Brian R Pritchard Motion Picture and Film Archive Consultant
PROCEEDINGS OF THE ‘BRITISH KINEMATOGRAPH SOCIETY
R. W. PAUL. C. M. HEPWORTH
and W. G. BARKER
Delivered to a meeting of the British Kinematograph Society.
held at Gaumont-British Theatre, Film House, 142, Wardour
Street, W.l, on February 3, 1936
The Vice-chairman: Ladies and gentlemen. – In the unavoidable absence of our President, I have to open this meeting and introduce to you–although I know they need no introduction to you–Mr.Paul, Mr Barker and Mr Hepworth. I understand that Mr. Paul is going to introduce the other two and himself, so I will, therefore, call upon Mr. Paul
Mr. Paul gave his paper.
Mr R. W. Paul said:
At the time when the industry was struggling into existence we three were independent workers. We first came together about thirty years ago in an effort to avert the economic ruin of the British producers. Each of us has faced the initial difficulties of a new art, designing his own apparatus and methods, so we hope that a brief account of our experiences during the fifteen years before 1910 may amuse those now working under very different conditions.
For a vivid and masterly survey of trade conditions we must refer to Col. Bromhead’s paper read before the Society on December 11, 1933.
The Kinetoscope Era
My first contact with animated photography occurred by chance in connection with the business of manufacturing electrical and other scientific instruments which I had started in Hatton Garden in1891. In 1894 I was introduced by my friend, H. W. Short, to two Greeks who had installed in a shop in Old Broad Street. E. C. six kinetoscopes, bought from Edison’s agents in New York. At a charge of twopence per person per picture one looked through a lens at a continuously rolling film and saw an animated photograph lasting about half a minute. Boxing Cats, A Barber’s Shop, A Shoeblack at Work were among the subjects, and the public interest was such, that additional machines were urgently needed. Finding that no steps had been taken to patent the machine I was able to construct six before the end of that year. To supply the demand from travelling showmen and others, I made about sixty kinetoscopes in 1895, and in conjunction with business friends installed fifteen at the Exhibition at Earls Court, London, showing some of the first of our British films, including the Boat Race and Derby of 1895. The sight of queues of people, waiting their turn to view them, first caused me to consider the possibility of throwing the pictures on the screen. Moreover, it had become evident that t weight of the kinetoscope and the difficulty, at that time, of recharging its accumulators militated against its extensive use.
Making Kinetoscope Films
Users of my kinetoscopes were refused supplies of films by the Edison agents, so I was forced to produce new subjects. Film-stock with a matt celluloid base was procurable from Blair of St. Mary Cray, Kent. For negatives, Kodak film having a clear base was preferred. - In Birt Acres I found a photographer willing to take up the photography and processing, provided I could supply him with the necessary plant which I did early in 1895. For perforating the film I made, for use in an ordinary fly-press, a set of punches, 32 in number, with pilot pins, to The Edison gauge. We had no information to guide us in designing a camera, but worked out an idea due to Acres. The film was drawn, under slight tension, from an upper spool past the light opening or gate to another spool below. A clamping plate, intermittently actuated by a cam held the film stationary in the gate during each exposure. A shutter, whose opening synchronised with the cam revolved between the lens and the gate. In our first trial we failed to get a picture on Blackfriars Bridge, only because we forgot, in our excitement - to attach the lens, Our printer was of the rotary type, consisting merely of a sprocket over which the positive and negative passed together behind a narrow slot illuminated by a gas jet. The sprocket was turned by hand at a speed judged by the operator, who inspected the negative as it travelled past a beam of red light For development the forty feet of film was wound on a birch frame with spacing pegs. Horizontal or vertical troughs held the solutions and washing water. At first, drying was done in festoons, but a little later on light wooden drums. I am able to show a bit of kinetoscope film taken during a trial of our first camera in February 1895. We took a fair number of subjects, such as "Rough Seas, Dover," "An Engineer’s Smithy," and some comic scenes, in addition to the two topical films already mentioned. A number of such films, joined as endless bands forty feet long, were exported, more especially to the United States and to Germany, but I do not think that our total output for the year exceeded ten thousand feet. Most of the 1895 negatives were taken with my second camera, whose mechanism I now describe, because it gave more accurate spacing than our first.
Projection by Intermittent Motion
I first adopted a modification of the familiar Geneva Stop, as used in watches, to give an intermittent motion to the sprocket. Because the 14-picture sprocket of the kinetoscope had too great an inertia I made one in aluminium. one-half its diameter. My first projector is described in " The English Mechanic " of February 21st and March 6th, 1896. It was intended to be sold at five pounds, and to be capable of attachment to any existing lantern. The seven toothed star wheel was driven by a steel finger-wheel which acted also as a locking device during the period when the shutter was open. The latter was oscillated behind the gate by means of an eccentric, and a safety drop shutter was provided. Four light spring pads pressed on the corners of the film, which was fed out into a basket. A fault, which I ought to have foreseen, was the unsteadiness caused by the inertia of the spool of films, and it became necessary to insert the films, 40 or 80 feet long, singly. So this model, with which I first saw a moving picture on the screen, was promptly scrapped.
The next step consisted in duplicating the intermittent sprockets, the film being kept more or less taut between them. At that time the fact of liability to shrinkage in the film was not realised. The new mechanism had a revolving shutter in the form of a horizontal drum cut away on two opposite sides, and a rewind spool was provided, driven by a slipping belt. A large hand wheel was belted to a small pulley on the finger-wheel spindle, the latter being coupled to the shutter spindle by spur gears. This machine is illustrated in my Patent Specification of March 2nd 1896 and was supplied with its lantern as a complete projector, either on an iron pillar or with a combined carrying case and stand. After a few of these projectors had been put into operation the need for larger spools, to contain a series of films, became evident. So additional sprockets were arranged to give continuous feed above and below the intermittent sprockets, and the masking device was improved. Of this model over 100 were produced, many being exported to the Continent, and some to the United States. A precisely similar mechanism was used in the perforator and in the camera. An example of the camera of 1906, as used for taking many of my early films, is preserved in the Science Museum, together with the projector just described. These machines were decidedly noisy, an objection which was minimised by the fact that projection was usually from the back of the stage, through a translucent screen.
I named the projector The Theatrograph under which title it formed an item in an entertainment at Finsbury Technical College. London, on February 20th. 1896, and was shown a week later at the Royal Institution. There the pictures were, seen by Lady Harris. whose husband was a leading impresario, responsible for managing the Theatre Royal. Drury Lane, and a big spectacle at Olympia. Next morning he telegraphed me to meet him at breakfast, and proposed to me the installing of a projector at Olympia on sharing terms. Be added that he had recently seen animated photographs in Paris, and prompt action was necessary as he was sure that the popular interest would die out in a few weeks.
Though I knew nothing of the entertainment business I agreed, installed the machine in a small hall at Olympia in March, 1896, and was surprised to find my small selection of films received with great enthusiasm by the public who paid sixpence to view them. The first public exhibition of the Lumiere cinematograph in this country took place, also on February 20th, at the Polytechnic in Regent Street, and the results were then superior in steadiness and clearness to my own. To compete with that machine as shown at the Empire Theatre in Leicester Square, the Manager of the Alhambra asked me to give a show, as an item in the programme lasting -ten minutes, with my Theatrograph, which he rename the Animatographe.. This engagement was for two weeks from March 25th. and actually continued for two years. The salary or fee was at the rate eleven pounds per performance - far more than I had I had expected. In April, the Alhambra Manager, Mr. Moul who wisely foresaw the need for adding interest to wonder, staged on the roof a comic scene called "The Soldier’s Courtship," the 80-feet, film of which caused great merriment. The climax came in June, with the presentation of the Prince’s Derby, won by Persimmon. The incidents connected with its taking were fully recounted in an illustrated article in the Strand Magazine, and His Royal Highness came to see the film. It is a little difficult today to visualise the mad enthusiasm of the closely-packed audience, which demanded three repetitions of the film, and, sang "God Bless the Prince of Wales," while many stood on their seats. During that summer we were busy getting new subjects, some of the leading entertainers being quite willing to participate in the scenes, often without payment. Further, I equipped my friend Short with a camera, with which he took some interesting films in Portugal, Spain and Egypt. Of these one of the most popular was taken from the interior of a cave near Lisbon, and showed enormous breakers which appeared to be about to overwhelm the spectators.
