Tales from the Shipyard DVD
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Directed by Various (Documentary)
Produced in 2011
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
The second BFI This Working Life set follows the fortunes of UK shipbuilders from 1898 - 1974. David Parkinson casts off with a collection including a film by Sean Connery.
Containing over five hours of material, the second in the BFI's This Working Life series follows the fortunes of UK shipbuilders from 1898-1974. Many films seek to show how Britain was able to rule the waves for the first half of the last century, but several chronicle the sad decline of yards on the Clyde, Tyne, Wear and Belfast Lough. Opening with a trio of Mitchell & Kenyon shorts and footage of Edward VII launching HMS Dreadnought in 1906 and closing with a record of a Glaswegian work-in and an Amber Films account of a Geordie swan song, this two-disc set ranks alongside the excellent British Transport Films series.
Fascinating snippets abound, including SS Olympic (1910), which shows the construction of the Titanic's sister ship, and some sublime colour shots of the Queen Mary gliding down the Clyde in 1936. But this is as much a celebration of labour as tonnage and Paul Rotha's Shipyard (1935) captures the sights and sounds involved in hauling, shaping and riveting metal. By contrast, The Little Ships of England (1943) preserves techniques that had been employed for centuries in focusing on the construction of wooden vessels in the West Country.
Yet while the shipyards played a vital role in winning the Second World War (viz Steel Goes to Sea, 1941), the decades either side were lean ones from Barrow and Birkenhead to the Thames and the Solent. Consequently, films like JB Holmes's Berth 24 (1950) and Jack Howells's The Sea Shall Test Her (1954) placed great emphasis on the expertise of British craftsmen and the industry must have received a considerable boost when Hilary Harris's Seawards the Great Ships (1960) became the first Scottish film to win an Academy Award.
Cinema's most celebrated Scot ventured behind the camera for the first and only time on The Bowler and the Bunnet (1967), as Sean Connery reported on the audacious, but ultimately unsuccessful union-management partnership at the Fairfield yard on the Clyde. The contrast with the bullish optimism conveyed in John Halas's animations for We've Come a Long Way (1951) couldn't be more stark or sobering.
David Parkinson on 19th January 2011
Author of 191 reviews
The second DVD in the BFI's 'This Working Life' series - celebrating Britain's industrial heritage on screen, and begun with the acclaimed Portrait of a Miner box set in 2009 - is Tales from the Shipyard.
For millions of people, this isn't just Britain's industrial heritage - it's their family history. Tales from the Shipyard contains over five hours of material that portrays our nation's shipbuilding past through acclaimed documentaries, little-known cinematic gems and emotive actuality films, made at the great shipyards of Belfast, Clydeside, Tyne and Wear and elsewhere. It draws together films from the BFI National Archive and two brand new restorations from the Scottish Screen Archive at the National Library of Scotland.
Beginning with three Mitchell & Kenyon films and scenes of jubilant workers celebrating spectacular launches in the early 1900s, further highlights include King George V and Queen Mary's morale-boosting trip to Northern England's shipyards at the tail end of the Great War; rare footage of the stunning SS Olympic (1910) showing the building and launch of the Titanic's sister ship; beautiful colour film of the iconic Queen Mary in RMS Queen Mary Leaves the Clyde (1936); Sean Connery's perspective on Glasgow's industrial relations in The Bowler and the Bunnet (1967) - the only film Connery ever directed - and lyrical documentaries in celebration of industrial might such as Shipyard (Paul Rotha, 1935) and the Oscar-winning Seawards the Great Ships (Hilary Harris, 1960).
Contains: Disc One - The Launch of HMS Albion at Blackwall (1898); Employees Leaving Messrs Vickers and Maxim’s in Barrow (1901); Workforce of Scott & Co. Shipyard, Greenock (1901); The Launch of HMS Dominion (1903); King Edward VII Launches HMS Dreadnought from Portsmouth Dockyard (1906); SS Olympic (1910); The Launch of HMS Lowestoft (1913); Visit of Their Majesties the King and Queen to the North-East Coast Shipbuilding and Engineering Works on the Wear (1917); RMS Queen Mary Leaves the Clyde (1936); Shipyard (1935); Chains (1939); Tyneside (1941); Steel Goes to Sea (1941); The Little Ships of England (1943); ‘Shipyard for Colliers’ from Mining Review 2nd Year No.3 (1948); Berth 24 (1950)
Disc Two - We’ve Come a Long Way (1951); The Sea Shall Test Her (1954); Seawards the Great Ships (1960); A Great Ship (1962); The Bowler and the Bunnet (1967); UCS 1 (1971) and Launch (1974).
Length: 314 mins
Cat No: BFIVD900
Format: DVD Colour
- 2 discs
- Interview with Sean Connery (1967, 10 mins): previously unseen archival interview in which the actor discusses his views on labour relations, after making The Bowler and the Bunnet
- Illustrated booklet with new essays and detailed notes on all of the films, with contributions from BFI curators, Sir Sean Connery and others.