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William Friese-Greene at the Bioscope

Posted by keith1942 on May 4, 2021

Kennington Bioscope on line on You Tube

[Note, the first 50 seconds are a blank screen with no sound then the opening credits appear.]

May 5th is one hundred years since the death of this British film inventor and pioneer. The Kennington Bioscope is streaming a discussion on his life and work by three researcher/historians; Ian Christie: Peter Domankiewicz: Stephen Herbert; ‘Back in focus: The Centenary of William Friese-Greene’.

Friese-Greene was one of  a number of people in the 1880s experimenting on techniques to produce the illusion of a moving image from projected photographic film. He produced several working cameras between 1888 and 1891 and issued a patent for these. However, like some of the other inventor, he was not successful in projecting these images in a public showing; it was the Lumière Brothers success in this that made their work historic.

Friese-Greene ran a successful photographic portrait studio but his main interests were his experiments and the costs of his work on moving images led to bankruptcy. In the early 1900 he then experimented with early colour film. One of these, Biocolour, was projected successfully but it was eclipsed by other examples; it suffered from heavy flicker and colour fringing. Examples of his early films are available on You Tube, including a refurbished version of ‘The Open Road’, shot by his son Claude using his father’s system.

Friese-Greene‘s last public appearance was attending and speaking at a meeting of members of the British Film industry. Ironically he collapsed at the meeting and died.

He was for a long time a forgotten figure. The film biopic,The Magic Box, produced in 1951 was planned  to accompany the Festival of Britain in that year.The film was produced by Festival Film Productions, partly funded by the National Film Finance Corporation with contributions from all the major British production companies either for free or at cost. The script was by Eric Ambler based on a book by Ray Allister and directed by John Boulting. The film was shot in Technicolor, at that time reserved for prestige production in Britain. The technical side and the casting benefited from the varied contributing companies. There is is excellent colour cinematography by Jack Cardiff, fine production design by John Bryan and excellent costume design  by Julia Squire.

The cast list is immense, with dozens of cameos from successful British film actors. In fact, it is possibly easier to spot who is missing than list all those who appear.

Despite or possible because of this approach the film was a failure. The film has an odd script and despite a fine performance by Robert Donat as Friese-Greene the film lacks dramatic development. The opening credits appear over a stone slab successive names of an interesting selection of film pioneers:

Thomas Alva Edison – whose employee W. K. Dickson developed a working camera.

Etienne Jules Marey – a French pioneer who developed a photographic ‘gun’ taking multiple images.

Louis le Prince – a French pioneer working in Leeds who developed a camera and possibly a projector

Louis Lumière ave son frère. – the famous organisers of a public projection in December 1895

And then Friese-Greene himself is inscribed on the slab for the closing credits; as with his grave which offers ‘the inventor of kinematography’.

The film’s script is structured around two flashbacks. At the opening we see Friese-Greene, on his way to a meeting of the British Film industry at The Connaught Rooms in London, visiting his second wife, now separated.. The visits motivates a flashback by his wife. She remembers the evening of their first meeting, following a visit to an early fairground cinématographe projection featuring Lumiére titles. Then, with friends, she is taken to Friese-Greene workshop where he demonstrates his early work exploring colour film. Most of the flashback concerns the travail of the family as Friese-Greene encounters increasing problems of debt.

After the first flashback see Friese-Greene arrive at the Industry meetings. A phrase by a speaker motivates a longer flashback. Friese-Greene remembers his courtship of his first wife and his early career in a photographic portrait studio.

His growing interest in the possibility of projecting moving images involves increased experimental work but also an increasing debt burden. Much of this concerns his work with the newly developed celluloid, a crucial technology for film projection. In an  undated sequence we see him successfully project moving images; at about ten frames a second with a pronounced flicker. He rushes into the street and finds  a policeman to whom he can demonstrate his invention; a cameo by Lawrence Olivier.

We then see the affect of his debt and bankruptcy on his family; his wife died young. But the projection sequence appears as a climax of the flashback. We return to the meeting where Friese-Greene makes an impassioned plea to the uncomprehending meeting. Shortly afterwards he collapses and dies.

