How to Run a Picture Theatre – part 8

Alacazar, Edmonton

We come to the eighth and last instalment of the series of extracts taken from the c.1912 guide How to Run a Picture Theatre. We have covered selecting and fitting out the building, taking on staff, and putting together an effective programme. The last thing to consider is the licence.

In January 1910 the Cinematograph Act was introduced, the first piece of government legislation directed at the new film and cinema industry. Previously, cinema had had to be licensed under schemes designed for music or theatre performance, though the majority of them chose to avoid such bureaucratic necessities (there are even some examples of cinemas that put on purely silent shows, to avoid the demands for a music licence). The unregulated nature of the industry, and in particular the threat that such venues posed as a risk risk, led to the drafting of the Cinematograph Act. Despite its ‘compulsory’ nature, there were many cinemas which chose to ignore the new scheme and pay the fines, as Jon Burrows’ recent research into cinemas in London pre-1914 has shown. But the coming of the Cinematograph Act ultimately encouraged the huge boom in cinema construction that swiftly followed its publication. There were 4,000 cinemas in Britain and Ireland by the end of 1914.

Obtaining a License. The Cinematograph Act 1909. Under the Cinematograph Act, 1909, it is compulsory that every place to which the public is admitted, where exhibition in which inflammable films are used, shall be licensed …

It is not, however, necessary to obtain a license for premises used not more than six days in a year for a kinematograph exhibition provided that notice of such shows are given to the County Council or the Chief Police Officer, but these occasional exhibitions must confirm to the regulations …

The penalty for using an unlicensed building for an entertainment which comes within the meaning of the Cinematograph Act is a fine not exceeding £20, with a penalty of £5 per day as long as the offence continues, and power is given to the authority to revoke the license.

Music and Dancing License. Every kinematograph theatre in which music is employed – except such music be provided by automatic means – must possess a music and dancing licence.

In the case of premises situated in the Administrative County of London these are granted in November of each year …

All eight parts of How to Run a Picture Theatre can be accessed here.

(The photograph shows the Alcazar in Edmonton, one of the new breed of super-cinemas, which seated 2,000. It opened in 1913, and the poster outside advertises the British & Colonial epic The Battle of Waterloo, released in that year.)

How to Run a Picture Theatre – part 7

Back to our on-going series on how to set up your own cinema, taken from the publication How to Run a Picture Theatre (c.1912). Having got the building and equipment all prepared, the staff recruited, it is time to select the films we are going to show and to decide how we are to present them:

The Programme. In the selection of the program, the tastes of the locality in which the show is situated is the governing factor. Films that will please the audience of a theatre located in a neighbourhood made up of the labouring classes will not gain favour in a house situated in a high grade residential district, but it is surprising how well the films that please in the exclusive neighbourhood are received by the lower classes. I refer to high class subjects, such as classic romantic dramas, travel subjects etc. Theatre owners will do well to cultivate the taste of their audiences by gradually increasing the number of high class film subjects, thus cutting down the demand for some of the rubbish sold as comics …

Proper film selection is really a system of insurance. It is the best policy of protection against competition and loss …

The shame or embarrassment that many cinema owners had for their lower class audiences is noticeable throughout the literature of this period. There was an insistent drive towards higher-class presentation, in venue as well as in the films. This was partly a strategy to attract a more genteel clientele which would pay more for tickets, of course, but also just a general wish for ‘class’. Nevertheless, it is odd to see the dismissal of ‘rubbish’ comics which were the bread-and-butter entertainment for so many cinemas.

Sunday Selections. … the films shown on that day should differ from the general run on week days. They should be of a more sacred and educational character …

Much of the odium attaching to the opening of the kinematograph theatre has been due to the lack of judgment shown in the selection of the Sunday programs …

The question of Sunday shows was hugely controversial at the time. The audience was naturally interested in finding cheap entertainment available on what was generally its one free day of the week, while others were shocked at the idea of entertainment – and particulaly such vulgar entertainment – on a Sunday. Many cinemas put on special Sunday shows of a more ‘suitable’ character to overcome such censure, and to protect their licence. It was common for these to give the profits from Sunday shows to charity.

First Runs and Repetitions. “First runs” faddism was born of a desire to compel the other fellow to follow suit. The “first-run” fiend figured that if he could get the newest picture first he would kill it for future use in his town, and that those who came next would just be “imitators” …

There is a mistaken idea among picture theatre managers that if a picture has been once run in a town, it is useless to show it again.

Keeping Track of Films. The card system should be adopted for keeping track of films, both coming releases and films that have been had from the renter …

When you get your KINEMATOGRAPH WEEKLY go carefully through it from first page to last and make a careful lists of all the films that have not been previously released …

The Kinematograph and Lantern Weekly was one of the main British film trade papers (its big rival was The Bioscope, of course), and the publisher of How to Run a Picture Theatre.

How to Make Feature Films Money Earners. Feature films may be divided into two classes, firstly those running well into 3,000 feet or over, such as Vitagraph’s “Tale of Two Cities”, or “Vanity Fair”, Nordisk’s “In the Hands of Impostors”, Selig’s “Christopher Columbus”, Jury’s “Lady of the Camelias”, E.S. Williams’ “Carmen”, or Clarendon’s “Saved by Fire”, and secondly those of 1,000 feet, such as Selig’s animal pictures, B. and C.’s “Lieut. Daring” and Clarendon’s “Lieut. Rose”, or Vitagraph’s Life Portrayals.

A fascinating selection of what were considered strong sellers in 1912. American productions predominate, but there is still some merit seen in the output of British producers British and Colonial (B. & C.) and Clarendon. In the Hands of Impostors was a sensational ‘white slave’ melodrama from Denmark. The 3,000-foot film (50 minutes or over) indicates that the feature film is on its way; that is, a main attraction of an hour or more in length, around which the rest of the programme has to fit.

There is no doubt that the three reel subject has come to stay and as a money earner, provided care be taken in its selection and it is properly handled, there is nothing to equal it …

… These three reel subjects are in great measure handled on the exclusive system by renting houses and are in many cases let out on the principle of one hall, one town …

Program Number Indicators. Nearly every kinematograph theatre that is worth speaking of now has programs printed describing the pictures, and it is therefore most desirable to install some form of number indicator so that each forthcoming item is made known to the audience.

Finally, it is worth remembering that the early cinema was full of song. There were films which were synchronised to gramophone disks (such as Hepworth’s Vivaphone) and live singing, often to lantern slides. Interestingly, this was more popular in the provinces than in London, and a necessity in Australia.

The Singing Picture and Singing to Pictures. In all up-to-date picture theatres it is now the custom to provide one or more singing pictures, or one or two vocalists to sing to the pictures, and this even where a fairly large orchestra is employed. This may not be so general in London, but in the provincial towns this variety in the program is much appreciated, whilst in Australia and the Colonies it is a necessity for success.

We will end our series with the eighth part, on obtaining a cinematograph licence.

