Nostalgia Was Better In Those Days

London, The Arts

Thanks Terenzio for reminding me about the ‘How To Be A Retronaut’ site, which has, among other wonders, amazing old colour footage of prewar London, plus some sinister ads and oddities.

I don’t spend too much time wallowing in the past, but a great thing you can do on a rainy afternoon is head down to the BFI Mediatheque on the South Bank and access their rare footage (it takes no time to find and load). They have an astonishing collection of material you won’t find anywhere else. Although there are many old British films which are worthing watching now simply for their background scenes.

This made me think of ‘Genevieve’, the fondly remembered rom-com about the London To Brighton Rally, which still sets off from Hyde Park every early November. Anyone who saw the film recalls the beautiful Kay Kendall suddenly revealing her skills at playing the trumpet, but there’s this moment near the end which shows London streets. The whole film can be watched on YouTube (although the trumpet solo is split). The film was written by William Rose, who together with his wife Tania, wrote ‘It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’.

I’m particularly charmed by the fact that John Gregson almost loses the race through sheer politeness, it being inconceivable that he might drive off in the middle of a conversation. You might wish to compare this film with ‘Fish Tank’, the Bafta award-winning 2010 film which consists of teenaged girls screaming ‘f**k off, you c**t’ for 90 minutes between applications of makeup.


4 comments on “Nostalgia Was Better In Those Days”

  1. Anne Fernie says:

    Anyone interested in vintage footage of British cities could do worse than take a look at British Pathe’s website ( There are some wonderfully quirky clips that can be viewed from the old newsreels.

  2. I.A.M. says:

    Another movie about people driving around being insane in service of a goal, just like IaMMMMW, and the connection was previously un-known! I recall the closing moment of the film more than the rest of the film, with the iconic location making a lasting impression, obviously.

    Perhaps one might poke about on the South Bank in a month’s time. What sort of lost gems do people recommend digging up at the BFI? (please, no one suggest Fish Tank…)

  3. Terenzio says:

    Wonderful footage of London. In some of the scenes you could see the tracks for the trams that once roamed about the city. I believe London (at one point) had one of the largest tram networks in Europe.

    I believe the film won a couple of Academy Awards. Not sure watching it o Youtube, although it does wet your appetite to see the entire film on a decent size television.

  4. mikenicholson says:

    In regards to Mister Gregson, and an interest in London location filming, you can do worse than check out the boxed set of ITC’s early/mid-1960’s show ‘Gideon’s Way’ – based on the John Creasey novels. What I found particularly enjoyable – as well as a relentless, and welcome, flood of British guest stars AND better, tougher stories than one might have expected – is the sheer amount of location material, far more than the usual amount. Though in black and white it still gives a great insight into a London post-war and pre-demolition/rebuild of the late ’60’s. Lovely stuff – and Gregson’s rather good.

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