Film: 5881

Media | 1970 | Sound | B/W + Colour

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Synopsis:

A film presented by John Huntley, exploring the contribution to early film-making made by the brothers James and Frank Bamforth of Holmfirth in Yorkshire, who had previously produced magic lantern slides and picture postcards 1970's

The programme includes a few films made by the Lumiere brothers in the 1890s, as well as several made by the Bamforth brothers.

Black and white footage of a horse and carriage being led by a man down a sloping road, while a crowd of children throw snowballs at it. John Huntley's (JH) commentary begins, as the children scamper up the hill. Some slide, others tumble down the snowy hill, then run back up again, while others continue to come down; JH explains that the film was made in 1896 by James and Frank Bamforth, 'the first Yorkshiremen ever to make movies'.

The title and credits appear on the screen on a colourful Victorian illustration of four seated figures looking up at it; the camera moves back to bring the full poster into view, showing more figures sitting in the audience.

A distant view down towards a small town situated in a valley, as JH explains that the story begins at Holmfirth, 'famous for its choirs, its old mills, its great floods and its picture postcards'. A view along a high street, showing shops in old stone buildings and a branch of Lloyds Bank on a corner in the foreground; the camera moves back to show a besuited JH standing to the right of a stone wall, with more buildings now visible in the background and trees up the hillside in the distance; he remarks that films were probably made here in the very first year that cinema existed in this country, and that for ten or fifteen years Holmfirth became 'a sort of miniature Hollywood' at least fifteen years before that place even featured on the map; he says that we must first go to Paris 'in the Christmas of 1895'.

We see a black-and-white photograph of horses and carriages, with the Arc de Triomphe rising above in the distance, before the camera moves back to show more of the foreground; JH explains that it was in Paris on 28 December 1895 that the first public film show took place. A black-and-white photograph of the brothers Louis and Auguste Lumiere of Lyon, in profile with their heads close together, looking from left to right. An illustration of one of the brothers working an early projector, the camera moving in on the figure.

A close up of a black-and-white photograph of part of the Boulevard des Capuchines, where the film show took place, before the camera allows a more inclusive shot, as JH explains that of the Englishmen present 'two men in particular become obsessed with the potential of moving pictures'. A black-and-white, head-and-shoulders photograph of a bespectacled William Riley against some bookshelves appears, as we are told that his family made lantern slide equipment. A black-and-white photograph appears of a bearded Quentin Hogg, in winged collar and striped tie, who founded the London Polytechnic. An illustration of the London Polytechnic, where on 28 February 1896 the Lumieres' show was repeated. A poster for the 'Lumieres' Cinematographe'.

A close up of a black-and-white photograph of the front of the Empire Theatre in Leicester Square, the camera moving out to show the full building with a horse and carriage in the foreground, where two weeks later the show was offered as entertainment for the first time, not just as a matter of scientific interest. A close up of the top of a programme for the Empire Theatre, with 'Cinematographe Lumieres' emblazoned above the start of a description of the show; the camera moves out to show that description on the left, opposite a list of the ten 'Pictures' to be shown, which we are told lasted 14 minutes altogether; 'The arrival of the Paris Express' is highlighted and the camera moves in on it.

'L'arrive de l'expresse de Paris' appears on a black background. The film itself begins: a railway track stretches from the bottom left corner of the screen to the top right, with a small gathering of people waiting on the platform at the right edge of the picture; a moustached porter in a cap pulls a luggage trolley beyond the picture at bottom right; the train comes slowly towards us and eventually to a halt, as JH tells how when the film was first seen at La Ciotat in the South of France, the audience ducked as the train appeared to be coming towards them; the people waiting on the platform come towards us, some running, and pass beyond the left of the picture; others get off the train and walk across the picture, while others walk away from us.