How to Run a Picture Theatre – part 6

Electric Theatre

Continuing with our series on how to set up and manage a cinema, taken from How to Run a Picture Theatre (c.1912), we come to the crucial question of staff. The remarkable thing is the number of workers considered suitable for even a small operation. The average small pre-First World War cinema in London had eight to ten staff. Here it is recommended we have a manager, door keeper, box office assistant (note the coldly calculating recommendation for women in this role, being both ‘more reliable’ and cheap), ushers, pianist (with an interesting revelation that some cinemas relied upon mechanical pianos), someone to generate sound effects (a common role in pre-1914 exhibition), the projectionist (and his assistant), and those selling chocolates and programmes. We even learn the salaries, and what they should be wearing.

The Staff. Its Duties and Salaries. … As a general rule, it may be taken that from ten to twelve persons are required for the competent management of a theatre running a continuous show. These are: Manager, Cashier, Doorkeeper, Checktaker, two male or lady Attendants, Operator, Assistant Operator, Spool Boy, Effects Worker, and in some cases Program and Chocolate Sellers.

The Manager. Many a proprietor owes his success to his manager’s personality … The public like to go to a place of entertainment where the manager evinces a personal interest in them … His salary is calculated on the seating and earning capacity of the hall and may vary from £3 to £5 …

Much will depend on the way in which the manager engineers the opening ceremony … It is well to secure the attendance of the Member of Parliament for the Division, the Chief Magistrate of the City or Town, … Vicar of the Parish or some equally big wig to declare the show open.

Advantage should always be taken of this occasion to press home the educational aspect of the kinematograph and the high class nature of the entertainment which is to be provided.

The Doorkeeper. His wages run from 25s. to 40s per week.

The Box Office Attendant. It is best to put a woman in charge of the box office, partly because women are apt to be more reliable, and in part because they ask less money … One who is not too old to be attractive, and one who is steady enough to refuse the numerous opportunities for flirtation will become an asset … she is not too well paid at £1 per week, although cashiers can be had at 12s 6d.

The Ushers – Inside Attendants. You want bright youths or young women who are willing to work and whom you can trust to do as well when you are absent as when you are there … In many houses the attendants are supposed to polish up the brasswork in the morning and help with the place generally … As a rule these attendants are paid from 10s to 18s. per week, to which of course has to be added their commission on the sale of chocolates and programs.

They should each be provided with an electric torch … and should be instructed to always direct the light from their torches towards the ground and away from the faces of those who are following them.

The Pianist. Get a good one – the best you can afford. … [T]he patient plodder with a fair technique will sometimes be found to be better than a brilliant performer who has a soul above the pictures The man or woman who can read music well enough to memorize standard melodies, and who can pick up popular stuff “by ear”, is better than the more advanced player who cannot play without the music on the rack. … An automatic piano is to be preferred to a bad player.

The duties and responsibilities of the accompanist are by no means light or few – always excepting the cases where a mechanical piano is left in charge of the erratic and ubiquitous “chocolate boy”. Besides, a complete command of the keyboard, the pianist must have quick discernment, and a sense of the fitness of things …

The skilled accompanist will manage, with well-timed improvisations, to smooth over any awkward pauses and abrupt transitions … Finally, the pianist should commit to memory, or have to hand, a selection of pieces which are likely to suit the various idiosyncracies of the films …

The pianist should have the films at every change of program projected for his special delectation in order that he may arrange his musical program to suit the pictures and may know what is coming next. Too often films are changed and the man at the piano has no inkling of the subjects excepting what he has gained from a perusal of the synopsis … £2 to £3 a week is none too much to pay him. Where there is an orchestra, of course, the pianist’s salary is allocated to the conductor.

The Effects Worker. … It falls to him to give life to the picture by the aid of mechanical or other means … From 12s to 15s. a week is the usual age for a boy and 30s. for a man.

Program and Chocolate Sellers. …the vending of their wares shall not be to stentorian, for nothing detracts more from the pleasure of patrons than to have a loud voiced boy or girl continually brawling in one’s ears “Chocolates” or “Programs”.

The Operator and his Assistant. … The young man who knows a little about the machine, but who needs more experience and is willing to work cheaply in order to obtain it, is the most expensive operator who can hire. He only takes one pound out of the box office on pay day, but presently you have to pay for repairs to an abused machine that will run up, the shows will have been so poor that your attendance will have dropped off, and all at once you will realise that there are occasions when it is cheaper to pay a man three pounds than one. Your operator will cost you up to £3 a week, or even more.

You can get men to turn the crank for very low fees if you have only night shows, but a night operator who has other employment during the day is not apt to be in shape for his work, and a good operator is worth every penny you pay him.

How the Staff Should be Uniformed. The male attendants should be uniformed … The female attendants should be attired in black dresses with white aprons and caps or of preferred they may be made up as vivandieres, or in the style made famous by Marie Antoinette with powdered hair, patches and pannier dresses, as is done at some London theatres.

Next, we will need to consider how to go about selecting a programme of films.

How to Run a Picture Theatre – part 5

I’m running this series taken from the 1910 [correction – probably 1912] publication How to Run a Picture Theatre, which eventually I’ll put up all together in a new Texts section. Anyway, having taken care of the exterior, foyer and auditorium, now you need to think about your projectionist. Note the fire precautions, but also the need to install a stereopticon, or lantern slide projector, for advertisements, in-house announcements and sing-a-long slides:

The Operating Chamber. The operating chamber is, of course, subject to very stringent regulations by the authorities which appear in an index to this work …

There should be three traps, one each for the projector, the stereopticon, and the look-out in preference to a larger trap permitting all three. If two machines are used, the number of traps is increased …

A bucket of sand and a wet blanket must always be kept in the operating room for fire extinguishing purposes …

Allow reasonably ample room and make the operator comfortable. A high stool with a comfortable back is a necessity rather than a luxury. If the chair induces the operator to loaf, get rid of the operator, but retain the chair …

It is best to provide two machines, using them alternately, and then if one breaks down, there is a second to run on, until the other is repaired. The assistant operator, too, is always handy in rewinding the films, because if there is only one operator who has to divide his time between projecting and rewinding, both tasks will suffer.

Next up, choosing your staff.

How to Run a Picture Theatre – part 4

Back to the 1910 [correction – probably 1912] publication How to Run a Picture Theatre (see previous posts). Having attended to the location, exterior and lobby, it’s time to consider the auditorium itself. As before, the emphasis is on convincing the potential cinema owner of moving on from the slack, short-termist practices of the past and make the venue the sort of attractive proposition likely to attract a loyal clientele.

The Auditorium. The good impression created by the outside appearance and the entrance lobby is of no avail if it is not sustained by the auditorium.

