This film is part of Free

A Thief in the Night

Inspector Fife quizzes Rogers the burglar, and sets a trap with the aid of Persil’s whiter-washing powers.

Advert 1930 5 mins Silent Not rated


Shot in the crepuscular style of a suspenseful crime film, this advertisement for Persil begins with Inspector Fife catching habitual burglar Rogers seemingly red-handed after a break-in. While Rogers claims that he’s broken into his own house, and offers an initially impressive recall of its fixtures and fittings, Fife realises that he can’t be the owner because Rogers’ shirt isn’t as brilliantly white as everything else in the house, clearly not having been the beneficiary of a Persil wash.

The soap manufacturer Lever Brothers, initially a British concern but now merged into the global giant Unilever, took a keen interest in film advertising and sponsorship almost from the dawn of the medium. Persil itself was introduced in 1907, offering the then revolutionary property of a laundry detergent that could chemically activate itself, thanks to a reaction between two of its core ingredients, sodium PERborate and SILicate (hence the name). In the 1950s it became one of the most frequently advertised products on television, continuing the “washes whiter” theme of Thief in the Night.