I really do find it fascinating, even a little eerie, to watch the old black and white films of London that are on the BFI you tube channel.
Today I cam across this wonderful little film of London After Dark, which shows the Elephant and castle in 1926. An interesting thing about this is that, although 1926 sounds like an awfully long time ago – and, I suppose, to all intents and purposes, it is – in the greater scheme of things it isn’t that long ago.
It was, for example, the year that Queen Elizabeth 11 was born.
But historically, this is London between the wars and the wonderful thing about these old black and white films is that you get to see England’s Capital prior to the widespread destruction that was wreaked on it by the bombs of The Blitz of the Second World War.
I love the little captions, which are almost poetic in their sentiments. For example, there is that wonderful opening caption informing us that “…the sun has settled down to slumber and the Big City is wrapped in the mantle of moonlight…” pure poetry!
The there’s a wonderful long view of St Paul’s Cathedral, seen from the south side of the River Thames, before we’re told that we’re off to the “Elephant” which, according to the caption, is that “bustling centre of humanity.” I’d call the Elephant and castle of today many things but, I have to admit, a “bustling centre of humanity” wouldn’t be one of them!
But, to me at least, the accolade of the most poetic of the captions goes to that wonderful description of the “Elephant Theatre” as an ‘academy of art… wherein those big-hearted working classes can enjoy the good old drama.” I’d have loved to have been looking over the caption writer’s shoulder as he wrote out his lines. I wonder if he afforded himself the occasional chuckle as he came up with the lines!
As with so much of the BFI film archive this really is something worth watching, as it really does capture the flavour of a long vanished London age.