Oliver G Pike


Oliver Pike made the first wildlife films to be shown to the paying public. He produced many films between 1907 and 1916 for the French company Pathe Freres that were released in France, Britain, Germany and the USA.  These were all silent movies but some of them were hand-coloured in France.

In 1922 he began an association with British Instructional Films Ltd. and made films in the Secrets of Nature series, some later ones having a voice-over sound-track.  He used a high-speed camera to produce slow-motion footage that showed, amongst other things, how birds take-off and land. The Nightingale (1932) was one of the most popular from this period - it contained some of its song on the soundtrack.

Gaumont-British Instructional took over in 1934 and Oliver Pike continued to make similar short films, with the more realistic sound-tracks and, eventually, colour photography. 

In all, he made over eighty films, ranging from his film showing the life of people on St Kilda (1908) through wildlife films with a strong storyline (what we might call "edutainment" these days) to more solid scientific and educational work.

In Birdland Flyer 1907

The cover of the programme for the first press showing of the film "In Birdland", which took place on 29th August 1907.

"In Birdland" was the first wildlife film (or set of films) ever shown to the public. Its popularity convinced Oliver Pike that he could make a career of wildlife photography.

The notes in Oliver Pike's hand indicate that the film was shot on the East coast of the United Kingdom. This was in the Spring of 1907.

In those days, short films were shown at the end of each act at the music halls. It is believed that single reels (about 10 minutes) were shown at the Palace Theatre at Cambridge Circus in London for a month or more. The main acts were comedians, dancers and singers - such as Mistinguett, the French chanteuse.

Over a hundred copies of the film were sold but it is believed that no copies have survived, although some fragments such as "Guillemots" may be from the original set of films.