This Film Is 100 Years Old

The Cup Shall Come South! (1923) / Cup Final 1923 (1923) / Getting Ready For Cup Final (1923)

The Cup Shall Come South! is a short series of portraits of the West Ham team from 1923, shortly before they played that year’s FA Cup Final.

The first eleven stand in a line, then look into the camera one by one, some confidently, some nervously. Embarrassment, boredom, maybe even a hint of anger, fury. It’s all there.

Nowadays the form’s so perfected, every player gurning or fist clenching to the camera in choreographed isolation for the on screen line-up imagery that there’s not a trace of personality anywhere at all, no emotion but pre-packaged passion.

But here it still feels real, somehow. A glimpse of an illusion of who they really all are.

I always find these sort of film portraits really moving, for some reason. I couldn’t tell you why. I recently watched the short docuemntary film Portrait, in which a series of Russian farmers stand still and look directly at the camera in a manner similar to this, and thought it was kind of beautiful. And I’ve always really liked Andy Warhol’s screen test portraits.

If I wasn’t such a nervous man I’d ask everyone to let me take a minute long image of them just standing there, looking at the camera, looking right into our eyes, giving us the chance to see right into their souls.

Anyway, unfortunately for West Ham the cup did not come south for them at all, and wouldn’t for quite some time again.



1. I watched these on the BFI Player: The Cup Shall Come South!; and Cup Final 1923; Getting Ready For Cup Final.

2. The 1923 FA Cup final was the first at Wembley, the so-called White Horse Final, where 250,000 people turned up and only that fabled white horse saved the day.

3. Although he doesn’t turn up much in the footage presented here.

4. You do get a shot of his arse but that’s about it.

5. The black horses got robbed really.

6. Especially because the best bit of this footage is when the ref and the West Ham captain are waiting to do the coin toss, and some police come charging past.

7. Which is a genuinely thrilling bit of footage.

8. And not done justice by that still at all.

9. Also a lot of the footage their makes me a bit queasy

10. As wildly overcrowded crowd footage often does.

11. I mean just look at it.

12. I’m just glad everyone was okay.

13. Also all this footage is even more impressive/amazing/terrifying after watching “Getting Ready For Cup Final“, and seeing the absolute state of Wembley a few months before, half built, eerily empty.


Film Information

Title: The Cup Shall Come South!
Year: 1923
Duration: 2 minutes
Watch: BFI Player

Title: Cup Final 1923
Year: 1923
Duration: 5 minutes
Watch: BFI Player

Title: Getting Ready For Cup Final
Year: 1923
Duration: 1 minute
Watch: BFI Player