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Grand Prix (1949)

Courtesy of Shell International

Main image of Grand Prix (1949)
35mm, black and white, 28 mins
DirectorBill Mason
Production CompanyShell Film Unit
With the Co-operation ofRAC Motoring Services
CommentaryR.L. Walkerley

A record of the British Grand Prix held at Silverstone on May 11th 1949.

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Motor racing became a regular theme of the films made by the Shell Film Unit in the years after World War Two. This reflected the filmic potential of the subject, its popularity with viewers (particularly male ones), and its obvious but largely unstated connection to the sponsor's commercial interests. While a number of filmmakers worked on Shell's motor racing films, their most prolific director was Bill Mason, himself a motor racing enthusiast (an enthusiasm inherited by his son, Pink Floyd drummer Nick). This was his first such film, an account of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Stylistically, the film's approach somewhat resembles that of contemporaneous newsreels - combining footage of highlights with descriptive commentary - but its 30-minute running time allows considerable room for exposition as well as for detailed coverage of the race to be included. Indeed, the whole of the first reel covers the background (including compiled shots of early motor races, maps and footage of the location, and preparations by mechanics and drivers). The second and final reel is devoted to the race itself, which was won by Swiss driver Emmanuel de Graffenried in a Maserati. Released into cinemas as well as distributed non-theatrically, it is a significant contribution to the sports film genre, and interesting to compare to later television equivalents.

Patrick Russell

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Video Clips
Complete film (28:18)
Topical Budget 103-2: The Grand Prix de France (1913)
Topical Budget 569-1: Auto Grand Prix (1922)
Shell Film Unit (1934-)