The film’s focus is the travails of his career. The sequences showing his experiments are brief. That depicting colour does not give much sense of the technology but that showing his working camera and projector does give a greater sense of its operation. There are some dates, such as the Industry meeting, but others, like the success with projecting his film,or his work on colour film, is curiously undated.

Brian Coe in  ‘The History of Movie Photography’ (Eastview Editions, 1981) is sceptical of the claims put forward in the film. He questions whether the machine described in Friese-Greene’s patents actually projected at the required frame rate of 16; and he reckons that the inventor only used celluloid after its use in the Edison workshops. Friese-Greene’s Biocolour system has more credence but fell foul of a patent suit by Charles Urban for his Kinemacolor.

Michael Chanan in ‘The Dream that Kicks The Prehistory and Early years of Cinema in Britain’ (1980) has several pages on Friese-Greene in his chapters on patents. He writes that the inventor probably did develop some form of celluloid which he used in his 1889 camera. Chanan also notes that the patent is jointly in the name of Friese-Greene and an engineer Mortimer Evans. However the frame rate of around ten per second would not have produced a viewable moving image.

There is more on Peter Domankiewicz’s Blog ‘William Friese-Greene & me’. Happily it also includes posts on another pioneer in Britain, Louis le Prince. The Bioscope presentation will likely shed more light on Friese-Greene and his contribution to cinema history.

The KB seminar addressed both Friese-Greene’s biography, his technical achievements and the ups and downs of his reputation. It was introduced by Nicholas Hiley, a trustee of the Cinema Museum where the Bioscope is based. He noted that they were not able to show actual clips from The Magic Box as screening these on You Tube would be a breach of copyright. There is a real irony in this. Friese-Greene’s financial problems stemmed in part from legal disputes over patents. Copyright is a form of patent and after dying in poverty Friese-Greene’s work is now protected for profits be other capitalists. The irony was not remarked on.

The first presentation was by Peter Domankiewicz who is researching Friese-Greene’s life and work. He provided an overview of the inventor and addressed the ‘problem’; the two very different assessments of his achievements. Peter talked about his life, with illustrations, images of replicas of his cameras, and some digital versions of the film that he did make.

Running successful photographic studios Friese-Greene worked with a John  Rudge in 1881; the latter having a lantern projector with a primitive shutter mechanism. By 1885 they had a four lens lantern which created a form of moving image. In 1889 Friese-Greene took out a patent for a single lens camera which ran at about ten frames per second and included pinholes on early celluloid as the film strip.  This was earlier than the use of celluloid by Thomas Edison’s employee, W. K. Dickson. Friese-Greene went on to take out a patent for a stereoscopic camera and then for early colour film stock. But his cameras all seem to have operated about ten fps, slower than the minimum of 14 fps which produces the illusion of movement.

Replica camera

Peter did talk about the irony of the obscurity in which Friese-Greene lived at the time of his death which was then overturned and led to his funeral being a large public event and a continuing reputation as  a key inventor in the development of what became cinema.

Steve Herbert talked about the technical aspects of Friese-Greeene’s inventions. Steve was involved in 2000 in the ‘race to cinema‘ project. Their website contains illustrations and information about the replicas, including two by Friese-Greene and also one by the Leeds-based inventor Louis le Prince. Steve presented some of these replicas in stills and short moving image sequences. He pointed out that the patents involved associate engineers; for the single lens camera Mortimer Evans. He commented on the frame rates of Friese-Greene’s camera, only 10 fps or less. And he made a general point about the early inventions that one lacunae was the absence of a sprocket system. This was the contribution of W. K. Dickson and the Lumiere Brothers, the latter developing  a combined camera/ projector. Steve will be posting a fuller discussion of this issue on his webpage, The Optilogue.

Steve also recounted an odd little tale. For the production of The Magic Box replicas were made of both Friese-Greene’s monoscopic camera [single lens] and his stereoscopic camera [dual lens camera] but that the one used in the famous sequence where Robert Donat as Friese-Greene demonstrates his moving image to a Police Constable is the stereoscopic camera.

