Chaplin, Keystone Co., February / March 1914

“It is not every variety artiste who possesses the ability to act for the camera. Chaplin not only shows that talent; he shows it in a degree which raises him at once to the status of a star performer. We do not often indulge in prophecy, but we do not think we are taking a great risk in prophesying that in six months Chaplin will rank as one of the most popular screen comedians in the world. Certainly there has never been before quite so successful a first appearance.”
Exhibitors’ Mail, 1914
Musée de l’Elysée

His Favorite Pastime
R. George Nichols. K: Frank D. Williams. D: Charles Chaplin, Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle, Peggy Pearce. P: Keystone Film Company. USA 1914

A very early Buster Keaton:

The Rough House
R: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. D: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, Al St. John, Buster Keaton, Alice Lake, Agnes Neilson. P: Comique Film Company. USA 1917


American Virtues

Thirty Days at Hard Labor
R: Oscar Apfel. D: Robert Brower, Mary Fuller, Harod M. Shaw. P: Edison Manufacturing Co. USA 1912

The Totville Eye
R: C.J. Williams. B: Bannister Merwin. D: Walter Edwin, Yale Boss, Robert Brower, Edward O’Connor. P: Edison Manufacturing Co. USA 1912


Back to Nature

One Touch of Nature
R: Ashley Miller. B: Courtenay Ryley Cooper. D: John Sturgeon, Elizabeth Miller, Alan Crolius, Andy Clark. P: Edison Manufacturing Co. USA 1914

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”
(John Muir: Our National Parks. Boston 1901)

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin,
That all with one consent praise new-born gawds,
Though they are made and moulded of things past,
And give to dust that is a little gilt
More laud than gilt o’er-dusted.”
William Shakespeare: Troilus and Cressida, III/3


The Avenging Conscience
R und P: David Wark Griffith. D: Henry B. Walthall, Blanche Sweet, Spottiswoode Aitkin, George Siegmann. USA 1914

The Avenging Conscience: or ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’  (1914), a pre-Birth of a Nation feature that finds Griffith working in a very different register. A mash-up of several stories and poems by Edgar Allan Poe, Griffith’s fellow tortured Southerner, the film grows more directly from one of the director’s obsessive themes: that of the young couple whose union is prevented by an older authority figure.
In this case the nameless hero (played by Henry B. Walthall) is forbidden to marry his sweetheart (Blanche Sweet) by the uncle (Spottiswoode Aitken) who raised him and wants him to remain at home as his assistant.
Instead of expanding this story into epic form (as he would in The Birth of a Nation), Griffith journeys inward in The Avenging Conscience, giving his hero a series of nightmarish visions that first drive him to strangle the despotic uncle, and then to suffer a nervous breakdown. With superimposed imagery of ghouls and biblical figures, Griffith is working toward an interiorized, psychological sense of character without much precedent in American films of the time. There are moments in The Avenging Conscience that seem to anticipate the stylized imagery of German Expressionism, which would not emerge in the movies until The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in 1920.”
Dave Kehr, 2008
New York Times

>>> Griffith’s Edgar Allan Poe on this site: How Poe’s Raven Was Born

Thomas H. Ince


“Once there was a city spread out idyllically on the slopes of Santa Ynez Canyon [between Santa Monica and Malibu] with sweeping views of the sea. The streets were lined with houses of many types, from humble cottages to mansions, and the buildings were fashioned after the architecture of many lands. (…) This was the creation of American silent film producer/director Thomas Ince, who in 1912 built a city of motion picture sets on several thousand acres of land in and around the hills and plateaus of the canyon, where he was able to shoot many of the outdoor locales needed for his films. It was here at Inceville, now Sunset [Boulevard] at Pacific Coast Highway, where in 1913 alone, Ince made over 150 two-reeler movies, mostly Westerns, thereby anchoring the popularity of the genre for decades. It was at Inceville where many of the filmmaker’s innovations were developed, such as the shooting script, which included stage direction, dialogue and scene description for interiors and exteriors.”
Libby Motika in The Palisadian-Post
Alt Film Guide

The Struggle
R: Thomas Harper Ince. D: Red Wing, J. Barney Sherry, Jack Conway. P: Broncho Motion Picture Company. USA 1913


"The MGM of the Silents"


The set of Broncho Billy. Niles, Calif.

“Born Max Aronson in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1880, Gilbert Anderson had begun his movie career in 1903, the year he appeared in The Great Train Robbery, the first movie with a plot. He had made a few films at Selig Polyscope, a Chicago studio led by the self-styled ‘Colonel’ William Selig, but now he longed for more autonomy. He and Spoor joined forces to create the Peerless Film Manufacturing Company, which they renamed Essanay in August 1907. The studio was ‘probably the MGM of the silents’, says William Grisham, the Evanston movie historian who in the 1960s interviewed Mollie Anderson and some of the Essanay principals.
What’s more, the Essanay movies – and those made by Selig and others – established film as a dramatic and entertaining new art form. ‘They built the foundation for an industry that didn’t exist before and changed the world’, says David Kiehn, the historian for the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum (in Fremont, California) and the author of Broncho Billy and the Essanay Film Com­pany. ‘Unfortunately, 1907 to 1918, when they were all thriving, is a black hole in film history.'”
Robert Loerzel
Reel Chicago


>>>The Great Train Robbery on this site: Edwin S. Porter: Blockbuster for Edison

Broncho Billy – The American Shot

Broncho Billy and the School Mistress
R: Gilbert M. Anderson. P: Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. USA 1912

Gilbert Anderson is best remembered as the first western movie hero, ‘Bronco Billy’ (originally spelled Broncho Billy). He directed and starred in almost 400 Broncho Billy films over a seven year period, but Anderson was also a key figure in the development of American films as entertainment. Before begining his illustrious career in the cinema, Anderson worked as a traveling salesman. An aspiring actor, he then made an unsuccessful attempt to become a stage actor in New York. Instead, he was hired to work as a model in Edwin S. Porter’s one-reeler, Messenger Boy’s Mistake (1902) for Edison Studios. In 1903, he played multiple roles in the historical classic The Great Train Robbery. He then began playing a variety of roles until he joined Vitagraph several months later where he began directing as well as acting in one-reelers including the hit Raffles, The American Cracksman (1905).

