Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Comic Costume Race (1896)


Main image of Comic Costume Race (1896)
35mm, black and white, silent, 43 feet
Production CompanyPaul's Animatograph Works
ProducerR.W. Paul

A comic costume scramble in progress.

Show full synopsis

One of a number of actuality films made by R.W.Paul in 1896, his first full year of operation as a pioneering film producer, Comic Costume Race was shot on 14 July 1896 at the Music Hall Sports event at Herne Hill, South London. When shown at Sadler's Wells on 14 December 1896, John Barnes' The Beginnings of the Cinema in England quotes the paper The Era as saying:

Under the management of Mr George Belmont, the ancient house flourishes again, and this week a special attraction has been introduced into the programme in the shape of Mr R.W.Paul's exhibition of animated photographs known as 'The Theatrograph'. Crowded and delighted audiences have witnessed the well-chosen series of pictures. Amongst the most interesting of these is that representing the scene of the music hall sports at Herne-Hill. The particular event depicted is the costume race, and the manner in which the competitors scramble into their fancy dresses and tear down the course causes the heartiest merriment.

By then, the film had already been seen by Queen Victoria, as it was included in a programme of short films presented at Windsor Castle on 23 November 1896. This enabled Paul to add a royal seal of approval to his advertisements, and the following year he would shoot several films of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, altogether more serious affairs than that staged at Herne Hill.

Michael Brooke

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'R.W. Paul: The Collected Films 1895-1908', with music by Stephen Horne and optional commentary by Ian Christie.

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (0:43)
Paul, R.W. (1869-1943)
Film and Music Hall