The Story of British Pathé (2011) s01e01 Episode Script

The Birth of the News

1 100 years ago, a new kind of film burst onto British cinema screens.
This sensational creation was the newsreel.
Its inventors, a company called Pathé.
They were groundbreakers.
They were there first.
For seven decades, British Pathé told our national story.
Its films recorded everything from the pomp and pageantry of state occasions to gritty social-issue stories.
From exotic foreign travelogues to the bizarre byways of British life.
The cameramen who captured these images were a new breed, image-making buccaneers who would let nothing stand in the way of a good story.
Bribery, espionage, outright larceny -- they would do things that the worst tabloid journalists today do not dare to do.
In an age of dizzying change, British Pathé crammed action and entertainment into brilliantly-packaged bulletins.
With an unshakeable belief in itself and its audience, this was a company which helped define how a whole nation imagined itself.
Da, da, da! It was important -- "Take note, this is it, this is us.
" 'The rooster is the oldest trademark in films.
'He stands for experience and know-how in filmmaking.
' Think British Pathé, and you think the crowing cockerel.
The company's mascot gives a clue to its origins -- not in Britain, but in France.
Pathé started out as two brothers, Charles and Theophile, whose business began in fairgrounds, marketing phonographs.
Then they branched out from sound recordings to film in 1896, and from the early 1900s started to build up production, distribution, exhibition, to become the world's largest film company.
Amongst the earliest of Pathé's audience-grabbing innovations was a new format -- the newsreel.
What you had before were individual topical stories, what they called in the day actualites.
When you had the newsreel, it was something which was regular, and you had a succession of these short stories within an eight-minute timeframe.
And that gives us what we know, actually, as the news bulletin today.
In 1910, Charles Pathé arrived in London to open new premises on Wardour Street in Soho.
This would be the nerve centre of a British newsreel operation.
Pathé began to recruit talent, gathering together a small band of intrepid young cameramen.
My grandad, Frank Augustus Bassill, was one of the founding cameramen, cinematographers of Pathé News.
He actually started as a projectionist, in a cinema where sometimes courting couples got under the platform where the screen was and courted so energetically that they would knock the screen over, and my grandfather would have to run out of the projection room and stand it up again and continue with the showing.
This was in the days when cinema audiences were sprayed with eau de Cologne to make sure everybody smelled nice.
It was not too big a leap into actually taking moving pictures himself, with very ancient, very, very heavy, very, very cumbersome tripod cameras, of course.
My grandfather was in at the ground floor, and he stayed with Pathé News until the late 1940s.
The first Pathé newsreel appeared in British cinemas in June 1910.
Although the original edition hasn't survived, early stories included a suffragette demonstration in London and the first flight to take a passenger across the Channel.
In an age when even the newspapers contained very few images, Pathé's animated gazette was a sensation.
Just a few months after the first newsreel, Pathé's cameras were on the scene of one of the earliest terrorist incidents of the 20th century.
In December 1910, a gang of Latvian revolutionaries attempted to rob a jewellery shop round the corner from here, Sidney Street, in the East End of London.
The robbery went wrong.
Three policemen were shot dead, two policemen were injured.
Most of the Latvians were rounded up, but two of them escaped, to here.
The terrorists had guns, they had Lugers and Mausers, they had a great deal of weaponry in the house.
Armed police sealed off both ends of the street.
The Scots Guards were brought in.
Even Churchill turned up.
Churchill was Home Secretary at the time, and he was far too excited and interested in action to sit in the office, so when he heard, he jumped out of his bath, he put on his coat, he put on his top hat, he brought his own shotgun and he turned up at the action.
We have a film of him hiding behind the pub, directing operations.
Finally, after a very long seige, an awful lot of ammunition being expended, the house caught fire.
Churchill decided no-one else should get hurt, so he decided to let the building burn down.
I was fascinated by the Sidney Street footage.
They were right on the spot.
There were people running around, there was crowd control, pretty brutal as well.
And then there were shots fired, and they got it.
It's jaw-dropping stuff.
So rarely have I managed to be there.
I have on a number of occasions been very lucky.
The Iranian Embassy siege was one, in 1980.
We were there because it was long-running -- six, seven days.
But it is not often, but when it happens, my goodness, you know you're seeing something which people will watch again and again.
Pathé's coverage of the unfolding drama at Sidney Street was all the more extraordinary, given the difficulties of using early film technology.
There were various limitations on Pathé that determined why we see the news that we see.
There's cost -- newsreels were shot on expensive film, 35 millimetre.
There's the issue of the weather -- it was very difficult to film in bad light.
