This film is held by the BFI (ID: 46443).


A gambler plots to sabotage a train carrying a racehorse.

'Doris overhears Lopez plotting with Headway to wreck the train in which is her sweetheart's horse. She is kidnapped, but escapes and rides with her brother to the railway points where Headway has overpowered the signalman. In a hand to hand struggle Headway falls from a high railway bridge into the river, Doris saves the train, and her sweetheart's horse wins the race.' (Bioscope, 24 April 1913, xxix).



On the evening of 1 January 1913, Mr J. O’Neil Farrell and several members of the British and Colonial Kinematograph Company (B and C) arrived in Jamaica (Gleaner, 3 January 1913, 2). Over the next two months, they shot a series of films, showing ‘local industries and scenes’, but also produced fictional titles, such as The Favourite for the Jamaica Cup and Lieutenant Daring and the Labour Riots. The company met with strong opposition, as members of the Jamaican public, articulating their concerns through the press, condemned the company’s representation of Jamaica.

The Gleaner of 29 January 1913 contained a letter from the Reverend Ernest Price in which he directly criticised the work of B and C and argued that ‘the Jamaica public should resent the action of men who come here and enlist some of our poorer people in a show which libels their own race. The impression created on many who see this film [referring specifically to Lieutenant Daring and the Labour Riots]’, Price continued, ‘will be that the people of the island are half-savage, that “missionaries” here live in danger of their lives, and that Myrtle Bank hotel is the last outpost of civilisation in this land’. Price further warned of the potential harm such a representation could cause to the tourist industry: ‘The way to encourage tourists is not to allow cinematographers to suggest that Jamaicans “rush up” to houses “armed with cutlasses and pitchforks” and attack the people within’ (Gleaner, 29 January 1913, 4). Farrell attempted to counter these objections by arguing that British censors would not allow any picture to ‘over step the mark’, and that the scenic films would interest potential tourists (Gleaner, 29 January 1913, 4). He also emphasised that the exact location of the action would be unclear, but this argument was challenged in further published letters. ‘Why come to Jamaica for it?’, asked J. W. Graham, ‘but that the faces of the perpetrators must be black to satisfy the “realistic taste” of the author to the tragedy?’ Graham concluded, ‘The Government must move in this matter and have this outrage of the people of the island destroyed’ (Gleaner, 3 February 1913, 3).

Further letters continued to question the company’s representation of local life. D. C. Beckford wrote on 29 January, ‘As a Jamaican and one who has lived abroad for many years, I desire to enter my emphatic protest against certain pictures that are now being taken by a moving picture company to be exhibited abroad’. Beckford urged a united public response against the producers, who he argued, were ‘only out for the money’. ‘For the good of the country and its people, especially the coloured race, all Jamaicans who have the welfare of their country at heart should rise as one and do something to prevent their country and themselves being shown to the world in such unfavourable light, which is not fact’ (Gleaner, 31 January 1913, 3). The Gleaner joined the debate, avoiding criticism of the company itself – which it suggested had been guilty only of ‘thoughtlessness’ – stating instead that ‘if we may make a suggestion to this company, it is that they should show Jamaica as a colony without a colour problem. That would be the truth. And surely that ought to be as interesting to foreign audiences as imaginary attacks upon imaginary missionaries’ (Gleaner, 1 February 1913, 3). This thus serves as a concrete example of local colonial populations resisting the filming and representation of local life on screen for foreign audiences.

In an apparent attempt to foster goodwill amongst the community – and the readers of Gleaner – B and C organised, ‘with the usual generosity of the profession’, a performance at the Ward theatre for the ‘Gleaner’ charity fund at the start of February (Gleaner, 1 February 1913, 3). A few months later when the films were released in Britain, B and C arranged for Mr Aspinall of The West India Committee Circular to ‘inspect’ the films. He noted that the company had ‘courteously agreed to omit the name of the place in which the riots are supposed to have occurred’ and argued that the scenes were ‘really quite inoffensive’ when compared to other cowboy films. Aspinall concluded that the rest of the pictures ‘should prove a notable advertisement for Jamaica’ adding that the ‘scenes are characteristic and real, and breathe the very atmosphere of the tropics’ (Gleaner, 23 May 1913, 10).

