Predecessor of Kinemacolor
Additive 2 color: Rotary filter
George Albert Smith
“Then we come upon the name of George Albert Smith, F.R.A.S., of Laboratory Lodge, Roman Crescent, Southwick, Brighton, who in E.P. 26,671, of 1906, patented the method which eventually was commercialized as Kinemacolor.
In this patent he proposes to substitute two colours for the three which everyone had been trying to get. Alternate red and green filters were rotated in front of the lens. Double the usual number of pictures were taken: namely, 32. Smith mentions projection at 30 pictures per second. In a lecture delivered at the Royal Society of Arts (Dec. 9, 1908), he remarks that two colours seem to give a range equal to three. He exhibited a harvesting scene, and a yacht race. The greys were said to be excellent. He said: In 1902 I was invited by Mr. Charles Urban to assist in a thorough trial which he was making regardless of reasonable expense, of a three-colour process (it was probably that of Lee and Turner [see Frederick Marshall Lee and Edward Raymond Turner who patented a system in 1899], and perhaps of W. L. Davidson also). At that time little was known about the possibilities of sensitizing film to red and green, and to that extent we were handicapped. Nevertheless, in good sunlight we did succeed in taking a few negatives. He goes on to say that superimposition was found impossible ; registration was terribly uncertain ; and parallax troubles always defeated them. Simultaneous superimposition was first attempted (Lee and Turner). Then successive projection. This was successful up to a point, but required high speed, namely, 48 pictures, or even 72 pictures per second, which was entirely impracticable on contemporary projectors. The death of the original patentee (Turner) put a further damper on the enquiry. During the last four years I have renewed enquiry, said Smith, I take pictures with an Urban Bioscope Camera at 32 pictures per second. The present results are presented as early experiments in the photography of moving things in colour, and as the first serious exposition of work done in that direction.”
(Klein, Adrian Bernhard = Cornwell-Clyne (1940): Colour Cinematography. Boston: American Photographic Pub. Co.. 2nd revised edition. p. 7.)
Original Technical Papers and Primary Sources
E.P. 26,671, 1906, revoked in 1915.
Klein, Adrian Bernhard = Cornwell-Clyne (1940): Colour Cinematography. Boston: American Photographic Pub. Co., 2nd revised edition, p. 7.
McKernan, Luke (2003): ‘Something More than a Mere Picture Show’ Charles Urban and the Early Non-Fiction Film in Great Britain and America, 1897-1925. Diss., Birkbeck College, University of London, pp. 122-194.
“We have had an opportunity of seeing some results achieved by Mr. G. A. Smith of the Urban Trading Company, Rupert Street, in cinematography in colours, and whilst there is yet room for considerable improvement the progress made is extremely satisfactory. We were able to compare the colours in the pictures projected with some of the actual accessories used, and the rendering of the colours was strikingly accurate, particularly in the case of the reds. Only two taking and projecting filters were used, an orange-red, and a blue-green, the usual third or blue-violet filter being dispensed with. Naturally the whites obtained are not pure, but have a slight yellowish tinge, yet when projected on the screen with brilliant colours this defect is hardly noticeable. The progress achieved is so satisfactory that we are warranted in saying that the process should be commercially valuable in a very short time.”
(The British Journal of Photography of December 6, 1907)
“Then we come upon the name of George Albert Smith, F.R.A.S., of Laboratory Lodge, Roman Crescent, Southwick, Brighton, who in E.P. 26,671, of 1906, patented the method which eventually was commercialized as “Kinemacolor.” In this patent he proposes to substitute two colours for the three which everyone had been trying to get. Alternate red and green filters were rotated in front of the lens. Double the usual number of pictures were taken: namely, 32. Smith mentions projection at 30 pictures per second. In a lecture delivered at the Royal Society of Arts (Dec. 9, 1908), he remarks that two colours seem to give a range equal to three. He exhibited a harvesting scene, and a yacht race. The greys were said to be excellent. He said: “In 1902 I was invited by Mr. Charles Urban to assist in a thorough trial which he was making regardless of reasonable expense, of a three-colour process (it was probably that of Lee and Turner, and perhaps of W. L. Davidson also). At that time little was known about the possibilities of sensitizing film to red and green, and to that extent we were handicapped. Nevertheless, in good sunlight we did succeed in taking a few negatives.” He goes on to say that superimposition was found impossible ; registration was terribly uncertain ; and parallax troubles always defeated them. Simultaneous superimposition was first attempted (Lee and Turner). Then successive projection. This was successful up to a point, but required high speed, namely, 48 pictures, or even 72 pictures per second, which was entirely impracticable on contemporary projectors. The death of the original patentee (Turner) put a further damper on the enquiry. “During the last four years I have renewed enquiry,” said Smith, “I take pictures with an Urban Bioscope Camera at 32 pictures per second. The present results are presented as early experiments in the photography of moving things in colour, and as the first serious exposition of work done in that direction.”
(Klein, Adrian Bernhard = Cornwell-Clyne (1940): Colour Cinematography. Boston: American Photographic Pub. Co.. 2nd revised edition. on p. 7.)
“‘Something More than a Mere Picture Show’ Charles Urban and the Early Non-Fiction Film in Great Britain and America, 1897-1925
Submitted by Luke McKernan
3. The Eighth Wonder of the World
And what shall be said of ‘Kinemacolor’, the eighth wonder of the world? At the outset it was regarded with mistrust and mentioned with dubiousness – just as Daguerre’s first sun-pictures were; just as John Hollingshead’s first searchlight from the roof of the Gaiety Theatre was in ’69; aye, just as the Lords of the Admiralty of Queen Victoria’s girlhood once solemnly reported that steam power could never be of any service in her Majesty’s Navy … The history of its development would read like a page of romance, of seemingly insurmountable problems finally solved …1
While Urban had been building up his career as a producer of documentary and educational films, he had also been nurturing a strong interest in the possibility of natural colour cinematography,2 leading to what became the world’s first successful such system, Kinemacolor. The period 1908-1913, when Kinemacolor flourished, was to see Urban become a public figure of note. Kinemacolor lay at the core of everything Urban wanted to achieve.
The Age of Colours
In 1909, in an essay surveying the history and philosophy of colour printing, Charles T. Kock declared, ‘This is the age of colours; it is colour everywhere’.3 The inference was that it would be within the memory of the writer, or his audience, when it was not an age of colours. This is not to say, of course, that those of the mid-nineteenth century lived their lives in monochrome, but it was undoubtedly from around 1870 that manufactured colour in the form of illustrations, advertisements, popular prints, posters, magic lantern slides, wallpaper designs and artificial dyes began to make its particular mark on people’s lives in Western society.
The emergence of colour reproduction in Europe and America can be traced along a number of routes. Particularly significant was the invention of lithography by the Austrian Alois Senefelder in 1796, a means of producing prints from limestone or a metallic plate using a greasy ink. Senefelder experimented with producing colour prints, but it was not until 1837 that the term ‘chromolithographie’ was named in a French patent, and the first chromolithographs were produced in Britain in 1839 and in the United States the following year.4 Chromolithography proved to be a popular and democratising force that brought colour and culture into millions of homes in the form of reproductions of oil paintings between the period 1840-1900. In the words of Peter C. Marzio, ‘At the peak of America’s Victorian age, the mass-produced color lithograph waved unchallenged as the flag of popular culture … Chromolithography was a technical accomplishment with a vibrant social presence’, a phrase that could serve as a fine description for Kinemacolor in its time.5
Such mass-production of ‘high’ culture inevitably brought about a reaction, particularly in response to some of the more garish reproductions that cheaper processes created. Chromolithographs seemed to be emblematic of a dilution of culture through mechanical reproduction, and the snobbish term ‘chromocivilization’ arose to describe the supposedly meretricious tastes exposed by mass culture. Louis Prang, the most noted and most vocal of American chromolithographers, protested that, ‘the business of this age is to make the products of civilization cheap … what the people want and admire are not the dry bones or the syntax of art, but life pictures, full of the bloom and brilliancy of nature, to brighten their homes and make their own existence more pleasant’, but E.L. Godkin, editor of the elitist journal The Nation responded that ‘the confusion of ideas which assumes that “what the people want and admire” is the same thing as “what the people need and ought to admire” is strange to see’. Chromolithography for Godkin represented a ‘pseudo-culture’ which, taken with other popular media such as newspapers, magazines and lyceum lectures, ‘diffused through the community a kind of smattering of all sorts of knowledge, a taste for “art” – that is, a desire to see and own pictures – which … pass with a large body of slenderly-equipped persons as “culture”, and give them unprecedented self-confidence in dealing with all the problems of life, and raise them in their own minds to a plane on which they see nothing higher, greater or better than themselves’.6
The arguments put forward by Godkin and others were two-fold: that the colours were inherently, and often palpably, inferior to those displayed in the original works; and that a colour work produced mechanically rather than by the hand of the artist was, by definition, a diminution and cheapening of the original. The counter-argument was democratic in sentiment but driven by commercialism. This did not simply mean in terms of the number of units that could be produced. Colour itself was the attraction. The Lithographer’s Journal assessed the effect of the chromolithograph on American popular taste by stating:
…within a few decades, public taste has been lifted out of the sluggish disregard for the beautiful … and now seeks to adopt the decorative accessories, which beneficent enterprise has so cheapened as to place them within the reach of all, to the ornamentation of its homes … [T]he depressing monotony of plain walls are [sic] now relieved by bright touches of color … awakening in some degree, however faint, the innate love of beauty which marks the scale of aspiration in the human soul.7
There are, however, two kinds of colour reproductions to be considered here. There is the colour picture in the purely naturalistic sense, which offers an approximately faithful record of nature (or, as was more accurately the case with chromolithographs, a faithful record of a work of art that reproduced nature), and there is the colour picture where colour itself, to whatever form or degree, is the attraction in itself. These two forms were not mutually exclusive. The attraction, the desirable commodity, was colour. It was seen as something additional to that which had gone before, an enhancement which could denote beauty, superiority, social status or commercial value, according to usage. Colour was truer, better, brighter; colour drew attention to itself. This twin appeal of colour as natural and colour as the subject in itself was central to the exploitation of Kinemacolor. Tom Gunning sets out colour’s ‘contradictory role’ in cinema by stating that on one hand ‘there is the claim, made most explicitly by Bazin’s essay “The Myth of Total Cinema”, that color plays an essential part in the fulfilling of the ideal of cinema’s first inventors, “the reconstruction of a perfect illusion of the outside world in sound, color and relief”’, while on the other, ‘color can also appear in cinema with little reference to reality, as a purely sensuous presence, an element which can even indicate a divergence from reality’.8 The evidence of chromolithography, Kinemacolor, and other media from this period, however, indicates a more complex situation, a desire for reality and super-reality at the same time, which was to a significant extent created by the very limitations of the technical processes that enabled such colours to be reproduced.
Kinemacolor and other means of reproducing colour from the some age are part of a key period in modern cultural history, where colour became a recognisable force in how society understood itself at a time of social upheaval and democratising change, how its products were commodified, marketed, owned, displayed and comprehended. It is where salesmanship met both art and science (a natural crossroads for Charles Urban); it is when colour reproduction is equated with social attainment.
The Invention of Kinemacolor
The technical history of Kinemacolor has been told elsewhere, though never the complete story.9 Essentially, Urban became interested in colour cinematography when he was approached by in 1901 by Edward Raymond Turner, inventor of a putative three-colour motion picture system, patented on 22 March 1899.10 The Lee and Turner system employed a rotating wheel with red, green and blue sectors positioned on a camera, and a three-lens projector of marked complexity. Requiring a running speed of forty-eight frames per second combined with the precise synthesis of three separate images over three lenses, the results were unwatchable. Urban funded the development himself after Warwick lost interested, but Turner died of a heart attack on 9 March 1903. Urban turned to G.A. Smith to try and produce a workable system. Smith spent the next two years trying in vain to make the three-colour system work, before experimenting with just two colours, red and green. In experiments with lantern slides, he found that this compromise solution could produce a surprisingly acceptable range across the spectrum, and it would not have the same problems of film speed and registration that Turner’s system had had.
The colour process was patented in November 1906 by G.A. Smith, B.P. 26671, ‘Improvements in & relating to Kinematography Apparatus for the Production of Coloured Pictures’, in which he described the action of the process thus:
1. An animated picture of a coloured scene is taken with a bioscope in the usual way, except that a revolving shutter is used fitted with properly adjusted red and green colour screens. A negative is thus obtained in which the reds & yellows are recorded in one picture, & the greens & yellows (with some blue) in the second, & so on alternately throughout the length of the bioscope film.
2. A positive picture is made from the above negative & projected by the ordinary projecting machine which, however, is fitted with a revolving shutter furnished with somewhat similar coloured glasses to the above, & so contrived that the red & green pictures are projected alternately through their appropriate colour glasses.
3. If the speed of the projection is approximately 30 pictures per second, the two colour records blend & present to the eye a satisfactory rendering of the subject in colours which appear to be natural. The novelty of my method lies in the use of 2 colours only, red and green, combined with the persistence of vision.11
The complete specification stressed that the natural colour was apparent rather than actual. ‘I have found that persistence of vision is such … that only series of two colour records … are necessary to present to the observer the appearance of the picture being in its natural colours, or approximately so’. Smith did not claim to have achieved natural colours, but their illusion.
The first test films in the new colour process were undertaken in 1907. Smith experimented with sensitising emulsions and variations on the colour filters. Smith’s patent refers simply to the use of red and green filters. Subsequently he experimented with orange-red and blue-green filters, soon discovering that too great an emphasis on blue would produce a parallel diminution in greens. It was further discovered that different light conditions and different subjects demanded changes in the filters used, with consequent expertise required of both Kinemacolor cameraman and projectionist. A two-colour system was inevitably bound by practical compromise when it came to the faithful reproduction of nature, and a red-orange/blue-green system offered the widest range of possible colours.
The CUTC’s offices were the location for the first, trial demonstration to the photographic press. On 6 December 1907, the British Journal of Photography reported:
We have had an opportunity of seeing some results achieved by Mr. G.A. Smith of the Urban Trading Company, Rupert Street, in cinematography in colours, and whilst there is yet room for considerable improvement the progress made is extremely satisfactory. We were able to compare the colours in the pictures projected with the actual accessories used, and the rendering of the colours was strikingly accurate, particularly in the case of the reds. Only two taking and projecting filters were used, an orange-red, and a blue-green, the usual third or blue-violet filter being dispensed with. Naturally the whites obtained are not pure, but have a slight yellowish tinge, yet when projected on the screen with brilliant colours this defect is hardly noticeable. The progress achieved is so satisfactory that we are warranted in saying that the process should be commercially valuable in a very short time.12
The opportunity to compare the original objects with their appearance on film is precisely the kind of scientific demonstration in which Urban took pride. The audience was being invited to take part in a pseudo-scientific experiment, judging for themselves the integrity of the entertainment put before them. It was this kind of active engagement with what was being shown on the screen that Urban had encouraged through his Urbanora programmes at the Alhambra. The key to popular science was making the audience feel that it had discovered something for itself. By witnessing what was presented on the screen, the audience’s own eyes furnished the final proof that the colour miracle had occurred. Smith retained the patent rights, but Urban was now in a position to make Kinemacolor a commercial success.
The Triumph of Natural Color
Urban had a well-thought-out strategy for introducing Kinemacolor by stages and marketing its aesthetic, scientific, educational and high cultural values. The first crucial decision had been to make Kinemacolor a product exclusive to Charles Urban’s organisation. There would be no marketing to the film industry in general. It would be exploited by a Kinemacolor company (later several Kinemacolor companies), partly on account of the need for special equipment to exhibit the films (a projector with colour filters showing the films at double normal speed), and a consequent concern for quality control. There would be no money to be made from licensing Kinemacolor out to other productions; all revenue would have to come from exhibition, and later from the sale of patents to national territories. That latter stage could only come after the public appetite for Kinemacolor had been sufficiently whetted; indeed, it could only come once Urban became the possessor of the patent rights.
At the press opening of Urbanora House on 1 May 1908, Urban introduced to the privileged audience what were billed as ‘Animated Photographs in natural colours’. Smith gave an address, acknowledging Urban’s ‘buoyant and determined encouragement’, and stressing that he was merely ‘on the way to solution’. He went on to stress the universality of the equipment that he had used, before showing a selection of subjects, apologising for their rough-andready state and how they were not taken with any thought of presenting them before an audience.13
A second British demonstration took place at Urbanora House on 23 July before the Lord Mayor of London and sixty guests, comprising the sheriffs of London and various other dignitaries. Urban was working to a calculated strategy of approval by esteemed sections of society. Most important in this strategy was the lecture that Smith gave before the Royal Society of Arts on 9 December 1908. Smith presented a paper, ‘Animated Photographs in Natural Colours’, in which he gave an account of the development of his work in colour cinematography from the time that he took over the work left by Edward Turner, and described the particular problems and their effective resolutions presented by Kinemacolor (though it was still not named as such). Smith concluded by saying that so far the films could only be taken in bright sunlight, pending the discovery of still more sensitive emulsions than they had so far discovered, and he invited all those who were interested in photography, bioscope manufacture and lens manufacture, to come together to advance further this particular invention.14 Then came the films themselves. The Bioscope reported:
Round after round of applause greeted the appearance of each picture as it appeared on the screen. Many of the films portrayed the colours of nature in a remarkably life-like manner. Some of the colours appeared to be intensified; that is, the reds appeared redder than necessary, the greens greener and the blues bluer. But this defect should in time be remedied. The two last pictures, however – the march past of the Lancers at Aldershot and a red-coated soldier with a monkey on his shoulder – were marvellously true representations. These were the result of their latest experiments, and deservedly gained the heartiest applause of the evening.15
Smith was awarded the Society’s Silver Medal, inscribed ‘G.A. Smith, for his paper on kinematography in natural colours, Session 1908-9’.16 From this point on, however, it would be Urban’s name that came to the fore in the promotion of Kinemacolor, as what had been Smith’s invention came in effect to be his.
