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The GPO Film Unit: 1935

Coal Face, A Colour Box and the epic BBC - The Voice of Britain

Main image of The GPO Film Unit: 1935

The GPO's second full year of operation featured what was becoming a familiar mixture of corporate self-promotion (Banking For Millions, Sixpenny Telegram, The Rt. Hon. Sir Howard Kingsley Wood M.P.: Postmaster General), technical explanation (BBC - Droitwich, Introducing the Dial, Pines and Poles) historical overviews (C.T.O. - The Story of the Central Telegraph Office, The King's Stamp, Road Transport, The Story of the Wheel) and more eccentric - or at least unexpected - material.

Coal Face was an important advance in sonic experimentation, with Alberto Cavalcanti (directing) joining forces with W.H. Auden (writing) and Benjamin Britten (music) to fusing Soviet-inspired montage with a complex layered audio picture of the lives of coal miners. (Ironically, one of the GPO Film Unit's best-known and most influential titles had absolutely nothing to do with its corporate remit!). The year also saw the New Zealander Len Lye making the first of four films for the GPO, hand-painting an almost entirely abstract piece directly onto 35mm film - the "almost" referring to the obligatory mention of the GPO's services at the end. But it was BBC - The Voice of Britain that saw the GPO Film Unit pulling out every stop: this hour-long top-to-bottom portrait of what was still a radio-only broadcaster was arguably the most ambitious and expensive documentary produced in Britain up to that point.

Films produced by the GPO Film Unit in 1935 include:

Banking for Millions
A tour of the various departments at the Post Office Savings Bank Headquarters.

BBC - Droitwich
The processes of the construction of the Droitwich station.

BBC - The Voice of Britain
The organisation, and social implications, of the national radio in Britain.

Coal Face
The work of the British miner and its importance.

A Colour Box
An abstract film advertising cheaper rates for the parcel post.

C.T.O. - The Story of the Central Telegraph Office
The history of telegraphy from the invention of Morse Code to the creation of the Central Telegraph Office.

Introducing the Dial
How the automatic dialling system works.

The King's Stamp
The design and production of a postage stamp for the Jubilee celebrations of George V.

Pines and Poles
The creation of telephone poles from Scandinavian pine, imported to Britain in vast quantities.

The Rt. Hon. Sir Howard Kingsley Wood M.P.: Postmaster General
A film about the services of the GPO, introduced by the Postmaster General, Sir Howard Kingsley Wood.

Road Transport
The history of road transport from the industrial ear through Gottlieb Daimler's invention of the petrol engine to the present.

Sixpenny Telegram
Animated advert promoting the telegram service - nine words for sixpence.

The Story of the Wheel
The evolution of wheeled transport from primitive times.

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of BBC - The Voice of Britain (1935)BBC - The Voice of Britain (1935)

An impressionistic portrait of what was then a radio-only broadcaster

Thumbnail image of Coal Face (1935)Coal Face (1935)

Classic documentary about the mining industry

Thumbnail image of Colour Box, A (1935)Colour Box, A (1935)

Abstract animation by Len Lye, made by painting directly onto film

Thumbnail image of King's Stamp, The (1935)King's Stamp, The (1935)

The production of King George V Silver Jubilee stamps

Thumbnail image of Sixpenny Telegram (1935)Sixpenny Telegram (1935)

Stop-motion advertisement promoting the GPO's telegram service

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