The prosperity of the picture theatre depends upon its attracting a regular patronage. The evanescent visitor is of but little use to the exhibitor, except as a walking advertisement spreading the fame of the show and thus attracting other patrons …

For floor covering, it is becoming increasingly universal to use a good carpeting instead of linoleum. There is something in the feel of a velvet pile that sub-consciously suggests and conveys the impression of luxury …

Cinemas had been established on the principle of attracting a passing trade, but as it became clear that film was no flash-in-the-pan then new strategies were called for. Cinemas were becoming a long-term investment. Cinema owners also needed to take far more notice of fire precautions and cleanliness. Disinfectants were not only used on the building but on its customers as well. It was common for attendants to pass up and down spraying people with sweet-smelling disinfectant. Cinemas were not known as flea-pits for nothing, but is remarkable that there seems to be no evidence of audiences protesting at such patronising treatment.

Precautions from Fire and Disinfection. … every well-equipped building should contain a plenitude of automatic sprinklers, hand grenades and the like. It should also be well provided with fire hydrants, and it is well to give the staff a periodical turn out in order …

In a theatre well equipped with fire appliances the audience experiences an added degree of safety and the likelihood of panic is reduced to a minimum …

The interior of the theatre should also be well disinfected not only after each performance, but during the time the pictures are being shown. There is a multiplicity of sprayers and deodorising compounds on the market, most of which are of great service not only in warding off disease but in keeping the atmosphere pure and sweetly scented…

As deodorisers, Pinozal, Ozone, Empire Essence are probably the most effective.

Next, raking. Early shop-shows inevitably had a level floor. To enable everyone to be able to see the film, an inclined floor was essential.

The Rake. The floor must be inclined from screen to rear, a good rake being one in ten. Steps should always be avoided, as when the hall is in semi-darkness, accidents are likely to happen, with consequent actions at law, besides which, in an emergency, steps militate against a speedy emptying of the house.

And then there was the screen. Numerous types were available on the market. Intriguingly, the recommendation here is for a coated plaster screen. The reference to ‘daylight’ means those cinemas which were experimenting with an auditorium lighted during the performance, as some had expressed concern over audiences being left in the dark. It did not catch on.

The Screen. There are many kinds of screen, patent and otherwise, daylight and mirror, but the best is generally said to be one of plaster built into the wall and coated with preparation.

Interestingly it is recommended that seats not be too comfortable lest people stay too long. Most cinemas operated on a continuous show policy where people could come in when they liked and stay as long as they like, with the assumption that they wouldn’t stay forever to see the same programme shown over and over again. A surprise recommendation is for somewhere for people to place their hats, not least so that they could have hands free to hold the cup of tea that many cinemas provided.

Seating. Tip-ups for seating cannot be beaten, and care should be taken to see that they are comfortable, but remember that you do not wish your audience to remain the entire evening unless you are giving a one house a night show …

It is well to have a centre, as well as two side aisles where floor area permits. The sides can be used for entrance and the centre for exit. Give as much space as possible between the rows of seats, from 2ft. 6in. to 3ft. is a fair distance …

It is a good idea to have hat racks under the seats, as these not only conduce to the comfort of those who are considerate enough to remove their hats, but leave the hands free to hold the cup of afternoon tea, or the program, or what not.

Lastly, attention is given to the decor, and ventilation. Early cinemas, filled with smoke, could be unpleasantly fuggy. But fresh air was clearly something of an alien concept for some cinema owners.

Decoration and Upholstery. … most of the architects, builders, decorators and exhibitors are making a grave mistake, in having the interior walls and ornaments of light colours. Such colours will suit an opera house, but not a moving picture theatre. Sombre colours will undoubtedly bring out better effects from the screen …

A good plan is to have the panels in a rich red colour with the border of still a darker shade, and have all the plastic ornaments painted imitation walnut or mahogany …

Ventilation and Heating. There are still a great many showmen who, incredible as it may seem in this enlightened day, still have no artificial means of ventilating their theatres, or what is just as bad, depend entirely upon the electric fan revolving on a shelf or bracket, and simply churning up the air in the room, without renewing it.

Ventilation means change of air … Ventilation is good for everybody …

All healthy persons accustomed to living in fresh air, having to sit for three or four hours in an over-heated atmosphere, invariably experience the sensations, first of drowsiness, followed by headache, then a period of lassitude, and almost entire prostration …

The advent of a ventilating genius who could succeed in revolutionizing our present method of ventilation would be welcomed by all right livers and true thinkers. Certainly the ventilation of some of our picture theatres, music halls, and public buildings is anything but satisfactory …

The British Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, Ltd. stands in the forefront amongst firms manufacturing ventilating apparatus …

How to Run a Picture Theatre – part 3

More from How to Run a Picture Theatre (1910) [correction – probably 1912]. Having chosen the building and taken care of the outside appearance, we turn to the interior and the first places to be seen by the prospective customer – the lobby and waiting room. The comments on the lobby indicate how many drab cinemas (usually shop or other such conversions) there still were, with bright lights outside but dismal within:

The Lobby or Entrance Hall. A dingy lobby betokens in the minds of many a poor entertainment. How often the mistake is made that all the public expect for outside appearance is a blaze of light.

Nothing short of 18ft. should be devoted to the lobby. Nor is this waste of space, for it enables an advertising display to be made to advantage, and the passers-by who stop to read the program boards or day bill are well against the pay-box before they realise that their curiosity has already got them almost inside the theatre.

The flooring should be of tiles or cement. A board flooring is an abomination suggestive of hasty construction and a fleeting stay …

Greater variety of material is permitted in walls and ceilings. As a general thing, plaster casting is to be preferred to imitation marble. The last may be sparingly used in the large lobbies, but is almost too heavy to be in keeping with the style of performance. A plaster cast lobby, is tastefully done, finished in white and gold, and kept always fresh by the use of paint and gold leaf is much to be preferred.

White and gold is advocated as a general colour scheme …

A waiting room is considered a necessity on account of the prevalent system of the ‘continuous show’, whereby the same programme of an hour or so would be repeated eight or more times per day, with people able to come in at any time, and often to stay as long as they liked. This contrasted with a more theatre-based policy of two or three longer shows per day with set opening hours, which would become the model a few years later.

The Waiting Room or Lobby Adjunct. … A waiting room has another advantage which should be seriously considered by the exhibitor. With the present system of continuous performance and of allowing anyone to enter or leave the auditorium while a picture is on the screen, you discourage many devotees of motion pictures who, deeply interested in a scene, have either to move to allow someone to pass in front of them or to have some newcomer making the view while looking for a seat, or a lady removing her hat as slowly as possible, and at this most pathetic moment. More than one spectator has expressed disgust when reading a sub-title, to have someone pass in front of him and shut off the view, and the moment he cannot read the sub-title on the screen, he loses the thread of the story and becomes dissatisfied with the show.

… A waiting or ante-room would be a genuine remedy to this drawback …

How to Run a Picture Theatre – part 2

More from How to Run a Picture Theatre, the guide to setting up your own cinema, published in 1910 [correction – probably 1912]. Having chosen our site, we now have to consider the building:

The Building and its Fittings. If your venture is to be a “converted” building, either shop premises, a public hall, or a chapel, make certain that the alterations planned are practicable before you sign a lease …

… In the early days of the picture theatre, the mistake was frequently made by those who should have known better, of thinking that anything was good enough for such a place, with the result that ofttimes endless expense had to be incurred after it was opened, to the dislocation of business and irreparable financial loss to the proprietors.