At this period the purchasers of many of my projectors worked them personally. Though we did our best to train lanternists and limelight operators to use the machine properly, their results were sometimes indifferent. Therefore, I attended in the evenings at many of the London music halls, the times of showing being carefully arranged in advance. This helped to maintain the reputation of the projector. I drove, with an assistant, from one hall to another in a one-horse brougham, rewinding the films during the drive
Selling Projectors In 1896
As a result of these demonstrations an extra-ordinary demand arose, first from conjurors and then from proprietors of halls, fairground showmen, and speculators who wanted exclusive rights for a territory. The first purchaser was David Devant, then with Maskelyne. The latter refused to join in the venture, but engaged Devant to perform with the machines twice daily at a salary, the projector being eventually used thus for two years. Devant also gave evening shows at private houses at a fee of 25 guineas. Through him I sold several projectors to Méliès, the Parisian conjuror, one of them being converted by him into a camera with which he took his first trick films. Another mystery merchant, Carl Hertz, took a machine to South Africa in April projecting the first animated photographs ever seen at sea, on board S.S. " Norman," Customers came from nearly every country and beset the office with their interpreters while each insisted on waiting until a projector could be finished. Additional premises and assistants became necessary in order to provide instruction, which was sometimes rather difficult.
From Turks, speaking very little English, came daily for weeks put on their slippers and practised. Finally, they found that the attractiveness of night life in London had led to the complete exhaustion of their financial resources. A gentleman from Spain, anxious to return quickly, proved too impatient to learn how to centre the arc light, and left with his projector, unboxed, in a cab. Arriving in Barcelona his first attempt at projection failed, so the disappointed audience threw knives at the screen and wrecked the theatre, He himself retired to serve a term in a Spanish prison, The court painter to the King of Denmark, sent over by his royal master to fetch a projector also had trouble with the arc lamp and had to return for further instruction. Fortunately such mishaps were rare. A little later the King of Sweden and Norway sent his artist for a projector, with instructions that the maker was to accompany it and see it properly installed in the Palace at Stockholm. This I did, I hope to his, satisfaction, and I was granted special facilities for getting Swedish pictures.
Here I must point out that these reminiscences are personal in character, and in no way an account of the industry or of the work of my competitors. From 1896 onwards was a period of great activity, as may be judged from the number of patents for animated picture devices, taken out in England, F and Germany. In the five years, 1896 to 1900. these totalled 566, as against 63 for the five previous years.
Events in 1897
An outstanding event of 1897 was the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, with its magnificent pageantry of royalties and troops from all parts of the world, and the touching ceremony at the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Large sums were paid for suitable camera positions, several of -which were secured for my operators. I myself operated a camera perched on a narrow ledge in the Church yard. Several continental cinematographers came over, and it was related of one that, when the Queen’s carriage passed he was under his seat changing film, and of another, hanging on the railway bridge at, Ludgate Hill, that he turned his camera until he almost fainted, only to find, on reaching a dark room, that the film had failed to start.
An event of 1897 of a different character, which had serious repercussions, was the disaster at a charity bazaar in Paris, when 73 lives were lost in a fire at a cinematograph booth. The operator, using limelight with an ether saturator, attempted to re-charge the latter, which exploded and set fire to the films which were loose in a basket. This sad event caused a widespread fear of similar disasters. I then produced a fireproof projector in which the film spools were enclosed in casings and the film passed through narrow slots to and from the mechanism. This machine had a four-picture sprocket activated by a four-star Maltese Cross; it was far more portable than my earlier projectors and was used on a stiff tripod. In this year after the Jubilee, the public interest in animated pictures seemed to be on the wane, in spite of the prompt presentation of topical films supplemented by a considerable output of amusing subjects. So soon as a topical film had been taken all likely purchasers were informed by telegram or post, and the dark room staff, under J H. Martin, worked hard to turn out prints, often continuously throughout the night. Their work was not then specialised, any operator being ready to take, or project, pictures when occasion arose. The possibility of presenting on the screen long films giving complete stories had yet to be exploited, and its realisation formed a new phase in the development of the art.
Work on the Open-air Stage
To secure space for taking subjects on a more ambitious scale than was possible in town I purchased a four-acre field at Muswell Hill. Pending the erection of a studio, to be described presently, work proceeded on an open-air stage in an adjacent garden, where temporary buildings accommodated the processing operations. To illustrate a subject of the period this slide may serve. A film was taken at Portsmouth of two Naval divers getting into their suits and descending close to Nelson’s flagship, H.M.S. " Victory," and also one of their ascent. Messrs Siebe, Gorman and Co. sent to Muswell Hill two divers, with their outfits. The stage was set with a back cloth, and from a bridge above the stage divers descended to work on the wreck and to send up chests of treasure. To make the thing realistic we placed a large narrow tank, containing live fishes, between the stage - and the camera. Strange as it may now seem, the result appeared sufficiently natural to cause the Prince of \Vales and Lord Rothschild, after seeing it on the Alhambra screen to ask me how it had been possible to photograph under water. Here is a portion of a film representing a railway collision, of which the effect on the screen was considered very thrilling. A railway track runs alongside an embankment, below which is a lake bearing a yacht. A slow train comes along towards a tunnel and over-runs the signal. While the driver backs the train an express dashes out from the tunnel, and a collision occurs in which the trains are thrown down the embankment. The scale of the models used for this picture can be gauged from the photograph of the setting in the garden. This film had a large sale, and I was told that a great number of pirated copies appeared in America.
In 1899 I sent out two cameras to the Boer War. One of them was lent to Colonel Beevor, of the Scots Guards, one of the first regiments to leave. He was able to get about a dozen good films, including one of the surrender of Cronje, to Lord Roberts. Nobody secured pictures of actual fighting, though several operators secured interesting scenes on the lines of communication. To meet the demand for something more exciting, representations of such scenes as the bombardment of Mafeking and the work of nurses on the battlefield were enacted on neighbouring golf links, under the supervision of Sir Robert Ashe, an ex-officer of Rhodes’s force. These were issued for what they were, though I cannot vouch for the descriptions applied to them by the showmen.
