Lon Chaney

By the Sun’s Rays
R: Charles Giblyn. D: Murdock MacQuarrie, Lon Chaney, Seymour Hastings, Agnes Vernon, Richard Rosson. P: Nestor Film Company. USA 1914

“This film is thought to be the earliest surviving Chaney film.” (Silent Era)

“Born on April 1, 1883, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Leonidas Chaney was one of four children born to deaf parents (his maternal grandparents founded Colorado’s first deaf school in 1874). As a result, Chaney learned how to communicate with his hands and face while growing up, expressing a variety of emotions without ever uttering a single word. At an early age, he was familiar with what it was like to be an outsider, to be at once a part of the everyday world and simultaneously distanced from it. This, more than anything, informed his choice of roles and provided him with the sensitivity to perform each of them extraordinarily well. (…)
It is unknown how many films Chaney made during his career (the official count stands at 157), given that he appeared as an extra in numerous films at Universal Studios. He was so adept at changing his appearance with makeup — a trade he learned during his many years on the stage — that Chaney forsook the leading-man roles and went for character roles instead. During his five years at Universal, Chaney essayed numerous types of characters, a trait that would later make him famous, and occasionally wrote and directed as well. In 1919, he made his mark in The Miracle Man, in which he played a bogus cripple who, along with other criminals, takes advantage of a blind faith healer only to be swayed by the goodness of the patriarch. After this performance, Hollywood began to notice Chaney. One of his other impressive roles during this period was as the legless criminal in The Penalty (1920). To simulate a double-amputee, Chaney devised a leather harness with stumps that allowed him to strap his legs behind him and walk on his knees.”
Michael F. Blake
American Masters

“Lon Chaney began his film career in in 1913 for Independent Moving Pictures Company, Incorporated. It was not long before Chaney stood out as a supporting player, and some writers today attribute his acting skills to his early family life communicating with his deaf parents. His forte as a character actor soon required Chaney’s advancing development of increasingly exotic makeup at a time when actors applied their own foundation colors, eye and brow enhancements, wigs, beards and face-altering putties. Chaney’s experimentation with makeup eventually led to his being dubbed ‘the man of a thousand faces’, culminating with his most famous makeup achievements in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925).”
Silent Era

>>> Lon Chaney as Hunchback

A German Social Drama

So rächt die Sonne
R: William Wauer. B: Richard Oswald. K: Axel Graatkjär. D: Leontine Kühnberg, Hermann Vallentin, Leontine Kühnberg, Frida Richard. P: Projektions-AG Union (PAGU). D 1915
Print: Deutsche Kinemathek/Filmmuseum Berlin
(IMDb, EFG and other sources have the title “So rächt sich die Sonne”, which doesn’t make sense)

Underwater Footage

In de Tropische Zee (In the Tropical Seas)
K: Carl Louis Gregory. P: Thanhouser Film Corporation / Williamson Submarine Company. USA 1914
Print: EYE/The Netherlands Filmmuseum
Dutch titles

“In April through June of 1914 a joint project by Thanhouser and the Williamson Submarine Company produced some 20,000 feet of underwater footage in the Bahamas. Carl Louis Gregory, an important cinematographer in film history, was the Thanhouser cameraman, using the newly-perfected Williamson Submarine, aka Photosphere, a nine-foot-long underwater tube with a viewing window at one end where the camera operator could work perfectly dry while capturing actual underwater views in their natural settings. George M. Williamson and his brother J. Ernest Williamson, sons of the tube’s inventor Capt. C. Williamson, participated both in front and behind the camera.
The first Thanhouser release from this footage was the five-reel The Terrors of the Deep — after three or four special screenings in July 1914 it was finally released in September. More material was assembled into Thirty Leagues Under the Sea (also released in September).
The shark footage of In de Tropische Zee is either the final reel of Thirty Leagues Under the Sea or additional footage not used in the two Thanhouser releases, here assembled in a special Dutch or European release by a Dutch distributor or exhibitor.”

