Official film gems are sold

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The Independent Online
Drive Carefully Darling starring Frank Bough and former Doctor Who? Colin Baker might not sound like a lost film classic to you or me, but to television companies it and 12,000 other gems of low-key British propaganda are a goldmine of nostalgia waiting to be mined.

A contract to manage the Central Office of Information's' archive of Government-made films has been won by Film Images Ltd.

Ironically one of the films passing into the private sector contains an icon of the radical 1945 Labour government - cycling Charlie. Charlie was created by the left-wing animators Halas and Batchelor to introduce the welfare state to the public. The films are classic examples of the art of propaganda utilising the clean lines and design aesthetic of the post-war modernist movement.

Other gems from the austere Forties include the risque-sounding Five Inch Bather which was made to encourage fuel conservation and Designing Women starring Joyce Grenfell advising new wives on home decoration.

The archive also includes films from the Colonial Film Unit which in the Fifties spread the British way of life to the colonies. While other Empires tried to force religion, ideology and language on their colonies, Britain made a film called Journey on a London Bus. This, in a brilliant summation of the British psyche, tried to export good manners and queuing etiquette.

By the Seventies the COI was making public information films for television, of which Drive Carefully Darling is just one. The films speak of a time when governments believed they could intervene for the better in society.

Television, Internet, CD-Roms and magazines have created a booming market in footage of all kinds and Film Images is convinced the COI archive will be in big demand. The company will pay a royalty to the Government for use of the archive, but copyright remains with the COI.

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