Trick Films in the Studio
In 1899 we commenced work in a studio erected in a corner of the field. I believe it was the first in Great Britain to be designed for cinematograph work, and I will describe it briefly. It comprised a miniature stage, about 28 by 14 feet, raised above the ground level and protected by an iron building with wide sliding doors and a glass roof facing North. At the rear of the stage was a hanging frame on which back cloths, painted in monochrome, could be fixed; the frame could he lowered through a slot to facilitate the work of the scene painter. Traps in the stage, and a hanging bridge above it, provided means for working certain effects to which I will refer later. Eventually a scene-painting room was added behind the studio. A trolley mounted on rails carried the camera which could thus be set at any required distance from the stage, to suit the subject. Sometimes the trolley was run to or from the stage while the picture was being taken, thus giving a gradual enlargement or reduction of the image on the film. Adjacent to the studio a laboratory was erected, with a capacity for processing up to 8,000 feet of film per day. With the valuable aid of Walter Booth and others, hundreds of humorous, dramatic and trick films were produced in the studio- A specimen trick film may be briefly described :—On the moonlit battlements of a castle a knight meets his lady-love. They are startled by the appearance of a ghost which, at the approach of the knight, fades away. Meanwhile a witch, complete with broomstick, appears in the sky and attempts so carry off the lady, but, being driven off by the knight, flies away over the moon. Then a grim ogre, several times the size of the knight appears over the battlements and picks up the lady, who hands him a flaming sword. The scene dissolves to the cave of the witch, where many exciting and fantastic events occur, culminating in the rescue of the lovers and a banquet at the castle. I have summarised this fairy tale, lasting three minutes on the screen, as an example of what was done at the beginning of this century to pack the maximum of movement into180 Feet of film. It is also an example of the position of the art as regards trick photography. The black magic effects were, as you probably know, produced by photographing the ghost against a black velvet cloth, then superimposing the negative on that of the main scene in which is a suitable blank space and printing the two together. In dissolving from one scene to the next the exposure of the end of one negative was gradually reduced, and at the beginning of the other gradually increased. Either a mask, having a wedge shaped aperture, was moved across the lens by means of a screw feed, or the iris diaphragm was slowly contracted or enlarged during the exposure on an appropriate number of pictures or frames. In the case of a figure taken against, a black ground, its image could be traversed in any direction either by the aid of a mechanically actuated rising front, or by a panoramic movement of the camera itself. By feeding the film upwards instead of downwards in the camera the motions could appear as reversed, and a building made to disappear brick by brick, or the eggs laid by the hen return to their place of origin. By repeating in the print a single frame of the negative a diver could be made to pause in mid-air as long as desired. By rotating the camera about the precise axis of the lens a person could be made to appear to perform the movements of a butterfly floating about and turning over. By speeding up the camera to 120 pictures per second slow-motion pictures were taken, and in this way we were able, under the guidance of Professor Vernon Boys and Professor Worthington, to secure pictures of sound wave "shadows" and falling drops respectively. A little later Professor Silvanus P. Thompson prepared several series each consisting of hundreds of diagrams illustrating lines of force in changing magnetic fields; these we converted into animated pictures by tile one-turn-one-picture-camera, which we had employed for animated cartoons.
Improving the Projector
In projectors having the Maltese Cross type of intermittent motion the shutter covering the movement of the film subtended an angle of about 90 degrees thus involving a noticeable amount of flicker. To reduce flicker, and at time same time to maintain the illumination. I designed a projector in which the Maltese Cross or four-star wheel, was replaced by one having three slots only. Thus the shutter has only to cover about 30 degrees; in other words, the ratio of light to darkness is 11 to 1, instead of 3 to 1. The outfit included a sliding lantern, so that lantern slides, as well as films, could be shown. A camera with a similar movement, now in the Science Museum, is here illustrated; it had detachable dark boxes, full-size finder, interchangeable lenses with turret mounting, and other features common in present-day practice. In spite of good points the 3-slot did not replace the 4-slot Maltese Cross which persists in fist modern projectors.
Turning for a moment to the business side of the cinematograph work, show-room premises were taken in High Holborn, and Jack Smith joined the firm as Sales Manager. in 1900. Our maximum output of new film subjects was reached in the period l900 to 1905. As the staff at Muswell Hill was fully occupied there, the taking of topical films became the care of Jack Smith and his assistants. He also travelled abroad and secured many popular subjects. In l900 I produced through the good offices of the Adjutant- General, a whole series depicting life in every branch of the Army.
It soon became a practice, owing to competition for firms to send out batches of films on approval to many of the exhibitors, in order that they might see the latest productions. Many of the less conscientious showmen repeatedly used the samples for a week or more before sending them back as unsuitable. This abuse grew to such an extent as to cause much loss to film makers, and if was eventually abolished by their mutual action. In 1907 there existed in this country about 10 firms producing pictures, while several exhibitors had cameras and produced occasional topical and dramatic films. Some of them started the renting of films, and played off the foreign against the British producers in order to cut prices. To regularise trade conditions, Will Barker called the producers together and the Kinematograph Manufacturers’ Association was formed. I hope that Cecil Hepworth will tell us of its work, and in particular of the European Conference which it arranged in 1909
By 1910 the expense and elaboration necessary for the production of a saleable film had become so great that I found the kinematograph side of the business too speculative to be run as a sideline to instrument making. I then closed it down and destroyed my stock of negatives, numbering many hundreds, so becoming free to devote my whole attention to my original business, now a part of that of the Cambridge Instrument Company.
I look back with pleasure on the childhood of your art, and with gratitude for many personal kindnesses received and much loyal service rendered.
Mr. Hepworth gave his paper.
When I was told that- I was expected to take part in this triloquy I was terrified at the prospect of having to face a distinguished company of scientists and technicians and artists, and so on, but now that. I see what a very ordinary looking set of people you are my courage is returning.
I am afraid you mustn’t expect much from me, for talking is not much in my line. I am, as you know, a relic of the bad old silent days. Moreover, I suffer from an early inhibition, induced in me by a governess who had charge of me when I was a small boy. She was one of the "Silence is Golden" school, and she used to impress upon me that I must always think twice before I spoke once, and then if I found that the thing I was going to say was really not worth saying, I must not say it. Well I found that my contemplated remarks would seldom bear that acid test, and so I fell into a habit of silence which has lasted the rest of my life. It. is true that it has earned for me an entirely spurious reputation for wisdom, when I have kept my head shut while tongues were wagging all around me but, believe me, it does not pay. It does not pay in business— least of all in the film business. If you keep silent you get nowhere. If you can talk the hind leg off a donkey they will probably make you chairman or something. If you want to get on in Wardour Street, remember the old proverb: "An ounce of bluff is worth a ton of experience."
That governess I was telling you about tried the same thing on with my little sisters, but for some reason it did not have the same effect upon them—quite the opposite, in fact. She used to tell them, I remember—well, I don’t remember the exact words, but it was - something to the effect that "Little girls should be obscene but not absurd.’’
From what Paul has been saying it is apparent that his main preoccupation in the early days was to sell projection machines, and that he only went into the making of films so that he might he able to sell machines to show them with.
Now, I didn’t give two hoots what I sold, and as I hadn’t brains enough to make machines I took the easy way and made films instead. That of course, is not to suggest that film-making as you know it today is easy; far from it. But in the very beginning it was easy enough, although it had some little difficulties of its own, as you will probably gather in due course
But I did not come to film-making until comparatively late in life—when I was about twenty-three or so—and as there is nothing in my career which can possibly be helpful to you I must just tell my little story as it comes to me, and hope that you may find something in it which will interest you.
My first introduction to the strangely fascinating world, which now has its pivot in Wardour Street, was in 1896, when I went with my father to Olympia and there saw a sideshow of the Theatrograph. On a small screen lighted from behind was a flickering but undoubtedly moving spectacle of some Indians doing a war dance. I was tremendously impressed and particularly thrilled by the movements of the muscles of their backs, all bedewed with perspiration. I had recently invented a hand-feed arc lamp (projection arcs had always been automatic up till then, and the automatic part always jammed just when the whole thing was red hot and had to be put right by the operator’s fingers.) In an unusual mood of business enterprise, I pushed my way through the crowd to the back of the screen and made myself known to a fellow named Paul who was grinding the machine. I remember noticing the perspiration on the muscles of his back, for the machine was belt-driven from a huge fly wheel which had to be cranked by hand with tremendous exertion. He told me, between gasps, to come up and see him to-morrow at 44, Hatton Garden.
