Amazing Hand Colored Silent Films

Silent Film
Silent Film | Source

Although many are not aware of this as far back as the late 1800s some early silent films were hand colored or painted which allowed such films to be in color. Often times it would look a little unusual or very surreal and magical as the color was often brightly done. In some cases a stencil process was used other times it was a freehand effort. Either way it was the only way of showing film in color before color film was actually available. Below I have incuded some amazing examples from the early silent film era. All of these are original films from more than a century ago. Read On.

THE SPIDER AND THE BUTTERFLY (1909)

George Melies was a wizard at creating/directing films. He was responsible for the creation of more than 550+ silent era films. Some of those were hand-colored in freehand. This can be seen if you look closely you can see the color clouding a little and seeming somewhat like an aura surrounding the subject. This short film follows a man magically summoning a butterfly out of a strange looking cone and then also somehow bringing a spider to life with a magical gun that shoots out colorful smoke. Things get a little out of hand later in the film when the spider attempts to capture the butterfly and appears to hurt the man. He again uses his smoke gun to make the spider disappear and the base for the web begins spewing sparks and smoke around the room as the man stumbles away. Quite an unusual film for the era, but not for Melies.

THE KING OF DOLLARS (1908)

Segundo De Chomon was very much like Melies in style and subject matter. He really enjoyed the camera tricks and magical genius that went into making his films. This film is a little simpler than most he created but it is a prime example of his method of coloring films. He used a stencil type system to keep the color inside the lines when coloring and because of this it looks a little more natural, less cloudy and aura like. In this film he was also selective about what is colored. Notice the sleeve of the hand closeup is colored, also the coins are colored, but not the head of the actor. This I find very well done. Check out the film to the right of this paragraph by clicking it!

ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES (1902)

This classic based silent film of Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves was filmed in 1902 by director Frank Zecca as it was an earlier made film the hand coloring was done freehand. It is very interesting to watch due to it's use of different backgrounds in each scene. Seeing how they color each backdrop and again the selective nature was used to decide what to color. Some things in film were better off not being colored, faces were an issue as skin color and detail was harmed more than helped by the coloring. However clothing, backgrounds and solid objects seemed to be helped by it. Check out the film to the right by clicking on the video.

THE MAGIC ROSES (1906)

This film highlights Segundo De Chomon's stencil process. The colors are a little more exact. This film is sort of a stage magic show, the magician is surrounded by roses throughout and at the end three ladies in hats become roses themselves. Check our the film by clicking the video at the right.

THE MERRY FROLICS OF SATAN (1906)

Created in 1906 by George Melies this film is a crazy story of a couple of men who when leaving an inn head out in a stage coach created by the devil. The horse becomes a skeleton and the coach a jagged shaped monstrosity. When they leave the coach flies into the air from an exploding volcano and they are sent riding through the heavens. Check it out by clicking on the video below.

THE FROG (1908)

The frog was a really strange short film made by Segundo De Chomon in 1908. It is about a young woman that meets a human sized frog at a fountain. If that wasn't strange enough when she climbs unto the fountain she turns into a couple different funny looking old man heads, a huge frog and then reappears with other people dressed like royalty, riding horses, etc. Parts of it are colored and it is very fun to watch. click the video to the right to check it out!

GULLIVER'S TRAVELS AMOUNG THE LILLIPUTANS AND THE GIANTS (1902)

This is a classic story of Gulliver's Travels. This one created by George Melies as well is the first film to follow the classic story. It was again hand colored freehand.

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Comments 6 comments

Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

terrecktwo, appreciate you putting these together with your descriptions. It's quite nice to step back in time for just about the earliest motion one can get a peek at from a long ago past. The hand colored films make them even more enjoyable.


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

Alastar Packer - glad you liked them, I found it very fascinating when I first saw hand colored films from the black and white silent film era :)


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 4 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

T, thanks for the article, this is a rather obscure part of the silent film era, the examples are quite good

Cred2


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

Credence2 - yes these were some of the first films that were fictional in nature. Before these a lot of it was just a girl dancing or some guys boxing. Just silly clips really.


Drtruthman profile image

Drtruthman 4 years ago from Harlingen, Texas

Great Hub and very interesting. I am always amazed at the variety of interesting topics you write about. Great job. Enjoyed allot. I voted UP all across. Lee


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

Drtruthman - thanks I do my best, mostly I combine my own interests and views, I suppose I do have a very wide variety of interests though.

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