The Wonderful World of Colour


Colour has been used in silent film since its very beginning – as spectacle in its own right, as a means of underscoring a narrative by addressing the senses and emotions of the audience and in relation to the opening up of a world of colour in other popular art forms.

In this selection you will find glorious examples of hand colour, tinting and toning, stencil colour from the sound era as well as Gasparcolor and Technicolor from the sound era.

Silent films

Grand Display of Brock’s Fireworks at the Crystal Palace (1904) | 4 mins

Fireworks designed for the coronation of Edward VII shown at the Crystal Palace in 1904 – filmed by Charles Urban.

Fairies and the Faun (1908) | 4 mins

A Pathé Feérie – entertainments evoking the great stag spectaculars of the era – like English Pantomime usually based on fantasies and fairy stories – full of stage tricks. Colour was an essential component.

Birth of a Flower (1910) | 7 mins

First time-lapse film showing the beauties of nature, appealing directly to the senses – would be considerably less effective in monochrome.

Dagon Pagoda (1910) | 7 mins

Pathé travelogue of the mysterious land of Burma (Myanmar) and the great golden pagoda of Rangoon.

Changing Hues (1922) | 7 mins

Narrative advertisement for Twink – you know?  Twink!

On with the Dance (1927) | 5.5 mins

The fabulous Josephine Baker in the plantation dance, performing with other dancers from the famed Folies Bergère.


Colour on the Thames (1935) | 9 mins

Gasparcolor experiment showing big boats on the Thames as the techies twiddle the knobs on the colour balance.

Sky Pirates (1937) | 5.5 mins

Timely warning about the dangers of night starvation -luckily help is at hand.

Trade Tattoo (1937) | 5.5 mins

From happier times at Royal Mail – the melding of colour, form and music as only Len Lye and Jack Ellit could do it.

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