The next day I made my way laboriously up an interminable spiral staircase—(pardon, mean helical)—stumbling over the bodies of dozens of Polish and Armenian Jews who had been sleeping there for days awaiting delivery of projection machines. On the top floor I found Paul, moister and blacker than ever, feverishly grinding away at his monstrous cranks in an almost vain endeavour to run the machines in, so that they might be usable by the weaker vessels on the staircase outside. It was Paul who laid the foundations of my fortune, for he bought six of my arc lamps at one go, and there was a profit of over a pound on each.
Next, I opened a shop in Cecil Court to sell plates and cameras—I never did sell any —opposite to one which had just been opened by young Bromhead in the name of Leon Gaumont of Paris. While I was sitting there at the receipt of custom which never came, I designed a lantern with a cinematograph attachment for the showing of occasional films—the lantern lens and the film machine were slung on a pivot so that they could be interchanged in an instant. I bought the film machine from Bonn for a pound, and half a dozen forty-foot films- out of Paul’s junk basket for five bob apiece. With those six films, a couple of hundred lantern slides of my own making, two cylinders of gas and a lot more much cheaper gas of my own, I toured the country with an early cinematograph show.
The publicity gentlemen of the film trade to-day co4istantjy talk about unparalleled enthusiasm, but I tell you they don’t know the first thing about it. They ought to have heard those early audiences of mine when they saw their first moving pictures. They stood up on their hind legs and yelled. I showed those six films forwards and I showed them backwards. I stopped them in the middle and argued with them, and then showed them over and over again. Well, you see, I had to. They were only forty feet long—two hundred and forty feet in all—and I gave a- two hours’ show with them!
I was one of the first to sound a warning of the possible dangers of film fires—I was writing for a photographic journal at the time. A big firm of film manufacturers wrote to the editor to say that that was all rubbish and that celluloid was " no more inflammable than paper." Whereupon I made some experiments, putting pieces of paper and pieces of film in the projector alternately and noting the time it took for them to catch fire, and I printed the results in my article. The firm then intimated to my editor that, if he valued their advertisements he would get rid of me. So I got the sack from that job.
It is terrible to think of the risks which were run in those days. There were no Home Office regulations then, of course, and it was common practice to set up the machine in the middle of a crowded hall and run the film loose into a basket, which it usually over flowed. As white-hot pieces of lime occasionally fell out of the lantern you can see there were all the makings of a first class catastrophe. I realised the danger, so I invented a take-up to wind up the film as it left the projector. - But the dam thing wouldn’t work as soon as the spool got at all heavy, and then the film began to coil up round my legs.
I remember I was giving a show once in a Congregational Chapel. I had my projector on the front of the gallery. people all round me and a big crowd below. Half-way through my lecture I became aware that the film was collecting round my legs so I promptly put out the light in the lantern and we were all in complete darkness. I kept on talking, rather disjointedly, while I felt about for the end of the film and tried to wind it on the take-up spool. All the time a friend of mine who had arranged the show, kept up a hoarse, agitated whisper from the back "Tell Cecil not to strike a match. Tell Cecil not to strike a match." Then the spool fell off the spindle and dived into the stalls. It dropped on to a very bald-headed gentleman and cut two beautiful tramlines along his scalp, for which he afterwards wanted compensation. I had to send somebody down to retrieve the spool while I hauled in the slack of the film, hand over hand. It was all very interesting.
One had to think rather quickly sometimes when things went wrong in a show. I found myself in another chapel a few months after this. My take-up was now in good order and I carried two full spools of film, the various subjects being joined together in a continuous length. Ten minutes before the starting time, when I was in that miserable state of mixed excitement and apprehension which always preceded the lowering of the lights, the minister came up to me and asked to see my list of films. He was certain, he explained, that everything was quite all right, but as pastor of his little flock he felt it his duty to make a formal enquiry. He looked through the list with complacency until he came to the star item on the programme, a hand-coloured film of Miss Loie Fuller in her famous Serpentine Dance. He was horrified and said lie could not possibly allow a vulgar music-hall dancer to be seen in his chapel. In vain I protested that it was very beautiful and decorous and that there was nothing vulgar about it. He was adamant and said that it must on no account be shown, and I was in a dilemma. Apart from the fact that this film was my chef-d’oeuvre it was the last but one on the first spool, and was therefore entirely unget-at-able and could not be omitted. I was still in that dilemma when lights went out and I had to begin. All the time I was talking and turning the handle I was worrying what on earth I was to do with the offending film, and it was only at the last that I had a brain wave. I announced it as "Salome Dancing Before Herod," and every one was delighted. The minister thought it was a very happy idea to introduce a little touch of Bible history into an otherwise wholly secular programme.
But I had a still more difficult experience of a similar nature later on, and this time I thought I really was snookered. It was in a large hall built underneath a church and again the parson at the last moment had asked to see my programme. Now I had just acquired the, at that time, topical film of the big Corbett and Fitzsimmons fight and put it, of course, in the place of honour near the end of the first reel, and it was to this film that the reverend gentleman took such very strong exception. Naturally, I remembered the I Fuller incident, but I was at my wit’s end to know what to do in the case of a prize fight. At last, in sheer desperation, I did the only thing I could think of. I never thought I should get away with it, but I did! I called it "The Historic Combat between David and Goliath." Believe me, or believe me not (preferably the latter), everybody was completely pleased and satisfied—especially the parson, who said in his speech afterwards that he had no idea that the cinematograph had been invented so long. It was during that first year at Cecil Court that Charles Urban. managing director of Maguire and Baucus came to see my so-called improvements to the Bioscope which that firm was handling. He commissioned a number of machines and lamps and things from me, and finally made me an offer of five pounds a week to go to Warwick Court and start making films for the firm. As this was an improvement of about four pounds-nineteen-and. sixpence upon what I was earning I jumped at the offer.
My first effort was to photograph the boat race—it must have been the one of 1898 think—and I took the negative to Wrench’s place in Gray’s Inn Road to develop on a pin-frame. ‘With the arrogance of youth and the experience of one fifty-foot film behind me, I then said that that was not the proper way to develop a continuous strip like a cinematograph film and that it ought to be developed continuously in a machine. So I set to work and made, and afterwards patented. an automatic machine in which the film was drawn through a succession of troughs in which it was developed, rinsed. fixed and washed. Afterwards a printer and a perforator were added to the same machine so that we fed the unperforated film, just as it came from the maker, in at one end and it came out a finished print at the other. That was in 1898.
As evidence that the photographic processes were properly performed by this early automatic developing machine, I may mention that I have in my possession now negatives which I took of incidents in the reign of Queen Victoria, and they still show very little sign of photographic deterioration.
Some time before this, however—I think it must have been in the early part of 1897—I wrote a book on cinematography. Think of it! The whole science and art of moving pictures in a small handbook, written by a youth in his very early twenties! It was very probably the first book on the subject that had ever been written; it was almost certainly the worst.
After I had been with Maguire and Baucus for a year—during which time they changed the name to the Warwick Trading Company, Limited, they suddenly decided that they had no further use for me. So I took myself off, an exceedingly astonished and flabbergasted young man, and went for
walk to look for an inexpensive place where I could start up on my own account. I had a total capital of £200 which, even to my optimistic mind, didn’t seem over much to, start a studio with. After drawing blank at Thames Ditton—the only place I knew of where there was any possibility of buying electricity in those days—I walked on to Walton-on-Thames and made up my mind to put in an engine and dynamo. I found a little villa residence in Hurst Grove, which a gardener was willing to vacate, and took it on, thereand then, at an annual rental of £36. My cousin came into partnership with me—he contributed part of the £200—and we set, to work to transform that little house into a film- printing laboratory.