Steve concluded on the claim in Roy Allister 1948 book ‘Friese-Greene: close-up of an inventor’ , labeling him ‘the father of film’. But the mechanisms only reached 10 fps and were limited to cameras rather than projectors.

Ian Christie addressed the ‘afterlife of Friese-Greene; the ups and downs of his reputation. In the years after his death, at least in Britain, he enjoyed the status as a key inventor in the development of cinema. The Magic Box was the culmination of this viewpoint. In Britain the release of the film was seen  as a major event; even though it did not do well at the box office. However, in the USA the film was described in one review as a ‘perversion of history’; the general view was that the British were inflating Friese-Greene’s importance.

Ian commented on how critical publications on the inventor undermined his status in Britain. Brian Coe, a prestigious critic because of his position at the Kodak’s George Eastman Museum, was damning in his comments. Michael Chanan offered a more balanced view. And John Barnes, author of ‘The Beginnings of Cinema in England, 1894 – 1901’, regarded Friese-Greene as having little relevance.

Ian also explained about a particular confusion in the film biopic. The famous sequence is where Donat, playing the inventor, demonstrates his camera/projector to a police constable. However, this conflates Friese-Greene’s work with an incident from the work of another British pioneer, R. W. Paul. Ian has written on Paul and the incident in question is illustrated in a graphic novel about Paul. He traced some of the mistaken writings that led to this confusion.

Ian ended with a quotation by Henry Hopwood in 1899;

“there never was an inventor of Living Pictures” (‘Living Pictures’).

This was a general view in which the three speakers concurred in the final Q&A with Nicholas Hiley. In times past there was an emphasis on the successful inventor/s who produced key technological developments. Nowadays there is a more general interest in the variety of contributions which led to a particular form of moving images.

Readers can check out the various sites indicated above and both Peter Domankiewicz and Steve Herbert will be adding more contributions to out understanding of Friese-Greene and the context in which he worked. And Ian Christie has published a major work on R. W. Paul, described on his web site.

Note; The Magic Box is a title that screens on ‘Talking Pictures’ [Freeview 81] and is on today, May 28th, at 6 p.m.

Posted in UK pioneers | 2 Comments »

The Rocks of Valpré, UK 1919

Posted by keith1942 on December 20, 2015

Dell cover

This film was directed by Maurice Elvey and adapted from a popular novel by Ethel M. Dell. The film was produced by Stoll Picture Productions. I am fortunate in having seen the film from a 35mm print at both Il Giornate del Cinema Muto 1997 and the British Silent Film Festival [Leicester 2015]. I was impressed on both occasions. Curiously there is little written on the film. Even the BFI monograph on Elvey only mentions the film in passing.

Elvey’s output as a director is uneven. But when the story or themes catch his attention this seems to focus his direction. Certainly this film has a melodramatic plot, but it also offers some interesting settings and the opportunity to present conventional scenes in a distinctive manner.

Ethel Dell was a popular novelist though her work did not garner much critical praise. This novel was filmed again the 1930s. I have not seen it but details suggest that it was one of the less pre-processing ‘quota quickies’. This version was adapted by Byron Webber. He scripted a number of films in this period and also acted. I have not seen any of the others. In this film I thought what was distinctive was more to do with direction and scripting. A colleague at Leicester stated that the film follows the plot of the book fairly closely.

I thought there was some extremely well executed staging and cinematography. The latter was done by Paul Burger. Burger was a Belgium who worked for Stoll and appears to have been the regular cameraman in this period on films directed by Elvey. One of these was At the Villa Rosa adapted from a novel by A. E. W. Mason, which I also thought was pretty good.

“Elvey’s narrative skill sustains the complex structure of this detective mystery. … Paul Berger’s marvellous photography of the Riviera provides a rich, often almost “gothic” setting.” (Il Giornate del Cinema Muto Catalogue, 1997).

The Art Direction is listed by Dallas Cairns, an Australian. He certainly acted in several of the films directed by Elvey. And he also directed films and possibly also produced films. I have not found any other design credits for him.

