Theda Bara

Cleopatra
R: J. Gordon Edwards. D: Theda Bara, Fritz Leiber, Thurston Hall, Alan Roscoe. P: Fox Film Corporation. USA 1917

Fragment of the legendary ‘lost’ film found in Coney Island

“Cleopatra is a 1917 silent film starring Theda Bara. This is one of her many silent-era films to be lost (only four are still known to exist). Of this two and a half hour long film, only 20 seconds have survived. Many believe the film to be among the most elaborate and expensive of its time. The film is known for Bara’s risque outfits and some claim that her privates have exposed several times throughout the movie. Though this caused the film to be labeled as ‘obscene’ by the Hays Code and reportedly upsetted local religious groups and state censors, the film was still a success at the box office. Despite its success at the box office, the last known copies of the film were destroyed in fires. One was at the Fox studio vault fire in 1937, and the other fire was at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1958. The film has never been seen in its entirety since. No surviving footage other than the aforementioned twenty-second clip is known to exist. It has fallen into a category with 1922 Stroheim Director’s Cut of Greed as a ‘holy grail’ amongst movie collectors.”
lostmediawiki.com

“In this mighty production the career of Egypt’s Vampire Queen is shown from beginning to end. Her conquests of the three greatest men of her time-not by armies but by her womanly wiles. The costumes worn by Miss Bara are one of the striking features of the production. Words can hardly describe the costume she wears in the scene when she first meets the noble Ceaser. Theda Bara presents a picture that out rivals is splendor and sensuousness anything that the real Cleopatra may have attempted. Cleopatra is a production that you will never forget.”
Dunkirk Evening Observer, Monday, April 1, 1918
Silent Hollywood

335-Theda Bara als Cleopatra-2
Theda Bara as Cleopatra, 1917

336-Theda Bara als Cleopatra mit Fritz Leiber als Caesar

Theda Bara as Cleopatra, Fritz Leiber as Caesar

Theda Bara – der erste Vamp der Filmgeschichte
“Fünf Jahre arbeitet Theda Bara für William Fox; sie dreht fast vierzig Filme, ausnahmslos Varianten des Vamps – bis der Vampir selbst ausgelaugt ist, aufs bloße Image reduziert, und nicht einmal mehr auf der Bühne die Männer in den Wahnsinn und die Frauen zur Hysterie zu treiben vermag. Zuvor allerdings absolviert sie nahezu das gesamte „klassische“, aus der Romantik importierte Vamp-Programm. Nur sie kann für sich in Anspruch nehmen, das Repertoire der romantisch-archaischen Heroinen und der Fin de siècle-Medusen noch einmal durchgespielt zu haben – Frauen, die den Männern zum Verderben gereichen und eben daran selbst zugrundegehen.

Schon 1915, unter der Regie von Raoul Walsh, spielt sie die Hauptrolle in CARMEN und erzählt den Reportern, sie selbst sei Ar Minz, das Urbild der Carmen, und müsse in einem früheren Leben Mérimée als Vampir begegnet sein. Zum Beweis unterbricht sie die Pressekonferenz, um sich rohes Fleisch servieren zu lassen.

Theda Bara spielt Alexandre Dumas’ Kameliendame in CAMILLE (Regie J. Gordon Edwards, 1917) und läßt die Fan-Magazine verbreiten, ein Verehrer habe sich mit einer Giftschlange, die sie als Armband zu tragen pflege, das Leben genommen. Sie dreht MADAME DUBARRY (J. Gordon Edwards, 1917), sie liebt als CLEOPATRA (J. Gordon Edwards, 1917), sie tanzt als SALOME (J. Gordon Edwards, 1918) – und erfüllt somit fast lückenlos das Repertoire jener „frenetischen“ Sex-Figuren, die wenige Jahrzehnte zuvor in der Literatur und der bildenden Kunst dominiert hatten; Phantome an der Schnittstelle zwischen (schwarzer) Romantik und Moderne: ‘The vampire that Bara played was really a ninteenth century character that thrived on the silver screen for a brief period before the Modern Age took hold in the 1920s and the nation conceded that gender roles were not entirely separate and unequal.’

