Grahame N's Web Pages


by Grahame L. Newnham B.Sc.

V.501 "Kalidja La Danseuse Tunisienne"
(a Pathé-Baby 9.5mm 30ft/9m coloured film release from 1923)

In all the years of Pathé-Baby and Pathéscope and the 9.5mm home movie gauge, one of the biggest drawbacks was the lack of printed colour films. In my youth I looked with envy at printed films in colour on 8mm and 16mm. A few Walton releases were pretty well the sum total available to ninefive enthusiasts in the UK.

Why then in the second ever French Pathé-Baby film catalogue issued in October 1923 (a huge illustrated descriptive catalogue of 72 pages listing over 450 of the little 30ft/9m titles!) are a number of titles listed as 'Coloris'? Well these short films in little cassettes with the silver printed black title bands were coloured - not actually filmed in colour but printed by the Pathé stencil colour process.

The Pathécolor process was introduced in 1905 for 35mm cinema releases and used up to the early 1930's. Originally used for colouring picture postcards, the process involved cutting a number of stencils, one for each colour required, to match a positive print of the film. The stencil films were then run in contact with each new print through staining machines which applied suitable dyes to the stencils using an endless loop of velvet ribbon charged with dye by a rotating brush. Each new print had to pass through as many stencil dye machines as there were colours.

Preparation of each stencil for a film release originally involved an operator actually hand cutting every frame of each stencil using a scalpel! Later the process was mechanised, the operator moving a pointer over a screen where the film was back-projected. A pantograph mechanism reduced the movement to the scale of the film and a vibrating cutting needle cut the actual stencil outline. It took an hour to cut a metre of stencil film!

The accuracy required must have been very high even for 35mm images, but to achieve good results for 9.5mm is amazing. It could hardly have been economic even for the 30ft shorts, and they soon disappeared from the catalogues, making them a rare and exciting find for collectors.

Here is a list of all the titles I have traced (maybe more?). In 1923 (France) the 9.5mm Pathé-Baby 30ft black & white titles cost 5 or 6 francs each, whilst the coloured releases cost 10 francs. The 9.5mm Pathé-Baby stencil colour films were only ever issued with French titles - the titles incidentally were not coloured but always printed as black and white.

  12 MISS FLUTTER - Metamorphoses
      A pretty, human butterfly, whose wings undergo series of marvellous transformations
      (original title: "Metempdycase" FR 1908 )
 *17 LA CREATION DU PETIT MONDE(Creation of the Little World)- 
      Girls are born under roses & boys under cabbages! 
  24 LE LIS DU JAPON (The Japanese Lily) - 
      Pathé 'slow cinema' shows you the opening of this pretty flower.
 *32 LA TARTINE (Bread and Jam) - with Regine Dumien -
      Children's scenes - NOT in 1923 Pathé-Baby catalogue - issued later.
  35 LE BON ONCLE(The Good Uncle) - with Regine Dumien -
      Uncle has a beautiful siesta after lunch, he's not prepared for Regine's frolics!
 *51 LE PAPILLON MACHAON (The Machaon Butterfly) - 
      Pathé-Baby shows phases of its metamorphosis. 
 *89 LE THE (Tea) - 
      Originally from India or China, a shrub rarely measuring more than 2 metres high
 *94 PECHE AUX CROCODILES (Fishing For Crocodiles) -
      This ferocious reptile can sever an arm with one bite.
 *97 LES NEPENTHES (The Nepenthes) - 
      These plants, indigenous to the garden, are objects of superstition.
 242 GLADIATOR COMBATTENT (Fighting Gladiator) - 
      Admire movements by the sons of Mars.
 244 L'ILE DE CAPRI (The Island of Capri) - 
      Pathé takes you to this terrestial paradise, under a blue sky.
 274 LA COLOMBE ET LA FOURMI (The Dove & the Ant) - 
      Artist O'Galop animates the La Fontaine fable.
*424 LA BELETTE ENTREE DANS UN GRENIER (The Weasel Goes Into A Granary)- 
      NOT in 1923 Pathé-Baby catalogue - Early O'Galop animation film from about 1910.
*494 BIARRITZ - LA COTE D'ARGENT (Biarritz - the Coast of Money) - 
      Its golden beach, blue waves, sumptious hotels and casino.
*501 KALIDJA LA DANSEUSE TUNISIENNE (Kalidja The Tunisian Dancer) - 
      Framed with veils, adorned with jewels, a charming vision.
 545 LA PLUIE DE FEU (The Rain of Fire) - Luminance dance by Miss Fire
      Folklore dance. Very beautiful images with fire & reflections in the swimming pool
*553 SUR LES BORDS DE L'AUDE (On the Banks of the Aude) - 
      Born in a little Pyrenean lake, this river god offers picturesque views
 558 LES GORGES DU TARN (The Tarn Gorges) - 
      These gorges are one of the great curiosities of France. 
 586 TOILETTES DU SOIR (Evening Attire) - 
      Many charming creations, presented by elegant models.
 615 TROUVILLE, LA REINE DES PLAGES (Trouville Queen of the Beaches) -
      A magnificent beach of fine golden sand. Pearl of the coast. 

(The descriptions are abbreviated from the Pathé-Baby catalogue). Is this yet another first for 9.5mm? Coloured package movies on sale in 1923! Unfortunately I have yet to own any of these treasures, but live in hope!

©Grahame L. Newnham 09May1994

[Since this article in 1994 for the Group 9.5 magazine, another title turned up - number 424. Making 20 titles in total.
I'm now lucky to have ten of these titles in my collection, marked *; examples have been screened at the Wimborne 9.5mm Mini-Festival, the Group 9.5 Annual Get-Together and the "They Survive on Nine-Five" evening at the British Film Institute Museum of the Moving Image cinema. I am always interested in purchasing other 9.5mm stencil colour prints!]

Watch the 9.5mm stencil colour film V.12 "Miss Flutter" on You Tube:

Watch the 9.5mm stencil colour film V.545 "La Pluie De Feu" on YouTube: 06Dec2016

V.32 La Tartine (Bread & Jam)

V.51 (The Machaon Butterfly)

Still available in 2018! - DVD "9.5mm STENCIL COLOUR FILMS"

Professionally produced by a French 9.5mm movie enthusiast, this DVD now
includes all 20 of these interesting, rare films with suitable background music.
(French titles - plays in all regions)

Only £7.95 (UK post free) - send cheque/PO payable 'G.L. Newnham' to
Grahame L. Newnham, 22 Warren Place, Calmore, Southampton, SO40 2SD, UK

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Last updated 16 July 2018 .......... 95stencilcol.htm .......... ©1994 Grahame L. Newnham
13Sept2011 - "Le The" added to my collection - many thanks to Dino Everett, USA!! / 11Dec2016 - extra images & YouTube upload added
15Dec2016 - catalogue scans added