• Short Summary

    Documentary about the International Alpine Car Rally of 1956 focusing on women drivers.

  • Description

    Promotional film made for the British Motor Corporation (Nuffield).

    Various scenic shots of The Alps. This is the setting for an endurance race for drivers - "The International Alpine Rally" Team of five MG "A type" coupes have been entered for this race. Drivers are named as follows: John Milnes, Douglas Johns, John Gott, Ray Brookes, Bill Shepherd and J.R. Williamson, Nancy Mitchell and Pat Faickney. Various shots of cars being driven along curving alpine roads towards a large hotel. The narrator states: "none of these drivers are better known or more universally popular than Mrs Nancy Mitchell and her partner Pat Faickney."

    C/U of a sign for the Pass of Pordoi. Landscape shots, high angle shots of cars on high roads. Point of view shot from vantage point of a car driver. Narrator give facts and figures about the course and style of motoring in this rally. Moving shots of the landscape. Good shots from inside the car showing hairpin bends and scary precipices.

    Spectators line the streets and watch the race from their windows in a small Italian town (Canazei?). Various nice shots of spectators. The route runs from Marseilles to Zagreb in Yugoslavia and back. Cars on the open road, driving through tunnel, landscapes etc. L/S of Cortina d'Ampezzo (Italy). The drivers take some rest here. 4 am start. The drivers chat to each other and get ready to depart. "John Cott (Gott?) checks the team on parade. Kenneth Best recalls his Commando training. Nancy Mitchell finds it a bit early to be gay, and Marcus Chambers, the BMC competitions manager, is there to speed his drivers on their way." C/Us of the drivers mentioned. C/U of Nancy Mitchell. Various shots of her women competitors. Narrator jokes "this is no place for cracks about lady drivers" Various shots of the cars.

    Scenes at a typical control point on the rally route - Ampezzo. Cars draw up and the "carabinieri" watch with interest as the navigator of a car jumps out to record his time. Milne and Johns take the back window out of their car to cool themselves down. Cars are cleaned and Nancy checks her oil level with a dipstick. The narrator observes: "By the way the age of chivalry's not dead. The ladies mustn't receive male assistance from their team mates." One of the drivers puts oil into his car and others check spark plugs. One driver fetches some water from the fountain. Pat runs towards the checkpoint to time-stamp the official route card. The teams drive off.

    Various shots of the cars en route. Scenic shots of the countryside. "Curves and hazards" of the roads are described over birds eye footage from the driver's seat. Our car gets stuck behind a large red bus and we feel the frustration of the driver as they try to pass. C/U of sign to "Misurina, Auronzo, Belluno" We see some of the cars driving through Misurina. We are told that the German women's team crashed their car (a Taunus) - they were not hurt.

    Driving techniques necessary for this race are described by the narrator. Cortina d' Ampezzo in Italy - John Gott arrives, as does Nancy Mitchell. Marcus Chambers wears a Tyrollean style hat. Other team cars arrive and the tired crews make all the necessary checks and adjustments to their cars. C/U of car maintenance. Some of the characters of the races are shown and described. "There are the buccaneers like this Dennis Scott. The studious types like Eddy Pennybacker, the American radio commentator who partnered the cosmopolitan Gatsonides, the German girls who arrived at control despite their accident..."

    Shots from inside a car behind a driver. Various shots as the race continues through rainy weather. Shots of spectators on the road that leads to the Stelvio.

    Ascent to the summit is a timed climb. Narrator mentions similar tests held at the Monza circuit and on the Autobahn in Yugoslavia. C/U of a sign to the Stelvio Paese. Cars check in at the control, put on their crash helmets and check their watches. "Paddy Hopkirk's navigator Willy Cave looks tense as well he may." Kenneth Best jumps into his car and his driver speeds off. High angle shots of treacherous roads "as greasy as a skid pan under a drizzle of icy rain."

    Man by the roadside blows a whistle as cars approach. A crowd is gathered at the top of pass - good shot of winding roads further below. The battered German car arrives as does John Milne's car. Car skids around a corner. Nancy Mitchell passes the flag waver followed by Bill Shepherd. C/U of sign detailing the altitude and a temperature. Shots of the descent. "It is no exaggeration to say that the lives of the competitors depend on the ability of the machine to stand up to this punishing test."

    High angle shot of the car park at Megeve - only one third of the competitors remain. The MG team walk through the dusk towards the "Restaurant De L'Arly". Drivers chat with each other. The race resumes 20 hours later. Competitors leave the town - spectators wave them off. C/U of a clock - the second hand moves. We are told that Jack Sears and Kenneth Best were put out of the race by a crash. 17 cars arrive at Marseilles clear of penalty points - no less than 9 of these were British.

    M/S of Nancy Mitchell standing beside her car. "Of the MG team it was a clear case of ladies first and Nancy Mitchell was to receive the honours of the Alpine Rally for which she had striven so valiantly in previous years." Shot of the prize table. Nancy collects her prize and she and her navigator Pat drink champagne from a large silver cup. Now for the advert!

    Earls Court Motor Show - a hard top MG "makes its first appearance on the stage" A woman in a fur stole steps into the car and talks to the salesman - it could be Nancy Mitchell. C/U of her smiling in the drivers seat. The car is described as "graceful of line, small and pretty" The woman gets out of the car and we have a good shot of the car in all its glory.

    End credits: "Produced for the Nuffield Organisation by Associated British Pathe Ltd."

  • Tags

  • Data

    Film ID:
    Media URN:
    British Pathé
    Issue Date:
    HD Format:
    Available on request
    Time in/Out:
    01:00:01:00 / 01:20:07:00

Comments (3)

  1. Unknown user says

    The title should use capitals, i.e. BMC Ladies First.

    To aid identification during this lengthy film, (and to make some corrections and identify a missing team), I suggest replacing the first 5 lines of paragraph 2 with the following;

    "Various scenic shots of The Alps. This is the setting for an endurance race for drivers - "The International Alpine Rally". A team of five MG MGA coupes have been entered for this race. The drivers are:

    John Milne & Douglas Johns (No. 314, Reg. No. MJB 314).

    John Gott & Ray Brookes (No. 324, Reg. No. MJB 191).

    Bill Shepherd & John Williamson (No. 308, Reg. No. MJB 167).

    Nancy Mitchell & Pat Faickney (No. 326, Reg. No. MBL 867).

    Jack Sears & Ken Best (No. 300, Reg. No. MRX 42).

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  2. Unknown user says

    The rally ran from 6-13 July 1956.

    Note that the commentator for this film is Raymond Baxter, who himself raced in this rally in a Sunbeam.

    "John Cott (Gott?)" - it's John Gott.

    "Gatsonides" referred to is Maurice Gatsonides.

    "Nancy collects her prize" - she actually collected two prizes, the Coupe des Dames and the Coupe des Alpes.

    Other cars seen during the clip, currently undocumented, include:

    At 00:49, car with Reg. No. ROH 902 is an Austin A90 Westminster.

    At 06:53, car No. 434 is a Triumph TR3, driven by Tommy and Ann Wisdom.

    At 12:11, car No. 216 is a Denzel 1300S.

    At 14:01, car 332 is a Porsche 356 Carrera.

    At 14:48 is an Aston Martin DB2-4.

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  3. Unknown user says

    Correcting my earlier note, "Pat Faickney" should read Pat Faichney.

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