55 years ago, from 29th August – early September, the streets of London witnessed what Pathé News at the time rightly labelled a “shameful episode”. More than three hundred people suddenly attacked West Indian immigrants living on Bramley Road in Notting Hill, London.
British Pathé produced a short newsreel on the attacks. The film has a very different tone to the sort of news broadcasts one would see on television today, at least in Britain. It is an angry denunciation of the riots, containing a particularly powerful commentary which is worth repeating in full:
Something new and ugly raises its head in Britain. In Notting Hill Gate, only a mile or two from London’s West End – racial violence. An angry crowd of youths chases a negro into a green grocer shop while police reinforcements are called up to check the riot, one of many that have broken out here in a few days. The injured victim, a Jamaican, is taken to safety. But the police have not been able to reach all the trouble spots so promptly and the quietest street may flare up at any moment. The most disturbing feature of the riots is the suspicion that not all the troublemakers are locals, for some of the gangs who break windows or throw bottles or burning torches have arrived by car. Opinions differ about Britain’s racial problems. But the mentality which tries to solve them with coshes and broken railings hasno place in the British way of life. This violence is evil and the law and public opinion must stamp it out.
There’s an interesting film in the archive concerning the production of television commercials by Associated British-Pathé (as the company was known from 1933 to 1958). It is introduced by McDonald Hobley, better known for his work with the BBC, who takes the audience – in this case, prospective clients – on a tour of Pathé’s Wardour Street studio, the newsreel archive, and the history of the company. This presentation, entitled Introducing Ourselves, was intended to show advertisers the good work that Pathé could do on television commercials, a new media they had begun to exploit only eighteen months previously (circa 1954).
As Hobley’s presentation reveals, Pathé produced about two hundred commercials a year and some of them are included in the film as a showreel. Hobley tries to limit expectations of the selection, not terribly convincingly, by describing the choice as “random…Not necessarily the best that we have produced, but we have tried to limit our selection to those which offer the types of production which we feel will appeal to you – the advertisers – in this area.”
Some of the ads are really quite entertaining and worth a watch, if you can stomach twenty-five minutes of what we’re now used to just fast-forwarding through. The showreel begins with Dunlop Tubeless Tyres, then moves on to: Max Factor’s Top Secret hair spray, Dunkies doughnuts, Guards Trousers, Amami Wave Set, Hiltone, Mum antiperspirant, Brylcreem, Disprin, Twinings Teas, Maxwell House coffee, Black & Decker tools, another Maxwell House ad, Burtons trousers, Hi Fi Lipstick from Max Factor, Mac Fisheries, Blackstone Opticians, Electrolux vacuum, Fred Fearnley Ltd. Scooters and Motorcycles, Scentinel Quiff air freshener, D.D.D., Dinneford’s, Setlers, Fray Bentos, an ad for bread, Bristow’s Hair Tonic, Tide detergent, Wm Younger’s Beer, another Fray Bentos commercial, Heinz, Brylcreem again, Peter Robinson, another for Dunlop, Huntley and Palmers, M & B Bitter, Tide, and Esso Extra.
What’s somewhat odd is that there appears to be some additional later footage tacked onto the end of the presentation. This dates from the 1970s, and must have been added to the film when the archive was under EMI ownership. These are a trailer for Love Story, starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal and a “rather fab” Chrysler Sunbeam ad from 1978.
Introducing Ourselves is valuable for its enticing glimpse behind the scenes of Pathé in the 1950s, the way in which the newsreel archive has by then already been deemed of historical significance worthy of preservation, and for including the only – at least in our collection – examples of Pathé’s commercial work, often forgotten due to the organisation’s usual focus on cinema news and theatrical films.
Watch Hobley’s introduction and behind-the-scenes footage in Part Onehere.
Watch the various commercials in Part Two of the presentation here.
2012 has been an ego-boosting year for the British. With the success of the Diamond Jubilee, the Summer Olympics and the Paralympics, it wouldn’t be a bad year to go out on (and we will have to if the predictions of our impending doom become a reality on 21st December). With the aim of blowing our own trumpets a little more, we searched the archive for footage of good British inventions. Unfortunately, there were also many dodgy ones in there too. So, in the interest of balance, we thought we’d share both the good and the not-so-good contraptions created by Brits during the Twentieth Century that footage exists of in the British Pathé archive.
Our collection of good British inventions includes not only the famous ones, but also inventions by members of the public that seem to serve some practical purpose. Here are some highlights. We’re mainly limiting ourselves to technological creations, rather than things like particular sports or habits. In each case, you can click on the still to be taken to some vintage footage of that invention, or you can search the catch-all collection we’ve created here.
