The Story of British Pathé (2011) s01e02 Episode Script

The Voice of Pathé

1 'For more than half a century, 'Pathé newsreels offered Britain a vital window on to the world.
'From global conflicts 'to ideal homes, 'from leisure crazes to love-ins, 'they reflected British culture and recorded all aspects of our lives.
'Pathé established their own unique way of delivering these stories.
' The news was told as though it were an action thriller.
President and Madame Lebrun of France are entertained in London.
'The rousing delivery of Pathé's voiceovers became familiar to millions.
' It's one of the most distinctive sounds of the 20th century.
There were none but heroes at Dunkirk.
It was the most superbly heroic operation of all time 'One man above all possessed THE voice of Pathé.
' Let the greatest tribute of all be paid to the men who fought and fell in the rearguard action.
'Bob Danvers-Walker was their most famous and durable commentator.
' The venom of Germany's war machine turned against the British Isles.
What he said was what we had to accept.
'In its darkest hours, Pathé had encouraged a nation under siege.
' What spirit! What courage! What men! Good health, sailor.
Have this one on us! 'The government soon realised they could harness the power of newsreels 'and commissioned public information films.
' Look over the clothes you've got, see if they won't last longer or if they can be altered to present-day needs.
'Whether people liked it or not, Pathé would tell them how to live.
' Save your coupons for an emergency.
'Until 1929, Pathé's newsreels, 'like feature films of the day, were silent.
'To tell their stories, 'they used the written word to present it on intertitles.
' 'When sound was added, it was a wake-up call to the nation.
'It wasn't much more than a title board with music 'and location sound.
'As the 1930s progressed, Pathé began experimenting with voiceover.
'By the middle of the decade, 'the commentator was a force to be reckoned with.
'Now Pathé could develop a voice all of its own.
' Factories humming puts railway traffic on the mend.
This streamlined engine signals that railways are in a better position than they have been for years past.
The newsreel commentator spoke with this extraordinary confidence.
They set the scene in a short, sharp sentence.
It was a sad sea drama when the proud Finnish windjammer struck Devon rocks.
The world hoped she might be saved, but it was not to be.
'In an age before television, there was nothing more influential 'than what millions saw in the cinema every week.
' Newsreels were the best way for people to experience the world.
'Often, Pathé adopted an uncritical perspective on what they filmed.
' Up to a point, newsreels reflected life, but also manipulated it.
'As shown in the 1936 documentary, The Great Crusade, 'Pathé didn't back away from difficult issues, 'like the housing crisis at the time.
' In London alone, it's estimated that some 230,000 people live under conditions which are unfit for human habitation.
Probably not five in every hundred of these roofs are watertight.
In one of these streets lives Molly, her mother, two brothers and baby sister.
Five of them in two rooms.
The place is rotten from top to bottom.
The decaying woodwork is infested with vermin.
The five of them, including a six-month-old baby, sleep in one tiny bedroom.
Children are the parents of the next generation.
Unless these places of dirt and disease are swept away, what sort of generation will it be? Are we going to perpetuate a C3 race? 'Though they didn't shy away from grim realities, 'filmmakers also showed grounds for optimism.
' There's a wonderful narrative that takes us from showing rats and mice running around over a child on the floor, through to a transformation.
Good afternoon, Mrs Harding.
We've just come to see if everything's all right.
It's just like living in a new world.
It's a bit of a fairy tale.
It's very strong on uplift.
But it would have reached an enormous number of people.
Pathé carried a message about regeneration after the Depression to the mass audience.
Two years ago, the government started a five-year plan to abolish the slums.
This work is in its stride now.
When the house-breakers take charge, you can really see how rotten these places are.
'This optimistic tone was evident 'in much of Pathé's output during the Depression.
'In 1936, the company filmed a family, forced by poverty, 'to leave their home and live on a beach.
' Remember the man they call Robinson because he loved to cruise so? He's nothing to the Robinson Crusoe we found near Folkstone.
'George and Sarah Chandler and their children went to live at the Warren 'when George went bankrupt in 1928.
'Their youngest daughters, Freda and Marjorie, born a few years later, 'still remember growing up in tents.
' We were down here on the beach 11 years altogether.
I'm the one in the middle, swinging my legs, with an empty plate.
I'm the little one in Mother's arms in the Pathé film.
This is one of Crusoe's happy crew.
These spartan folk are expert cliff climbers and barricade their canvas homes against little bounders, like these chalk ones.
'The film painted a jolly picture of life on the beach, 'but chose to ignore the reality of hardship that lay behind their parents' tale.
' They had a lovely house in Dover.
They had to sell that.
Then they were living in lodgings and they couldn't pay the rent.
