Today is the 70th anniversary of the attack on the US naval base Pearl Harbor, a surprise attack conducted by the Japanese that led to America’s entry into World War 2.
Hollywood movies, books, essays and endless documentaries have been made on the topic of Pearl Harbor, a day that Franklin D. Roosevelt announced at the time “will live in infamy”, and still a hotly-debated military subject today.
However, like all history, nothing is better than watching footage of the actual events themselves if possible. In the British Pathé Film Archive we have a copy of the first newsreel to report on Pearl Harbour, and this footage was later used for a British Pathé documentary series entitled A Day That Shook The World.
This morning, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, we uploaded these scenes onto our YouTube channel War Archives. Click on the screengrab above to view it now.
Less than a minute’s footage of the actual surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was recorded, and that was by accident by a local doctor trying out his new camera, but remarkably he managed to capture the blowing up of the Arizona – and so this features in our reel. The rest of the footage was recreated by John Ford in Los Angeles at Fox Studios immediately after the attack. The American War Department directed him to recreate the scene so that it could be issued around the world as a key piece of reasoning in why America had declared war on Japan and entered WWII.
Ford’s original feature was called 7th December and ran eighty-three minutes. However the War Department were worried about showing the full-length film because Ford did such a good job of depicting how unprepared the American troops were for such an attack, and were concerned therefore that the movie might damage morale.
Of course, as with all sensational moments in history, ambiguity gave way to conspiracy and some have claimed that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor never actually happened, or worse still, was conducted by American forces, and was used as a mechanism to trigger and kick-start America’s entry into the war.
To add to the confusion many news groups since, including CNN, have confused the recreated scenes for the real thing.
Pearl Harbor was made into a successful Hollywood film 60 years later, starring Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale.
Today is the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
We’ve been enjoying Joanna Lumley’s recent ITV documentary series ‘Joanna Lumley’s Greek Odyssey’, and were motivated by it to dig out our own documentary series on Greece. That’s right, British Pathé toured Greece with Sabena airways in the 1960s and recorded about ten detailed travelogues, one focusing on each of the following key places: Rhodes, Athens, the Temple of Apollo, Mykonos, Hydra, Delphi, Thasos, Corfu and Crete.
Not only are these travelogues an important document in that they capture Greece over 50 years ago in colour, featuring some of the first high quality colour footage of that nation, but they are also a brilliant piece of social history – an insight into the 1960s, not only the fashions and decor but also the beginning of something arguably more colossal than any of the temples – the beginning of the tourist industry.
Click on the stills to watch each video. Enjoy the retro swimwear!
‘Island of The Sun’ is an introductory video to British Pathé’s 1960s tour of Greece. It focuses on the luxury airline service (Sabena airlines!) that gives Greece-bound holidaymakers traditional Greek dishes and even dolls. Upon landing we see some scenic shots of Rhodes, the Parthenon and ruins at Lindos.
We are shown a state-of-the-art 1960s Greek hotel which looks rather like a British council flat block, and Pathé focuses its attention on a lady showering and bathing in the hotel pool! At the end of this clip a boy commands a host of black and gold butterflies by whistling, much like the community of whistlers that Joanna Lumley visited in Episode 1 of her documentary series.
We start off with Gaye Ashwood (the daughter of legendary British Pathé journalist Terry Ashwood) walking up the steps of the Acropolis. There some lovely shots of a neat and tidy 1960s aeroplane landing scene. The 1960s transport on the streets is fantastic too!
Here we are at Cape Kennedy, visiting the temple of Apollo. British Pathé compare Apollo the Greek God to Apollo the space rocket. We see shots of the famous amphitheatre that Joanna Lumley also visited in the first episode of her documentary series.
In this 1965 video on Mykonos the island is described as “a short sea trip from Athens, yet there’s a Dutch flavour about the water windmills which twirl in the Mediterranean breeze. There are tourists, but not enough to completely commercialise the old fishermen who make their souvenirs with pride and patience”
Whether Pathé were aware that Mykonos was a gay island we cannot be sure, they don’t acknowkledge the fact explicitly in the video but they do offer some strange pieces of narration that could be seen as metaphors running in tandem with gay culture such as, “Nothing seems to shake the islanders out of their leisurely stride.” The camera then follows a domesticated pelican who becomes a sort of mascot for Mykonos, described as being “no ordinary pelican”, he is “liberated” and has “no interest in settling down”. It speaks volumes that Pathé decided to focus so much of their Mykonos travelogue on an estranged pelican bird! Were the cameramen a little reluctant to capture the real Mykonos?
