to Remember is a fascinating example of cinematic and
televisual cannibalism. Starting life as British Pathe newsreel
footage, the series began life in 1959 as a series of nostalgic
documentaries, compiled by Peter Baylis, that used the newsreel
footage to tell the history – as far as it then was –
of the 20th century, and with specific themes for each episode.
Each episode had its own narrator, ranging from Sir Michael Redgrave
to Ralph Richardson to John Ireland. The series ran until 1964.
In 2010, BBC4 broadcast a new edit of the series, chopping up
the original versions to create new themed editions, with Lesley
Sharp linking the original 1960s versions together. Other than
reducing the length of the series from three series worth to just
twelve episodes, it’s hard to see why this was necessary.
It’s these new editions – alongside two episodes of
the original version – that are included in this three-disc
While this won’t replace specialised documentaries on any
of the subjects, there is nevertheless a lot to enjoy here, as
the vintage footage – and now, vintage narration –
gives a fascinating insight into the world of yesteryear. Indeed,
the double edged nostalgia – voices from fifty years ago
waxing lyrical about a period of time that to them was already
long in the past – is quite dizzying!
With themes like Pioneers of Aviation,
Casualties of War, Crime
and Prohibition, The Need for Speed
and A Woman’s World, the half
hour episodes are a fascinating mix of footage normally only briefly
glimpsed, featuring a world long gone. Skilfully edited, very
entertaining and surprisingly informative, this is remarkable
stuff, and is a nice counterpoint to the Look
at Life series that is also being currently revived.
As a social history of Britain in the first half of the last century,
this is compellingly interesting. I’d love to see someone
do likewise with subsequent decades.
IT NOW (UK)