The film used actual locations in Torquay, standing in for France. One sequence used Corbyn Head. These locations are some of the best sequences in the film. Elvey would seem to have thrived on location filming. His later Hindle Wakes (1927) has some fine location work in Blackpool, filmed by Basic Emmott.

The rest of the film was shot at the Surbiton Studio of Stoll Picture Productions. The company was the largest production firm in this period. In 1921 they moved to larger studios in Cricklewood. The basis for the film company was the Stoll Theatrical Empire. There is certainly a sense of that in some of the films of the period.

Il Giornate Catalogue comments on this film,

“With his usual skilfully chosen cast, Elvey does handsomely by Ethel M. Dell’s melodramatic novel of heroic sacrifice, turning it into a human and ultimately very moving story.”

The plot is complicated but full of generic elements. Trevor Mordaunt (Basil Gill) is a young French inventor who meets and begins a romance with Christine Wyndham (Peggy Carlisle), staying on the French coast with her Aunt (Winifred Sadler). Things go wrong when a rival, Captain Rudolphe (Humberston Wright), steals the plans of Trevor’s invention, a new design of a breechblock gun. This aspect of the plot appears to have been influenced by the Dreyfus affair. Trevor is accused of theft by the military, wrongly convicted and sent to Devil’s Island. He later escapes and has to both track down Rudolphe and clear his name. He also, like Jacob, has to serve time before he can be re-united with Christine.

Some of the most memorable sequences in the film are those using location filming. So Trevor and Christine meet on a rocky beach. On a later tryst Christine’s dog runs off and in rescuing it Trevor and Christine find themselves cut off by the rising tide.

“prisoners till morning”

In a happy touch the dog recurs right throughout the film rather than disappearing as soon as his/her plot function is over.

Trevor and Christine have to pass the night in his secret cave where he works on his invention. The film uses a title from the book,

“The Knight of the Magic Cave”

This is a studio set, but full of shadows, which give it an evocative, almost expressionist feel. Trevor and Christine are innocents but local gossip deems otherwise.

“Christine’s indiscretion”

In a double-whammy this is the occasion on which Rudolphe purloins the plans of the invention.

The filming on the beach and the rocky inlet where the couple sit and talk and romance is well filmed. The changing shots and angles produce a sense of place and freshness.

The comments regarding Christine lead to Trevor and Rudolphe fighting a duel with sabres on a cliff top overlooking the bay. The sequence includes shots from the point of view of Christine, watching from a distance. These include long shots and iris shots and the editing suggests the emotions felt by Christine as she watches.

“You fought on my account!”

However, her aunt takes Christine back to England whilst Trevor suffers a court martial and then prison.

“Stone walls do not a prison make.”

He escapes but faces an even more complicated future. When he finally finds Christine she is married. And Trevor is in debt to the man who is her husband, Bertram de Montville (Cowley Wright), who rescues him from his poverty stricken existence as a street musician.

rocks-of-valpyre7

Rudolph re-appears and there is another plot complication involving a misappropriated cheque and the blackmailing of Christine. Trevor resolves these and Bertram, recognising their love, does the ‘decent thing’,

“I release you from your vow or duty, go to him.”

But the complications continue. Trevor encounters Rudolphe one more time, in Paris. Dying the rival confesses and Trevor is able to clear his name. Meanwhile Bertram has fallen ill and conveniently dies.

“Through the long day the tide slowly ebbs away.”

Trevor and Christine are finally together, their problems left behind.

“The other was a dream .. this is reality.”

There is less location work in the latter part of the film, though we get a return to Valpré and the Torquay location for the passing on of Bertram. The cinematography and settings continue to work very effectively. And the performances, especially of the lead couple, are very good. When I saw it at the British Silent Film Festival we had an accompaniment by Neal Brand, he provided both dramatic and lyrical passages of music to set off the film.

The BFI print is 5938 feet in length, in black and white; the original release was probably 300 feet longer. The original film had tinting. At the both screenings the film was projected at 18fps, running for 79 minutes.

Posted in British film in the 'teen', UK pioneers | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Would You Believe It! (UK 1929)

Posted by keith1942 on November 26, 2015

Walter Forde in What Next?

