Britain’s First Epic Film: Jane Shore


Jane Shore (also known as The Strife Eternal in the USA)
R: Bert Haldane / F. Martin Thornton. B: Nicholas Rowe (play) / Rowland Talbot. K: Fred Bovill / Leslie Eveleigh. Art direction: P. Mumford / F. Ambrose. Costumes: W. Davies.  D: Blanche Forsythe, Roy Travers, Robert Purdie, Thomas H. MacDonald, Dora de Winton, Maud Yates, Nelson Phillips, Rolfe Leslie, Tom Coventry, Rachel de Solla, Frank Melrose, Fred Pitt. P: Bulldog production (Will Barker). UK 1915

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“His (i.e. Will Barker‘s) most famous film, directed by Martin Thornton and released in 1915, was Jane Shore, starring his chief leading lady, Blanche Forsythe. It was the most spectacular British production to that date, employing thousands of extras in some of the set-piece scenes, and, because it dealt with a period of English history in which internal conflict prevaled (the Wars of the Roses), it was seen in some quarters as the British answer to D.W. Griffiths‘s contemporary masterpiece set in the American Civil War, The Birth of a Nation. ”
George Perry in ‘Forever Ealing’ (1981)
the studio tour

“Historical incidents associated with our own and other countries have been admirably depicted by the cinematograph. What is regarded as one of the finest of these historical productions is Jane Shore,  which, in addition to its other merits , has the recommendation that it is entirely a product of British enterprise and industry in film-making. Painstaking care has characterised the production of the film, as the many fine scenes with which it abounds clearly show . An indication of the lavish scale on which the film, which comes from the Barker Motion Photography (Limited), is produced, is to be had in the fact that it cost over £10,000, no fewer than 5748 artistes took part in it, and in one scene 3500 people participated. The period with which the story of Jane Shore deals is that of the Wars of the Roses and the stirring episodes of that eventful time. The romantic story of Jane Shore and Edward II., the historic events in which famous personages participate, the gorgeous scenes, the pageantry of the streets, and other features too numerous to mention, combine to make an excellent film. The acting throughout is natural, the costumes are appropriate to the period o of the story, and care has been paid to every detail. The battle scenes are fine examples of what can be accomplished by the cinematographer’s art.”
The Scotsman – Tuesday 11 May 1915

About Bert Haldane:
“He began working for the Hepworth Manufacturing Company in 1910, describing himself as a ‘cinematograph production manager’ and specialising in social dramas and crime films. He joined Will Barker’s company in July 1912, producing more crime films, including The Test (1913) in which a policeman spitefully exposes an ex-convict at his new work place, as well as the more sensational The Lure of London (1914), and The Rogues of London (1915), His social films included As a Man Sows: or, an Angel of the Slums (1914), in which a slum landlord is reformed, as well as films on alcoholism, poverty, unemployment and illegitimacy. Perhaps his most famous films were two literary adaptations, East Lynne (1913) and Jane Shore (1915). East Lynne, a melodrama based on the sensational novel by Mrs Henry Wood and subsequent repertory potboiler, was Britain’s first six-reel film. It was lauded as one of the best British films ever produced and garnered much critical and popular acclaim. Later, film historians were to refer to its polished film techniques. Jane Shore, an historical epic with a huge cast, high production standards and several thousand extras, was even more successful. Variety magazine conceded that, ‘There is still hope for the English picture producer. He is showing signs of improvement…(an) excellent picture – judged by British standards’.”
Simon Baker

>>> Haldane’s The German Spy Peril on this site