The Favourite for the Jamaica Cup played throughout the Empire, for example in New Zealand in July 1913 where it was advertised as a ‘superb drama, enacted amid the beautiful scenery of tropical Jamaica’ (Wellington Evening Post, 12 July 1913, 6). It also played in Jamaica in February 1914, when Farrell returned to the island and presented a series of Jamaican pictures, under the heading ‘Farrell’s Faultless Features’. The programme began with The Favourite for the Jamaica Cup, and also included Lieutenant Daring and the Labour Riots and The College Badge, a cricket tale (Gleaner, 16 February 1914, 4). The Favourite for the Jamaica Cup had been supported by Elders and Fyffes – as an opening title indicates – and by 1914 Farrell was working in a new role for the company ‘introducing moving pictures on all the United Fruit Company’s and Elders and Fyffe’s large passenger steamers, so that ocean-going travellers in future will be amused on different evenings with a moving picture show on board the steamers’ (Gleaner, 2 February 1914, 6).

In writing about his experiences filming in the Caribbean, Farrell discussed the ‘difficulties of securing supers [extras] in a country (Jamaica, where there is hardly 10% of “Whites”)’. However he added that ‘the blacks proved themselves adaptable to the needs of the cameraman and appeared to thoroughly enjoy the pastime of “dying for the pictures”’ (The Cinema, 12 August 1915). Burton and Porter claimed that B and C not only used local actors in their Jamaica productions, but also returned from the Caribbean with ‘several local actors in its troupe’ (Burton and Porter, 2002, 20). 



The Favourite for the Jamaica Cup is one of the earliest surviving records of fictional filmmaking in the Caribbean and the discourses surrounding the production of these B and C films indicate that there was already a popular awareness of, and concern for, the influence of film on foreign perceptions of Jamaica. In responding to these criticisms, Farrell downplayed the importance of the location, and for the most part the Jamaican characters are incidental to the film’s narrative in The Favourite for the Jamaica Cup. They work at the stables and at the train station. They are not centrally framed, nor prominent enough to be cast as the film’s villains. The titles do though refer to specific local areas – ‘I will wreck the 7.40 train at Grange Lane junction’ – and indeed when exhibited in Jamaica, advertisements emphasised their local credentials: ‘a racing tale of Jamaica featuring Knutsford Park races – See the procession of trainers and jockeys’ (Gleaner, 16 February 1914, 4). 

The Favourite for the Jamaica Cup shares much in common with other concurrent popular British and American crime films and, in many respects, simply transports this tale of kidnap and adventure to a foreign location. In following a central, imperilled female protagonist, attempting to solve the mystery with the aid of her brother, the film closely follows popular fictional conventions of this time, evident for example in Traffic in Souls (1913) and further popularised in the women’s serials of the 1910s. The film presents a narrative of an independent woman in danger – highlighting both the dangers and excitement of social modernity – as Doris attempts to uncover the villainous plot (by listening to gossip as she hides in the bushes), but is then ‘forcibly detained’ and led towards a hut. In keeping with many of these films, the central villain is foreign (known as Lopez), and in concluding on a runaway train, the film exploits one of film’s earliest, and most familiar, dramatic resolutions, as it once more illustrates the dangers (and excitement) of modern life. This representation of modernity, and its dangers, is slightly reconfigured though by its setting, as Doris is imperilled not in New York or another American metropolis, but within the altogether unfamiliar surroundings of Jamaica.

Tom Rice (October 2009)


Works Cited

‘The Favourite for the Jamaica Cup’, Bioscope, 24 April 1913, xxix.

Burton, Alan and Laraine Porter (eds), Crossing the Pond: Anglo-American Film Relations Before 1930 (Trowbridge: Flicks Books, 2002)

The Cinema, 12 August 1915.

‘Entertainment’, Gleaner, 27 January 1913, 14.

‘The Taking of Moving Pictures’, Gleaner, 29 January 1913, 4.

‘Mr Farrell Interviewed’, Gleaner, 29 January 1913, 4.

‘The Taking of Moving Pictures’, Gleaner, 31 January 1913, 3.

‘A Real Treat’, Gleaner, 1 February 1913, 3.

‘Objections Taken to Pictures’, Gleaner, 1 February 1913, 3.

‘Moving Pictures’, Gleaner, 3 February 1913, 3.

‘Jamaica Views’, Gleaner, 17 April 1913, 6.

‘Photos Taken’, Gleaner, 23 May 1913, 10.

‘Attraction on Vessels’, Gleaner, 2 February 1914, 6.

Gleaner, 16 February 1914, 4. 




Technical Data

Running Time:
11 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
35mm Film
976 ft

Production Credits

RAYMOND, Charles
Elders & Fyffes Ltd
cast member
FOSTER, Dorothy
cast member
cast member
cast member
cast member
MORAN, Percy
Production Company
British and Colonial Kinematograph Company