Genevieve – the film-star car!

By Esther Gill

On Saturday, 2 November 2019, we had a showing of Genevieve, the classic 1953 British comedy featuring the eponymous car and its travails in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. And the following day, the car herself motored down to Brighton for the 2019 Run. Meanwhile, in the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage audio preservation studio here at The Keep, we were busy working on a unique collection of recordings from the National Motor Museum Trust (NMMT) at Beaulieu, including three about Genevieve!

Just to clarify (for those who are now confused!), Genevieve is a car, built in 1904 by the Darracq Company, an early French manufacturer of cars. She shot to fame in the 1953 film and since 1993, has been a regular participant in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run on the first Sunday of November each year. She is now owned by the Louwman Museum in The Hague, but she’ll be back on UK roads for the Run in a few days’ time.

Promotional image for the 1953 film Genevieve, courtesy Park Circus/ITV Studios

The NMMT collection being digitised includes three recordings about Genevieve, reflecting the particular fondness that people have for her and her significance as a ‘film-star car’ in the world of veteran cars. The three recordings all relate to her return to the UK in 1993 from Australia to be auctioned at Olympia in December 1993, following her participation in the London to Brighton Run. They include a recordings from a Friends Evening at Beaulieu with Genevieve in ‘attendance’ and people’s memories of why the car is special to them.

In one of the recordings, [UTK007/355], Robert Brooks, Auctioneer, comments that Genevieve ‘really is the motor car that trigged the boom in interest that happened for old cars in the 1950s and 1960s. Many people say she was responsible for the popularity of the Brighton run in modern times and I wouldn’t disagree with that’. He goes on to comment that the auction has generated a lot of interest from across the world, mainly due to her film star status. A month later, on 2 December 1993, Genevieve was sold for £143,000 in London.

One of the open-reel tape recordings about Genevieve being digitised at The Keep

The National Motor Museum Trust audio collection is fascinating, but it is also quite a mystery in places as there isn’t much documentation about the actual content of the recordings. We are digitising 625 open reel tapes, cassettes, a digital audio tape (DAT) and a number of tiny mini-cassettes, but we’re going to need help with listing what is actually on the tapes.

So, if you are interested in cars, the social history of motoring, Beaulieu and various related topics, and would like to get involved with Unlocking Our Sound Heritage at  The Keep, do drop us a line. All that is needed is an ability to listen, the curiosity to follow up clues about what may be in the recording and a desire to help save historic sound recordings.

Get in touch through email: uosh@sussex.ac.uk or Twitter @KeepSounds

Our screening of Genevieve, made possible by BFI’s Film Audience Network, with the support of The National Lottery.

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