The Life of Charles Peace
R: William Haggar. D: Walter Haggar, Violet Haggar, Lily Haggar, James Haggar, Henry Haggar, Fred Haggar, Sarah Haggar. P: William Haggar and Sons. UK 1905 (Release)
“The life, crimes and execution of Charles Peace. Showing his first burglary; the murder of Dyson; Peace disturbed by the police at home and the roof-top flight which ensues; a burglary at Blackheath; how he deceives a policeman dressed as a parson; his capture by PC Robinson; his journey to Sheffield for trial and his attempted escape; an identification parade in prison and his execution.”
Collections Search BFI
“Charles Frederick Peace (1832 – 1879), known as Charlie, was born in Sheffield, the son of a sometime collier, lion-tamer and shoemaker. His life before 1846 seems to have been unremarkable, but the double blow that year of an accident on the rolling mills at his workplace, when hot steel pierced his leg, and the death of his father, seems to have led him into crime as a way to earn a living. His first arrest was in 1851, for burglary, and in 1854 he was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment at Doncaster.
In the years that followed, he moved between Sheffield, Manchester and prison with some regularity, and occasionally seems to have tried ‘going straight’ with little success. He moved from petty criminal to the ‘most wanted’ list in 1876, with the murder of an associate named Arthur Dyson, which led to a long period on the run.
He found a safe berth in Nottingham’s notorious Narrow Marsh slums, where he remained for several months during 1877, cracking safes and embarking on an affair with a music hall singer, all the while evading his pursuers. Despite many ingenious escapes and bold ruses, the law eventually caught up with him and he was tried, sentenced to death by hanging and executed at Armley Gaol in Leeds at the age of 47.”
Dawn of the Unread: Charlie Peace
William Haggar (1851-1925)
“Of more than 30 documented films made between 1901 and 1908, only four shorts are known to survive in their entirety. Yet two of Haggar’s extant films, A Desperate Poaching Affray (1903) and The Life of Charles Peace (1905), an early potted biopic of a murderer hanged in 1879, are among the most important British films of the 20th century’s first decade. (…)
After acquiring a Wrench projector in 1898, he ran a travelling cinema (Bioscope), appearing regularly at fairgrounds in the West of England and the South Wales coalfields.
Haggar made his own films from around 1902, most of which were distributed by Gaumont, Charles Urban or the Warwick Trading Company. The filmmaker’s ‘stock company’ was his own family (eight of his 11 children appeared in his films, with son Walter as lead in the Charles Peace film, for example). Haggar drew on his rural background and early experiences of impoverishment to make several poaching films. (…)
Haggar’s films included comedies, burlesques, crime thrillers and trick movies. His A Desperate Poaching Affray, including Haggar’s earliest extant panning shot, is now regarded by academics as one of two or three British films which influenced early narrative drama in the United States, particularly the development of the chase film. It featured several shootings during the prolonged pursuit of the poachers. Haggar, steeped in the tastes of his proletarian fairground and theatre melodrama audiences, was never averse to using violence in his films even though his film-making middle period (1903-1905) coincided with the rise of puritan religious Nonconformism in Wales. (…)
The Charles Peace movie – long mistaken for the now missing 1905 version by Frank Mottershaw of the Sheffield Photo Company – flaunted William Haggar’s love of theatre. He employed overt stage sets in the film’s first half, and the killer is in heavy stage make up throughout. The later location scenes are choreographed with typical energy and brio and include a rooftop chase and a hanging scene. The film, interestingly, also has content and stylistic similarities to Mottershaw’s A Daring Daylight Burglary (1903).”