Surviving Kinemacolor

The fame of Kinemacolor is sadly not supported by the films that survive. Many hundreds of Kinemacolor films were produced (the British Kinemacolor catalogue of 1913 alone lists some 440 titles); barely fifty are known to exist today. The loss is largely due to the failure of Charles Urban’s American business Urban Motion Picture Industries business, which went bankrupt in 1924. His Kinemacolor library was probably destroyed at this time. However, it is certain that there are more Kinemacolor titles out there. Kinemacolor prints are black-and-white. It is only when they are shown through the correct colour filters that the colour effect emerges. There are films in collections throughout the world where the owners will have detected a curious flickering effect, combined with a slowness of action at anything under thirty frames per second. These will be Kinemacolor, and it is hoped that the publication of the list below of surviving Kinemacolor films may help to bring more of these ‘lost’ films to the surface.

The surviving Kinemacolor films are listed by archive. For reasons of practicality, technical details have been kept to a minimum, and interested researchers should check with the respective archives concerning precise materials held and whether viewing copies are available. Thanks are due to Janice E. Allen, Livio Gervasio, Nicola Mazzanti, Andrea Meneghelli (Cineteca di Bologna), Ken Weissman (Library of Congress) and Adrian Wood for their help in compiling this filmography.

Les Archives du Film du Centre National de la Cinématographie, Bois d'Arcy, France
(A Highland Lassie) (UK? 19??)
Unidentified dance film held in the Will Day collection.

BFI National Archive, London, UK
(Cat Studies) (UK c.1908)
(Miscellaneous Flowers) (UK c.1914)
Nubia, Wadi Halfa and the Second Cataract (UK 1911)
(Pageant of New Romney, Hythe and Sandwich) (UK 1910)
(Tartans of Scottish Clans) (UK c.1906)
(Two Clowns) (UK c.1906)
(Woman Draped in Patterned Handkerchiefs) (UKc.1908)

All but one of the BFI’s Kinemacolor films are test films made by G.A. Smith which were not produced for public exhibition, and in some cases demonstrate faults with the system which would not have been tolerated for commercial productions. Nubia, Wadi Halfa and the Second Cataract is a copy of the film held in the Cineteca di Bologna (see below). A reel that was previously though to be part of the Kinemacolor feature film The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1914) has now been identified as not that film, and not Kinemacolor.

Cineteca del Comune di Bologna, Bologna, Italy
Biskra and Sahara, Algiers (Biskra ed il deserto del Sahara, Algeri) (UK 1910)
Choosing the Wallpaper (La scelta della carta da muro) (UK 1910)
A Day at Henley (Una giornata ad Henley) (UK 1911)
(Entro la riserva degli elefanti) (UK? c.1911) [The Italian title could either be the opening title or an intertitle; the film is possibly a sequence from the ‘Delhi Durbar’ production With Our King and Queen through India]
I plotoni nuotatori della terza divisione cavalleria comandata da S.A.R. il Conte di Torino (Italy 1912) [Comerio production]
Feeding poultry at Prowse-Jones farm (Il pasto dei polli nel podere Prowse-Jones. Pinner) (UK 1911)
Fording the river (Il guado del fiume) (UK 1910)
From bud to blossom (Dalla gemma alla fioritura) (UK 1910)
The Harvest (La raccolta) (UK 1908)
L’inaugurazione del campanile di San Marco (Italy 1912)
L’industria del ghiaccio sul fiume San Lorenzo. Montreal, Canada (USA? 19??)
Khartoum and its natives (Kartoum ed i suoi indigeni) (UK 1911)
Lake Garda, Italy (Scene sul lago di Garda, Italia settentrionale) (UK 1910)
Niagara Falls (Le Cataratte del Niagara mostrante dal piroscafo Zitella della Nebbia) (UK 1911)
Nubia, Wadi Halfa and the Second Cataract (UK 1911)
Le pittoresche cascate d'Italia (Italy c.1914) [Comerio production]
A Run with the Exmoor staghounds (Una corsa coi cervi Exmoor (Staghounds)) (UK 1911)
The Smallest barque in the world (La nave più piccola del mondo completamente attrezzata) (UK 1911)
The Vandal outlaws (I banditi vandali) (UK 1912) [fiction]
La vita dei nostri ascari eritrei in Libia (Italy 1912) [Comerio production]

In 1992 Bologna acquired the largest single collection of known Kinemacolor films. It was found at the Archivio Cinematografico Ansaldo in Genoa, which had bought the collection from a private collector. The precise number of films and their titles cannot be given, as some reels are in a severe state of decomposition, making their identification difficult. The titles listed above are those the archive is currently able to name with confidence. All are single reels, with the exception of The Vandal Outlaws (two reels). Some are productions of the Italian company Comerio, using the Kinemacolor process, but not official Kinemacolor productions. How they came to be produced (when there was such tight control over the Kinemacolor process) is a mystery.