He soon moved to the Selig Polyscope company until 1907 when he teamed up with George K. Spoor to form the famous Essanay company — created by combining the first letters of their last names. They began in Chicago, but eventually opened studios in California where they produced a series of short comedies featuring Ben Turpin. During the same year, Anderson played Broncho Billy for the first time in The Bandit Makes Good. The film was a great success and Anderson became a star. He also produced other successful series including the Snakeville Comedy and Alkali Ike series.

By the following year, Anderson began attempting to produce more costly, higher quality films. Among the illustrious stars that worked for Essanay was Charlie Chaplin who, during his one year with Essanay, was able to perfect his Little Tramp character, imbuing him with more pathos than he was able to do at his previous studio, Keystone. Chaplin left Essanay in 1916; soon after, Anderson sold his interest in the studio to Spoor and retired. In 1920, Anderson tried to become a Broadway producer, but he failed. He then attempted a comeback by directing a series of Stan Laurel shorts for Metro. By the end of the year, he entered permanent retirement as an actor though he did keep on directing and producing for a few years after. Like many early figures of cinema, Gilbert Anderson slowly faded into obscurity until 1957 when he recieved a special Oscar commemorating “his contributions to the development of motion pictures as entertainment.”
Sandra Brennan, Rovi


Detektiv- und Sensationsfilm

Der geheimnisvolle Klub
R: Joseph Delmont. D: Fred Sauer, Ilse Bois, Joseph Delmont. P: Eiko-Film GmbH. D 1913
Nach Motiven von Robert Louis Stevensons “Der Selbstmöderklub”
Print: EYE Collection, Niederlande

Der geheimhsvolle Klub verlegt Stevensons unheimliche Geschichte vom neblig trüben London in das klare Licht holländischer Originalschauplätze. Er enthält technisch brillante Aufnahmen vom Rotterdamer Hauptbahnhof, einer Stahlkonstruktion, den städtischen Promenaden, Banken und Geschäften, den Grachten, dem Strand von Scheveningen, den Badeanlagen, Jahrhundertwende-Hotels und dem damals noch jungen Radfahrsport. (…)
Die Protagonistin (…) gibt schon in der ersten Einstellung den Eindruck einer modernen jungen Frau, sportlich gekleidet, die sich ungezwungen in dem großzügigen Park, der das Haus ihres Vaters umgibt, bewegt. Bizarr in diesem gepflegten mitteleuropäischen Milieu wirkt ein ständiger Begleiter und Spielgefährte der Konsulstochter, ein ausgewachsener Affe (…), gebändigte Gestalt ihrer Faszination durch das Andere, das Nicht-Rationale, das Un-Zivilisierte, nach kurrenter Darwinscher Theorie die vorgeschichtliche Vergangenheit des Menschen selber.”
Heide Schlüpmann: Unheimlichkeit des Blicks. Basel/Frankfurt am Main 1990, S. 130, 132

Zur Technik der Virage
“Bereits vor der Erfindung des Mehrschichtenfarbfilms gab es farbige Kopien, die mit mehreren Verfahren produziert wurden: (1) Bei der Virage (engl. tinting, frz.: tintage) werden Teile einer Schwarzweißkopie in Bäder mit organischen Farbstoffen gelegt. Die Farbstoffe lagern sich in der Gelatine des gesamten Filmbands an und färben dieses in der gewünschten Farbe ein. Die Virage erkennt man daran, dass bei der Vorführung die transparenten Bereiche des Bildes (Himmel mit Wölkchen, helle Kleidung, Schaumkronen auf dem Meer etc.) die Farbe tragen, während sie auf den dunklen Stellen nicht zu sehen ist. (2) Bei der Färbung (engl. toning, frz. virage) werden schwarzweiße Filmteile ebenfalls in Bäder gelegt. Ein chemischer Prozess tauscht das im Bild enthaltene Silbersalz gegen Farbsalze aus, die u.a. auf der Basis von Schwefel (gelb), Kupfer (rot) oder Eisen (blau) hergestellt wurden. Bei diesem Verfahren sind die vorher dunklen, d.h. silberhaltigen Teile des Bildes nun farbig, während die hellen Stellen (die wenig Silbersalz enthielten) die Farbe kaum angenommen haben. Tinting und toning lassen sich gemeinsam anwenden, wodurch Farbkombinationen entstehen. Bei beiden Prozessen müssen nach dem Trocknen die eingefärbten Teile in der richtigen Reihenfolge aneinander montiert werden, so dass das Endresultat viele Klebestellen aufweist.
In Deutschland wurden Stummfilme bis Mitte der 1920er Jahre auf diese Weise farbig gemacht; danach erhielten fast ausschließlich nur noch Nachtszenen eine blaue Einfärbung (tinting-Methode), damit diese als solche eindeutig zu erkennen waren.”
Lexikon der Filmbegriffe


>>> mein Essay auf dieser Website