Remembering George Albert Smith

If you love going to see films, you might like to discover more about George Albert Smith who died on 17 May 1959.

Smith was born on 4 January 1864 in London. He spent most of his life in the Brighton & Hove area. His various occupations make an exotic list – hypnotist, psychic, magic lanternist, astronomer and inventor – but it is his pioneering film work that has left a lasting mark today.

St. Ann’s Well Gardens
St. Ann’s Well Gardens

Inspired by the Lumière brothers, Smith took up film making. He experimented with editing and close-up shots, techniques now taken for granted in the modern world.

He used superimposition and reversing to create ghostly and other special effects right from the early days of filmmaking.

Kinemacolour camera
Kinemacolour camera

Together with Charles Urban, Smith presented the first commercially successful colour film process known as Kinemacolor. In 2010 Brighton Museum & Art Gallery held an exhibition Capturing Colour which charted the discovery and development of colour film with Kinemacolor featured as one of the key chapters in this quest.

Unfortunately a court battle over a patent suit led to Smith’s ruin, ending his promising film career in 1914. However during the 1940s he finally began to gain the recognition he deserved, eventually becoming a Fellow of the British Film Academy in 1955. He died in Brighton on 17 May 1959 at the grand age of 95.

Hove Museum Film Gallery
Hove Museum Film Gallery

Why not drop in to Hove Museum’s Film gallery to discover more? This permanent display charts the history of moving images, from lantern slides and optical toys to early film. In the gallery you can see the kind of equipment George Albert Smith would have used and watch the films he made.

The films can also be viewed on the BFI Player.

This is part of a new online archive of British Victorian films made available by the BFI.

Alexia Lazou, Collections Assistant

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