These days, the arrival at the Archive of any 1930s film is a bit of an event – but when that film turns out to be an Oscar winner, it’s really something!
Thanks to Mr Lynn Hughes of Drefach, the Archive is now the proud guardian of a 16mm copy of ‘The Private Life of the Gannets’ – a 15 minute documentary recording the life of a nesting colony on the small uninhabited island of Grassholm, off the Pembrokeshire coast. Made in 1934 with film giant Alexander Korda as Executive Producer, the film was inspired by the tireless work and research of Cardiff-born naturalist Ronald Lockley, who had been living on nearby Skokholm and was also the film’s Assistant Producer. (Half a century later in 1983 Lynn Hughes made a fascinating film about Lockley’s life and work – ‘Island Man’ – for S4C.)
‘The Private life of the Gannets’, which is written, shot and narrated by distinguished biologist Julian Huxley, won the Academy Award for best short subject in 1937 and was distributed widely. Critics of the wildlife film genre are not universal in their praise (see link to the ‘Screenonline’ piece below) – but the film most definitely helped to pave the way for later, more rigorously-produced wildlife films. The images of the egg hatching, but for being black and white, could be straight out of ‘Springwatch’!
The ‘The Private Life of the Gannets’ is also in the BFI National Archive collection, and you can view it, and read more, by clicking on http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/1359851/index.html