And there's very little that's indoors, certainly the early years, because the lighting just wasn't good enough.
The challenges involved in filming news stories meant that Pathé usually relied on a predictable round of scheduled events.
Royal engagements and sporting fixtures, such as the Epsom Derby, could be planned in advance.
Even here, however, events could take a shocking turn.
The day of the Derby, 1913, was the most important day in the Edwardian year.
People made their way to the Derby by train, they walked there, they went in their motorcars, some went on motorbikes and sidecars, some went in carriages, some went on motorbuses.
All converged for this very special race.
One of the people who made their way to the Derby that day was Emily Wilding Davison.
A radical suffragette and an advocate of direct action, Emily Wilding Davison travelled to Epsom to protest in front of the assembled British establishment, including King George V, whose horse Anmer was running in the race.
The camera shows all these horses galloping towards the home straight, round Tattenham Corner, and Emily Wilding Davison bobs under the rail and she tries to grab the bridle of the King's horse.
And we can see quite clearly her go up into the air and flop down, and she flops down on the ground, a little bit like a rag doll.
And at first, the crowd rush onto the racecourse, intent to do her real harm, they're very, very angry with her, they're very annoyed that she has caused such offence to the king.
But when they got up close to her, they could see that she was bleeding from the mouth, bleeding from the nose, and obviously she was in a pretty bad way.
She dies four days later.
About 20 feet of silver nitrate preserves this iconic moment in women's history.
Pathé's commercial success encouraged several other newsreel outfits to set up in business.
But just as the newsreels were taking off, they found themselves shut out of the most dramatic story so far.
The beginning of the First World War.
A problem for the newsreels is that at the outbreak of war, they're largely excluded from filming on the Western Front.
It's not until the very end of 1915 that the War Office accepts cinematic cameramen to be attached to the front.
Determined to get in on the action, Pathé sent its most experienced cameraman, Frank Bassill, to film the British Army in the field.
My grandfather was an accredited war photographer, and he was at the Western Front in France.
He had an enormous car and a driver which transported this very large camera and my grandfather, and he went up the line, leaving this car once, with his equipment.
When he came back, the car had been cut into two neat halves by a German shell.
The violence of the trenches has been well documented in art, photography and literature.
But there were some things which contemporary newsreels like Pathé could not, or would not, show.
You very seldom see dead bodies in the news of the First World War in newsreels at all.
And where you do, it's very cautiously presented, and they're almost invariably German.
I can't think of any example of where you see a British dead body.
We know what horrors existed for the troops now in the First World War.
The newsreels showed them all doing thumbs-up signs, looking cheerful.
Some of the footage was actually faked.
They even showed faked footage of men going over the top.
When you look at the set-ups, there's no way that the cameraman could have been standing in no man's land, taking those shots.
Today, I think we would describe these reconstructed sequences as being faked.
I don't think it was really understood in that way at the time.
The newsreels faced a demand from audiences who wanted dramatic footage, and reconstruction in the early newsreel industry was regarded as a legitimate means of visual representation.
Although some newsreel footage of World War I was reconstructed, there are other images which are graphically authentic.
Buried in the Pathé archive are remarkable films which bear witness to the brutal trauma of war on an industrial scale.
The shellshock films are deeply disturbing and strange.
Because you are seeing people who are in paroxysms of naked misery, being coldly watched by the camera.
The films that were made of victims were not really intended for public consumption, but more as a historical record.
I think they're fascinating historical documents that give us an insight into how shellshock was trying to be understood at the time by a society that still couldn't quite come to terms with it.
Britain was convulsed by the First World War.
More than 900,000 men had been killed, and over one and a half million wounded.
It was obvious that nothing would be the same again.
The country was entering an era of rapid change.
Mass production was mirrored by mass communication.
The moving image was emerging as a dominant force in British culture.
What starts off as, basically, a working-class entertainment in the early 1910s, by the late teens to early '20s has become the entertainment for everyone, all sections of society, everybody goes to the cinema once or twice a week.
With bigger audiences came bigger profits.
Pathé vied with rival companies like Gaumont and Topical to get their films on to the cinema circuits.
There was considerable rivalry between the newsreel companies.
The companies would get exclusive rights over certain events and particularly over certain sporting events.
If one has the exclusive rights, then the other one is going to try and pinch them and there are all kinds of methods by which they do that.
They would have cameramen fly overhead in planes and take pictures from above or they would sneak on to the racecourse or into the cricket ground in disguise.
My grandfather had an episode when he was sneaking on to the Grand National course, which was THE big event they all wanted to film.