In the tiny scullery we installed a vertical gas-engine, direct coupled to a dynamo. It was just about as noisy as the average road-drill. We always had our meals in the same room. The automatic developing and printing machine was brought from Warwick Court and set up in the drawing-room. The best bedroom became the drying-room, where the films were hung in festoons from wires stretched across it; the other bedroom served a similar purpose. The bathroom was the cutting-room and the front sitting-room was the office. At one time, when things were at a very low ebb, we did think of taking in a paying guest but abandoned flip idea.
Then the studio proper was added. It consisted of a wooden floor, about 10ft. by 16ft laid down in the tiny back garden with two or three uprights to prop the flats against. The scenery vas painted in the kitchen; the smell of the size, incidentally, was a pleasant addition to our food, saving the cost of cheese.
You may have gathered that the exchequer was not always quite equal to the expenditure but I believe that condition is not altogether unknown in modern practice. Anyhow, we busted into our last fiver, and things began to look very black indeed.
Then the Angel came along in the form of my good friend, H. V. Lawley and bought a half-share in the concern. He is now the maker of some of the finest automatic apparatus in the world. My own patent ran out years before the rest of the trade began to feel the need of automatic developing, but it lasted me the whole of my film life, and I still have the consolation of knowing it was the first in the world.
The first film produced at Walton-on-Thames was one entitled "Express Trains."
Let me read you the catalogue description of No. 1.
A photograph taken in a picturesque Railway Cutting in Surrey. During the period of the picture no less than three Express Trains rush through, emitting dense clouds of steam as they pass. The effect of their rapid travelling is very fine and quite exciting. Length, 50 feet. Price, £1 5s. (Metres, 15.25.)
All our early films were 50 feet in length and all of them were of actuality, open-air subjects. No. 51 in the catalogue was 200 feet long and we have never forgotten it, it made our arms ache so to wind it up! It was one of those "Phantom Rides "taken from the front of a railway engine. The camera used was rather interesting for it was home-made, using a bioscope projector for its mechanism and having space for 1,000 feet of unexposed film its upper chamber and a similar space below for the take-up. It looked rather like a medium-sized coffin stood on end. It made a terrible noise, too, which didn’t matter in the ordinary way, but when I used it to take Queen Victoria’s funeral I should have been truly grateful if the ground would have opened and swallowed me and the beastly camera, too However, the noise attracted the attention of King Edward, who halted the whole procession in front of my camera so that I got almost a close-up of himself with the Duke of Connaught on one side and the German Emperor on the other, stationary on their horses, Perhaps it was a good augury for British films for, ever since, the reigning house in England has always shown a kindly and most encouraging interest in the How ever, I must- go hack a bit, for the Queen’s Funeral was No. 235 in the catalogue.
Behold me here operating one of the original Lumiere cameras which had been converted to four-hole perforation, taking views of an early Derby Day. The great race of course, was the principle subject, but these views of the scene on the downs helped to give it local colour. There was no question of showing the same night in those days, so we were able to wait until the crowds were beginning to start home. This camera early developed a habit of jamming, so we did away with the internal take-up and fitted a light tight bag between the legs of the tripod, into which the film fell. Then I pushed my hands through two arm-holes in the bag and wound up the film, wrapped it up and put it in a box before proceeding with another subject. No. 72 in the catalogue, The Stolen Drink," appears to be our first made-up picture as distinct from actuality, and it was followed by several other fifty-footers of a similar character—all taken with the black-bag camera. Then comes an early example of slow motion photography with the delicious title of " The Indian Chief And The Seidlitz Powder." The Indian takes the blue and the white powder separately, with the result that he becomes frightfully distended and floats about the scene like an uncomfortable balloon Then we get back to actuality with No. 86, City Imperial Volunteers embarking for the Boer War, and ten films later is Queen Victoria’s visit, to Dublin, and a little later still, the Solar Eclipse of 1900. The picture on the screen is not a view of Dublin and - has nothing to do with Guinness’s Brewery. It represents water carriers near Algiers, where the eclipse was at its best.
This was to me a very interesting job. The camera was set up on a hill near Algiers. It was motor driven at slow speed and so placed and timed that the image of the sun would enter the frame at the top left hand corner and, traversing the diagonal of the picture, leave it again at the .bottom right occupying nearly half an hour doing so. The camera was fitted with a l2in. lens of large aperture About fifteen minutes before totality was dueI started, the camera with the lens stopped down to f/64 and with a deep red filter fitted over it as a cap. At the moment of total eclipse I whipped off this cap, and at the same time opened the iris to full, reversing the process some forty seconds later at the instant when the sun’s disc began to reappear. The resulting film showed the crescent sun gradually decreasing in size, and at the same time creeping diagonally across the screen. When it reached the middle, totality was complete and the corona burst out in full splendour, to disappear again as the first glimpse of the sun’s real disc came into view. It is interesting to note that the two extremes of exposure—which, of course, were entirely guesswork—balanced fairly accurately.
The whole trip was interesting, and I took several films as well as stills in Algiers, Tangiers, and so on various places the ship called at. The costumes of the passengers will give some idea- of the date of the cruise. I took several films on board -deck sports, and so on—indeed, it was in consideration of me doing so that I got my cruise, for nothing, One of the disadvantages of the modern method, of publicizing the huge ii mounts you are willing to spend on films is that you can’t do that there now. I want just to touch upon another little trip I had about this time, because it opens up the question of Stereoscopic Cinematography. A great many people think that we are now on the verge of three- dimensional screen pictures. A great many people have been thinking that—in relays—- for nearly forty years, and it is very doubtful whether we are any nearer to it now than we were at the beginning of that time. But as everyone knows, there is a curious and often very beautiful false stereoscopic effect obtainable when the camera travels laterally at a speed winch is adjusted to the distance of the various planes of the picture from the camera and from one another. I first stumbled upon this effect—to my great delight—when I photographed the Paris Exhibition of 1899 from one of the little steamers on the River Seine, and that prompted me to start a Series of what we called Stereo-scenics. They were taken entirely to exploit this accidental property of cinematography, and it is possible that they gave as near an approximation to stereoscopic pictures as the screen is capable of yielding. We must have been making a certain amount of money about this time—we are still in 1900 or thereabouts—for I find No. 130 in the catalogue is a picture made with my first motor-car. It reflected the popular conception of motoring in those days, for the car was shown rushing along the road at its maximum speed of 12 miles an hour, when it suddenly explodes and blows its occupants sky high. A policeman immediately appears to investigate, and is just in time to find him self pelted with a shower of arms and legs and tyres and wheels and things from the heavens, it was a very popular film and its profits nearly paid for the car. This car, by the way, was a peculiar implement. It had an ordinary horizontal, single-cylinder gas-engine at the back, which you started by pulling round the fly-wheel by hand, and it was belt-driven with fast and loose pulleys like an old- fashioned factory. The gentleman in the yachting cap is myself, and the two passengers are H. Lawley and his brother. The yachting cap was an absolute essential and it was obligatory if and when you met another motorist, that the two drivers should solemnly salute one another. That, however, seldom happened more than once in a day’s driving. The body, as you see, was of dog cart design with the occupants sitting back to back, and it, was rather draughty in cold weather. The principal peculiarity however was that if the people in the front seat got out first, the car tipped up by itself and threw out the others. There was no reverse, and if you wanted to turn round in a narrow road you just got out and lifted the front wheels and turned around.
