First movie First 3D movie First colour movie First 3D colour movie

First colour movie

1. The technology

2. The human subject

First colour movie of a person


On 12 September 2012 the National Media Museum in Bradford announced that they had successfully reconstructed some short experimental colour footage made by Edward Raymond Turner (1873–1903), never previously shown, as at the time it had proved impossible to project.

The short sequences (4000 frames in total) have been variously dated as 1902 or 1902–4, with one clip—a scene filmed in London's Knightsbridge, looking East towards Hyde Park Corner, dated as 1901/2—arguably the earliest; but the scene with Turner's children playing with sunflowers is the most convincingly dated, as the summer of 1902. People are discernible in Turner's 1901/2 colour footage of Knightsbridge, while the earliest identifiable people filmed in colour—two boys and a girl (Turner's children Alfred Raymond, Agnes May, and Wilfred Sidney)—all appear in footage from 1902.



Earliest-born person to be filmed in colour


Some veterans of the US Civil War are known to have been filmed in colour, and one of these has been identified clearly by name: the last surviving undisputed veteran of that conflict, Albert Henry Woolson (1850–1956). It is understood that there were other, earlier-born, US Civil War veterans captured in colour film at the 1938 Battle of Gettysburg reunion. None, so far, have been positively identified. [Thanks to Joshua B. Lilly for this information.] Some colour footage was uploaded to YouTube in 2013.

The earliest-born person to appear in a colour feature film was May Robson (see immediately below). [Thanks to Nik Pham for this information.]



Earliest-born woman to be filmed in colour

Mary Jeanette Robison (1858–1942), known professionally as May Robson, played grandmother Lettie Blodgett in the 1937 Technicolor drama A Star is Born (filmed from October to December 1936).


Full references for printed works

Richard Abel, ed. (2005, 2010) Encyclopedia of Early Cinema. London and New York: Routledge

Fred E. Basten (2005) Glorious Technicolor. The Movies' Magic Rainbow

Simon Brown (2012) 'Technical Appendix', in Street (2012)

Brian Coe (1981) Colour Photography. The first hundred years 1840–1940. London

Thierry Lefebvre (2005, 2010) 'Doyen, Eugène-Louis', in Abel

Laurent Mannoni (2005, 2010) 'Chronochrome Gaumont', in Abel

Sarah Street (2012) Colour Films in Britain. The Negotiation of Innovation 1900–55. London: Palgrave Macmillan, for BFI

D.B. Thomas (1969) The First Colour Motion Pictures. London


© 2010–2023 Benjamin S. Beck

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This page was last revised on 2016-10-03.