The same month that Urbanora House opened and Kinemacolor was first demonstrated, Urban divorced his wife Julia. She had been having an adulterous relationship with an American doctor, neglected by the frantically industrious Urban, who worked ‘fifteen to eighteen hours per day at the office and travelling’, his evenings often spent editing films in the office, many weekends spent in Brighton following the progress of Smith’s colour cinematography work, and regular trips to Paris (once every month) and Berlin (once every sixty days).17 There were no children. It was at the time of the divorce proceedings that Urban met Ada Aline Jones. She was married to Alexander James Jones, a salesman with the cinematograph firm of Butcher’s & Sons. It was, according to Urban, an unhappy marriage, when he was introduced to Mrs Jones at dinner party organised by Jock Haddow. The attraction was immediate and mutual, and Urban resolved to marry Mrs Jones as soon as both were free.18
Ada Aline Jones was independently wealthy, and became directly involved in the business development of Kinemacolor. Urban was now preparing for Kinemacolor to be launched commercially at the Palace Theatre, to which his flagship Urbanora show had transferred on 3 August 1908, following the end of the long run at the Alhambra on 25 July of that year.19 The Palace, with its high-class reputation and prominent Cambridge Circus location, was ideal for the programme of entertainment combined with cultural uplift and scientific credibility that Urban now planned. The public first saw a programme of films in natural colour at a special invitation matinée performance at the Palace on Friday, 26 February 1909, at 3.00 p.m. The system now had an name – the word ‘Kinemacolor’ was suggested by Urban’s friend, the Sporting Life journalist Arthur Binstead, after Urban offered a prize of £5 to anyone suggesting a suitable name for the new colour process.20 The programme was billed as ‘The First Presentation of “Kinemacolor”, Urban-Smith Natural Colour Kinematography (Animated Scenes and Moving Objects Bioscoped in the Actual Tints of Nature)’. Kinemacolor was now officially an Urban-Smith production, and the programme comprised films taken by Smith in the Brighton and Southwick area, a number of which had featured in the Royal Society of Arts’ programme, and new titles that Smith had taken on the Riviera only days before:
1. Representatives of the British Isles (England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Group)
2. View of Brighton Front from West Pier
3. Band of Queen’s Highlanders on West Pier
4. Incident on Brighton Beach
5. The Letter (showing most difficult tests for colour photography, namely Grey)
6. Sailing and Motor Boat Scenes at Southwick. (Note effect of sunshine on varnish of Boat rounding the Buoy)
7. Carnival Scenes at Nice and Cannes (Taken Sunday, February 21st, 1909)
8. Riviera Coast Scenes. Panoramas of Cannes, Nice and Monte Carlo, including Street Incidents
9. ‘Waves and Spray’ (Three examples of Rocky Coast Scenery)
10. ‘Sweet Flowers.’ This picture will first be shown as an ordinary Black and White Bioscope view. After an interval of two seconds for adjusting Colour Filters to the Urban Bioscope Machine, this same picture will be shown in its natural hues and tints
11. The Rabbits. – Sheep. – A Carrot for the Donkey
14. A Visit to Aldershot. – The Guard at Government House
15. A Detachment of Gordon Highlanders
16. Church Parade of the 7th Hussars and 16th Lancers
17. Soldiers’ Pet
18. Riviera Fish Folk
19. Cascade de Courmes, France
20. Children’s Battle of Flowers, Nice (Sunday, February 21st, 1909)
21. Water Carnival at Villefranche. As this picture affords special opportunities for colour effects, it is hoped that the audience will remain to witness21
What is noticeable about the show is its lecture format, with the audience being instructed to look out for specific points of interest, and being advised not leave before the end (a not uncommon habit among variety theatre audiences) lest they miss some of the most interesting colour effects. As with the earlier exhibitions, the audience was invited to verify the product’s scientific claims. With its parades, scenic views, quaint animals and even that oldest of film subjects, waves breaking on the shore, the first Kinemacolor programme reads like a Lumière programme of 1896, certainly a rejection of cinema as diversionary entertainment. Urban was aware that the library of Kinemacolor films was very limited at this stage, but the tone was nevertheless established that he wished to pursue. This was film as a scientific art, which the high-minded had always hoped for it at its inception. Urban was reinventing cinema.
The matinée was greeted with acclaim, although some criticisms were starting to be made of the claims to present the true colours of nature. The Bioscope said that Smith and Urban were right to stress that there was still much to do before they perfected their system:
In the pamphlet distributed to the audience, Messrs. Smith and Urban claim to present ‘the veritable hues and tints of nature’. It was true of many of the scenes, but the least expert in the audience could tell that a leaden blue was not the veritable hue and tint of a young lady’s arm, or that a cornfield was all one dull, sandy yellow … [I]t was clear that both the red and green filters easily get ‘out of register’, as the colourprinters call it, with the result that there are blinding flashes of red or green across the entire picture. Again, one may object … to the very vivid tones of the greens and reds in these pictures. The green, in particular, is so aggressive that a single square inch of it is sufficient to swamp every other detail on the screen. Finally, there was a very general consensus of opinion on Friday that these colour-pictures entail a greater strain upon the eyes than the ordinary black and white scenes.22
All of the criticisms, especially those of colour fringing and eye-strain, would become familiar adjuncts to Kinemacolor programmes in the years to come. Nevertheless, Urban had been successful in encouraging analysis of what was depicted on the screen. Here was reality and super-reality at one and the same time, with pleasure offered both in the colour itself and in the critical understanding of how that colour was produced.
Regular Kinemacolor shows started daily at the Palace from 1 March, continuing uninterrupted for the next eighteen months. Kinemacolor was finally starting to make money.23 That same month Urban formed a new company to exploit Kinemacolor, and G.A. Smith sold the patent rights for £5,000. He sold them, however, to Ada Aline Jones. The circumstances are complex, and Urban’s own jaundiced point of view fails to illuminate Smith’s side of the picture. Urban had decided to finance the new company without recourse to outside capital. It was proposed that the company should take over the British patent (and all future patents to be granted abroad) in exchange for 30,000 £1 shares, the total stock of the company. Fifty per cent would then be assigned to Smith. According to Urban, Smith preferred to realise his assets. Urban implies this was due to Smith’s lack of faith in Kinemacolor as a potential business, though this seems hardly credible. In 1921 Urban wrote witheringly of Smith’s business acumen:
Mr Urban commenced to have trouble with Smith who objected to Mr Urban’s deciding vote as Chairman of the Board of Directors. He wanted the deciding vote as to business policy, etc. but while I had a certain regard for Smith as a Scientist, I had none for his ability as a business man. He was prompted by his lawyer to suggest buying out my interests. There was not enough money in Brighton to buy me out, in the mood I was in at the time. I made him a counter proposal to buy him out. He gave me an option to buy his share interest for $25,000 [£5,000]. I paid him $1,250.00 for the one week’s option. He was ‘tickled to death’ with such easy money. At that time, there only existed about 3,000 feet of Kinemacolor, mostly scenes of nature. I went home that night and told Mrs Urban of this option, suggesting that she buy Smith’s interests and thus become my partner – I thought – much easier to manage. Why should she buy an interest in which Smith had lost faith? I told her to put faith in my judgement – which she did – and bought Smith out before the end of the week.24
Smith may well have been out-manouvered by the financially cannier Urban, but Urban nevertheless needed the capital that Ada Jones could provide. Smith got his £5,000, and was tied to a £500 per year contract during which his services were to be exclusively to the new company. Smith’s views of the business are largely hidden, though he would certainly come to feel that he had been cheated by Urban and had sold his patent rights too cheaply, a fact which became all too evident with the success of Kinemacolor over the next few years. The Natural Color Kinematograph Company was formed on 16 March 1909, with nominal capital of £30,000. The registered directors were Charles Urban, John Avery, and Ada Jones. By October 1909 the original allotment of shares was completed with Urban (ambitiously describing himself on the Return of Allotments as ‘Scientist’) holding 12,398, Ada Jones 12,500, Avery 100, Eclipse 5,000 and single shares held by Urban’s friends Arthur Binstead and Cecil Graseman.25 One hitherto overlooked feature of the Natural Color Kinematograph Company, therefore, was that it boasted a female director, a thing unheard of in British films (and rare enough in British industry), making Ada Jones the most powerful woman in British film production, indeed probably the only woman of power in British film production at this time.
Urban had planned a slow build-up for Kinemacolor, both to generate longterm interest and because only a few thousand feet of Kinemacolor film existed to be exploited when the first public shows started. For the remainder of the year Urban’s energies were devoted towards assigning foreign licences, negotiating for an expansion of British exhibition, and ensuring that new films were being added to the catalogue. However, for all of his astute planning, Urban could not have imagined how fortunate he would be in the succession of major news spectacles that were to occur in 1910 and particularly 1911, each of which was perfectly suited to the Kinemacolor eye.
The British royal family was essential to the development and identity of the British actuality film. It provided glamour, exclusivity, guaranteed audience appeal, a popular subject for export, and a means to mark the particular Britishness of the native film industry. In particular since the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1887, the propaganda value of royalty as spectacle, the importance of pageantry, colour and display had been well understood by the royal household. Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 had become a testing ground for the emergent film industry, where all of the production firms of any account secured positions along the route, and pride in the event transferred to pride in the young film industry in how it came together to honour the occasion.26 The succession of major royal events that occurred in the period 1910-1911 similarly brought the industry together, while showing that Urban and Kinemacolor were placing themselves on a higher plane. The funeral of King Edward VII on 20 May 1910 served as the first such news event, and led to those that followed. The unveiling of the Queen Victoria memorial on 16 May 1911. The coronation of King George V on 22 June 1911. The investiture of the Prince of Wales on 10 July 1911. The Coronation Durbar at Delhi on 12 December 1911. Pageantry, patriotism, news immediacy and colour all combined, as the British royal family obligingly supplied Urban with ideal material.
Royal favour had already been shown towards Kinemacolor on 6 July 1909, when King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra had seen a Kinemacolor programme at Knowsley, at the invitation of the Earl of Derby. Smith himself presented the programme, and was introduced to the King and Queen. The films included the King filmed at Kensington the previous month, and a film taken during the house party at Knowsley, ‘which unfortunately was taken in a bad light’. ‘Very good, very good’, the King was reported to have said. How long, America’s Moving Picture World asked, before we would have Sir Charles Urban or Sir G.A. Smith?27
The first event in this sequence was the funeral of Edward VII. The day of the funeral was overcast, problematic even for those filming in monochrome. Nevertheless, the Kinemacolor production, first shown at a charity matinee at the Palace Theatre on 27 May 1910 (where Anna Pavlova and a troupe of Russian dancers was also on the bill), generated much press interest and overwhelmingly warm praise for the colour effects, its realism being remarked upon repeatedly. The Times reported:
… [I]t is now possible for visitors to the Palace to look at pictures representing the late King’s funeral which give an extraordinarily good idea of what the procession was like, a far better view, indeed, than was probably enjoyed by many people in the huge crowds. As the public … was entirely dressed in black on the two days of the processions the contrast in colour between the Kinemacolor pictures and the more familiar illusions produced by the Kinematograph is not as marked as would naturally be the case, and in some of the views the red of the soldiers’ tunics is practically the only new note. But in others the greens and blues of some of the foreign uniforms, the red, white and blue of the Union Jack, the gold of the Royal Standard, and the green of the trees produce an extraordinarily faithful copy of the actual scenes.28
The Times‘s dissection of the projected images into the realistic reproductions of individual colours would become a familiar critical response to Kinemacolor. For the Morning Advertiser, ‘Some clouds effects are reproduced with remarkable delicacy, whilst the colours of the flags fluttering at half-mast against that background were not more clearly distinguishable at the scenes themselves’. The Daily Mail enthused over the ‘completeness, beauty [and] impressiveness [of] the wonderful series of colour cinematographs’. The Morning Post felt that the film was ‘especially successful in reproducing the red uniforms of the soldiers’, the Yorkshire Post said that it was ‘surprisingly realistic’, while Sporting Life praised it in terms that would have particularly pleased Urban, calling the film, ‘something more than a mere picture show – it is a beautiful record of surely the most pathetic comparisons in vivid and sombre colours England has ever seen’. Delicacy of effect, vivid yet sombre, something more than a mere picture show: the tones of Kinemacolor had successfully captured the mood of the moment. Only the Liverpool Courier felt that the Kinemacolor record was in any way inadequate, and even then found points to praise in a surprise political observation: ‘Not all the natural tints were there, and the kaleidoscopic glories of the foreign uniforms were too severe a test. The scarlet and gold of the British troops came out perfectly, however, the “Kinemacolor” apparently being sympathetically better attuned to those colours than Mr Keir Hardie’.29
The funeral of Edward VII was the first notable Kinemacolor production, and a financial success. This was because exhibition of Kinemacolor had started to expand throughout Britain. The first provincial Kinemacolor shows took place in Nottingham and Blackpool on 24 March 1910, and by the time of the release of the funeral film in May there were Kinemacolor shows in Blackpool, Burton-on-Trent, Derby, Glasgow and Nottingham; other towns soon followed.30 Urban had initiated a nationwide advertising campaign in support of five touring ‘companies’ which would take Kinemacolor programmes to the major towns and cities of the country (over 130 in all), taking up residencies of between one to four weeks. Kinemacolor programmes also featured in up to forty theatres within the central London region over the next two years.31 The system of exclusive exhibition rights saw all Kinemacolor exhibitions in Great Britain and Ireland (outside a ten mile radius from Charing Cross) granted to Provincial Palaces Ltd., while all London exhibitions within that ten mile radius were controlled by Kinemacolor (London District) Ltd., a subsidiary set up by Urban for the purpose. However, within this agreement there was a further exclusive contract covering any theatre within a two mile radius from Cambridge Circus, the location of the Palace Theatre, which continued to be the premier location for Kinemacolor presentations.32
The film of Edward VII’s funeral also set a pattern for the future successful Kinemacolor royal news stories in that it was no exclusive. Many other film companies filmed the same subjects, in monochrome, and although Kinemacolor would come to value scoops when they came, there was a special piquancy in pointing to the colourless inadequacy of other news reports. The difference, the greater naturalism, the greater fidelity to patriotic values, were all understood to be those qualities that made Kinemacolor the only true purveyor of royal moving picture news. If the attainment of colour was equated with social attainment, then the Kinemacolor films of British royalty marked a peak of recognition for British film, and for the medium as a whole.
The month following the royal funeral Urban opened a new headquarters for his Kinemacolor operations. While Urbanora House remained the home of the Charles Urban Trading Company and Kineto, a few yards away across the road 80-82 Wardour Street became Kinemacolor House, opening on 1 June. It was handsomely equipped, with twenty printing machines anticipating a substantial increase in output, which included the first Kinemacolor fiction films. Consideration of Urban’s dramatic Kinemacolor production lies outside the concerns of this thesis. Briefly, therefore, Urban began fiction film production in 1910, using converted studios in Hove purchased from James Williamson. These were for use in the summer months, while fiction films would be made at studios in Nice during the winter months. His first director of fiction material was the Dutchman Theo Bouwmeester; later productions were directed by the American F. Martin Thornton.33 Urban’s commitment to fiction film production was therefore serious, and the 1913 Kinemacolor catalogue lists seventy-six titles. The first to be released was By Order of Napoleon (1,240 feet) in November 1910.34
The Kinemacolor catalogue emphasised the qualities of heightened realism and pictorial beauty that such colour brought to the established fiction film:
[I]t will be readily imagined that a far greater sense of realism will be created if the actors and the surroundings of the plays can be reproduced not as monochrome photographs in motion, but endued with every shade and nuance of actual color.35
Kinemacolor dramas offered ‘delightful and most effective additions to the interest of the subject’ from heightening such details as ‘the pictures on the walls, a blazing fire in the grate, or a vista through an open door’. Chiefly, they made the performers appear all the more real: ‘flesh tints, the color of the hair and every detail being reproduced exactly as in life’. It was a desire to emphasise the advantages of colour that encouraged Urban to concentrate on historical dramas, to show off the colourful costuming (‘stories thus presented have an educational as well as an entertaining usefulness’). Titles produced in Kinemacolor (most of them one-reelers) included Dandy Dick of Bishopsgate, An Elizabethan Romance, The Flower Girl of Florence, Nell Gwynn, The Orange Girl, Oliver Cromwell and The Passions of an Egyptian Princess. They were uniformly terrible. Even by the low standards of most of British film production of the period, Kinemacolor fiction films were notably poorly acted and ineptly directed. Needing to be filmed in sunlight, because Kinemacolor absorbed so much available light, they looked like the naïve prestudio productions of earlier years. The choice of subjects was equally mistaken, and included bizarre decisions to film Sophocles – Oedipus Rex: A Mythological Play (an ambitious 3,700 feet) and Britain’s first colour Western, Fate (‘the spectator realises probably for the first time in his experience of moving pictures that the cowboys’ costumes are not only picturesque but full of color’).36 Kinemacolor was technically unsuited to studio work, which greatly limited its value for the production of dramatic films, but inept handling made the films still worse than they might have been. It was only because the one-reelers could be absorbed among exclusive Kinemacolor shows, and their colour curiosity value, that Kinemacolor’s dramatic output could be sustained at all. Urban’s mind was always elsewhere.
