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Cecil Hepworth in Bognor Regis

(information on this page gratefully acknowledged from www.bognorfilmworkshop.org

The Film Producer, Cecil Hepworth, used Bognor Regis as his base during the filming periods of 1907-1909. His company was founded in 1904, and built his first studios at Walton, which were destroyed by fire in 1907 killing a young technician.

No mention of the Bognor Regis period in his autobiography called “Came the Dawn” because of incomplete diary entries by the man himself.

The Hepworth Family and their nurse stayed during their time in Bognor at Salisbury House and Lynn Cottage in the Steyne. (Articles in the Bognor Regis Observer for 24th July 1907, 8th July 1908 & 14th July 1909). Mr David Fellick was Heyworth’s local agent and also appeared as an extra in some of the films.

In the Swinbourne Column of the Bognor Post, 20th Jan 1950, David Fellick is quoted as saying part of his job was to find appropriate sites and places of storage for film equipment. The Hepworth Co used the Skittle Alley of “The Ship Inn” at Barrack Lane, Aldwick, to store some of their goods. He mentions other local people used as extras were his father Mr G Fellick, Tom Pipson, John Wells, Alan Lee, ‘Rocker’ Ide and Albert Perry, as well as a Famous local Fisherman. Other locals included Mrs.Alice Webber and her daughter, Ouida, and Miss Annie Taylor of Richmond Rd North. Mrs Webber was apparently Bognor’s first riding Mistress.

Miss Taylor appeared in two films, one of which was “Her Pony’s Love” (Bognor Post 12th Dec 1959).

David Fellick’s daughter, Mrs.E.Still of Runcton was interviewed about her father’s memories in the Bognor Post of 5th Dec 1959.

According to the British Film Catalogue by Mr. Denis Gifford, Lewis Fitzhamon directed all Hepworth’s Bognor Films. Dolly Lupone, Gertie Potter and Thurston Harris performed the main leads. Chrissie White joined the company in 1907 as a 12-year-old girl.

In August 1907 the film “ A Seaside Girl” was released starring My Clark, in September the same year “ Dumb Sagacity” was shown. This included a manhunt on the Bognor-Pagham road, with a number of local residents more or less forced into taking part, with a chase filmed in the Rock Gardens.

The film “Fire at Sea”, was shown at the Cinema on the Pier in 1910, and used the wreck of the “The Foundling” which was grounded off Barrack Lane, Aldwick in 1906, and according to David Fellick. 25 Bales of straw were used to fire the wreck. Local Mr Leonard Rogers remembered this film.

In 1908 the cinema on the pier was closed while the pier was repaired and the film “Painting the Pier” was made. The pier was reopened on 7th April 1909.

The Cinematogaph Act of 1909/1910 saw an expansion of Picture Palaces in the county. By 1924 the Hepworth Company was Bankrupt.

Cast of Films by Cecil Hepworth in Bognor Regis.1907-1909

Note: the filmography below does not entirely tie up with the text above!

August 1907.
Sailors Lass. Cast. Dolly Lupone, Lewis Fitzhamon. (A Chase).
Simpkin’s Saturday Off. Cast Thurston Harris. (A Chase)
A Seaside Girl Cast May Clark, Frank Wilson, Thurston Harris. (A Chase)

September 1907.
A Tramp’s dream of Wealth. Cast Thurston Harris, Gertie Potter. (Comedy)
Dumb Sagacity. Cast Gertie Potter. (Animal Rescue)

October 1907.
The Artful Lover. Cast. Thurston Harris. May Clark, Dolly Lupone, and Frank Wilson. (A Comedy)
A Letter in the Sand. Cast. Dolly Lupone, Thurston Harris. (Chase).

November 1907
Dying of Thirst. (Adventure).
The Heavenly Twins. Cast. Thurston Harris, Gertie Potter
Preserving Edwin. Cast May Clark, Thurston Harris. (Comedy)

September 1908.
A Thoughtless Beauty. Retitled Forced to Consent. Cast. Gertie Potter.
A Fascinating Game. Cast. Gertie Potter. (Comedy)
An Unfortunate Bathe. Cast, Gertie Potter . ( Comedy)

("Painting the Pier") was made in 1908 - but was this a Hepworth film?

October 1908.
The Schoolboys’ Revolt. Cast. Gertie Potter, Bertie Potter. ((Comedy).
The Nursemaid’s Dream. Cast. Gertie Potter. (Trick)

It is possible that other films of the period but not listed with a location, might on close scrutiny be from the Bognor Regis Area.

A look at the National Film Archives records may reveal how many of these films survive.

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