Strange to say, from the very start a certain type of construction has been adopted and has been followed by nearly everyone; a white exterior, a long hall with very little light, bad ventilation and no gallery, a waste of space for a lobby, open to the winds and decorated with a profusion of plaster reliefs and white and gold paints.

The “converted” is now almost a thing of the past. The successful picture theatre of to-day must not only be especially arranged for the purpose, but it must present as pleasing an architectural and decorative aspect as it is possible to make …

How to Run a Picture Theatre – part 1


I’m going to start up a new series of posts, telling you how to set up your own cinema, in 1910. The posts will present extracts from the book How to Run a Picture Theatre: A Handbook for Proprietors, Managers and Exhibitors, published by The Kinematograph Weekly in 1910 [correction – probably 1912]. First thing to consider, where are you going to build it?

On Selecting a Site. It requires but a very slight stretch of memory to go back to the time when the opening of an electric Theatre was an extremely simple operation. Any disused shop to which could be added an attractive looking front, was considered good enough for the purpose of a moving picture display. But with competition has come a change, and to-day, he who would succeed as a moving picture exhibitor needs not only capital, but an artistic taste and business acumen …

… The value of a site naturally depends to a large extent on local circumstances. It must be borne in mind that the public on pleasure bent does not frequent the residential areas in search of entertainment. Therefore a main business artery is to be preferred and care should be also taken to have the theatre on the right side of the street. It is strange, but nevertheless true, that twice as many persons frequent one side of a street as are to [be] found on the other side, and it is the side most used by pedestrians that is best fitted for the electric theatre …

… It is well to consider also from whence your clientele is likely to be drawn when you have opened your theatre. It does not pay to expect one’s patrons after the turmoil of the day to walk miles to the theatre. Therefore, the site should be as near as possible to the part most densely populated by the comfortably-positioned artizan or middle classes, as they are the greatest supporters of the picture theatre.

Electric Theatre was a standard term for cinemas at this time. It seems to have been first used for Thomas L. Tally’s Electric Theater, a storefront show which opened in Los Angeles in 1902. The term was exported to Britain in 1908 by New York businessman Joseph Jay Bamberger, who established the first cinema circuit in London with his Electric Theatres (1908) Ltd. His cinemas were each called Electric Theatres, and the name became generally used for a time. Another name for early cinemas was, of course, a bioscope.

More to follow.

Britain can make it

Spot the Urbanora Dog (not a competition, by the way – ah, the old jokes are the best)

Well, how could I possibly resist publishing this iconic image? Anyone who knows your scribe’s nom de plume or particular interest in the exploits of dogs in silent films will no doubt be cheering, and very probably rushing off to book hotels and transportation at the very thought of the legendary Charles Urban-produced film A Canine Sherlock Holmes (1912) turning up at the British Silent Film Festival, which takes place in Cambridge, 19-22 April 2012.

The festival is in its fifteenth year, and being in celebratory mood it has put together a sort of greatest hits programme, which looks remarkably ambitious for a four day event. It is certainly packed with treasures and diverting oddities. The festival started out fifteen years ago as a quaint mix of academic papers and obscure British silents, appealing to a select if dedicated bunch of people. It hit hard times a few years ago, but a shift in programming to feature films with some special events, combining imaginatively selected British silents with world classics looks to have paid dividends. Among the better-known titles in the programme below, there are Turksib, Visage d’Enfants and The Great White Silence, while the Dodge Brothers accompanying Abram Room’s The Ghost that Never Returns is bound to be popular. But let me recommend also The Blackguard, directed by Graham ‘The White Shadow’ Cutts; the programme of Fred Paul’s proto-horror short films (especially The Jest); the modestly pleasing W.W. Jacobs films (including The Head of the Family, filmed in fair Whitstable, the town where I grew up); another Fred Paul film, Lady Windermere’s Fan (not exactly Lubitsch, but well worth watching) and the What the Silent Censor Saw programme, which should show some of those extant films we recently highlighted as having been rejected by the BBFC for screening in the UK. There are tributes to Charles Dickens and P.G. Wodehouse, and more dog-centred entertainment with the tear-jerking feature film Owd Bob (surely the loyal old sheepdog can’t be a killer…?) and a programme of shorts that includes the heartening Dog Outwits the Kidnappers, with Cecil Hepworth’s Rover driving a car with aplomb.

Here’s the full programme.


09.00 – 17.00 Registration (Arts Picture House)

10.30 The Bachelor’s Baby (Arts Picturehouse – Screen 3)
Romantic comedy about a bachelor who discovers an abandoned baby whilst on a motorcycle tour of the Lake District. Uncertain of what to do with the foundling, he hands it to a retired captain living next door to his unrequited childhood sweetheart and her young niece. Meanwhile, assuming it stolen, the child’s mother and an array of interfering busy-bodies set out to look for the child in a series of comic interludes, mistaken identities and baby swaps. Does the mother want the baby back and what of the attractive niece who catches the eye of the eponymous bachelor?

Dir: Arthur Rooke. With: Malcolm Tod, Tom Reynolds, Peggy Woodward, Constance Worth, Haidie Wright. GB 1922, 67mins.


Ordeal by Golf
The first of our P.G. Wodehouse golfing tales about two golfers and their ‘eternal caddy’, a man who supplements his income by stealing ‘lost’ balls and selling them back to their original owners. Inevitably, golf is much more than just a game here and when an elderly boss seeks to appoint a new company treasurer, he challenges the two potential candidates to a golfing match as ‘the only way to judge a man’s true character’. But is beating the boss really such a good idea?

Dir: Andrew P Wilson. With: Harry Beasley. GB 1924, 26mins

13.15 The Only Way (Arts Picturehouse – Screen 2)
The final major Dickens adaptation of the silent era, The Only Way is a lavish adaptation of the popular stage play of the same name, itself a rather free adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities. Produced and directed by the ambitious Herbert Wilcox, it stars legendary theatre actor-manager Sir John Martin Harvey as Sydney Carton, the English advocate who is given the chance to redeem his wasted life by saving the life of his near double, a French aristocrat in exile from revolutionary France threatened with the guillotine.

Dir: Herbert Wilcox. With: John Martin-Harvey, Ben Webster, Madge Stuart, Jean Jay. GB 1926, 107mins

13.30 Young Woodley (Arts Picturehouse – Screen 3)
One of the most impressive and sensitively directed British films of the late silent era, Young Woodley is based on John Van Druten’s controversial stage play of 1925 which had already fallen foul of the Lord Chamberlain. Its the story of a dreamy young college boy who falls for the Headmaster’s wife, the beautiful Laura Simmons (Madeleine Carroll), herself trapped in a stale marriage. Originally shot in 1928 as a full-blooded silent, (the version screened here), the film remained unreleased until 1930 when it was refashioned into an early sound feature. Somewhat reminiscent of both Tea and Sympathy and The Browning Version, this little seen gem is more than deserving of a much belated reappraisal.

