By the Shortest of Heads is a 1915 British film starring the 10-year-old George Formby in his first film. He plays a stable boy who outwits a gang of villains and wins a £10,000 prize when he comes first in a horse race.[1]

The film is now considered lost, the last-known copy having been destroyed in 1940.[2]


  • George Formby as Tony Dawson
  • Jack Tessier as Eric Dawson
  • Moore Marriott as Captain Fields
  • Jack Hulcup as Geoffrey Warrington
  • Percy Manton as Squire Markham
See caption
George Formby in riding clothes, aged about ten
The George Formby Appreciation Society


George Formby Snr[a]Real name James Lawler Booth (1875–1922).[3] was concerned that his son would want to follow in his footsteps and pursue a career on stage, commenting that “one fool in the family is enough”.[4] So he decided that his son should train as a jockey, after leaving school at the age of seven.[3] Following a year spent working at a stables in Middleham, Yorkshire, Formby was apprenticed to Thomas Scourfield at Epsom, entering his first professional races at the age of ten, weighing in at less than four stones (25 kg).[5] But in 1915 Formby Snr allowed his son to appear on screen as the lead in By the Shortest of Heads.[1] After filming was complete, Formby Jnr was sent to Ireland to continue his jockey training, along with the five horses Formby Snr had purchased that year.[2][6]


a Real name James Lawler Booth (1875–1922).[3]