Walter Forde in What Next?

This film was the main feature in a silent film presentation during the Leeds International Film Festival. There was this feature and two earlier shorts, introduced and accompanied at the piano by Jonathan Best.

Would You Believe It! was a comedy feature co-scripted, directed and starring Walter Forde. Forde, born in Bradford, started out in the Northern Music Halls. He moved into film in 1919, first as a writer then as a comedy lead. He made several two reel comedies, produced in a converted hangar in Hertfordshire and then a converted drill-hall in Devon and all marketed under Zodiac Comedies. He, as was the  case in the silent era, played a stock character Walter, well meaning but innocent. He then made six two-reelers at the Windsor Studios. This was followed by two years in Hollywood at the Unviersal Studio. When he returned to the UK he joined the Nettlefold Company who had taken over Cecil Hepworth’s old Studio at Walton. There he made four comedy features, all using the Walter character and playing opposite Pauline Johnson as a romantic lead. The films were co-written by James B. Sloan with Walter also directing. Sloan is also credited as director on a number of comedy shorts that Forde made on his return to the UK.

Would You Believe It! was the final comedy feature silent made by Forde, as this was the point that the introduction of sound film occurred in the British film industry. Rachel Low comments on the film:

“His last silent comedy, Would You believe It! (Trade Show May 1929) was directed and written by him, and this time reviewers, slow to recognise comic ability unless already established either in America or on the stage, at last began to take notice. But by this time sound film had become the fashion and even a Vocalion music recording could not save a comedy so essentially silent in technique. The [four] films were slight comedies with timidly darting style, dabbling politely in romantic farce, slapstick and a playful use of the medium. Forde himself appeared as a burly amiable and innocent young man engaged in suburban misadventures, somewhat puzzled but hopefully dogged.

He was too late for a career as a silent film comedian, but the direction and editing of the film show a considerable talent, which was fortunately to find expression in the thirties.”

Low is likely accurate on the context and Forde’s general approach, but she probably underestimates the quality and popularity of the film. The BFI Screen Online is quoted in the Festival Catalogue:

“He resumed the ‘Walter’ series, this time in collaboration with James B. Sloan and by the late 1920s, had become recognised as one of Britain cinema’s major comic talents, the director and star of a number of very popular comedies for Nettlefold …”

In the film Forde plays Walter, a would-be inventor. After trials and failures he comes up with a remote-control system with military potential. At this point the invention and Walter become the target of foreign spies. Whilst this conflict continues Walter is also developing a relationship with Pauline (Pauline Johnson), who coincidentally works for the Ministry of War.

The film  opens when Walter’s experiments force him to leave home. He obtains a job as an assistant in a toy shop. There are several very funny sequences involving, first as baby, then balloons and finally mechanical toys. The balloons at one point form a phallic shape which I assumed was intentional and rather risqué for the period. The mechanical toys go berserk in a marvellous sequence, scattering customers round the shop.

It is at the shop that Walter meets Pauline. As their relationship develops she also arranges for him to demonstrate his invention to the Ministry of War. At this point the foreign spies enter the picture. The chief seems to be modelled on a caricature of Lenin: an unidentified reference to a Soviet threat?

WouldYouBelieveIt3web1

There are a number of sequences where the less than competent spies attempt to steal the invention or kidnap Walter. There is a fine long sequence on the London Underground involving a spiral staircase and a lift. This is really fine comedy and the humour increases as there are repetitions both on the stairs and in the lift.

“All are seen from a simple, single camera angle, but by rapid cutting of repeat shows of this section with the hero, the villains, and then the case itself sliding down on its own, the illusion of a chase up and down the staircase is created … The comedy effect of this simple sequence is successfully created by using the juxtaposition of shot …” (Rachel Low).

The film develops to a final climax when Walter’s invention is tried out on an actual tank. Once again the spies are plotting to steal the invention. This is a fairly long sequence but it develops both the drama and humour with real skill. It is also a fairly destructive sequence, demolishing cars and  whole houses in a chase sequence. You might guess that there is a positive outcome for Walter and Pauline.

