THE HORSE" ("Come On Steve !")
from Grahame L. Newnahm B.Sc.
Roland Davies was born 23rd July 1904 at Stourport, Worcestershire. He studied at the Ipswich School of Art, part time evening classes for two years, then two years full time. Apprenticed as a lithographer in West Drayton, he produced a number of cinema posters by the traditional litho method of drawing and etching on stone. At the end of his four year apprenticeship he became a free lance illustrator, then with Temple Press drawing cartoons for magazines like Autocar and Motor Cycle. By 1928 he was drawing illustrations and covers for the magazine Modern Boy. His big break came in March 1932 when he began drawing the cartoon strip "Come On Steve" in the Sunday Express. This title came from the cries of the race-going crowd as Jockey Steve Donoghue rode to victory after victory.
The Sunday Express strip was so popular that Roland Davies sunk his savings into an eighteen shilling (90p) stop-frame cine camera, set up a studio in his kitchen and spent seven months making a short animated cartoon film. Once a soundtrack had been added he persuaded Butcher's (a distributor of cinema 'B' pictures) to give him a contract for six eight minute cartoons at £800 each. Davies launched his own cartoon film company Cartoon Films Limited at Ipswich, with finance from his father-in-law. This was staffed mainly by students from the Art School. Six cartoon films for the cinema were made during 1936 and 1937, plus an advertising film for Ford Tractors (a copy of this is in the East Anglian Film Archive).
Watch the short Steve the Horse: Fordson tractor advert cartoon film
It is interesting that one of the animators was none other than Carl Giles (now the late Carl Giles OBE), later famous for his Daily Express cartoons. Looking at Roland Davies cartoon films today, the Steve the Horse cartoons are interesting, but don't compare with the American product available at the time from Disney, Fleischer and others, which is probably why no more were made, the studio closing in 1938.
We learnt from the (now defunct) Steve the Horse Fan Club that there were plans for a further Steve the Horse cartoon, to be produced in colour - "Steve Goes To London" - sadly this never appeared.
artwork from intended colour "Steve Goes To London"
We are lucky that all six Steve the Horse cartoons arrived on 9.5mm (and 17.5mm) sound in the UK, being released by Pathéscope very soon after their 1938 launch of 9.5mm optical sound in the UK. These UK 9.5mm optical sound Steve the Horse cartoon releases remained in the Pathéscope catalogue till 1941, not reappearing after the war - the Popeye and Betty Boop cartoons were no doubt rather more popular! A number of the Steve the Horse cartoons also appeared on 9.5mm in France, released by Pathé-Baby in silent and optical sound versions, where Steve appears to have been called Poulichette. The French Pathé-Baby 9.5mm optical sound versions appeared just before the war, two of the titles disappearing soon after - "Bal Costume" & "Cendrillon Canasson", (it is rumoured that many of the French Pathé master negatives were destroyed during the war). The French Pathé-Baby 9.5mm silent versions appeared in the late 1940's and early 1950's. Full details are on the list below.
Roland Davies continued the Steve cartoon strip for the Sunday Express until 1939 - when they dropped the strip and Davies took it over to the Sunday Dispatch. Here Roland Davies was given the post of cartoonist and added topical comments in cartoons under the name of 'Rod'. During the war years he was seconded to the Ministry of Information where he produced a number of illustrated posters and also worked on aeroplane illustrations for a magazine called Sphere. After ten years Davies moved into children's books, a full colour series for Perry's Colourprints, plus Come On Steve Annuals.
"Come On Steve" Annual (undated but just post war)
He continued drawing series for comics up to 1970 when he left this field and began oil painting. With guidance from art dealer Alan Class he produced dramatic seascapes and colourful Parisien street scenes which appeared in good art galleries. He died on the 12th December 1993.
It is interesting to note that in 1998 the studio name was revived as Roland Davies Animation, still at Ipswich. Adrian Roper the director and animator got permission from the late Jean Benson who was Roland Davies daughter to use the name. It is a production, training and facilities studio involved with computer animation. In 1998 their aim was to produce a series of six computer animated films entitled "The Adventures of Steve" based on the Roland Davies Sunday Express cartoon strip - now where have we heard that before ?
Watch my 9.5mm sound print of "Steve's Treasure Hunt" 28May2014
Pathé-Baby illustration for "Le Manoir Hanté"
"Come On Steve" cartoon series - GB 1936/1937
A Roland Davies Cartoon Films Limited
Production. Distributed by Butcher's Film Services Ltd
Produced, directed, story: Roland Davies. Animation: Carl Giles.
Music: John Reynders. Camera: John Rudkin-Hubbard
"Steve Steps Out" GB 1936
("Come On Steve No.1") First in the series - When Steve espies a notice of a tightrope walking competition it is more than he can do to resist a little practice. It is great fun while it lasts, using the white line in the centre of the road as an imaginary rope, but the cars and buses which have to follow at almost a funeral march are loud in condemming the capers. With the police hot on his track, Steve has to bolt for safety ... but finds it is safety of a perilous kind.
