Pathé Before British Pathé: The Archive from 1895 to 1910

by James Hoyle, archive co-ordinator for British Pathé

This post is Part I of IV.

For the years 1910 to 1933, see blog post “Establishing Itself”.

For the years 1933 to 1958, see blog post “A Golden Age”.

For the years 1958 to 2012, see blog post “Decline and Transformation”.

A quick search of the 90,000 films in the British Pathé archive reveals 139 clips which are currently dated as being from before 1910, the year in which the first newsreel from the newly-established UK arm of Compagnie Générale des Établissements Pathé Frères Phonographes & Cinématographes was released in cinemas. 1910 was thus the year that gave birth to what is now known as “British Pathé”. So what are these 139 additional clips?

The earliest footage in the British Pathé archive today is probably the Edison Manufacturing Company production New Blacksmith Shop (1895). The film, not to be confused with the earlier Blacksmith Scene (1893), was directed by William K. L. Dickson. It lasts for a mere thirty seconds, features no discernible plot or characters, and might not prove particularly interesting to modern viewers. Nevertheless, given its short running time, it is well worth a watch (it can be viewed here) as a typical example of early cinema. Film was still new, the first motion picture images having been captured by Louis Le Prince in 1888 in Leeds. Short, every-day subjects still had the power to thrill (such as in the famous Lumière film The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station). But this was an era of great experimentation and innovation, as can be seen in Robert W Paul’s The Vanishing Lady.

It was in this context that Charles, Émile, Théophile and Jacques Pathé founded Société Pathé Frères in France in 1896 and began film production. It is difficult to be sure, but footage in the archive that appears to date from this year includes film of Hyde Park Corner and Brighton.

Another example of Victorian cinema comes from Robert W. Paul. This is the 1896 film “Blackfriars Bridge”, made the same year that the Pathe brothers set up their company.

These brief glimpses of Victorian life are as fascinating today as they were when they were shot – then because the technology involved was so new, and today because the footage is so old. The Victorian era was the first to be documented in moving images, yet still with a rarity that makes viewing them an awe-inspiring experience.

In 1897, Société Pathé Frères went public under the, rather lengthy, name Compagnie Générale des Établissements Pathé Frères Phonographes & Cinématographes (or CGPC). Doubt remains about some of the clips in the archive from the early CGPC era in terms of their locations and dates. Records were either not made at the time or have been lost. The material which can be identified with at least some confidence is often of great historical interest. There is the funeral of William Gladstone, footage of the Boer War, and the coronation procession of Edward VII. The archive also contains film of Queen Victoria at a garden party, her Diamond Jubilee, and her funeral. Material from the Edwardian period includes the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and the 1908 London Olympics.

Queen Victoria in Dublin (click the still to view film)

CGPC continued filming for many years, distributing films and expanding its theatre empire across much of the Western World. It was not, in fact, until 1908 that the company invented the newsreel. The first was Pathé-Faits Divers in France, though it was renamed Pathé Journal in 1909. The following year, CGPC launched an American newsreel arm to produce Pathé News, as well as opening a newsreel production office on Wardour Street in London. The first UK newsreel was thus produced, under the Pathé Animated Gazette brand, in February 1910. The French, British, and American newsreel arms would often share footage, and it seems that this is how the pre-1910 material came to be in the hands of the UK newsreel staff. They often made use of it too, producing retrospectives which included flashbacks to 1896.

The American newsreel arm of CGPC was eventually sold in 1921 and was run by Pathé Exchange, RKO Radio Pictures, Warner Brothers, and finally Studio Films, before disappearing as a brand in the 1950s. The British newsreel arm was sold too, in 1927. It passed through various hands before ending news production in 1970. The archive was preserved, however, and can be viewed in its entirety for free on the British Pathé website.

British Pathé is always keen for corrections and additional information about its footage and corporate history. Please email us or leave a comment beneath the relevant clip on the website.


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.

Vintage Workouts: Shape Up For Summer the British Pathe Way!

The great British summer is here! You might not be able to tell from the sky but there lies a clue in the sudden splurge of diet fads and health initiatives. Food packaging and advertising that is suddenly noisy with buzz phrases like “summer glow”, “feel-good skin”, “beach body” and “shaping up for summer”. All that these companies really care about is your cash. They couldn’t care less if the WWF’s Whale Rescue Operations Team rush towards you the second you step onto the beach next month.

We here at British Pathe do care however. We may have closed our production doors in the 1970s, but that’s not to say we don’t have some darn good fitness tips for you. Britons have always been body-conscious and if anything we should know best because people looked a lot healthier in the past. Here are 5 archive favourites for you:


“Girls, after you’ve helped to win the war you’ll still have another battle on your hands – the battle of the bulges!”

