William Bowden

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William Bowden (b. Patricroft, Manchester, **/**/1875 - d. Victoria, British Columbia, 07/04/1946) was a technician, cameraman, scriptwriter and director.


William Bowden was the son of Frederick Bowden and his wife Millicent Brown. He came from a family of woodturners. According to the Census of 1891, he was a ticketer in a warehouse and both his mother and his sister, Constance, were cotton spoolers. In 1901 he was still a warehouseman in Moss Side, Manchester, but there is no certainty concerning his whereabouts in 1911. However, in issues of the Jewish Chronicle of 1913/1914 there are references to a William Weston-Bowden having produced plays for an amateur dramatic society, including Pinero’s His House in Order. It must have been around this time that he joined H. Lisle Lucoque, because in 1919 Lucoque paid tribute to him and said that Bowden had been with him for the last six years. It is known for certain that he filmed the feature Beau Brocade (1916) for Thomas Bentley, which Lucoque had produced, as well as Tatterly (1916), directed by Lucoque himself.

In September 1916 it was announced that William Weston Bowden, chief photographer to Lucoque Ltd, had accepted a contract with African Film Productions and the following month he came out to South Africa on the Walmer Castle. He is said to have been one of the contributing cameramen on Harold M. Shaw's De Voortrekkers (1916) and then shot the shorts Zulutown Rink (1917) and Zulutown Races (1917) for Dick Cruikshanks. Together with J.L. Humphrey, he filmed Cruikshanks's The Symbol of Sacrifice (1918), and when Lucoque came out to South Africa to shoot King Solomon's Mines (1918) and Allan Quatermain (1919), it was only natural that he should team up with his former cameraman. During this time he also shot a number of “scenics” in Southern Africa, but was back in England towards the end of June 1919. He clearly had a good working relationship with Dick Cruikshanks, because after his return to South Africa they co-directed The Madcap of the Veld (1920), The Vulture's Prey (1922) and The Blue Lagoon (1923), all of which he shot. In addition he was credited with contributing to the script of The Madcap of the Veld and The Blue Lagoon, and made at least one acting appearance, playing a cryptologist who is strangled by a pet gorilla in The Vulture's Prey. Finally, in January 1923, he left South Africa permanently.

After 1923 we lose track of him, though in October 1925 William Bowden, “cinema artist”, sailed from Cherbourg to the United States. He gives the name of his sister, Constance Moore, as his nearest relative and she lived in Southport, England. From 1929 onwards a William Bowden is identified as the chief electrician at the Nettlefold Studios in Walton-on-Thames, said to have worked with Walter Forde on The Silent House (1929) and Red Pearls (1930). Both these films starred Arthur Pusey, with whom Bowden had worked on The Blue Lagoon. He also was one of the technicians on George King’s Self Made Lady (1932). It is known that he died in Victoria, British Columbia, but it is uncertain what brought him there. (FO)


Stage & Cinema, 5 May 1917

Stage & Cinema, 7 July 1917

S.A. Pictorial, 29 April 1922

The Bioscope, 5 October 1916

le Roux, André I. & Fourie, Lilla - Filmverlede: geskiedenis van die Suid-Afrikaanse speelfilm

Low, Rachel - The history of the British film 1914-1918

Parsons, Neil - Black and white bioscope: making movies in Africa 1899 to 1925

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