Please note: The Bioscope is no longer active as a blog but is being kept online as an archive.

The Bioscope is dedicated to the subject of early and silent cinema. It covers news, publications, events, discoveries, documents, critical theory, filmmakers, performers, audiences and the technology of the silent era, embracing film production, distribution and exhibition, as well as ‘pre-cinema’, chronophotography, optical toys, and related media, across the world. There is an emphasis on research and scholarly discovery, but there should be as much here for the general enthusiast as for the specialist.

As well as the main posts, there are answers to frequently asked questions on early and silent cinema, and pages on books which are freely available online, digitised journals from the silent era, digitised directories, catalogues, and a guide to video sources (retailers and online access).

The Bioscope was administered and written by Luke McKernan.

These are some of the key informational posts on The Bioscope:

These are some of the subject series on The Bioscope, with links to the individual posts:

The Bioscope Festival of Lost Films 2008
A virtual festival of films that are – so far as is known – no more

Day 1: A Study in Scarlet (1914) and The Great European War (1914)
Day 2: Ein Sommernachtstraum (1925) and Hamlet (1907)
Day 3: Human Wreckage (1923) and Dorian Gray (1913)
Day 4: The Mountain Eagle (1926) and Number 13 (1922)
Day 5: Drakula halála (1921) and Life Without Soul (1915)
Footnotes to the Festival

The Bioscope Festival of Lost Films 2009
More lost films

Day 1War Brides (1916) and Kiddies in the Ruins (1918)
Day 2The Land of Mystery (1920) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1915)
Day 3The Jeffries-Sharkey Fight (1899) and The Battle of Jeffries and Sharkey for Championship of the World (1899)
Day 4Das Mirakel (1912) and Das Mirakel (1912)
Day 5 – With apologies…
Footnotes to the Festival

The Bioscope Guide to… [ongoing]
Reference guides to national cinema histories

South Africa

The Bioscope interviews … [ongoing]
Interviews with silent film experts

Matthew Solomon

Colourful stories [ongoing]
The history of colour cinematography in the silent era

Part 1: James Clerk Maxwell and the first colour photograph
Part 2: The Kromskop
Part 3: The first patent for colour cinematography, in 1897
Part 4: The Lee and Turner three-colour system, patented in 1899
Part 5: The Brighton School
Part 6: Inventing Kinemacolor
Part 7: Reviving Kinemacolor
Part 8: Hand-painted colour
Part 9: The Pathé stencil colour system
Part 10: First public exhibition of natural colour motion pictures
Part 11: Kinemacolor in America
Part 12: Tinting and toning
Part 13: The end of Kinemacolor
Part 14: Gaumont Chronochrome

Lives in film [ongoing]
How the motion picture recorded and influenced some notable individuals

No 1. Alfred Dreyfus: part 1 – the films of Georges Méliès; part 2 – the films of Biograph and Pathé; part 3 – filmography
No. 2 – T.E. Lawrence
No. 3 – Dan Leno
No. 4 – Jack Johnson
No. 5 – Niranjan Pal

Pen and pictures [ongoing]
Literary figures and their engagement with silent films

No. 1 – Thomas Hardy
No. 2 – The most popular authors, 1896-1915
No. 3 – J.M. Barrie
No. 4 – Evelyn Waugh
No. 5 – John Buchan
No. 6 – George Bernard Shaw
No. 7 – Leo Tolstoy
No. 8 – Arthur Conan Doyle + filmography
No. 9 – The cinema novel

Pordenone diary 2007
Reports on the 2007 Pordenone silent film festival

Day one: The Verdi and Dream Street
Day two: Starewitch, Clair and Wege Zu Kraft und Schönheit
Day three: D.W. Griffith and the death of cinema
Day four: Das Alte Gesetz and Annie Bos
Day five: Films from the Bible lands

Pordenone diary 2008
Reports on the 2008 Pordenone silent film festival

Day oneSparrows
Day twoSally of the Sawdust, His Nibs and the earthquake at Messina
Day three – Jacques Feyder and The Sorrows of Satan
Day four – Keystone, Dickson and Ed’s Co-ed
Day five – Griffith, The Watermelon Patch and Little Old New York
Day sixBardelys the Magnificent, Brighton and Laila
Day sevenLiving London, Alexander Shiryaev and Michael Nyman

Pordenone diary 2009
Reports on the 2009 Pordenone silent film festival

Day oneThe Merry Widow
Day twoDer Hund Von Baskerville, Ce Cochon De Morin, Daddy
Day threeThe Ten Commandments, Carmen
Day fourWenn Das Herz in Hass Ergluht, Dom Na Trubnoi
Day fiveA Canine Sherlock Holmes, Der Golem
Day sixThe Rose of Rhodesia, Justice d’Abord, A Scandal in Bohemia
Day sevenThe Wheels of Chance, J’Accuse, Ein Madel und Drei Clowns
Day eightThe Master of the House, The Final Problem