Low’s comments on the filmmaker and the film sequence are apt. This was an extremely well made silent feature. The cinematography is excellent: by Geoffrey Faithful. And equally well done was the Art Design by W.G. Saunders and the editing by Culley Forde. Both the underground and the toy shop sequences were really effective. And the finale, though drawn out, is full of extremely well presented action. Forde himself obviously has an eye for the distinctive comedy sequence: there is another ingenious scene when he goes to the wrong venue for his War Office interview.

The film was accompanied at the piano by Jonathan Best. This was a enjoyable and appropriate score, adding to but not overpowering the film’s drama and comedy. Jonathan also offered a short introduction to the film and to the accompanying  two short films. He explained that the three films represented three early decades  in the British silent cinema and among other aspects offered a comparison of the development in comedy in that period.

Motor Pirates or The Modern Pirates, a black and white film  produced by the Alpha Trading Company. They operated from 1903 until about 1910. The film was approximately 500 feet in length and ran for about nine minutes at 16 fps. An armoured car terrorises the countryside but is finally bought to book. The film is rather violent but the action is presented in long shot: there is little sign of motivation. There are a couple of ingenious set-ups with the police before an extended chase ends in a river.

Blood and Bosh (1913) is from the Hepworth Company. It is just on 650 feet in length, running for about running for about 11 minutes at 16fps. The plot synopsis gives little idea of the actual film.

“A baby, the beneficiary of a will, is kidnapped, thrown through a window, trample don, and finally rushed to hospital to be re-inflated.” [LIFF Catalogue].

The characters, including a hero, heroine, villains, mother and child, surgeon and sawman, are performed in stark melodramatic fashion. The cuts are frequently abrupt as the audience is taken on a erratic narrative. And the action  is violent, bizarre but often very funny. The films seems to be the product of a premature British member of the Dada.

The 35mm prints, in pretty condition, were provided by the British Film Institute. They do not seem to have a practice of recording frame rates? The projectionist, at the Hyde Park Picture House, had to experiment, eventually they settled on 18 fps for the programme. This was slightly fast for the early films. It seemed OK for the Forde feature, though there was a slight flicker from that frame rate.

Still a very entertaining programme. More please, soon.

Rachel low’s The History of British Film 1918 – 1929 is part of the seminal five-volume study: Geoffrey Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1971.

 

Posted in Britain in the 1920s, Silent Comedy, UK pioneers | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Louis Le Prince Leeds Trail