Dir: Thomas Bentley. With: Frank Lawton, Madeleine Carroll, Sam Livesey, Aubrey Mather

GB 1928, 1hr 33mins

Plus Young Woodley Sound Trailer. 1930. 3.5mins

15.30 Grand Guignol – The Last Appeal + The Jest + A Game for Two (Arts Picturehouse – Screen 2)
Fred Paul’s Grand Guignol short films, A Game for Two, The Jest, The Gentle Doctor and The Last Appeal stand out for their remarkable plots, all with a cruel twist in the tale, and their fatalistic atmosphere. Fred Paul himself declared ‘I attempt to show life as it really is, its sordidness and cruelty; the diabolical humour of the destiny we call fate, which plays with us as it will, raises us to high places or drags us to the gutter; allows one man to rob the widows and orphans of their all and makes a criminal of the starving wretch who in his misery has stolen a mouthful of bread. The four surviving short films are here presented with a script by Michael Eaton.

Dir Fred Paul: GB 1921. Running time approx 70mins

17.30 The Boatswain’s Mate + A Will and a Way (Arts Picturehouse – Screen 3)
At the Beehive Inn, the widowed landlady Mrs Waters has no shortage of gentlemen admirers willing to ‘marry a pub’. But she wants to marry an ‘ero and pub regular George sets out to prove himself by rescuing her from a fake burglary which he stages with an itinerant Victor Maclagen, who turns up looking for work. But the plan goes awry when the feisty landlady proves that she’s more than a match for either of them.

Dir: Manning Haynes. With: Florence Turner, Victor Maclagen, Johnny Butt. GB 1924,26 mins.


A Will and a Way
In the peaceful village of Claybury a wedding takes place and two locals set the scene for this delightful romantic comedy when they announce ‘This be a rare place for a wedding. Not as the gals be better lookin’ than others – they be sharper’. Meanwhile the recently deceased, Sportin’ Green, leaves his fortune to his nephew Foxy on the proviso that he marries the first woman to ask him. Cue an array of fortune-seeking widows, elderly spinsters and men in drag, all vying to pop the question first and a series of hilarious interludes with echoes of Buster Keaton’s Seven Chances.

Dir: Manning Haynes. With Ernest Hendry, Johnny Butt, Cynthia Murtagh, Charles Ashton. GB 1922, 45mins

19.00 Gala Screening – Visages D’Enfants (Faces of Children) (Arts Picturehouse – Screen 1)
An astounding portrait of tragedy from one of the founding masters of French poetic realism and filmed through the eyes of a young boy haunted by the death of his mother. Set in a Swiss alpine community the film opens with her funeral and deals with the aftermath as the boy, brilliantly played by child actor Jean Forest, tries to come to terms with this life-changing event, his own grief and the prospect of a new stepmother and sister. Compared to Truffaut’s 400 Blows in its sympathy for the child’s eye view, historian Jean Mitry could give no higher accolade when he said, ‘If I could select only one film from the entire French production of the 1920s, surely it is Faces of Children that I would save’ .

Dir: Jacques Feyder.With: Jean Forest, Victor Vina, Arlette Pevran, Henri Duval. France 1925, 114mins


09.00 New Discoveries: (The Ones that got away) Tony Fletcher (Arts Picturehouse – Screen 3)
A tantalising programme of rare Edwardian short films selected and presented by long-term Festival collaborator Tony Fletcher, and displaying the rich diversity held in the BFI National Archive. This selection includes comedies such as The Cheekiest Man on Earth (1908) and A New Hat for Nothing (1910), Arthur Melbourne Cooper’s mechanical animation Road Hogs in Toyland (1911), moral tales like A Great Temptation (1906), visual spectacles such as Wonders of the Geomatograph (1910) and Pageant of New Romney (1910) an early colour experiment by pioneer G.A. Smith, to the Edison Company’s adaptation of the Tennyson poem Lady Clare (1912) filmed at Arundel Castle.

Presented by Tony Fletcher

Dir: Various. Running time 85mins

11.00 – 12.30 The Woman’s Portion – IWM event (Arts Picturehouse – Screen 3)
A fascinating programme of films about women’s contribution during the Great War, including recruitment films for the Land Army and Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, propaganda films encouraging the use of National Kitchens and extolling the virtues of frugality. The programme includes the recently restored version of c1918 fictionalised propaganda film The Woman’s Portion about the need for women to accept separation from, and loss of, their husbands fighting on the Front. The IWM has recently re-edited, tinted and provided a new piano score by the composer, Ian Lynn.

Programme will be presented by Matt Lee and Toby Haggith

Dir: Various. GB 1917-1918. Running time approx 80mins

11.00 Tansy (Emmanuel College)
Alma Taylor stars as Tansy, a shepherd girl caught up in a love triangle between two brothers which results in her eviction from her beloved farm. Played out against the backdrop of the beautiful Sussex Downs, and based on a popular novel of the time by Tickner Edwardes, the film displays all the pictorial beauty and naturalism for which Hepworth was renowned. Tansy was a lucky survivor among Hepworth’s feature films when the majority of his work was seized and tragically melted down following his bankruptcy.

Dir: Cecil M. Hepworth. With: Alma Taylor, James Carew, Gerald Ames, Hugh Clifton. GB 1921, 63 mins

13.30 The Long Hole + The Clicking of Cuthbert (Arts Picturehouse – Screen 3)
Two classics from P.G. Wodehouse’s golfing tales here presented with readings from the original stories. Originally presented in 6 parts The Clicking of Cuthbert was the first. Set in the suburban paradise of Wood Hills where two rival camps, The Golfers and The Cultured, vie for supremacy. When Cuthbert is forced to retrieve a ball, accidentally smashed a ball through the window into a literary society meeting, he falls for the charms of the cultured poetess Adeline. But she wants an intellectual, so Cuthbert attends readings of Soviet ‘misery lit’ by a famous visiting Bolshevik in the hope of becoming one. But when the Bolshevik announces his own love of golf, the Cultured Adeline is forced to rethink her own prejudices against the game.


The Long Hole
Two rival golfers compete for the attention of an attractive young woman, each convinced that they would stand a chance if the other were out of the way. So they decide to settle the matter with a round of golf comprising a single hole, teeing off from first green and ending in the doorway of the Majestic Hotel the following day. But en route, the pair are forced to play fast and loose with the rules as they deal with the mud of an English summer and balls accidentally chipped into motorcars and boats. What a pity that neither of them had considered whether the object of their mutual desire was interested in them.

Dir: Andrew P. Wilson. With Roger Keyes, Harry Beasley, Charles Courtneidge, Daphne Williams. GB 1924, 25mins/32mins

13.30 The Lure of Crooning Water (Emmanuel College)
Romance and melodrama mingle in this tale of a city seductress who lures a farmer away from his wife and family. Ivy Duke plays a famous actress ordered by her doctor-lover to take a rest cure at the idyllic Crooning Water Farm. But she’s unable to resist flirting with the unworldly farmer (Guy Newall) under the nose of his hard-working wife who can do little to distract him from her spoilt love-rival. The British countryside has never looked more glorious and there are some comedy moments –including the ‘smoking baby’ sequence. The film was a critical success on its release with Kinematograph Weekly proclaiming it as ‘a triumph for the British producer. It disposes once and for all the ridiculous argument that good films cannot be made in this country’.