In a similar category as the early mobile phone above is this film of what seems to be a 1920s Walkman that we recently posted on our YouTube channel. We’ve embedded it below.
But now onto the bona fide British inventions in the archive that came after the quirky (but impressive) attempts above, the first dating from the mid-1920s:
And now to the disheartening other ones. Contrast the inventions above (even the 1920s Walkman and mobile phone) with these eccentric and/or useless creations. Click the stills to watch the film that they’re taken from or search our collection of dodgy inventions here.
In 1933, British International Pictures purchased the Pathé newsreel and feature film brand from Warner Brothers-First National. Associated British-Pathé was born, under the umbrella of the Associated British Picture Corporation, and soon the Pathé brand was enjoying something of a golden age in the United Kingdom.
In the 1930s, the newsreel staff became increasingly ambitious, providing audiences not only with quantity (one only needs to see News In a Nutshell to know that audiences were enjoying this regular dose of news enough to warrant 340 episodes of it), but also with variety. Would You Believe It?, for instance, is a little-known gem assorting footage of various unusual things from around the world, such as oddly-named streets, strange animals, and bizarre technological breakthroughs. At the same time, Feminine Pictorialities continued the company’s trend of providing for all audiences that had begun with Eve’s Film Review in the 1920s. This “special selection for the ladies” covered bathing and hat fashions, hairstyles, and women’s sport.
Following the war, despite having been completely separate companies for two decades, the newsreel companies Associated British-Pathé (UK), Pathé Journal (France), and Pathé News Inc (USA) began a unique partnership. In a move celebrated by President Truman, these organisations began sharing footage and cameramen in order to enable news to be more easily distributed worldwide. Pathé Gazette also rebranded itself – from 1946 until 1970, it would be known simply as Pathé News. One of the major stories from this period was the Korean War, that sometimes criminally-forgotten conflict that claimed an estimated 2.5 million lives.
Associated British-Pathé was also busy producing feature films and commercials, and even expanding into the television market. One such production was Film Fanfare, a charming 1950s film magazine show that presented viewers with footage from recent glamorous premieres as well as featuring in-studio interviews, quizzes, and reviews of what are now classic motion pictures. However, the most impressive example of the television work done was the company’s involvement in Peter Baylis’s Time To Remember. This epic series touched on all aspects of life in the first half of the Twentieth Century, using the original newsreel footage, and was narrated by celebrated actors, including Sir Michael Redgrave and Sir Ralph Richardson. Its charm was such that in 2010, the BBC re-edited and re-broadcast the series for a modern-day audience, retaining much of the original commentary.
But television posed more of a threat than an opportunity for the company, especially for the newsreel staff. They could release the Queen’s coronationin glorious colour, and even film it in 3D(!), but it was not a live broadcast like that of the BBC coverage. Viewers were increasingly not willing to wait. The newsreel format was also beginning to look tired, with outdated patriotism at odds with the postcolonial attitudes of the British public (particularly during the Suez Crisis). By the end of the 1950s, Pathé News was already struggling to compete. The 1960s would witness a shift in the nature of the company’s output as it tried to survive.
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.
Who knew there used to be cinema carriages on trains? Or “saloons” as they were called…
Today we came across this exciting poster on the National Archives’ Flickr stream which reads – “There is a Comfortable & Luxurious Cinema Attached to this Train” – “Special Programme Compiled Exclusively For This Train by PATHE GAZETTE”, Commencing Monday, May 16th, 1938.
The poster is for an LNER train, which is the London North Eastern Railway service, so trains going from Kings Cross to places like Edinburgh. We can just picture the classy and demure travellers as they relaxed in the “Pathé L.N.E.R. Saloon”, the countryside silently sliding past them as they tucked into a feast of the latest British Pathé reels.
The films shown on the train were actually issued only 7 days before the scheduled event, so it was pretty hot off the press. It’s interesting to see that Ireland is quite well covered, and also that boxing appears to be the most highly-sought sport.
The train’s cinema carriage wasn’t free – it cost 1 shilling – so it would have been a bit of a treat, but think about it – people didn’t have televisions in the 1930s and they had to go to a cinema house to see moving footage. We love that the poster tells customers that the Pathé saloon is non-inflammable too! Of course earlier newsreels were made out of nitrate, and almost everybody smoked, so you can understand the concern.
ANYWAY. We were delighted to see that the poster then lists each reel that would feature in the screening. Using the date as a guide and searching the titles in the British Pathé film archive we’ve managed to find 32 out of 34 of the items on the trains bill, and we’ve put online links to each below so that you can pick and view the ones that interest you, or perhaps even re-live the experience and watch them all!
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