This film is part of Free

The Donkey Derby

The simple hilarity of donkey racing escalates with the rapid arrival of clowns - and a very loose-limbed jackass

Non-Fiction 1900 1 mins Silent


For producer Cecil Hepworth, the popularity of this deathless reel of Donkey Derby shenanigans proved nothing more than that "the interest in mere movement in screen pictures had not yet completely faded out", five years after the medium’s birth. But over a century later, the abrupt entrance of a shock-headed clown still jumps the line between silly and sinister. The humour of a jockey in a dress and bonnet may have faded, but the acrobatics of the pantomime donkey are solid silent comedy.

Hepworth described the short films he made in the area around his Walton-on-Thames office as "simple little things obtainable locally at no cost save that of the film-stock, and of very little interest to anybody". The passing of time has contradicted his assessment of their worth - many of his "actuality" films are rich in sociological interest and some, like this one, provide timeless entertainment.