The survival rate for British films made in 1906 is not high, maybe 10% – but despite uncertainty in the industry in that year there were some interesting and novel films made. This selection shows some of the range of genres being produced in that year. G.A. Smith was experimenting with his Kinemacolor natural colour system, and we have two examples, Two Clowns and Tartans of Scottish Clans, though the system was not launched till 1908. R.W. Paul continued to produce lively comedies and trick films, such as the bizarre The “?” Motorist, by future animator W.R. Booth. The understandable preoccupation with the motor vehicle also features in Arthur Melbourne Cooper’s sci-fi trailblazer Motor Pirates, and the transport theme continues with a fragment of The Cabby’s Dream, in which a cab driver dreams he picks up a magician, with frightening results. Magic is also the subject of J.H. Martin’s The Medium Exposed, in which a séance is proved to be a sham. Gaumont’s It’s Not My Parcel confirms the continuing popularity of the chase comedy. Gaumont also produced an English Civil War drama, The Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight, based on Rose Hartwick Thorpe’s famous ballad poem.
In the factual film, local producers such as Mitchell and Kenyon were still executing commissions for showmen, such as the film of the SS Mongolian leaving Glasgow with its load of emigrants on their way to Canada, and a film of a visit to McIndoe’s fair-ground show, which presumably was destined for a similar local audience. Turning out in public to see things blown up has always been a favourite weekend treat for the British public, and Mitchell and Kenyon were there to capture the demolition of a large chimney, with local dignitaries in attendance. Unknown filmmakers recorded the crowds attending the opening of the transporter bridge at Newport in South Wales. The bridge, which also starred in the 1959 feature film Tiger Bay, is celebrating its centenary this year, like these films. Finally, we have the wonderful Cricks & Sharp film of the Peek Frean biscuit factory in London’s industrial heartland.
Bryony Dixon, Curator of Silent Film, BFI National Film and Television Archive