Zu den Mythen, die Fox und seine Werbeagenten um Theda Bara konstruieren lassen, gehört die Fama vom Verzicht auf die eigene Liebesfähigkeit: ‘Every woman must choose whether she will love or be loved. She cannot hope for both.’ Ein Woman Vampire bringe die Männer zur Raserei, weil ihm selbst die Erfüllung versagt sei. Der Vertrag, den Theda Bara 1917 unterzeichnet, modelliert auf der juristischen Ebene präzis die Konturen einer der alltäglichen Öffentlichkeit, ja dem ‘Leben’ selbst entrückten Kunstfigur: Sie verpflichtet sich, nicht zu heiraten, sich in der Öffentlichkeit unter einem undurchsichtigen Schleier zu verbergen, niemals öffentliche Verkehrsmittel zu benutzen und unter gar keinen Umständen in ein türkisches Bad zu gehen. Doch Theda Bara selbst verleiht der nonnenhaften Imago einer keuschen Medusa den Akzent radikaler feministischer Rebellion: ‘For every Woman Vampire, there are ten men of the same type’ – Männer, die den Frauen alles rauben, ihre Liebe, Schönheit, Hingabebereitschaft und Jugend – ohne ihnen etwas zurückzugeben! Das V in ‘Vampire’ stehe auch für ‘vengeance’, Vergeltung; in den von ihr gespielten Rolle nehme das weibliche Geschlecht Rache am Ausbeuter Mann. ‘You see, I have the face of a Vampire, perhaps, but the heart of a feministe.’
Klaus Kreimeier: Vom Vampir zum Vamp. In: Rolf Aurich u.a. (Hrg.): Künstliche Menschen. Berlin 2000, S. 98

>>> the 1915 Bara film A Fool There Was

Viggo Larsen

Anarkistens svigermor
R: Viggo Larsen. B: Viggo Larsen. K: Axel Graatkjaer. D: Margrete Jespersen, Viggo Larsen. P: Nordisk Film Kompagni. Dk 1906
Print: Danish Film Institute

“Nordisk Film, whose logo is a polar bear on top of a globe, received immediate success with farces such as ‘The Anarchist’s Mother-in-Law’ (Anarkistens Svigermoder, 1906), literary films such as ‘The Lady with the Camellias’ (Kameliadamen,1907), and especially dramatic adventure stories like ‘The Robber’s Sweetheart’ (Røverens Brud, 1907) and the famous ‘The Lion Hunt’ (Løvejagten, 1907), where hunters chase and kill two lions, filmed on the little island Elleore in the Roskilde Fjord on Zealand. The films, directed by the company’s regular director Viggo Larsen, were 10-15 minutes long. Nordisk Film was also very successful internationally and in the following years established branch offices in a number of different countries, especially Germany, England and the USA.
The company’s eye-opening economic results lead to the development of a number of rival firms. It was one of these firms, the small company Fotorama, based in Aarhus, the country’s second largest city, that in 1910 released the melodrama ‘The White Slave Trade’ (Den Hvide Slavehandel), a remarkable film; it was three reels long (around forty minutes) at a time when a maximum of one reel was the norm. Nordisk Film immediately went about plagiarizing the film, releasing their version four months later. It was at this point that Nordisk Film, as the first company in the world, gambled on lengthier films. It marked the beginning of the short golden age for Danish film, which in the following years stood out in the international market.”
Peter Schepelern
Danish Film Institute

Løvejagten
R: Viggo Larsen. B: Arnold Richard Nielsen. K: Axel Graatkjær. D: Axel Graatkjær, Viggo Larsen, Knud Lumbye. P: Nordisk Film Kompagni. Dk 1907
Filming Locations: Elleore, Roskilde Fjord, Denmark

“The ten-minute ‘jungle’ movie (215 meters of 35mm film) was actually filmed on location in Denmark. Scenes of the hunters in the forest were shot in Jægersborg Dyrehave park near Copenhagen. The animals were filmed at the Copenhagen Zoo with the camera aimed downward to avoid any view of the enclosures. The controversial shooting of two lions took place on the small island of Elleore in the Roskilde fjord.
In the summer of 1907, Ole Olsen decorated Elleore with palm fronds and artificial plants to simulate a tropical savanna. He then bought two elderly lions from the Hagenbeck Zoo in Hamburg, Germany for the large sum of 5000 deutschmarks. When the Danish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals learned about Olsen’s plan to shoot the lions for his movie, they protested to the Danish Minister of Justice Peter Adler Alberti. Alberti banned the filming. Two days later, however, Olsen defiantly shot the scenes as planned, then smuggled the film to Sweden. Olsen’s cinematographer, Axel Graatkjær, was arrested and spent a day in jail. At a court hearing, Alberti banned the movie in Denmark and revoked Olsen’s license for his Biograf Theater.”
Wikipedia

TRAUM UND EXZESS, S. 210  f.

