The Closing of Alcatraz

On 21st March it will have been 50 years since that well-known prison, immortalised in numerous films and television shows, shut its doors in 1963. British Pathé covered the news in the film “Everybody Out!” which claims to reveal the interior of Alcatraz “for the first and last time” – though this seems to be an exaggeration since the interior features in earlier Pathé clips as well! In the minute-long clip, we see the last remaining convicts moved to other prisons (view the newsreel here). A film from the year before, “Alcatraz Replaced“, announces the decision to close the prison and also shows its replacement, called “Marion”, under construction.

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As the films explain, Alcatraz was originally an army fort. It was therefore an ideal location for an “escape-proof prison for America’s worst criminals”. It closed due to lack of space for the rising US prison population.

But “escape-proof” wasn’t an entirely accurate description for the prison. Break-out attempts at Alcatraz were numerous (14 in total during the island’s 30 year history as a state penitentiary) and three of them feature in films within the British Pathé archive. The first escape film seemingly dates from 1938, though it describes events of the year before, and warns the American public to be on the lookout for inmates Ralph Row and Ted Cole, who apparently succeeded in breaking out, though it is now presumed that they perished in the attempt.

Stretcher carrying covered body of Bernard Paul Coy, who started the revolt of 1946.
Stretcher carrying covered body of Bernard Paul Coy, who started the revolt of 1946.

The second film, from 1946, covers a dramatic gun battle between prison guards, marines and the prisoners. Some of the grenade explosions are caught on camera by newsreel staff eager to ignore the danger for the sake of some close-ups. The 44-hour battle left two guards and three convicts dead. Two other inmates were later executed.

The final film, “Daring Escape” (1962), features an image of a lifelike dummy in one of the prison beds used by the escapees to fool the guards. The fugitives were never caught, if indeed they survived the attempt. The events might be familiar, because they formed the basis of the 1972 Clint Eastwood film, Escape From Alcatraz.

Today, Alcatraz is a museum which, given its history, must be worth a visit if you are ever in San Francisco.

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View British Pathé’s Alcatraz collection here.

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On this day… This week round-up

70 years ago, the submarine HMS Thunderbolt sank for the second time, with the loss of everyone aboard. It had sunk four years previously, raised, and renamed. British Pathé has footage of HMS Thunderbolt, its launch at Birkenhead, and the original sinking off North Wales. Click here to view the collection.

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HMS Thunderbolt.

Cheltenham Gold Cup  (15 March)

Tomorrow, the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup will take place. British Pathé has footage of the very first Gold Cup jump race, in 1924. Watch the film here.

Six Nations: England v Wales  (16 March)

On Saturday, England will play Wales in a deciding game. England’s 1924 Grand Slam can be viewed here.

Marshal Tito visits London  (16 March)

60 years ago, the leader of Yugoslavia came to Britain and met the Prime Minister in London and toured Cambridge. British Pathé newsreels covered the state visit. You can view them here.

50 years since the death of Sir William Beveridge  (16 March)

British Pathé conducted interviews with Sir William on his welfare report and covered his wedding in 1942. Click here to view the films. He died on 16th March 1963.

In other news…

Nick Compton

Nick Compton recently made his England Test cricket debut (November 2012) and is currently touring with the team in New Zealand. Nick is the grandson of cricketer and footballer Denis Compton, who features heavily in the British Pathé archive. A selection can be found here.

Past Popes

The British Pathé archive has a great deal of footage for the Twentieth Century popes from 1922 until 1972. A selection for each can be found via these links:

Benedict XV – died 1922

Pius XI British Pathé filmed the election of Benedict XV’s successor, who served from 1922 until his own death in 1939.

Pius XII – Pope from 1939 until 1958.

John XXIII – Pope from 1958 until 1963.