Mother brought the children home and the lady said, "You can't come in.
You haven't paid the rent.
" So Dad decided to take them camping.
I think, originally, - it WAS just camping, wasn't it? - Yes.
"We'll go down Folkstone Warren" right along the far end, where you can see the cliffs, ".
.
and we'll camp until I can find something better.
" I think they fell into the habit that there wasn't anything better.
Marjorie was born, actually, on the beach.
My birth certificate says, "In a tent, on the foreshore"! A boat to them is more important than a bus to us landlubbers! Looking at that film, it's all terribly upbeat and great fun.
So, life goes on -- a shore life, but a gay one.
That is kind of a metaphor for the way Pathé treated things.
Everything was rather fun and the British were quite game and feisty, and they got on with life.
'For those fortunate enough to remain in work and keep their homes, 'things were looking brighter.
' New industries were producing for the domestic market.
'And Pathé set to work showing you what was now available.
' People could touch, they could buy a lot more things than they'd been able to buy before, because of mass production.
'One of the most popular consumer products was the motor car.
'Responding to the steep increase in traffic, 'Pathé produced one of Britain's earliest road safety films, 'starring entertainer Bobby Howes.
' The kerb drill has just been introduced.
We know that as you go to the kerb, you look right, you look left, you look right again and then you cross over the road.
That was completely new in 1930, so I think what Pathé did was to make it instructional in an entertaining way.
That's what the newsreels and cine magazines do best.
You have this well-known personality from the music hall with a line of chorus girls.
That would be something which would stick in people's minds.
Come on, loosen up! Bring your leg over, Nellie.
'Pathé's filmmakers were keen to promote health 'as well as road safety.
' The government was very concerned about the health of the nation, particularly after the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where most of the medals had been won by Germany.
So they pumped money into keep fit.
'This fitness initiative may have been prompted by government concerns 'about the militarisation of Germany.
'During World War I, many Britons were unfit for active service.
'With another war looming, Whitehall wanted Britain to shape up.
' It used to be called "keep fit for the military".
It just became "keep fit".
That meant playing fields.
It meant swimming pools, these wonderful open-air lidos.
There were keep fit movements.
Molly Bagot Stack's Health and Beauty League, almost like Busby Berkeley, thousands of legs waving in the air.
'Around that time, Pathé's newsreels showed the mass fitness regimes 'that had been introduced in Germany.
'The country was the object of increasing fascination 'among British cinema-goers in the 1930s.
'Evidence of the Nazis' determination to build 'a formidable military machine was a source of anxiety among a population 'that vividly remembered the horrors of the Great War.
' They say there are 800,000 pairs of boots standing heel-to-heel, waiting for the Fuhrer's speech.
'Yet, at first, Pathé presented a largely uncritical 'view of Hitler's Germany.
' They really wanted to be nice to everybody.
To us, it seems ludicrous they went to such lengths to be nice to Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini.
But they did, because they were international companies.
They had no wish to be ahead of governments.
These were periods when governments were being nice to each other until the months before the outbreak of war.
'Pathé's editorial line was consistent with the British policy of appeasement, 'despite signs of mounting international tensions.
'With preparations being made for war, 'Pathé reflected the nation's deep unease about entering another global conflict.
' As workers evacuate the records of business into the country, nowhere is there patriotic excitement, but everywhere there is a deep hatred of war.
There is complete confidence in British power, but no confidence in the power of violence and slaughter to make the world a better place.
As the boats bring in more vital food supplies, merchant seamen know that, in the hearts of the German people, there is a preference for the joys of peace against the horrors of war.
'Just three days after that newsreel was first screened, 'Germany invaded Poland and Britain declared war.
'Almost immediately, Pathé's tone was transformed.
' Everything we do is inspired by the absolute conviction that a great evil must be removed from the world -- the spirit of intolerance, of bullying and of senseless criminal ambition embodied in Hitler and all those who surround him.
'Newsreel companies were expected to rally the nation 'against the common enemy.
'The day after war broke out, 'the government set up the Ministry of Information 'to impose censorship and commission propaganda.
'Now there was an official body to decide 'what the British people should see 'and to prepare the nation for the trials ahead.
' The interesting thing is that the state is using film in war time.
We've always had public safety information within pamphlets, within advertisements, within radio.
What you see in the Second World War is the explosion in the use of film.
Because it's an incredibly persuasive medium and it's a form of communication where the government can literally reach the whole population.
If you're in the open, lie down, preferably in a ditch.
If you're within five minutes of home, go home, but keep away from the windows.
The most important rule is never to stare at the sky.
If you don't take cover, you may get hurt.
