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Who was Claude Friese-Greene?

Claude Friese-Greene
Claude Friese-Greene ©
Claude Friese-Greene was born on 3 May 1898 in Fulham, London. Son of William and Edith Friese-Greene his path in the film industry was perhaps mapped out at an early age as his father played a significant part in the development and invention of film processes that would influence much of Claude's later career.

Like the making of his film 'Open Road', not that much is known about the life of Claude Friese-Greene. Growing up at the beginning of the 20th century he faced a dramatically changing world, something that his filmic archive of Britain would go on to document.

He left school at 14 as a 'cine-technician', helping his father William on developing his two-colour process which had become so much of an obsession.

On 21 October 1915 Claude joined the army to fight in World War One and spent some time training with the 3rd Battalion of the London Scottish, before going to France with the 1st Battalion.

He spent seven months in his first Tour of Duty in 1916 and a further three months from November 1917 to January 1918. From records it shows that he was injured during his first tour, where he fought at the Battle of the Somme and received a gunshot wound to the foot.

During 1917 Claude applied to become a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps, a decision that would have great influence and help establish his career in films.

He began pilot training in England before being moved to Egypt where he was 'discharged to commission' and became a 2nd Lieutenant in October 1918. He also married in this period, to his childhood sweetheart Chrissie Barnes with whom he had two sons - Peter and Tony.

After the war Claude began to pursue a career as a commercial pilot. With his attachment to the cinema industry the two paths of his career were ideally merged when he worked for Aerofilms. Founded in 1919 it was the world's first commercial aerial photography company, where Claude worked as a 'technical manager'.

Many of the company's films were aimed at showing grand shots of the country, and also showing how the world was changing in the aftermath of the First World War, such as the journey from London to Paris by air and 'Across England in an Aeroplane' where Claude tried to get colour in by tinting the film. The same theme of painting an epic picture of life in Britain is echoed in the film 'Open Road'.

After the death of his parents in 1921 Claude continued his father's passion for perfecting the colour film process and applied for a new patent for 'Improvements connected with Colour Cinematography'. He also followed in his father's footsteps by travelling to America in an attempt to sell his rights, something he had already done in Italy, India, Norway and Sweden.

The Open Road (1926) was filmed over three years with the intention of showing the journey as 26, ten minute episodes before feature films. But despite the existence of Wardour Films promotional material, 'Open Road' was only ever exhibited at trade shows.

Claude continued his cinematography career and worked on over 50 feature films such as The Great Mr Handel (1942).

He died in 1943.

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