Although this footage of Hydra and Delphi is mute it offers beautiful and colourful shots of an unspoilt Greece in the sunshine. Lots of healthy and glamorous holidaymakers and young couples sunbathe, swim in the sea and potter about the harbour’s edge. It’s quite romantic to think that this almost 50 years ago. It is most interesting too to study the holidaymakers’ faces, one can really sense the nature of their relationships with each other, and the conversations and arguments that are having, a time capsule of one sunny afternoon by a Greek harbour. There are good shots of the ancient Greek ruins at Delphi and some art students sketching them.
“The Greek islands hang like an enchanting necklace around the throat of Greece. One of the loveliest jewels in the necklace is Aegina.” Pathé follow couples taking donkey rides from the shore up into the hills. The travelogue also covers the island of Poros. The narrator tells us that there are 1,800 Greek island, with almost half of them unoccupied! We visit the National School of Fine Arts, and see a boy sketching holidaymakers in Hydra.
Thasos is described here as an “undiscovered Greek island bypassed by the holidaymaking throngs”. With some lovely traditional music the reel takes us on a tour of Greek villas in Thasos. The video discusses a “breeze of change” and the sense that tourism will change Thasos (which is ironic considering British Pathé have sent themselves out there to record everything!)
The British Pathé Crete travelogue kicks off with a couple waterskiing. There are fantastic shots of the cliffs and some seashore caves that remarkably double up as holiday accommodation (is this still the case today?). The narrator talks about forgotten civilisation and sunken ports, suggesting that the ancient Cretans travelled to England in the past which is why Stone Henge shows a few similarities. We see ancient Greek laws carved out in rock, including references to adultery and adoption, before seeing the ruins of Knossos where legend states the Minotaur used to live.
If you’ve actually got this far, then well done and thank you! In this clip we see more of the same really, but if you’re enjoying the retro fashions, holidaymakers of yesteryear and fabulous details – then go ahead and have a garner at Pathé’s video of Corfu in the 1960s!
“The seaside became the world’s most glamorous stage on which all who visited it could play whatever role they fancied for a brief space of time”
As the new season collections begin the rounds in New York, a recentVogue guide to pyjama dressing is a reminder that one of summer’s biggest trends is far from dead. Pyjama dressing, while sounding like something dreamed up on the pages of fashion magazines never to see the light of day, actually ties in with theChinoiserie trend and also the70s revival that was prevalent all over the catwalks and High Street last season. So much so that it has found favour everywhere fromHarpers Bazaar toRefinery 29 andFur Coat, No Knickers, whilean influential Style Bubble post sawAlfie’s Antiques Market swamped with requests for similar pyjama sets. Even Ryan Gosling and Rachel Roy have picked up the mantle. My own minor obsession unfortunately doesn’t reach the lofty heights of Marc Jacobs or Louis Vuitton but does feature three different pyjama sets from three different eras.
The main inspiration behind this trend is the beach wear of the 20s and 30s. According toSun, Sea and Sand: The Great British Seaside Holiday, beach pyjamas first surfaced in 1927, worn over swim suits by the smart set at the Riviera and then became a common sight throughout the 30s on the beaches of Britain. The Art Deco craze meant they often had geometric prints, and the Depression-era interest in creating synthetic fabrics ensured that the modish new beach suits could be made of silk but were more often made from crêpe de chine, éponge (early towelling) or jersey. Perfect examples of this chic beachwear are shown in this fashion show on the Thames from 1932 from British Pathé:
‘Father Thames’ Daughters’ from 1932 also found here
The newsreel clips at British Pathé are the perfect way to explore these inter-war fashions on the screen. As you will know if you’ve been followingThe Story of British Pathé, ‘Eve’s Film Review’ was a weekly cine-magazine series aimed at women that ran from 1921 to 1933 which often featured the latest fashions from around the globe. Due to losses during WWI, the majority of cinema attendees at the time were women, so the glamour and glitz of holiday retreats and styles were given ample exposure on the big screen before the main feature films began.
‘Nautical Naughties’ beach fashion show from 1933 also found here
By the end of the 1930s beach pyjamas were typical sights along the coast, as you can see in these stills from this ‘Why the Waves are Wild!’ clip (1939) – Click the still to watch this video
“The seaside holiday was a marvellous opportunity for dressing up, especially for the young. Holiday makers could leave behind their drab office suits or factory overalls and go to the sea looking like movie stars” – from Sun, Sea and Sand: The Great British Seaside Holiday
But flamboyance at the beach was nothing new. The beach has always been a site of fashionable spectacle since spa towns first gained popularity for their health-giving qualities in the 18th century. By the mid-Victorian period, a growth in the number of public holidays along with a rise in wages led to an explosion in the number of holiday makers and a trip to the coast became essential for maintaining a fashionable lifestyle. Promenading had such social significance that you could even say that the pier was the first catwalk. (You can see my favourite Victorian beach exaggerations fromPunch right here.)