What may or may not have been the first series picture was made at Walton about this time. By ‘series picture’ I mean a story film with more than one scene. In the film I am speaking of, a burglar was seen breaking into house from outside, then in the hall helping himself to some overcoats and then again in an exterior view, slipping out of the window. I was the burglar—in a long black beard. In the excitement of striking the interior set and putting up the exterior again I forgot the beard, so the last scene showed the burglar as surprisingly clean-shaven. It is interesting to note that it did not occur to us as worth while to re-take that fifteen feet. Also that the film sold well and no one seemed to worry about it. If ever you hear that Hepworth films had a reputation for careful attention to detail, you can tell that story against me. The first covered studio at Walton was one of the first anywhere, the honour being shared by Paul, of England, and the Vitagraph Co., of America. Anyhow, the date was about, 1903 and I will leave it at that. In this view—which by the way, doesn’t show the studio itself— the little villa on the extreme right is the one I told you as the place where we first started operations. Here you can see the studio on the first floor. It was glazed with muranese glass to diffuse the sunlight, and cast no shadows. It had auxiliary lighting from ten open-type arc lamps. Here is a view of the dark-room below, showing three of the automatic printing and developing machines.
I must touch very lightly upon the work of the Cinematograph Manufacturers’ Association, for that nearly forgotten institution did lay the foundations of many things which are important in the trade today. It was formed in 1906 with the idea of regulating prices of films. The question of accurate standards of dimension for films and apparatus, first mentioned then by Mr. Paul, was brought to fruition many years later by the K.M.A. Standards Committee, scheme for the examination and certification of projectionist’s was introduced in the following year, also one or the insurance of members against claims for damages by artistes taking part in films. In December, 1907, our first deputation was received by the Theatres and Music Halls Committee of the London County Council and laid the foundation of the present Home Office regulations. In January, 1908 we received American representatives to discuss the trade crisis which resulted from the Edison patents; and also dealt successfully with our first arbitration case. In February of that year we sent a communication to all European film makers asking if they could send a representative to all International Conference to be held in Paris. Here is a list of the signatories who attended that- conference – on March 9th. 1909. How very few of those names are even remembered in the trade today! Much fewer still have any active connection with it.
This Paris Conference was years before its time. It sought to regulate the trade by hiring films instead of selling them. But the exhibitors took and successfully combated the move. They received secret information from Paris of what was going on and cabled to the Americans with an offer to buy a given number of copies of everything for so many years. That was one of the causes of the American invasion, and it crushed the Paris scheme. The idea, however, lived on, and is now, of course, the universal practice. Let me show you the portraits of some of the delegates to the Paris Convention. Oh No That is the wrong slide. Here is the Chief Conspirator, R. W. Paul. Nice-looking fellow—in those days. Here is Secretary Brooke Wilkinson, now the very excellent secretary of the K.M.A.’s most successful creation The British Board of Film Censors, pattern to the censorships of all the world. Here is Percy Stow, a very old colleague of mine, long since dead. Here dear old Williamson, also dead, alas; as indeed I fear are most of them. Here is Billy Barker, just beginning to produce his famous bare-footed head; here Cricks, one of the very first us the industry; and here myself, complete with collar. And here is Leon Gaurnont, great progenitor of the greatest firm today. There is no need for me to say anything about Gaumont-British. It has penetrated into every walk of society. Why, half the motor cars you see on the road to-day are labelled G.B!
Let me finish by telling you of one of my most successful films and the one in which, for the first time in a experience, professional artistes were employed. It is still remembered by old-time showmen as one of their greatest money-makers. It had the rather banal title of Rescued by Rover-," the story of a kidnapping in which a collie dog played the principal part. It was rather a family affair as usual. My wife wrote the scenario and played the anguished mother. I painted the scenery—jolly good it was, too— and played the anxious father. My baby was the baby, and the girl out of the cutting- room was the nurse-maid who lost her. Sebastian Smith—professional—was the soldier who was talking to the nurse, and Mrs. Smith—the other professional—was the wicked old woman who stole the baby. My dog was Rover, who put everything right. The film was 325 feet long. It sold 395 copies. The total cost of the negative, including the professionals who got half a guinea each, because we couldn’t get them for less, including the film-stock and everything was— £7 13 9d.
Speaking as the bit of meat in the sandwich of which Paul and Barker are the two crusts I have already told you that Paul was the foundation of my fortune. But he has been more than, that, he has been a kind of beneficent background to me all my life, so that I have always had the feeling that, if anything happened he would somehow be behind me. Now Barker is not at all like that; I think it is impossible to imagine Barker as I any sort of a background to anybody. I first met him very many years ago when he and I were both witnesses in an action at law, and I took an instant dislike to him. In the whole of my life I have never made quite such a damfool mistake as that. Fate has thrown us very frequently together since then, and I soon learned to respect him and then to like him, and at last to love him—if I may say so without risking a kick in the pants. I have many good friends in the film trade—I say it in humble gratitude—but no one could possibly have a better friend than Billy Barker,
I commend him to you, and I thank you for your patience with me.
Mr. Barker: Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen—As I am the modest one, they put me last (Laughter.) It has always been my practice, as you know, those of you who have known me for so many, many years, that I could not speak unless I speak from the bottom of my heart. I have been told by Mr. Paul and Mr. Hepworth that I must put it down in writing, and so I have. If I get away from it sometimes, you must forgive me.
Mr. Barker read his address.
You having heard the technical side and the serious producing side of 25 years ago, I am going to attempt in the few brief minutes allotted to me to give you a glimpse of the things I did 25-30 years ago.
First of all, I’m going to crave forgiveness for the many I and me’s and mine’s that are used, because this is a personal reminiscence and not a trade survey.
If our good friend Fredman were here, he’d say: "There’s them there blokes, still talking about the blank—dash, has beens." Well, anyway, its history, and not prophecy, which is—as a rule—95 per cent. hot air. Much of the work and many of the sacrifices and hardships of the pioneers blazed the trail for you to follow your vocation in the trade to-day, and you should know how the old-timers did.
As one gets older one enjoys thoughts of the past. I fervently pray I’ll never grow too old to forget old times, old friends.
Now I’m off on my egotistical stunt. On my retirement from the "Cinema World "on the 12th November, 1918—one day after the Armistice—I told the "Kine Weekly," "the Bioscope " and the " Cinema." in the interview they published:-
"The booster of the cinema will always be topical and the natural subject. My only regret in leaving the trade is to leave the topical"
Since that time the "News Reel" has come into being. and whether the £1 a second stars like it or not. "News" is still the biggest of all box-office attractions. During the past week or two the enormous crowds which have besieged the cinemas have not gone to see Richilliam Clapbanks nor Jeanella. Garbleford. They have stood in queues to see the wonderful scenes of the sad processions reproduced with a wealth of detail that is little short of perfection. How different 25 years ago. I was fined 30s. with 5s. costs at the Guildhall because I tried to film the Public Proclamation on the steps of the Royal Exchange. To-day not only half a score of cameras, but all the impedimenta of ugly microphones bunged up to the Herald were gladly welcomed. What a change! To-day everything possible is done for the topical man—or is it news man! A few years ago we were fined, kicked and driven about from pillar to post like a lot of pickpockets and card-sharpen. Still our tenacity of purpose laid the foundation for those who have followed us pioneers. Pre-war the public have paid over £60 a night—after 10.30—to come in to holla a fox or the winner of the National. This has occurred night after night at the Empire. Leicester Square.
