Title ID 8379Collection ID1187
TitleMary Jane’s Mishap; or, Don’t Fool with the Paraffin
CollectionEarly Films
ThemeEarly film in the South East Working Life
KeywordsAccidents Houses Workers Women
RegionalBrighton and Hove
NationalEngland United Kingdom
ProductionGeorge Albert Smith
DirectorGeorge Albert Smith
CastLaura Bayley (Mary-Jane)
Copyright & AccessCopyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details


An accident-prone woman meets an explosive end in this 1903 production by George Albert Smith.


A disheveled-looking woman yawns and stretches in a kitchen. She runs to light the stove before beginning to polish a boot. She scratches her face, leaving a black mark above her lip. Laughing at her reflection in a mirror she wipes the mark away with a cloth. Suddenly she realizes the stove isn't lit. In a flash of inspiration she pours paraffin into the stove, winking to the camera in a medium close-up shot. The lights a match and disappears in a cloud of smoke as the stove explodes. In a shot across the rooftops, Mary Jane is seen shooting out of the chimney pot before pieces of her rain down from the sky. Her gravestone is shown. It reads "Here lies Mary Jane who lighted the fire with paraffin. Rest in pieces." A screen wipe introduces the following scene at her graveside, where a man rakes leaves. A group of women arrive and he directs them to her resting place, where they sob into hankies. The ghost of Mary Jane appears, superimposed onto the image, wearing white clothes. She scares them off holding a bottle of paraffin above her head before disappearing again.

Related resources


Barnouw, Erik. The Magician and the Cinema. n.p. Oxford University Press

Date: 1981 This book is concerned with the influence of magic on film.

Barnes, John. The Beginnings of the Cinema in England 1894-1901. Five Volumes, n.p. University of Exeter Press

Date: 1996-1998 All five volumes of John Barnes’s archaeological study of early cinema charts its development between 1894 and 1901. Barnes founded the Barnes Museum of Cinematography with his brother William in the 1960s. The collection provided primary material for Barnes’s study of early cinema.

Thomas, D.B. The First Colour Motion Pictures. n.p. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office

Date: 1969

McKernan, Luke. “The Brighton School and the Quest for Natural Colour” in Simon Popple and Vanessa Toulmin (eds.) Visual Delights – two: Exhibition and Reception. n.p. Eastleigh: John Libbey

Date: 2005

Gray, Frank (ed.) Hove Pioneers and the Arrival of Cinema. n.p. University of Brighton

Date: 1996 Published on the occasion of the 1995 University of Brighton exhibition concerning the work of George Albert Smith and James Williamson. Essays included are by John Barnes, Ine van Dooren, Frank Gray and Martin Sopocy.


Charles Urban Papers Collection

Location: National Media Museum, Bradford (originally donated to the Science Museum in 1937) Contains letters, programmes, press clippings, papers, court proceedings, catalogues and photograph albums.

Charles Urban Collection

The Barnes Collection

Location: Hove Museum and Art Gallery Twins John and William Barnes founded the Barnes Museum of Cinematography in the 1960s. After the closure, the early part of the collection moved to Hove. The collection includes cameras, projectors and material relating to the Brighton School of film pioneers.


Location: BFI National Archive, British Film Institute, London Holds many films made by George Albert Smith between 1897 and 1905.

Further Information on File at Screen Archive South East

NFTVA copies kept on file SASE 950000.

Journal Articles

Bottomore, Stephen. “Smith versus Melbourne Cooper: An End to the Dispute.” Film History 14.1 57-73

Date: 2002 This paper explores the debate between those who claim a number of films were directed by George Albert Smith or Arthur Melbourne-Cooper. These films include Grandma’s Reading Glass, As Seen Through a Telescope and The Sick Kitten.

Gray, Frank. “Smith the Showman: The Early Years of George Albert Smith.” Film History 10.1: 8-20

Date: 1998

Gray, Frank. “Smith versus Melbourne Cooper: History and Counter-History.” Film History 11.3: 246-261

Date: 1999 A response to claims of alternative authorship concerning George Albert Smith’s films.

Smith. George Albert. “Animated Photographs in Natural Colours.” Journal of the Royal Society of Arts

Date: 11 December 1908

McKernan, Luke. “‘The Modern Elixir of Life:’ Kinemacolor, royalty and the Delhi Durbar.” Film History vol. 21 no. 2

Date: 2009 This paper explores the role of early colour film in the dissemination of royal events.


Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema online

"A guide to over 300 leading figures in Victorian cinema, defined as filmmaking in its broadest sense from the first glimmerings in the 1870s to the death of Queen Victoria in January 1901.

Charles Urban, Motion Picture Pioneer

Useful website providing detailed and extensive biographical and technical information, film synopses, images and links to early cinema sites.

BFI Screenonline

Website providing biographical overview and film synopses.

National Media Museum

PDF providing biographical overview and further reading.