'Demolition d'un mur' against a black background. The film begins, as JH explains that it was made during building work at the Lumieres' Lyon factory: two men strike with pickaxes at two half-demolished walls standing at right angles, while another man directs them (Louis Lumiere himself, while his brother Auguste holds the camera) and a fourth stands at the left edge of the picture manning a contraption pushing against the other side of the wall there; suddenly one of the men with axes runs round to the man on the left, who turns a wheel on his contraption, applying pressure to the outside of the wall, until it collapses rightwards, leaving Louis Lumiere amidst a great cloud of dust directing the men with axes to keep striking, as the fourth man now joins them in this activity; JH mentions that a favourite trick when the film was shown was to play the shot of the collapsing wall backwards.

The title for 'Le Jardinier arrose', the most popular film in the show, appears on a black background. As the film begins, JH informs us that the gardener actually worked at the Lumieres' estate and that the boy who appears worked in the packing department of their factory: a man in a straw hat and an apron directs a hose towards the left, before a blonde boy suddenly appears from the right and steps on the hose, causing the gardener to look at his hose in astonishment, as the water stops and starts; a jet of water eventually knocks off his hat, and he chases the boy to the top left of the picture, then pulls him back by the ear and turns him round, smacking him.

The close up of the top of the Empire Theatre again, as JH tells how the show ran for two weeks. The photograph of William Riley again, as we are told that he had more ambitious plans up in Yorkshire. An illustration of the Riley Brothers factory in the Westgate area of Bradford, which produced lantern slide equipment. An illustration of the Riley Brothers' 'Cineoptoscope Camera'. Another of a primitive projector that they produced. Both appear side-by-side, linked by a 'Riley Bros. Ltd.' label.

A black-and-white photograph of James Bamforth, bearded, in a winged collar and tie, as JH tells how he and his brother Frank had been producing magic lantern slides. An example of these, showing a mother carrying a baby, standing by a harbour wall and looking out to sea. Another, of a woman reclining on a chez longue, with a heavenly scene depicted above, as JH adds that the slides were 'mostly of a religious nature'. A close up of the woman in the scene, as JH explains that they employed impressive settings and 'the use of local townspeople to portray a wide range of character'. Another slide, depicting a snowy scene in a graveyard, as several adults surround a child who leans on a gravestone.

A print of the 'Old Victorian Square' in Holmfirth, as JH comments that Riley realised that if his camera could be combined with the creativity of the Bamforths, a film industry could develop in Yorkshire. JH stands in the same square and tells how Riley took his camera to Holmfirth, at about the same time as the Lumieres' show appeared at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. A newspaper advertisement for 'The only Real and Original Lumiere Cinematographe' is highlighted. A close up of an illustration of 'Watering the gardener', the camera moving back to show it on the screen in the Victorian poster that was used at the start of the programme, though now with 'Cinematographe Lumiere' at the bottom. JH, standing in the Square, explains that the advertisement had good reason to warn against imitations, as Riley and Bamforths' first film in the summer of 1896 was in fact 'an exact imitation' of 'Watering the gardener'.

The Bamforths' version begins: a man wearing a boater waters the garden in the background, with his back to us, while a man is seen mowing the lawn beyond him; a boy in an apron runs out at bottom right and, taking cover behind a bush, squeezes on a hose with his hands, while the gardener tries to adjust the pipe, before a sudden jet knocks his hat off and him over; the boy waves his cap, taunting the gardener, who chases him around the bush before dragging him to the hosepipe and setting it on him, then chasing him beyond the bottom of the picture.

JH appears in Victoria Park, just outside Holmfirth, between two rows of bushes, with a lawn leading up to some trees in the distance; the camera moves in on the sloping lawn in the background, as JH explains that Frank Bamforth would assemble groups of local children in spots like this to make films.

Wonderful footage of children playing cricket, two batsmen scampering between the wickets, with one adult looking on, before the children break up into a fight, some using bats and stumps; JH remarks that Bamforth would have paid these children two pence a day. Another film of children fighting with their fists, JH remarking that such action films appealed to an audience who were all too familiar with static magic lantern slides.

A view of the Bamforth factory and offices now, the camera moving up to the 'Bamforth' sign at the top of the building. JH stands in the storeroom, which had once been the studio, with piles of packages to the left and right of him, and shelves holding a number of small boxes behind, explaining that James Bamforth had founded the lantern slide business in 1870.

