Roadways (1937)

This little-known film makes the case for investment and legislation to benefit responsible road users – including the film’s sponsor, the General Post Office.

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Film details

Introduction

The film was produced by the GPO’s own film unit, which between 1933 and 1940 revolutionised the form and sophistication of British documentary filmmaking.

Though the film begins with bustling scenes at a GPO equipment depot, the camera soon follows a succession of lorries as they venture out onto Britain’s thoroughfares. From there, the film examines the current state of its roads and their users.

A history of the development of the motor car, and particularly the haulage industry, sets out a rather chaotic portrait of early road users. The GPO’s own drivers are pointedly contrasted with narcoleptic truckers and stereotypes of gossiping women behind the wheel, so as to give the service an air of superior professionalism. Firm backing is given to new laws and legislation, which would enhance the GPO’s status on the roads in comparison with other – less scrupulous – firms.

Though Roadways is very much a minor work in the catalogue of the now near-legendary GPO Film Unit, in its craft and sophistication it has much in common with the Unit’s better-known films, such as 1936’s Night Mail.

Cast & Credits

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