Pictures at the Empire and the Palace used to come on about 10.50 or that to 11 p.m., and run for or 30 minutes, Herman Finck at the Palace and Cuthbert Clark at the Empire used—very often- to write special music to suit a picture. Nothing but topical or natural subjects were run. You know, us old ‘uns— although the modern may not think it—were quite as enterprising 30 years ago as you are to-day. I paid Sir Edward German, the composer, 50 guineas to write me 16 bars of music to finish up the Coronation Scene of Anne Boleyn. We used to arrange special music for our pictures. I’ve very often paid £30 to Novollo’s in Dean Street for band parts, and then paid perhaps £100 for them to be cut up and stuck on to paper in the order to which our arranger had laid down. We did this to get away from everlasting Destiny Waltz, Melody in F, Coriolanus, etc. I remember one set of music we had put together for "Hunting," which had run at The Empire for seven months. The Duke of Beaufort’s Badminton Hunt ran at the Palace for just over six months; but to get back to to special music, Jack Smith went into poor Schlentieim’s place—now the Windmill and found the pianist not even a fiddle joined the piano in those days—playing Mendelssohn’s "Spring Song " to the Milton Fox Hounds.
Why don’t you play the music we lent you?" said Jack. John Peel "and "Hunting We Will Go," etc., is so old-fashioned," said the pianist. Then much of the music we prepared was too difficult for the ordinary ivory puncher. We found a big hall in Birmingham which was running ‘‘ Henry VIII", that beautiful scene where Shakespeare is depicting the Downfall of Wolsey. "Cromwell, Oh! Cromwell, had I but served my God." etc etc. We supplied the music of "Orpheus with his Lute" for this scene. The pianist was suiting the music to the action by playing ‘‘Come where the booze is cheaper.’’ That is all over now though your tanned music has cured that. The public get the stuff the producer thinks fits the picture best.
- All my cinema life I pinned my faith to news. Many in this room—my camera men of old—know how I stuck to the topical. We have developed the National coming up from Liverpool in the train. We had a luggage van turned into a dark room with water in milk churns. Our legs soaked with developer and hypo right through our trousers—we got swamped every time the train swung over the points-we rushed in a hansom to our drying room to get prints made to show the same night. Not easy when one remembers that the picture has to be cut from about 20 cameras. I used—pre-war—to turn out some 26 to 30 copies of the Derby for showing the same night, and no multiple printer in existence. The Boat Race—from start to finish, which was several miles from our dark rooms—has been projected in Tottenham Court Road inside 14 hours from the time of the winner passing the post, and we had no 50 to 80 m.p.h. motor bikes in those days. I’ve seen Jack Smith tearing along Holborn at 8 m.p.h. in a hansom with a portion of film flying in the breeze to get it dry before reaching the Palace Theatre.
Talking of Jack Smith reminds me of a funny incident in connection with the wedding of the King of Spain in 1906. Jack and another of my helpers went to Spain in spite of the advertisements of Gaumont and Pathé who—to use the words of their ads.—knew all the ropes. Well, we got a very excellent picture, and the bomb that was thrown at Alfonso boomed the film. Something happened to Pathé’s film, and Gaumont’s got lost. Bromhead had a lot of orders to fill. I came to his rescue for a price—I think about 5s. a foot—and let him have my cuttings to make a picture. It was put out, but never once did it show the royal carriage. When King Edward knighted Sir Peter Bam on the platform of the South African Exhibition one Saturday in March, 1907, 1 filmed the ceremony at 3.30 p.m. ‘(no pan to help us in those days) and showed the print at the matinee at the Palace Theatre at 5.5 p.m.
My premises were called "Topical House" my telegraphic address was " Eventogram, London." My slogan was "If it happened, Barker got it." In 1906 I put up news in the Empire under the title of "London Day by Day," stealing the name from the "Daily Telegraph." We added a fresh topic every day and cut out one or more. We got beaten by the fogs-however, in the winter time and had to drop the title.
Mention of the Empire reminds me of an incident at the hotel next door ---The Queen’s. You’ll doubtless recollect that Bromhead when he read his paper told you that there was no copyright until 1913, and how all our English pictures were duped all over the world. One gentleman living in Berlin named Greenbaum was a very persistent duper and had duped several of my films. He had come to London, stopping at the Queen’s, to buy more single copies to take back and dupe. For several days I waited outside in Leicester Square with a dog-whip in my rabbit pocket.—where I used to carry a 200-ft. box of film for my camera—and was at last rewarded by Greenbaum’s appearance down the steps about 9.30 in the morning. It was not many seconds before he was crying for mercy as my short leather thongs embraced various parts of his body. He let my films alone after that. "I wish you’d given him one or two for me, Bill." said poor Stow when he heard, for Greenbaum had sold many scores of duped copies of Stow’s "Off for the Holidays."
I can see faces here to-night who remember a bit of a rough-and-tumble at the Hippodrome. Bromhead was demonstrating a safety spool box in the arena—that’s where they had a circus ring with a tank underneath where the stalls are now. He set fire to a spool of film to demonstrate the smoke, etc, from an exposed film One of the Press photographers when the roll was alight and filling the whole of the theatre with rolling clouds of smoke, took a snap, I saw him. That was enough. Up the stairs I raced, round the circle up to the next floor. - An attendant stopped the man. I caught up with him and smashed every plate he had in his possession. I was not going to let the public see the danger of a blazing roll of film.
These sort of things, whilst all right from a news point of view, would have been very bad business indeed for the cinema industry.
The largest number of copies I ever sold of any one subject was "Whaling in the Shetlands,’ that was in 1903-4, Roseman, who is now Kodak’s representative in Germany printed, over 300 copies. It was 290ft. long. The printer was cranked by hand and our source of light was an incandescent upright gas mantle with a rod to move it backwards arid forwards to the negative.
In 1902 I wedded the cine camera to the microscope, and for many months showed amongst my friends—for I was not yet a professional—a series called "The Living Unseen World." When doing this series I had grave difficulty with the blood circulation in a frog. You fasten a frog on a cigar box lid wrap him up and make him comfortable with wet cotton wool, and tie each of his toes down to the board. Now through a hole in the board - you view the circulation through the very thin membrane between the toes. But he would fidget. I’d got him in-focus but could not keep him still. A thousandth part of an inch movement and the job out of focus. So a friend suggested chloroform. Good. I had some given me and applied it to the frog and started off, and got a picture, but the circulation only continued for a few feet, the remainder was a still. I’d bumped him off. My first and last handling of chloroform
In the early days when funds were low and we wanted to economise on production, we used to do some - swift producing that would cause heart failure in the modern studio. Here’s how we produced "Hamlet" in 22 scenes, and, with the exception of Ophelia floating down the river on a raft of flowers, we did the whole job in one day in one reel. For about three weeks the scenic artists had been painting the scenery and the property man making the ramparts, etc., and all the scenes were set up - inside one and other, so that all he had to do was to strike the front set and there was another set ready. Those who know their "Hamlet" appreciate there’s very little furnishing in any set: All being ready to take, and having arranged with a man—who knew the part—to play Hamlet, we turn up the "Rogues’ Gallery," that is the newspaper cutting book - in which - we have pasted the photos of all the artists who applied to us for work-. Any who wanted more than 10s, per day was NOT written to. Well, we got the artists into the studio at 8.30 am: in the morning I stand on a chair and look the lot over. "Here." I say, you’re nice and tall, you can play The Ghost." "Can any lady swim?" A hand goes up. "You will play Ophelia, Miss," and that’s how Polonius, the Queen, and all the other characters were chosen. Now a rush to the dressing-rooms and we are shooting our first scenes before 10 o’clock. We stop for coffee and bread and cheese for 20 minutes about 1, and before 4 in the after noon all have been paid and on their way home, So confident were we of our lighting-daylight—that we made no provision for retakes.
In 1905 I invented the trade show. It was given at the Palace Theatre to boom a series "From the Cape to Cairo."