Pordenone diary 2010
Reports on the 2010 Pordenone silent film festival

Day oneJapanese Girls at the Harbour
Day twoSeven Seas, Rituaes e festas Bororo, Mutter Krausens Fahrt ins Glück, Drifters
Day threeLove Be With Humanity, The Masks of Mer, Le Miracle des Loups
Day fourSalt for Svanetia, A Thief Catcher, Upstream, Chess Fever
Day fiveBed and Sofa, Madagascan films of 1898, Marizza, Rien Que Les Heures
Day sixBlind Justice, Shingun, The Great Art of Light and Shadow
Day sevenWhy Do You Cry Youngsters?, Giuli, Corrick Collection, Robin Hood
Day eightYoung Master at University, The Ghost that Never Returns, Wings

Pordenone diary 2011
Reports on the 2011 Pordenone silent film festival

Day oneGantsirluni, Un Amore Selvaggio, Più che la morte
Day twoAsphalt, Mantrap, Die Sklavenkönigin
Day threeAmerikanka, Chyortovo Koleso, Japanese animation
Day fourThe Lady of the Dugout, Oblomok Imperii, La Voyage dans la lune, Shinel
Day fiveHintertreppe, The Force that through the Green Fire Fuels the Flower, The Circus, Khabarda
Day sixThe Great White Silence, Eliso, Fiaker Nr. 13, The Canadian
Day sevenCenere, Salomy Jane, The White Shadow
Day eightDas Spielzeug Von Paris, South, The Wind

In its first few months the Bioscope had other, occasional contributors, whose posts can be found in the archives. Their real names and pen names are:

Stephen Bottomore (stebo)
Bryony Dixon (britishsilents)
Buckey Grimm (oldnitrate)
Frank Kessler (frankkessler)

34 responses

  1. Dear All,

    I’ve only just found this website! Amazing! I’m doing research on World War I film projection/exhibition for wounded soldiers. I’m trying to find information about which kinds of portable projectors might have been used in fields (yes I have a photo of film projection on the battlefront but no information about the specifics, what kind of projector it was, how it was supplied with power, etc.) of France as well as in hospitals there and back in U.S. Ideally, I’d like images of these projectors and information about their manufacture and specifications. Also, I see that you have found the fascinating film on early facial surgery, or the creation of facial masks for disfigured soldiers. I have information about a female artist, French, who made some of these for soldiers. I am anxious to see the film offered through Project Facade. Glad to have found your website!

    grateful for any assistance,

  2. Hi there,

    Glad to have been of service. I was quite pleased with the post on projectionists and Project Facade. I know a little bit about filming during World War One, but for the sort of information you’re seeking on projectors and film shows I’d recommend contacting the Imperial War Museum, which has a huge collection of First World War films (it is the official archive) and considerable knowledge concerning their production and exhibition. Contact details etc from
    http://collections.iwm.org.uk/server/show/nav.00g004. However, so far as I know they don’t have the facial surgery film shown on Project Facade, and I just hoped that the original nitrate is being properly cared for.

    Do contact me if I can help any further.

    (lmckernan [at] talktalk.net)

  3. Dear Luke,

    Had heard you had fled the British Film Insitute, of fond memory. Your new spot seems to suit you. Congratulations! Fascinating article about “Shakespeare in the Canyon” – Massive 1916 production of “Julius Caesar”, with name part played by Theodore Roberts, current flavour of my month, and Charlton Heston’s predecessor as Moses!

    Snippet: found in “Harrison’s Reports”, 17th September 1922, p.150. Early instance of product placement, in “The Affairs of Anatol” – An advertisement for “Le Secret du Diable”, a French perfume, appeared in close-up, and could be cut out without injuring the story. Also “S.S.” cigarettes. Not accurate quote. Use as you will.

    Keep ’em coming. Best regards, Gerald.

  4. I fled the British Film Institute some eight years ago (actually, I departed with a measured pace, I like to think), and after a lively stint at the British Universities Film & Video Council, I’m now at the British Library.

    Thanks for the product placement anecdote. I’ve been contemplating a post on product placement in silent films for a while now. It’s a practice almost as old as the movies themselves – there are examples in Lumiere films from 1896.


  5. I believe really The Bioscope was one of the best silent websites on the web. Good job and many thanks for the link.

    Best regards,


  6. I’m writing a novel set in Sparrow Bush that involves the discovery of a very old silent movie, probably from 1911. I need a resource person whom I can ask questions of re film history, what sort of film would have been available at the time, and how such an old film could be viewed today. I would be very grateful if you would agree to be that person for me. Also, are you personally connected to the Neversink Valley Area Museum, and could you answer questions about its physical layout and where there might be a room in which a (fictional) bunch of old movie buffs could meet once a week to discuss and view old films? Any information you can provide will be greatly appreciated. Thank you! Beth Evans

  7. I hope someone can help me with some research I am doing, I have come into possession of a boxed rolled gold bangle that is engraved on the inside ‘With the compliments of J Warren Kerrigan’.

    There is an old clipping from what looks like a news paper with a picture of Warren staring in Captain Blood, I am trying to find out if there is a fan club for Warren or if there is someone who can tell me who this may have been given to and why? I can send pictures if needed.

    Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.