In Foreign Countries

Niagara
P & R: Louis and Auguste Lumière. Fr 1897

Moscou sous la neige
R: Joseph-Louis Mundwiller. P: Pathé. Fr 1908

Panorama de Rio de Janeiro
P: Gaumont. Fr 1909
Print: BFI

“This is an incomplete travelogue originally entitled Views of Rio de Janeiro by the French Gaumont Company in 1909. It shows views of Rio’s sea wall, a tree-lined canal, the famous Carioca aqueduct across which a tram is passing and the ascent of a small steam train up the Corcovado mountain railway.
Corcovado railway would be electrified the very next year, while it would be another 22 years before the appearance of Corcovado’s most iconic landmark, the statue of Christ the Redeemer.”
BFIPlayer

Sur le Bosphore
P: Éclipse. Fr 1912
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

Travelogue of Turkey with images of the Bosporus, the village of Rumelifeneri and the entrance of the Black Sea.

Turkije
P: Éclipse (Radios). Fr 1915
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

>>>  LANDSCAPES, URBAN VIEWS 

TRAUM UND EXZESS, S. 206 ff.

Alice Guy and Paris


L’émeute sur la barricade (aka: L’enfant de la barricade)
R: Alice Guy. P: Gaumont. Fr 1907

311-barricade-faubourg-du-temple-commune-18-march-1871Paris, Faubourg du Temple, march 18th, 1871

309-Pariser CommuneLa Commune: Shooting of insurgents

475-Guy-barricade-2L’émeute sur la barricade, 4 min. 17 sec

L’Aveugle fin de siècle
R: Alice Guy. P: Gaumont. Fr 1898
Print: Svenska Filminstitutet

TRAUM UND EXZESS, S. 205 f.

Special effects: The Beginnings

Démolition d’un mur
P and R: Louis and Auguste Lumière. Fr 1895
Print: Svenska Filminstitutet

La Fée aux Choux
R: Alice Guy. P: Gaumont. Fr 1896

Le piano irrésistible
R: Alice Guy. P: Gaumont. Fr 1907

Avenue de l’Opéra
R: Alice Guy. P: Gaumont. Fr 1900

Les trésors de Satan
R and P: Georges Méliès. Fr 1902

TRAUM UND EXZESS, S. 204

Borderline Cinema

Rêve à la lune
R: Gaston Velle/Ferdinand Zecca. P: Pathé. Fr 1905

The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend
R: Edwin S.Porter/Wallace McCutcheon. P: Edison Manufacturing Co. USA 1906

“Dream of  a  Rarebit  Fiend  was partially inspired by Winsor McCay’s comic strip ‘Dream of  the  Rarebit  Fiend‘, which had appeared in the ‘New York Telegram’ since 1904. Porter not only borrowed the title but shared McCay’s dream-based narrative structure, elements that had already figured in Biograph’s somewhat earlier Dream of the Race-Track Fiend (September 1905). Likewise, the Edison film convincingly realized McCay’s surreal imagery on the screen using a variety of photographic tricks — an achievement not attempted in the earlier Biograph film. Although such visuals had many antecedents, Porter may have found another McCay strip, ‘Little Nemo in Slumberland’, a useful point of departure. The basic story line and some of the film’s visuals, however, can be found in an earlier Pathé film made by Gaston Velle — Rêve à la lune (1905). (…)
The film begins with a medium shot of the fiend consuming large amounts of alcohol and Welsh rarebit. For subsequent scenes, Porter employed a different special effect for each shot, keeping the spectator off balance and making it impossible for the average viewer to figure out how the photographic stunts were achieved. The second shot was a double-exposure, superimposing the fiend and a swinging white lamppost against rapidly panning, zigzagging camerawork of New York City streets. It suggested the subjective sensation of the fiend’s predicament without being a point-of-view shot. When the man enters his bedroom (scene 3) invisible strings drag his shoes across the floor and stop action causes the furniture to disappear. The fourth scene uses a split-screen effect — juxtaposing a close-up of the sleeping fiend with a far shot of people in devils’ costumes, making it appear that they are hitting him on the head with forks and shovels. When Porter cuts back to the room, it is a miniature that allows the filmmaker to manipulate the bed in astonishing ways. The sixth scene uses another type of split screen as the fiend’s bed travels across the skyline of New York. Scene 7 uses a drawn background and cut-outs. Scene 8 is a studio close-up of a steeple on which the fiend is skewered. The final scene returns to the bedroom as the dreamer crashes through the roof and wakes up. The changing tricks and discontinuities disorient the spectators in ways analogous to dream, particularly the dreams portrayed in Winsor McCay’s comic strips.”
Charles Musser: Before the Nickelodeon. Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company. Berkeley-Los Angeles-Oxford 1991, p. 341 f.

