Whilst researching Paris in 1939 for Woodbine and Ivy I came across 3 films in black and white – ironically filmed by a German with the explanations in his native language. The images show coal-grimed houses which at first I thought might be because of the grainy film. Then I found another film in colour, by an American \’doing\’ Europe. The colours of the cars and stripy awnings are vibrant but the buildings, though elegant, remained grey and you can actually see the clouds of smoke above the buildings in one frame.
Both film-makers seemed fascinated by the traffic, especially around the Arc de Triomphe, as well they might. There were no white lines in those days and drivers had to take their chances in turning off from the mainstream while pedestrians literally took their life in their hands crossing the road. Despite that, and the impending cataclysm Hitler was about to invoke, the mood in all the scenes looks calm and tranquil. I doubt either cameraman went to any of the poorer districts and Paris he captured looks prosperous and charming.
The American tourist\’s holiday took in Berlin after Paris. I was shocked to see the huge red flags with their black swastikas hanging from parapet to pavement on the civic buildings there. Talk about flagging up what\’s to come – as I have done, rather rashly, for my story!
Here\’s the link to the third and most animated black and white film on Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjAcO7_sy-A
for those of you who\’d like to see for yourselves.