Detail

Theme Early Film in the South East

This theme captures all aspects of early film-making in the region from fiction to non-fiction and from early one minute actualities to hour long features. Drawn from the collections of SASE and the BFI, the early work of G. A. Smith, James Williamson, Cecil Hepworth, and Charles Goodwin Norton represents the beginnings of film in England and the joint interest SASE and the Royal Pavilion & Museums has cultivated over many years in early film and early cinema.
 
George Albert Smith and James Williamson both lived and worked in Hove, making films from 1897 to 1905. It is during this short period that film emerged as a new technology and a new form of entertainment. Through their respective practices, they made significant contributions to the early development of both film editing and film narrative.
 
Smith (1864-1959) established his ‘film factory’ at Hove in 1897 and his productions drew upon his knowledge of contemporary music hall, theatre, pantomime, popular literature, mesmerism, the magic lantern and the work of other film-makers. He made two very significant edited films: The Kiss in the Tunnel (1899) and Grandma’s Reading Glass (1900). Williamson (1856-1933) drew on similar impulses for his films as well as photography, aspects of contemporary English life and current events such as the Boer War and the Boxer Rebellion. His films of 1900 and 1901 drew upon Smith’s conception of the shot and the edited sequence and resulted in his multi-shot narrative films: Attack on a China Mission (1900) and Fire! (1901).
 
The Progress Film Company’s studio of Shoreham Beach represents the first feature films to be made entirely in the region. It operated from 1919 to 1922 and dedicated itself to works of fiction drawn from Victorian and contemporary British literature. SASE’s two films - Little Dorrit (1920) and The Mayor of Casterbridge (1921) - are both short versions of the originals but they give a good sense of how Progress and its producer Sidney Morgan produced faithful adaptations. Progress’ studio complex was unique at the time given that it comprised a studio, darkroom facilities, a preview theatre and accommodation for cast and crew. It mirrored the new Hollywood studios, albeit on a smaller scale. Progress produced seventeen features for the British market between 1919 and 1922 and this work is very much part of that history of British film and television drama which is associated with national identity and heritage. 

References:
Gray, Frank (ed.) Hove Pioneers and the Arrival of Cinema n.p. University of Brighton, 1996.

Barnes, John. The Beginnings of the Cinema in England, 1894-1901 Vols. 1-5.~ London: University of Exeter Press, 1998.