Tonbilder

Rauschlied aus “Künstlerblut”
R: Oskar Messter. D: Alexander Girardi. P: Oskar Messter Film Berlin. D 1906
Kopie: Filmarchiv Austria, Wien

Ein Beispiel für Messters “Biophon”-Technik: Kamera bzw. Projektor und Grammophon werden gekoppelt, um Sprache und Geräusche, vor allem aber Gesang und Musik synchron mit dem Bild aufzunehmen bzw. wiederzugeben.

“Ihren Höhepunkt erreichte Messters Tonbildproduktion in den Jahren 1906 bis 1908. Wegen des guten Absatzes konnte Messter drei- und vierstellige Gagen für prominente Tonkünstler zahlen. So engagierte er zum Beispiel Otto Reuter, Joseph Giampietro, Alexander Girardi und sogar internationale Stars des Tanztheaters wie die Saharet und die Otero. Allerdings holte die Konkurrenz auf und machte Messter sein Tonbild-Monopol streitig. Für 1908 kann in Deutschland von einem regelrechten Tonbild-Boom gersprochen werden.(…) Tonbild-Serien aus einer Oper oder Operette kompensierten die kurze Dauer des einzelnen Tonbilds, das durch die Schallplatte auf zwei bis drei Minuten begrenzt war. 1910 bot die Firma Vitascope eine Serie von zehn Tonbildern aus der Operette ‘Der Graf von Luxemburg’ mit einer Gesamtlänge von 500 Metern an, was immerhin einer Spieldauer von einer knappen halben Stunde entspricht.”
Ennio Simeon: Messter und die Musik des frühen Kinos. In: Frank Kessler u.a. (Hrg.): KINtop Schriften 2. Oskar Messter – Filmpionier der Kaiserzeit. Basel / Frankfurt am Main 1994, S. 140 f.

„Schutzmannlied“
D (Gesang): Henry Bender. P: DMB Deutsche Mutoskop-und Biograph GmbH, Berlin. D 1908

Schutzmannlied aus der Metropol-Theater-Revue „Donnerwetter-Tadellos“ (Premiere: 5.9.1908 in Berlin, Metropol-Theater. Musikalische Leitung: Paul Linke)

“Die DMB Deutsche Mutoskop- und Biograph GmbH war eine deutsche Filmgesellschaft, die zwischen 1898 und 1924 mehrere hundert Filme verlieh bzw. produzierte. Die Firma, zumeist kurz Deutsche Mutoskop genannt, wurde am 14. März 1898 von Curt Harzer als deutsche Tochtergesellschaft der US-Muttergesellschaft International Mutoscope and Biograph Syndicate ursprünglich deshalb gegründet, um amerikanische Mutoscope-Lizenzen in Deutschland zu verkaufen. Für diese Tätigkeit musste der deutsche Ableger eine jährliche Abgabe an den US-Mutterkonzern leisten, arbeitete aber ansonsten auf eigene Verantwortung. Im Januar 1906 wurde die Firma von der Deutschen Automaten-Gesellschaft Hartwig & Vogel, die in Dresden die Schokoladenfabrik Stollwerck führten, übernommen. Anfänglich (1906/07) konzentrierte sich die Deutsche Mutoskop- und Biograph GmbH auf den Verkauf kinematographischer Mutoskop-Vorführgeräte. Kurz darauf begann die Firma mit der Herstellung eigener, kurzer Filme, die bis 1910 überwiegend dokumentarischen und Aktualitäten-Charakter besaßen. Mit Beginn der 1910er Jahre verlegte sich die Deutsche Mutoskop- und Biograph mehr und mehr auf die Filmherstellung, blieb aber bis 1919 auch weiterhin im Verleihgeschäft aktiv. In Berlin-Lankwitz in der Zietenstraße 10 entstand das erste eigene, große Filmatelier, eine etwa 700 m2 große Glashalle auf einem mehrgeschossigen Unterbau.”
Wikipedia

Georges Mendel in Frankreich:

La Marseillaise
R / P: Georges Mendel. D: Jean Noté. Fr 1907

Nadeltonanlage nach dem System Mendel:

“Die Anlage besteht aus einem Projektor Typ Pathé, englisches Modell, einem Grammophon, einer Luftpumpe zur Schallverstärkung sowie einem Synchronregler zur Anpassung der Laufgeschwindigkeiten von Projektor und Grammophon. Der Synchronregler vergleicht die auf elektrischem Wege übertragene Laufgeschwindigkeit des Grammophons mit der mechanisch übertragenen Laufgeschwindigkeit des Projektors. Bei Geschwindigkeitsdifferenzen wird die Spannung des Antriebsmotors für den Projektor so geregelt, dass wieder Gleichlauf erreicht wird. Mangelnde Lautstärke sollte durch Schallverstärkung über einen zusätzlichen Luftstrom mittels einer Pumpe behoben werden. Hergestellt wurden solche Tonbilder im Playbackverfahren: Im Atelier wurde die vorher produzierte Schallplatte abgespielt, die Darsteller agierten entsprechend der Musik, und die mit dem Grammophon im Synchronlauf gekoppelte Kamera zeichnete die Bilder auf. Bedingt durch die Platte als Tonträger waren immer nur relativ kurze Szenen als Tonbilder möglich. Auch war eine ausreichende Wiedergabequalität nicht immer zu gewährleisten.”
Filmmuseum Potsdam