Paul VI Pope from 1963 until 1978.

www.britishpathe.com

60 years since the death of Stalin

Today marks two notable anniversaries for which the British Pathé archive has some relevant footage. Most importantly, Joseph Stalin died 60 years ago, on 5th March 1953. Stalin, the former leader of the USSR, has gone down in history as one of the most controlling and murderous dictators the world has ever seen. His regime of fear caused the suffering of many of his own people – some estimates put deaths at 20-30 million. We included him in our recent gallery, 10 Faces of Evil, along with Adolf Hitler and other notorious criminals.

But Stalin is not universally derided. Although Russia itself has since acknowledged the awful crimes of his decades in power (indeed, see Khrushchev denouncing Stalin in 1956), there has been news coverage today concerning the opposing views about him in Georgia, where he was born in 1878. Some there revile him, but others proclaim him a “local hero”. The BBC News report can be read here.

British Pathé holds a great many films related to Stalin, but also newsreels announcing his death and footage revealing the reactions in Hungary and Czechoslovakia to their leader’s passing. You can find the relevant collection of films via this link.

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The second notable anniversary concerns a great feat of British engineering. 70 years ago, the Gloster Meteor flew for the first time in the UK. Footage of the plane in flight from the 1940s on can be found in the British Pathé archive. Click here to explore.

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For British Pathé’s collection of newsreels on the death of Stalin, click here.

For British Pathé footage of Gloster Meteors, click here.

80 years since the Reichstag Fire

On 27th Feb 1933, Berlin’s Reichstag building was destroyed. A newsreel covers the aftermath and there is footage of the ruined building. Click here to see the collection, or click the stills below for the individual films.

The fire meant more than damage to an impressive structure – it was an immensely important event in the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany. Adolf Hitler was able to use the event to obtain emergency powers, which he used to suppress opposition to Nazi rule. By the end of March, Hitler was a dictator and Germany’s struggling democracy was finally dead.

The gutted interior. Click the still to view the film.
The gutted interior. Click the still to view the film.
"Berlin. Martial law in Germany, follows burning of the Reichstag on eve of fateful General Election." Click the still to view the newsreel.
“Berlin. Martial law in Germany, follows burning of the Reichstag on eve of fateful General Election.” Click the still to view the newsreel.
A French Pathé News film compares the interior of the building before and after the fire. Click the still to view the contemporary newsreel.
A French Pathé News film compares the interior of the building before and after the fire. Click the still to view the contemporary newsreel.

For British Pathé’s collection of films on the Reichstag fire, click here.

Scott of the Antarctic

On Sunday, 10th February 2013, it will have been 100 years since Robert Falcon Scott and his colleagues Henry Bowers and Edward Wilson were discovered dead in their tent in the Antarctic, having failed to reach the South Pole nearly a year before. There’s some really interesting footage in the archive of Scott and the expedition, but much of it is contained within longer retrospectives. Here’s a brief summary of the material to help you locate it:

Film of the Terra Nova, the ship which took Scott to the Antarctic and returned without him, was some of the earliest footage that British Pathé released in cinemas. There is a clip of the ship leaving for the Antarctic in 1910 and one of it returning to Cardiff in 1913.

The Terra Nova
The Terra Nova

The classic series Time To Remember, produced by British Pathé in the late 1950s and early 1960s, contains some additional footage that can’t be found elsewhere in the archive. The material appears at the end of Reel 1 and the beginning of Reel 2. You can view the relevant portions of those reels here. Included is a nice close up of Scott himself and some remarkable film of the expedition.

Robert Falcon Scott in footage contained within an episode of Time To Remember.
Robert Falcon Scott in footage contained within an episode of Time To Remember.

“Here’s to the Memory” also has footage apparently filmed in the Antarctic. It features the men huddled on the ground for dinner and trekking through the barren landscape towards their goal. It appears towards the beginning of this section of the documentary.

Scott's Antarctic Expedition
Scott’s Antarctic Expedition
Having dinner.
Having dinner.