Kinemacolor shows were now touring the country; studios had been established and fiction films were being made; technical advances in image quality were drawing increasing praise from the film trade press. Urban now wanted to establish a flagship programme which would show only Kinemacolor films. Kinemacolor programmes had hitherto been mostly halfhour turns in an evening’s variety programme. A continuous programme of only Kinemacolor film (predominantly non-fiction in character) in a London theatre was a risky venture. It was also difficult to set up, as no suitable London theatre seemed to be available. Eventually Urban selected the one theatre that was free, though it was far from the ideal choice.
The Scala Theatre stood between Charlotte Street and Tottenham Court Road. It seated only 920, and its isolated location to the north of London’s main theatre-land made it an awkward proposition. It was managed by Dr Edmund Distin Maddick (1857-1939), who now became one of Urban’s closest associates, at different times a good friend and a firm enemy. Distin Maddick had been a surgeon in the Royal Navy, rising to become Admiral Surgeon of the Fleet. He enjoyed an active place in high society, and had counted among his friends King Edward VII himself. He took the unusual step of turning theatrical impresario, purchasing and improving the abandoned Prince of Wales’s theatre, which opened as the Scala with Johnston Forbes-Robertson appearing in The Conqueror on 23 September 1905.37 The theatre had thereafter enjoyed mixed fortunes, and it struggled to attract audiences.
Urban leased the Scala originally for one year from 22 February 1911 on a basis of 20% of box office receipts in lieu of a fixed rental. He immediately set about refurbishing the theatre at his own expense to suit the needs of Kinemacolor. He launched an extensive advertising campaign aimed at making London aware of the newest attraction at its most obscure central theatre.38 The opening programme at the Scala was on 11 April, when (somewhat cautiously) a Kinemacolor programme was included alongside a two act operetta by Paul Lincke entitled Castles in the Air, which appears to have run for a month.39 Similar such combinations of stage productions with Kinemacolor programmes, either as a separate entity or occasionally forming part of the dramatic action, would feature throughout the Kinemacolor residency at the Scala, but predominantly the Scala became a showcase for an evening’s entertainment of Kinemacolor films alone. The opening Kinemacolor programme at the Scala (immodestly billed as ‘the Greatest Invention of the Century’) was in three parts, each typical of Urban’s interests. Part I (General) featured Farmyard Friends, The Chef’s Preparations (Cav. L. Azario of The Florence seen preparing various foods, the cookery film being an unusual film ‘first’ for Urban), Picturesque North Wales and The Rebel’s Daughter (a Peninsular War drama). Part II (Urban Science) featured the work of Percy Smith in Insects and Their Habits, Animal Studies and a notable early success for Kinemacolor, the stop-motion The Birth of Flowers, then Reflections of Color, The Soap Bubble and Rainbow and Egyptian Sunset. Part III (Topical) showed Launch of S.S. Olympic, White Star Liner S.S. Celtic, 3,000 Children Form US Flag, A London Fire Call, A Day with the Exmoor Staghounds, The Pet of the Regiment, Lord Kitchener’s Review of the Egyptian Troops at Khartoum, German Infantry Berlin and Changing the Guard at St James’ Palace. A ten minute interval, and then followed Castles in the Air.40
For the first four months of the lease, it seemed Urban had made a grievous mistake. The costs of refitting the theatre and advertising had been great, and the takings poor – the deficit was some £7,000.41 But it was at this point that the series of spectacular royal news stories started making Londoners look again at the map and seek out the Scala. It was important to Urban, and to his whole strategy for Kinemacolor, that he attract a monied and generally high class audience, many of whom would not think to go to moving pictures in a cinema, but who could more readily be persuaded to see films in a theatre setting. Other film producers were to pursue this policy of elevation through the production of films based on established theatrical properties – Famous Players (‘famous players in famous plays’) in America, the Film d’Art in France and Italy, films of Shakespeare by Will Barker, Cecil Hepworth and the Co-operative Cinematograph Company in Britain. Urban pursued the same audience (and their purses), firstly through the production of educational films, and then through the avowedly superior qualities of natural colour cinematography, and its actuality subject matter, especially newsfilm of royalty. That which was transparently natural was inherently superior, in Urban’s simple reasoning, and in the reasoning of many others, who felt along with the Sporting Life‘s assessment of the film of Edward VII’s funeral, that here indeed was ‘something more than a mere picture show’.
The first in the series of key royal films produced throughout 1911 was that of the unveiling of the Queen Victoria memorial on 16 May. Kinemacolor had a privileged position directly in front of the memorial, ‘a concession only shared with the [German] Emperor’s photographer’, Urban boasted in a Scala programme. The Kinemacolor catalogue acclaimed it as the quintessence of motion pictures:
It is not too much to say that the KINEMACOLOR record of this ceremony sets a new standard in motion photography. No one henceforth can regard monotone pictures of the glories of pageantry as anything but obsolete and unsatisfying – mere shadows of the real thing.42
Commentators agreed. The Times found it ‘probably the most complete record of the ceremony in existence. Their advantage over the ordinary biograph pictures is patent, for the black-and-white effects of the latter cannot convey the sense of pomp and pageantry which rely for their very success upon a blaze of colours’.43 The film trade press was ecstatic, and in the comments of the Kinematograph and Lantern Weekly one may infer a belief that colour fidelity could be equated with fidelity to the monarchy:
We have no hesitation in saying that the Queen Victoria Memorial Unveiling in Kinemacolor is the greatest piece of kinematograph work ever accomplished in the history of the industry. As an absolutely lifelike representation of an actual scene it is simply superb … The sun flashes on the burnished breast-plates, every colour is true, and the whole thing is without blemish – magnificent, beautiful and inspiring.44
The film encapsulated a patriotic experience. An exhibition tactic that came to be regularly used for such royal news films was to reproduce ‘every choral, orchestral and realistic effect’, that is, to produce as complete a visual and aural facsimile of the events as could be recreated on the Scala’s stage, reproducing where possible the music that played at the event itself.45 As the Kinemacolor catalogue said of the Victoria memorial film, ‘[w]ith suitable music and effects the film is the most perfect resuscitation of an actual occurrence that it is possible to conceive’.46 Kinemacolor, in its exemplary form of exhibition at the Scala, was achieving the fundamental goals of the non-fiction film producers of Urban’s time – to make the film experience the equivalent of the experience itself, to bring the past back to life. ‘The spectator gets from the picture exactly the same impressions that he would if he occupied the best possible seat at the actual ceremony’, the catalogue stated.47 Urban was appealing to the snobbery in his select Scala audience, but effectively he was granting to any one in the country with the price for a Kinemacolor show to have the most privileged seat at the highest of ceremonies. The spectator could be at one with the princes, dukes and emperors. Such an act of levelling was never in Urban’s mind, but in placing his cameras in positions of privilege, he unwittingly played his early part in the progressive undermining of the royal mystique which film and then television exercised throughout the twentieth century.
Interest was inevitably all the greater in the next royal story, that of the coronation of King George V on 22 June. As with previous major royal events, the coronation became a significant showpiece for the native film industry. The Bioscope listed some seventeen companies that had secured camera positions along the route. The Charles Urban Trading Company and Kineto were listed, but not the Natural Color Kinematograph Company.48 Urban was setting his company aside from the rest, partly by its unique use of colour and select appeal, but also simply because the film was not openly available to exhibitors, only to those with the exclusive Kinemacolor licences and projection equipment.
The coronation was soon followed by the Investiture of the Prince of Wales on 10 July, and in September Urban followed the logic of this related succession of royal events (and demonstrated his instinctive propensity for reissuing and rescheduling old material) by creating a special programme of royal newsfilm at the Scala. Beginning with The Unveiling of the Queen Victoria Memorial, there followed Animal Studies and Scenes in the Indian Camp at Hampton Court before The Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary. A Day at Henley and The Royal Progress, June 23rd came next, before an interval of ten minutes. The programme resumed with The Investiture of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, K.G. There followed an in-joke production, Kinemacolor Sweet Pea Competition, Aeroplanes and Bird Men, The Royal Yacht Club Regatta, Edinburgh During the Royal Visit, Bathing at Ostend, and finally The Royal Naval Review (which had taken place on 24 June after the coronation). In the standard Scala pattern, there were shows at 2.30pm and 8.00pm, with the former concluded and latter opened by a one-act play based on the W.W. Jacobs short story The Bosun’s Mate.49
Urban was enjoying the greatest success of his career. He had ensured, as always, that he himself was strongly identified with the product that he was promoting, and he was starting to become known as a figure of note, beyond the narrow confines of the film world. Within that world, Kinemacolor was having a marked influence on production and promotion. Demand for colour was coming from exhibitors, and hence by extension from audiences. The Bioscope noted the advances made by Kinemacolor throughout 1911, and the influence it was having:
Within the year – almost within the last six months – Mr Charles Urban’s Kinemacolor process has come right to the front, and has become a formative influence upon the future of the business, the importance of which cannot be over-estimated. ‘Colour’ has become the sine qua non of the picture theatre programme, and one cannot pass along the streets without seeing from the announcements of exhibitors that they are fully alive to this, and, if they have not a Kinemacolor licence, they are making a special feature of tinted or coloured films in order to cope with public demand.50
Monochrome was not enough. It was demonstrably an inferior reflection of reality, a point that Urban’s publicity had repeatedly stressed, and however intricate the colour effects of the stencil colour work of the Gaumont and Pathé firms, they were damned as false to nature. Urban included attacks on artificial colour systems in advertisements, theatre programmes, and pamphlets. One of latter states:
Kinemacolor is the only process in existence reproducing actual scenes in living, vivid colours. The real tints and hues of an object are secured at the moment of photographing; in all other processes colours are applied afterwards by hand or machinery – a crude and laborious method, possible only with the simplest of subjects.51 Kinemacolor was a ‘scientific system of colour-reproduction’, and argument was therefore redundant. The tone becomes jeering: A Kinemacolor expert … set his camera against the setting sun near the famous Pyramids in Egypt … The sun dips beneath the horizon, and lovely, translucent colours – reds, greens, yellows, blues and violets – glow and melt into one another before our very eyes? Could that be painted by hand upon film?52
Gaumont and Pathé fought back, though in 1911 Pathé gave Urban the greatest compliment by renaming its stencil colour process Pathécolor, in imitation of Kinemacolor.53 Pathé’s publicity reminded the film trade that Kinemacolor meant double the film length and double the price, arguing that its process was no less scientific while being demonstrably more artistic.54 Gaumont responded in 1912 with its own natural colour system, Chronochrome, which achieved the seemingly impossible, a three-colour additive system such as Edward Turner had failed to achieve. Although exhibited in Britain in January 1913, the high degree of skill required to manage the system, combined with and the wear-and-tear on film being shown at forty-eight frames per second, ensured that it did not become a commercial rival to Kinemacolor, despite what was acknowledged to be excellent colour reproduction.55
The Delhi Durbar
A great sigh of relief went up from the Nation last week upon receipt of a telegram from Mr CHARLES URBAN, at Delhi, stating that satisfactory cinematographic films had been taken of the events there. It would have been too terrible if the trouble and expense devoted to the preparation of these ceremonies had been wasted.56
Unquestionably the greatest triumph of Urban’s career was the Kinemacolor film of the royal tour of India over December 1911 and January 1912, with the centre-piece attraction of the Coronation Durbar held at Delhi. It was a huge success, financially, socially, and personally for Urban. It has acquired a legend over the years, being given at least a passing mention in most histories of British film, and certainly in any historical account of colour cinematography. Generally referred to simply as the Delhi Durbar (often without an understanding of what the ceremony was or what exactly the contents of the film were) and its current status as a ‘lost’ film has made its potential rediscovery a film archivist’s dream.57
There were three Delhi Durbars in history. Durbar was a Mughal word (taken from the Persian) meaning a reception, a court, or body of officials at such a court. The term was appropriated by the British Raj and used to describe the formal ceremonies held in 1877 to acknowledge the proclamation of Queen Victoria as Empress of India. Delhi was selected as the location, being the old Mughal capital, and the Viceroy Lord Lytton devised a celebration that set the pattern for the Durbars that followed. A temporary city of tents was constructed, and an amphitheatre wherein the main ceremonies were staged. In a richly colourful display, British rule in India, and the privileged but inferior position of the Indian princes (on whose presence particular emphasis was placed) within the ruling hierarchy was illustrated through procession, pageantry and obeisance.58 Queen Victoria did not attend. When the second Delhi Durbar was held in 1902-3 (at the same location), to recognise Edward VII as the new Emperor of India, once again the King-Emperor did not go to India and was represented instead by the Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon. The ceremonies attracted several film companies, including Urban’s Warwick Trading Company, which sent out the Reverend J. Gregory Mantle as its single film correspondent.
The significant difference for the Delhi Durbar of 1911 was that this time the King-Emperor himself attended. King George V believed profoundly in the solemnity and responsibility of his position, and he wished to see his anointment as Emperor of India properly sanctified, as well as expressing a wish to do what he could to calm seditious tendencies by his presence. Preparations took over a year, and were organised by Sir John Hewett, the Lieutenant-Governor of the United Provinces. The ceremonies were to take place in the same location outside Delhi as in 1877 and 1902/3, and a giant ‘city’ of 40,000 tents was erected, which was eventually to house some 300,000 inhabitants. On 11 November 1911 King George V and Queen Mary, with an entourage that included an official historian (Sir John Fortescue) and an official artist (Jacomb Hood), but no official photographer or cinematographer, left on the P&O ship Medina for the three-week voyage to Bombay.59
The organising committee had received its first enquiry from a film company by April 1911, and as the result of the official invitation to tender, by September five firms had been given official permission to film the ceremonies, to be represented by some thirty staff. The five were Barker, Gaumont, Pathé, Warwick and Urban.60 Urban took a team of seven, of which probably five were camera operators: Joseph De Frenes (who headed the team), De Frenes’ nephew Albuin Mariner, Alfred Gosden, Hiram Horton, and another unidentified.61 Urban’s account exaggerates his personal importance (‘Mr Urban had been appointed by His Majesty King George to proceed to India and personally supervise the work of recording the proceedings and incidents connected with the ceremonies at Bombay, Delhi, and Calcutta’), but certainly he was able to obtain preferential treatment, not least in the allotment of camera positions and official protection. Again, Urban’s imagination leads him to melodrama:
We were met in India by Sir John Hewitt [sic] who had charge of all arrangements re the Durbar etc, he gave me a half hour to tell him what we required but drove about with me the entire afternoon in order to select the positions I wanted … We had the choicest of all possible positions; the officials afforded us the best of protection. They had heard rumors that rival film companies were bent on damaging or destroying our pictures and inasmuch as the King expected to see these pictures in London, it was up to the Army to see that we got them safely there. Each night we used to develop the negatives exposed during the day, and bury them in cases dug in the sand in my tent with a piece of linoleum and a rug on top – my bed on top of them, a pistol under my pillow and armed guards patrolling our camp.62
It is highly unlikely that any of Urban’s rivals were planning sabotage, but not unlikely that Urban could have persuaded himself that they were, and the burial of the developed films and Urban sleeping with a gun under his pillow all seem quite in character. Developing the film was a considerable undertaking. As Urban says, the exposed negatives were developed each day, which entailed their precise panchromatisation, and the necessary plant and dark-rooms were all assembled and tests prior to any film being taken. The damp heat was the major problem, but copious supplies of ice were on hand to keep the solutions sufficiently cool.63
The King and Queen arrived at Bombay on 2 December, and the filming began. The royal party stayed in Bombay for four days, before journeying to Delhi, where Urban’s team filmed their arrival at the Selimgarh Bastion, and then the formal state entry into the city. The King rode through the Kings’ or Elephant Gate, and on film the results were spectacular, with the life-size stone elephants on either side of the gate offering perhaps a prefiguring of the Babylonian sequence in D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance, four years away.