The beach has long operated as a site of transgression. Throughout the 19th century the coast was a public arena for private leisure; leisure that maintained the appearance of fashionable life but often subverted the more rigid rules and customs that operated in urban centres. Social and class boundaries were reinvented in this more relaxed atmosphere, and as such jokes were rife about the itinerant ‘Lords’ you could meet who might turn out to have considerably less links to the nobility than was initially implied. The ambiance of coastal towns – reliant on glamour and fashion as selling points – ensured that a certain extravagance in dress was allowed at the beach that would have been condemned as tasteless in urban fashion centres, and the seaside promenade was the perfect platform upon which to perform one’s fashionability. Piers became increasingly important at resorts as architectural innovations and centres of pleasure and fashion, and were regularly used to parade the season’s finest attire across the water.
An air of danger co-existed alongside the glamour and fashion. The theme of many popular music hall songs hinted at the physical pleasures that could be found at the beach and the voyeuristic nature of the seaside space. Marie Lloyd is the perfect example of this, a late-Victorian and early Edwardian music hall star who was well renowned for her risqué themes, many of which focussed on the temptations of the beach. You can listen to Marie Lloyd singing her risqué number When I Take My Morning Promenade from 1908here, which features such suggestive lyrics as: When I take my morning promenade/Quite a fashion card, on the promenade/Oh! I don’t mind nice boys staring hard/If it satisfies their desire… (you can read the resthere).
Beach holidays grew ever more popular throughout the 1920s due to the aspirational Riviera culture that was growing in popularity, as advocated by Coco Chanel and the smart set she partied with. The ballet ‘Le Train bleu’ – staged by the Ballets Russes in 1924 – gently mocks the superficiality of this leisured life, and also happens to read like a ‘who’s who’ of Modernism: it was masterminded by Diaghilev, written by Jean Cocteau, costumed by Chanel and featured a stage curtain painted by Picasso. The ‘blue train’ was the colloquial term for the train that rushed rich English tourists to the Côte d’Azur for the season, and Cocteau’s idea was to recreate a series of living picture postcards, so contemporary crazes like sunbathing and snapshots mixed with gymnastics and Cubist-inspired sets to provide a perfectly stylized look at 1920s beach life (you can see pictureshere). But the exclusive and artistic milieu of the Riviera wasn’t within reach of everyone, and so Billy Butlin brought his unique vision of luxury on a budget to the nation in the 1930s with the idea of replicating film star holidays as depicted in fan magazines: the holiday camp was born.
While 1920s and 30s beachward bound leisure-seekers were aspiring to seasons by the Riviera, fads for keeping fit and sunbathing also attracted visitors to the coast. The keep-fit craze in the UK and Germany was featured in BBC4’s series The Story of British Pathé; growing from late-Victorian interests in cycling and walking it had blossomed into more robust athletic prowess by the 1920s. Hollywood stars were often photographed exercising and fan magazines were full of tips on how to work out just like your favourite star. Sunbathing was an entirely new phenomenon in the 20s. Previously the association of tanned skin with agricultural and other outdoor work led to aristocratic woman in courts across Europe striving for a lily white pallor (a glance atElizabethan lead poisoning shows how dangerous this obsession could be). But, according to fashion legend, an accidental tan acquired by Coco Chanel as she was yachting sparked a trend that has continued through to the heady orange heights of TOWIE and Geordie Shore today.
Below: An amusing idea for decorating that beautiful bare brown back” – sun bathing tips from “Why the Waves are Wild!” from 1939:
The transgressive nature of the seaside ensured it was easier to make outlandish fashion choices that might have been less acceptable back at home. The beach pyjama trend of the 20s and 30s is notable as it allowed women to wear bifurcated clothing at a time when the idea of women in trousers was still fairly shocking. Until the Land Girls of WWII made it a more common site, bifurcated clothing for women remained somewhat taboo; admissible only within the confines of the domestic sphere (lounging pyjamas) or at the liminal site of the beach. Initially associated with eccentric clothing revolutionaries like Amelia Bloomer or the Rational Dress Movement in the 19th century, women in trousers in the early 20th century were linked with all sorts of daring activities from tantalising beach holidays to smoking. Before the beach pyjama fad really gained ground in the 1930s, many 20s pyjama suits were advertised for smoking as you can see below. This serves to connect bifurcation with modernity, as although theNew Woman of the 1890s was partial to the odd cigarette, smoking for women only become acceptable (if still somewhat daring) for the Flapper of the 1920s.
