Griffith and Shakespeare

The Taming of the Shrew
R: David W. Griffith. B: William Shakespeare (comedy). K: Billy Bitzer. D: Florence Lawrence, Linda Arvidson, Harry Solter, George Gebhardt. P: American Biograph. USA 1908

Abel Gance: Through Distorting Mirrors

La folie du Docteur Tube
R: Abel Gance. B: Abel Gance. K: Léonce-Henri Burel. D: Albert Dieudonné. P: Le Film d’Art. Fr 1915
Print: Cinémathèque Française

“Abel Gance (25 October 1889 – 10 November 1981) was a French film director and producer, writer and actor. He is best known for three major silent films: J’accuse (1919), La Roue (1923), and the monumental Napoléon (1927. (…)
With the outbreak of World War I, Gance was rejected from the army on medical grounds and in 1915 he started writing and directing for a new film company, Film d’Art. He soon caused controversy with La Folie du docteur Tube, a comic fantasy in which he and his cameraman Léonce-Henry Burel created some arresting visual effects with distorting mirrors. The producers were outraged and refused to show the film.”
The Early Cinema

377-Abel Gance  Abel Gance

“The films that Abel Gance is best known for, Napoleon, and J’Accuse, maintain their reputation thanks to the many innovative techniques in editing and cinematography employed by their director. Gance’s intention was to make films that audiences could immerse themselves in, and it’s an early experiment with subjective viewpoints that provides the backbone of Dr Tube.
It looks as though the film’s entire raison d’etre is as a vehicle for the effects Gance was able to create by filming the action through distorting mirrors. It’s not clear whether the consequent druggy overtones (springing from the highly suspicious idea that the Doctor uses a white powder to alter reality, (…) are intentional or accidental. Some sources report that the producers, on seeing Gance’s completed film, were ‘outraged’ and refused to release it. If true, this would seem to endorse the distinctly trippy qualities of the visuals that the modern viewer can’t help but notice.
The misshapen bodies in the film were shot by cameraman Leonce-Henry Burel. Dr Tube could be considered a trial run for the kind of techniques Burel would put to use in his future collaborations with Gance to place their audience in the thick of the action. Cameras were suspended on wires, swung from pendulums, tied to running horses, and more. This experimental streak was arguably put to it’s best use for the epic Napoleon, which also starred Dieudonne — minus the pointed head this time — in the title role. But where the restored Napoleon‘s revival in 1980 saw it hailed as a masterpiece, Dr Tube would appear to provoke the same reactions now as it probably did in 1915: curiosity, and mild bewilderment.”
The Devil’s Manor

Mary Pickford

The Dream
R: Thomas H. Ince. D: Mary Pickford, Owen Moore, Charles Arling. P: Independent Moving Pictures Co. of America (IMP). USA 1911

Mary Pickford (1892-1979) was a multifaceted pioneer of early cinema. She was a talented performer, a creative producer and a savvy businesswoman who helped shape the film industry as we know it today.
Mary Pickford rose steadily to fame at a time when there was no path to follow. Actresses who came after her, such as Joan Crawford and Jean Harlow, cut pictures from fan magazines, pinned them to their walls and dreamed of stardom. Mary was known as ‘the girl with the curls’ and ‘the Biograph girl’ before audiences learned her name; fan magazines were created because of stars like Mary Pickford. In fact, the very first issue of Photoplay in 1912 featured Mary dressed in character for Little Red Riding Hood. Her first film director was D.W. Griffith and she went on to work with most of the greats of her era such as Cecil B. De Mille, Allan Dwan, James Kirkwood, Marshall Neilan, Sidney Franklin, Maurice Tourneur and Ernst Lubitsch. Her career was buoyed by fellow professionals who were also friends, including the cinematographer Charles Rosher and the screenwriter Frances Marion, at a time when the art form was in a near constant state of change.

