Friday, August 24, 2012

This just in from Douglas Marsh:

[A postcard image posted by Didier Ghez has piqued my interest. It depicts the interior of the Seven Dwarfs cottage, with Snow White perched on a tiny balcony inside. But this is a photo of an actual place. The back explains that it was built at "the Olympia," based on the work of Walt Disney.

Here's a quick look at what I was able to find on line. That's the fun part of the internet-- tracking things like this down.

Based on what's out there, I'm fairly certain that this was part of the 1938 "Radiolympia." This was a British trade show that introduced new radios and (later) television sets to the public. It started in 1926. In 1936 television was first demonstrated. By 1938 there was such interest that a complete model TV studio was built, with free exhibition broadcasts by the BBC. (Although you did have to pay 6 pence to go into the studio, rather than watch through viewing windows from the outside.)

The 1938 Radiolympia opened on Wednesday, August 24 with a gala live broadcast.

Part of this has been preserved in silent footage from the collection of Desmond Campbell.

At 2:40, there is an appearance by a familiar group of dwarfs!

According to one of the participants in the broadcast, Maureen Potter, the Snow White section was performed only for the broadcast, and was not a regular part of the stage show. (It was repeated throughout the run of Radiolympia.)

So... does this mean that the charming Dwarf's cottage was part of the broadcast studio? Another part of the show? Or entirely separate?



Peter said...

I think that the Dwarfs' cottage was built for the 1938 Ideal Home Exhibition (an annual show sponsored by the Daily Mail newspaper, and held at Olympia in April).

Although not featured in the illustration, it is listed as one of the exhibits on this advertisment:

Didier Ghez said...

Thanks Peter! This is great!

Peter said...

Here is a review of the exhibition (from The Catholic Herald). The cottage is mentioned, but the reviewer, lacking a young person in tow, was too embarrassed to go in!

Didier Ghez said...

Thanks. This is really, really wonderful! You made my day.

Peter said...

Finally, a quote from Annette Kuhn's academic paper "Snow White in 1930s Britain":

"Among the promotional ideas set out in a UK press book for the film is a short article on the dwarfs’ house and the expertise behind its creation. Alongside pictures of items of furniture from the house is proffered the suggestion that ‘practically everything in this fantastic but charming abode could be easily adapted to a modern country home or mountain lodge’. This rather far-fetched notion may indicate the depth of misunderstanding in Burbank, California, of daily life in Britain in the late 1930s, when not all Britons were strangers to aspirations of domestic perfection. At a time when hundreds of thousands of new houses were being built on the fringes of Britain’s cities, dreams–especially among lower-middle-class women–of the desirable (albeit suburban-modern rather than rustic) home found expression in the annual Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition in London [Ryan 1995]. It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that the 1938 exhibition featured a replica of the dwarfs’ house, its scale suggesting that it was made for small people–dwarfs and children. This suggests something of how Disney’s film and its promotion, at a time when consumerism had barely begun to emerge in Britain, keyed into popular, and perhaps profound, imaginings of ‘home’ and ‘homeyness’ to sell a dream of possessing things–tableware, ornaments, and the like–and above all an ordered and beautiful home. And indeed there is contemporary evidence to suggest that Snow White’s domestic topos and its homemaking scenes made a considerable impression at the time on audiences of all ages, an impression at least as marked as that made by the film’s vividly recollected ‘frightening’ passages."

Peter said...

A futher photo - Prince George, the Duke of Kent (younger brother of Edward VIII and George VI) posing with "Snow White" in the Dwarfs' house at the Ideal Home Exhibition 1938.

[I don't remember the fire extinguisher from the movie! :)]

Peter said...

And 2 more Daily Mail photos:

Didier Ghez said...

Thanks. This is really great!