Charlie’s First Appearance

Making a Living
R: Henry Lehrman. D: Charles Chaplin, Emma Bell Clifton, Chester Conklin. P: Mack Sennett / Keystone Film Company. USA 1914. Rel. 2. Februar 1914

“This typical Keystone slapstick comedy was Charlie Chaplin‘s first appearance on film. An Englishman (Chaplin) cons a newspaper reporter (Henry Lehrman) out of some money. The Englishman flirts with a young woman who later turns out to be the reporter’s girlfriend, and the reporter and the Englishman fight. (…) Chaplin is barely recognizable in this film, sporting a monocle, a top hat, and a walrus moustache. While this costume had been used in his stage appearances, he quickly realized that it was not appropriate for a film comedian. He would devise his famous costume of the tramp in his next film Mabel’s Strange Predicament. Chaplin was unhappy when he saw the finished film because many of the gags that he had performed had been cut out by Lehrman, the director. However, this is typical of Mack Sennett‘s Keystone comedies, where there is a lot of running around and fighting, and not a lot of funny gags.”
Bruce Calvert


Shakespeare on Screen

King John (Death Scene)
R: Walter Pfeffer Dando. B: Herbert Beerbohm Tree, based on William Shakespeare’s drama. K: William K.L. Dickson. D: Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Dora Tulloch, Charles Sefton. P: British Mutoscope & Biograph Studio. UK 1899
Print: Netherlands Film Museum

R: Lucius Henderson. B: Theodore Marston, based on William Shakespeare’s play. D: Florence La Badie, James Cruze, William Garwood. P: Thanhouser Film Corporation. USA 1913
Print: George Eastman House

King Lear (Fragment)
R: Ernest C. Warde. B: Philip Lonergan nach William Shakespeare. D: Frederick Warde, Lorraine Huling, Wayne Arey. P: Thanhouser Film Corporation. USA 1916
Print: George Eastman House

Frederick Warde, one of the best known stage actors of his generation, had played King Lear many times since 1896, and had starred as Richard III in the first known feature-length American film in 1912. In 1916-17 Warde was one of only three exclusive Thanhouser stars in these early days of the new star system” of high salaries and relentless promotion. As seen in the inter-titles, the players are boldly identified, but Thanhouser stubbornly refused to build the full star treatment publicity machine to the extent that competing studios did.
Among the striking advancements of the mid-1910s, as seen here, are much more rapid and fluid editing, an increase in the use of dialogue titles, freer use of close-ups and insert shots, new skills in shallow-focus cinematography, and ever-increasing complexity of narrative. This surviving print, cut down for a later re-release, is half its original length.
Warde gives an admirably subtle performance for the intimate camera, in contrast to the broad stage acting style that prevailed in film acting as well.
Ernest Warde, the director and actor (as the court jester), was star Frederick’s son, and a solid and experienced theatrical director in his own right.”

Segundo de Chomón

Une nuit épouvantable
R: Segundo de Chomón. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1905
Print: Filmoteca de Catalunya

Le roi des Dollars
R: Segundo de Chomón. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1905
Print: Nederlands Filmmuseum

Le Courant Eléctrique
R: Segundo de Chomón. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1906
Print: Filmoteca de Catalunya

Le Sorcier Arabe
R: Segundo de Chomón. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1906

Le spectre rouge
R: Segundo de Chomón, Ferdinand Zecca. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1907

“A demonic magician performs a magic show in the depths of Hell itself, however his mistreatment of his female assistants incurs the wrath of a good spirit who starts to interfere. Some ground-breaking special effects are on display here (including miniature women in glass bottles) in this early example of a ‘trick’ film which even predicts the invention of the TV.”
Chapter Film

“The extremely rare film Le spectre rouge (‘The Red Spectre’, 1907), which for years lacked precise directorial attribution, has recently be identified as the work of the prolific Ferdinand Zecca and his scenarist, Segundo de Chomón; in its nine-minute running time it presents a series of phntasmagorical illusions involving a conjuring devil who levitates several women, shrinks them to doll size, and imprisons them in a series of glass bottles. Hand-tinted in lurid shades of red, Le spectre rouge is at once an item of morbid curiosity and a tour de force of trick cinematography.”
Wheeler W. Dixon: A History of Horror. Rutgers University Press 2010, p. 4

El Hotel Electrico
R: Segundo de Chomón. D: Julienne Mathieu. P: Pathé Frères. Fr/Sp 1908