  8. I’ll post your query on the Nitrateville discussion list, which is home to many experts on silent film, and see who might have an answer. I’ve not heard of a J. Warren Kerrigan fan club, and I can’t explain the gold bangle myself.

    if you could send a photo that would help – send it to lmckernan [at] talktalk.net.

  9. Hi there,

    I am just very curious…

    How do people manage to get information in very early films? I mean, it is most likely that there is not even any records of it… (for films of early 19 hundreds and before)

    Anyway, I thought perhaps you could tell us from your own experience :)


  10. Hi Bruce,

    Well, I guess the whole of this blog is an attempt to answer your question, as its aim is to demonstrate what rich resources exist for the study of early film. Essentially lots of information exists, even for the earliest years, though sometimes you have to dig deep to find it. The main sources are newspapers, film and photographic trade journals, contemporary catalogues (a good source of information on what was produced), film archive catalogues, theatre bills, memoirs, personal papers, contemporary books, secondary literature, posters and other forms of advertising, photographs, and so on. These you can find in archives, film institutes, museums, libraries, and increasingly online.

    So there are lots of records, though for some of the early films that were made we no longer have any record, or just a title and no more. So the study of early film is a bit like archaeology, because you’re continually digging for things while never being sure of what you might find. That’s what makes it fun.

  11. Hi,

    You may have had this information on your site but i’ve not been able to find it; the BFI have released two dvds of Frank Borzage films, (including Street Angel), each containing 2 movies.
    thought you might want to know so you can post something.

    You run a grea website, it’s a great way to get a fix of my silent film needs and i’ve discovered dvds i wouldn’t otherwise have known about. Many thanks


  12. Hi Ian,

    Thanks for the kind words. I had spotted the Borzage DVDs and will write something on them in due course. I’m a bit erratic when it comes to coverage of DVDs, and will try to do better.

  13. Hi! you have an amazing website. I am a tv producer and editor and applaud your work here on the site.

    I have a question: Where can I get a large version of the illustration of Richard Sheldon from the 1900 Paris Olympic games – in your sports section. He is my great grand uncle and it would be priceless for me to get a large copy I could print out for my family. Please let me know.

    Thanks you VERY much!!!


  14. Does anyone know a good distributor in the UK to get silent films from on 35mm film? Park Circus just try to rip you off by wanting ludicrous hire fees and the BFI have tough rules about joining reels together.

    We are wanting to put on another silent film with live theatre organ accompaniment but are having trouble getting films.

    Anyway able to help?



  15. hi,

    if anyone is interested: I collected about 400 silent movie descriptions, most of them – sorry – in German. These are movies which I mostly accompanied on piano for the Austrian Filmmuseum, Austrian Film Archive and Breitenseer Kino in Vienna. To most of the movies also a picture is added.
    to be found on this webpage: http://www.stummfilm.at


  16. I’ve got a poster from 1902 of “The Albert Music Hall” One pf the Acts is “Paynes Royal Bioscope”
    that was showing The Coronation Pictures “Edward VII”
    Does anyone know anything about “Paynes Royal Biscope ?” I think he ran Fairground Shows !

  17. Hi Dave,

    Captain Thomas Payne is my great grandfather. He married Agnes and had 4 surviving children. (I have marriage, birth and census records. (I also did some research last year at the National Fairground Archive in Sheffield.)He commissioned quite a few films also. Books mention that he is the brother of Annie Holland but we haven’t managed to verify this yet! I suspect it could be his mother? He died in 1926 (the same year as Thomas Payne,my grandfather. Thomas Payne, my grandfather married Ellen Rushforth, who was part of a dancing and singing act in the music halls “The Two Raynes” in 1910. My father born 1911 was looked after until he was 5 years old by relatives because his parents travelled around.
    Have you managed to find any information? I spoke with Vanessa Toulmin when I was there.

  18. Dear Friends,

    I am looking for information about the silent films my Great Aunt is in.
    Her name is Neyneen Farrell, and she was in:

    Frozen Justice (1929) ….role of Yukon Lucy

    Dollar Devils (1923) ….role of Helen Andrews

    Your help would be GREATLY appreciated!

    THANKS YOU in advance!!

    David Pires

  19. Luke,

    My father-in-law purchased some old films from an estate many years ago and one of the films is labeled “San Francisco in 1904 A Trip Down Market Street.” I noticed in the section on this film that only 3 copies survive, so I may have the 4th copy. Can you please tell me what we can do to find out more about these films and what we can do with the Market Street film we currently have.

    Thank you.

    Gayle Kerch

  20. Many thanks. It so happens I’ve been planning an update on this – I wrote a post on their movie-related lantern slides back in 2007 which needs revisiting and there are other GEH image collections to highlight.

  21. News about J.P. McGowan —
    The half-hour film Stunt Love was shown at Museum of Modern Art, NY, on 6-7 April 2011. The film was commissioned by the Adelaide Film Festival in JP’s home state, South Australia. It concerns mainly the association between the Australian, J.P. McGowan, and Chicago-born Helen Holmes — their series The Hazards of Helen, and their other serials and adventure films especially in the railroad genre.