An example of the 'life model lantern slides' produced by Bamforth: a woman in white sits on a park seat, with a brolley leaning against the seat. Another, of a man, possibly in Scottish costume, standing close to a woman. A woman, head in hand, leans on a gravestone. The example seen earlier, of a woman and child looking out to sea. One of a man seated on a rock looking down at the ground, as JH emphasises the importance of the 'painted backcloths' produced by James Bamforth for the slides. Another of a man kneeling beside a woman in front of a garden fence. A woman at a church organ, with a religious scene depicted above to the right, as JH explains that the early subjects were mostly religious. A woman cradles the head of a reclining man, as JH tells how many depicted 'the evils of drink' and were popular with Temperance Societies. One of a family sitting around a table at home. Another of a father with his daughter sitting on his right knee, illustrating the popular song 'Daddy'. A series of picture postcards, including some naughty seaside examples, which the Bamforths pioneered.

JH, head-and-shoulders in front of the shelves in the storeroom, tells how the magic lantern slides had been best taken indoors, but the early cinematograph worked better outside in the light, so that Bamforth began to translate the scenes that were depicted in the slides and postcards to the outdoors for their films.

'Catching the Milk Thief' against a black background. JH comments that the actors had taken part in posed postcards photographed in the Bamforths' studio, as we see a man attempting to help himself to a jug of milk on top of a large rectangular container bearing the label 'Nestles Milk'; he is wrestled to the ground by two men, while another appears from the right with a wheelbarrow and contributes a few blows with a broom, before they all tie up the thief with rope, bundle him in the wheelbarrow and push him off, kicking, at the bottom left of the picture.

'The Tramp and the Baby's Bottle'. A park seat is seen on the left-hand half of the screen, to which a woman walks from the right, sitting at that end with her pram bearing a child beside her, as she reads a newspaper; a policeman walks on from the left, seems to walk past her, but goes round the back of the seat and leans over to kiss the woman; he comes round to the front and sits down close beside her, before they both walk off to the right, leaving the child in the pram beside the seat; a tramp appears from round the back of the seat, and puts the child's bottle in his mouth, before he is chased by the policeman, while the woman stands by the pram; she sits back down in her original position, where she is joined by a dog.

'Ladies' Skirts Nailed to a Fence' (later identified as 'Women's Rights'). As JH encourages us to watch for an early example of 'developing film technique: a reverse angle', we see two women holding open umbrellas and gossiping in front of a fence. They appear the other side of the fence, with only their heads visible; two boys appear on the side nearest to us and hammer the hems of their skirts, peeping through cracks in the fence, to the nearest side, so that they realise they are trapped, one of the women waving her umbrella. A prolonged view of the women from the side that they are on, struggling to get away, waving their umbrellas, the woman on the right eventually freeing herself and trying to release the other; JH comments: 'As with all early film-makers, the scene goes on until the film runs out of the camera', and he invites us to spot a moment when the woman on the right of the picture pauses momentarily to see whether the camera is still turning.

'Lover Kisses Husband'. A man wearing a boater and carrying a cane sits down to the left of his wife in front of a brick wall and they embrace; while he pauses to sneeze, another man, watching behind a water pump to the right of the seat, bundles off the wife and takes her place; when the husband puts his arm around the man's neck, he pauses in horror but is seized and wrestled by the interloper, who places his head under the water pump and pulls the handle.

JH stands in a different part of the Bamforths' old studio to explain that the next film was one actually made there, and that we should observe the introduction of two parts into the story and the music hall convention of the woman in a knockabout routine being played by a man.

'The Would-Be Conjuror'. A conjuror facing rightwards waves a wand, as a man appears from the right of the picture; the conjuror places the man's top hat on the ground between them, then twists the man's nose, causing a torrent of coins to fall into the hat, which he picks up and pours onto the floor, before the man puts his hat back on; the conjuror bows and leaves via the left of the picture. The man's wife is using a rolling pin at a table facing us, as the man appears through a door on the left; as they face each other in front of the table, she standing on the left and he on the right, he places his hat between them and twists her nose; on finding that no coins have appeared in the hat, he tries again, causing his wife to put up a fight, in which she uses the rolling pin and the table crashes forward.

