A Drive Around London in 1926


In 1926, British-born filmmaker Claude Friese-Greene filmed the streets of London in breathtaking color. But only recently has the British Film Institute released an extract of their restoration of Friese-Greene's footage.

The man—who was the son of Claude Harrison Greene, a pioneer in early cinematography—filmed this series of clips after coming home from an 840-mile road trip across Britain. He called this documentation his travelogue and titled it The Open RoadThe technology he used to make it, developed by his father, used color-sensitive black and white film shot and projected with green and red filters. The footage was later dropped off for preservation by the BFI National Archive in the late '50s. In 2006, parts were released for a TV series on the BBC, and a full restoration of The Open Road came out in 2007.

Film history heralds the arrival of color film in the 1930s, but this footage moves that back to the '20s. Restorations on films such as The Open Road show that technology from the '20s could also capture striking images—ones that now give us a vivid glimpse of the past. This snippet by BFI has caught the attention of Kevin Spacey and Stephen Fry, with Spacey tweeting, "Watching makes you feel like you're there."

Though the clip says "London in 1927," the BFI confirms that the film was compiled in 1926.