'As Britain faced the realities of the Blitz in 1940, 'Pathé employed the man whose voice would become synonymous with their company for 30 years!' We at Pathé salute the soldier.
'Bob Danvers-Walker was born in Surrey in 1906 'and lived an adventurous life.
'In the 1920s, he served in the Australian Yeomanry 'before pursuing a career on the airwaves in Britain and France.
'When war broke out, he was broadcasting from Normandy for the Forces Radio.
'His counterblast against Nazi propaganda brought him to enemy attention.
' He was on the blacklist.
They wanted to annihilate him because of propaganda, and he had to get out.
'Bob Danvers-Walker brought his family back to England 'just before the retreat from Dunkirk.
'Pathé almost immediately snapped him up to be their commentator 'and, briefly, the editor.
' Ladies and gentlemen, as the regular Pathé Gazette commentator 'Bob would become THE voice of Pathé and, during the war, 'would exhort the British population to resist the menace of the Nazis.
' Breathes there the man with soul so dead Who never to himself hath said "This is my own, my native land.
" At this time, such words may well serve to stimulate our determination to resist, with all the strength we can command, an avaricious foe who seeks to plunder all that we hold dear.
The style was very formal.
I think that was the expected thing.
The so-called upper middle classes were considered to be the leaders.
And I think he was one of the representatives, perhaps.
All the radio announcers spoke with very upper-class accents.
The newsreels had to play along with that, even though their work was being seen in places where accents and attitudes were very different.
To British manhood and British womanhood is left the proud task of saving civilisation from the defiling growth of barbarism.
His voice was very stentorian, gung-ho and jingoistic.
I think he was of his type and period.
That was the way they delivered things in those days.
It was the war effort, wasn't it? Everybody had to be patriotic and sound positive.
"We're going to beat the huns" and the rest of it! We stand full square to fight as we have never fought before.
And we shall be left alone, the last that dare to struggle with the foe.
I think the radio and the newsreels were incredibly important.
He symbolised continuity and authority and reassurance.
It's a bit like a pilot on an aeroplane going through turbulence.
These reassuring voices talking over some really rather dreadful scenes.
It must have been reassuring.
Hastening to be with his people of Coventry in their hour of adversity, the King was an inspiration to the stricken but courageous inhabitants.
They came through the ordeal magnificently.
This is their greatest hour.
It's a particular tone of voice.
It moves pretty quickly.
The kind of person you imagine holding forth at a bar.
- Welcome home, Terry.
- Thanks, Bob.
It's nice to be back.
- Take a chair.
I'm going to grill you.
- All right, Bob.
'Pathé used Bob's voice to make an emotional connection 'with the British people at this time of national emergency.
'The newsreel was the ideal medium 'to get a morale-boosting message to the largest possible audience.
' Every man and woman, uniformed or working clothed, is in the front line.
Crusaders of the home front, the navy, the army and the air force fight in the battle for civilisation.
Pathé during the war was a mirror of Britain at war, but it also shaped Britain at war.
Mrs Barker's home has been bombed by the huns, but it'll take more than that to move her.
Even as Hitler and Goering, murderers as they are, come night after night and bomb us, I'm determined to stop in my house.
I've been here 27 years and still I'm determined to defy them and stop here.
That's the spirit of the people! 'When reporting the worst impact of the Blitz, 'filmmakers would strive to convey, sometimes in humorous terms, 'the courage and fortitude of the people.
' As hoses play on the smouldering ruins, a fireman is heard to say, "Blimey! He wasn't half cross with us last night!" Let every honour be given to the rescue parties, nurses and doctors who toil for hours bringing help and easing the suffering of survivors.
A lot of Pathé's content was to do with the Blitz spirit.
It gave an impression that everybody climbed out of the wreckage singing There'll Always Be An England.
It did not show any of the real horrors of war.
Meanwhile, London carries on.
Windows may be broken, but the spirit remains intact.
"Dear Sir, please note our new address.
" 'Despite the bravado of its pronouncements, 'Pathé was encouraging parents to send their children far away from Britain's cities.
' Labelled and loaded and not forgetting their gas mask, the children head for the special train.
They're not worrying.
They're off on a holiday.
'Giving an impression of an awfully great adventure was one of the ways 'Pathé did its patriotic duty, supporting government policy 'and boosting morale.
'The newsreel companies would also play a large part 'in communicating the official message 'from the Ministry of Information.
'Tagged on the end of the newsreels, the "fillers" 'were an important weapon in the propaganda arsenal.
' To work, girls! 'The ministry commissioned Pathé and other companies 'to make and distribute over 2,000 of these films.
' The government organised a collection of household scrap for chicken feed.
It's ration-free and solves the poultry keepers' problem.
The Second World War is the golden age of the public information film.
