(cartoon films 1914)

The Bamforth company was set up in the 1880s by photographer James Bamforth in Holmfirth, Yorkshire, to produce magic lantern slides. Within a decade they were a prominent mass-producer of slides, specialising in story-telling sequences called 'life models'. The experience in storytelling gained from these led the company to move into motion picture production in 1898, contracting to make films for Riley Brothers of Bradford, manufacturers of cine equipment. At least 15 of these RAB (Riley and Bamforth) films are listed, and though many are remakes of existing movies or movie versions of Bamford's 'life models', they display an advance in movie-making techniques gained from their expertise in slide sequences.

The contract ended in 1902 and Bamforth and his sons turned their attention to the newly-sanctioned picture postcard market, initially utilising their backlog of slide negatives but soon creating new images for the expanding market. In 1910 Bamforth & Co was registered as a limited company, and after the death of James in 1911 his son Edwin started a line in hand-drawn comic postcards, hiring artist Douglas Tempest in 1912. Tempest's cards were very successful, and set the tone for Bamforth's future output.

With the move away from posed photographs Edwin decided to utilise the photographic studio for motion pictures once more. Director Cecil Birch started making comedy films in 1913, and the following year the company hired music-hall comedian Reginald Switz to star in a series of around 40 'Winky' comedies featuring his rascally tramp character.

During 1915, probably as a reaction to wartime shortages, the motion picture business was transferred to the newly-formed Holmfirth Producing Company, which promptly moved to London. Bamforth continued to concentrate on postcards, with Tempest continuing to work until his death in 1954, with three other artists joining the company in later years to augment his output.

Bamford's contrbution to cartoon films began in the summer of 1914 with War Cartoons by D. Tempest which was a typical 'lightning artist' film, where the camera was undercranked (the handle turned slowly) so that the shot of the artist drawing the cartoon was speeded up. It is unknown if any actual animtion was involved, but it seems unlikely. Three more films followed, British War Sketches , Christmas War Sketches and Merry War Jottings. The reviews in Bioscope applauded their cleverness and their witty captions, but do not suggest that any movement was attempted.

Tempest always signed himself as "D. Tempest". In his book British Animated Films Denis Gifford refers to Tempest as "Dudley" rather than "Douglas" throughout, including the review quotes, and the title of the first film. It is unclear whether this is his error, and he "corrected" the review quotes (which would seem unlikely) or the error was made by the distributor or the reviewer.

Filmography (Cartoon films only)

War Cartoons by D. Tempest"1914 ('Lightning Artist' film)
Artist:Douglas Tempest
Colour:Black & White
Length:180 ft (2 min)
Released:28 August 1914
British War Sketches1914 ('Lightning Artist' film)
Artist:Douglas Tempest
Colour:Black & White
Length:498 ft (5.5 min)
Released:October 1914
Christmas War Sketches1914 ('Lightning Artist' film)
Artist:Douglas Tempest
Colour:Black & White
Length:590 ft (6.5 min)
Released:2 November 1914
Merry War Jottings1914 ('Lightning Artist' film)
Artist:Douglas Tempest
Colour:Black & White
Length:478 ft (5 min)
Released:30 November 1914

Links to Other Sites

BFI ScreenOnLine: History of Bamforth, focussing on the live-action films (no mention of Tempest).

Saucy Postcards: The Bamforth Collection: book available from Amazon, with "Look Inside" pages covering Bamforth's history.

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Peter Hale
Last updated 2015