JH, head-and-shoulders, explains that in the next film 'a new principle of film-making is beginning to emerge in the Bamforth films', the combination of studio and location settings, one edited into the other. 'Kiss in the Tunnel'. A train moves slowly away from us, from the bottom right of the screen, into a tunnel in the centre. In a train carriage, a woman sits on the left reading a newspaper, while a man sits opposite her, on the right, lighting a cigarette; he sits beside her and they embrace. A train approaches us from a distance and passes beyond the bottom left corner of the screen.

A fuller view of JH in the Bamforth storeroom, as he comments on the Bamforths' introduction of character into their films, raising a book of old issues of the comic Chips. A close up of the first page of an 1896 issue, as JH explains that the Bamforths were particularly taken with the characters Weary Willie, a tramp, and Tired Tim. We see a postcard of Willie with his trousers torn at the back, as a schoolboy laughs behind him, to the right. JH appears again to explain that the Bamforths soon began to make a series of films about the character filmed in a local park.

'Weary Willie'. From left to right, a man behind a paper, a woman, a man in a top hat with a cane and a woman in an imposing hat sit on a park seat; Willie appears from the right, with a bag on a stick over his right shoulder, and sits on the right edge of the seat, as one by one each person gets up and leaves; eventually he is able to lie down, with his head at the left end, then sit up and read the paper.

JH stands on the outside balcony of the Electric Cinema, later the Valley Theatre and now a bingo hall, just down the road from the Bamforths' factory, a pair of partly glass doors behind him to the right; he explains that all the films seen so far were intended for touring shows, music halls and village halls, as it was only after 1910 that the idea of the cinema emerged; the camera moves back to show the old cinema more fully, the present sign for 'Kory's Bingo' visible on the left. A close up of the original date of 1912 at the top of the building. JH walks towards us along the aisle between two sections of red seats in the auditorium, the camera following him as he sits down facing us in the left section; he tells of how one of the Bamforths' actors, Henry Vernon, was the first manager there, and how the films shown there were 'getting much stronger in regard to story-line and particularly in regard to technical quality'.

'Bamforth' logo. 'The Mystic Glove'. We see people reflected in a shop window, before a figure in a boater carrying a cane (Alf Foy, an example of the 'professionals' that the Bamforths recruited from music halls in nearby Huddersfield) appears from the left, the camera following him rightwards along a row of shop windows, before he points with his cane at a poster promising all you can eat for '9D' and enters. He puts his boater and cane on a peg behind him, then sits down at a long counter facing us, strikes a bell on the top and is greeted by a waitress who appears from the right and takes his order. She returns with food, and there follows a long sequence in which he wolfs down food and drink brought to him, repeatedly hammering on the bell, and appears to be getting larger and larger; he gets up, displaying an exaggeratedly large belly, gives the waitress what, judging by her expression, is a derisory tip, and collects his hat and cane from behind. He emerges from the front door, clutching his belly and pointing to the sign in the window; the camera watches him walk away, JH remarking on the similarity of his walk to Charlie Chaplin's.

'After the heavy meal, 'Tomkins' has a horrible dream.' A white-sheeted bed lies across the screen, on which he first sits facing us, shaking his head, before lying down; a white-sheeted ghostly figure appears behind the bed. 'When in trouble, tap yourself or another with one of these gloves and see what happens'. The spirit leaves a pair of white gloves with the sleeping Tomkins.

A pair of lovers on a park seat, at bottom left of the screen, are approached by Tomkins carrying his white gloves, with which he strikes the man, who turns into a blacked-up African chief, who chases the woman, until Tomkins strikes her with the gloves; she becomes a policeman, who tries to apprehend the African chief; next, Tomkins suddenly becomes another policeman, albeit one with a paunch, who watches his colleague chase off the African, before he uses the gloves to transform the policeman back into the woman and himself back to his original identity; the film ends with the two embracing where the two lovers had originally been on the seat, then walking away from us arm-in-arm; JH explains that these effects were achieved through 'stop motion', the camera being stopped while one actor replaced another.

