Little Bits of History

Colored Movies

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 26, 2014
George Albert Smith

George Albert Smith

February 26, 1909: Kinemacolor is first shown to a general public audience. This process was the first to produce successful color motion pictures. It was a two-color additive process which photographed and projected black-and-white film behind alternation red and green filters. It was invented by George Albert Smith. It was launched by Charles Urban’s Urban Trading Co. of London in 1908. A Visit to the Seaside was shown in an exhibit in September 1908 and ran for eight minutes. Smith had filmed ordinary people doing ordinary beach things at Brighton. It was a silent film and there are no other credits. On this day, the general public was treated to a program of 21 short films shown at the Palace Theatre of London. The show came to the US on December 11, 1909 at an exhibit in Madison Square Garden of New York City.

The first dramatic film made with the process was called Checkmated and done in 1910. They produced some documentary films as well as dramas. The projectors were installed in about 300 cinemas in Britain and in total 54 dramatic films were produced there. Four more were made in the US in 1912 and 1913 and one more was done in Japan in 1914. The company never was totally successful for a few reasons. The most basic was the cost of the projectors needed in theaters. There was also “fringing” and “haloing” of images, something that was never able to be fixed. In the US, DW Griffith bought out Kinemacolor studios and the process was replaced with Technicolor, which was used from 1916 to 1952.

George Smith was born in 1864 in London. He was a stage hypnotist, psychic, and magic lantern lecturer. He rounded out his days as an astronomer, inventor, and cinematographer. He was associated Edmund Gurney at the Society for Psychical Research, which is still in existence today. He pioneered aspects of film editing and close-up shots. There is speculation that as a hypnotist, Smith was able to fake results used in research at the Society of Psychical Research. Others admitted to fraud, but Smith maintained that all results were truly obtained. In his later years, Smith became a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. He died in 1959 at the age of 95 in Brighton, England.

Charles Urban was born in 1867 in Cincinnati, Ohio, the second of ten children born to immigrant parents. He lost the sight in his left eye at the age of twelve after a baseball accident. He first began working with films in 1895 when he exhibited a Kinetoscope in Detroit, Michigan. He moved to Britain in 1897 and became a managing director of the Warwick Trading Company where he specialized in actuality films. A law suit was brought against Urban and Kinemacolor and Urban won the initial case protecting the patent however the process was no longer exclusive. During World War I, Urban produced propaganda films for England. Once America entered the War, he returned home and also produced documentaries for the US. He remained in the US for a time but returned to England in the late 1920s. He died in Brighton in 1942 in relative obscurity. He was 75-years-old.

I’ve often stood silent at a party for hours listening to my movie idols turn into dull and little people. – Marilyn Monroe

For me, there is nothing more valuable than how people feel in a movie theater about a movie. – Will Smith

Movie directing is a perfect refuge for the mediocre. – Orson Welles

If my life was a movie, no one would believe it. – Arnold Schwarzenegger

Also on this day: Waist Overalls – In 1829, Levi Strauss was born.
Grand Canyon – In 1919, Grand Canyon National Park was established.
WorldWideWeb Browser – In 1991, Tim Berners-Lee introduced his WorldWideWeb browser, the first stable web browser.
World Trade Center – In 1993, the WTC was bombed.

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