The day of the Coronation Durbar itself was 12 December. Up to 100,000 people filled the amphitheatre before the formal ceremonies began. At the head of the procession came veterans of past wars, including over a hundred survivors of the 1857 Mutiny, both Indian and British. Next came the Viceroy, Lord Hardinge (temporarily divested of his official power during the King- Emperor’s visit) and Lady Hardinge in an open carriage. An escort and the sound of fanfares preceded the entry of the royal carriage, with its canopy of crimson and gold, the King-Emperor and Queen-Empress dressed in their purple Imperial robes, each wearing crowns. They processed down the central road, then round in a semi-circle past the central Royal Pavilion, to the Shamiana (a pavilion at the far end of the arena in front of the guests’ enclosure), where the Viceroy led them to their thrones. Here the Indian princes were to do homage to their Emperor, and after the King had given a short address, the maharajahs and princes of India came one by one (in strict order of precedence) to express their loyalty to the crown. The Emperor and Empress then rose from their thrones and walked to the central Royal Pavilion. Fanfares sounded. The official proclamation of the King’s coronation in June was made, in English and Urdu, and there were various announcements concerning beneficial funds and concessions made to the people of India. The royal couple returned to the Shamiana, while a salute was fired and cheers were taken up by the thirty thousand troops, then the sixty or more thousand guests, then those many thousands more outside the arena. At the Shamiana, the Emperor gave two last announcements concerning political changes, which had been kept in the greatest secrecy for months. These were that the capital of India was to move to Delhi, and that the partition of Bengal (an unpopular decision from the Curzon era) was to be cancelled. The Durbar was declared formally closed, the royal couple returned to their carriage, and departed.64
The Delhi Durbar of 1912 is frequently seen as being the very apex of the British Empire, and in terms of ceremony, display and sentimental symbolism it probably was. It laid out in purely visual terms the pomp and precedence of the imperial system, appealing to what was understood as an Indian love of the ceremonial, but which struck an equal chord in the British. Its sensory impact underlined the almost religious impact of the Durbar, something which King George certainly believed in, and which journalist Philip Gibbs expressed in terms of sound and colour harmony:
Sound and colour combined to form a panorama of beauty and grandeur such as one might suppose could have its being only in a dream. Uniforms, robes, turbans of every shade and tone produced an effect which, though infinitely varied in its contrasts, was blended into one flawless harmony by the orderliness of the entire scheme. There seemed a mystic bond that welded the tremendous music of the bands, the clear notes of the bugles, and the tramp-tramp-tramp of marching hosts, into one vast paean of triumphant praise to the King-Emperor, and that found its more material counterpart in the riot of colour displayed so lavishly on every side.
However, something of the ineffable experience had been preserved, for as Gibbs noted:
Words are inadequate to describe that which the brush and the camera alone can depict … Happily, some measure of its sheer magnificence still remained even when the ceremony had ended and the mighty gathering had dispersed, for a cinematograph record of the superb programme was taken, in natural colours.65
The king himself, temperamentally uneffusive, did however record something of his feelings in an otherwise plain diary entry, confessing that the Durbar had been ‘the most beautiful and wonderful sight I ever saw’.66
Urban had cameras at two positions in the amphitheatre. Stephen Bottomore has shown, through an analysis of existing films and published frame stills, that there were Kinemacolor cameras alongside those of the Gaumont team in the inner circle to the right of the Royal Pavilion, and probably a further cameraman on the roof of the spectators’ enclosure, close to the Shamiana. There, in an arc, were camera operators from Gaumont (at ground and roof level), Barker, Pathé, Warwick and Urban (Bottomore suggests, however, that this Urban cameraman may have been filming in monochrome, and certainly there was a monochrome film of the Durbar issued by Kineto and the Charles Urban Trading Company). There is a panoramic photograph in the India Office Library, reproduced in part by Bottomore and in its entirety in Stanley Reed’s The King and Queen and India, which shows the Gaumont and Kinemacolor cameramen on a raised stand just behind a line of troops before the Royal Pavilion. The cameramen are in khaki, but in front of them is a figure in a dark suit and white pith helmet who is Charles Urban himself.67
The royal progress continued in the following days, but all of those filming in monochrome left but for a single cameraman, whereas Charles Urban had far greater ambitions for documenting the royal visit to India. On 14 December there was the Royal Review of 50,000 imperial troops at the Badli-ki-Sarai review ground. The State Departure from Delhi followed on the 16th, whereupon the King left for two weeks of hunting for tigers and bears in Nepal, away from the Kinemacolor cameras, which instead filmed the Viceroy’s Cup horse race in Calcutta. The King and Queen returned from their break for an official entry into Calcutta at the Prinsep’s Ghat landing stage on 30 December; they departed the city on 8 January 1912.68
Exhibiting the Durbar Films
At the same time as the royal party was entering Calcutta, the first films of the Delhi Durbar were being shown in London. In the fashion typical of topical producers, those who had filmed in monochrome made frantic journeys back to Britain and thereafter rushed to their printing houses to be the first to have film of the Delhi Durbar on British screens. It was the practically only way that the topical film companies knew how to excel, through speed. The nonchalant Urban had a different strategy:
When I arrived in London one month after our competitors had hurried after the Delhi ceremonies … I was met on every side with cries of derision. ‘Your stuff is old; everybody has seen the Durbar and is tired of it’. But they had seen it only in the monotone and I had no fear of the reception of the pictures in Natural color.69
Urban’s strategy was to present the living history as theatre, to recreate the experience and the emotion of the Delhi Durbar as far as might be possible on a London stage. It was not that people were tired of the Durbar; they had not seen it as it had been seen, and as it could now be presented. Urban organised the Kinemacolor footage into a two and a half hour programme (16,000 feet), a previously unheard of length for a single film show, and with introductions and intervals it stretched to three hours in full. However, in what was both a clever marketing ploy and a genuine wish to exhibit as much of the footage as possible, Urban arranged the material into two different programmes, to be shown at 2.30 and 8.00, though the core material remained the same for each show. It is erroneous to think of Urban’s major Kinemacolor productions as single film entities. They were protean conceptions whose component parts could be altered, added to or subtracted as desired. The full programme was called With Our King and Queen Through India; the centrepiece was entitled the Coronation Durbar at Delhi, but the programme covered the whole tour. The Scala stage was turned into a mock-up of the Taj Mahal. Music was specially composed and scored for forty-eight pieces, a chorus of twenty-four, a twenty-piece fife and drum corps, and three bagpipes. As in previous films of royal ceremony, the music used at the original event was followed where ever possible, including fanfares. An accompanying lecture was written by the Scala’s stage manager St John Hamund. There were special lighting effects devised, elaborate programmes produced, and much advance publicity, as Urban patiently bided his time until all was ready and fault-free. With our King and Queen Through India finally opened at the Scala on 2 February 1912.70
The profound impact of the show is best judged from a review in the Bioscope, which merits quoting at some length:
Last Friday evening, at the Scala Theatre, was an occasion in many respects as significant and memorable as it was wonderful. It may be left for future generations to realise the full extent of its importance – men and women yet unborn who, by the magic of a little box and a roll of film, will be enabled to witness the marvels of a hundred years before their age, in all the colour and movement of life. Perverse old grandfathers will no longer be able to indulge disdainfully in reminiscences of the superiority of the times ‘when they were boys’; the past will be an open book for all to read in, and, if the grandfathers exaggerate, they may be convicted by the camera’s living record. Man has conquered most things; now he has vanquished Time. With the cinematograph and the gramophone he can ‘pot’ the centuries as they roll past him, letting them loose at will, as he would a tame animal, to exhibit themselves for his edification and delight. The cinematograph, in short, is the modern Elixir of Life – at any rate, that part of life which is visible to the eye. It will preserve our bodies against the ravages of age, and the beauty, which was once for but a day, will now be for all time.71
This review, which Urban had reprinted to be distributed as a testimonial, shows that the Delhi Durbar film engendered in cinema’s devotees that most fond belief in film as a time machine. Though the writer at least acknowledges that the cinematograph can only preserve life’s outward show, the colour, movement and patriotic spectacle persuaded many that here was the ultimate beauty, something that somehow by that very beauty could not die. The value of the show’s effect on the status of cinema was also noted:
Mr Charles Urban may be dubbed the ‘Official Recording Angel to the State’. How much more effective his visual report is than the efforts of the most eloquent descriptive journalist or the most assiduous notetaker, all who visit the Scala can bear witness. There is, however, another side to Mr Urban’s activities, which is on even greater importance to the members of the cinematograph industry – as distinct from the public at large – and that is the enormously elevating influence of his work as regards the dignity and prestige of the Trade as a whole. Few people, for instance, would have been able, ten years ago, to credit the fact that a performance of mere animated photographs could possibly have drawn together a fashionable, even a brilliant, audience, in a large West-End theatre, and evoked three hours’ wild and untiring enthusiasm. But such was undoubtedly the case on Friday. It was not simply a ‘scratch audience’ brought there out of idle curiosity, but a representative gathering, largely composed of the people who really matter in the social world. And this sort of thing has been going on for the past six months.72
Elsewhere, the Bioscope recorded the sort of society names to be seen at the early screenings of the Delhi Durbar films. The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, Dom Manoel of Portugal, the Marquis of Soveral, the Marchioness of Ripon and Ely, the Marquis of Tullibardine, the Duke of Atholl, the Dowager Countess of Dudley, the Ladies Granard, Nina Balfour, Reay, Petre, Legard, Albu and Neumann, Lord Iveagh, Lord Boston, the Hon. Cecil Cadogan, the Hon. A.E. Guinness, Sir Berkeley Milne, Sir Sidney Greville, Sir E. Sassoon had all seen the programme before the first month was out.73 Those who had seen the actual ceremonies in India came to see the experience recreated on the Scala. Royalty would soon follow.
The Bioscope emphasised that the motion picture record had far exceeded what the pen could achieve, in imparting not only the spectacle but perhaps its final meaning. When it came to describing the physical experience of watching the show, the writer, in common with others’ reaction to Kinemacolor, highlighted the memorable effect of individual colours, thereby underlining Kinemacolor’s super-real as well as its naturalistic effect, and giving the impression of a sensory over-load:
If one were questioned as to the main impression made on one’s mind by the entertainment, one would say that it was an impression of vivid light and moving colours. Pageant after pageant unrolls itself before one’s dazzled eyes, scintillating with a thousand tones of scarlet and blue and gold and purple. Some of the scenes are like the slow unfolding of a jewelled banner, so wonderful is their magnificence. We have often heard tales of the barbaric splendours of the Orient, but never before, perhaps, have we been given an equal opportunity of realising them in their full gorgeousness. Even the sky, which throughout serves as a frame for the human spectacle, is a thing to wonder at; it is one pure sheet of palpitating light, blue with a blueness of which one can only dream here in grey England, deep, intense, unruffled, like one gigantic sapphire.74
The modern elixir of life, in this sad case, has been poured away. With Our King and Queen Through India is a lost film. In common with the great majority of Kinemacolor productions, no complete copy is known to survive in any of the world’s film archives. One can at least put in the qualification ‘complete’, because in 2000 a ten minute section showing part of the review of troops at Badli-ki-Sarai that took place after the main ceremony was discovered in the Russian national film archive at Krasnagorsk.75 The survival of a fragment from the edges of a much greater and spectacular work only makes the loss of the main films that much more regrettable. The rediscovery of the complete Kinemacolor Delhi Durbar remains a film archivist’s dream.
Urban’s critics were proved wholly wrong. The public was not tired of the Durbar; it was in fact thirsting for the experience, and the Scala show offered a patriotic and sentimental display of colour, sound, pageantry and exoticism that accurately reflected the picture-book understanding that many had of the British Empire. For many, this is what India meant. For David Cannadine, the ‘image of India protected and projected by the Raj – glittering and ceremonial, layered and traditional, princely and rural, Gothic and Indo-Saracenic – reached what has rightly been called its “elaborative zenith” at the Coronation Durbar of 1911’.76 That image was literally projected by Urban on the Scala screen (Cannadine’s study of how the British Empire displayed itself regrettably ignores the role of cinema), a meticulous reflection of the surface, an uncomplicated marvel.
The success of the film was immediate. It made a fortune, Urban calculating that through a combination of the Scala programme and five touring road shows in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the film grossed more than £150,000 (though this figure is more likely for all Kinemacolor exhibited in UK). Over the two years that Kinemacolor had its residency at the Scala, gross receipts (from a theatre that seated just 920) were £64,000.77 It also made Urban the talk of the town, practically a national celebrity. He was commented upon as a man about town in society columns, he was interviewed in journals, and his portrait was painted for Mayfair magazine (the painting being entitled ‘The King’s Kinemacolorist’),78 and most notably by Leslie Ward (‘Spy’) for one of the renowned series of Vanity Fair cartoons. Spy’s painting of Urban perfectly captures the elegance, poise and style (not to mention the trade-mark cigar) of a man at the very top of his world.79 A letter to the editor of Punch recommended that the best way to revive moribund English cricket was to take it out of the hands of the M.C.C. and put it under a management committee to include Lord Northcliffe, Imre Kiralfy, George Robey, Charles Frohman and Charles Urban, placing Urban in a company of men renowned for their dynamism.80 Urban’s social success was finally crowned by an entry in Who’s Who.81
The Delhi Durbar film became an essential sight for the discriminating Londoner, and American newspapers recommended a visit to the Scala as a necessary part of the itinerary for any American visiting London.82 For many visitors it was their first visit to a film show, both exotic and socially acceptable, and children were taken to a show whose worthiness greatly commended it to those who might otherwise be suspicious of moving pictures. Among such visitors were the young John Grierson, Ivor Montagu and Paul Rotha, future lions of British documentary and politicised filmmaking.83 Urban averred, ‘the superior character of the film subjects, as well as the beauties of the process, have been the means of attracting tens of thousands of the public who had never previously visited a picture theatre, but who have since become ardent supporters of the new art’.84
Such interest was accentuated by the attendance of royalty itself. King George V and Queen Mary went to the Scala on 11 May 1912, accompanied by Queen Alexandra, the Empress Marie Féodorovna of Russia, Princess Christian, Princess Victoria, Princess Henry of Battenburg, the Grand Duchess Olga, and Prince and Princess Alexander of Teck.85 The Empress wrote enthusiastically to her son Tsar Nikolai:
We are lunching today with Georgie and May at Buckingham Palace. They both send you greetings. Last night we saw their journey to India. Kinemacolor is wonderfully interesting and very beautiful and gives one the impression of having seen it all in reality.86
It was one of the great personal tragedies in Urban’s life that he was not there. Urban fell suddenly ill on his birthday (15 April), enduring violent internal spasms eventually diagnosed as a perforated gastric ulcer, and with his life under threat he underwent an operation from which it took him several weeks to recover.87 It meant that he had to miss the royal visit, an event which would undoubtedly have been one of the highlights of his life. In later years he developed the naive fantasy that had he only been there he would have been knighted on the spot, illness robbing him of the honour that was surely only his due.88 He therefore missed the scene, reproduced in a fine illustration on the front page of the Graphic, of the royal couple watching in rapt attention while their triumph passed once more before their eyes, and the lecturer St John Hamund described the passing scene.89
Royalty had already shown Kinemacolor its favour. Following King Edward’s Knowsley programme in 1909, the Prince of Wales visited the Scala on 25 July 1911 to see the Kinemacolor films of the coronation and his own investiture, and four days later Urban gave a Kinemacolor show by command of Queen Alexandra at Sandringham.90 On 14 and 15 September the same year the films of the coronation and the investiture of the Prince of Wales were shown for King George V and Queen Mary at Balmoral. The Durbar films were a particular draw. The Duke and Duchess of Teck visited the Scala on 14 March, while Princess Mary and three of her younger brothers attended on 24 April.91 Georgie and May had not tired of Kinemacolor, because they requested a further showing of the Indian films at Buckingham Palace on 12 December, ending an extraordinary year of royal patronage for Kinemacolor.92 The lowly British film trade now saw its most prestigious product mentioned regularly in The Times‘ Court Circular. Urban’s triumph was a triumph for the industry overall. Kinemacolor had managed, through its richly coloured parades and obeisant mise en scène, to reflect royalty’s image of itself. It brought royalty to royalty. There is no written evidence from this time of any royal figure reflecting on the curious phenomena of witnessing one’s own public display, but unquestionably the Kinemacolor films, in their content and quality, were the starting point of a conscious realisation of screen presence in the members of the British royal family.
International licences and patents
With Our King and Queen Through India was to prove the apex of Urban’s career, but through 1912 and 1913 there seemed no indication of any waning for Kinemacolor. The money was coming in from the sale of international patents and exhibition licences. Kinemacolor fiction films were generally acknowledged to be poorly made, but a new revolving studio (to catch available sunlight) was constructed in a meadow behind Urban’s newly-acquired mansion in Bushey Park, outside London, which opened in April 1913.93 Kinemacolor’s greater successes continued to be films of actuality combined with pageantry or spectacle, and Urban enjoyed a further succes d’estime with The Making of the Panama Canal, first exhibited in October 1912. A nine-reeler, lasting around two hours, this was the longest Kinemacolor production since the Durbar films, and it pushed the latter to the matinee slot at the Scala.94 This coup was soon followed by films of the Balkan War, filmed by James Scott Brown and others under the supervision of the war artist and journalist Frederic Villiers, who introduced the films at the Scala from January 1913. Billed as ‘the only genuine War Pictures in Natural Colour’, the films inevitably showed nothing of the front line. Villiers admitted in interview that war no longer featured the ‘pomp and circumstance … stern charges and hand to hand conflicts’ of the battles of old, in which he had made his reputation as an illustrator, but it was his reputation as a vivid chronicler of war’s reality that Urban was playing upon. Poor weather and distance from the conflict rendered the Balkan War Kinemacolor films little more than travelogues, but Villiers gave them their artistic and journalistic credibility.95
From 1910 onwards, Urban’s chief business was selling Kinemacolor international licences. The original patent rights had been purchased from G.A. Smith by Ada Jones in 1910, and in Britain the rights were now owned by the Natural Color Kinematograph Company, of which she and her husband remained co-directors. With the latest and most glittering object in the window to offer for sale, Urban pursued a strategy of putting on glamorous exhibition screenings, which whetted the appetite of exhibitors and led to a succession of lucrative sales, wherein Urban sold exhibition rights and sometimes the patent rights to an individual territory, while frequently keeping a share interest. However, without Urban’s personal drive behind the product, once the sale had been made Kinemacolor abroad seldom matched the success that it had found in Britain.
