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Holmes' and Watson's World
October 24, 2008 4:01 PM   Subscribe

One minute and four seconds in London, 1904. Birkbeck College professor Ian Christie rediscovered this footage in an archive in Canberra, shot for a travelogue by film pioneer Charles Urban.
posted by digaman (67 comments total) 77 users marked this as a favorite

 
Awesome. I like how it's slowed down to nearly real-time instead of zipping along like a Benny Hill chase.
posted by crapmatic at 4:05 PM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


(where are the other nine minutes that supposedly exist?)
posted by crapmatic at 4:06 PM on October 24, 2008


Oh, what a neat find.

Everyone is scratching and wiping their noses. I don't know if it's because they had the sniffles from colds or bad air, or they weren't used to being filmed, or just confirmation bias because I'm used to seeing people in clothes like that staged and perfect, but I loved it. That was the little detail that made it alive for me.
posted by hippugeek at 4:13 PM on October 24, 2008


Fantastic. Liked the bloke who spotted the camera and adjusted his cravat. The cockney knees-up kept the knees low too, more like clog.I'd love to see the rest of the footage too.
posted by Abiezer at 4:17 PM on October 24, 2008


This is odd timing. We just came back from Trafalgar Square where a huge screen was set up and we, along with thousands of others, listened to a live band play music to accompany films of London in the early 20th century.
posted by vacapinta at 4:18 PM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


OW wouldn't it be luverly....?

<-- prances off for some choc'lates to eat
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 4:21 PM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


The woman at the beginning wiping her eye, and the boy on the bridge mugging for the camera... totally disarmed me.
posted by not_on_display at 4:21 PM on October 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


There's some more here.
posted by gubo at 4:22 PM on October 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Excellent find. What struck me was the footage of the boys with their trousers rolled up, playing on the banks of the Thames (given the shallows I'm guessing Hammersmith or Chiswick, but could be way off). I was prompted to wonder where those boys were 12 or 14 years from then - Mons, the Somme, Gallipoli. Incredibly sad.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 4:26 PM on October 24, 2008 [7 favorites]


The last scene is of Ludgate Circus, and is remarkably similar to this drawing thereof.
posted by cillit bang at 4:29 PM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Thames as a working river, which you get a glimpse of at gubo's link, must have given the city such a different feel. All long dead bar a bit of tourist traffic by the time I lived there.
posted by Abiezer at 4:32 PM on October 24, 2008


I was prompted to wonder where those boys were 12 or 14 years from then - Mons, the Somme, Gallipoli. Incredibly sad

Indeed. I was just researching a story for Wired in the UK, and was at Oxford for several days. In one of the chapels, there was a wall with an inscription of the names of the Oxford boys who died in the first World War. It seemed like large portion of the brilliant student body must have gone off to die in those trenches. I wonder what knowledge would have added to the world?
posted by digaman at 4:34 PM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


*what knowledge they would have added
posted by digaman at 4:35 PM on October 24, 2008


Ooh, he was is Calcutta/Kolkata in 1899 too.
posted by Abiezer at 4:36 PM on October 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


The boys playing in the water- The Serpentine perhaps?
posted by mattoxic at 4:39 PM on October 24, 2008


So many hats!
posted by MrMoonPie at 4:41 PM on October 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


That was my thought on seeing those boys, too-- the soldiers of the next decade. Also that the little girl in the enormous hat could have been my grandmother, who was born in 1899. Thanks for this, it was terribly moving.
posted by jokeefe at 4:41 PM on October 24, 2008


Think it said a pond in St James's Park in the Telegraph article.
posted by Abiezer at 4:42 PM on October 24, 2008


Ah ok. Reading the bottom of grubo's link it appears this wasn't a coincidence...
posted by vacapinta at 4:43 PM on October 24, 2008


Oooh, so it was taken in the summer of 1904? It would be several more levels of awesome if one of the days of filming was June 16th. Bloomsday in action!
posted by jokeefe at 4:52 PM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Omg, that brought tears to my eyes. What an incredible 1 minute and 4 seconds time travel back to that time of 1904. What a surreal feeling. The faces were so vivid. Thanks digaman.

Yeah, I want to see the other minutes of that film as well.

Had to find out about the history of film. The second oldest film ever made, in 1888. The rare films from that time, like this Electric Hotel one from 1905, Life of Christ, 1905 or my fave, Trip to the Moon, 1902, are not remotely as clear as the beautiful film you linked. And not anything about real life, real street scenes.