17.5mm optical sound Pathescope UK as "Steve Steps Out" T.7486 - issued Feb 1938 9.5mm optical sound Pathescope UK as "Steve Steps Out" T.9486 - issued Sept 1938 9.5mm optical sound Pathé-Baby France as "Embouteillage" MS.70084 & MS.70156 9.5mm silent Pathé-Baby France as "Embouteillage" M.4660 - issued approx 1954 ?
"Steve 's Treasure Hunt" GB 1936
("Come On Steve No.2") Steve enters an ancestral home in the hope of finding buried treasure. He is in competition with a plunderer but demoralises him with the aid of the haunted chamber in the castle. The treasure is found deep down in the ground and Steve becomes another "winner".
17.5mm optical sound Pathescope UK as "Steve's Treasure Hunt" T.7485 - issued Jan 1938 9.5mm optical sound Pathescope UK as "Steve's Treasure Hunt" T.9485 - issued Aug 1938 9.5mm silent Pathé-Baby France as "Le Manoir Hanté" SB.4625 - issued approx 1949 ?
"Steve's Cannon Crackers" GB 1937
("Come On Steve No.3") Dealing with Steve's adventures on top of a fortress where, with the aid of his driver , he mischieviously hurls cannon balls at a passing ship.
17.5mm optical sound Pathescope UK as "Steve's Cannon Crackers" T.7487 - issued Mar 1938 9.5mm optical sound Pathescope UK as "Steve's Cannon Crackers" T.9487 - issued Sept 1938 9.5mm optical sound Pathé-Baby France as "Cannoniers, A Vos Pieces" MS.70157 9.5mm silent Pathé-Baby France as "Cannoniers, A Vos Pieces" M.4661 - issued approx 1954 ? (n.b. This film is listed in the Pathescope catalogues as "Steve Cannon Crackers")
"Steve Of The River" GB 1937
("Come On Steve No.4") A real horsey version of the late Edgar Wallace's novel "Sanders Of The River" by cartoonist Roland Davies, but there is far more comedy than drama in this account.
17.5mm optical sound Pathescope UK as "Steve Of The River" T.7482 - issued Oct 1937 9.5mm optical sound Pathescope UK as "Steve Of the River" T.9482 - issued Jul 1938
Actual 9.5mm film frames
"Steve In Bohemia" GB 1937
("Come On Steve No.5") Steve, endeavouring to find a costume in which to go to the Artists' Ball, tastes the fun of night-life. All sorts of costumes seem likely to come his way, but always something happens to bring his plans to nought. Eventually Steve does get to the ball, arriving at the ceremony via the roof of the hall, after falling from an inflated rubber figure he planned to filch. .
17.5mm optical sound Pathescope UK as "Steve In Bohemia" T.7484 - issued Dec 1937 9.5mm optical sound Pathescope UK as "Steve In Bohemia" T.9484 - issued Aug 1938 9.5mm optical sound Pathé-Baby France as "Bal Costume" SS.70087- issued Jun/Jul 1939 9.5mm silent Pathé-Baby France as "Bal Costume" SB.4626 - issued approx 1949 ?
"Cinderella Steve" GB 1937
("Come On Steve No.6") Last in the series - Steve is left behind when the Farm Show takes place. As in the fairy story, a dear old fairy grandmother comes to succour the unfortunate. Of course, Steve loses his slipper just like Cinderella, but oh, what fun he has when he collects first prize in the show.
17.5mm optical sound Pathescope UK as "Cinderella Steve" T.7483 - issued Nov 1937 9.5mm optical sound Pathescope UK as "Cinderella Steve" T.9483 - issued Jul 1938 9.5mm optical sound Pathé-Baby France as "Cendrillon Canasson" SS.70090-issued Aug 1939
(Film descriptions are from the Pathescope Monthly magazines)
In 2003 9.5mm enthusiast Lee Mannering set up a Steve the
Horse Fan Club -
sadly (Dec 2009) their excellent web-site (and I suppose the club) are now no more.
References: British Animated Films 1895-1985 by the late Denis Gifford (McFarland & Company,Inc) The Great Cartoon Stars by the late Denis Gifford (Jupiter Books) Letter from John Benson - Roland Davies son-in-law - 2008 Pathescope Monthly magazines 1937/1938 Pathescope Film Catalogues 1940/1941 Roland Davies obituary - Dennis Gifford 1993 Roland Davies page - Lambiek Studio Maurice Trace 17.5mm and 9.5mm sound film catalogues Grahame L. Newnham 9.5mm French optical sound film catalogue Catalogue Général Films 9.5mm 1922-1986 by François Poussin Any corrections, or additional information will be greatly appreciated! e-mail me, Grahame L. Newnham at gln @ pathefilm.uk (no gaps in actual e-mail address)
Sorry! Out of stock at present! (April 25th 2013)
A DVD featuring all six of the Steve the Horse
New copies available at £12.95 plus 85p UK
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Created 29Sept2003 .. Last updated: 13 March 2017 .......
95flmsteve.htm ....... ©MM3 G.L. Newnham
Dec2009 - internet links updated / details of defunct Steve the Horse fan club and DVD removed
Oct2012 - Steve the Horse DVD available again / April 2013 - Steve the Horse DVD out of stock
28May2014 - "Steve's Treasure Hunt" You Tube upload added