France was the first country that Urban approached. He had close links through Eclipse, and France was also the home of Pathé and Gaumont’s stencil colour processes, systems which had defined what colour in the cinema meant. Kinemacolor opened in France with a special exhibition in Paris on 8 July 1908 before members of the Institute of Civil Engineers, just two months after the opening of Urbanora House. Among the invited guests of scientists and film industry representatives were the inventors of the Autochrome colour process for still photographs, Auguste and Louis Lumière. The highlight of the programme was a film of the Grand Prix motor race from Dieppe, which had taken place the previous day. A stencil coloured film of the same event would have taken weeks to produce, and by this simple coup Urban demonstrated that his system was of a different order. Further one-off exhibitions followed, before a three month engagement began at the Folies Bergère from September 1909.96
The French patent rights (Kinemacolor was patented in France on 22 August 1907)97 were sold in 1912 to the Raleigh et Robert firm, which created a prestige centre for Kinemacolor exhibition in Paris at the Biograph Theatre, Rue de Peletier. In July 1912, an attempt to float an independent company, Kinemacolor de France to supersede Raleigh et Robert’s business failed when insufficient working capital was raised by subscription.98 The Natural Color Kinematograph Company bought back the French patents for £5,000 more than they had sold them for, and this action together with the success of the Scala operation led Urban to attempt to repeat the formula through purchasing the lease on premises in the Rue Edouard VII, Boulevard des Capucines, Paris. Here Urban undertook to build his very own theatre, the Théâtre Edouard VII, a reckless act with severe repercussions. The theatre took over a year to construct and to furnish to the sumptuous standard deemed necessary. It was decorated in white and gold in the Louis Quatorze style, a two-tier house with lounges, smoking saloons, tea rooms and a grand foyer, and even a statue of King Edward outside in the Place Edouard VII which was unveiled on the opening night (emphasising the spirit of entente cordiale).
For all the theatre’s gorgeousness, the delay was the first ominous note, as enthusiasm for the novelty of Kinemacolor waned. The theatre did not open until 12 December 1913, and it seated only 800, fewer even than the Scala. The small size of theatre demanded higher ticket prices than usual, higher than the French public was generally prepared to play. The location was still more obscure than that of the Scala. Urban had understood that the street would be cut through into the Rue Camartin, turning the Rue Edouard VII into a regular thoroughfare, but it was still a cul de sac by the time the theatre closed for the summer season on 30 May 1914. In short, too few could even see the theatre, and all of the faults that Urban had overcome regarding the Scala’s location were here magnified just that little bit too far. The venture cost Urban personally somewhere between £40-45,000. Negotiations became complicated through Urban negotiations with the firm of Viscos, producers of an artificial silk. One of the partners claimed that they could produced a non-flammable film base. The profits from this were to enable Viscos to purchase the theatre from Urban, but the film base never materialised, and Urban was left personally responsible for all the debts. On top of the Bioschemes court case (which also opened in December 1913), the Théâtre Edouard VII was the chief cause of his financial downfall in 1914.99
Germany was the second foreign territory Urban approached, though he was unable to find a buyer for the patent rights. A five month engagement started at the Berlin Wintergarten from June 1909. In 1910 the German exhibition rights went to the Theater-Betriebs-Geseltschaft, Dusseldorf, and later licences went in 1912 to Berlin’s Kroll Theatre, Tiergarten and the Passage Theatre, Unter den Linden, followed by a four-week residency at the Nollerndorf Theatre in December 1913. Urban instigated a system of international licences covering from three to twelve months. Urban was sometimes managing to sell Kinemacolor three times over: the national patent rights, the exhibition rights (for restricted periods, then to be re-negotiated) and naturally the exclusive Kinemacolor apparatus and films necessary to put on such programmes. The sale of patent rights was the most lucrative business, though they were negotiated for eight territories only. £2,500 was paid for Switzerland, £4,000 for Brazil, £6,000 for Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg, £8,000 for Italy, £10,000 for France, £10,000 for Japan, £10,265 for Canada, and £40,000 for the United States of America.100 Few of these sales resulted in success for the purchasers. Urban recalled that the Canadian company had been undercapitalised, leading to voluntary liquidation in 1914 after just two years of trading. The patents rights for Italy were sold in 1912, but Urban said that strong opposition from French and Italian monochrome production led to the company’s failure after just six months. This therefore preceded a significant publicity coup, when the Pope witnessed a programme of Kinemacolor films at the Vatican on 11 June 1913. Other territories similarly failed, Urban noting that ‘the purchasers of these rights evidently had in mind “getting rich quick” at a comparatively limited outlay of capital’.101
One comparative success story was Japan. The patent rights for Japan and East Asian were acquired in 1912 by the Fukuhodo company, which paid 40,000 yen (£10,000 according to Urban’s records). The rights then passed on to Toyo Shokai. A three-hour Kinemacolor programme was given before the Emperor of Japan in August 1913, and in October the first commercial Kinemacolor programme opened at the Kirin-kan in Asakusa, Tokyo. Toyo Shokai reformed itself on 17 March 1914 as Tennenshoku Katsudoshashin Kabushiki Kaisha (Natural Color Kinematograph Company), abbreviated to Tenkatsu. Kinemacolor exhibition in Japan was well-managed and profitable, and local film production followed, predominantly fiction films, which were adaptations from kabuki plays. However, the onset of the war led to a sharp rise in the cost of film stock, and as Kinemacolor used double the amount of film to monochrome production, its use became restricted to special scenes in selected productions. After a gap of two years the last Japanese film to use Kinemacolor, Saiyûki Zokuhen, was released in July 1917, but the novelty had passed.102
Kinemacolor Company of America
By far the most important territory was inevitably the United States of America. The rise and fall of Kinemacolor in America is related only tangentially to Urban himself, because he sold the patents rights outright without retaining a share interest, a decision he would later describe as ‘the biggest mistake of my business career’.
The patent application for Kinemacolor in the United States had been filed in June 1907 and was granted on 30 November 1909.103 The first exhibition in America took place soon after on 11 December 1909, at Madison Square Gardens. Urban and Smith were both present, Smith introducing and explaining the system (Urban was a poor public speaker). Interest had been building up in America, and an audience of 1,200 representatives of the general press and film trade attended the debut programme. ‘In point of attendance it was probably the largest meeting interested in the subject of film photography which has been brought together in this country’, reported the Moving Picture World.104 The reception matched the anticipation, the enthusiastic acclaim fuelled by Urban’s flourish of ending the programme of twenty subjects with a film, taken by John Mackenzie, of 2,000 children forming the American flag. The Moving Picture World declared, ‘Kinemacolor has all the possibilities of an enormous, an epoch-making and a revolutionary success in front of it.’105 Urban tried to do a deal with the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC), the monopolistic organisation established in January 1909 to license film production, distribution and exhibition exclusively, through control of the patents of Edison and others, but he failed to do so before leaving for Britain on 14 December. His business timing was unfortunate, both because the MPPC was striving earnestly to stifle all independent film activity in America, and because the special equipment required for Kinemacolor ran counter to its wish to standardise the American film industry.106 If Urban could not persuade the MPPC and its member companies to accept Kinemacolor, the American market would very likely be closed to him.
Salvation came from outside the film business in the shape of two businessmen from Allentown, Pennsylvania, Gilbert Henry Aymar and James Klein Bowen. They pursued Urban to London and secured the patent rights for $200,000 (£40,000), with a plan to follow the British pattern by exhibiting Kinemacolor through a system of local licences in variety theatres rather than picture houses. They established the Kinemacolor Company of America in April 1910, with Urban taking a token hundred shares. The company’s plan was to concentrate on exhibition and to rely for the most part on the proven success of the British product.107 The business, however, was badly run and bedevilled by technical problems. Urban had some unspecified control over the company and its patent, because in January 1911 he approached New York stock speculator, George H. Burr & Co., which paid the $200,000 for the patent rights and floated a new Kinemacolor Company of America (KCA), raising a reported $6,000,000. The resultant company with patent was sold in April to John J. Murdock, a man with a theatre background.108
The revitalised company now enjoyed the same success with exclusive films of British royalty as had occurred in Britain, the film of the coronation of King George V being a notable hit in August 1911, and the Delhi Durbar films creating almost as much of an impact as they had in Britain.109 There was the same talk of the effect Kinemacolor was having in elevating the tone of American film-going, attracting a discerning, middle class audience prepared to pay ticket prices comparable to theatres. However, the significant feature of the KCA was its interest in fiction films. One of the earliest, most ambitious, and what would certainly have been the most notorious of their productions was The Clansman, based on Thomas Dixon’s inflammatory novel about the Ku Klux Klan. Produced throughout 1911 in the New Orleans area, and completed by January 1912 at a cost of some $25,0000, the ten-reel film was never released, owing to unresolved legal problems regarding the story rights. Kinemacolor employee Frank Woods brought the property and his own film treatment of it to the attention of his new employer, D.W. Griffith, who would transform it into The Birth of a Nation.110
Late in 1912 a new head of the company was in place, Henry J. Brock, and fiction film production was fully underway, with studios at 4500 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Production and exhibition in America were each beset by technical problems, however, and too few films were produced to sustain the company, despite KCA eventually obtaining a licence from the MPPC in August 1913, making it the only new company to join the trust after its original formation. Exhibitors in particular resisted including Kinemacolor films requiring separate projection facilities within their programmes. The Hollywood studio closed in June 1913, ironically taken over by the D.W. Griffith company, which renamed it the Fine Arts studio, where The Birth of a Nation would be filmed. KCA opened a studio in New York in October 1913, but the company headed for extinction, a clear indication of how Kinemacolor’s best chances as an attraction had to be in specialised theatre settings rather than as part of a conventional cinema programme.111
Kinemacolor’s ultimate failure in America was deeply frustrating to Urban:
If I had kept a voice in the American directorate I firmly believe that the American Kinemacolor Company would today  be the biggest company of all. … If I had not sold out completely in American Kinemacolor, I could have come here and made the company a vital progressive force. I have always thought it was mismanaged or it would not have failed.112
There has to be considerable doubt that Kinemacolor would have prospered in America had Urban taken charge. Karl Brown, who processed KCA films and would move on to become assistant to D.W. Griffith’s cinematographer, Billy Bitzer, watched the results of his labours, and saw them gradually die at the box office:
Why? Because Kinemacolor required the expert care of specially trained technicians to make its glories come to life. It had begun with royalty no less, having recorded in full faithful color the great Durbar staged in India to commemorate the accession of George the Fifth. Every true Briton throughout the empire felt bound to see this picture, if it took his last farthing. … The profits were so huge that the Kinemacolor Company [in America] decided to go into commercial production. In that decision lay the cause of its eventual downfall, for Kinemacolor was expensive. There were not enough theaters equipped with the Kinemacolor projectors, or enough projectors, or enough free grand spectacles to be filmed. What Kinemacolor really wanted was another Durbar, but George the Fifth was in remarkably good health.113
Brown neatly sums up both the appeal and the limitations that spelt the end of Kinemacolor, not only in America but worldwide. Its immediate appeal was considerable, bred of a period where motion pictures were in the ascendant and were ready to capture a wealthier market than had hitherto been available to them. That market wanted quality to be an integral part of its entertainments, and it found this in the theatre settings, exclusive presentations and emphasis on royal pageantry that characterised the most successful Kinemacolor shows. It was a period when fascination with ceremonial display was at a peak, for its luxurious qualities, for its visual expression of the apparent solidity of Empire, and because it provided a reassuring curtain to hide the darker undercurrents that were manifested in the dock and railwaymen’s strikes that Britain faced at this time. That immediate, urgent appeal brought about huge revenue in Britain, and a pattern of elaborately presented trade shows and screenings before personages such as the Pope and the Emperor of Japan led to hurried speculation, as exhibition and patent licences were snapped up and the investors sat back and waited for the profits to come pouring in. But Kinemacolor was a complex process, both technically and in exhibition terms. It required special projectors and special talents to maintain them; the system suffered badly if it was not expertly controlled. It could only survive as an exclusive. Lastly, it was dependent on those ‘free grand spectacles’ which had created its reputation. It failed completely with the dramatic film. It needed the super-reality of another Delhi Durbar. But King George V was in remarkably good health.
Kinemacolor and its Critics
Various commentators have tried to pinpoint why Kinemacolor’s success was so short-lived. Gorham Kindem provides a summation of these theories. Terry Ramsaye (Urban’s confidant) puts some of the blame on the Motion Picture Patents Company. Rachael Low argues that it was the loss of the 1906 patent and the liquidation of Kinemacolor’s assets in 1914. Adrian Klein considers Kinemacolor alongside other early additive color processes and feels that that they were technologically inadequate and simply hurtful to the eyes. D.B. Thomas acknowledges these points, but considers also the economic and aesthetic problems created by a production policy which concentrated too heavily on non-fiction film. Kindem adds his own observation that Kinemacolor over-extended its resources and made the mistake of not marketing its product to outsiders, contrasting it with the success of Technicolor and Eastmancolor, which each learned from Kinemacolor’s mistakes and were able to maintain their colour patents for far longer and make them available to all who could afford them.114
Each of these arguments, though valid, presupposes that Kinemacolor was ultimately a failure. But it may just as equally be argued that Kinemacolor was a notable success, when one considers fairly what it was supposed to be, and what it might reasonably have been expected to achieve. It was for five years an outstanding commercial, critical and aesthetic success, technically at the peak of what could be achieved for its time, extending and elevating the range of film exhibition, and establishing natural colour motion pictures as a practical means of communication. Urban made a reasonable claim when he stated that ‘our presentation of Kinemacolor was the beginning of the splendid presentations in picture houses today’, and he felt that America’s leading exhibitor Samuel ‘Roxy’ Rothapfel ‘got his inspiration for orchestra, lighting, stage setting and prices for the Strand resulting from his visit to the Scala Theatre’.115 Beyond inspiring to some degree the elaborate feature film presentations of the 1920s, Urban’s Kinemacolor shows broke with all established patterns of film exhibition, in pricing, duration of run, and subject matter of exclusive presentations. The Bioscope observed:
It is necessary to be very cautious in drawing lessons from the rise of Kinemacolor and applying them to the cinematograph industry as a whole. It seems more than likely that the new process will develop as an entirely separate branch of the motion picture business. Because at the Scala Theatre the policy of a weekly or twice-weekly change of programme has been disregarded, and programmes have runs for two months or more, it does not follow that all moving picture exhibitors would be safe in following this plan. Similarly, because high prices are being obtained at the Scala, it would not do to counsel exhibitors everywhere to raise their charges by some hundreds per cent. It will be generally admitted that Mr Urban has inaugurated what is practically a new phase of cinematography, and one which will reach the highest development without necessarily interfering in any way with the scope of the black-and-white industry.116
Urban had shown the way for extended runs of film programmes in the future, and alarmed a conservative British film trade. As it was, the very difference of Kinemacolor caused it to be seen as something separate from the regular cinema industry. Its films were not available for general distribution and were seldom advertised in the film trade press. Kinemacolor programmes were, in Britain and America, as likely to be reviewed as theatre productions as they were to be noted as film shows. American trade papers would divide their reviews into licensed, independent, and Kinemacolor productions.117 Its difference carried prestige. Prestige was urgently sought by the film industry in every land to establish its good name and to attract the monied middle class audience. The industry was proud of the achievements of Kinemacolor. The pride was partly a reflection of the feeling generated by the films of royal pageantry that lay at the core of Kinemacolor’s reputation, but chiefly it was pride in a product, a phenomenon that exuded pure class, acclaimed by the arts, sciences and society.
Kinemacolor was dependent on an illusion (as is any film, ultimately), an illusion with all the greater effect in the way in which it was exhibited. People saw, to a significant degree, what they were conditioned to see. The illusion could not always be sustained, however. The technical deficiencies of the system too often broke the spell. Two main objections were raised. The first was colour fringing. Inherent in any sequential additive system was the separation of the colour records which went to make up a single, combined colour image. The Kinemacolor film strip had alternate red and green records, but at the high speed of projection necessary (around thirty frames per second, or double the regular rate, as double the number of frames was needed to create a single record), the effect was sufficient to give, as Smith’s patent stated, ‘the impression that the colours obtained from the alternating records are super-imposed, or blended, so that the moving picture appears … to be in its natural colours, or approximately so’.118 However, moving objects necessarily would be recorded imprecisely as the image changed in the fraction of a second interval that took place between each red and green exposure. The result was colour fringing, edges of red or green appearing around moving objects, and particularly noticeable with lateral movement.
