VIDEO: Advice for Americans on English Pubs, 1943

We were alerted to the presence of this film on YouTube by Anthony Harper (@anthonymharper) and it’s a corker.

It was made as a joint production of the US and UK governments and was intended, in short, to prevent American soldiers acting like dickheads in Britain. The host is Burgess Meredith (BatmanRocky) and he spends the first third of the film — about ten minutes — in an English country pub:

We’re not trying to show you the perfect way to behave in a pub. We’re only trying to point out that some of these people are a little more reserved than some of us. If you take it easy a little bit, just at the beginning… you’ll make some damn good friends.

It’s staged with the interior filmed on a studio set but, as it’s intended to be educational rather than propaganda, we can probably assume it’s a fairly accurate portrayal. In fact, the advice is still good, on the whole:

What’s that? What’s the difference between bitter and mild? I don’t know. One’s bitter and one’s mild. You’d better find out for yourself…

The Short Pub Documentary — A New Artform?

Pub culture lends itself to film-making thanks to its quirks, eye-catching details, and characters.

We’ve been picking up the odd video here and there over the years but hadn’t checked Vimeo for a while. We were lured there this time trying to answer a question about seafood hawkers in pubs which turned up this gem directed by Matthew Daunt:

Then, following the breadcrumbs, we found this recent portrait of the Steve, landlord of Ye Olde Vic in Stockport:

(Of his fists: ‘Let me just tell you that they’re only resting, not retired.’)

This next film, The Regulars, by Grant Hodgeon, is actually eight years old but it’s the first time we’ve come across it. It’s an eccentric piece in some ways, switching styles, stopping and starting, but there’s no denying the charm of the raw footage:

And, finally, another Stockport pub (is everyone there a documentarian?) filmed by Jake Parker in 2013:

You can really smell the booze and the sticky carpets in that one, can’t you?

The similarity in tone of these films and others — wistful, slightly sad — says something about how the pub is viewed in 21st Century Britain. We suppose it’s because it feels fragile or endangered as an institution that people feel motivated to document it, while they still can.

Is it a new artform? The existence of Peter Davis’s 1962 film Pub, available on the BFI DVD of London in the Raw, would suggest not.

MUSIC: Pub Crawling Blues

We were tipped off to this by a documentary about British blues music Lenny Henry made for Sky Arts.

It’s from a 1969 LP called Black London Blues which is pretty great from start to finish and is available on Spotify, iTunes, and to buy on CD.

And, yes, that is Ram John Holder as in Pork Pie from the 1990s sitcom Desmond’s, who turns out to be a very interesting bloke.

I had ten pints of bitter at the volunteer of Gloucester Place.
I’m pub crawling… I’m the Ram.
I’m pub crawling… I’m your man.

Who Drank My Beer? (1952)

We heard this song by Dave Bartholomew on a compilation of blues and R&B songs about booze that Bailey’s Dad was listening to over the weekend. It’s a sad tale of a bloke who goes (we think) to the bog and, when he comes back, finds that someone has finished his pint:

Who drank my beer while I was in the rear?
Who drank my beer while I was in the rear?
Point out that low-down moocher —
I’ll dislocate his future!