And so ends our seaside odyssey. But if your thirst still isn’t quenched, you can see lounging pyjamas disrobed to reveal a swimsuit inthis Pathé clip from 1930, and more poolside fashions from British Pathéhere from 1932, a clip which also features the wonderfully androgynousHouston Sisters. Susie Bubble featured the inspirational blogLa Mode Pyjama as well as some of thepyjama posts onPainted Woman, and you can see more pictures of beach pyjamas at the Painted Womanhere andhere. But in case you were wondering, the 1930s certainly didn’t signal the end for pyjama suits. They were revived throughout the 1960s and 70s and it was these reinterpretations of 20s and 30s trends that theMarc Jacobs S/S 2011 collection referenced. As ever, the fashion cycles keep spinning.
1960s and 70s: Jane Birkin in Ossie Clark; Bill Blass from Fashion by Jane Dorner; Biba jumpsuit.
Below: Marc Jacobs S/S 2011; for more information you can read more in my previous post on the 70s trend.
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…
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.
Today is Guy Fawkes day and so we had a dig in the archive for some footage of yesteryear’s heretic-honed celebrations. British Pathé have so much brilliant archive footage of Guy Fawkes celebrations, bonfire parties and fireworks displays. Some of the best are from the 1940s, when explosives and large fires had a much deeper cultural significance to war-torn Britain and the escapism of a festivity and pyromania was a much needed indulgement.
“We feared that after all the raids people would never want to hear another explosion, but the reverse seems to be the case!” Wonderful footage of girls busy making fireworks in a factory. It’s the first peace time November 5th, great shot of kids pressing their faces against the windows of a fireworks shop. Pathe stage a bizarre drama between a boy and girl but the footage is very sweet.
“London’s east end mirrors the world’s mood on Guy Fawkes day, rearmament programs continue behind an iron curtain of secrecy, but it’s left to the backyard scientists to ensure the biggest bang of the year”. Fantastic clip of London boys making their own explosives. The boys make an Adolf Hitler guy!
A Manchester cinema offer a large box of fireworks for the best Guy. The competition is judged by local heartthrob, former Butlins redcoat and pop singer Russ Hamilton, who later moved to Nashville, Tennessee and was signed up with MGM Records.
“In Devon they encourage youngsters to play with fire” – The video shows Devon locals running down the street with barrels stuffed with burning straw, a local tradition apparently. One boy get injured and the canister notes explain: he is covered in black soot and has nasty burns on his face, looks to be in pain. Narrator makes inappropriately light-hearted comment about man’s injury; “he’ll be back in the running next year”.
And then for more Guy Fawkes videos check this general collection. There are videos from celebrations in London around Big Ben, and at UCL, as well as mad little places up and down the country like Shere in Surrey:
Despite the dangerous endeavours of the daring boys in this footage we would like to ask all of our readers to enjoy Guy Fawkes celebrations in a responsible manner, to keep at a safe distance from fire and DO NOT attempt to make your own fireworks or explosives. Thank You.
Amy Johnson was a much- fêted and courageous English aviatrix. Back in the 1930s she set many ground breaking records, including being the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia. A heroine of her day, the Pathé cameras would often be waiting for Amy to commend and report on her achievements.
In 1933, during a flight from South Wales to the USA, Amy and her aviator husband, Jim Mollison, crash landed in Connecticut and according to our Pathé notes it was “after Husband ignored Wife’s advice to stop and refuel”. One would have thought this would have been significant advice and urgently acted upon in a 1930s aeroplane!
You can watch an interview with the couple after their crash landing. The pair are wheeled out in bath chairs to talk to the press. Jim, with a cigarette in his hand, resembles someone who has been in a considerable brawl. He calmly states, “we didn’t arrive in quite the way we anticipated”. One can only imagine what a wife would be saying to her husband after such an event….perhaps along the lines of ‘I did tell you we needed fuel”.
The extent of both Amy and Jim’s celebrated status at the time can be seen in this film where 200,000 New Yorkers turned out for an extraordinary ticker tape parade in their honour. If it wasn’t for the enormous bandage taped to Jim’s head, the parade could be mistaken for a Presidential inauguration party.
The last film we have of Amy is from 1939 when she swapped her aeroplane for a fast car and took part in the Monte Carlo car rally. Amy died on a short flight in 1941 when her plane came down miles off course in the Thames Estuary. She was just 38 years old. Many conspiracy theories and rumours surrounded her death at the time and even to this day there is still not a clear explanation as to what happened. For such an accomplished woman whose decorated career and movements were filmed by Pathé, it does seem strange we have no film in the archive mentioning the tragedy that befell her. However, at least we only have positive reminders of this British star.