This week I present three delightful trips back in time—one to the Fraser Canyon in 1899—that you may not know. Enjoy!
Frazer Canon: This short (1:30) piece of film was shot in October 1899 along the Canadian Pacific Railway near Yale, and may well be one of the earliest—if not the earliest—surviving pieces of film of the region (“canon”, more properly spelled “cañon”, is the Spanish word for “canyon”, and was commonly used as the spelling in the 19th century).
It is impossible for me to overstate how much I love this brief glimpse into our past: it is at once impossibly distant in time, yet immediately recognizable to anyone who knows the area. Keep an eye out on the left side of the track as the train comes out of a tunnel at the 1:04 mark for some people (workmen? First Nations?) scrambling away from the track. Unknown to history and long since passed away, they live on. http://bit.ly/2nDSyiq
Oldest footage of London: If, like me, you believe Samuel Johnson’s observation that “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life,” you will revel in this 11-minute clip that features footage of London shot between 1880 and 1920 (you even get to hear the earliest known recording of the chimes of Big Ben, dating from 1890). In clip after clip you get a glimpse into a long-vanished world, full of men in frock coats and top hats, horse-drawn omnibuses rattling through the streets, and hansom cabs.
It’s like watching a Sherlock Holmes movie, only with the knowledge that the great detective himself could be in many of the shots. As a bonus, after each batch of clips is shown, a split-screen allows you to see the same spots (as far as possible) filmed in 2015. http://bit.ly/1DqB5Jh
A photo of Victorian London; but film allows that long-vanished world to come alive.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Speaking of Sherlock Homes, his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930), was captured on film just once, when a Fox newsreel film crew visited him at his home Windlesham, Surrey in 1927. Sound films were in their infancy, as evidenced by ACD beginning the film by walking towards the camera, a dog at his heels, and saying “Let’s see now; I have to speak one or two words, just to try my voice, I understand.”
The first half of the 10-minute interview is the author speaking about the origins of, and inspirations for, Sherlock Holmes, and why he created the detective, while the rest of the interview is about spiritualism. The first time I saw and heard this clip, I was mesmerized; it was in 1987, and while I had been a Sherlockian for more than a decade, and had known ACD was born in Scotland, his lovely soft Scottish brogue took me aback.
More than 20 years ago I was privileged to meet ACD’s daughter, Dame Jean Conan Doyle, and enjoyed tea with her in her flat in London. She was very friendly and down-to-earth, insisted I call her Jean, and poured tea for me and offered me cake, while I sat there trying to come to grips with the fact I was having tea with Arthur Conan Doyle’s daughter. She was 14 when the film was made, and vividly recalled the actual filming of the interview, pointing out that the dog accompanying her father was hers. http://bit.ly/1OUSwod
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, spoke on film about his creation in 1927.