Cecil M. Hepworth

Active - 1903 - 1926  |   Born - Jan 1, 1874   |   Died - Jan 1, 1953   |   Genres - Drama, Crime, Mystery, Romance

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

Filmmaker, inventor and author Cecil M. Hepworth was a pioneer of early pre-WWI British cinema. His father T. C. Hepworth made a living lecturing about magic lanterns, a subject that fascinated young Cecil who frequently toured along with his father. Later Hepworth patented several film-oriented inventions including a new kind of projection bulb and an automated system for developing and printing films. In 1897, he penned one of the first handbooks on filmmaking Animated Photography, or the ABC of the Cinematograph. In 1903, he founded a studio and lab. There he made a few documentaries, but from this period, Hepworth is best remembered for his innovative narrative short Rescued by Rover (1905). The film, that is the story of a family dog who saves a baby from gypsy thieves and that stars members of Hepworth's own family, was one of the first British films to utilize sophisticated film editing to advance the narrative; it was also one of the first to use advanced continuity techniques. The chase scene is particularly sophisticated. As Hepworth continued making films and inventing, he came up the Vivaphone, an early synchronized sound system in 1910 that utilized a phonograph. From then through the late 'teens, Hayworth concentrated on directing and was one of the first to make feature films for common audiences. Unfortunately, as the film industry grew increasingly sophisticated, Hepworth was unable to keep up. The war years nearly destroyed the fledgling British film industry. Hepworth became one of the casualties in 1924 when he declared bankruptcy. He later became a director of trailers and advertising films. He published his autobiography Came the Dawn in 1951.