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Le Mans crash 1955

On June 11th, 1955 our colleagues from Fox Movietone Paris were filming the Le Mans 24 hour race.  A hand-held camera was placed at the start line, near the pits.  Another was placed about a hundred yards further down the track.  There were, of course, other roaming crew around the circuit.

As usual there was an enormous crowd all around the circuit.  Then, just before reaching the area where the pits started, one car attempted to overtake another.  There was a collision and one car flew into the air and ploughed into the crowd.  There was unbelievable carnage as the car cut a swathe through the people. Eighty spectators died in a few seconds.

All this was recorded by the cameraman based at the pit area.  He was shooting across the track and covered the whole thing.  The camera based further down the track had started his shot of the incident as the cars first came toward him.    He filmed the same event, but it was some distance from the tragedy.

The film “rushes” were duplicated and sent to us at Movietone in London.  We attended the screening.  When we saw the images from the pits camera, the whole tragic event seemed to unfold as if in slow motion.  It was the most horrible scene that I had ever witnessed.  Among those in the preview theatre was Sir Gordon Craig, Managing Director, who said “We will not be using this”.  No one in that theatre would have disagreed with him. The story we issued did not use the scenes from that camera.  It was shown from the second camera, then followed by the aftermath. The second cameras did not show the detailed carnage that had taken place back along the track.

I am certain that today, fifty years later, it would have been shown on some sections of the media and most certainly somewhere on the internet.

© Terence Gallacher and, 2011.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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