The film "A City Speaks" was produced for Manchester Corporation in 1947, and was directed by Paul Rotha. It was written by Walter Greenwood, ARA Calder-Marshall and Paul Rotha, with music played by the Halle Orchestra, directed by John Barbirolli.
The film starts with an aerial view from a plane flying over the southern suburbs towards the centre of Manchester. First we see the open spaces of Wythenshawe, the Mersey Valley, and Hough End fields, then row upon row of terraced houses, the factories and chimneys, and finally the war-torn buildings of the city centre, dominated by the jet black outline of the Town Hall.
The film continues with scenes of the people of Manchester, on the the streets, in the factories and in their homes, followed by a brief history of the city from Roman Times to the immediate post-war years.
Much time is devoted to the efforts of the City Corporation to organise, improve and modernise the city, still blighted by decayed housing, smoke, war ravaged streets, and a 19th century infrastructure.
The conclusion shows the people of Manchester at play, with scenes from Belle Vue showground, Old Trafford, the theatre, the races, the Speedway, set to rousing music played by the Halle Orchestra.
The film is a fascinating glimpse of earlier times and a priceless document of the city's history. Viewers from 50 years later will be struck by how old, drab and decrepit everything seems to look, even the people! This is an entirely different Manchester from the one we know today, yet there is a similarity of outlook and atmosphere which is unmistakable, and a feeling of optimism, then, as now that Manchester will improve.
"A City Speaks" is just one of the thousands of films held by the North West Film Archive, part of Manchester Metropolitan University. Films are available for hire to societies and organisations, and is frequently used by television companies and film makers. Individuals can come along to the offices of the North West Film Archive for individual viewings, which is what I did.