It's a very good medium if you want to try and change people's behaviour.
And you have a whole plethora of different public information films, advising people on what to grow, what to eat, how to use gas masks.
It's every aspect of people's lives they're being advised on here.
People will go to the newsreel theatre and will sit through a whole hour-long programme of news, and then go to the cinema and sit through the newsreel programme all over again.
They might have been looking at these public information films three or four times, so that message is going to come through.
Ah! I am the fuel demon, and I have come to warn you that this waste must stop.
It was a way of encouraging people, but also informing them what they had to do.
They had to carry their identity card, wear an identity badge.
They had to carry their ration book.
It needed to inform them about new regulations.
Britain was an extremely regulated country in the Second World War.
A man's pocket shows many of the little things we have got used to.
A whistle, ration card, petrol coupons.
Identity cards.
A torch.
Not forgetting lunch, in case his favourite restaurant isn't there any more.
'During the war, 'the Ministry of Information launched inventive campaigns 'with titles such as Make Do And Mend, Dig For Victory and Salvage, 'to encourage people to make the most of the scarce resources.
' People were bombarded with information during the war on radio, in the newspaper, leaflets through the door.
And, of course, on newsreels.
One day, George went to the cinema to cheer himself up.
They were showing one of those official films.
What do you think it was about? Well, see for yourself.
Bones are of vital use in the war effort.
The idea of Salvage was you had to save everything.
It was forever making cartoons about Salvage.
You had to throw nothing away.
Pathé was in the foreground of encouraging that.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is a moral to this story.
Have you a skeleton in YOUR cupboard? Give it to Salvage.
Have a clear conscience.
It was a way of getting people to feel they had a role in the war, that the country was united, there was an external common enemy and Britain was fighting back.
We haven't got enough coupons.
I need a few for towels.
Perhaps WE can help you.
And who might YOU be? Your old clothes, put away and forgotten.
Use us now.
I could make a smart costume for the young lady.
I've never turned a pair of trousers into a skirt in my life! Never mind.
It's quite easy to do.
Ask at your technical institute.
Or get together with your friends and form a Make Do And Mend group.
'Even more important in military terms 'was the campaign Careless Talk Costs Lives, 'aimed at preventing sensitive information being leaked to enemy agents.
' Lovesick John Jones met indiscreet Mary Brown.
If you knew something about where your soldier husband was being sent or there was a war factory near you, somebody might overhear and that might put people's lives at risk.
He said to her Let's go to Coombe Wood for a picnic.
She said to him It's closed.
There's a dump of our new mine detectors there.
The consequence was - And the world said - That's your fault, Mary! Very often, they were very simplistic.
Everybody knew that.
They were preposterously naive.
The Browns at home.
Suddenly, the alarm.
Enemy aircraft are here.
An incendiary bomb hits the house.
It burns violently but it can be tackled I did have to laugh about putting out the incendiary bomb.
You have a fire.
It's burning the carpet.
Throw on some water.
End of film.
But you have to see people fetching a bucket, fetching a hose, alerting a neighbour.
The carpet's curling up as a little bit of fire gets going.
Miss smith arrives.
She has received training from the local authorities, which you, too, can receive.
Brown operates the pump away from the heat and smoke.
'Amongst the most important and effective of the official films 'was a series of recruitment trailers urging women 'to show some pluck and sign up.
' If you are between the ages of 17 and a half and 45, there is a job waiting for you, a job that must be filled.
I saw a recruitment programme given by a Pathé News that they needed women to volunteer because the soldiers were fighting and they needed girls to take up their jobs.
I'll have a bit of that! I got fed up of the shelters every night.
So I joined up.
'Penny served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the ATS.
' Pet, I haven't seen you for ages! How do you like the ATS? - Fine.
How's everyone at the office? - Oh, all right.
You do look smart! - I envy you your job.
- You don't have to.
Why don't you join up? It's a grand life.
It was an eye-opener.
I didn't realise women could be so useful until I saw the Pathé News.
The uniform looked good.
Although it was itchy and that, it looked good.
Apart from being useful, I thought it was exciting and I thought I'd meet different people.
I liked the social life as well because, believe it or not, they had lots of dances.
'Pathé was keen to emphasise the glamorous aspects of women's wartime roles.
'They even gave helpful fashion advice for working women.
' The Vingle hairstyle! If your job is where the wheels are turning, it's common sense to keep your hair short.
A hair on the head's worth two in the machinery.
The partings form four Vs, hence, V-ingle -- Vingle.
'But as war drew to a close and husbands returned home, 'women's roles were about to change.
'In this film, A Tribute To Women, 'Pathé dramatised an encounter between a returning serviceman and his dutiful wife.