You gave me the treat of time travel. Wouldn't it be amazing to be able to get even a minute glimpse like that into the 1700's or other centuries?

If I'd known you were in Oxford I would have suggested you spend a twilight half an hour at Ot Moor, watching those starlings I love so much.

On preview, wow Abiezer, that's an amazing find too! Thanks.
posted by nickyskye at 4:55 PM on October 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Riveting—I wish there were more. Thanks for the post.

So many hats!

My people!

posted by languagehat at 4:58 PM on October 24, 2008


Ooh, he was is Calcutta/Kolkata in 1899 too.

No he wasn't; that's Benares. Before I read the explanation on the right, I was very confused: "What the...? Where in Calcutta could that be?"
posted by languagehat at 5:00 PM on October 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Rewatching the "Calcutta" footage and actually reading their info, despite that being the title of the film it's actually Venaris apparently. Doesn't mention Urban there but the video was linked off the Urban site. Oh well, interesting either way.
posted by Abiezer at 5:04 PM on October 24, 2008


Ah, we really must get a preview button. :D
posted by Abiezer at 5:04 PM on October 24, 2008


Yeah just really simply thinking: whoa, all of those people are dead.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:05 PM on October 24, 2008


/me recreates this film in loving detail, posts to blue, is derided as a steam punk
posted by DU at 5:06 PM on October 24, 2008


Holy cats, this footage is amazing. The little dancing girl, especially; I wish there were hours more footage of people dancing. You just can't transmit that through paper. Wow.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:16 PM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


That was rather awesome.
posted by gomichild at 5:37 PM on October 24, 2008


Awesome. The little girl dancing is my favorite, but in general, the huge nunber of people in the streets just sort of milling around and everything seems so .. organic .. no plastic or much metal, mostly just cloth and wood and stone. Wonderful warm texture we have lost.

BTW if your interested in this period there is a new book out called The Vertigo Years: Europe 1900-1914 - I'll be posting a review on Amazon in the next few weeks. I've read other works by the author and he is great.
posted by stbalbach at 5:43 PM on October 24, 2008


Having it be the correct speed really made it come alive. It really is like time travel.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 5:44 PM on October 24, 2008


Nice, thanks for this, digaman.
posted by carter at 5:46 PM on October 24, 2008


very, very nice... I too was thrilled by the boy on the bridge...

thanks
posted by HuronBob at 5:48 PM on October 24, 2008


I was prompted to wonder where those boys were 12 or 14 years from then - Mons, the Somme, Gallipoli. Incredibly sad.

Brings to mind the final words of Stanley Kubrick's BARRY LYNDON: "Good or bad, rich or poor, they're all dead now."
posted by philip-random at 5:52 PM on October 24, 2008


Fascinating. Just look at us now.
posted by buzzman at 5:56 PM on October 24, 2008


So, so cool. I love the little boy on the bridge at 00:12 striking a rakish pose, and readjusting into an even more rakish pose, and the woman at 00:28 dancing with babe in arms. Also: BOVRIL!
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 6:01 PM on October 24, 2008


Thank you for posting this - it's an awesome bit of footage :-)
posted by Monkeymoo at 6:33 PM on October 24, 2008


Very cool digaman. Thanks for this.

Btw, have you done your interview with Laurie Anderson yet?


(Love those starlings Nicky)
posted by vronsky at 6:36 PM on October 24, 2008


Just noticed bicycles are still moving faster than the surrounding traffic. Ahhh, progress.
posted by buzzman at 7:24 PM on October 24, 2008


I'm confused about the last bit (0:53 min onwards). Why is the train on that bridge going backwards? Was initially presuming the video was also playing backwards, but everyone on the street seem to be walking/ driving forward. It's just the train.
posted by the cydonian at 7:41 PM on October 24, 2008


Britain filmed in colour for the first time, 1926: Climbing Borrowdale Fells
posted by not_on_display at 7:44 PM on October 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Double-decker horse-drawn busses? For some reason, that just surprises me.

This captures in a way no history book really does the realization that history is just full of everyday people doing ordinary stuff.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:56 PM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I love it, buzzing the camera wasn't even a concept back then. Cydonian: perhaps there was a train yard or loading dock just beyond the bridge there and they were backing the cars in on a side line or something. That was a pretty awesome thing to capture on film regardless of what was going on, thanks for pointing it out.
posted by mcrandello at 7:58 PM on October 24, 2008


Lots of good ankle sighting to be had here
posted by captainsohler at 8:02 PM on October 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh, and seriously - that little girl is Michael Flatley's Granny, and he only got a small percentage of the skill. Class.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 8:04 PM on October 24, 2008


Britain filmed in colour for the first time, 1926: Climbing Borrowdale Fells
Quality! Tab and a kipper then up the hill. Suspiciously Bohemian, mind.
posted by Abiezer at 8:39 PM on October 24, 2008


Great post and many fine added links in the comments, thank you all.