The second key objection was eye-strain. With the usual two-bladed projector shutters employed at that period, sixteen frames per second for a normal piece of (silent) film is close to the threshold point where the viewer becomes aware of the intervals between frames, the phenomenon known as ‘flicker’ which distressed early film audiences. Kinemacolor was running at double speed but with double the number of frames, and the thirty frames per second recommended in Smith’s patent hovered close to that awkward threshold. There was a similar, extra problem with the colour fusion rate, which needed to be at a minimum of thirty frames per second (colours alternating every fifteenth of second) to achieve the rate at which a such series of pictures could become a motion picture in the mind. A faster speed was no less problematical, owing to the considerable wear and tear on the prints (it is certainly due in part to the hard use that they received that so few Kinemacolor prints survive today). There were numerous complaints of eye-strains and headaches throughout the Kinemacolor period.
There were further criticisms of Kinemacolor. Several commentators observed that the pictures seemed over-bright, presumably owing to over-compensation for brightness on the part of the operator, because projection through filters led to considerable absorption of light. Others felt that tonal values were lost through the need always to film in bright sunlight. F.A. Talbot observed:
The public has sometimes drawn attention to another defect in colour cinematography. It appears to photograph the subject in brilliant sunshine, regardless of the fact that sunlight kills colours. … The brilliantly lighted points are lacking in tone, and some very bizarre effects are produced in consequence. When an essentially scenic subject is thrown upon the screen these defects are very manifest, but when it is applied to such a subject as the Coronation of the King the flaws are overlooked, because public interest is concentrated upon the principal actors.119
Indeed the intense interest that the royal subjects attracted enhanced what the audience saw, and slow processions would not in any case betray much in the way of colour fringing. But even without such excuses, Robert Humfrey and other witnesses to the Delhi Durbar film were general in their belief that ‘the Indian light seemed to suit it [Kinemacolor] and the colours were well-nigh perfect’.120
Kinemacolor was also expensive and awkward to operate. The cost in film stock was high (see Table 4), not only because twice as much film was required as standard monochrome stock, but because the severe wear-and-tear meant that prints had frequently to be replaced. Kinemacolor required a special projector, engineered to handle the double-speed and colour filters. Operating the projector was a skilled job, requiring a specialised operator, and the cost of both machine and operator added further to the expense.
A further limitation, was the emphasis on actuality or non-fiction film. Commentators such as D.B. Thomas and Rachael Low mark it as a failing that such a high percentage of Kinemacolor’s output was actuality film. This was of course wholly to Urban’s taste, and central to his particular mission. Kinemacolor meant the pageant of true life. Nevertheless, the dictates of the film business demanded that fiction films be produced to create a rounded programme, but in Britain too few were produced, and those that were made were of a dispiritingly poor standard. Greater emphasis was put on the fiction film in America, but that merely exposed the great difficulties of filming with Kinemacolor under studio conditions, and further exposed the fact that there were an insufficient number of theatres available to support such exclusive production.
Against all such complaints came the repeated delight in the effect of Kinemacolor at its height. Testimonies ranging from the sober nod of approval to the ecstatic reverie are legion. For Theodore Brown, Kinemacolor had attained the perfect apprehension of nature, science superseding art:
They are not pictures, but solid realities, the faithful re-creations of nature. I have been told that the function of pictorial art is not to create realities, but merely to suggest them. It is fortunate that it is so; otherwise the function would remain unfulfilled. The function of kinemacolor appears to be the re-creation of Nature as she is seen by the human eye, not from one point of view only, or at one moment of time, but from all points of view, and at all moments during the evolution of motion. Hence the mark aimed at in this science seems to stand higher than any other, and kinemacolor does not fail to hit it. It is difficult to understand how so simple a process succeeds so admirably in reproducing any and all the tints of solar refraction, and in showing withal their constant variations. The fact is, many of the tints one perceives are accidentals or preceding hues, throwing up their complementary colours, and thus contributing to a perfect whole.121
There is, in this elusive passage, an effort to demonstrate that Kinemacolor showed more than rational analysis might suggest that it was able to. Brown was interested in the stereoscopic qualities of film, and in the time lapse inevitable from separate red/green images coming together as one, Brown thought he detected what he termed ‘binocular solidity’. What is more intriguing is Brown’s apprehension of ‘accidental or preceding hues’, of colours making up ‘a perfect whole’ where none might expected to be.
In 1959 Edwin H. Land, inventor of the Polaroid camera, conducted a simple experiment which challenged accepted theories of colour vision. Land took black-and-white photographs of an object, one through a red filter, the other through a green filter (he would subsequently experiment with other combinations, including red and white). The resultant black-and-white transparencies he showed through slide projectors, in front of which he placed red and green filters. Turning on both projectors, with the images superimposed, resulted in an image that demonstrated almost the full range of colours, with reds, blues and greens all as they appeared in the original image, or approximately so.122
Land’s experiments were an illustration of a phenomenon, recognised since the eighteenth century, known as ‘colour constancy’. It describes the tendency of colours to retain their appearance despite changes in illumination. Land posited that the Newtonian concept of a wavelength of light creating colour of itself was inadequate. Colour perception (as opposed to colour sensation) was determined by the brain interpreting wavelength information, which it did in conjunction with information derived from other aspects of the image. A comparative process was at work in the eye, so that what the brain deduces is only partly what the eye sees.123
It would be out of place for a thesis on early non-fiction film to go too far down the route of the physiological/psychological means by which images are constructed in our minds. Simply put, we may see more colours, or colours of a different hue, that those that may be calculated from light wavelength alone. More, cultural conditioning will determine for us what colours we see and what significance they have for us, and still more we may see what we wish to see. All of these factors came into play in the exhibition of Kinemacolor. The plain physics of red and green light were insufficient to explain a phenomenon created out of cultural conditioning, comparison in people’s minds with colour in other media, comparison with (or ignorance of) colour as it previously existed in the cinema, and audience expectation created out of the aura surrounding Kinemacolor than Urban so assiduously created.
While Urban was the quintessential example of someone who saw all of the colours in Kinemacolor that he wanted others to see, G.A. Smith had some intimation of its suggestive effect. In the Bioschemes court case, he made this statement about what for Kinemacolor would be the fateful colour blue:
One has a very curious illustration about that with flags. I very often amuse myself about it, because this matter of blue has been on my mind a good deal, and I have discussed it a good deal. There is a rather curious thing that crops up in everyday life about blue, and that is in the Union Jack. You will find a Union Jack is very often indeed in a shocking state; it is a sort of dull drey [sic], red and black almost, and yet if you were to say to anybody, What colour is that? he would say, Red and blue; but when you took it down you would find there was no blue in it, it is red and black and dark grey, but no blue at all. I do not deny that you do get blue in Union Jacks, but it is called blue often when it is not; it is described as the good old blue and red Union Jack.124
Smith understood the illusion and the need. Smith’s own fiction films had both employed trickery and made trickery their theme. The X Rays (1897), The Mesmerist; or, Body and Soul (1898), Photographing a Ghost (1898), The Haunted Picture Gallery (1899), Let Me Dream Again (1900) and other similar titles all indicated not only an ability in Smith to deceive, but an understanding of how people can or even need to be deceived. Kinemacolor was no less an example of the art of deception. It seemed to offer the full range of natural colours from only a red and green source, an illusion dependent on the viewer’s deep-rooted wish to be taken in. Those who criticise Kinemacolor now for its inadequate colour reproduction are ignoring both the cultural conditions that were prevalent, and the physiological processes that enriched the colour effect. Of course, not all were taken in, but for a time there were enough who wanted to be.
There are enough Kinemacolor films in existence today to judge for ourselves some of the effectiveness of its colour. It is not possible to recreate the cultural conditions under which such films were originally exhibited, but unfortunately it is also seldom possible to see true Kinemacolor projected at all, owing to the need for specialised projection equipment (and the expertise to manage it). Compromise solutions have come in the creation of colour positives, using black-and-white negatives from the red and green records effectively as colour separations to create a colour print which can be shown on a conventional projector at sixteen frames per second. This conversion from additive to subtractive has been employed by the National Film and Television Archive and the Cineteca del Comune di Bologna.125 More regrettable has been the solution devised by George Eastman House and Haghefilm of Amsterdam, of dyeing the alternate frames red and green and showing the results at thirty-two frames per second, effectively applying a Friese-Greene system to Kinemacolor, something which would have horrified Urban.
The verdict of this witness (who has seen true Kinemacolor projection, modern colour prints, colour video copies, but not the dyed alternate frame variants) is that Kinemacolor is surprisingly effective. There is a fuller range of colours than one would logically expect from a red-green palette, and in common with the original audiences one encounters sequences where suddenly the colour recreation seems exceptionally true. Such epiphanic moments occur at particular points of recognition, notably landscape and human faces, while the more obvious subjects for a colour process wishing to impress, such as costumes or flowers, too often emphasise the inadequacy of the reproduction. Some sequences survive that appear so true to nature that one almost forgets the colour entirely, only to be startled by a realisation that here is a colour moving picture record from a time when our own cultural conditioning wants to persuade us that nothing but monochrome should exist. The colours are not strident; indeed, they impress all the more by their restraint, and if there are shots where such restraint leads to a washed-out look, at best there is an affinity with Lumière Autochromes. Autochromes without the grain that gave them their particular Impressionist effect, perhaps. However, one has to acknowledge that this relatively muted effect may well be choice of the person who processed the colour print. Kinemacolor was manipulated in projection in its day, enhancing individual colours through filters or simply accentuating the brightness. Today, the taste is for naturalistic restraint. Colour is a social construct; Kinemacolor, as with any colour film system, is relative to the times in which it is seen.
Colour fringing is evident wherever there is movement, and Kinemacolor is undoubtedly at its most effective with relatively static travel films. Blue and yellow are poorly reproduced, skies being generally shown as a washed out grey. But red, brown, green, purple, pink and black are reproduced very well. It is a conventional wisdom that the primary test of a colour film system is its ability to recreate skin tones, and Kinemacolor’s subtle reproduction of these (and hair colour) now seems to lie at the core of its effectiveness. Contemporary witnesses praised the realism, or often hyper-realism of its reproduction of costume. Today, its fidelity to human appearance seems the greater boon, the more effective window on the past. One is also aware of a feeling within oneself to see more colours than are actually represented. This must be partly the brain trying to rationalise what is not there but should be, and partly a wish to be entranced by Kinemacolor, whose aura is hardly less (at least among early film enthusiasts) than it was in 1912. One can see why some in the original audience were wholly captivated, while others saw only the faults. It was the imperfection of Kinemacolor that stimulated the different critical responses. As with the best of Urban’s exhibitions, it encouraged an active audience engagement with the screen entertainment. Kinemacolor was a success not because it was true to life, but because it stimulated analysis of what was true to life, an understanding of the meaning of colour.
Kinemacolor vs. Bioschemes
Urban believed he could have a monopoly on colour. He always mixed hard business sense with romantic faith in his product, and he came to be particularly convinced by the peerless quality of Kinemacolor. Adrian Klein writes:
It is remarkable how men who have spent a large part of their lives in pioneering colour processes have retained their ability to observe faulty colour reproduction in other processes, but long familiarity with their own process has blinded them to its imperfections; and to sometimes such a degree that they are prepared to swear that brown is green and grey is violet. They are like men in love, who cannot conceive that others may see obvious defects in the supposedly perfect person, or their processes are like old friends whose faults they have long since ceased to be conscious of.126
Such blindness is not uncommon in many other fields, of course, but has a particular aptness when considering natural colour and the apprehension of reality. It would not be too idle to suggest that Urban was in love with Kinemacolor, that its success fitted in perfectly with the personal trajectory of his life. His fall came through blending this love with business. Love, however, may be questioned as an appropriate term; the better word is faith. It was faith that powered him, inspiring others that worked with him or hoped to profit by association with his works, and it was faith that made him by turns myopic, arrogant and fallible.
From the very moment that his natural colour system was launched upon the world in 1908, Urban was dogged by the baleful presence of William Friese-Greene. The self-proclaimed ‘inventor of kinematography’ had been experimenting in colour cinematography since 1898, and he had come into close contact with G.A. Smith because he worked with Captain William Norman Lascelles Davidson, one of a number of rival experimenters in colour cinematography from the Brighton/Hove area, whose films Smith had processed.127 Friese-Greene patented a system in 1905 which he believed was the master patent for colour cinematography. Adrian Klein dismisses the patent as ‘hopeless’.128 It involved a beam-splitting prism which obtained two pictures of orange-red and blue-green, side by side. Despite a series of failed public exhibitions, Friese-Greene persisted with it, and kept up a nagging presence, either directly or through his supporters, in the film trade press.
In 1911 a company was registered, Biocolour, by Walter Harold Speer, the manager of the Montpelier Electric Theatre in Brighton. The intention was to exploit two-colour films made under Friese-Greene’s 1905 patent, and the films started to be shown regularly at the Montpelier.129 The venture was a humble one, but with ambitions of attracting investment for wider distribution. Taunting advertisements claiming Biocolor was the only true natural colour system were carried in the trade press in October 1911, leading Urban to reply in kind and to serve a writ.130 The Bioscope reported that the result of the action would be ‘awaited with considerable interest by everyone in the Trade’, and then revealed blatant bias by publishing a glowing, unsigned article in praise of Kinemacolor, entitled ‘The Triumph of Colour’.131 Urban was inevitably distracted by the filming of the Delhi Durbar, but in the very week of that film’s debut at the Scala, Biocolour counter-sued the Natural Color Kinematograph Company for infringement of the Friese-Greene patent. Again, sniping advertisements stating each company’s point of view appeared in the trade press, this time resulting in Biocolour issuing a writ for libel.132
The tit-for-tat exchanges finally resulted in Urban applying for an injunction to restrain Biocolour from exhibiting their two-colour films, as these were an infringement of Smith’s 1906 patent. The application was heard on 22 August 1912, and the injunction granted. The screenings in Brighton ceased. That, however, was not the end of it. Friese-Greene had found a wealthy backer to support his claims. Selwyn Francis Edge was a celebrated motorist, motor manufacturer, motor boat racer and cyclist. He belonged to various learned societies, and it was at a meeting of one of these that Friese-Greene told him of the manifest injustice that he was facing. Edge took on the cause with enthusiasm. He formed a new company, Bioschemes, in 1911, not long after the Biocolour company itself, taking over most of the Biocolour shares, with the overall intention of challenging Kinemacolor’s perceived monopoly.133
Urban had his own particular view on events:
Of course, success brought its trials. Friese-Greene started his patent suit, egged on, I have always believed by Smith. His attacks on the Smith patent, which I was operating were financed by S.F. Edge, a motor car man … Edge called on me and said he had expended 6500 pounds in Friese-Greene’s color work on which a patent had been obtained and said he would upset my patent unless I put up 8000 pounds. I showed him the door. It was simply a case of blackmail.134
Urban was convinced that Smith had betrayed him and was passing on the secrets of Kinemacolor’s sensitising chemicals to Friese-Greene and Speer. There seem to be no grounds for such a suspicion, and Smith’s general contempt for Friese-Greene makes it exceedingly unlikely that he aided his work in any way. But Urban’s view of Smith had been soured over the sale of the patent. Smith remained an employee of the Natural Color Kinematograph Company, however.
The climax to years of rivalry, dispute and enmity came in December 1913. Bioschemes petitioned for the revocation of Smith’s patent. The validity of the patent was attacked on six grounds, which can essentially be summarised by the claim that the patent was not detailed enough, and the invention had been known of and used by others before Smith.135
The hearing took place at the Royal Courts of Justice before Mr Justice Warrington on 8-12 December. Urban himself was not called upon to give evidence, but Smith and Friese-Greene were. A significant point came early on the second day, when scientists speaking for the Natural Color Kinematograph Company were called upon to give their impressions of Kinemacolor. Professor Sylvanus Thompson said found it ‘both wonderful and beautiful’. He nevertheless confessed that he had never seen a satisfactory sky blue.136 Dr Reginald Clay, however, confessed:
… it was not until I actually saw with my own eyes the results that were obtained that I believed it was possible that the eye could be deceived so successfully as this patent shows that it can. I had always been under the impression that you could only distinguish yellow from white when blue was present or absent, and to my surprise I find that undoubtedly one can see both the yellow and the white, and so with other colours, that one had expected three colours to be necessary, for I find that, as far as one can judge in the absence of something to compare them with, one can get a very good deception.
Clay was then asked the question, ‘You would not have expected to get blue, but to the ordinary observer, partly because he thinks he is going to see blue or something like it, you get a fair deception?’. He replied, ‘I saw an Indian river scene in which the sky was undoubtedly – well, as far as one could judge, blue’.137 On the judgement of blue, and the understanding of deception, would ultimately rest the whole of Kinemacolor’s fortunes.