' This is the story of just one woman among the thousands who waited.
For her, it's the greatest day of all.
Her man is coming home.
What had happened after the First World War, men had come back and found that women had taken their jobs.
The word was "dilution".
Pay had fallen as a result.
There was a great anxiety that this might happen.
One of the inducements of the Second World War was that men were promised their jobs back when they came out of the forces.
'Pathé quickly shifted its attitude to working women, 'preparing them for their less exciting post-war lives.
'The same women they'd urged to join up were being encouraged 'to step back into their pre-war roles.
' Thousands of wartime brides never had a chance of cooking for their husbands.
Grim outlook for the old man when he comes home? Not if he had the sense to marry an ATS girl.
The attitude to women is amazing! It's like being in the Victorian era.
How's that pie getting on? Looks pretty good! There's one husband who won't need to whistle Ma I Miss Your Apple Pie.
It's assumed that women would be doing what women should do, looking after their husband and children.
That is an absolutely universal assumption.
There's a newsreel in which ATS girls are taught how to lay a table and get the meal ready for "the old man".
During their course as housewives, they're taught how to run a home down to laying the table, so that when George's mother comes to stay she won't be able to find fault.
Pathé filmed that and made it look very patronising, but it was happening, so they can hardly be held indictable for that.
'Women's roles would continue to change but, for now, 'everyone could celebrate a vital victory and a return to peace.
' This was the British people's finest day -- VE Day, the end of the German war.
Six long years.
A jubilation rings out in the victory peal from St Paul's.
'Pathé had performed an essential role during the war.
'They'd acted as mouthpiece for the government to cajole, instruct and exhort the public 'through the challenges faced on the home front.
'They'd established a house style 'that epitomised Britain's plucky war-time spirit.
' We know that, in the days when the war seems remote and far away, these will be historic pictures that tell another generation how we celebrated Victory in Europe day and thanked the service chiefs who worked so valiantly.
'Britain was grateful to Churchill for leading the nation to victory, 'but his popularity didn't translate into support for his party.
'In the 1945 General Election, the nation voted 'Churchill's Conservatives out, and Labour's Clement Attlee in.
' When it came to the post-war period, people were afraid they'd go back to the old Conservatives of the 1930s.
The sweeping victories throughout the country mark an epoch in the political life of this country.
One effect of the war, particularly of the Blitz, was the feeling that there must never be going back to the inequalities of the '30s.
'Pathé and other newsreel companies supported the Labour Party's plans 'to build a new kind of future.
'Social change was high on the agenda.
'The new government promised better prospects for the people 'who had given so much to help win the war.
' The big change after the war, apart from the Welfare State, was the huge house-building programme.
We had to replace the homes that had been destroyed and replace the slums so that gave people a completely new opportunity for a good life.
'Pathé's editors were keen to show the process of reconstruction.
' Very much alive amid the ruins are the bright ideas of the post-war planners, who want to build the old bricks into homes that are new.
The war upset the idea of things being as safe as houses.
They aim at making the houses of the future safe and serviceable.
In the 1930s, there had been terrible homelessness, slum conditions, misery, ill health.
People said, "We are never going back to that again.
" 'But there was no easy solution to Britain's post-war housing crisis.
'So exasperated were some that they took matters into their own hands.
' There was a crisis.
People stormed barracks and occupied blocks of flats.
Peace-time battle report.
The siege of London's Ivanhoe Hotel.
On the pavement -- police, press and squatter sympathisers.
The squatters carry on as best they can.
A food supply has come up from below.
Squatting turns a spotlight on a desperate housing situation.
'One official response to the crisis was prefab housing.
'Pathé's films extolled the virtues of the government's 'quick-fix solutions.
' A whole house can be erected rapidly by manual labour.
The temporary prototype houses are the first of 30,000 in this country.
They fit them together as easily as children's building blocks.
This house has no stairs, no dust-collecting wainscoting and is intended to last about ten years.
'Though the prefabs were meant to be temporary, 'Eddie O'Mahony has enjoyed living in his for the last 65 years.
' My wife had applied to the London County Council for accommodation.
They said it was a prefab.
I said, "I don't want a prefab.
I want a house.
" I was fed up of living in tents and Nissen huts and that sort of thing.
They said, "Before you turn it down, just go and have a look.
" 'Eddie and his wife, Ellen, were one of many families 'who doubted the quality of prefab housing.
'Pathé's films helped to overcome initial sceptisism.
'In their film Homes While You Wait, 'a middle-class couple are invited to test out prefab living.
' George Smith and Mrs Smith are looking for a house.
That's not unusual, but these are unusual days and the usual sort of house is unusually scarce.