He hid under some straw so he wouldn't be detected till he could come out and film, but the straw was impregnated with horse manure and my grandfather fainted and it was only when someone saw a pair elastic-sided boots sticking out of the straw, he was dragged clear and he didn't die of asphyxiation.
In 1923, Topical secured exclusive rights to the first FA Cup final played at the new Wembley stadium.
But arch-rival Pathé refused to be thwarted.
What they did was to hide the camera in a huge hammer, which is the mascot of West Ham.
But what's more interesting about it is they filmed their cameraman Jack Cotter afterwards and showed the rest of the world how they managed to pinch it.
By the 1930s, the rivalry between newsreels reached fever pitch.
Big players like MovieTone, Universal and Paramount had arrived from America, bringing with them cutting-edge audio recording systems.
One of the most familiar sounds of the 20th century was born, the newsreel commentary.
'In spite of being denied the freedom of the press, 'Pathé Gazette are out as usual, 'to bring the match to millions 'who wouldn't otherwise have the chance of seeing it.
'Take your seat and see Wembley as you've never seen it before.
'That's Mrs Jones, second from the left.
'One of our cameramen is trying to get in 'through the tradesman's entrance in disguise.
'But he's a Pathé cameraman and they never say die.
' The intense competition between the rival newsreels wasn't just confined to sporting events.
There were sensational news scoops too.
In 1934, Pathé covered a meeting between King Alexander of Yugoslavia and the French Foreign Minister, Louis Barthou.
'Masked troops and vast crowds witnessed, 'in a forest of flying flags, 'the warmth and affection of the meeting 'of these two great men on the Quai des Belges.
' But what was expected to be a routine assignment for Pathé turned into one of the first political assassinations - ever captured by the cine camera.
- 'The car in which His Majesty 'and Monsieur Barthou were riding into the city 'had hardly travelled 100 yards 'when suddenly the murderer sprang from the crowds 'to the running board and poured a hail of lead into its two occupants.
' The camera goes haywire and everything cartwheels all over the place and you suddenly see a very, very close shot of the king's dead face.
'Barely five minutes after landing on French soil, 'Alexander of Yugoslavia was dead.
' It's just chance that there's a camera so close.
And it's a little bit like that that extraordinary assassination of Kennedy moment.
The 1930s was a tumultuous decade.
Political turmoil abroad was echoed by enormous social and economic upheavals at home.
But Pathé was much more careful in how it presented domestic issues, such as mass unemployment.
'It's final day at Wembley.
'Unemployed men and lads from welfare clubs 'meet for the London Occupational Shield.
'One man got a job on the way so could not play 'for the rule is that players must be workless.
' Pathé's cheerful emphasis on national stability began to attract criticism.
There certainly is a critical voice in the 1930s, particularly from the left, that the newsreels are conservative, pro-establishment and don't reflect the range of political opinion in Britain.
The newsreels are keen to present a particular narrative, to downplay the potential revolutionary element in working-class protest.
'Sir Noel Curtis-Bennett presents the shield and medals 'after a rattling good game 'of tiptop football and there are cheers all round.
' Pathé, I think of all the newsreels are particularly risk-averse.
They steer clear of anything which has the whiff of controversy.
Even the Jarrow crusade, which has wide political support, even from the local Conservatives in Jarrow, Pathé don't cover it.
MovieTone cover it, Gaumont cover it, but Pathé don't.
Pathé's archive contains striking images of the 1936 Jarrow march, but it never screened these at the time.
Pathé believed it had to perform a balancing act.
Pathé was in the entertainment business.
So if you look at the beauty parades, the ship launches, the Royals going here, there and everywhere, the endless horse races, the big issues at the time seemed buried.
If you hone in on individual stories, then they give actually remarkably good coverage.
You have cut down the war debt, you have done no end of wonderful things and trade still bears, still three million people out of work.
The combination of harder news stories and lighter items in Pathé's newsreels can sometimes seem jarring to modern eyes.
The thing with Pathé is they jump from one kind of story to something entirely different again and again.
For example, you might have a very, very serious politically charged story about the Spanish Civil War right on the battlefield and you can see the tanks and so on.
'Where once there were grapevines and flowers 'now lie abandoned, twisted masses of steel.
' And you cut from that to a very strange domestic story about a woman who's enthusiastic about dolls.
'Our cameraman dropped in at an informal party 'and here's what happened.
' - Innit cold this morning? - Yes, but I like playing out, do you? - Yes.
- Oh, hello, darling.
Why do you move from hard stories to gentle stories? And I think ahead of broadcast news and all the rituals that have become associated with that, people simply watched these screens rather as they read newspapers, they jump from one story and your eyes caught another story, it's as simple as that.