'Winky's Week-End'. Winky's wife sits on the left of a kitchen table, with Winky himself sitting on the far side facing us, as she reads a letter. A close shot of the letter, which, JH explains, is from her family, asking her to spend the weekend with them without Winky, and is an example of how early film-makers found letters a useful alternative to scripts in telling a story. Winky reacts angrily, hammering the table and raising his hand, until they make up and embrace, he following her cheerfully through the door behind. They wait on a station platform, as the train arrives on the right-hand side, moving into the centre of the picture; Winky's wife gets into a carriage, while he says goodbye through the window, other passengers and a guard passing on the platform. 'Don't forget to have the chimney swept.' Winky leaves, rushing to the left.

He enters through the door to the kitchen, and imitates the actions of a chimney sweep, before taking off his jacket. 'Sweeps cause a lot of dirt, I'll do the job myself.' He rolls up his sleeves and pokes with a broom up the chimney, before trying with his arm. 'I'll borrow Mrs Fatty's fowls.' He mimics the action of cleaning the chimney with them, grinning. In a backyard area, he finds a sack, slings it over his shoulder, then climbs over several brick walls away from us. He appears through a mesh door at the left, before stepping into a chicken shed and appearing before us with a couple of chickens, falling over in the process. He bends down to creep below Mrs Fatty's window, moving towards us; JH remarks on the look of the actor, Reginald Switz, towards the camera, 'to record his signature'.

Mrs Fatty appears through the mesh door, the camera following her as she looks round the side of the shed, then through the door, before throwing up her arms in horror and leaving by the mesh door. Winky appears through the door into his kitchen and places the sack beneath the table, which he starts to clear.

A policeman sits writing at a desk to the right, as another policeman escorts Mrs Fatty through a door facing us, allowing her to sit down to the left and hold forth, causing the seated policeman to hold his ears at one point; an inspector in frock coat and top hat, with a twisted moustache, appears through the door, bows to her, and follows her out to the room; JH observes that here are all the elements of an early Max Sennet comedy: 'the staging is comparatively elaborate, the miming is tremendous, and the editing now quite complex, even to the extent of cutting two storylines in parallel'.

Winky gathers up the table cloth with things still on it and puts another sheet under the chimney. The inspector looks into the chicken shed, before stepping about outside and looking through his magnifying glass, eventually finding something that causes Mrs Fatty to become very excited. Winky empties the sack of the chickens and struggles to push them up the chimney, having to chase one around the room, his face and front becoming covered in soot. A close shot of the inspector looking down through his magnifying glass. Winky rolls up his sleeves, smiling at the camera and counting five on his fingers, gesturing towards the chimney; suddenly, he hears a knock at the door and lets in the inspector, who doffs his hat, before examining the floor with his magnifying glass; he moves towards the chimney, but it belches out soot over both men, although the inspector continues to examine the room with his glass. A view of the roof, as a chicken emerges from a chimney on the left. Mrs Fatty, Winky, with a chicken under his arm, and the inspector are seen panicking.

Winky's wife sits on the left talking to her mother across a low table, when her father appears with a letter from Winky, which she opens in eager anticipation, only to display horror and hold her head, before all three get up and leave left of the picture. A blackened Winky looks out from prison bars, as a guard unlocks the door, Winky's wife standing to the right of the picture; they embrace, Winky covering his wife in sooty marks. The 'Bamforth' logo.

JH comes through the double doors onto the balcony of the old Electric Cinema again, explaining that around 1912, while the Bamforths' films were beginning to mature, it was ironically almost the end of the story for them; by 1914 Chaplin's first films had been made, DW Griffith had made 'Birth of a Nation', and the Bamforths were concentrating on postcards of the Kaiser and Lord Kitchener for troops to send home from the Front; 'the Bamforths, who had come into films because of postcards, now quickly returned to their first love'; the camera moves back to bring the Electric Cinema more fully into view. Credits appear on the screen featured on the colourful poster for the Lumieres' Cinematographe.


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