Dir: Arthur Rooke. Starring: Guy Newall, Ivy Duke, Douglas Munro, Mary Dibley. GB 1920 104mins

15.30 The Head of the Family (Arts Picturehouse – Screen 3)
Set in a Kentish seafaring community, Mrs Green is horribly bullied by her second husband who threatens to sell off the family home that belonged to her son, who was lost at sea and presumed dead. But when the despairing woman meets a friendly sailor looking for lodgings, the two hatch a plan to thwart her husband’s schemes by pretending that the young man is her long-lost son, back to claim his place at The Head of the Family. The locations are a delight and the cinematography praised by contemporary critics who claimed that W.W. Jacobs, with his international reputation, would be enough to draw the crowds – a poignant reminder of how popular tastes in literature have changed.

Dir: Manning Haynes. Starring Johnny Butt, Daisy England, Charles Ashton, Moore Marriott. GB 1922 73 mins


Rough Seas Around British Coasts
A mesmerizing actuality film displaying the power of high tides and rough seas.

GB, 1929, 9 mins

15.30 Lady Windermere’s Fan (Emmanuel College)
The first film adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s classic satire on Victorian marriage and society. Lady Windermere, convinced that her husband is being unfaithful with a certain Mrs Erlynne, is further distressed to discover that the ‘other woman’ has been invited to her birthday ball. So she embarks on her own affair to get even. But all is not what it seems and, Mrs Erlynne sacrifices her own reputation to save Lord and Lady Windermere’s marriage with the final plot revelation, explaining her motives.

Dir: Fred Paul. With: Milton Rosmer, Irene Rooke, Nigel Playfair, Netta Westcott. GB 1916, 72 mins

17.30 What the Silent Censor Saw! (Arts Picturehouse – Screen 2)
To celebrate 100 years of film classification by the BBFC we look at the history of this remarkable institution and its decision making processes. Featuring clips from films illustrating various censorship issues – sex, drugs and bullfighting as well as the wonderful Adrian Brunel spoof, Cut it Out: a Day in the Life of a film Censor.

Introduced by Lucy Betts of the BBFC and Bryony Dixon of the BFI

Dir: various. Running time approx. 90mins.

17.30 The Man Without Desire (Emmanuel College)
Adrian Brunel’s first feature film is a fascinating curio, filmed on location in Venice, bearing hallmarks of German Expressionism and shifting between the 18th and 20th Centuries. Novello’s other-worldly beauty and sexual ambiguity is perfect for the role of Count Vittorio Dandolo, an 18th Century Venetian nobleman, put into a state of suspended animation following the murder of his lover, who is revived into the present with unexpected consequences.

Dir: Adrian Brunel. With Ivor Novello, Nina Vanno, Sergio Mari, Christopher Walker. GB 1923, 107mins

19.15 The First Born – Gala Screening (Arts Picturehouse – Screen 1)
With new musical score from Stephen Horne

A tour de force of late silent filmmaking and a heady mix of politics, infidelity, sex and passion, The First Born was adapted by Miles Mander from his own novel and play with a script by Alma Reville, Alfred Hitchcock’s talented wife. It concerns the relationship between Sir Hugh Boycott (Mander) and his young bride Madeleine, sensitively played by a pre-blonde Madeleine Carroll. Their passionate relationship founders when she fails to produce an heir. The print has recently been fully restored by the BFI National Archive with its original delicate tinting.

Dir: Miles Mander. With: Miles Mander, Madeleine Carroll, John Loder. GB 1928, 88mins.


09.00 Livingstone (Arts Picturehouse – Screen 3)
A rare screening of this fascinating biopic starring actor, director and explorer M.A. Wetherell in the title role. The film traces Livingstone’s physical and spiritual journey from his humble Scottish home to Africa and his fight against slavery. Wetherell travelled over 25,000 miles to produce the film, which is largely shot on location in the places visited by Livingstone with the indigenous African Tribes people playing themselves. The film was highly praised on its release for combining drama, sensitive performances with stunning scenery and travelogue. The Cinema News and Property Gazette stated, ‘The picture was warmly received at its Albert Hall presentation last week, and the audience seemed particularly pleased with the magnificent views of the Victoria Falls. As for the crocodiles, no disciple of Ufa could have made them more terrible or more worthy to be respected’ It is here presented in the only known extant 16mm print courtesy of the Archive Film Agency.

Dir: M.A. Wetherell. With M.A. Wetherell, Molly Rogers, Douglas Cator, Robson Paige. GB 1926, 62mins

Presented in association with the Archive Film Agency

09.00 Mist in the Valley (Emmanuel College)
Produced and directed by Cecil Hepworth, based on the original novel by Dorin Craig, this is a story of a lonely heiress, played by Alma Taylor, who runs away from an unhappy home. She meets her future husband whilst destitute and they soon marry. However, their happiness is short-lived as her father is murdered and our heroine becomes the prime suspect! A Courtroom drama ensues with an unexpected twist at the end.

Dir: Cecil M. Hepworth. With Alma Taylor, G.H. Mulcaster, James Carew, Esme Hubbard. UK, 1923 75mins

11.00 Fun Before the Footlights: The Origins of Undergraduate Humour (Arts Picturehouse – Screen 2)
The British tradition of absurdist humour didn’t start with The Goons, Pete and Dud, or Monty Python – not by a long chalk. The slightly silly antics of the so-called intelligentsia are to be found in a series of short films of the 1920s which delight in anti establishment cheek and a desire to take the **** out of cinema itself (outrageous!) with a pastiche travelogue, a bogus newsreel (the Typical Budget) and a send up of the Censor himself. With an introduction by Jo Botting (BFI)

Dir: various. Running time 90mins

11.00 Family Matinee – Silent film fun with Animal Stars (Arts Picture House)
The Artist’s ‘Uggie’ proved how important it is to have a clever dog in your silent movie and we’ve got a kennel full – driving cars, doing tricks and getting their owners out of scrapes along with assorted parrots, monkeys, horses, insects and goodness knows what else – fun silent comedies for the whole family with films from crime-fighting dogs in 1906 to Charley Chase trying to bath a Great Dane in 1927, all introduced, explained and accompanied by Neil Brand.

Dir: various. Running time approx 80mins

13.30 Fante Anna (Gypsy Anna) (Emmanuel College)
Presented in association with The Norwegian Film Institute and Lillehammer University

One of the great films of the Norwegian silent canon, starring Asta Nielsen, one of the greatest actresses of the period. Anna, a gipsy child is discovered in the arms of her dead mother by a farmhand and adopted by the Storleins, his employers. But Anna (Nielson) grows into a wild child, constantly getting her step brother into trouble, until mother Storlein can take no more and Anna is forced to leave. As the years pass, Anna falls in love with her step brother, but Jon, the farmhand has also fallen for Anna. Their fate is bound together and one of the rivals will be forced to save her life. This newly restored film is here presented by composer Halldor Krogh whose new symphonic music score will be played with the film.

