This paper explores the debates about colour and sound circulating within the British film industry in the 1920s and early 1930s. Tom Gunning has argued that the use of colour in silent cinema could tend towards either greater realism or spectacular effect, and that both tendencies contained elements of the sensual. The author shows that these were all tropes used by pioneer filmmakers to create a sense of patriotic appeal around British films and pull British film production from the slump in which it had been since 1908. By the 1920s, however, these pioneer efforts were discredited by a generation of intellectual film commentators promoting film as a new art form rooted in the sober abstraction of silence and monochrome, so that colour and sound were seen as potential backwards steps for British film.