Bye-bye! By the 1930s, public demand for newsreels was so high that a new kind of cinema was invented to screen them, the newsreel theatre.
Often situated in busy city centres and railway stations, these purpose-built cinemas provided a new way of consuming the news.
Not only are audiences going to see a feature and part of that cinema programme is going to be the newsreel, but they're also going to newsreel theatres which only specialise in the news.
You have a different way of viewing the news.
People can come in, watch as much of the news as they want and leave again.
This is the precursor to news on demand.
Built in 1937, in the latest Art Deco style, Newcastle's Tyneside Cinema is the last surviving newsreel theatre in Britain.
For three decades, it provided its customers with a vivid window on the world.
It was a great treat to get on the train from Sunderland for a shopping expedition to Newcastle.
And the big highlight for me was going to the newsreel theatre.
Oh, it was wonderful.
Into this dark place, different from an ordinary cinema.
And there was the world, there were events and it was up on a big screen.
You saw nothing moving on the newspapers.
If you wanted to see things actually happening, you came to a place like this.
There was up-to-the-minute Pathé news.
As one reel finished, it set off again, all day, the same one.
- It was all on a loop.
- Yes.
- So - So if you were shopping and you fancied a rest You used to go out where you came in, or stay if you like.
Nobody seemed to care.
If it was a fine summer's day, the place was half-empty.
If it started to rain, you found everybody came in and it filled up.
It was quite amazing.
In ten minutes it just filled up.
It would only be about sixpence in old money to get in.
Yes, it was really cheap.
- About half the price of the big cinemas.
- Yes.
For the price of a sixpenny ticket, British cinema-goers could get a front row seat to some of the most dramatic moments of the 20th century.
In September 1938, tensions between Nazi Germany and Czechoslovakia were threatening to drag the whole of Europe into full-scale war.
In a bid to defuse the situation, the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain travelled to Munich to meet with Hitler.
What the Pathé newsreel shows you is the desperate enthusiasm that the team making the film shared with most of this country for there to be peace with Hitler.
So you see Chamberlain driving through the crowds in Germany and Union Jacks and swastikas being waved side by side and great enthusiasm.
And the script that's been put on to this film is the most extraordinarily assertive, over-the-top, it's finger-wagging.
'Let no man say that too high a price has been paid for the peace of the world 'until he has searched his soul and found himself willing to risk war 'and the lives of those nearest and dearest to him.
' This is very, very close to outright propaganda.
Chamberlain made a deal with Hitler.
To secure peace, he acceded to German occupation of the Czech Sudetenland.
'And the Prime Minister comes home.
'Home to an empire filled with joy and relief.
'Home to a welcome that he will never forget.
' Arriving back at a rain-soaked British airport, he made a speech that would go down in history.
This morning, I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it, as well as mine.
These images of Neville Chamberlain waving his piece of white paper have become so iconic.
The white paper is the white flag of surrender.
But if we go back and give the context to this piece, we see something completely different.
Pathé, in many respects, reflects the mood of the country.
'Let the people themselves speak what is in their hearts.
' When this story was first shown in the cinemas, people were cheering Neville Chamberlain, but a week afterwards, when Chamberlain came on the screen, there was just complete silence.
Realisation was swiftly dawning.
There would be no peace.
Almost exactly a year after Chamberlain waved his piece of paper, British troops headed off to confront Hitler's war machine.
And it wasn't just fighting men who were leaving for France.
'The newsreels also have permission from the War Office 'to send film units into the front line.
'To bring back a living record of Britain's fight for the freedom 'and peace of the world.
'The representative of Pathé is Mr Charles Martin.
'Will you tell us what you'll do there?' Well, I have great hopes of getting some authentic war pictures and I am working with my colleagues so that a very complete film record may be obtained of the tremendous activities of the British forces on the Western Front.
And I hope soon you will see some of these pictures on this screen.
Charles Martin's hopes for authentic war pictures were more than fulfilled.
But probably not in a way that he, or anyone else, would have imagined.
By late May 1940, German forces had driven the British back to the coast.
Trapped on the beaches, their only hope was a hastily assembled rescue fleet.
'As dawn breaks, Pathé Gazette's cameraman is on a tiny merchant ship.
'He is risking his life to bring you the pictures.
'He is on his way to Dunkirk.
' Charles Martin had managed to get out of France and back to Britain ahead of the German onslaught.
Tipped off about the Dunkirk evacuation, he hitched a ride on one of the vessels setting out from Dover.
He was the only newsreel cameraman to film the epic rescue.
On his return, Charles Martin told a BBC interviewer about his experiences.