TRAUM UND EXZESS, p. 200 f.

Runaway Horses

Le cheval emballé
R: Louis J. Gasnier. P: Pathé. Fr 1907/08

“Hired at Pathé Frères in 1905, Gasnier (1882-1963) specialized in comic films such as Le cheval emballé (1908) and directed several installments in the Boireau series as well as the first films featuring Max Linder. Beginning in 1909, he helped Charles Pathé establish foreign subsidiaries, including Film d’Arte Italiana and, more important, Pathé American, whose new studio was located in Bound Brook (New Jersey). Gasnier served as artist director of the American company and also made films, most notably the famous serial, The Perils of Pauline (1914). Its success enabled him to create his own company, Astra Film, which supplied Pathé with detective serials well into the 1920s. He then settled in the USA permanently.”
Laurent le Forestier, in: Richard Abel: Encyclopedia of Early Cinema. Taylor & Francis 2005, p.265

>>> The Perils of Pauline: The Most Famous Suspense Serial In History

The Curtain Pole
R: David Wark Griffith, Mack Sennett. D: Mack Sennett, Harry Solter, Florence Lawrence. P: Biograph. USA 1908

“Amongst Pathé’s biggest hits of 1907-1908, was Le Cheval emballé. (…)  A delivery man goes up the staircase and into a room and back onto the staircase, while his horse is shown in a cross-cut sequence eating the contents of a bag of oats outside a grain shop on the street level. These scenes inside the house are all shot from the same frontal direction. Le Cheval emballé was so successful a film that it would have been difficult for film people to avoid seeing it in 1908 in New York, but in any case, Griffith made a version of it, at the urging of Mack Sennett and Billy Bitzer, under the title of The Curtain Pole, later in the year. At that point Griffith had not developed the idea of using side-by-side spaces shot from the same frontal direction. Ben Brewster has identified An Awful Moment, made about a month after The Curtain Pole, as the first use of the device, and the next example I know of is A Wreath in Time, made another month later, with Mack Sennett in the lead. After that, this layout became more and more frequent in Griffith’s scenography.”
Barry Salt: d. w. griffith shapes slapstick. In: Tom Paulus, Rob King (ed.): Slapstick Comedy. Routledge 2010, p. 37 ff.

TRAUM UND EXZESS, S. 200

Natural Light

Barque sortant du port
P & R: Auguste and Louis Lumière. Fr 1895

“Each time the small boat appears to make headway, the surf rolls it back. The boat never reaches the open water. This film is unlike La sortie des usines Lumière, in which the closing of the factory’s doors creates a discrete event of the decanting of the workers. (…) Yet the film must also have seemed similar to the magic lantern slides that were so common in that even some of the most sophisticated could achieve only the simplest, cyclical movements and articulations, and from which the characters could seldom leave. Barque sortant du port seems to connect the magic lantern slide with the most sophisticated of modern loop technologies, and indeed it could go alongside film and video works by Andy Warhol, Douglas Gordon, Bill Viola, or Jane and Louis Wilson. Like the exercises in patience and stamina produced by contemporary video and digital performance Barque sortant du port seems to emphasize the sensation of experience, the feeling of the moment that will pass but is suspended by photographic means.”
Damian Sutton: Photography, Cinema, Memory: The Crystal Image of Time. University of Minnesota Press 2009, p. 83/84

