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Booth, W.R. (1869-1938)

Director, Animator

Main image of Booth, W.R. (1869-1938)

Walter Booth, born in Worcester on 12 July 1869, was a porcelain painter and an amateur magician, who joined the magic company at the Egyptian Hall in London in the 1890s. Booth became a producer of trick films for Robert Paul in 1899, creating such novel titles as Upside Down; or The Human Flies (1899) and A Railway Collision (1900). The Devil in the Studio (1901) introduced both hand-drawing techniques that pointed the way to animated cartoons, and a taste for the fantastical that showed the influence of Georges Méliès. The Méliès influence was further shown in The Voyage of the Arctic (1903) and The '?' Motorist (1906), where the motorist drives around the rings of Saturn.

In 1906, Booth moved to the Charles Urban Trading Company. He established his own studio in his garden at Isleworth, London, with Harold Bastick as his cameraman. Notable among the films produced there were the first British animated film, The Hand of the Artist (1906), The Sorcerer's Scissors (1907) and When the Devil Drives (1907). His invasion fantasies, such as The Airship Destroyer (1909) and The Aerial Submarine (1910), are entertaining proto-science fiction fables in the Jules Verne mould.

Booth left Urban by 1915 and went on to produce advertising films. Little is known of his subsequent career and he died in Birmingham in 1938. Imaginative, playful and technically adept, Booth is one of the most underrated filmmakers of the early British cinema period.

Barnouw, Erik, The Magician and the Cinema (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981)
Gifford, Denis, British Animated Films (Jefferson/London: McFarland, 1987)

Luke McKernan, Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors

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From the BFI's filmographic database

Related media

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of '?' Motorist, The (1906)'?' Motorist, The (1906)

Comedy about a motorist going to extreme lengths to evade the law

Thumbnail image of Airship Destroyer, The (1909)Airship Destroyer, The (1909)

Sci-fi drama about an airship invasion of England

Thumbnail image of Artistic Creation (1901)Artistic Creation (1901)

Trick film in which an artist's creations come to life

Thumbnail image of Cheese Mites  or, Lilliputians in a London Restaurant (1901)Cheese Mites or, Lilliputians in a London Restaurant (1901)

Trick film featuring people the size of cheese mites

Thumbnail image of Diabolo Nightmare, A (1907)Diabolo Nightmare, A (1907)

Comedy about an office worker obsessed with the game of diabolo

Thumbnail image of Dreamland Adventures (1907)Dreamland Adventures (1907)

Adventure film in which three children travel to the Arctic

Thumbnail image of Extraordinary Cab Accident (1903)Extraordinary Cab Accident (1903)

Primitive special effects film: jump cuts make someone appear to be run over

Thumbnail image of Extraordinary Waiter, The (1902)Extraordinary Waiter, The (1902)

Trick film about an indestructible waiter

Thumbnail image of Haunted Curiosity Shop, The (1901)Haunted Curiosity Shop, The (1901)

A shop owner is haunted by sinister apparitions

Thumbnail image of Juvenile Scientist, A (1907)Juvenile Scientist, A (1907)

A boy uses his chemistry set to take revenge on his parents

Thumbnail image of Magic Sword - A Mediaeval Mystery, The (1901)Magic Sword - A Mediaeval Mystery, The (1901)

A knight battles various monstrosities to win a damsel's love

Thumbnail image of Over-Incubated Baby, An (1901)Over-Incubated Baby, An (1901)

Macabre comedy about a growth experiment gone horribly wrong

Thumbnail image of Railway Collision, A (1900)Railway Collision, A (1900)

A train crash shown via pioneering special-effects miniatures

Thumbnail image of Scrooge, or, Marley's Ghost (1901)Scrooge, or, Marley's Ghost (1901)

Fascinating early Dickens film, until recently the oldest known

Thumbnail image of Sorcerer's Scissors, The (1907)Sorcerer's Scissors, The (1907)

Animated film about a pair of scissors with magical powers

Thumbnail image of Undressing Extraordinary (1901)Undressing Extraordinary (1901)

Comedy short about difficulties encountered when undressing for bed

Thumbnail image of Upside Down: or, The Human Flies (1899)Upside Down: or, The Human Flies (1899)

Comic trick film in which actors appear to walk on the ceiling

Thumbnail image of Waif and the Wizard, The (1901)Waif and the Wizard, The (1901)

Comic short about a wizard using his powers for good

Thumbnail image of When The Devil Drives (1907)When The Devil Drives (1907)

Comic horror about the devil taking charge of a train

Thumbnail image of Willie's Magic Wand (1907)Willie's Magic Wand (1907)

Comedy in which young Willie causes chaos with his magic wand

Related collections

Thumbnail image of Paul's Animatograph Works: Trick FilmsPaul's Animatograph Works: Trick Films

Remarkable special-effects fantasies from the turn of the 20th century

Related people and organisations

Thumbnail image of Paul, R.W. (1869-1943)Paul, R.W. (1869-1943)

Director, Producer

Thumbnail image of Urban, Charles (1867-1942)Urban, Charles (1867-1942)

Producer, Distributor