Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Romance in a Pond (1932)


Main image of Romance in a Pond (1932)
For Secrets of Nature
35mm, black and white, 9 mins
Production CompanyBritish Instructional Films

The life story of the common newt.

Show full synopsis

Like the majority of films in the Secrets of Nature series (1922-33), Romance in a Pond describes the whole life cycle of a species, in this case the common newt. This is one of the Secrets that tries hardest to amuse the casual viewer, with its continuous light orchestral music and arch, humorous and anthropomorphic commentary.

Producer Mary Field described the process by which the story was crafted.

Two scenes came in from Percy Smith's laboratory labelled 'Male Newt under water' and 'Female Newt under water' respectively. The male came into the picture from the left, paused a little in the middle of the screen, and then moved on. The female newt... was looking left and never moved except to rise a little in the water and then sink to the bottom again.

The two pictures were cut as follows:
1. The male entering the picture and stopping.
2. The female quite still.
3. The male quite still.
4. The female apparently jumping up and down.
5. The male moving out of the picture.
This sequence was finished off with:
6. A scene on the surface of the pond in summer. The commentary was somewhat on these lines: 'Suddenly he sees a lady - she makes advances, to which he responds - and soon the pond becomes the honeymoon home of the newts.'

At another point, the commentary opines that "gentleman newts are like the owners of Far Eastern harems and admire a tendency to plumpness... This lady is certainly leaving no worm unswallowed in an attempt to achieve sex-appeal." There is no record of Percy Smith's response to these intense efforts to anthropomorphosise the sequences he shot, although it should be noted that his own account of his adventures as an amateur naturalist and filmmaker using gimcrack home made devices in the book Secrets of Nature (1934) implies that he would have been quite at home with it. And it certainly hit the mark as far as public awareness of the films was concerned; a Punch cartoon from March 1935 shows a little man speaking to the doorman of a cinema showing the film Where Love Sleeps. He is asking "Excuse me. Is this the cinema that's showing 'The Life Story of a Newt'?"

Timothy Boon

Dr Timothy Boon is Senior Curator of the Science Museum

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. A honeymoon home (2:25)
Secrets of Nature (1922-33)