And it’s remarkable.
I had heard of Pathé, of course. And I understood that it was the news for the nation, played out in cinemas across the land, followed by a cartoon, followed by the film. And that was life.
But actually watching it.. it’s like seeing a documentary from an alien world.
There are glimpses of all the famous political figures of the time, there’s a smidge of Neville Chamberlain, and the Pope, there’s the Queen Mother, when she was simply the Queen, looking stunning and being presented with some sort of ostrich feather boa.
There are some attitudes which belong to the time. “Give a girl a mirror and a hat, and she’ll play for hours.” Well, all right then, but there are also inventions for the world of tomorrow: a glove on a spring to wave goodbye to your husband when he leaves for work, so you don’t have to; a month’s supply of medication taken as one pill, so you don’t have to remember to take anything until next month.
There are visits to the colonies. It seems every man in the late nineteen-thirties wore a hat. Every single one of them. I blame an over-dependence on hair oil. God lord, most of the women, too. Oh, to be a milliner in the 1930s.
The King and Queen spend some time at the Dartmouth Naval College, and a pal of mine, who will be at Movie Night this evening, trained there, as did his father and his father before him, going all the way back to Adam.
There are world-record attempts, ladies fashions, mad inventions and world events. Perhaps the world events are so terrifying that the news-lite, the fluff, is necessary to keep everyone from hiding under a rock for the following six years.
The men of Britain flock to the colours. They wear their gas masks, they prepare for the terror to come, the children trudge with their square white bags to the buses that will evacuate them to the countryside. The people throng on the streets to wave to the Prime Minister.
The point is made that war may be declared, not on the German people, but on their leader. Messages of defiance are written in chalk on the sides of army vans, and the auxiliary fire service practise their trade in the streets; stretchers, plasters and cups of tea.
The original footage is scratchy, as might be expected from the time, and the speeches are beautifully enunciated and remarkably articulate. It’s hard to balance out the loquacious and purposeful film I am watching with a world that recognises DILLIGAS as a snappy rejoinder.