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Fitzhamon, Lewin (1869-1961)

Director, Actor

Main image of Fitzhamon, Lewin (1869-1961)

Lewin Fitzhamon was born at Aldingham, Cumbria on 5 June 1869. He became a music hall performer and first worked in film for Robert Paul in 1900, directing some titles and acting in others, including Briton vs Boer (1900). In 1904, he joined Cecil Hepworth as 'stage manager', replacing Percy Stow, who went on to form the Clarendon Film Company. 'Fitz' stayed with Hepworth for eight years, during which time he wrote, directed and frequently acted in two films per week. He directed around four hundred films in his career.

He made his mark early on with the hugely popular Rescued by Rover (1905), a film whose classic cinematic narrative has made it the most enduring and familiar of Fitzhamon's films. However, he showed himself to be accomplished in a wide range of narrative forms to suit the emerging cinema business. He produced comic trick films (That Fatal Sneeze, 1907), nightmarish fantasies (The Man and his Bottle, 1908), social comedies (What the Curate Really Did, 1905), westerns (The Squatter's Daughter, 1906), melodramas (Falsely Accused, 1905), and chase films (A New Hat for Nothing, 1910), as well as filming actualities and topicals. He developed comic series for Hepworth, including the Poorlucks, and the anarchic 'Tilly' series with the young Chrissie White and Alma Taylor, and pioneered political films in Britain in 1905-6 with the Pictorial Politics Association, also formed with Hepworth. Fitzhamon particularly loved working with animals, which he portrayed in a heroic light. Rover (real name Blair) subsequently featured in titles such as Dog Outwits the Kidnappers (1908), where he rescues a kidnapped child by driving a car. Fitzhamon continued to show animals to be man's best friend in Dumb Sagacity (1907) and Father's Lesson (1908), and he always considered his horse Tariff to be the best actor with whom he ever worked.

Fitzhamon left Hepworth in 1912 and formed his own company, Fitz Films. This enjoyed little success, and he briefly worked for other producers, before leaving the film business. He was also the author of two novels, The Rival Millionaires (1904) and The Vixen (1915), and wrote comic pieces for popular magazines. His was a simple gift, to tell stories that, as he put it, "could be told by a few words thrown upon the screen" (Gifford). He died on 10 October 1961.

Gifford, Denis, 'Fitz: The Old Man of the Screen', in Charles Barr (ed.), All Our Yesterdays (1986)
Cecil M. Hepworth, Came the Dawn: Memories of a Film Pioneer (London: Phoenix House, 1951)

Luke McKernan, Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Heart of a Fishergirl, The (1910)Heart of a Fishergirl, The (1910)

Romantic drama about a fishergirl who saves her sweetheart's life

Thumbnail image of Rescued by Rover (1905)Rescued by Rover (1905)

Animal rescue drama that was a major British cinema breakthrough

Thumbnail image of Tilly, The Tomboy, Visits the Poor (1910)Tilly, The Tomboy, Visits the Poor (1910)

Silent comedy in which Tilly and her sister visit the poor and cause chaos

Related collections

Related people and organisations

Thumbnail image of Hepworth, Cecil (1874-1953)Hepworth, Cecil (1874-1953)

Director, Producer