William Friese-Greene

Infobox Person
name = William Friese-Greene
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birth_date = September 7, 1855
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death_date = May 5, 1921
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known_for = motion pictures
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occupation = photographer
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William Friese-Greene (September 7, 1855 – May 5, 1921) (born William Edward Green) was a portrait photographer and prolific inventor. He is principally known as a pioneer in the field of motion pictures and is credited by some as the inventor of cinematography.


William Edward Green was born on 7 September, 1855, in Bristol. He was educated there at Queen Elizabeth's Hospital. In 1869 he became an apprentice to a photographer named Maurice Guttenberg. By 1875 he had set up his own studios in Bath and Bristol, and later expanded his business with two more studios in London and Brighton. He married Helena Friese on 24 March, 1874, and decided to modify his name to include her maiden name.

In Bath he came into contact with John Arthur Roebuck Rudge. Rudge was a maker of a number of instruments but had begun to specialise in the creation of magic lanterns. He had recently developed the 'Biophantic Lantern'. The lantern was unique in that could display seven slides in rapid succession, and produce an effective illusion of movement. Friese-Greene was fascinated by the machine and in 1886 he began work with Rudge on enhancing it in order to project photographic plates. They called the device a 'Biophantascope'. Friese-Greene realised that glass plates would never be a practical medium for true moving pictures and in 1885 he began to experiment with oiled paper and by 1887 was experimenting with celluloid as a medium for motion picture cameras.

On 21 June, 1889, Friese-Greene was issued patent no. 10131 for his 'chronophotographic' camera. It was apparently capable of taking up to ten photographs per second using perforated celluloid film. A report on the camera was published in the British "Photographic News" on 28 February, 1890. On 18 March, Friese-Greene sent a clipping of the story to Thomas Edison, whose laboratory had been developing a motion picture system known as the Kinetoscope. The report was reprinted in "Scientific American" on 19 April. [Braun, Marta, "Picturing Time: The Work of Etienne-Jules Marey (1830–1904)" (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992/ISBN 0-226-07173-1), p. 190; Robinson, David, "From Peepshow to Palace: The Birth of American Film" (New York and Chichester, West Sussex: Columbia University Press, 1997/ISBN 0-231-10338-7), p. 28.] Friese-Greene gave a public demonstration in 1890 but the low frame rate combined with the device's apparent unreliability failed to make an impression. In the early 1890s he experimented with stereoscopic cameras but met with limited success. Friese-Greene’s experiments in the field of motion pictures were at the expense of his other business interests and in 1891 he was declared bankrupt. To cover his debts he sold the rights to the 'chronophotographic' camera patent for £500. The renewal fee was never paid and the patent eventually lapsed.

Friese-Greene's later exploits were in the field of colour in motion pictures. Working in Brighton, he experimented with a system known as Biocolour. This process produced the illusion of true colour by exposing each alternate frame of ordinary black and white film stock through a two different coloured filters. Each alternate frame of the monochrome print was then stained red or green. Although the projection of Biocolour prints did provide a tolerable illusion of true colour, it suffered from noticeable flickering and red and green fringing when the subject was in rapid motion.

Friese-Greene found it impossible to exhibit Biocolour motion pictures because a rival system -- developed by George Albert Smith and Charles Urban and known as Kinemacolor -- claimed that any colour film was an infringement of their prior patent. With the financial assistance of the renowned British racing driver Selwyn Francis Edge, Friese-Greene attempted to invalidate Urban's patent in court. Friese-Greene claimed that the patent did not contain enough detail to encompass the Biocolour process. The judge ruled in Urban's favour, but an appeal in the House of Lords in 1914 reversed the decision. Friese-Greene's system was still in its infancy and he was unable to exploit this success. His son Claude Friese-Greene continued to develop the system during 1920s. Claude went on to become a successful cinematographer.In 1921 Friese-Greene was attending a film and cinema industry meeting in London. The meeting had been called to discuss the current poor state of the British film industry. Disturbed by the tone of the proceedings Friese-Greene got to his feet to speak but soon became incoherent. He was assisted in returning to his seat, and shortly afterward slumped forward and died. His grave can be found in London's Highgate Cemetery. A memorial designed by Edwin Lutyens describes him as 'The inventor of Kinematography'.