Question: Why is the film in the OP so much more clear and sharp than other surviving films from the same era?
posted by LarryC at 8:48 PM on October 24, 2008


Cool to see the ad for Pears soap at the very end. I use it daily.
posted by Kickstart70 at 10:03 PM on October 24, 2008


Two thumbs up! It really is fascinating. Another world, almost entirely.

I wish more people wore hats in the year 2008.
posted by davidmsc at 11:27 PM on October 24, 2008


Way cool.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:59 PM on October 24, 2008


vronsky, yes I did do my interview with Laurie Anderson, and in fact, I saw "Homeland" for the second time tonight. Here's my piece on the show, with quotes from Laurie: National Insecurity. Good memory, vronsky!
posted by digaman at 12:10 AM on October 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Amazing footage.
posted by Devils Slide at 1:27 AM on October 25, 2008


Mrs Bathurst!
posted by pracowity at 3:32 AM on October 25, 2008


Great link. Similar in era and feel to the Mitchell & Kenyon films that surfaced a few years ago (after a few pages, it stops being mostly football).
posted by chorltonmeateater at 4:53 AM on October 25, 2008


I found this deeply enjoyable, for which my thanks.
posted by Wolof at 5:57 AM on October 25, 2008


It's amazing that we can look a century into the past. Humans are sometimes cool.
posted by ersatz at 7:07 AM on October 25, 2008


I love the woman who is rubbing her eye and then looks at the camera with a sort of half-scowl, like she's going to turn to the camera man and mutter "This is going to be on YouTube, isn't it?"

Also: in addition to all those hats! All those mustaches!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:19 AM on October 25, 2008


Wow. Whole lot of greenhouse gas emissions going on there. No wonder eyes are being rubbed.
posted by jetsetsc at 9:29 AM on October 25, 2008


>The last scene is of Ludgate Circus, and is remarkably similar to this drawing thereof.

You're right.
posted by nickyskye at 9:32 AM on October 25, 2008


This is such a cool find--thanks!
posted by clon7 at 9:48 AM on October 25, 2008


Excellent find. What struck me was the footage of the boys with their trousers rolled up, playing on the banks of the Thames (given the shallows I'm guessing Hammersmith or Chiswick, but could be way off). I was prompted to wonder where those boys were 12 or 14 years from then - Mons, the Somme, Gallipoli. Incredibly sad.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 7:26 PM on October 24 [5 favorites +] [!]


I, too, couldn't help but think about how the world in this film - and so many of the boys and men - disapeered a decade later. London survived, relatively untouched, but none of the people did. The first World War has faded in many memories as the survivors pass on, and it's been hard for me to understand what a cataclysm it was for that society. But the more I learn about it, the more overwhelmed I am at the loss and destruction - to the point where I find it hard to think.
posted by jb at 9:54 AM on October 25, 2008


sorry - my comment should end "to the point where I find it hard to think about it."
posted by jb at 9:54 AM on October 25, 2008


This post has all kinds of greatness. Thanks to all contributors.
Loved it all.

from Mitchell & Kenyon.
'The top hatted gentlemen swimming...'
Tynemouth Swimming Gala, zany.

That Segundo de Chomon - El Hotel electrico is something else also. Whoa.

Thanks digaman, including your wonderful piece on Laurie Anderson. Excellent./
posted by alicesshoe at 11:50 AM on October 25, 2008


Thank you!
posted by digaman at 12:21 PM on October 25, 2008


Excellent is right. Thanks digaman!

(and also this Lucien Bull film from 1904.)
posted by vronsky at 7:31 PM on October 25, 2008


Wonderful footage. I wonder what's in those round boxes that are on the cart at around 01:06, oysters maybe?
posted by tellurian at 6:16 AM on October 26, 2008


Wow, such an amazing window into another time and so clear! Thanks digaman. Makes me think of the brilliant BBC series The Thirties in Colour, which is available for download from various places, like Usenet, torrent sites, etc.
posted by Onanist at 4:28 PM on October 26, 2008


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