'I went there on an old Clyde paddle steamer that had already saved 'hundreds of the lads.
'We arrived off Dunkirk in the very early hours.
'As dawn came, it revealed thousands of troops lining the water's edge.
'Immediately, the fellows began to swim out towards us.
'When we got to work rescuing these lads, there was a lot of stuff 'I could have filmed, but one couldn't stand by 'and see these things going on without giving a hand.
'But I still feel that what pictures I did get, 'which will be shown all over the world, 'will convey to the world something of the truly great 'things that were happening.
' Only a few hours after the evacuation was completed, Martin's footage was being screened in British cinemas.
'Here in pictures is the triumph 'that turned a major military disaster 'into a miracle of deliverance.
' Skilfully edited and given a stirring commentary and music score, Pathé's report was a model of dramatic newsreel reportage.
'All the might of the German air force failed to stop them.
'We beat them back.
We got our armies away, 'and the enemy paid fourfold for our losses.
'And now we're on our way home.
' What we see is a marvellous piece of propaganda.
It's incredible, because what it does is it changes military defeat, a retreat from the continent, into an act of defiance, and I think that really lays the foundation of how we view Dunkirk today.
This was the newsreel's finest hour.
At a time of national crisis, the public were hungry for their vivid, morale-boosting reports from the battlefront.
There's evidence, in the Second World War, that more people relied on the newsreels than they did on newspapers for information about the world.
'Now for the newsreel story of the three-day battle at sea.
' I think what Pathé and the other newsreels did was to bring the news to life.
They made it dynamic and exciting, packaged in a narrative form that cinema audiences could easily understand.
'Eastward across the Mediterranean and Malta-bound.
'The convoy which recently fought its way to the George Cross Island 'sailed under the protecting guns 'of British battleships and cruisers, aircraft carriers and destroyers.
'When signals of trouble were exchanged, 'the men leapt to action stations 'and, with their anti-flash gear and helmets clamped on, 'the gun crews fought off attack after attack.
'The sky and sea and bomb alley was patterned with shell and bomb bursts.
'The water boiled like molten lava 'and the sky became pockmarked with acrid powder fumes and flying steel.
' No single newsreel operation could hope to cover all aspects of war on a global scale.
The solution was for the former rivals to declare a truce and share their material.
'Since our last Malta convoy story, 'other cameramen have returned, 'bringing with them more pictures of the colossal sea and air fight 'which went on, without pause, for three days.
' The sharing of newsreel footage was a practical solution to covering a complex and fast-moving conflict.
But it also had some drawbacks.
There was a sense that all the newsreels were the same.
They were using often the same footage because they had the pool of footage, and the only thing that was different was probably the commentary.
'The sea boils under the hail of falling shrapnel 'and spouts great columns of water, as bombs rain down from Stukas, 'JU 87s and 88s.
' Pathé wanted a more distinctive identity than even its characteristically gung-ho commentary could provide.
As it shifted focus from the battlefield to the home front, it began to introduce new ways of reporting stories.
One of the innovations we see during the Second World War is the introduction of what today we refer to as vox pops -- interviews with people in the street.
A good example of that is the reprisal interviews that we see with people who'd suffered during the blitzes on London, Coventry and other British cities which were carried out in 1940 and 1941.
What do you think of us going over to Berlin and doing the same to them? I should think so, too.
Bit worse than this, I hope, with a wicked bugger like he is.
Pathé does start to experiment with the form of newsreels surprisingly early.
It seems second nature to send someone out into the streets and find out what we're thinking.
In 1940, it's a radical innovation.
It's the beginning of TV news as we now see it.
I'm sorry for the women and children of Berlin, but what about the women and children of this country? Pathé's wartime reporting marked a significant change in how it related to its audience.
In another development, the company revealed how the news itself was made and delivered.
I think there's a genuine public interest in how these images were being recorded and in the personalities who were bringing them back.
'How does the newsreel get its news? 'Here are intimate studies of Terry Ashwood 'in conversation with General Montgomery, 'receiving information from the Eighth Army's commander.
' The classic example is Terry Ashwood of Pathé, who covers the war in the Western Desert, Italy and Europe.
Ashwood has a number of films that focus on him as he records the news, rather than on the news themselves.
'The successful wartime cameraman mingles the art of his profession 'with that of a soldier and a journalist.
' It's perhaps an early trend towards the celebrity news reporter.
'A public relations van arrives at a rendezvous.
'This is the travelling office of the newsreel man.
'Terry Ashwood settles down to type his report.
'This information helps your commentator to tell his story.
'With the help of Jack Simons, the driver, 'the tins of negative are made ready 'for a rushed journey to base.