The actor Richard Greene was his grandson. [imdb name|0338901|Richard Greene (I)]

After death

In 1951 a romanticised account of his life, starring Robert Donat was filmed as part of the Festival of Britain. Unfortunately, "The Magic Box" was not premiered until the Festival was nearly over, and only went on full release after it had finished. Despite the all-star cast and a great deal of publicity, the film was a costly box office flop. [http://www.bufvc.ac.uk/publications/articles/festofbritain.pdf] A pub in the former Academy Cinema in Stokes Croft, Bristol is named "The Magic Box" in reference to [http://www.flickr.com/photos/bartmaguire/tags/williamfriesegreene Friese-Greene] . (The Magic Box was Replaced By Jesters Comedy Club In 2007)

Friese-Greene's former home in Brighton's Middle Street, refurbished in 2006 and now the offices to Worth a leading media company, bears a plaque (in a format designed by Eric Gill in 1924) commemorating his achievements. The plaque was unveiled by Michael Redgrave, one of the stars of "The Magic Box", in September 1957. A modern office building a few metres away is named Friese-Greene House. Other notices include the 1930s Kings Road, Chelsea, London, Odeon Cinema, with its iconic facade, which carries high upon it a large sculptored head-and-shoulders medalion of "William Friese-Greene" and his year of birth and death. There is a bronze statue of him at Pinewood Studios.

In 2006 the BBC ran a series of programmes called "The Lost World of Friese-Greene", presented by Dan Cruickshank about Claude Friese-Greene's road trip from Land's End to John o' Groats, "The Open Road", which he filmed from 1924 to 1926 using the Biocolour process. The original print of Claude's film was subjected to computer enhancement by the British Film Institute to remove the flickering problem.


External links

*imdb name|id=1961777|name=William Friese-Greene
* [http://www.screenonline.org.uk/people/id/508948/index.html William Friese-Greene at the British Film Institute's Screen Online website]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • William Friese-Greene — um 1890 William Friese Greene (* 7. September 1855 in Bristol; † 8. Mai 1921 in London; eigentlich William Edward Green) war ein britischer Fotograf und Erfinder. William Green wurde durch John Arthur Roebuck Rudge in Bath …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • William Friese Greene — Naissance 7 septembre 1855 Bristol Décès 5 mai 1921 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • William Friese-Greene — Naissance 7 septembre 1855 Bristol Décès 5 mai 1921 (à 65 ans) …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Friese-Greene — Friese Green ist der Name folgender Personen: Claude Friese Greene (geboren als Claude Harrison Greene; 1898–1943), britischer Kameramann, Produzent und Regisseur William Friese Greene (1855–1921; eigentlich William Edward Green), britischer… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Friese-Greene, William — ▪ British motion picture pioneer born September 7, 1855, Bristol, Gloucestershire, England died May 5, 1921, London  British photographer and inventor, sometimes credited with the invention of cinematography.       Friese Greene constructed a… …   Universalium

  • Claude Friese-Greene — (3 May 1898, Fulham, London – 1943, Islington, London), British born cinema technician, filmmaker, and cinematographer, most famous for his 1926 collection of films entitled The Open Road.[1] Claude, born Claude Harrison Greene was the son of… …   Wikipedia

  • Claude Friese-Greene — Claude Friese Greene, geboren als Claude Harrison Greene (* 3. Mai 1898 in London Fulham; † Anfang 1943 in London Islington) war ein britischer Kameramann, Produzent und Regisseur. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben 2 Filmografie (Auswahl) …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Claude Friese-Greene — est un directeur de la photographie, producteur et réalisateur britannique né en 1898 décédé en 1943. Il est le fils d un pionnier du cinéma William Friese Greene. Sommaire 1 Biographie 2 Filmographie 2.1 comme directeur de la photographie …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Friese (Familienname) — Friese oder Friesé ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Benvenuto Paul Friese (* 1928), deutscher Politiker (DVU, DLVH) Christian Peter Friese (1948–1970), Todesopfer an der Berliner Mauer Claude Friese Greene (geboren als Claude Harrison… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • William Greene — can mean:* William Batchelder Greene, (1819 1878) American individualist anarchist and banking reformer * William S. Greene, a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts * William Greene (1695 1758), Governor of colonial Rhode Island * William Greene …   Wikipedia

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