They're on the track of a Uni-Seco house, a house made out of sections of portable units.
We made our way into number six and directly my wife opened the door, the first thing she said was, "What a lovely big hall! "We can get the pram in here.
" And we found, not only had it an inside toilet, but a bathroom with a heated towel rack .
.
immersion heater.
Just put a switch on and we had hot water! We came into the dining room and my wife said, "Look how big it is! "Start measuring up for the lino.
" A hinged breakfast table is a space-saving idea.
The refrigerator tops the list of £80 worth of fittings built into Churchill Villa.
Bedroom number two also has plenty of cupboards and, like the other rooms, is central heated.
I think it is very good indeed.
For the men who are coming home and the women who have been working hard and want to get back to family life, I think it is an ideal house.
'Britain gradually tackled its housing crisis 'but as Pathé's films show, millions were living on the breadline.
' I did hope we might have it a bit easier now there's no more war.
Instead of that, it's worse.
The post-war years were very difficult.
We rationed bread for the first time AFTER the war.
When the Germans were starving, we rationed bread.
This is the ration card.
Take a good look.
You'll see it each day and every day for at least a year.
We were sustained by the knowledge that we were engaged in a big project.
'Pathé prepared the nation for the new National Health Service, 'which promised universal free health care from cradle to grave.
' This leaflet is coming through your letter box one day soon.
Or maybe you have already had your copy.
Read it carefully.
To me, it was really moving.
I remember how wonderful the arrival of the National Health Service was.
It was a miracle.
It was overwhelmingly wonderful.
We were completely disbelieving that we could have all this free, and that it was the same for everybody.
What an incredible thing for Britain to have thought it up and to be putting it into practice.
That little modest snatch of newsreel is very poignant for those of us who were there at the time.
'The information films used leading entertainers of the day, 'including comedian Tommy Trinder, to guide people 'through the various elements of the Welfare State.
' Please everyone try by the 5th July to have read the booklet through.
Put it safely away.
You may need it one day.
Then you can read what to do.
Right? Ha ha! You lucky people! 'These changes revolutionised the relationship 'between the people of Britain and the state.
'Pathé showed the government's official fillers 'to make sure everyone knew what they were entitled to.
' There's shoes for Betty and a suit for George.
I'm not made of money.
It's impossible! Wait a minute.
I've just read about Family Allowances.
- We can get ten shillings a week for our three.
- You'll never get that.
Oh, yes, you will! The first Family Allowances will be paid on August 6 of this year.
What public information films are trying to do is almost drag the British people, bodily, into a cleaner, better world.
Your National Insurance number is extremely important to you.
Make a note of it so that it's always at hand.
'Some of the most inventive of these fillers were made by this man, 'the independent filmmaker Richard Massingham, 'whose films were distributed by Pathé and other newsreel companies.
'Massingham had worked in medicine but turned to filmmaking later.
'In a series of entertaining films, 'he cast himself as a dim-witted, accident-prone everyman 'in need of sound advice to cope with the changing world.
' The proper place for your number being, of course, on every claim you make under the new National Insurance scheme.
He's right, you know.
I'm going abroad! Hooray! 'Massingham brought a comedic touch to his fillers, 'which were used to instruct the population on virtually every aspect of their lives.
' Hey.
You can't take all those notes with you.
Take your holiday or business allowance in travellers' cheques.
But not more than £5 in sterling notes.
Do you know that? Do you understand English? Good.
Well, remember, you can take out £5 in notes.
'Massingham's films were not notable for subtlety, 'but they used humour to dispense practical information and advice.
' - Get it? - Ah! 'Other films from the period were more serious 'and censorious in tone.
' When George gets on, we often find that other folk get left behind.
'This film discouraged unnecessary journeys on public transport 'when even buses were in short supply.
' Perhaps I'm just a transport hog.
'One of the government's obsessions, evident in public information films of the 1940s, 'anticipates a major preoccupation of our time -- health and safety.
' Poor woman, one of the 700 people who die in Britain every year through falling down stairs because high heels catch in frayed carpets, bad lighting, some hidden obstacle, too highly polished lino.
First, you had to demonstrate that there was a danger and frighten people.
Then you empowered them and said, "This is how you avoid that danger.
" Fix those loose stair rods.
Tack down that frayed carpet.
Mend that hole in the lino.
Don't wait, or you may be the next.
'From how not to pack your parcels 'to how to buy your stamps, the government's post-war fillers 'tipped into nannying the nation and showed the extent 'of increasing state intervention in people's lives.
' If you tell parents when to put their children to bed, that's quite controversial.
"Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town "Upstairs and downstairs, in his night gown.
"Tapping at the window, prying through the lock "Are the children in their beds? It's seven o'clock.