The expedition material was shot by Herbert Ponting, who accompanied Scott to the Antarctic with his camera. He survived and later produced the 1924 documentary, The Great White Silence.

www.britishpathe.com

British Pathé Picks: 14th – 31st January 2013

Here’s our selection of British Pathé footage that relates to anniversaries coming up in the next two weeks. Click the links below to take a look! You can also keep up to date with aniversaries by following our dedicated Pinterest board.

Churchill and Roosevelt at Casablanca 

(14 January)

70 years ago, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt met at Casablanca to discuss the war effort. A 1943 newsreel covers the event. View it here.

Churchill and Roosevelt. Click the still to view the film.
Churchill and Roosevelt. Click the still to view the film.

David Lloyd George Born  

(17 January)

It will have been 150 years since the birth of David Lloyd George on 17th January 1863. Lloyd George, Prime Minister during the First World War, features in a great many British Pathé newsreels. Explore them here.

Lloyd George in 1922.
Lloyd George in 1922.

Danny Kaye  

(18 January)

Another birthday for January is that of American comedian Danny Kaye, born 100 years ago on 18th January 1913. There is some excellent footage of Kaye in the archive, particularly of his 1948 Royal Command Performance act and rehearsals. Watch them here.

Danny Kaye rehearses for a performance.
Danny Kaye rehearses for a performance.

85 years since the death of Earl Haig

(29 January)

Footage of the First World War general and of his funeral can be found here.

Funeral procession for Douglas Haig.
Funeral procession for Douglas Haig.

British Membership of the EU  

(29 January)

50 years ago, Charles de Gaulle famously said “non” to Britain’s membership of the European Economic Community. Click here to view the 1963 newsreel.

Topical! The US declared last week that they wanted Britain at the heart of the EU.
Topical! The US declared last week that they wanted Britain at the heart of the EU.

Hitler Becomes Chancellor  

(30 January)

80th Anniversary: On 30th January 1933, von Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany. The newsreel, “Hitler Assumes Bismarck’s Mantle”, can be viewed here.

Hitler celebrates his victory.
Hitler celebrates his victory.

In other news

Spitfires in Burma

Excavations in Burma may have unearthed spitfires that have been buried there. British Pathé has a wealth of footage related to spitfires, just a selection of which can be seen here.

www.britishpathe.com

British Pathé Picks: Early Jan 2013

Twice a month we blog about footage in the archive relevant to upcoming events or important anniversaries. There are always plenty, so we can only present a selection and you can search the archive for more at www.britishpathe.com

Here are our picks for the next two weeks:

Hillary reaches South Pole  

(4 January)

55 years ago, Edmund Hillary reached the South Pole over land, the first to do so since Captain Scott. View the 1958 newsreel here.

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Richard Nixon Born

(9 January)

It will have been 100 years since the birth of Richard Nixon on 9th January 1913. The American President, who was disgraced by the Watergate scandal, features in a great many British Pathé newsreels. Explore them here.

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Heart of Thomas Hardy Buried  

(11 January)

85 years ago, the great writer Thomas Hardy died and his heart was buried separately from his body. British Pathé has footage of the burial of the heart in Dorset in 1928. Click here to view the newsreel.

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Flying Scotsman retired  

(14 January)

50th Anniversary: On 14th January 1963, the Flying Scotsman made its last run. A collection of clips on that famous train can be found here.

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And, of course…

150th Anniversary of London Underground

We’ll be publishing a blog post all about this shortly, but we can’t miss it off this list of important anniversaries! British Pathé celebrates 150 years of the Tube with a collection of clips featuring construction footage dating from 1922. You can also see the tunnels used as air raid shelters during the Second World War, extensions of the lines in the late 1940s, and the work of cleaners and technicians after-hours. The innovations of the 1950s also get a look-in, while there is extensive coverage of the building of the Victoria Line, as well as its opening by the Queen. Click here to explore the collection.

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Check back in two weeks for our next installment. In the meantime, you can visit www.britishpathe.com for more vintage films.