Friese-Greene gave contradictory and sometimes foolish testimony, claiming that his 1905 patent was now worth £50,000. The hearing concentrated on the school of invention in colour cinematography that had existed in Brighton and Hove 1898-1906, whose ideas influenced the others, and where the idea might have come from that led to Smith’s patent. Smith, cool and superior throughout, aimed to appear at a remove from it all. It was a performance that impressed Justice Warrington. He found Smith to be the true inventor; he found the patent to be sufficiently detailed for the user to put the invention into practice; and other, minor charges similarly failed. The petition for revocation of the patent was therefore dismissed.138
‘I won the first tilt’, recalled Urban, and he must have felt that he had finally crushed the Friese-Greene claims. More triumphs now surely beckoned, as the opening of the Théâtre Edouard VII in Paris on 12 December was reported on the same page of the Bioscope as Justice Warrington’s decision.139 The Natural Color Kinematograph Company announced four new major fiction films for the year to come, each of them adaptations: Maurice Maeterlinck’s Mary Magdalene, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy, Baroness Helen Gingold’s Abelard and Heloise, and Laurence Cowen’s The World, the Flesh and the Devil. New non-fiction productions promised were Round the World in Two Hours and Armies and Navies of the World, each of which sound like Urban’s habitual re-use of library material. There were also rumours of a new Kinemacolor theatre opening in London’s West End.140
Bioschemes appealed, however, and at a hearing in March 1914 Lord Justice Buckley overturned the previous judgement. Buckley found the patent to be imperfectly worded and too imprecise in its language and meaning. He homed in particularly on the concept of a true blue. The patent stated that it would provide ‘a practical method by which the well-known animated photographs or bioscope moving picture may be projected in the colours of nature approximately’.141 Buckley was taxed by the meaning of the word ‘approximately’, but decided that the patent should mean blue when it meant blue, and not the delusion of blue. He summed up the point ruthlessly:
The patent is I think invalid because it does not achieve the result which the patentee says it will achieve. The matter may be summarised thus: The patentee says his process will reproduce the natural colours or approximately so. Blue is a colour. He says: Drop the tri-colour blue; do not employ the blue end of the spectrum – blue or approximately blue will still be reproduced. It will not. The patent is consequently invalid. 142
Buckley then argued that if the patentee did not specify particular filters, but meant that any red or green filter might be used, then the patent was again invalid, because it had been shown that some red and green filters did not work. ‘The fact is’, he observed, ‘that the red and green which succeed best are to be determined by experiment, and I think by experiment which will vary according to the particular colours of the object which it is intended to reproduce’. Imprecise wording made the patent insufficient and unworkable. The whole Kinemacolor edifice had been built upon a lie.143
The argument put forward by Lord Justice Buckley could certainly be challenged, rounding as it does on words such as ‘approximately’, ‘sensation’ and ‘impression’, when compromise and suggestion were at the very heart of Smith’s conception of an effective colour cinematography system. Nevertheless, the decision was finely and accurately argued, and the case has become a standard reference in patent law. In a report on the case when it came before the House of Lords on appeal in March 1915, Lord Loreburn wrote a judgement which is often cited in legal texts:
It is the duty of a patentee to state clearly and distinctly, either in direct words or by clear and direct reference, the nature and limits of what he claims. If he uses language which, when fairly read, is avoidably obscure or ambiguous, the Patent is invalid, whether the defect be due to design, or to carelessness or to want of skill. Where the invention is difficult to explain, due allowance will, of course, be made for any resulting difficulty in the language. But nothing can excuse the use of ambiguous language when simple language can easily be employed, and the only safe way is for the patentee to do his best to be clear and intelligible. It is necessary to emphasize this warning.144
The effect on Urban’s business was devastating. Although he did take the case to the House of Lords, where the decision of the Court of Appeal was to be upheld a year later, his immediate action was to put the Natural Color Kinematograph Company into liquidation, to be able to pay off his creditors. Figures exist (Tables 4 and 5) for the financial performance of the company for the period 1 April 1911 to 31 March 1914, and they indicate that a business which began in March 1909 with £30,000 capital had enjoyed considerable revenue, but equally considerable expenses. Receipts over the three years amounted to £297,048; expenditure came to £260,070. This left profits (as dividends paid) of £36,977.
Table 4: Kinemacolor (London): Expenditure 11 April 1911 to 30 March 1914145
Table 5: Kinemacolor (London): Statement of Sales 1 April 1911 to 30 March 1914148
Schedule of Assets150
The Natural Color Kinematograph Company had therefore enjoyed a good, if not outstanding, profit of around £37,000 over the three years 1911-1914. At the creditors’ meeting held at the end of April 1914 an apparently positive picture was given of a company whose liabilities amounted to some £64,000, but which enjoyed assets of £150,000 (see Table 6). The liquidator reported that he had examined the company’s balance sheets, and that they had shown ‘very satisfactory results’ up to March 1913, but that the final year had seen legal costs diminishing that performance. It was the view of the creditors that the assets of the company were of great value, and that it would be in everyone’s interest to stay the call for payment, awaiting the hopeful successful reversion of the Court of Appeal’s decision, for which they were willing to pay the required £1,200.151 The business therefore continued, under the name Colorfilms. This was a company which Urban had registered in 1911, with nominal capital of £1,000 and himself and Ada Urban as directors, but which does not seem to have traded at all until 1914; a company kept to one side until Urban had need of it.152
Table 6: Natural Color Kinematograph Company: Liquidation Hearing – Assets and Liabilities153
The reality was darker by far. Urban, in his own balance sheets, claimed to have assets of £240,000, of which stock in hand came to £84,000, and foreign patents, trade marks and good will came to £150,000. This was sheer fantasy. With the British Kinemacolor patent now worthless, the foreign patents were now on very unsure ground, and in any case foreign Kinemacolor production and exhibition was in almost every country coming to a halt. Furthermore, the court’s decision had not spelt the end of Kinemacolor, merely the end of the validity of the patent on which it was based, so that the system was available for anyone to use, destroying the great value of exclusivity. The stock in hand (machinery, positive and negative Kinemacolor stock) had also to fall in value now that Kinemacolor was no longer a monopoly. Urban had assessed his business as though that monopoly was still operational. The film stock was, of course, quite useless unless shown on a Kinemacolor projector. Still worse, £40,000 had been expended on the Parisian venture, but as the liquidator reported, the venture had not been a success in the four months that it had been running, and £4,000 rent for six months was owed to the landlords, who might possibly claim the entire concern. In truth, the only certain assets were the fixtures and fittings and the freehold on the Brighton property, perhaps some £6,500. Much of Urban’s future business career would now be devoted to the progressively hopeless task of proving that his film library was indeed the major asset (cultural and commercial) that he had stated that it was at these proceedings.
It is extraordinary that Kinemacolor should have existed on so slender a thread. Of course, Urban was a victim of his own restrictive policies. Kinemacolor operated by licence and the allotting of exclusive rights to territories, a system which film history had already shown was profitable only in the short term and which was bound to meet resistance from competitors in a young, aggressive industry. Edison, Lumière and Biograph had adopted strict controls over the licensing and exhibition of their product in the 1890s, when companies were aiming to make their product generic for cinema itself. Urban, in following a pattern established a decade or more before, showed as he did in his early selection of Kinemacolor subjects that he was in some sense going back to the roots of the film industry, presenting his product as the only true expression of cinema. Edison had had the power and money to sustain a policy of restrictiveness that resulted ultimately in the Motion Picture Patents Company; Urban was never in that league. Urban certainly awoke the industry to the power and popularity of the colour film, but from his downfall the industry also learnt of its pitfalls.
The saddest outcome of the fall of Kinemacolor for Urban was that no one was interested in it. The revocation of the patent meant that the system was free for anyone to use, yet none did. ‘Apparently nobody knows how’,154 was Urban’s lugubrious comment, but more realistically the technical and cost disadvantages of Kinemacolor outweighed its value, once the exclusivity was lost. The various international ventures had largely ended in failure by 1914 in any case. Some of those formerly associated with the Kinemacolor Company of America were working on means to improve the system, among them William Francis Fox, Urban’s former editorial assistant William Crespinel, and William Van Doren Kelley, one of the fruits of which would be the latter’s Prizmacolor, first demonstrated in 1917. But essentially by 1914 Kinemacolor had run its course. The source of its power had always been Urban himself, and away from his influence Kinemacolor floundered in the hands of those who lacked his zeal and faith. It was always meant to be ‘something more than a mere picture show’. When a mere picture show was all that it could be, it died.
4. The Motion Picture Object Lesson for America
I suppose I ought not to feel badly about these accusations because they put me in a very illustrious class. I know of no man who has ever tried to do a big unselfish thing, from Jesus Christ to Kitchener, who has not been villified [sic] and barked at. At the same time, I am not going to allow myself to be discouraged by these things. I am not working for any Committee; but like the ‘Boys at the Front’ I am doing my best for my King and Country.155
All of Urban’s successes had been predicated on control. Where he had been able manage his product and exhibit it as he saw fit, he had triumphed. Where others took on the same product, as with the foreign licences for Kinemacolor, or where other concerns laid siege to his authority, as with the Bioschemes court case, the illusion crumbled. The First World War would present an opportunity to Urban that to someone who had spent so long promoting the value of the cinematograph to the military and in matters of state seemed to promise his great stage so far, yet it was to prove the background to his further downfall. This chapter documents Urban’s responses to forces greater than himself. His anger at the situation in which he found himself is illustrated through the contrasting testimony of Urban’s papers and those of the government bodies in charge of information and propaganda during the war.
With the Fighting Forces in Europe
On the outbreak of war, Urban was telling friends that he was contemplating retirement from the film industry. He was only forty-seven years old, but the loss of the Kinemacolor case felt like one battle fought too many. There was the appeal to the House of Lords pending, in which Urban still invested some faith, but he was weary and disappointed. However, this was only one side of the man. He was also angry, ambitious, certain of the value of his life’s work, and still able to exploit Kinemacolor even if it was no longer his exclusive preserve. The war provided the spark. Now was the time when the cinematograph might prove itself the valued servant of mankind, when the arguments that he had put forward in The Cinematograph in Science, Education, and Matters of State might be put to the test.
Urban had argued in his publication for the use of the cinematograph as a means to record military procedure, and as a recruiting agent.156 Hence Urban’s instinctive action following Britain’s declaration of war on 4 August 1914 was to write to Field Marshal Lord Roberts, proposing that the Kinemacolor programme then showing at the Scala, With the Fighting Forces of Europe, should be taken on a recruitment tour, sponsored by the War Office, with an army official at each screening who would ‘make a short address to the audience on the needs of the country for further military forces, and enrol many of the eligible men while they are enthused’. But in August 1914 the abounding enthusiasm for the war rendered the gesture futile. Roberts’ secretary wrote back to Urban, thanking him for his interest, but stating that there was no need of such films as recruitment to the services was ‘extremely brisk’ as it was.157
British officialdom appeared to be showing almost no interest in film or the cinema, and such interest as existed was negative. On 10 August the War Office announced its intention to suppress all topical films with a ‘bearing upon the war and its preparations’, an action promised on the same day that a Press Bureau had been formed to control war information to journalists.158 The film trade was alarmed at this prospect of a total ban, which was bred of a fear of films revealing any information on the movements of the British Expeditionary Force. It responded with self-censorship. The British Board of Film Censors (BBFC), formed in 1913, assumed censorship of war films from early September, with the approval of the Press Bureau and the War Office.159 Topical films and newsreels, hitherto exempt from censorship, now all carried an opening title reading, ‘The sections of this film dealing with the National Crisis have been passed by the British Board of Film Censors’.160
Censorship existed not only in Britain, but effectively in Belgium and France, where attempts by British cameramen to film were repeatedly frustrated by local military authorities. No access was granted to the war fronts, and scarcely any footage was obtained of the British forces. Some war news footage was released in the first few months of the war, particularly in Belgium where local permits seem to have been marginally easier to obtain. But thereafter the supply of film dried up entirely, as the Belgian army retreated and withdrew all permits. If the war was going to be reported on film, then it would have been to conducted through War Office channels. The film trade now sought collectively to lobby the War Office with proof of its loyalty and respectability, and pleas for the importance of the medium in wartime to be recognised officially.161
1 ‘Junius Junior’, ‘Mayfair Gallery: Men of the Day no. 163 – Mr Charles Urban’, Mayfair, 14 August 1912, p. 996.
2 ‘Natural’ here means images as a photo-chemical record of light, as opposed to ‘artificial’ means of adding colour to film such as hand painting, stencil colour or tinting and toning.
3 Chas. T. Kock, ‘Colour Printing: A Treatise on the Possibilities, History, Philosophy and Technic of the Art’, Penrose’s Pictorial Annual: The Process Year Book – A Review of the Graphic Arts Vol. XIV, 1908-9, p. 100.
4 Peter C. Marzio, The Democratic Art: Chromolithography 1840-1900 – Pictures for a 19th- Century America (Boston: David R. Godine, 1979), p. 6.
5 Marzio, The Democratic Art, p. xi.
6 Neil Harris, ‘Color and Media: Some Comparisons and Speculations’, in Cultural Excursions, pp. 320-321; Marzio, The Democratic Art, pp. 1-2.
7 ‘Art-Lithography of the United States’, Lithographer’s Journal, September 1893, p. 52, quoted in Marzio, The Democratic Art, p. 5.
8 Tom Gunning, ‘Colorful Metaphors: the Attraction of Color in Early Silent Cinema’, Fotogenia 1: Il Colore nel Cinema/Color in the Cinema, p. 249.
9 D.B. Thomas, The First Colour Motion Pictures (London: HMSO, 1969). See also Coe, The History of Movie Photography; Jack H. Coote, The Illustrated History of Colour Photography (Surbiton: Fountain Press, 1993); Adrian Bernard Klein, Colour Cinematography (London: Chapman & Hall, 1936).
10 British Patent (B.P.) no. 6,202 (1899), 22 March 1899, ‘Means for taking and exhibiting cinematographic pictures’.
11 B.P. 26671 (1906), ‘Improvements in & relating to Kinematograph Apparatus for the Production of Coloured Pictures’, p. 1.
12 British Journal of Photography, 6 December 1907, quoted in Klein, Colour Cinematography, pp. 8-9.
13 ‘Wonders of “Urbanora House”: Colour Photography and Educational Subjects’, The Kinematograph and Lantern Weekly, 7 May 1908, p. 451.
14 G.A. Smith, ‘Animated Photographs in Natural Colours’, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, vol. LVII, 11 December 1908, pp. 70-76.
15 ‘Natural-Colour Films: Demonstration by Mr G.A. Smith at the Society of Arts’, Bioscope, 17 December 1908, p. 15. 16 Low, History of the British Film: 1906-1914, p. 100.
17 Urban, A Yank in Britain, pp. 68-69.
18 Urban, A Yank in Britain, pp. 72-74.
19 Urban, A Yank in Britain, list of dates and memoranda.
20 ‘Cinema Pioneer Passes’, Brighton and Hove Herald, 5 September 1942, p. 1.
21 The Palace Theatre of Varieties, programme for 26 February 1909, URB 2, p. 65.
22 ‘The Kinemacolor Pictures’, Bioscope, 4 March 1909, p. 23.
23 Urban, Terse History of Natural Colour Kinematography, p. 5.
24Urban, Terse History of Colour Kinematography, p. 6.
25 PRO, BT 31/18763/102030, Natural Color Kinematograph Company.
26 Barnes, The Rise of the Cinema in Gt. Britain, pp. 178-198.
27 Booklet, Kinemacolor: The World in the Tints of Nature (1909), URB 3/1, p. 3; ‘Animated Pictures in Natural Colours: King Edward Honours the Inventor’, Bioscope, 15 July 1909, p. 4; Moving Picture World, 31 July 1909, p. 1.
28 ‘Palace Theatre’, The Times, 28 May 1910, p. 12.
29Quotations from newspaper reviews written on 28 May 1910, URB 3/1 p. 14.
30 Thomas, The First Colour Motion Pictures, p. 22.
31 Urban, Terse History of Natural Colour Kinematography, p. 7.
32 Colin Bennett, On Operating Kinemacolor (London: The Kinematograph and Lantern Weekly, 1910), p. 25.
33 Geoffrey N. Donaldson, ‘English Films Directed (or possibly directed) by Theo Bouwmeester’, in Roger Holman (comp.), Cinema 1900/1906: An Analytical Study by the National Film Archive (London) and the International Federation of Film Archives (Brussels: FIAF, 1982), pp. 131-154.
34 Catalogue of Kinemacolor Film Subjects, p. 93.
35 Catalogue of Kinemacolor Film Subjects, p. 91.
36 Catalogue of Kinemacolor Film Subjects, pp. 243, 263, 126, 247, 115, 269 and 141. There are no catalogue numbers.
37 Chris Byng-Maddick, ‘Edmund Distin Maddick CBE FRCS FRSM (1857-1939)’, Friends of West Norwood Cemetery Newsletter, May 1999, pp. 6-10.
38 Urban, Terse History of Natural Colour Kinematography, p. 8.
39 J.P. Wearing, The London Stage, 1910-1919: A Catalogue of Plays and Players – Volume I: 1910-1916 (Metuchen, NJ/London: The Scarecrow Press, 1982), catalogue number 11-82.
40 Scala Theatre programme for 11 April 1911, BFI Special Collections, Cinema Ephemera: London: The Scala; ‘“Kinemacolor” at the Scala’, The Era, 15 April 1911, p. 27.