Between 1912 and 1919, Mary Pickford jumped between a variety of studios, increasing her paychecks astronomically each time until she risked it all by joining with Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith and Charlie Chaplin to form United Artists. The reaction from studio bosses is summed up by the oft repeated line, ‘The inmates have taken over the asylum’ and it was not a smooth road, but they found the success that was most important to them because they totally controlled their own product. Mary would risk her career again the following year when she made the decision that instead of being ‘America’s sweetheart, I want to be one man’s sweetheart’. At a time when stars were told they could not be divorced and still be big box office, Mary divorced Owen Moore and married Doug Fairbanks in 1920. But instead of being a pariah, her popularity, and that of her new husband, soared as their union was greeted as a storybook marriage and they were hailed as Hollywood royalty. They would reign from their Beverly Hills home, dubbed Pickfair, until she filed for divorce in 1933.”
Mary Pickford Foundation

>>> America’s Sweetheart

Under the Ocean

20.000 Leagues under the Sea
R: Stuart Paton. B: Stuart Paton, Jules Verne (novel). K: Eugene Gaudio; underwater: George M und J. Ernest Williamson. D: Allen Haloubar, Dan Hanlon, Edna Pendleton. P: Carl Laemmle / Universal Film Manufacturing Co. und Williamson Submarine Film Co. USA 1916

“This is the first adaptation of ‘20000 Leagues Under the Sea’ as Melies 1907 eponymous short film only shares with Verne’s book a submarine called Nautilus. The film does not follow strictly Jules Verne’s two books. The two main differences are that the end of ‘20000 Leagues Under the Sea’ is omitted, i.e. when the Nautilus disappears in the Maelstrom off the coast of Norway, and that two characters are added, Nemo’s daughter and the evil Denver. Quite strangely, an inter-title informs the viewer towards the end of the film ‘Captain Nemo reveals the secret of his life, which Jules Verne never told’ when the script actually follows quite closely ‘The Mysterious Island’, in particular with the revelation that Nemo is an Indian Prince whose family was massacred by the British.
This is the first film featuring under sea filming thanks to watertight tubes and mirrors allowing the camera to shoot reflected images. This allows quite spectacular (for the time) views of corrals, wrecks, sharks and actors in scuba diving suits. The filming on location on New Providence Island and the use of real sailing boats, of a full-size navigable mock-up of the Nautilus, and of large sets and exotic costumes gives authenticity to the action.
The film uses quite an elaborate narrative with cross-cutting between the parallel actions of Nemo, Lt. Bond and Denver, leading to their meeting on Mysterious Island. The chronological development is interrupted by flashbacks for the actions which took place in India many years before.”
A Cinema History

Carl Laemmle (January 17, 1867 in Laupheim, Germany – September 24, 1939 in Los Angeles, California) was a German Jewish pioneer in American film making and a founder of one of the original major Hollywood movie studios – Universal. Laemmle produced or was otherwise involved in over four hundred films.
Regarded as one of the most important of the early film pioneers, Laemmle was born on the Radstrasse just outside the former Jewish quarter of Laupheim. He emigrated to the US in 1884, working in Chicago as a bookkeeper or office manager for 20 years. He began buying nickelodeons, eventually expanding into a film distribution service, the Laemmle Film Service.
On April 30, 1912, in New York, Carl Laemmle of IMP, Pat Powers of Powers Motion Picture Company, Mark Dintenfass of Champion Film Company, William Swanson of Rex Motion Picture Company, David Horsley of Nestor Film Company and Charles Baumann and Adam Kessel of the New York Motion Picture Company merged their studios and the Universal Film Manufacturing Company was incorporated. They founded the Universal Motion Picture Manufacturing Company in 1912, and established the studio on 235 acres (0.95 km2) of land in the San Fernando Valley, California in 1915.”
The Early Cinema


Carl Laemmle


Mack Sennett’s Speed Factory

Love, Speed and Thrills
R: Walter Wright. D: Mack Swain, Minta Durfee, Chester Conklin. P: Mack Sennett / Keystone Film Co. USA 1915