Dir: Rasmus Breistein. With Asta Nielsen, Einar Tveito, Johanne Bruhn Norway 1920

15.30 The Bohemian Girl (Arts Picturehouse – Screen 3)
Based on William Balfe’s operetta of the same name, Knoles’ lavish production stars Ivor Novello as Thaddeus, an exiled Polish officer who joins a gypsy community in Bohemia to escape the Austrian military. Here he meets and falls in love with Arline, a young woman of noble birth stolen as a baby and brought up as a gypsy. But the Queen of the Gypsies has also fallen in love with Thaddeus and, jealous of the younger woman, she has Arline arrested for theft. Notable for its cast of theatrical luminaries, and with a tantalizing and rare glimpse of Helen Terry, the film was praised for its staging, but criticized for its overall lack of drama.

Dir: Harley Knoles. Starring Ivor Novello, Ellen Terry, Gladys Cooper, Constance Collier. GB 1922, 70mins.

15.30 The Great White Silence (Emmanuel College)
In 1910, Captain Robert Falcon Scott led what he hoped would be the first successful team to reach the South Pole. But the expedition also had a complex (and completely genuine) scientific brief. Scott’s decision to include a cameraman in his expedition team was a remarkable one for its time, and it is thanks to his vision – and to Herbert Ponting’s superb eye – that, a century later, we have an astonishing visual account of his tragic quest. The film built on Ponting’s lecture, introducing intertitles, as well as his own stills, maps, portraits and paintings, to create a narrative of the tragic events. The film was lavishly restored by the BFI National Archive in 2010 for the centenary of the expedition with original tints and tones and a newly commissioned score by Simon Fisher-Turner.

Dir: Herbert G. Ponting. With: Capt. Robert Falcon Scott. GB 1924, 108mins.

17.30 A Couple of Down and Outs (Arts Picturehouse – Screen 3)
In this timely reprise for the War Horse of its day, a man recognizes the horse that he cared for on the battlefields of the First World War as it is being led off to the knackers yard. Man and horse go on the run in a beautifully told tale of official brutality and individual compassion. Print courtesy of the EYE Film Institute Amsterdam.

Dir. Walter Summers. With: Rex Davis, Edna Best. GB 1923, 64mins

19.00 Turksib – Gala Screening (Emmanuel College)
With live music from Bronnt Industries Kapital

This masterpiece of Soviet film making describes the construction of the great Turkestan-Siberia railway as it progresses 1445km through the vast Steppes and deserts of Kazakhstan. The railway was one of the great achievements of the Soviet Five Year Plan and Turin’s film captures the revolutionary fervour of the endeavour with it’s symphonic form and rhythms, backed up by Bronnt Industries fabulous new score. ‘A lyrical, humane, superbly edited masterpiece’ The Guardian.

Dir: Viktor Turin, USSR 1929, 78mins

21.00 Here’s a Health to the Barley Mow – Gala Screening (Emmanuel College)
A cornucopia of short films from the acclaimed BFI DVD release, Here’s a Health to the Barley Mow, featuring a century of folk customs and ancient rural games from mummers and morris dancers, to extreme sports and village customs. The programme will include some of the earliest known film footage of English folk traditions from around the country, some collected by pioneer folk revivalist Cecil Sharp in 1911. Live musical accompaniment will be provided by renowned musicians, concertina player Rob Harbron with Miranda Rutter on fiddle in what promises to be a unique and unmissable event.

Dir: various. GB. Total running time approx 80mins.


09.00 The Blackguard (Arts Picturehouse – Screen 3)
Based on Raymond Paton’s 1923 novel about a penniless and wounded violinist who saves a young Russian princess from execution during the 1917 Russian Revolution. The film was shot at UFA’s Babelsberger Studios in Germany as a co-production with Gainsborough, and is noteworthy for Hitchcock’s contribution as Art Director. The Blackguard is a good example of big 1920s European film making with impressive crowd scenes, and it never looks less than fabulous.

Dir: Graham Cutts. With Jane Novak, Walter Rilla, Frank Stanmore. GB/Germany 1925. 80mins

09.15 Owd Bob (Emmanuel College)
Taken from the novel by Alfred Ollivant, Edwards’ charming film is a tale of love and rivalry in the Cumbrian hills. With his loyal dog Bob close by his side, young farmer James Moore is new to the valley, much to the annoyance of long-standing land owner Adam McAdam. However, real trouble comes to this close-knit community with the discovery of the bodies of savagely killed sheep. Acrimony and accusations ensue causing a deep set family feud. Who is to blame? Could Bob really be the culprit? Featuring some evocative location photography of the Lake District.

Dir: Henry Edwards. With: Ralph Forbes, James Carew, J. Fisher. GB 1924 68mins

11.00 Ask the Experts – Silent film in the 21st century (Emmanuel College)
The worldwide success of The Artist has focused attention on silent cinema like never before. Will this phenomenon translate into greater interest in silent film? Or is it in fact the result of increased interest in silent cinema rather than a cause? In this panel session specialists from the ‘British Silent Film Festival’, explain their passion for silent film, look at other examples of silent film in the 21st century and trace the development of silent film in the 20th century to explain its enduring appeal. Here is your chance to find out all you ever wanted to know about silent film, but never dared ask.

11.00 The Golden Butterfly/Der Goldene Schmetterling (Arts Picturehouse – Screen 3)
The final of our P.G. Wodehouse silent film adaptations is an altogether different affair from his golfing tales and this time, directed by the legendary Michael Curtiz before his migration to Hollywood. This is the story of a young restaurant cashier (Damita) who longs to be a dancer and each evening after work, she heads off to practice. One day she meets a handsome impresario who promises to make her a star, so she abandons her job and the boss who has fallen in love with her. But things go horribly wrong when an accident at the London Coliseum threatens to ruin her life. Some scenes were filmed on location in Cambridge.

Dir: Michael Curtiz. With: Lily Damita, Jack Trevor, Hermann Leffler, Nils Asther. Germany 1926, 95mins

13.30 Short films from Desmet Collection at EYE – Netherlands (Arts Picturehouse – Screen 3)
A cornucopia of delights from the Desmet Collection held in the Netherlands Film Archive. This selection of British shorts includes Didums and the Bathing Machine in which the eponymous nightmare-child torments a hapless bather by stealing his clothes and the mad-cap Tilly girls in Tilly in a Boarding House. Also featuring are, A Canine Sherlock Holmes, Charley Smiler is Robbed, The Adventures of P.C.Sharpe and Picture Palace Pie Cans.

