Holmfirth Producing Company Limited
The Holmfirth Producing Co. Ltd. (HPC) was registered on 15 October 1915 with capital of £7,500 in £1 shares "to carry on the business of producers of films". The company was a partnership between Bamforth & Co. Ltd. and H. O. Bruce & R. Whiting.
Bamforth's had begun releasing short comic films in June 1914, initially using the Yorkshire Sales Agency as the distributor before switching to the Yorkshire Cine Co. Ltd. in October 1914 — H. O. Bruce was also a director of the latter company.
By the time the Holmfirth Producing Co. Ltd. was formed, Bamforth's had already released over 100 short one-reel films but were apparently planning to move into producing longer multi-reel dramas, the first of which — White Star (1915) — was released at the end of 1915.
The five-reel drama Paula (1916) was completed in January 1916, along with the short film Won by Losing (1916) with which it was often paired at screenings. Although Paula received positive reviews and was heavily promoted, it seems HPC received only £150 of the £2,500 payment that the Yorkshire Cine Co. Ltd. had reportedly offered for distribution rights. The rights to the source novel had cost HPC £900 and a further £100 (plus costs) was lost when lead actress Hetty Payne successfully sued the company for unpaid bonuses in October 1916.
The two-reel "London revue-cast comedy" Frills (1916) received trade viewings in April 1916 at the Yorkshire Cine Co.'s London office. At the same time, the distribution company announced that it would only rent comedies in future.
In May 1916, trade journals reported that company employee Sidney Baker had returned to work after suffering an accident at the Holmfirth studios. After heavy snowfall had "filled the valleys of the Pennine Range to a depth of twelve and in drifts twenty feet", Baker had volunteered to climb onto the glass roof of the studio to help clear the snow. Unfortunately his foot went through one of the panes and "the jagged edges of the broken glass cut his leg so severely that a doctor had to be called in".
Perhaps as a result of the issues issues with Paula, HPC parted ways with long-term producer/director Cecil Birch and Bertram Phillips took over directorial duties for the company's other films:
- The Chance of a Lifetime (1916) — distributed by Pathé
- A Man the Army Made (1917) — distributed by Pathé
- Ye Wooing of Peggy (1917) — distributed by Pathé
- Meg o' the Woods (1918) — distributed by Butcher’s Film Service
Possibly as a result of wartime travel restrictions or limitations with the Bamforth facilities in Holmfirth, these final HPC productions were filmed at studios in London, including the Cherry Kearton Studios on Clapham Road.
Following the end of film making with Meg o' the Woods, the Holmfirth Producing Co. Ltd. was dissolved in 1923.
Bertram Phillips continued to direct films until 1929, after which he became stage, cabaret and musical director. His wife, who performed under the stage name Violet Victoria, committed suicide in September 1947. He died aged 71 in 1974.
The BFI Database also lists Something in the Wind (1916) with the synopsis "an ostler fights an ostentatious man for the affections of a shopkeeper's daughter" and starring Queenie Thomas, but no reference to this release was found in the contemporary trade journals. Since Bertram Phillips directed a film called Straws in the Wind (1924) starring Queenie Thomas, perhaps the film was abandoned in pre-production only for Phillips to revive the idea nearly a decade later?
Notes and References
- Horace Ottewill Bruce was born in Kent circa 1889 and had previously worked as a journalist (1911 Census). He married Lilian Park on 30 January 1915 in South Africa.
- Annie Sophie Cory's novel "Paula" was released in 1896 under the pseudonym Victoria Cross. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_Sophie_Cory
- The Bioscope (13/Apr/1916) page 147.
- The Bioscope (11/May/1916) page 621.
- The London Gazette (23/Oct/1923).
- "Found Dead in Room: Comedienne's Sad End" in Worthing Gazette (01/Oct/1947).
- The Stage (17/Oct/1974) page 22.