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Transport (1950)


Main image of Transport (1950)
35mm, black and white, 20 mins
DirectorPeter Bradford
Production CompanyAssociated British Pathé
SponsorBritish Transport Films
ProducerPeter Baylis
ScriptJack Howells
PhotographyReg W. Cavender
MusicThomas Henderson

The story of the rapid development of canals, railways and road transport services in the UK and their subsequent reorganisation and nationalisation in 1948.

Show full synopsis

Transport was one of the first four films produced by British Transport Films and made by Pathé's documentary unit. In sum it is an argument for nationalisation under the 1948 Transport Act, not just of railways but of roads and waterways as well.

The film begins its argument with a potted history, typically for the time stressing the Industrial Revolution and its transport needs: better roads, canals, railways. Just when the commentator is becoming triumphalist about the wonders of the nineteenth-century railway revolution, a Leicester voice with an animated map demonstrates the wastefulness of commercial competition. The lesson is repeated again with road versus rail in the inter-war period. The film builds to the 1948 Act, then argues for its rationality, despite the significant difficulties it presents.

Transport's director Peter Bradford had recently left Paul Rotha's bankrupt company, Films of Fact, and the film shows that he had learned many lessons there; his direction shows maturity in structuring, script and use of cinematography. A contemporary review argued that the film "avoids the impersonal statistics and exhortations that make one so apathetic towards commentators, by employing a variety of voices on the soundtrack". But in Bradford's approach this is achieved elegantly with successive voices taking different sections of the film, rather than the closely textured dynamic interplay favoured by Rotha. All the same, the inclusion of workers' voices remains firmly linked to the authoritative voice of the film; these are not competing with, but endorsing, the policies of Clement Attlee's government.

Tim Boon

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Land of Promise: The British Documentary Movement 1930-1950'.

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. On transport (1:08)
2. Iron and steel (3:29)
3. Four into one (2:34)
Complete film (18:56)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
British Transport Films