Dir: various. Running time approx 80mins

13.30 Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul (Emmanuel College)
A sensitive adaptation of H G Wells gentle comedy of social manners with a near perfect, and totally natural performance by George K Arthur (which was praised by Charlie Chaplin who attended the preview with H G Wells himself) in the lead role. Other things to enjoy are the nicely photographed seaside locations, the performance by the director’s wife, Edna Flugrath who plays the girl next door despite being clearly too old for the younger Ann, and the intriguing possibility that Josef Von Sternberg was involved with the production. He was certainly in London assisting Shaw around this time.

Dir. Harold Shaw. With: George K Arthur, Edna Flugrath, Teddy Arundell. GB 1921, 88mins

15.30 The Annual Rachael Low Lecture – Britain could make it! (Arts Picturehouse – Screen 2)
Fifteen years of British Silents discoveries, and why we need to dig further into the mysterious ‘teens .

When the British Silent Festival began fifteen years ago, very little was known or seen from the silent era in British production beyond Hitchcock. Now silent film is booming, and it’s clear that Britain had some outstanding talents, even though many of the films are lost. In this Rachael Low lecture, Ian Christie will be looking back at some of the festival’s discoveries, and taking a closer look at the period we still know least about – the mysterious ‘teens.

Ian Christie is a film historian, critic and curator, who teaches at Birkbeck College and regularly appears in television coverage of film history. He wrote the BBC Centenary of Cinema series, The Last Machine, presented by Terry Gilliam, and curated the BFI DVD of Robert Paul’s collected films.

17.30 The Ghost that Never Returns with the Dodge Brothers (West Road Concert Hall)
In an unnamed South American country, Jose Real is jailed for his activism at an oil refinery. Exasperated at his power and his popularity with the prison inmates, the authorities decide to eliminate him by promising him one day’s freedom and then sending an assassin to follow him. Together they ride trains and track across desert landscapes in a deadly game of cat and mouse which only one can survive. The movie looks and feels like a piece of Americana directed by Wim Wenders – and that is how the Dodge Brothers and Neil Brand have scored it. Following on from their triumphant score for ‘Beggars of Life’ the Dodges return to breathe rhythmic life into a classic of Soviet cinema full of moving characters and striking visuals, a movie you may never have heard of but, after seeing it, one you will never forget.

“There are those rare moments in life where you are privileged to bear witness to a unique event, this, for me was one of them. Should they saddle up and recreate this triumph at any time in the future, then my advice to anyone, is buy your ticket early.”

Dir: Abram Room; With B. Ferdinandov, Olga Zhizneva, Maksim Stralikh. USSR 1929. Performance will last approx 80mins.

20.30 Highlights of the British Silent Film – Closing Event (The Varsity Hotel – Rooftop)
Over the past 14 years the British Silent Film Festival has uncovered a host of fascinating films almost unknown by the British public – this selection of feature films, actualities, animations, comedies, adverts local films, travelogues, nature and exploration film aims to inspire you to know more about the first 35 years of your film heritage. With live music from the best silent film accompanists in the world.

More information, as always, on the festival website.

Alas for Twickenham

Filming the feature film London (1927) at Twickenham Film Studios, from

Yesterday it was reported that Twickenham Film Studios is to close. Administrators have been called in, and the business will have been wound down completely by June 2012. Twickenham had been used for such classics as A Hard Day’s Night, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Repulsion, Alfie, An American Werewolf in London and Blade Runner, and at least three films up for Academy Awards this year used the studios facilities in one form or another (War Horse, My Week with Marilyn and The Iron Lady).

The studio’s closure comes just one year short of its centenary. Twickenham must be one of the world’s oldest continually running film studios. It was founded in 1913 by Ralph Jupp, who purchased a former roller skating rink at St Margaret’s, Twickenham on the outskirts of London, and converted it into a premier film studio. Jupp was the UK’s leading film exhibitor, being the managing director of the leading cinema circuit Provincial Cinematograph Theatres. Together with film director Percy Nash and actor John East he formed the London Film Company, with the aim of producing high-qality feature films able to match the best of American product (American directors were imported, George Loane Tucker and Harold Shaw), to be made at what was then called St Margaret’s Studios.

According to Rachael Low, the studio had one stage 165ft x 75ft with a part glass roof (blacked out in 1916) and the lot occupied three-quarters of an acre. The studio employed 50-60 (plus a stock company of actors), utilised Pathé, Debrie and Moy cameras, for lighting employed 120 Westminster arcs, six mercury vapour tubes and eight Boardman ‘North Lights’, its power supply was a 300KW rotary convertor fed from the Twickenham mains, and it had its own film processing plant.

East and Nash had left in 1914 to form Neptune Studios (later Elstree), and Jupp sold out to the ambitious Alliance Company in 1918. Alliance made such comparatively lavish productions as The Bohemian Girl and Carnival before going out of business in 1922, after which the studios were leased out to various companies, with such notable British silents as The Flag Lieutenant and The Only Way being made there. In 1928 the new owner Julius Hagen formed Twickenham Film Studios and the studios were active throughout the 1930s, making low budget productions of which the quota quickies directed by Michael Powell are now the most celebrated.

Hagen died in 1938, and the studios were hit by a bomb during the Second World War, but they continued as part of Alliance Film Studio (no relation to the earlier Alliance), subsisting on TV work but then enjoying a revival in the 1960s, perhaps most notably as home for the Beatles’ first two feature films. Work continued into present times, though the small studio was generally used for TV, commercials and post-production work.

Twickenham Film Studios today

The Twickenham Film Studios website gives no indication of its impending closure, and one wonders what will become of the website itself. It has information not only on the studio facility and recent productions, but has a history section (with minor errors dotted throughout), a picture gallery, and a downloadable filmography. There is real pride there in ninety-nine years of motion picture production. How do other silent era British film studios do when it comes to recording the history online?

Elstree gives no more than its founding date (1926), overlooking the earlier film history of the site going back to 1914. Ealing Studios notes that there was a film studio on the site from 1902, formed by Will Barker (Barker’s first actual studio on the site was 1907) but then bypasses nearly forty years of history to focus on the Ealing comedies of the 1940s and 50s. Gainsborough Studios in Islington is now a block of flats whose site says nothing of the site’s distinguished film history. Lime Grove studios, founded by Gaumont in 1915, was a BBC studio until 1991, after which the site was re-developed as a housing estate (see the website for an extensive history). Beaconsfield, founded in 1921, is now part of the National Film and Television School, though you would never know that from the NFTS site. Teddington, founded in 1912 by Ec-Ko Films (Charles Urban may have used the same site) and now part of the Pinewood Group, is active as a television studio, but there is no indication of its long history on the Pinewood Group site.

Of the others – Walton-on-Thames (a history going back to 1899, became Nettlefold and closed in 1961), Welwyn (the British Instructional Films studios, founded in 1927, closed in 1951), Isleworth (Worton Hall), Cricklewood, Bushey, Walthamstow, Harlesden (Craven Park) and more, nothing remains physicially and nothing therefore exists officially online, though fan sites and other such histories can be found (see in particular the useful summary histories on the forum). So it looks like the studio that cared most for its history, Twickenham, is the one that is going under. A sad day.