmas Stocking”(1948)

Set at Woolwich Barracks in London, the clip begins with officers inspecting the chefs’ hands, who then proceed to march into the kitchen. A propaganda edge emerges as we the narrator glorifies the wonders of a military camp Christmas, whilst a homesick looking boy gets to work on making a tonne of stuffing. The video ends at Olympia’s poultry show, as people inspect turkeys in lined up in their cages.

“Christmas Is Coming” (1938)

“There’s a vast difference between being brought up at Eton and brought up to be eaten” jokes the cheesy narrator in this 1930s clip of Christmas cattle at Norwich Castle in Norfolk. Considerations towards animal rights are clearly evident, even in the 1930s, although everything is still drenched in humour, for example “It may be tough on a turkey, but as long as he isn’t a bit tough on us”.

“Turkey Farm”(1969)

With a jazzy Hark The Herald soundtrack, this High Wycombe clips is silent but offers good colour footage of a turkey farm in the 1960s.

“GOBBLERS!” (1933)

Perhaps the British Pathé archive’s most sinister turkey clip, this one kicks off all jovial with a title frame announcing “Nature’s prize walking comedians – nearest rivals to the penguin”, followed up by the macabre line “It’s a good job they can’t see their future”, only to be trumped by “And here’s a new device, the automatic plucket – doe s an hour’s work in a minute”. Sure enough the clip continues and a woman demonstrates the plucking machine. Feathers fly everywhere, to say the least!

“Food Bank’s Not a Frost”(1959)

Over to Newbury in Berkshire, 1959 and Malcolm Warrell has had a brain wave. As so many people can’t afford turkeys in the run-up to Christmas, and have no place at home to freeze them, why not start up a turkey bank! Any kind of poultry is accepted, and so the video depicts two gents marching into the freeze vaults following a spot of game-hunting, pheasants in tow. One lady arrives with a beautiful plate or ornately arranged lobsters!

The ‘Turkey Collection – Watch more clips from the British Pathé archive on the subject of Christmas Turkeys here.

British Pathé’s Robot George enjoys his 15 minutes of Fame

Robot After All: George, the Tin Man with a very big heart

The British Pathé archive acts as a resting place to several robots of yesteryear, some scarier than others, but today it was our beloved Robot George (born in 1950, Saffron Walden, Essex) who enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame in the British press.

Designed by Tony Sale in the 1950s, Robot George is made out of scrap metal from a crashed Wellington bomber. As Metro newspaper put it – “he was then consigned to the scrapheap of history” – also known as Tony’s garage, for over fifty years. Until now that was, when George was resurrected and dusted off before he is introduced to his new home – The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire.

This fantastic 1950s video of George in his heyday is well worth a watch as you can see him moving his head, mouth, and then walking forwards with arms motions. It really is quite cult horror, merging upon slapstick comedy. Also in the clip can be seen a dashing young Tony, aged 19 in his RAF attire, rushing about adjusting George and controlling him with the radio handset.

See more British Pathé clips on robots here

 You might like this large collection of inventions-related clips here too.

* * * * *

 To see Tony Sale and George back in the media today, check these articles from The Sun, The Telegraph and Metro:

Age Against The Machine – The Sun

Robot George: Early Humanoid Revived – The Telegraph

1950s Robot Back In Action – Metro

We send Tony Sale our kind regards from all here at the British Pathé archive, and good luck to George in his grand new home!