' He was the most extraordinarily brave cameraman.
Not very far in front of the camera there is a team searching for mines.
I gasped when I saw that.
'To render these deadly things inactive is no picnic.
' I've filmed mine clearance, behind a tree, you know, absolutely squeaking with fear, et cetera.
But these were mines that had been there for a long time and they had an idea where they might be.
His are men walking down a road.
What would he have done if one had gone up? Oh, you watch that wow.
'Never in the history of newsreels have such vast plans 'been made for the coverage of the last great act of liberation.
'To bring to the screen, from the first day of our assault 'on the Western Seaboard of Europe, the history of Allied invasion.
' D-Day was a precisely planned media event.
The authorities understood the value of footage of the operation and in particular, images of the first troops going ashore.
'This is it.
They're on the beach.
'Plunging waist-deep into the sea and threading their way 'among the steel asparagus tops projecting from the water.
'The anti-invasion barriers, with mines on their tips.
' But despite their experience on the battlefield, newsreel cameramen were not allowed on the front line during the opening hours of D-Day.
The closest the commercial newsreel cameramen got was they could film from the fleet.
The privilege of filming the most exciting moments, right with the first troops, was given to the British Army or the US Army Signal Corps.
'The first casualties are brought out to the waiting ships.
'Men wounded in the dash inland are ferried to the nearest sick bays 'aboard vessels standing off shore.
' The one thing you don't get at D-Day is any sense of the British dead.
Within British culture, even today, there's a reluctance to show dead people, whether they're civilians or soldiers.
But there's an amazing sequence in a Pathé newsreel item shot by Sergeant Taylor, who was the US Signal Corps.
He's up against the cliff and he takes some film of some US soldiers coming up the beach and they get shot as they're coming up the beach.
This is significant.
It indicates, firstly, the importance of D-Day and I suppose the fact that even Pathé couldn't resist something quite as powerful as that moment.
Questions of what could and what should be shown on screen came into urgent focus during the final chapter of the war in Europe.
When Allied forces entered the Belsen and Buchenwald concentration camps, they came across harrowing evidence of Nazi atrocities.
To show this material was going to be a major change in all the coverage up until this point.
In fact, one of the problems the newsreel companies had was, because this material was so shocking, was so different to anything shown before, newsreel heads were concerned that people wouldn't believe it.
They would actually think that it was fake.
So what they do is, they authenticate these scenes.
The Pathé newsreel starts off with Mavis Tate speaking to camera.
I, as a Member of Parliament, with nine others, visited Buchenwald concentration camp.
Some people believe that reports of what happened there are exaggerated.
No words could exaggerate.
We saw, and we know.
You will now see a few of the sights we saw.
Much as they may shock you, do believe me when I tell you that the reality was indescribably worse than these pictures.
Let no-one say these things were never real.
'Judges from Britain, America, Russia and France 'assemble in Nuremburg's courthouse, 'empowered to impose sentence of death, or such punishment 'as it may consider just, 'the tribunal sits in judgement upon 20 leaders of the Nazi party.
' In October, 1945, the world's media converged on the Bavarian city of Nuremburg, to report on the first war crimes trial in history.
'Imagination sickens at the crimes laid upon the accused, 'now stripped of the trappings of power.
'The world's writ has run to Nuremburg and justice waits.
' The year-long Nuremburg trial ended in guilty verdicts.
Death sentences were pronounced for some of the defendants.
Pathé, which had screened the graphic proof of Nazi war crimes, now had to decide whether to show the execution of some of those ultimately responsible.
'For Pathé News, 'the execution of 11 Nazis posed the year's most controversial issue.
'Should we obtain and screen the official film of the hangings? 'We are fully conscious of the responsibility 'a newsreel bears in this grave matter.
'In no other medium could such pictures be placed before you, 'the men and women who finally condemned the Nazi chiefs.
'So, in the nation's press and screens, we asked for your opinion.
'Should we show the pictures of the hangings, or should we not? 'Of 980 letters addressed to Pathé News, London, 950 said, ' "You must not screen the execution pictures.
" ' This was a striking form of audience participation.
In a dramatic way, Pathé had asked the public to decide the content of its newsreels.
It signalled a shift in how the company saw itself as a news organisation.
Right at the end of 1945, Pathé effectively rebrand the newsreel.
There's a whole new news team that is introduced to start to find a way of differentiating its product.
They advertise an international network of news provision.
'Three quite separate companies -- 'Pathé of London, Paris and New York -- 'have agreed to pool their resources and work in close partnership.
'From now on, wherever news breaks, 'a Pathé cameraman will be on the spot.