41 Urban, Terse History of Natural Colour Kinematography, p. 8.
42 Catalogue of Kinemacolor Film Subjects, p. 148.
43 ‘Royal Ceremony in “Kinemacolor”’, The Times, 22 May 1911, p. 12.
44 Quoted in Catalogue of Kinemacolor Film Subjects, p. 152.
45 Scala Theatre programme for 11 September 1911, BFI Special Collections, Cinema Ephemera: London: The Scala.
46 Catalogue of Kinemacolor Film Subjects, p. 148.
48 Bioscope, 22 June 1911, p. 605.
49 Scala Theatre programme for 11 September 1911, BFI Special Collections, Cinema Ephemera: London: The Scala.
50 ‘The Triumph of Colour’, Bioscope, 26 October 1911, p. 283.
51 Kinemacolor versus ‘Colour’ Cinematography , Barnes collection, Hove Museum.
53 Maurice Gianati, ‘…Les couleurs et les sons se répondent…’, 1895: L’année 1913 en France (1993), p. 284.
54 Bregtje Lameris, ‘Pathécolor: “Perfect in their rendition of the colours of nature”’, Living Pictures: The Journal of the Popular and Projected Image Before 1914 [special colour issue], vol. 2 no. 2 (2003), pp. 46-58._
55 ‘A New Colour Process: Gaumont’s Chrono-Chrome’, Bioscope, 23 January 1913, p. 251; Thomas, The First Colour Motion Pictures, pp. 36-37.
56 Punch, 20 December 1911, p. 447.
57 Allen Eyles and David Meeker (eds.), Missing Believed Lost: The Great British Film Search (London: British Film Institute, 1992), pp. 100-101.
58 David Cannadine, Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire (London: Allen Lane/The Penguin Press, 2001), p. 46.
59 Kenneth Rose, King George V (London: George Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1983), pp. 131- 136; Stanley Reed, The King and Queen in India: A Record of the Visit of Their Imperial Majesties the King Emperor and Queen Empress to India, from December 2nd, 1911, to January 10th, 1912 (Bombay: Bennett, Coleman & Co., 1912), p. 9.
60 Stephen Bottomore, ‘“Have You Seen the Gaekwar Bob?”: Filming the 1911 Delhi Durbar’, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, vol. 17 no. 3, 1997, pp. 313-314.
61 ‘The Durbar in “Kinemacolor”’, The Times, 16 November 1911, p. 11; Urban, Terse History of Natural Colour Kinematography, p. 9; Arthur Edwin Krows, ‘Motion Pictures – Not for Theatres’; The Educational Screen , part 14 (December 1939) p. 363, and part 18 (June 1940), p. 235; Henry E. White, The Pageant of the Century (London: Odhams Press, 1934), p. 200; Oceana passenger list, 31 October 1911 and Maloja passenger list, 6 November 1911, PRO BT 27/727.
62 Urban, Terse History of Natural Colour Kinematography, pp. 8-9.
63 Robert Humfrey, Careers in the Films (London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1938), p. 92.
64 R.E. Frykenburg, ‘The Coronation Durbar of 1911: Some Implications’, in Delhi Through the Ages: Essays in Urban History, Culture and Society (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1986) pp. 369-390; St. John Hamund (comp. and arr.), ‘Explanatory Lecture on the Pageants, Processions and Ceremonies Connected with the Imperial Durbar at Delhi as Reproduced by Kinemacolor for Use at the Scala Theatre’ (1912), URB 12/2-2.
65 Sir Philip Gibbs (ed.), George the Faithful: The Life and Times of George ‘The People’s King’ 1865-1936 (London: Hutchinson, ), pp. 214-217.
66 Rose, King George V, p. 135.
67 Bottomore, ‘Have You Seen the Gaekwar Bob?’, pp. 319-321; Reed, The King and Queen in India, between pp. 144-145; India Office Library, MSS.Eur.D995/2 9460569.
68 Bottomore, ‘Have You Seen the Gaekwar Bob?’, p. 323; Hamund, ‘Explanatory Lecture on the Pageants, Processions and Ceremonies Connected with the Imperial Durbar at Delhi’.
69 Urban, Terse History of Natural Colour Kinematography, p. 9.
70 Thomas, The First Colour Motion Pictures, p. 26; Urban, Terse History of Natural Colour Kinematography, p. 9; numerous papers in URB 3, including programme for With Our King and Queen Through India, URB 3/1, p. 16; ‘The Durbar in Natural Colours’, The Times, 3 February 1912, p. 10.
71 ‘The Durbar in Kinemacolor’, Bioscope, 8 February 1912, pp. 363, 365.
72 op. cit.
73 ‘Items of Interest’, Bioscope, 29 February 1912, p. 571.
74 ‘The Durbar in Kinemacolor’, p. 365.
75 York Membery, ‘Film of British Raj in Living Colour Found in Russian Archive’, The Sunday Telegraph, 11 March 2001, p. 7.
76 Cannadine, Ornamentalism, p. 51.
77 Urban, Terse History of Natural Colour Kinematography, pp. 8, 10.
78 Mayfair supplement, 14 August 1912, painted by H.C.O., copy in URB 3/1 p. 34.
79 Copy held in URB 3/1 p. 33 and reproduced in Colin Harding and Simon Popple, In the Kingdom of Shadows: A Companion to Early Cinema (London/Madison & Teaneck: Cygnus Arts/Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1996), between pp. 158-159.
80 Punch, 26 June 1912, p. 482.
81 URB 3/2, p. 48. In a sad omission, the publishers failed to learn of Urban’s death in 1942, and he is not included in the decade’s Who Was Who.
82 Undated New York Review clipping, URB 3/1 p. 17.
83 Grierson, Grierson on Documentary, p. 134; Ivor Montagu, Film World (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1964), pp. 75-76; Paul Rotha, Documentary Diary: An Informal History of the British Documentary Movement, 1928-1939 (London: Secker & Warburg, 1973), p. 3.
Penguin Books, 1964), pp. 75-76; Paul Rotha, Documentary Diary: An Informal History of the British Documentary Movement, 1928-1939 (London: Secker & Warburg, 1973), p. 3.
84 Urban, Terse History of Natural Colour Kinematography, pp. 10-11.
85 ‘A Visit to the Scala Theatre’, The Times, 13 May 1912, p. 8.
86 Letter quoted in Jay Leyda, Kino: A History of the Russian and Soviet Film (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1960), p. 47.
87 URB 3/1 p. 20 verso; Bioscope, 2 May 1912 p. 317.
88 Ramsaye, A Million and One Nights, p. 570.
89 Graphic, 18 May 1912, p. 701.
90 ‘Court Circular’, The Times, 26 July 1911 p. 11 and 27 July 1911, p. 11.
91 ‘Court Circular’, The Times, 14 March 1912, p. 11 and 25 April 1912, p. 9.
92 Urban, Terse History of Natural Colour Kinematography, p. 10; Kinemacolor programme, 12 December 1912, URB 3/1 p. 15 verso.
93 Low, The History of the British Film, 1906-1914, p. 103; Thomas, The First Colour MotionPictures, p. 28.
94 Press cuttings, URB 3/1 p.6.
95 Villiers was credited as having had a supervisory role over the filming. ‘How War Pictures are Made: The Experiences of Kinemacolor Artists in the Near East’, The Kinematograph and Lantern Weekly, 23 January 1912, pp. 1264-1265; Scala Theatre advertisement, The Times, 20 January 1913, p. 6; Frederic Villiers, Villiers: His Five Decades of Adventure (New York/London: Harper & Brothers, 1920), pp. 302-303.
96 Urban, Terse History of Natural Colour Kinematography, pp. 6-7.
97 F.P. 376,837, ‘Procedé et appareil pour la projection d’images colorées’.
98 PRO BT 31 13953 file 123546, Kinemacolor de France Limited.
99 ‘Trade Topics’, Bioscope 18 December 1913, p. 1177; John Cher, ‘Triumph of British Kinemacolor in Paris: The Theatre Edouard VII’, Bioscope, 25 December 1913, p. 1302; Thomas, The First Colour Motion Pictures, p. 30; Urban, Terse History of Natural Colour Kinematography, pp. 10-11; ‘Report of Jacob William Binder on the Henry W. Joy process for taking making and projecting motion pictures in natural colors and on the Joy Duplex machine for projecting the same’, URB 9/3-3.
100 ‘Kinemacolor (London): Statement of Sales etc., and Expenditures’ (see Table 5).
101 Urban, Terse History of Natural Colour Kinematography, pp. 10-13.
102 Hiroshi Komatsu, ‘From Natural Colour to the Pure Motion Drama: The Meaning of Tenkatsu Company in the 1910s of Japanese Film History’, Film History, vol. 7 no. 1 (1995), pp. 69-86; Urban, Terse History of Natural Colour Kinematography, pp. 10, 12.
103 USA patent 941,960, ‘Kinematograph Apparatus for the Production of Colored Pictures’, URB 7/1-5.
104 Moving Picture World, 25 December 1909, p. 912.
105 Moving Picture World, 18 December 1909, p. 874.
106 Ramsaye, A Million and One Nights, pp. 567-568; Bowser, The Transformation of Cinema, pp. 228-229.
107 Terry Ramsaye, ‘The Romantic History of the Motion Picture; Chapter XX; The Hitherto Untold Story of Colored Motion Pictures’, Photoplay, vol. XXIV no. 6 (November 1923), p. 129; Nowotny, The Way of All Flesh Tones, pp. 59-63.
108 Ramsaye, A Million and One Nights, p. 568; Ramsaye, ‘The Hitherto Untold Story of Colored Motion Pictures’, p. 129; Thomas, First Color Motion Pictures, p. 30; New York Dramatic Mirror, 10 June 1911, p. 1307, quoted in Bowser, The Transformation of Cinema, p. 229.
109 Charles Musser with Carol Nelson, High-Class Moving Pictures: Lyman H. Howe and the Forgotten Era of Traveling Exhibition, 1880-1920 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), pp. 229-230.
110 Bowser, The Transformation of Cinema, p. 230; Richard Schickel, D.W. Griffith (London: Pavilion Books, 1984), p. 206; Mrs. D.W. Griffith [Linda Arvidson], When the Movies Were Young (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1925), pp. 245-251; Ramsaye, ‘The Hitherto Untold Story of Colored Motion Pictures’, p. 129.
111 Schickel, D.W. Griffith, p. 208; Slide, The American Film Industry, p. 186; Kindem, ‘The Demise of Kinemacolor’, p. 10; Karl Brown, Adventures with D.W. Griffith (London: Martin Secker & Warburg, 1973), p. 4.
112 Urban, Terse History of Color Kinematography, p. 12.
113 Brown, Adventures with D.W. Griffith, p. 3.
114 Kindem, ‘The Demise of Kinemacolor’, op. cit.
115 Urban, Terse History of Natural Colour Kinematography, p. 9.
116 ‘The Triumph of Colour’, Bioscope, 26 October 1911, p. 283. d and green
117 Bowser, The Transformation of Cinema, p. 228.
118 ‘Improvements in & Relating to Kinematograph Apparatus for the Production of Coloured Pictures’, p. 3.
119 F.A. Talbot, Moving Pictures: How They Are Made and Worked (London: William Heinemann, 1912), p. 297.
120 Humfrey, Careers in the Films, p. 92.
121 Theodore Brown, ‘My Impressions of “Kinemacolor”’, Moving Picture World, 28 May 1910, p. 886.
122 Edwin H. Land, ‘Experiments in Color Vision’, Scientific American , vol. 200, no. 5 (May 1959), pp. 84-99.
123 Helen Varley (ed.), Colour (London: Marshall Editons, 1983), p. 40.
124 Natural Color Kinematograph Company, Limited (in liquidation) v Bioschemes Ltd, p. 292.
125 Nicola Mazzanti, ‘Raising the Colours (Restoring Kinemacolor)’ in Roger Smither (ed.), This Film is Dangerous: A Celebration of Nitrate Film (Brussels: FIAF, 2002), pp. 123-125.
127 The complex history of the pre-Kinemacolor inventions in colour cinematography that took place in Brighton/Hove is covered in Luke McKernan, ‘The Brighton School and the Quest for Natural Colour’, paper given at the Visual Delights conference, University of Sheffield, July 2002.
128 B.P. 9,465 (1905); Klein, Colour Cinematography, p. 7.
129 Allister, Friese-Greene, pp. 137, 144; PRO BT 31/13680/117253.
130 Bioscope, 5 October 1911, supp. p ii and 19 October 1911, supp. p. xxviii.
131 Bioscope, 26 October 1911, p.201 and ‘The Triumph of Colour’, p. 283.
132 Bioscope, 8 February 1912, pp. 392 and 393, 15 February 1912, p. 422.
133 Allister, Friese-Greene, p. 146; PRO BT 31/20311/118694.
134 Urban, Terse History of Natural Colour Kinematography, p. 13.
135 Natural Color Kinematograph Company, Limited (in liquidation) v Bioschemes Ltd, p. 346.
136 Natural Color Kinematograph Company, Limited (in liquidation) v Bioschemes Ltd, pp. 92-101.
137 Natural Color Kinematograph Company, Limited (in liquidation) v Bioschemes Ltd: 104-107.
138 ‘In the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, Royal Courts of Justice 19 December 1913. Before Justice Warrington: In the Matter of Letters Patent No. 26671 of 1906, granted to George Albert Smith, and In the Matter of the Patents and Designs Act, 1907. Petition for Revocation’, in Natural Color Kinematograph Company, Limited (in liquidation) v Bioschemes Ltd, pp. 345-357; ‘An Important Action: Bioscope Schemes, Limited, v. Natural Color Kinematograph Co., Ltd.’, Bioscope, 18 December 1913, pp. 1219, 1189; ‘Bioscope Schemes, Limited. v. Natural Color Kinematograph Company, Limited: The Petition Dismissed’, Bioscope 25 December 1913, p. 1302.
140 Bioscope, 25 December 1913, p. 1276.
141 ‘Improvements in & Relating to Kinematograph Apparatus for the Production of Coloured Pictures’, p. 1.
142 ‘In the Supreme Court of Judicature. Court of Appeal, Royal Courts of Justice, Wednesday, 1st April 1914. Before the Master of the Rolls, Lord Justice Buckley, Mr. Justice Channell. In the Matter of G.A. Smith’s Letters Patent No. 26671 of 1906 and In the Matter of the Patents and Designs Act 1907’, in Natural Color Kinematograph Company, Limited (in liquidation) v Bioschemes Ltd, p. 367.
143 ‘Bioschemes, Limited, v. Natural Color Kinematograph Company, Limited’, Bioscope, 9 April 1914, pp. 141-142.
144 ‘Natural Colour Kinematograph Co. Ld. (in liquidation) v. Bioschemes Ld. (In the Matter of G.A. Smith’s Patent.)’, Reports of Patent, Design, and Trade Mark, and Other Cases, Vol. XXXII (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1915), p. 266.
145 Adapted from ‘Kinemacolor (London): Statement of Sales etc., and Expenditure from April 1st 1911 to March 30th 1914′, URB 3/2 p. 59 verso.
146 ‘including cost of Library Reels £20,358-19-4’ [note on original balance sheet].
147 ‘10% = for hire of films’ [note on original balance sheet].
148 Adapted from ‘Kinemacolor (London): Statement of Sales etc., and Expenditure from April 1st 1911 to March 30th 1914′, URB 3/2 p. 59 verso.
149 The figure was £20,121-02-09, ‘less Share from Scala Theatre included in £64,965-13-7’ [note on original balance sheet].
150 Note added to Schedule of Assets: ‘Kinemacolor Exhibitions Ltd. – £85,723.13.9d Operating 5 Travelling Shows in England’.
151 ‘Natural Color Kinematograph Company, Limited’, Bioscope, 30 April 1914, pp. 540-541.
152 ‘Kinemacolor – and a Chat with Mr. Charles Urban’, Bioscope, 15 October 1914, p. 259; Colorfilms Ltd., registered 2 February 1911, PRO BT 31 19847 file 114003.
153 Adapted from ‘Natural Color Kinematograph Company, Limited’, Bioscope, 30 April
154 Terse History of Natural Colour Kinematography, p. 13.
155 Charles Urban to Charles Masterman, 28 October 1916. URB 4/1-82.
156 Urban, The Cinematograph in Science, Education, and Matters of State, pp. 25-26.
157 Urban to Lord Roberts, 31 August 1914, URB 4/1-1; R.J.K. Mott to Urban, URB 4/1-4.
158 Nicholas Hiley, Making War: The British News Media and Government Control, 1914-1916 (PhD thesis, Open University, 1984), p. 369.
159 ‘Trade Topics’, Bioscope, 3 September 1914, p. 861.
160 Luke McKernan, Topical Budget: The Great British News Film (London: British Film Institute, 1992), p. 22.
161 Hiley, Making War, pp. 374-380; McKernan, Topical Budget, pp. 20-24.”
(McKernan, Luke (2003): ‘Something More than a Mere Picture Show’ Charles Urban and the Early Non-Fiction Film in Great Britain and America, 1897-1925. Diss., Birkbeck College, University of London, on pp. 122–194.)
The British Journal of Photography, December 6, 1907.