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Flying The Foam and Some Fancy Diving (1906)


Main image of Flying The Foam and Some Fancy Diving (1906)
35mm, black and white, 97 feet
DirectorJames Williamson
Production CompanyWilliamson Kinematograph Company

'Professor' Reddish demonstrates how to dive from Brighton Pier while mounted on a bicycle, in both forward and reverse motion.

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Self-styled pier entertainer 'Professor' Reddish was a specialist in the "flying the foam" stunt, which involved mounting a bicycle and riding it down a steep ramp and then off the end of Brighton's West Pier into the sea.

To this, James Williamson adds additional layers of entertainment, firstly by showing the stunt from multiple angles (or rather several stunts, as the surrounding crowds differ from shot to shot) and then by showing it in reverse motion so that Reddish appears to be performing the impossible feat of riding his bicycle vertically out of the sea. Similar treatment is then given to more conventional footage of pier divers.

There is some dispute about the production date of this film. James Williamson's September 1902 catalogue lists an 80-foot film titled Professor Reddish Performing his Celebrated Bicycle Dive from Brighton West Pier, which was subsequently released in the US in 1903 as Bicycle Dive. Historian Martin Sopocy has compared frame reproductions from the latter with the print in the National Film and Television Archive entitled Flying the Foam and Some Fancy Diving (which bears one of Williamson's post-1904 framed titles), and has concluded that it is the same film. Since it is twenty feet longer than the 1902 version, the supplementary diving scenes may have been added later, so it may be the case that this particular version of the film was not shown until 1906.

Reddish's foam-flying stunts were clearly a regular attraction, as local photographer George Ruff Jr took a picture dated 17 June 1904 that could easily have doubled as a still from Williamson's film, but which was presumably not shot at the same time as no cameras are visible.

Michael Brooke

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Video Clips
Complete film (1:40)
Topical Budget 881-2: High Diving (1928)
Topical Budget 934-2: Cool! (1929)
Williamson, James (1855-1933)
A Year in Film: 1906