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Cosmopolitan London

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Cosmopolitan London

An extraordinary tour of Soho's French cafés, Clerkenwell's Little Italy and the lesser-trodden streets of Limehouse in the 1920s.

Interest film 1924 10 mins

Overview

Despite the insensitive (at times even hostile) intertitles, this is an extraordinary tour of a multicultural London rarely acknowledged by early filmmakers. Venturing off the beaten track, from the hodgepodge of Soho café culture to the "dim and mysterious" district of Limehouse - home to Chinese, Asian and African seamen - it's an eye-opening look at the melting-pot metropolis of the 1920s.

This remarkable film is part of the Wonderful London series of travelogues, directed by Harry B. Parkinson and Frank Miller. The series contrasted different aspects of city life - East End and West End, poor and rich, natives and immigrants - looking beyond the stereotypes to deliver surprising views of the city. Unfortunately, the commentary of Cosmopolitan London doesn't keep up: prejudiced references to opium-smoking in Chinatown reveal suspicions about the new Londoners, and reflect the overwhelmingly white nature of cinema audiences at the time.