" Wee Willie Winkie in this rhyme hadn't heard of our summer time.
Really thoughtful parents know children must sleep a lot to grow.
'It wasn't just information films that were increasingly opinionated.
'Some of Pathé's newsreel reports also adopted a moralising tone, 'especially after the arrival of Clement Cave in 1946, 'who swiftly rose from news editor to editor.
' With Clement Cave, you can really see the voice and the tone of Pathé changing.
It becomes a lot more socially aware.
You could even say it's becoming very left-leaning at that point.
That is very unusual for a newsreel.
For 50 years, Britain's miners have demanded the nationalisation of the mining industry.
Their campaign began in the pioneering days of Keir Hardie.
It has ended in 1947.
From now on, the people take over.
Cave completely changed the style, the format.
He believed that television news was on the way and there was great competition for newsreels.
They had to adapt with the times.
'Even Pathé's entertainment strands 'reflected their increasing social awareness.
'Like the 1947 film entitled Pathé Pictorial Looks East West, 'which contrasted the poorest boroughs of the capital with the most affluent.
' It really suggests that the East End is where there's real community and the West End is where there's no community, just a bunch of rich people living isolated lives.
The East End kid may dream of the Oval, but his playground is often where the bomb dropped.
He learns to take his pleasure where he can.
What have they got that the other fellow hasn't? Probably a nanny who never lets them out of her sight.
These children of the west, who must dress up even to play in the park.
It's great fun pretending you're a real sea captain.
But isn't it rather lonely this way, with no-one to share it? Is this social criticism? No.
I think it's trading on stereotypes.
But it's providing a fascinating insight into the social divisions in Britain in the post-war period.
'In 1947, Cave commissioned a film that went one step further, 'to raise awareness of the lack of social care for the elderly.
'In explicitly political terms, Cave told his audience 'that they had a duty to support his campaign for change.
' This is the story of Britain's old people, too old to speak for themselves, with no-one to speak for them.
If this were a scene from Dickens, we would shudder at it.
Yet this is in Britain in 1947.
It's fine to talk about a certain social issue from a political standpoint, slightly left or right of centre.
You might get away with that.
But the line that he crossed with that is, at the end of that story, he exhorts the audience to go and lobby their MPs.
The problem is, what can you do about it? You have an MP, write to him.
You elect councillors, press them.
You have newspapers, write to them.
Once the public conscience is aroused, the fear of old age will be banished for ever.
The demand should be, "This system must go!" It raises a very interesting question about what the role of news on screen should be.
What comes back from the audience and exhibitors is that that is not what its role is.
There's a very British tradition of the news being impartial.
'As a result of films such as this, 'Clement Cave was demoted from the top job at Pathé 'and soon left the company for good.
'After that brief foray into radical campaigning, 'with films critical of the status quo, 'Pathé returned to its traditional approach, producing positive films that endorsed government policy.
' Line upon line.
Main lines.
Branch lines.
Loop lines.
Junction upon junction.
Network upon network.
Mighty achievement that was an inspiration for the world.
'Transport was a longer film that Pathé's documentary unit made 'to promote the nationalisation of Britain's transport network.
' What we see here is a traditional British documentary style.
A documentary with very high production values, beautifully shot, has great commentary and is there as a public relations vehicle.
In less than a century, 120 separate undertakings had reduced themselves to four.
And now reduced to one.
Road transport, railways, canals and docks.
To view them all together and make them work as one.
'This film was one of several that showed 'how the country's industry and economy were getting back on track.
'Pathé's cameras were on hand four years later 'when Britain showcased its industrial progress.
' London South Bank Exhibition shows the world what Britain can do.
'In 1951, the Festival of Britain seemed to herald 'the beginning of the end of austerity.
'It brightened the national mood 'by presenting an optimistic vision for the future.
' Britain in the late '40s was a pretty grey, threadbare place.
The Festival of Britain is something exciting and different to do.
That's why you get tens of millions of people who either go to the South Bank or lap it up on the newsreels.
Because it represents the first kind of bit of good news, the first flash of enthusiasm that people have had for a long time.
The royal party will begin their inspection at the Great Dome of Discovery.
Escalators carry visitors to the top floor, an indication of the vastness of this ultra-modern building.
In the dome, exhibits tell the glorious story of Britain's lead in discovery and exploration, both on this planet and in the universe beyond.
Britain was poised to enter this new era of consumerism and of the space age and the jet age.
The South Bank Exhibition, Britain's proof to a doubting world that she still leads in science and discovery, draws to its close.
People saw it as a rare opportunity to feel proud about being British, to fee buoyant, to feel they got their reward.
And singing Jerusalem, it's a classic example of that collective spirit.