The Diver
P: Kalem Company. USA 1911
Released as a split reel along with the comedy The Hunter’s Dream (1911)
Print: Museum of Modern Art

“One of the pioneering companies of the film industry, Kalem was formed in 1907 in New York City by George Kleine, Samuel Long and Frank Marion, who created their new studio’s name from the first letters of their surnames. The next year they set up shop in Jacksonville, Florida, where they could shoot “outdoor” films year round. An early educational effort, The Diver illustrates the complexities of deep-sea diving, then a vital part of marine salvage operations.
Deep-sea diving goes back as far as the early 18th century, with the development of experimental atmospheric suits. Although we don’t know of the first instance of the filming of a deep-sea diver at work, this footage from 1911 is certainly one of the earliest. Shot at the mouth of Florida’s St. John’s River, it demonstrates the careful preparations necessary for a successful dive.”
National Film Preservation Foundation

Gender Mainstreaming

Petticoat Camp
D: William Garwood, Florence La Badie. P: Thanhouser Film Corporation. USA 1912
Print: Library of Congress

345-Florence La Badie  Florence La Badie


The Voice of Conscience
D: Edmund J. Hayes, Florence La Badie, Jean Darnell. P: Thanhouser Film Co. USA 1912
Print: George Eastman House

“Because almost all movie sites, including IMDB and Silent Era, have the roles of the actresses mixed up, we must set the record straight. The orphan girl is played by Jean Darnell, not by Florence La Badie. Florence La Badie plays the visiting girl.”
Silent Hall of Fame

Victor Sjöström

Ingeborg Holm
R: Victor Sjöström. K: Henrik Jaenzon. D: Hilda Borgström, Aron Lindgren, Erik Lindholm, Georg Grönroos, William Larsson. P: Svenska Biografteatern. Sw 1913
Engl. titles

R: Victor Sjöström. B: Mauritz Stiller. K: Julius Jaenzon. D: Victor Sjöström, Gösta Ekman, Lili Beck, Mauritz Stiller. P: Svenska Biografteatern. Sw 1912
Engl. titles

Sjöström is arguably best known to today’s cinephile crowd as an actor rather than a director, appearing in the key leading role of Isak Borg in Ingmar Bergman‘s melancholic masterpiece about aging, Wild Strawberries (1957), for which he was recently celebrated in PopMatters’ 100 Essential Male Film Performances as one of the classics that everyone should know. Even though his uncomfortability with the form’s transition into sound is allegedly what sparked his return to the theater and to acting, as a pioneering film director Sjöström’s contribution to cinema as both a visual storyteller and technician remains one of the most under-appreciated of the silent era.
Beginning in his native Sweden, where he made over forty films after leaving the theater and before being drawn to Hollywood by Louis B. Mayer, Sjöström honed his craft on films such as Sons of Ingmar (1919) and Karin, Daughter of Ingmar (1920). Though much of his early Swedish ouevre has been forever lost, Sjöström would come to be known for building poetic, surrealist paens to love, obsession, and brutality in the decade that immediately preceded the first sound films. Initially, his stylistically-innovative work was more than often dismissed by critics of the time as a pastiche of old conventions, of techniques that were quickly going out of vogue, from expressive, theatrical acting performances to the clean, clear moments of repetitive visual symbolism (think the wedding ring or the transposed, braying horses in The Wind). Thankfully, modern film critics have slowly but surely given Sjöström his proper due as one of the medium’s earliest and most influential artists to dynamically cross international borders as an actor, and most importantly, as a director who seemed to be in constant pursuit of technical excellence and innovation through pure artistic impulse and expression.”
Matt Mazur

>>> Pathé in Sweden on this website


1909: The Aerial Warfare To Come

The Airship Destroyer (Frgm.)
R: Walter R. Booth. B: Walter R. Booth, Jules Verne (novel). P: Urban Trading Company. UK 1909
Print: Filmmuseum/Deutsche Kinemathek Berlin

“Although no spies feature in this film, it can still be classed as part of the invasion scare stories so popular at the time. However, The Airship Destroyer has the added futuristic menace of aerial warfare. The airships here are a mixture of cut-out animation and models made by the great early special effects director W.R. Booth. In many ways, this can be described as a science-fiction film, using as it does futuristic inventions such as guided missiles.
The film was re-released in January 1915, reflecting the then very real fear of aerial attacks from Zeppelins. Indeed, Yarmouth and King’s Lynn were bombed in the same month, and London was to experience raids in May 1915. However, more effective anti-aircraft fire and the newly-formed Royal Flying Corps put a stop to any further raids by 1917. Nevertheless, by the end of the war, over 1500 British citizens had been killed in air raids.”
Simon Baker (BFI-Screenonline)
Screen online