Related films

Related Films

Secrets of Nature were not the only natural history films made during this period: in fact, aside from films made by other production companies, a number of skilled amateurs set their hands to the practice of ciné-biology. The Secrets team were also involved in several other projects, including educational films covering a number of different subjects. This section outlines some of these films, with an emphasis on those which are available to view online. Some of these videos are from the excellent BFI Player, which is unfortunately only available to view in the UK.

Early Film

Buffalo Running (1883). By Eadweard Muybridge.

Lion, London Zoological Garden (1896). By the Lumière brothers.

Kinematographische Studien an Impatiens, Vicia, Tulipa, Mimosa und Desmodium (1898-1900). By Wilhelm Pfeffer.

The Birth of A Flower (1910). By F. Percy Smith for Charles Urban

The Acrobatic Fly (1910). By F. Percy Smith for Charles Urban.

St. Kilda, its Birds and People (1908). By Oliver Pike.

Eichhörnchen im Käfig (19??). By Julius Neubronner.

British Instructional Films

Studies in Animal Motion (1922). Edited by Peter Chalmers Mitchell.

The Harbour (1930).

Gaumont-British Instructional

List of biology films made by the Secrets team at G.B.I.

Somersetshire Dairy Farming (1937). From the Regional Geography series. Directed by Mary Field.

London Pigeon (1940). Directed by Mary Field. One of several films made by Field about urban birdlife.

Heredity in Man (1937). Presented by Julian Huxley, directed by J. V. Durden. A film advocating eugenics. Sponsored by the Eugenics Society. Warning: this is, for many people, an upsetting film to watch.

Science and Natural History

The Fly (1926). Public Health film for Bermondsey Borough Council.

Lobsters (1936). Stunning film about the life-cycle of a lobster, by László Moholy-Nagy.

The Home of the Falcon (1930). Photographed by Charles Head.

British Carnivorous Plants (1942). Instructional film by Charles Palmar, a curator of Natural History at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow. See also Island Heronry (1961)

Enough to Eat? The Nutrition Film (1936). Produced by Edgar Anstey, featuring commentary by Julian Huxley. From the Wellcome Library’s film collection.

Liquid Crystals (unknown). Beautiful film showing the formation of crystals, from the Bragg Film Archive at the Royal Institution.

Amateur Natural History Films

Ronald Gow, The Sundew. Made at Altrincham School, 1930. The film does not survive – these images are from W. H. George, The Cinema in School, London: Pitman, 1935, p. 73.

Pond Life (1935). By Frank Perrin Barnitt, a solicitor from Tunbridge Wells. Also available via Screen Archive South East.

Pond Life (1934). By George Higginson, a mature student at Manchester School of Art.

Romance of the Swan (1933). By E. C. Le Grice.

Birds of Blakeney Point (1935). By E. C. Le Grice. Described by the BFI as a “keen amateur filmmaker”.

Winged Workers (1949). By Betty and Cyril Ramsden, amateur filmmakers from Leeds.

Chimps Tea Party at Whipsnade (1930). Home movie of the Zoo at Whipsnade.

Duck-ringing at Orielton Decoy Pond (1938). Made by Cyril Winthrop Mackworth-Praed, who collaborated with Secrets photographer H. A. Gilbert.

Nature Parade (1940). Film showing schoolboys in search of local fauna. Made by Anthony C. Wilson, a schoolmaster at a prep school in Ingoldisthorpe, Norfolk.

Nature walk – Maesmawr School (1959). Film by Ion Trant, showing a school teacher taking his pupils on a nature walk in the Welsh countryside.

Suffolk Heath (1950). Film by John Chear of the birdlife living in heathland in Dunwich on the Suffolk coast.

Indian Wildlife Park (1925). Short amateur film – unfortunately it seems that little is known about the filmmakers or the location of this film.

British Council Films

Atlantic (1940). Directed by Mary Field.

The Life Cycle of the Newt (1942). Directed by Mary Field, with footage by F. Percy. Madeline Munro as adviser.

The Life Cycle of the Maize (1942). Directed by Mary Field, with footage by F. Percy. Madeline Munro as adviser.

The Life Cycle of the Onion (1943). Directed by Mary Field, with footage by F. Percy Smith.

The Life Cycle of the Pin Mould (1943). Directed by Mary Field, with footage by F. Percy Smith.

Development of the Rabbit (1944). Directed by Mary Field.

History of the English Language (1943). Directed by Mary Field.

Agricultural Films by Mary Field

These are hosted by the East Anglian Film Archive.

Farming in Winter (1935)

Farming in Spring (1935)

Farming in Summer (1935)

Farming in Autumn (1935)

The Farm Factory (1936)

Regional Geography: The Wheatlands of East Anglia (1936)

This Was England (1936)

Films by J. V. Durden

Atomic Physics (1949) Treatment by Durden

And Now They Rest (1939) about the windmill industry, co-directed with Brian Salt

for the National Film Board of Canada

The Colour of Life (1955)

Embryonic Development of the Chick (1953)

for the Developmental Biology Film Series (EDC, Boston)

The whole series can be viewed on this YouTube playlist.


John Ott

Producer of science films who used stop-motion techniques very similar to those of F. Percy Smith. See Colin Williamson´s recent article on Ott in Film History.

Secrets of Nature (1951). Unrelated to the British series, short documentary about Ott´s work.

Life of a Plant (1949). Produced by Encyclopaedia Britannica Films, with supervision by R. O. Freedland. Shows the growth of a pea plant in time-lapse. Shot in colour.

Jean Painlevé

Groundbreaking French producer of scientific films. Well-known for his underwater photography of marine animals. A selection of his films between the 1920s and 1970s is viwable via Les Docs.

John Tyler Bonner

US biologist, one of the first to study slime molds in detail.

Slime Mold Development (1940s). This film illustrates quite how ahead of its time the Secrets film Magic Myxies (1931) was, which deals with the same subject. See also the 2014 film about slime molds in science and sci-fi, The Creeping Garden.


Selection of ‘Protist films‘, from the Fritz-Laylin Lab at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Journey to Microcosmos, a YouTube channel about microscopic life, with vivid images and clear descriptions. The true inheritors of the G.B.I educational style? Maybe.

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