Despite our troubles, this festival has been a great British accomplishment.
'In the same year, 'Churchill's Conservatives were voted back into power.
' By the voice of the people, Winston Churchill is once again called to guide our destiny.
'The new Conservative government would commission fewer public information films.
'Pathé's output became less concerned with social provision and public advice.
'Instead, it addressed a new generation of consumers.
' It must be spring because here's the Daily Mail Ideal Homes Exhibition.
And for any young man whose fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love, as usual, it's full of good ideas.
For instance, the Women's Institute house.
400,000 women gave their suggestions for what would make a home ideal.
The kitchen is brimful of niceties only a housewife would notice.
We get a vision of the new housing, the new gadgets, the new lifestyles.
That comes through very strongly in the Pathé newsreels of the 1950s.
But why talk of love and money in the same breath? So long as you're dreaming, why not do the girl proud? "Do the girl proud," it says.
Because you were meant to aspire to a beautiful home, and that was your job.
When asked, "What do you care about? "What will make you vote one way in a General Election?" the answer's almost always the same.
Prices, the price of things.
What they want to do is make sure they can continue buying more and more things.
Sharing in the good life, that's what they want.
Half the fun of these exhibitions are the gadgets.
Here's something that will do a lot of useful jobs.
With different fittings, you can mix food, then clean up the mess.
Some things aren't what they seem, by a long chalk.
That isn't champagne.
It's a sham bottle! 'Pathé's films delighted in the excitement of consumerism.
'Their new unofficial message was, "Spend, spend, spend.
"' Patiently waiting Their hearts palpitating They stand there in line Biding the time The Battle Of The Sales was done in rhyming couplets.
For several reasons.
One, it's fun.
Two, it's the activity of women.
You don't need to be very serious.
You can mock it while reporting on it.
Nobody will notice very much.
Perhaps it's a dress Costing two quid or less You come here to fight for Having waited all night for You notice from today's perspective it seems condescending.
But it's quite fun.
It's "of its time".
For a coat or a cape Whatever your shape They'll find one to fit No, that isn't it From napkins to shrouds The battling crowds Choose their new linen I wonder who's winning That's a nice sheet But oh, my poor feet! In with the oil The machine's on the boil The best of us fail At a January sale.
In 1957, Harold Macmillan made this speech that, to a lot of people, sums up the spirit of the 1950s.
He said, "Let's face it.
Most of our people have never had it so good.
" There's nothing historical about this kitchen.
It contains some of the most up-to-date gadgets on the market.
"You never had it so good!" It should have been, "You never had it so GOODS!" 'One of the goods more people could afford 'was a television in their homes.
'The popularity of TVs meant a steep decline in cinema attendance.
'Pathé and the newsreels no longer enjoyed the influence they once had.
'They had never entirely given up 'on producing public information films to admonish errant drivers 'in traditional Pathé style.
' Look at that! Road manners? Where are they? Have you ever shown bad manners like this? Have you ever stopped your car in the middle of the road and to blazes with everyone? It's downright daft and selfish! 'Pathé's paternalistic messages no longer carried the authority they had in their heyday.
' By the 1960s, the newsreel has passed its peak.
It's past its sell-by date! Some of the Pathé material of the 1960s is quite touching, because it feels like an older brother or a father trying to "get with the young people".
Brace yourself and prepare to meet, in some sort of action, a hippy.
This is history, all right.
This is what they call a "love-in".
The kind of stiff, mannered, affected voice of the newsreel, which had seemed authoritative, is old-fashioned.
In fact, an authoritative voice at all is kind of passe! 'The once-commanding newsreel watched from the sidelines 'as the nation was swept up by rapid and radical change.
' This, ladies and gentlemen, is London.
Swinging London, it's been called.
Though some people might find a different adjective.
Social rebels have taken over in what seems more like an invasion.
They've got their own language that is "way out and weird"! The newsreels are suddenly amazingly dated, as old-fashioned as old-fashioned clothes.
They were absolutely out of it.
Perhaps some of us are just getting old and crusty, forgetting what it meant to be young and active, in every sort of way.
'At its peak, 'Pathé had spoken to the nation with unshakable authority.
'It guided the British people through times of peril '.
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and celebrated moments of joy.
'It recorded our hardship and privation, 'and documented our national renewal.
'Their films showed the country's problems, 'offered solutions and provided life-enhancing, 'and in some cases life-saving, information.
'Pathé's paternalistic tone 'may seem overly moralistic by today's standards' Ladies and gentlemen, as the regular Pathé '.
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but for a generation, 'Bob Danvers-Walker articulated the concerns, aspirations and values of Britain.
'The voice of Pathé was also the voice of a nation.
'