EYE, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Lake Garda, Italy (UK 1910)
Coronation Drill at Reedham Orphanage (UK 1911) [previously identified as (Entrainement des Boy Scouts)]

George Eastman House, Rochester, USA
The Scarlet Letter (USA 1913)
One reel of an original three-reel feature film, based on the Nathaniel Hawthorne story.

Huntley Film Archives, London, UK
(Kinemacolor Clowns) (UK? 19??)
(Puppets film) (UK? 19??) [contained within Colour in the Cinema compilation film]
These two films may be the same, and the same as the film shown on UK television as (Animated Circus Dolls) - see Other Sightings below.

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.,USA
(Scenes of Atlantic City and New York) (USA 19??) [included within a Vitaphone short, Ye Old Time Newsreel]
(Further scenes of Atlantic City and New York) (USA 19??) [contained within a Castle Films Old Time Movie compilation]
Mike and Meyer in Jail (USA c.1915)
Mike and Meyer in the Store (USA c.1915)
(William Howard Taft – Kinemacolor) (USA 1912) [The Taft fragment is only a few frames long, and was discovered as serving as threading leader to another film. The President was filmed 14 October 1912 on board the ship ‘Mayflower’]
The Library of Congress recently took in the John E. Allen Inc. stock footage collection, which contains possibly the most significant Kinemacolor holding anywhere. The collection includes the Kinograms library, a newsreel which was co-founded in 1919 by Charles Urban, and it is possible that this is the reason for the several Kinemacolor productions which have been identified there so far. Those uncovered include scenes from the Balkan War of 1912 taken by James Scott Brown and Frederic Villers, and the colour sequences from Britain Prepared (1915), a documentary feature produced by Urban for the War Propaganda Bureau in Britain, the final sequences of which (showing the British navy) were filmed in Kinemacolor by Frederick Wilson and Urban himself (the main, monochrome film is held by the Imperial War Museum in London). Further Kinemacolor films undoubtedly exist in this collection.

Producers Library, Hollywood, California
How to Live 100 Years (USA 1913) [fragment] [presumably same as UCLA?]
La Tosca (UK 1911) [fragment] [unclear]

Russian State Documentary Film & Photo Archive, Krasnogorsk, Russia
With our King and Queen Through India (1912) [section]
These two reels from the ‘Delhi Durbar’ film show the section The Royal Review of 50,000 Troops, an event which took place the day after the main Durbar ceremonies. The film was discovered in 2000 during the making of the British television series The British Empire in Colour (2002).

UCLA Film and Television Archive, Los Angeles, California, USA
How to Live 100 Years (USA 1913) [fragment, held as Lillian Russell in Kinemacolor] [identity awaiting confirmation]
How to Live 100 Years was a physical culture film which the actress Lillian Russell included in a lecture tour.

Other sightings
A Granada television programme on early film pioneers, Camera: Moving Pictures – The Electric Paradise (UK tx.19 March 1981) included a sequence from a Kinemacolor film identified as Animated Circus Dolls.

The 1983 American documentary The Indomitable Teddy Roosevelt includes some unidentified Kinemacolor shots of people in fashionable dress walking past the camera.

The three-part British television series The British Empire in Colour, in episode one (tx. 15 September 2002) including a sequence from a Kinemacolor film of the Changing of the Guard ceremony outside Buckingham Palace. The programme identified this as taking place 1906, but it is far more likely to have been filmed in 1911 as one of Kinemacolor’s coronation year films.

‘Edwardian Summer’, an episode of the Time to Remember television series on the British Pathe site, includes a sequence showing New York’s Central Park c.1910 which appears to be Kinemacolor ( and the Atlantic City sequences also held by the Library of Congress, preceded by Kinemacolor shots of an unidentified British society gathering (