“Together with his fellow Aragonese filmmaker Luis Buñuel, Segundo de Chomón (Teruel, 1871 – Paris, 1929) is one of the foremost Spanish names in the history of cinema, working in over 500 films both in Spain and abroad. A cosmopolitan, multifaceted creator, Segundo de Chomón studied engineering, but his professional life took a complete turn between 1895 and 1897 following a trip to Paris. There he discovered cinema, the spectacular invention by the Lumière brothers. Fascinated by the new idiom he soon became one of the key figures in the origins and development of the early film industry, and was hired by the major film companies of the time – the Pathé Frères laboratories (France) or Itala Films (Italy) – where he worked as a technician in big movies such as Vittoria o morte (1913) and Cabiria (1914), by Giovanni Pastrone and Napoleon (1927), by Abel Gance.

Segundo de Chomón was conversant with almost all the different processes involved in the creation of a movie, like hand colouring black and white stills, signwriting for posters, a camera operator, director of photography, film editor, producer, scriptwriter, director and, very especially, as a director of special effects. It was in this last-named area that he received greatest international recognition, thanks to the enormous repertoire of effects he conceived, invented and developed, for instance the use of tracking shots in indoor sets (Life and Passion of Jesus Christ, F. Zecca, 1907), the use of scale models (he made his own camera and filmed a movie using this effect, his short from 1902 Collision of Trains), Schüfftan effects, double exposure, expressionist lighting, dissolves, transparent backdrops, pyrotechnics and the spectacular use of speed in ‘paso de manivela’, or stop motion, which he experimented with in Eclipse de sol (1905) and perfected in the wonderful piece El Hotel eléctrico from 1905 (filmed still by still and surely a source of inspiration for the famous The Haunted Hotel, 1908, by Stuart Blackton). He also contributed to the creation of a solid film industry in Spain, in which he was active at the beginning of the 20th century with the Catalan production company Hispano Films before joining up with Joan Fuster Garí to create an extensive filmography in popular genres: documentaries, fantasy, melodramas, historical dramas, zarzuelas and comedies. Equally noteworthy are his collaborations with renowned Spanish directors like Benito Perojo (El negro que tenía el alma blanca, 1927).”
Acknowledgements: Juanma Prieto Taladriz and Gonzalo Montón, Director of the magazine Cabiria
Laboral/Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial

“When Chomon was being most original, he had a greater poker-face than Melies & went for awe & beauty rather than the comedic. But for The Electric Hotel he adheres to comic fantasy in the manner of Melies.. Qualifying as early science fiction, the latest in hotel experience is complete automation. While a man & wife (Segundo himself, with his actual wife Julienne Mathieu) check in, their suitcases travel under their own power to their room. Their bags unpack themselves before our couple reaches their room. The woman is clad in conservative long dress of the age, but the guy is wearing a wacky spotted knickers outfit & ridiculous hat to underscore the absurd. The gentleman seats himself for an automatic shoe-shining from an animated shoe-brush. He also gets an automated shave from flying shaving brush & razor, & his hair trimmed nicely. The lady meanwhile has her coat & hat taken automatically from her & put away. She seats herself in a chair that moves her into better light. An automatic brush takes down her hair, brushes it out, & puts it back kup for the night. The stop motion technique is extremely well done. But in the basement, due to a drunkard at the control panels, the electrical dynamo is short circuited. Our couple’s room begins to shift wildly, all the furnishings becoming dangerously mobile, the alarmed couple riding round & round on crazily active furnishings.”
Paghat the Ratgirl

>>> Horror: Méliès, Chomón, Tourneur on this website

>>> Ferdinand Zecca on this website

A Familiar Biblical Story

Joseph in the Land of Egypt
R: Eugene Moore. B: Lloyd F. Lonergan, based on the play ‘Joseph and His Brethren’ by Joseph Napoleon Parker. K: A.H. Moses. D: James Cruze, Marguerite Snow, John Lehnberg, Justus D. Barnes. P: Thanhouser Film Corp. USA 1914
Print: The Museum of Modern Art

“The second of ‘Thanhouser Big Productions’, a monthly schedule, Joseph in the Land of Egypt was a true ‘feature’ film, a new class of film which came to dominate the market by the end of 1914. A feature was an hour or more, heavily advertised, with elaborate production values, often with higher ticket prices, longer runs per theater, strongly promoted star cast, and was always a drama.
Thanhouser followed up on the enormous success one year earlier of The Star of Bethlehem with a familiar Biblical story, large and highly decorated (and highly populated) sets, elaborate costumes, and (something new) star promotion.”