Film ID: YFA 354 Video of YFA 354 Rachel discovers the sea 1937 RACHEL DISCOVERS THE SEA 1937 Visitor TabsDescription This is a film that captures a Rotherham family’s holiday to Whitby and Filey, located on the East Coast of Yorkshire. The film includes footage of the Chislett family on the beach, playing in the water, and taking donkey rides along the seaside. The film opens at Whitby harbour. The houses and pier are shown along with the rough sea, and the family and friends are at Filey beach. The adults sit away from the sea, and all are dressed in smart clothes rather than beachwear. The young toddlers that are with the family play together. The filmmaker’s wife pulls their daughter down towards the seafront in a small cart. They then walk hand in hand and play with other children before walking along the shallows. Two women and the toddlers push and pull a man who is in a shirt and rolled up trousers into the shallows. He pretends he doesn’t want to go in before he then paddles in the water. Other people in swimwear play behind him. Two men play in the shallows with the toddlers as they dance around in a circle. A makeshift cricket match takes place with the toddlers. Some children then take a ride in a donkey and cart. A man and woman use spades to make a huge mound of sand near the seafront. The toddlers then play on it before they are surrounded by seawater and sit at the top. Many of the children have donkey rides in a line along the beach. The children make sandcastles; they are all smiling until one of the sandcastles is smashed. There are tears until the sandcastle is remade. Later two girls play pushing small boats around in a large dug out pool. Tracks to resemble train lines are drawn in the sand and small signals are set up. The daughter sits in the cart as it goes down towards the sea. It is then either pushed by a young girl or pulled back by a man using a rope. Another girl then gets in as well and has a go. Final scenes show the children going back to the sea to play in the shallows. The film closes with the daughter sitting down in the sea smiling to the camera. Context This is one of many films made by Charles Chislett of his family, starting back in the early 1930s. Chislett was a semi-professional filmmaker from Rotherham who, over a period spanning the years 1930 to 1967, made a considerable number of exceptionally well made films. The Charles Chislett Film Collection held at the YFA consists of nearly 100 films, about half directly relating to Yorkshire, the rest mainly holiday films from around the world. Chislett made many types of films: documentary, fiction, and family portraits. It is right to see Chislett as a semi-professional filmmaker because, although he never made films for money (indeed he often subsidised them), he made many films to commission –either industrial or with the Church Pastoral Aid Society (CPAS), for example Men of Steel (1948) – and he brought to his films a lot of thought, great passion and considerable expertise that he built up over the years. Chislett worked his way up from a clerk to become the bank manager with William Deacon's Bank in Rotherham, but during the war he worked in the Intelligence Corps where he made a training film for dispatch motor cyclists, Dear Sergeant or the Story of Rough Riding Motorcycling Course (1944). Later in the war he travelled across Europe as photographer with Radio Padre, photographing, among other things, the hideous consequences of Belsen’s Concentration Camp. These photographs, along with a considerable collection of Chislett’s photographs, are also held with the YFA. Not content with making films Chislett also put on shows of his films across Yorkshire, providing talks to go with each film to large audiences. But this was only one of very many activities Chislett was involved in, which included the hobbies of golf, bird watching, acting, writing and producing plays. Even more impressive are the number of organisations that Chislett either worked for or supported, among them: the Rotary Club, Continuity, Probus, the 41 Club, distaff and Remnants, the NSPCC and Handicapped Club in Toddington, the Society for the Preservation of Rural England and the National Trust. In addition he was Superintendent of Masbro Chapel’s 1,000 strong Sunday School, as well as being a treasurer, Deacon and Lay Preacher. He also instigated and ran the Rotherham Celebrity Lectures and took an active interest in the Rotherham Arts Council. With all of these activities it is a wonder that Chislett managed to find the time to be a father. But the film testifies to his devotion as a father, seen in the film dancing with his daughters, playing with model boats and rigging up a ‘train track’ for his daughter’s, Rachel’s, pram. Both Rachel and her younger brother John, appear in the same year, 1937, in a film simply titled ‘Family’, and in Whitby - Family on the Sands, which shows the same holiday. Rachel continues to feature in many other films right through to her wedding in 1961 and beyond. The film was originally thought to have been made in 1939, on the eve of the outbreak of war, with Germany occuping Czechoslovakia March 1939, when Britain declared that they would go to war with Germany if they invaded Poland. Nevertheless, many expected war even as early as 1936, when Hitler re-occupied the Rhineland. In 1937 Japan and China went to war, and Chamberlain begun his policy of appeasement. Who would think that, watching this film, an imminent world war was looming ? Yet families continued to go on holidays to the seaside during the war, and the YFA has many films showing this. The traditional seaside holiday features, of buckets and spades and donkey rides, that go back to the nineteenth century, and evidenced in the film, helped to enable a temporary escape from the hardships of war. Of course, for a great many families, broken up, poor or without transport, this was not possible. The Chislett family were fortunate in this respect, and a few years later Chislett made another film of the family on holiday, Dale Days (1943), again with Rachel prominent. This time set in the Yorkshire Dales, this also shows how expert Chislett was in capturing that cliché, the innocence of childhood. Interviewed for the ITV programme The Way We Were , Rachel (now Williams) recalled how her father never staged any of the action on the film, but that he was very particular in getting the right angles, background and lighting. This film was part of a trilogy of films that Chislett titled Rachel Discovers England, all made in 1939, and in which Chislett deliberately sets out to record his daughter as she is growing up. In a speech to a showing of the film in 1939, Chislett begins by stating that if the films are viewed as himself being ‘a fond parent’, then ‘ . . the evening stands no chance at all of being a success’. Clearly Chislett was very self-conscious of his role and motives in making the film. He goes on to describe his intentions as being to portray, ‘ . . a world where everything is new and exciting and full of thrilling possibility, yet so delicate that it may be destroyed by the careless word of an unsympathetic dictator .’ His sensitivity to the fragility of childhood, and appreciation of its significance, shine through the films, and can be felt in the conclusion to his speech: ‘Let us tonight leave behind for a while the declaiming of rampant Dictators, instabilities of exchanges and economic distribution and pass into a realm where such things are unknown, but where a nursery chair may be anything from an Atlantic liner to a somnolent donkey.’ Further Information: The YFA has an extensive collection of material from the Charles Chislett archive. This includes correspondence, film scripts and notes, photographs, promotional material and slides. This is accompanied by an itinerary of documents within the collection produced by Fiona Latham.