' But also, the way that they approach some of the stories, some of the content, becomes more political.
'British industry today employs more women 'than ever before in a country at peace.
For them, 'controversy rages round their claims for equal pay for equal work.
'Pathé News invites you to join the battle with this opinion poll.
' Well, I think they're quite entitled to equal pay, providing they can do the job.
Pathé had introduced vox pops as far back as 1940.
Well, I agree with equal pay for women, because I really believe But they now figured much more prominently, with reports constructed around the opinions of ordinary men and women on the street.
Pathé's editorial agenda became more contentious, too, tackling issues like equal pay, fuel shortages, strikes, the repatriation of POWs.
'These are German prisoners of war.
'Their life bounded by a prison cage.
'There are 385,000 of them in Britain today.
Controversy rages around them.
'Pathé News brings it to the screen.
' For the first time in newsreel history, the burning issues of the day were being dissected and debated on screen.
There's a period after the Second World War when Pathé is on top of the newsreel world.
It's so slickly, professionally, and persuasively put together.
It grasps the news agenda, it knows exactly what its audience want.
It builds on a body of audience trust that it's built up over the Second World War.
- That's what I say.
- Well, there you are! Then things slip.
Many cinema owners didn't like Pathé's new brand of social engagement and stylistic experimentation.
In grey, ration-book Britain, they thought their customers wanted to be cheered up, not challenged.
By 1948, Howard Thomas, who's the producer in chief, is saying, "We have to change this, because exhibitors "are no longer buying our product, because it's too political.
" 'Twice a week, London's rhythm enthusiasts of all ages 'put on their zoot suits and go to town.
' With politics and opinion off the agenda, Pathé reverted to a successful pre-war formula, dominated by fads, football, and film stars.
'Arrivals at Heathrow.
'Film star Ingrid Bergman and director, Alfred Hitchcock, 'come in from Hollywood.
'Pathé's reporter and Hitch swap jobs.
Our reporter directs, 'and Hitchcock puts the questions.
' - Is it your first time in England? - No, no.
- You'll be happy to know I spent my honeymoon in England.
- Tell me Pathé had a feel for glamorous stories with wide, popular appeal.
In the early 1950s, there was one subject and one event, which obsessed them more than any other.
Pathé loved royalty.
And so the 1953 coronation was the apex of what they wanted to achieve.
And they brought all the powers to bear on filming this great event.
'Pathé News is ready for that historic occasion.
'All set to film the full splendour of the momentous day.
' 'The world's finest equipment will be used, 'including the largest telephoto lens in the world, 'and the zoom lens, which cost over £1,000, 'to bring the complete, magnificent spectacle to this theatre.
' They filmed in colour, showing these events and their true pageantry.
Pathé absolutely go to town on the coronation.
The 1953 coronation was a high-water mark for Pathé.
Its lavish colour film captures a moment not just of national importance, but of the newsreel's own self-confidence.
Long live the Queen! Long live the Queen! But this triumph also contained the seeds of Pathé's downfall.
The coronation marked the coming of age of a new technology -- television.
Sales of TV sets had boomed in the months leading up to the event.
On the day itself, over half the British population watched the BBC broadcast from Westminster Abbey.
The pictures might have been black and white, but they were live.
The newsreels go into decline really from the 1950s.
One of the reasons for this is the emergence of television as a rival news medium and, crucially, a medium that's able to report live from the scene.
The coronation is a key event here, where the live television coverage trumped the newsreels which took a day or two to get into the cinemas.
The newsreels weren't the only institution in decline.
Britain itself was waking up to the fact that it was no longer a pre-eminent world power.
The Suez Canal, never far from the news in its 87 years of history, hits the headlines like a bombshell, when without a hint of warning, Egypt's premier Colonel Nasser announces that his country is taking it over.
In 1956, Egypt nationalised the British-owned Suez Canal.
Britain secretly joined forces with France and Israel in a plot to seize it back.
According to the plan, Israel would attack Egypt and thereby provide Britain and France with a pretext to move in as international peacekeepers.
'After weeks of stalemate, 'the Suez crisis bursts dramatically into the news again, 'for Israel has invaded Egypt.
'Britain and France have declared the canal in danger 'and British and French troops are on the move.
' The Pathé coverage of the Suez crisis is jaw-dropping.
'Landing craft bring the army ashore 'and there is little resistance.
'The docks are soon in allied hands 'and unloading goes on almost as smoothly as a peacetime exercise.
' This is pretty much pure propaganda from Pathé.
All ambiguities, all question marks pushed to one side.
It absolutely states that the British, like the French, were going in to separate the combatants and bring peace.