Posted by keith1942 on July 20, 2015

Le Prince Map In late 1888 Louis Le Prince shot moving pictures in Leeds on a camera of his own design and construction. These are the earliest recorded films, as opposed to multiple photographs. And they precede the achievements of other cinematic pioneers like Thomas Edison and the Lumière brothers. Now a documentary film has been released that traces the career of Le Prince and his film actitivies in C19th Yorkshire, The First Film. To celebrate this milestone we are publishing an informal trail of the historic spots in Leeds that are associated with Le Prince and his pioneer achievements. The starting point is in Leeds City Centre, from where all the spots indicated can be accessed by the local bus services: note the relevant bus stops are spread out around the Headrow, Vicar Lane, Boar Lane and the Bus Station. But you can also walk between a number of the sites in the Centre..   Lds Centre Map The trail can be followed in varied ways, depending on your interests and mode of transport. We are suggesting that you start with the Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills in Canal Street. It can be accessed by Service number 5 from F7. [If you follow an alternative route then there is a page on le Prince on Wikipedia you can consult first].   Armley Mills Ent. The Museum has a display on le Prince; copies of one of the cameras that he designed and video copies of the short surviving films from 1888. It is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Returning to the City Centre by no. 5 to T1; we suggest that you continue with the site of Le Prince’s Workshop in Woodhouse Lane, [then at number 160]. Here Le Prince built his several cameras and [it appears] also a projector or ‘deliverer’. Service number 1 from Z1 stops opposite the University Broadcasting Place and alongside it the old BBC Building. The plaque is sited on the city-side end of that new University building. This plaque replaced an older brass plaque which now hangs in the foyer of the new BBC building on Quarry Bank [passed later]. Univ. build and plaque You can enter the open space in the front of the building and read the plaque … Workshop plaque To to continue you need to walk to the nearby pedestrian traffic lights, turn right and catch any bus to the city centre, alighting at J6.  From N2 Service numbers 2, 3 and 3A all run from the City Centre through Chapeltown. Alight by the Library complex and Sholebroke Avenue is a few yards further on. there are no signs on is Prince in the Avenue but at number 16, halfway down the street, Le Prince bought the land and may have had the house built?. No 16 He also resided for a time father up Chapeltown Road at Brandon Villas. That building has been knocked down but you can see the site, now Housing a Sikh Temple. Return to the bus stop but now only service 2 is relevant. It passes the Sikh Temple site in a couple of hundred yards and proceeds to the Oakwood Clock. Oakwood clock The Clock, a local landmark, has recently been restored and there is now a display panel in front of the clock showing local sites of interest. This includes Oakwood Grange where Le Prince shot two strips of film in the garden. The display has a map which shows how to reach the location, about ten minutes on foot.  Oakwood display The Grange building no longer survives but the garden is sill there. It can be viewed from the street end, but the Occupants of the new building [a Training Centre] seem happy when asked to let people view the actual garden. The two short sequences on film of Le Prince’s family and in-laws in the garden still survive.   Roundhay garden Return to Oakwood Clock and there are several buses to the city centre and to Leeds Bridge: it is easiest to walk from K4 [alongside the Market] to the Bridge and back again. Leeds bridge side A Blue Plaque records the building from which le Prince shot his film of Leeds Bridge. In 1988, at the Leeds International Film Festival, the event was celebrated with a re-enactment. Plaque on bridge From T12 you can return to the New Market Street, V2 and walk down to the Bus Station. The BBC Building is on Quarry Bank right opposite the Bus Station. The original brass plaque that marked Le Prince’s Workshop hangs in the foyer of the building. At the Bus station [beyond the Market] you can catch the X6 to Bradford Interchange, this takes just over half-an-hour but it is worth it to visit the National Media Museum. If you leave by the main entrance/exit of the Interchange there are local signs including for the National Media Museum, abut 7 to 8 minutes walk. national-media-museum The Museum, open daily from 1000 to 1800,  has a number of media and film exhibitions. The Louis Le Prince single-lens camera is on Floor 5, alongside the Animation displays: along with examples of other pioneer cinematic technology. In addition the Museum’s Insight Collection has a large range of early cinematic material. There are conducted tours of the collection Tuesdays and Thursdays, but you can also arrange visits in the third week of every month. And there are a number of illustrated pages on Louis Le Prince on the Museum Website. The Museum also has two cinemas and an Imax screen programed by the Picture House circuit, with afternoon and evening screenings. So it is worth checking the programme of screenings. Before or after a film, you can return to Leeds on the X6 from the Interchange: the service only operates until about 6 p.m., but there is the alternative but slower service 72 throughout the evening. Back in Leeds, after all the exertions, you may wish for refreshments. We have not been able to identify a hostelry patronized by Le Prince himself, but there are several Public Houses which were plying their trade in his time. There is the Victoria Hotel in Great George Street, opened in 1865. Then you can indulge your cinematic pleasures by visiting the Hyde Park Picture House. Service 56 runs from J1 and passes the cinema. hydepark The Picture house is currently celebrating its Centenary, November 2nd 1914. The auditorium is still very much as it was when the cinema opened. So this is one of the most delighful venues for watching films across the UK. And the Picture House still has 35mm projection [as well as digital], and 35mm prints are a regular feature of the programme. There are also occasional screenings of silents with live musical acompaniment. A splendid way to end such a tour. There is  a published book on Le Prince and his career – The Missing Reel by Christopher Rawlence, 1989 [copy in Leeds Central Library Local History section]. Thanks to Lyall for the photographs and to Erik for his advice.

Posted in Early cinemas, Silent technology, UK pioneers | 4 Comments »