In 1907 I founded the Kinematograph Manufacturers’ Association and remained Chairman for many, many years.
In 1909 I paid a very large sum for the services of an actor. I think it still holds the record for ONE day’s work. I paid Sir Herbert Tree £1000 for one day my studio at Ealing.
It was this picture of Henry VIII, "not the private life of.’’ but Shakespeare, which I utilised to try a new stunt on the trade, but it was not followed. I had an idea that pictures ran too many shows and rained so badly in the latter stages of their existence that it is small wonder the youngsters would ask their parents why it always rained inside the cottage, inside the pa-lace, out in the open and even on the titles. The explanation is quite simple. The renter bought far too small a number of prints from us producers and ran them to rags. I told the trade this picture shall be LEASED-—not sold—for six weeks only, at the end of the period the copies shall be returned to me and I’ll publicly burn them. I get the prints back and destroyed them, by fire, as arranged, but the other producers did not follow my lead. Yet with the passing of time the rain is slowly disappearing because the producer has a pride in his own product and keeps the exploitation in his own hands. He destroys at the end of its legitimate run.
In 1908 I and Billie Jeapes, who was associated with me at that tune, patented talking and singing pictures. In 1909 I had 438 cinemas and 1d. showmen in the British Isles running "Talkies." We gave away the gramophone. There were no wires or other connection between screen, projector and gramophone. Synchronisation was excellent except when the needle jumped or broke down a convolution on the disc. We charged £2 ? per week for two pictures changed twice weekly. It failed—like all other early -talkies—because we had no such thing as sound amplification In a hall seating say, 500, the sound was like a bee trying to make itself heard in the Albert Hall. The first song produced, "Oh, Oh, Antonio," was sung by a lady who is to-day the wife of a well-known member of the trade. The next song was "Love Me and the World is Mine." sung by two well-known ballet dancers. If I’d had the valve there would have been no novelty three or four years ago in talking pictures.
Now. Sir, I see the green light has faded out to amber and I’ll soon have the red up against me. Well, I’m going to ask your kind indulgence to continue for a few more moments to put right—once and for all—a misunderstanding that has long existed in the trade, namely, censorship. I am hardly in order in touching on this subject because it is- not strictly before 1910. Please forgive this little digression. A few weeks ago, walking down this street of celluloid, one of the trade met me with "I say, Bill, why the blank—dash—hyphen did you want to have our films censored. Do you know your some thing, something interference has cost me over £500," I found he’d had a film turned down. Well, Mr. Chairman, I’m going to tell you what I told my friend. If there was no censorship, it is more than likely there’d be no cinemas to show any pictures.’’ Let me explain my meaning. In the late autumn of 1910 and the early spring of 1911 the police of several provincial towns-especially Liverpool, Leeds and Bradford-were very active in stopping borderline films and demanding that all programs be shown privately to the police on Mondays and Thursdays-for those days bi-weekly program was the rule.
One film imported from Germany and rented out by Walturdaw named "Sins of Society," was a bad example of what could be shown to the public I and a few others thought we saw the end of our business if such wrapped up filth was to be shown. We further were greatly worried by - the crime pictures which poured in, about 500 ft. long, showing criminal METHODS in detail. For instance, - the exact modus operandi of getting a window open from the outside to effect a silent entrance to a dwelling. So with the good wishes of some of my fellow producers and the promised co-operation of some of the Committee of the C.E.A. I started up and down the country to get support for my scheme.
About June, 1912. I heard that, Mr. Geo. Retford was to retire from the post he had held for years of Government Censor, under the Lord Chamberlain, of all plays at theatres. I thought that it would be an excellent thing if I could get Mr. Retford to censor for us. It should have great weight with the provincial police, because they already bowed to his verdict with regard to plays. Here I might say that censorship of plays applies to - London only, although the provinces very rarely attempt a second censorship over plays.
In September, 1912, Mr. Retford was appointed by the Cinematograph Manufacturers’ Association, and I, as its Chairman installed Mr. Retford. I’d here like to remind you that all us producers had saddled ourselves with a cost of so much per reel for censorship, which cost was to be raised or reduced as we found the need.
On January 1, 1913. the first film was reviewed by the board. We invited the renter and, the exhibitors to sit on our board in an advisory capacity, but to have no vote or power over finance or personnel. The renters refused to have anytling to do with us. The C.E.A., via our old friend Alfred Newbould, who was Chairman of the C.E.A fought very, very hard, and for many years, to get control to tax the producers as they liked and dictate policy, but we producers remained firm. The constitution and policy which I laid down 25 years ago still exists—as far as I know—and seems to work admirably, At Mr. Retford’s death Mr. Newbould suggested that we could strengthen our position—which was not without its weaknesses—if we could secure some political influence, and with that, in view Newbould induced T.P. O’Connor to take the vacant post at a very select little dinner at the Connaught Rooms.
I think you’ll admit; whilst nothing is 100 per cent perfect in EVERYONES opinion, the Censor Board, with its responsibility quadrupled by the addition of sound, carries out its trust in a highly efficient manner to the lasting benefit of the trade as a whole. Seldom it is that one can justly question its decisions. May I take this opportunity of offering my congratulations to its diplomatic secretary and its silent, unseen, hard-working examiners. May I also offer congratulations to the producers who, by a voluntary as opposed to a compulsory organisation, pay their money to ensure clean screens.
And whilst flinging bouquets about I must say just one word in praise of the Council of Manufacturers, of whom you never hear a whisper, carrying on all the detail work of the Board and keeping everything up to the mark, as we, the founders, planned 23 years ago.
The Vice-Chairman: There is nothing for me to say. I am sure that everything that could possibly have been said has been said. If there should be any particular questions you wish to ask these three gentlemen, now is the time to ask them, but as it is getting late, if too many of them come I shall rule them down, so if there are any questions, please fire them off immediately without wasting time—No questions, well, I will, therefore, call upon Captain Paul Kimberley to voice a vote of thanks to these gentlemen
Captain Kimberley: Mr. Chairman. Ladies and Gentlemen,—I am sure I am only expressing the wish of many, many old friends of Messrs. Paul, Hepworth and Barker in thanking them from the bottom of our hearts for the very in any interesting, entertaining and amusing glances back into the past they have given us this evening.
I think I have been in contact and could claim the privilege of being a friend of each of these gentlemen.
My first contact with Mr. Paul was in the days which he termed "Reformation." He was filming biblical stories—" The Wise and Foolish Virgins," "The Prodigal Son," etc., and I remember I had to show them to the Bishop of London and other Church dignitaries as examples of what could possibly be done with biblical subjects.
At a little later date I was associated with Mr Hepworth when he was arguing that there should be no booking before trade shows, and it, is indeed interesting to find that that policy is still carried on.
Well we are glad to hear that these three pioneers of this industry are still able to glance with humour at their early days. I am sure we have all enjoyed their talks this evening very much indeed. so I have much pleasure in proposing a very hearty vote of thanks to them.
Mr. Whitehouse: Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,—I have been asked to second this motion as a younger member of the industry. I would like very much to suggest that the reaction to me as a younger member of the audience hearing these talks to-night has been fundamentally something which was not mentioned by any of these three people, and that is the element of enterprise and real courage they had to advance this new thing. Perhaps it does suggest that new things are still coming along.
We have heard tonight of the beginnings of one great activity in the entertainment world—films. Mr. Lauste was working in 1908 and ‘09, and he had big enough difficulties, so that I would like to make that brief tribute to one more activity in the entertainment world—broadcasting. I am, however, able to look forward to the days when we shall have three great machines of entertainment, each reigning supreme in its relative sphere.
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