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Day in Liverpool, A (1929)

Main image of Day in Liverpool, A (1929)
35mm, black and white, silent, 1990 feet
DirectorAnson Dyer
SponsorLiverpool Council
ScreenplayMatthew Anderson

Liverpool travelogue, concentrating on the city's commercial side.

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A Day in Liverpool stands as probably the first film production specifically about Liverpool, rendering it as a place with a particular identity, character and international status. The opening shots, showing Pier Head with its ensemble of architectural landmarks - the Liver Building, Cunard Building, Port of Liverpool Building (locally known as the Three Graces) - not only developed visual icons synonymous with Liverpool, but helped set in place a moving image language indispensable for subsequent film productions promoting the city.

The film is also known as Liverpool City of Ships, a fitting title since one of its declared objectives is to demonstrate the city's significance as 'principle seaport of industrial England'. Director Anson Dyer, better known for animation, takes his inspiration from the then prevalent 'city-symphonies' like Walter Ruttmann's Berlin: Symphony of a City (Berlin: Die Symphonie der GroƟstadt, Germany, 1927) and Dziga Vertov's The Man with a Movie Camera (USSR, 1929). Though it falls short of such celebrated works, A Day in Liverpool shares their more humble ambition to show a typical day in the life of the city. Weaving a clock motif through the film, Dyer's divides his portrait into distinct parts - morning, afternoon, early evening - each with its own pace and activities, highlighting the rhythmic nature of urban life in general and Liverpool in particular.

Whereas in Ruttmann's Berlin, workers mostly commute by train into the city, the workforce in A Day in Liverpool arrives predominantly by the Mersey Ferry at Pier Head, from which electric trams and the overhead railway carry them to their offices or the docks nearby. The film's footage of Pier Head, the Three Graces, and the landing stage is of outstanding quality, and the insightful portrayal of operations and workflow of dock workers inside the dock walls - where modern technology (motor cars) operate alongside more traditional forms of transport (horse-drawn carriages) - makes it an invaluable historical and social document.

Dyer portrays Liverpool as centre of commerce and trade, with well-dressed business men rushing into monumental office buildings and female secretaries relentlessly punching typewriter keys signifying the frantic, mechanical nature of modern urban life. Dyer perpetually reminds the viewer of Liverpool's leading role in national and international shipping, while highlighting the city's cultural and architectural marvels, its dynamic character and its ongoing development, with a number of landmark buildings still under construction, including the India Building (completed in 1930) and the Anglican Cathedral (completed 1978).

Richard Koeck

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Video Clips
1. Gladstone Docks (1:04)
2. Liverpool's playground (0:39)
3. Arrival of White Star Liner (1:42)
4. Outbound (2:03)
Complete film (33:09)
Liverpool - Gateway of Empire (1933)
Pool of Life, The (1974-76)
Dyer, Anson (1876-1962)
Liverpool: Across the Mersey
Liverpool: Days in the Life