This was complete nonsense.
The Suez crisis ended in humiliation for Britain.
It marked not just the end of an empire, but of an attitude.
The newsreels and the patriotic certainties they'd always expressed suddenly felt drastically out of date.
By the 1950s, with the decline of Britain, the disintegration of the British Empire, that narrative of Britishness, of British national achievement, that was very much a project of all the newsreels in the 1930s and 1940s, is really no longer so relevant to modern society.
For Pathé and the other newsreels, this was a perfect storm.
Their credibility was in question.
Cinema-going was in freefall.
TV had stolen the newsreel's audience.
Pathé needed to find something, anything, that would catch the customer's eye.
'This is Soho, catering for all tastes, low included.
'Even the cats are a bit furtive.
' An investigation into council licensing laws somehow involved showing a surprising amount of naked flesh.
'The highlight of the show at most of these clubs is the striptease, 'the item over which some councillors lift a doubting eyebrow.
'Under existing regulations, it's all perfectly legal.
' They did try to move with the times and were getting a bit more daring towards the end of the 1950s.
'Don't copy this technique, girls, 'unless you have central heating in your bedroom.
' They were going in for a little bit of titillation, so they weren't immune to sex as something to sell the product.
'There's a garage in East Ham 'served by some of the fastest girls in the business.
' Cheeky, cheerful Pathé found plenty of new material as the '60s began to swing, but it wasn't exactly hard news.
TV had already put Universal, Paramount and Gaumont out of business.
Ouch! For a while at least, Pathé just kept on smiling.
'Trouble under the bonnet? They'll get to the root of the matter.
' From the early '60s onwards, Pathé becomes far more magazine-oriented and it concentrates on different kinds of stories, stories for their visual attractiveness, their quirkiness.
So newsreel comes to be associated with the oddities of life rather than its realities.
Nobody has the heart to point out to the six-year-old mongrel that her tree-climbing exploits are not really what is expected of her.
So, much to the chagrin of her chums, Bessie heads higher into the foliage for a look at the world from the bird kingdom.
But Pathé hadn't completely given up on serious journalism.
Despite the dominance of television and the rise of global news agencies, it still attempted to reflect the big issues of the day.
In the late 1960s, shocking images of mass starvation appeared on British TV screens.
Civil war in Nigeria had led to a humanitarian crisis.
As the Biafra emergency lurched towards its agonising conclusion, cash-strapped Pathé tried to bring the story to the British cinema audience.
If you were looking at the coverage of Biafra, January 1970, in television and within the cinema, what you would see from Pathé is a very short black and white item from RAF Lyneham.
'An Air Force Hercules jet transporter plane, 'loaded with life-saving drugs and equipment, stood ready for take-off.
'Its destination was to have been Biafra.
'Britain is ready to rush supplies 'to that tragic, defeated land, but the plane remained grounded.
' But that evening you would get, if you had a colour television set, colour reports from Biafra and there is no comparison between the two.
Pathé is still pursuing the format of the commentator telling you how awful the situation is, but as far as television is concerned, you have a reporter out there, telling you about the situation on the ground.
1,000 tons of relief supplies stockpiled here already.
Another 1,500 tons expected in the next few days.
The emergency in Biafra exposed Pathé's limitations as a modern news organisation.
No longer able to send its own news cameramen to international hotspots, it couldn't compete with television.
The end was now in sight.
In February 1970, British Pathé ceased newsreel production.
Pathé had been in existence for 60 years, longer than any other newsreel company.
During that time, it amassed an extraordinary library of film footage.
With more than 90,000 individual items, the Pathé archive is one of the most important visual records of our shared national history.
You have to hugely admire these pioneering cameramen and, indeed, reporters.
They were the first to take these cameras and try to get them to where things were happening.
They took big risks and worked very hard.
They produced extraordinary films.
Television may have superseded newsreels, but only by emulating the achievements and ingenuity of Pathé's pioneering production teams.
TV news started with a lot of cameramen who had been on newsreels and boy, did they know how to do it! They were craftsmen and however hectic, however urgent, however difficult the circumstances, even under fire, a good number of them knew how to frame a shot.
They knew what they were going for.
They knew what the audience needed to concentrate on.
Pathé's trailblazers invented visual news.
I think it's impossible to understand the news that we see on our television screens today without an understanding of the newsreels.
Pathé developed many of the techniques and formats that remain part of the grammar of all broadcast news.
From vox pops to on-screen reporters to the multi-item bulletin itself, Pathé created the template for today's TV news.
The Pathé people were groundbreakers and anybody involved in television news stands on their shoulders these days.