“With financial backing from Adam Kessel and Charles O. Bauman of the New York Motion Picture Company, in 1912 Sennett founded Keystone Studios in Edendale, California, (which is now a part of Echo Park). The original main building, the first totally enclosed film stage and studio in history, is still there. Many important actors started their careers with Sennett, including Mabel Normand, Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, Raymond Griffith, Gloria Swanson, Ford Sterling, Andy Clyde, Chester Conklin, Polly Moran, Louise Fazenda, The Keystone Kops, Bing Crosby, and W. C. Fields.
Sennett’s slapstick comedies were noted for their wild car chases and custard pie warfare. His first comedienne was Mabel Normand, who became a major star (and with whom he embarked on a tumultuous personal relationship). Sennett developed the Kid Comedies, a forerunner of the Our Gang films, and in a short time his name became synonymous with screen comedy. In 1915 Keystone Studios became an autonomous production unit of the ambitious Triangle Film Corporation, as Sennett joined forces with movie bigwigs D. W. Griffith and Thomas Ince.”
The Early Cinema

380-mack sennett  Mack Sennett


Split Reels

His Uncle’s Wives
R: Lawrence Marston. D: Jean Darnell, Harry Benham. P: Thanhouser Film Co. USA 1913
Print: Library of Congress

“An artist unexpectedly inherits six wives who come to him from his uncle in Constantinople. His wife makes serious objections, and he finally packs them off to join a theatrical troupe, and happiness is restored. Split with Seven Ages of an Alligator“.

Seven Ages of an Alligator
K: Carl Louis Gregory. P: Thanhouser Film Co. USA 1913
Print: Library of Congress

“In early 1913 as Thanhouser staff and crews were setting up a facility in Los Angeles, cameraman Carl Louis Gregory was taking documentary footage, from which four ‘split reel’ short subjects were created: A Million Birds, filmed at California pigeon and ostrich farms; Los Angeles the Beautiful (two different version with the same title), showing scenic attractions; and Seven Ages of an Alligator,filmed at an alligator farm. Released together, His Uncle’s Wives and Seven Ages of an Alligator filled up one 1,000-foot “split reel.

Split Reel:
“A reel that can be screwed apart in order to place film on the core between its two halves. The film on the core becomes the film on the reel. One should be careful not to screw the two halves too tightly together, because they may become difficult to separate.”
Creative Glossary

Franz Hofer-2


Die schwarze Natter
R: Franz Hofer. D: Emmerich Hanus, Miriam Horwitz, Margarete Hübler. P: Luna Film Berlin. D 1913
Print: Nederlands Filmmuseum Amsterdam
Dutch titles

Print temporarily not available

“Two agents from different sides are working in a circus, one – the Schwarze Natter (Black Adder)- as a dancer, the other as a horseback artist. The Schwarze Natter is informed that the other is receiving information by one of the visitors this night, who is also in love her. She is trying to get him and the information herself, making it look like the other side has her finger in this incident. But an officer of the local police had an eye on them, because some things happening before made him suspicious and starts playing his little game.”
Stephan Eichenberg

“Die Handlung selbst besteht aus nicht viel mehr als einer düsteren Liebesintrige, irgendwo zwischen Melodrama und Detektivgeschichte. Hofer geht in seiner Inszenierung äußerst geschickt vor, er verwendet große Sorgfalt auf Details (zum Beispiel bei der Kleidung der beiden Frauen, die ihre unterschiedlichen Charaktere spiegelt) und eine sehr dynamische Raumkonzeption: Die Flucht Blanches vor der Polizei führt die Kamera durch die Manege, über Dächer, durch Jahrmarktsbuden und unter die Karussellfahrer eines Luna-Parks.”
Elena Dagrada: Franz Hofer. Voyeur der Kaiserzeit. In: Thomas Elsaesser / Michael Wedel Hrg.): Kino der Kaiserzeit. Zwischen Tradition und Moderne. München 2002, S. 255