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.
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.
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.
Barack Obama took the oath of office for his second term as President of the United States yesterday in Washington D.C. His speech at the event emphasised the need to engage peacefully with the rest of the world and for the American people to unite in solving the problems of today. The issues highlighted were gender inequality, the gap between rich and poor, healthcare, global warming and immigration. One topic the newspapers have been focussing on, though, is gay rights, for Obama became the first president in history to touch on the issue in an inaugural address (Obama listed Stonewall alongside Seneca Falls and Selma). The full speech, courtesy of The New York Times’ YouTube channel, can be viewed below:
The British Pathé archive contains coverage of a great many previous inaugurations, not only of American Presidents, but of those from other countries as well. For the United States, the earliest appears to be of William G. Harding in 1921 and the most recent to be of President Nixon in 1969. The inaugurations in between can be viewed via this link.
View British Pathé’s collection of US Presidential Inaugurations here.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Check back in two weeks for our next installment. In the meantime, you can visit www.britishpathe.com for more vintage films.
From 1922 to 1969, British Pathé produced lengthy round-ups of the year’s news stories that collected together the most dramatic images and covered the most important events. Not confined to British politics, these reviews act as a whirlwind tour of the world at the time in which they were made, chronicling everything from war to royal christenings, technological innovations to key sports matches as they go. You can view the entire “Review of the Year” collection here or choose from the list at the bottom of this page.
Now, in that tradition, we take a look at the last 12 months in a review of 2012. Here are some highlights (one for each month) of this tremendous year for which the British Pathé archive holds some relevant footage:
Our review of 2012 begins with something that happened many years before, for January marked an important anniversary. 90 years ago, on 3rd January 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Egyptian pharoah Tutankhamun. British Pathé has footage of Carter outside his discovery, as well as coverage of the treasures found within. Click here to explore the collection.
It feels just like yesterday but it was in fact back in February that we all came out in celebration for the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. There was a royal river pageant (a gallery of previous royal barges can be found here), a concert, a Royal Tour of the country, and street parties across the nation.
British Pathé’s celebration of the life of Elizabeth II can be found here. Beginning with the Queen as a young girl with her grandmother, it features her marriage, her coronation, the royal tours, select royal visits within Britain, and the home life of the Royal Family. The collection concludes with footage of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.
In March, the economic situation in the UK looked no better. Unemployment reached its highest figure (2.67 million) since 1995, though it was still not as high as in 1984. The ups and downs of unemployment can be traced via newsreels in the British Pathé archive. Click here to explore.
The Cutty Sark re-opened to visitors after a dreadful fire. But in April we also commemorated the 100th anniversary of the loss of Titanic. The British Pathé archive contains not only footage of the legendary liner herself, but also of her great sister ships Olympic and Britannic, both of which had accidents of their own. You can explore our centenary collection or read about the footage in the blog post, Titanic and the Other Two.
Yet another important anniversary, this time of Amelia Earhart’s crossing of the Atlantic 80 years prior. Interestingly, an expedition was launched in 2012 in an attempt to discover her remains. We wrote a blog post about it that included links to various clips featuring that amazing personality.
On 14th June 1982, the Falkland’s War came to an end, with Britain having reclaimed sovereignty over the islands following an Argentine invasion. June 2012, therefore, marked 30 years since the conclusion of the conflict. We wrote about it in our blog post When the Falklands Were Forgotten, and you can view relevant footage in this collection.
One cannot think of 2012 without thinking of the Olympics. British Pathé has footage of many Olympic Games, including the two other London years, 1908 and 1948. We also digitised 300 Olympics clips, making them available on the website for the very first time. You can read about them here.
One of the highlights of 2012 was the Paralympic Games, which began at the end of August and were also held in London. The Paralympics started life in the British village of Stoke Mandeville and the Ninth Annual International Stoke Mandeville Games (1960) are now known as the first Summer Paralympics. British Pathé’s collection of material on the Stoke Mandeville Games can be viewed here.
Barack Obama accepted the nomination of the Democrats to run for re-election. He went on to win the 2012 Presidential Election and became the only Democrat to have won the popular vote twice since Franklin Roosevelt. You can see some clips from Roosevelt’s three presidential election wins here.
A YouTube sensation! Felix Baumgartner broke the sound barrier, leaping from a balloon 24 miles above the ground.
It was the Queen and Prince Philip’s 65th (blue sapphire) Wedding Anniversary in November, as well as the 20th anniversary of the Windsor Castle fire in what was the Queen’s “annus horribilis“. You can watch footage of the fire and A Day That Shook The World episodes on the British Royal Family in Crisis and the separation of Charles and Diana, or view the the announcement of the Queen’s engagement and the coverage of her wedding.
In the final month of 2012, the world received the news that Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince William were expecting their first child. We took a guess at possible baby names in this gallery. You can also vote in our poll here.
Have we missed something important for which the British Pathé archive has relevant material? Leave us a comment. You can also search our Ten Most Popular Clips of 2012 and visit our tumblr and Pinterest pages which were launched this year.
We hope you enjoyed 2012 as much as we did. Here’s to 2013!
There’s plenty in the British Pathé archive for those not so interested in history and British politics. For those more intrigued by science and technology, British inventions both good and bad got a great deal of coverage from the Pathé cinemagazines. More specifically, there are some fascinating clips concerning underwater exploration to be found within the Pathé collection as well as some more general underwater footage. Here are some highlights from our Underwater Adventures.
This is just a small selection of the types of clips on offer within the archive. More footage of undersea technology, wreck dives, marine biology and archaeology, and a great deal of fun can be found on our website.
Visit British Pathé’s collection of Underwater Adventures by clicking here.
22nd November marks forty years since the first B52 bomber was shot down in the Vietnam War in 1972. Although we have no coverage of that particular incident, the anniversary has prompted us to search our archive and to take a look at our other footage of that controversial conflict. Here we present a brief summary.
The war was indeed divisive, as these images reveal. They are from the 1968 Vietnam War demonstrations held in Trafalgar Square, London. The clips can be found in this collection: Vietnam demonstrations British Pathé and the BBC also produced a brief summary of the demonstrations for our A Day That Shook The World series. The episode can be viewed here.
As well as the political situation in London, the British Pathé archive also holds combat footage, filmed with the American troops. This material is often forgotten, lost among the overwhelming amount of first and second world war coverage within the archive. Much the same can be said of our Korean War holdings (outlined here).
The footage is wide-ranging. Included are political discussions and conferences, such as those held in the United Nations, between the different parties; the preparations for battle and the troops in their camps; Bob Hope entertaining the US soldiers; troops on patrol; bombs dropped and rockets being fired; Australian soldiers returning home; and general coverage of Vietnam, such as women working in a field and life in Hanoi.
Possibly also of interest are the A Day That Shook The World episode chronicling the French surrender at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and this broader Vietnam collection. More can be found simply by searching the website (a simple search for “Vietnam” reveals 321 clips!)
A somewhat random selection of stills from the footage provides a taste of what the archive has to offer:
These clips serve as a reminder of that terrible waste of human life – the Vietnam War, 1955-1975.
You can view a selection of British Pathé’s Vietnam combat footage by clicking here or you can explore our broader Vietnam collection.