This cheeky newsreels is essentially eye-candy for wartime soldiers, packaged by British Pathe under the guise of health and fitness advice. Sadly not many of us have a harness room full of metal wheels and rubber hoops to tone ourselves with, so let’s try another one…


“Millions want to get back their youthful lines yet middle-aged spread remains unconquered. Eating fat is the latest theory!”

Way before the Atkins diet British Pathe was showcasing a no-carb all-fat diet that mimicked that of a neanderthal. This approach is still popular today. We love the British Pathe musical score on this one, and the fact that nothing has changed – “Every paper and magazine you pick up tells you how to do it”. But 50 years later and we’re still struggling, and the problem with Atkins diet is your can still join that ice-cream van queue on the beach…


“British Pathe present Edit Mezey, Hungarian Physical Culture Expert, showing you the best ‘slimming’ exercises”

Everyone loves a Hungarian Physical Culture Expert. This lovely 1930s workout video could teach Davina McCall a thing or two, firstly – wearing high heels! We love that the word slimming is put into inverted commas as if to say “Is this really a thing?” Let us know how you get on with the routine, we’re a bit worried you might develop an insane indelible smile though. Fourth time lucky…


OK, we’re speechless. We’ve never seen anything that looks so painful! These springy machines that essentially look like perverted deckchairs are supposed to help the body stretch, tone and slim? They were most probably taken off the market after the first ten hip-replacement law cases came through. We’re left with one last chance of getting slim for summer…


Finally, our favourite approach! Just embrace who you are and stop worrying. Life’s too short!

This video “Miss Fat and Beautiful” is a celebration of curviness and having a bit of junk in the trunk. Some would argue these ladies aren’t even that fat by today’s supersize standards. Indeed, there are baffled Americans leaving comments beneath this video on YouTube like “What? Where are the fat people?”

Wherever you are going on holiday this summer, forget what anyone else thinks, roll out your beach fat with your beach mat, have a paddle, get stuck into a good book and just get on with enjoying those short-lived well-earnt summer days. Of course you can always enjoy a spot of looking at other peoples’ beautiful bodies whilst enjoying a cooling pint of lager, they wouldn’t have gone to all that effort if they didn’t want to be gawped at. And if you do really want to get slim then here is our British Pathe secret, don’t tell anyone else, we’ve never put it in a newsreel before:

THE SECRET: Wake up early, walk to work, drinks lots of water and stop eating crap after 8pm.

Browse and enjoy 90,000 free archive videos on our website

When the Falklands Were Forgotten

By James Hoyle, Archive Coordinator at British Pathé

Most people had probably never heard of the tensions between Britain and Argentina over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands before they were invaded on April 2nd 1982. Many people had probably never heard of the Falkland Islands at all. But history did not pass the Falklands by. Footage in the British Pathé archive details its involvement in the First World War and life on the islands in the 1960s, including the attitudes of the islanders towards Argentina.

The South Atlantic islands known by their inhabitants as the ‘Falklands’ lie 8,000 miles from the British mainland. It was Captain John Strong who first set foot there in 1690 and it was he who named them for Lord Falkland. After this, it gets a little complicated. When the British signed the Treaty of Utrecht, Spanish ownership of the islands was established. Regardless, both the French and the British soon placed settlements there, though the French subsequently handed their territory to Spain in 1767 and the British were evicted. From that point on, Spain held the islands until, in 1820, former Spanish colony Argentina claimed them as their own. But after a disagreement with the United States over sealing rights, the USS Lexington removed the Argentine settlers by force in 1831.  Soon after, the British took their place and have enjoyed sovereignty over the islands ever since, though Argentina has repeatedly requested the islands, which they call the ‘Malvinas’, back.

From that time until 1982, life on the Falklands was a mostly peaceful affair, with the exception of 8 December 1914 when the British and German navies clashed off the coast. The Germans, under Spee, planned to land on the islands to destroy the wireless station and pick up coal supplies, but when they arrived, the British were already there. In the ensuing battle, the Germans lost six of their ships and 1900 men, but the British fleet survived intact, with only 10 dead. This astonishing victory was celebrated in Britain and raised morale. Admiral Sturdee was proclaimed a hero and given a baronetcy in gratitude. Newsreels in the British Pathé archive mark the occasion of the victory, and pay tribute to Admiral Sturdee after his death in 1925. No further vessels or men would be lost over these islands for nearly 60 years.

Despite the short but fierce war fought between Britain and Argentina, outlined in British Pathé’s A Day That Shook The World series, in which Margaret Thatcher’s government successfully reclaimed the islands from Argentine invaders, public knowledge about the Falklands remains limited. A picture of what life was like there prior to the conflict can be seen in the footage taken by Pathé cameramen in the late 1960s.

