So That's Where I Get It From

June 27, 2010

Sentimental Sunday: Silent movies; film studios and old photos

While I have been trying to rearrange all my genealogical paperwork, documents, nic-nacs and all sorts I came across some old photos that have been in my collection for over 40 years. 

And seeing these photos again after having them tucked away for such a long time, made me feel nostalgic and sentimental so I thought they might be interesting for today’s Sentimental Sunday post.

When I was about 20 (very late 1960s) I started work at Associated British Productions Limited in Boreham Wood in Hertfordshire.  This particular film studio, along with the one at nearby Elstree was what would have been the English equivalent of Hollywood except on a much much smaller scale.

I had always been interested in film-making from a very young age and very much wanted to work in film studios.  At school I was told not to be so silly and one of the few options they suggested for me for a future career was to get married!!

I eventually managed to get this dream (to me) job at Associated British Productions and on my first day in my new office I was told I could clear out the desk and throw away anything I did not want!  I set about rummaging in the six or so deep drawers and in the bottom one, tucked away at the back, there was this crumpled package in an old brown envelope.

On opening this package I immediately became aware that it was many photos that had been taken during the making of very old films at the Studio.  I had a word with my boss and he said to just throw them away, they were not needed and obviously so old they would not be any good for anything!!  I really did not want to throw them away.  My great interest in history made me aware that this was definitely not something to throw away.  I checked with my boss that maybe it’s best not to throw them away, so what should I do with them.  He told me again, just throw them away or if you like them, keep them!  So I kept them.

They are backstage photos of a number of films dating from 1929 to about 1936.  These films were silent movies and one was actually the very first British talkie, Blackmail, which was directed by a very young Alfred Hitchcock.

What I love about them is that they show the early days of how films were made.  The cameras are great!!  Have a look at these:

original photograph in my private collection – copyright 2010

I don’t know the name of the film that was being made in the photo above – there is no title written on the back as in the later photos I show.

original photograph in my private collection – copyright 2010

 This is a silent movie called His Wife’s Mother made in 1931. 

original photograph in my private collection – copyright 2010

 This photo and the next few are just a sample of those 104 pics in this collection!

original photograph in my private collection – copyright 2010

original photograph in my private collection - copyright 2010

original photograph in my private collection - copyright 2010

 and some of the film stars of the day

original photograph in my private collection - copyright 2010

This is Betty Balfour (1903 – 1977) an English film actress and known at the time as “the British Mary Pickford”.

original photograph in my private collection - copyright 2010

This is Lester Mathews (1900 – 1975) in Fires of Fate.  He made 180 appearances in films and television.

original photograph in my private collection - copyright 2010

This film is Romance of Seville and I would think that these three people were maybe the main stars.  Their names are not shown on the reverse so I cannot name them.  This silent movie was made about 1929.

And if you have managed to get this far, here are a couple of pics of me at the same studio – photos taken on a lunch break with work mates on the back lot. Photos circa 1970 – 1974 (I can’t remember exactly when)!!

This first one is me pretending to be in a film star pose!!!!!

original photograph in my private collection - copyright 2010

and this next one is me with my friends Pauline and Linda popping out from behind me!  You can see we had a lot of fun on our lunch breaks, roaming around the studio.

original photograph in my private collection - copyright 2010

Finding the silent movie photos reminded me so much of my first day at my exciting new place of excitement.  I worked there a number of years and can honestly say that I never took a sneaky day off sick.  I loved the job and the place so very much, it was always interesting and I met so very many interesting people, not just the film stars!



  1. Very cool! Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by Renate — June 28, 2010 @ 4:30 am

  2. Great pictures. I love them. The pictures of you and your friends great. Really captures how youth would feel in that environment.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Hummer — June 28, 2010 @ 6:32 am

  3. What great film photos – and I love the ones of you and your friends.
    You must always have been interested in history – very clever of you to have rescued those photos.

    Comment by M. Diane Rogers — June 28, 2010 @ 2:31 pm

    • Thank you all for your comments and for visiting! I loved my many years in the entertainment industry, always enjoyed going to work so much. My friends and I at work at ABP often pottered about all over the studios for our lunch breaks – we have some quite wacky photos!!

      I think it was a good job it was me that found those silent movie photos – just think if they had been thrown away. There are 104 in total and from about 14 or 15 different films. I’m wondering if I should set up a different blog page just to show them off?

      Kind regards
      Christine (rootsresearcher)

      Comment by rootsresearcher — June 29, 2010 @ 5:24 pm

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