Depart de Jerusalem en chemin de fer
P & R: Louis Lumière. Fr 1896

TRAUM UND EXZESS, S. 196

Panic and Paranoia

Un jour de paye
R: Charles Lucien Lépine. K: Segundo de Chomón. P: Pathé. Fr 1906
Print: Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek Berlin


La course des sergents de ville
R: Ferdinand Zecca, André Heuzé. P: Pathé. Fr 1906/07

“Typically, the chase film has been seen as a crucial move away from spectacle and toward a cinema of ‘narrative integration’ (in Tom Gunning’s phrase). This approach views the chase as a logical sequence that coheres across multiple shots, effectively teaching early filmmakers how to edit and allowing narrative to ‘master’ action, making way for the ‘institutional mode of representation.’ Such analyses rightly acknowledge the chase as a literal relay across imagined space that makes possible, and ultimately realizes, increasingly complex linkages of shots. Looking backward to the ‘actuality’ or the trick film rather than forward to classical Hollywood, however, the chase film is notable for its over-complicating tendencies, for all that it attempts despite what is not yet available to it, such as point-of-view shots. As late as 1910, the chase film continues to be marked by literal elements of non-identity in its depiction of the human — the preponderance of long shots, among other elements, rendering human figures only distantly, with little psychological underpinning.”
Thomas Schur: Film, Relay, and System: A Systems Theory Approach to Cinema. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee 2013, p. 17-18


La course aux potirons
R: Roméo Bosetti. P: Gaumont. Fr 1908

“Das Schwindelgefühl gesellte sich prima zu den Schockwirkungen von Unfällen und scheinbaren Zusammenstößen. Als Rahmen für diese raumverschlingenden Abenteuer bot sich die Jagd als unschätzbarer Vorwand an. Polizisten jagen einen Hund, der dann den Spieß umdreht (La course des sergents de ville, ca.1910?); vom Karren rollende Kürbisse werden vom Gemüsehändler, seinem Esel und Passanten durch Abgußkanäle und über Dächer verfolgt (La course des potirons, 1908; englischer Titel The Pumpkin Race). Für jede Keystone-Komödie wäre es ein unentschuldbares Verbrechen gewesen, die Verfolgungsjagd wegzulassen. Es war die Klimax des Ganzen, sein orgiastisches Finale, ein Pandämonium mit dahinrasenden Zügen, die sich in Automobile schoben, und knappen Fluchtwegen an Seilen hinunter, die über einer Löwenhöhle baumelten.”
Siegfried Kracauer: Stummfilmkomödie. In: Ders.: Kino. Essays, Studien, Glossen zum Film. Hrsg. von Karsten Witte. Frankfurt/Main 1974, S. 16-21.

La corsa alla scimmia
P: Itala Film. It 1909

TRAUM UND EXZESS, S. 192 f.

Lucien Nonguet

La vie et la passion de Jésus Christ
R: Lucien Nonguet / Ferdinand Zecca. P: Pathé. Fr 1903
Engl. intertitles

“La Vie et la passion de Jesus Christ is a 1903 French silent film directed by Lucien Nonguet and Ferdinand Zecca, and is believed to be the first feature film to have colorized sequences. Colorization was achieved using the Pathécolor/Pathéchrome stencil-based film tinting process, which had been invented around 1903 by Pathé Freres, one of the most important and innovative film companies in history. The film itself is a straightforward telling of the story of Jesus Christ, but does include some events usually omitted in films about Christ, like the Transfiguration. La Vie is filmed using a single camera mostly kept still in front of the set and capturing the actors and action as it unfolds. The only known cast members are Madame Moreau as Virgin Mary and Monsieur Moreau as Joseph.”
archive.org

Les Martyrs Chrétiens
R: Lucien Nonguet. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1905
German titles

“(…) throughout 1905 – 1906, Pathé’s biblical films seem to have taken precedence over its historical films, perhaps in response to the Catholic Church’s increasing interest in the cinema for educational purposes. In their deployment of autonomous LS tableaux (recorded from an eye-level camera). however, both, La Regne de Louis XIV et Les Martyrs Chrétiens equally exemplify Pathé’s now standardized system of representation within the latter two genres.”
Richard Abel: The Ciné Goes to Town: French Cinema, 1896-1914. Updated and Expanded Edition. University of California Press 1998, p. 162

La révolution en Russie
R: Lucien Nonguet. P: Pathé. Fr 1905

TRAUM UND EXZESS, p. 153, p. 206