British Cinema History
Emergent British Cinema 1880-1900
cinema is generally regarded as descending from the work of the French
Lumière brothers in 1892, and their show first came to London
in 1896. However, the first moving pictures developed on celluloid film
were made in Hyde Park in 1889 by William Friese Greene, a British inventor,
who patented the process in 1890. The film is the first known instance
of a projected moving image. At the end of the 19th America had started
to experiment in how to get a moving image onto a screen and in Britain
Friese-Green was working hard at doing much the same thing on a commercial
basis. The first people to build and run a working 35 mm camera in Britain
were Robert W. Paul and Birt Acres. They made the first British film
‘Incident at Clovelly Cottage’ in February 1895, shortly
before falling out over the camera's patent.
George Albert Smith
Cinema 1900 - 1920
Another British fellow called George Albert Smith devised the first colour system, Kinemacolor, in 1908. But even now there was competition - Gaumont and Pathe had both opened film companies by 1909 and there were now films coming into England from Europe.
was advancing at a similar pace to Britain at around this time (pre
–war) and two Americans, Jupp and Turner, were staring to make
American films in Britain. This of course was all halted by the Great
War in 1914 and efforts were directed elsewhere. By this stage Britain
was starting to lag behind the US. Post war saw the nearly the death
knell of British cinema as the desire for American films, and lack of
money in Britain saw the industry slow down and by the mid twenties
it had practically stopped.
desperate 20’s and developing 30’s
But there was several embers of hope the careers of Ronald Coleman, Victor McLaglen, Leslie Howard and Charles Laughton were starting and although Howard was to be a casualty of WWII these actors along with Balcon and Wilcox were determined that British pictures should survive. Even the son of the Prime Ministers Anthony Asquith joined in to keep the industry alive. But in 1927 Parliament brought in an important piece of legislation the Cinematographers Trade Bill, designed to ensure there was a guaranteed home market for British made films. This meant that 5% of the total number of movies shown in theatres had to be from Britain this figure rose to 20% by 1936. Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail (1929) is regarded as the first British sound production.
All was not lost and in the 30’s the British
Cinema Industry would start to rise from its knees. The advent of sound
offered more challenges to the British Film Industry's financial stability.,
Some of the films that Britain was to make were pretty bad some of the
exceptions were Juno and the Paycock (1930); Hindle Wakes, Tell England;
(1931), Rome Express, (1932) and the brilliantly successful Korda production
The Private Life of Henry VIII with Charles Laughton. ‘Wings of
the Morning’ (1937) is widely accepted as Britain's first colour
All the major film producers started to take over studios. MGM-British, Warner, Radio, 20th Century Fox, they all moved in to virtually swallow up the failing industry. This was a period of classic movies. Some of these included The Citadel with Robert Donat and Rosalind Russell, Goodbye Mr Chips also with Donat; Pygmalion with Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller; Victoria The Great, Nell Gwynn and Glorious Days all with Anna Neagle; The Man Who Knew Too Much; The 39 Steps; The Secret Agent; Sabotage; The Lady Vanishes; and Jamaica Inn.
the 1930's two other valuable assets came along; the British Film Institute
and the National Film Archives. They maintained, and still do, a film
library not just of British films, but International ones too. They
restore damaged prints and transfer nitrate stock onto safety film,
as well as funding projects. Without them, many classics would be lost
Have things improved?