By 1980, the population of the Falkland Islands was a mere 2000 people and declining. Even today there are only 3000 living there. An aerial view of Stanley, the only town, can be seen in the still above. The most numerous inhabitants by far live in the wild. Along with the sheep and horses that exist in the farms, there is also an abundance of birds and marine life. The most famous of these are undoubtedly the islands’ penguins, which earned their own dedicated British Pathé newsreel, in what might be the only footage that was used from the camera crew’s visit. Other newsreels from the early 1950 show Vancouver’s Stanley Park Zoo and its only collection of King Penguins existing in Canada, a gift from the Governor of the Falkland Islands.

Yet a great portion of the footage filmed by that 1969 camera crew is of the people living on the islands. There are many unknown faces in these silent clips, and it would be fascinating to hear about them and their experiences during the later Argentine invasion. In the clips though, life on the Falklands appears relatively tranquil. Men and women go about their daily routines, working in the sea, loading cargo onto ships, herding sheep, and so on.

We also get a glimpse of the leisure activities engaged in, with families turning out to witness a local game of football.

But an ever-present British warship, the Leander-class H.M.S. Arethusa, is a reminder of the tensions over the islands and its disputed sovereignty. Although to many on the British mainland, the Falklands conflict came as a surprise, the tensions over the issue of sovereignty were felt long before on the islands themselves. The same 1960s footage of the islands contains many glimpses of just how strongly the inhabitants felt more than a decade before the war.

Negotiations over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands began in 1966 after a UN resolution the year before forced Britain to the table. For many years a succession of foreign secretaries attempted to promote the virtues of Argentine sovereignty, encouraging the Falklanders to submit. The reactions of the islanders to the opening of negotiations are plainly to be seen in the following stills from the 1969 footage.

Images such as these were captured by the Pathé camera crew in Port Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands. In the footage, which seems to have never made it into a finished newsreel or cinemagazine, signs and graffiti revealing the Falkland Islanders’ desire to remain British are ever present.  These displays appear in shop windows and outside houses, placed as stickers in car windows, or painted on the side of buildings or scrawled on the side of a plane.

It would be interesting to know exactly who these signs were meant for. Presumably they are aimed at the Pathé camera crew, or some other visitors rather than at the other islanders.

Sadly, the Argentines soon felt the negotiations were going nowhere and that their unpopular government might be saved by waging war against British colonialism, reclaiming islands they believed to be legally theirs. War ensued and 907 people lost their lives.

During this 30th anniversary year (the war lasted from 2 April to 14 June 1982), it is interesting to look back not just on that terrible conflict, but also on the years leading up to it, and reflect upon what the future may also bring.

For British Pathé’s collection of pre-war Falklands footage and A Day That Shook The World episodes for the British taskforce setting sail and the sinking of the HMS Sheffield, click here.

Diamond Jubilee Special: MORE NEW GALLERIES!

Taken from our video of The Queen’s first public broadcast in 1940.

Wow! Only a couple of days now until Her Majesty The Queen leads a flotilla of over 800 boats down the Thames, and it’s less than 48 hours until the Diamond Jubilee weekend commences and jubilations kick off! We’re thrilled to be included on the official Clarence House website for the Diamond Jubilee, not to mention featured in countless documentaries and shows that are being broadcast around the world this weekend.

Here on our own website we’ve been celebrating the Diamond Jubilee with a series of stills galleries. The first three of these were The Queen’s Hats, Princess Elizabeth – A Young Queen and Queen Around The World.

We have now released another three:

Queen In The USA


This is one for our American fans in the archive. Over 1,000 members of our Facebook are from the States and so we wanted to give them something. This gallery celebrates The Queen’s first visits to the USA and the British Sovereign’s relationship with America. It also contains some cracking shots of the American press in the 1950s and also some rare footage of George V watching a baseball match!

The Queen’s Day Off

We’re used to seeing The Queen at work, visiting parts of the Commonwealth, opening new buildings and making speeches at official occasions. But was Her Majesty like behind the scenes? In this gallery we’ve used lots of rushes and unused material to find stills of The Queen off-duty. We love the shots of a young Prince Charles too!

Expecting A Royal Visit

For most The Queen’s visit to their hometown is a memorable occasion, and for some it is even a first memory. As we have so much footage of The Queen in the 1950s and 1960s we decided to make this gallery of crowd shots – people waiting for The Queen to arrive. It’s interesting to note how fashions have changed and to speculate over who these people were (or still are!)

We hope you enjoy these latest three galleries. Please do forward them onto your friends if you think they’d like them. All of our videos and galleries can be watched for free and posted onto Facebook. We also have our own Facebook Page, and if you decide to share one of our galleries on Twitter then make sure to say hi to us @britishpathe. Have a good day!