Sutton Archives collection stars in Mrs Harris Goes to Paris

Fri 3/Mar/23

Sutton Archives is back on the Silver Screen!


Historic photo of young male soldier from Sutton Archives used in Mrs Harris Goes to Paris


A photo from the Knights-Whittome photo collection at Sutton Archives features in the major motion picture, Mrs Harris Goes to Paris.


Released in 2022 and written by Paul Gallico, Mrs Harris Goes to Paris tells the feelgood story of a 1950s cleaning lady living in Battersea, widowed in the war, who falls in love with the couture Dior dress of a client, and decides that she must have one of her own. During a whistlestop adventure to Paris, the titular Mrs re-discovers her own worth, something she has neglected since the death of her late husband, Sgt. Edward Harris, whose image from Sutton Archives graces a frame on her bedside table throughout the film.


The photograph representing Mrs Harris's late husband was sourced from Sutton Archives, from the Knights-Whittome collection, taken by Sutton High Street photographer David Knights-Whittome who had two studios, one in Sutton and one in Epsom (a touch different from the streets of Paris). The collection contains over 1400 military portraits on glass where we know that the photographer offered discounts to those soldiers in uniform who commissioned an image at the Epsom studio.


Photo negative of young male soldier from Sutton Archives used in Mrs Harris Goes to Paris


The actual image is believed to be of John Greville Fulkes, born 1887, and posted to the camp for officer training as a Royal Fusilier in the 19th Battalion at the time the portrait was taken in 1911. Fulkes was commissioned 2nd Lt. into the Essex Regiment in July 1916 and was killed in action just 4 months later on 13 November 1916. His name is memorialised on the Thiepval memorial.


Film watchers may also spot another Sutton Archives-sourced photograph by Knights-Whittome during Mrs Harris stay in Paris. A French aristocrat, the Marquis de Chassagne, while sharing tales from his English education produces a framed photograph of the school he attended. The original photo has been retouched to include the image of a maid to whom he was attached, but the school represented here is in fact Chigwell School, photographed in around 1908.


Photo of school year of young children from Sutton Archives used in Mrs Harris Goes to Paris


Sutton Archives were first approached in 2020 by the art department of Mrs Harris Goes to Paris. The film has since been nominated in the British Independent Film Awards 2022 for Best Costume Design. It is not the first time the photo collection has featured in a major film; images also featured in the blockbuster, 1917, directed by Sam Mendes.


Abby Matthews, Archive Manager for Sutton Council's Cultural Services, commented.


’After such a long lead time, and intervening months of intermittent lockdown, I wasn’t sure if our archive images would make the final cut, but having watched the film, I’m thrilled to see that the two images chosen occupy significant moments in the narrative, and one is a real focal point for the lead character.


The digitisation of the Knights-Whittome glass plate collection represents over 4 years of hard work and passion from the London Borough of Sutton heritage team & volunteers. I am incredibly proud to see this effort rewarded by the recognition of their value, both from researchers and the ancestors of these sitters but also by their inclusion in huge blockbuster movies such as this, Mrs Harris Goes to Paris, and 1917. These photographs speak for themselves. They are a unique and precious resource for anyone interested in WW1 and local history, and a real jewel in our collection crown. But Sutton Archives has a wealth of other collections that can aid family and local history. We welcome enquiries and donations that can enrich our understanding of the borough’s rich past, and we are open to licensing enquiries from individuals as well as from large production companies’.


The Knights-Whittome collection was conserved and digitised following two National Heritage Lottery Fund grants. For those interested in more from Sutton Archives, visit the Past on Glass website or book a visit today.