>>> Farbe und Ton: 1900: Color and Sound

>>> Phonoscenes by Alice Guy: Showbiz, Paris 1905

TRAUM UND EXZESS, S. 215

Mitchell & Kenyon

Electric Edwardians: The Films of Mitchell & Kenyon
R & P: Sagar Mitchell / James Kenyon. UK 1901-1905
Print: BFI National Archive, London

Including:
Audley Range School Backburn / Morecambe Church Lad’s Brigade at Drill / University Procession on Degree Day Birmingham / Torpedo Flotilla Visit to Manchester / Lord Robert’s Visit to Manchester / Lieutenant Clive Wilson and the Tranby Croft Party Hull / Opening of the Drill Hall in Accrington by General Baden-Powell / A Sneaky Boer / Messrs Lumb and Co Leaving the Works Huddersfield / Pendlebury Colliery / Parkgate Iron and Steel Co. Rotherham / North Sea Fisheries North Shields / Cunard Vessel at Liverpool / Whitsuntide Fair at Preston / Manchester Band of Hope Procession / Blackpool Victoria Pier / Leeds Athletic and Cycling Club Carnival / Dewsbury vs Manningham / Sedgwick’s Bioscope Show Front / The Great Local Derby: Accrington v Church Cricket Match / Halifax Catholic Procession / Burnley v Manchester United / Sheffield United v Bury / Preston Egg Rolling / Living Wigan / Tram Ride into Halifax / Electric Tram Rides from Forster Square Bradford / Jamaica Street Glasgow / Ride on the Tram Car through Belfast / Wexford Bull Ring / Manchester Street Scene / Panoramic View of the Morecambe Sea Front

Visual tour of a snowy, cold Halifax
R & P: Sagar Mitchell / James Kenyon. UK 1902
Print: BFI National Archive, London

“The firm of Mitchell and Kenyon, founded in Blackburn in 1897 by Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon, released films under the trade name of Norden and were one of the largest British film companies in the 1900s, producing a mixture of topicals, fiction and ‘fake’ war films. (…) Until recently the company were more famous for their dramatised war films, ten of which were known to have survived and included titles such as The Dispatch Bearers (1900), Winning the VC (1900) and Attack on a China Mission (1901). However, the discovery of approximately 800 negatives in the original premises in 1994 by Peter Worden and their acquisition by the British Film Institute in 2000, has led to a major revaluation of their contribution to film making in the United Kingdom.(…) The company filmed scenes of local interest, including factory gate films, sporting events, processions and phantom rides through town centres in the North of England. (…)

With the outbreak of the Boer War in October 1899, the company turned to the production of war films of events in the Transvaal and the Boxer rebellion in China. These were filmed in the countryside around Blackburn and consisted of fictionalised scenes of events from the battlefronts. The films were available direct from the manufacturers but were also distributed by Gaumont, Walturdaw and Charles Urban, who advertised A Tragic Elopement in November 1903. By 1901 the company were selling factory gate and other non-fiction titles to travelling exhibition companies, of which thirty-eight are represented in the Peter Worden collection. (…) Their geographical range encompassed the North and North West of England, Glasgow and Dundee in Scotland, North Wales, the Midlands and Bristol and Portsmouth in the South West, with the largest percentage of titles relating to Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Fiction production was not as copious as their non-fiction output, but by 1903 their premises in Clayton Street included an outdoor studio and they also filmed on location. Sixty-five fiction titles are now preserved in the Cinema Museum, London, including Diving Lucy (1903), billed in the United States as the ‘biggest English comedy hit of the year’, and five by Lobster Films of Paris. Approximately 800 non-fiction titles form the Peter Worden Mitchell and Kenyon Collection at the British Film Institute. The discovery and preservation of this material reveals a pattern of commissioning and exhibition that existed between film companies and early travelling exhibitors in the early 1900s. The films were either commissioned, purchased or sent to Mitchell and Kenyon to be developed and printed and shown by the exhibitors in temporary venues in the locality, including music halls, fairground cinematograph shows and town halls. (…)

Throughout the 1900s, Mitchell and Kenyon continued to film local scenes and to produce fiction titles such as Black Diamonds or the Collier’s Daily Life (1904) and the comedy The Interrupted Picnic (1906). One of their most innovative titles was the Arrest of Goudie (1901) commissioned by Ralph Pringle of the North American Animated Photo Company in Liverpool. The film was shot incorporating the actual crime locations and depicts the arrest of Thomas Goudie, an employee of the Bank of Liverpool who embezzled £170,000 to pay of his gambling debts. It was exhibited three days after Goudie’s arrest in December at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Liverpool. By 1904 they were referred to as one of the leading film manufacturers in the country by the trade press. (…) However, by 1909 Mitchell and Kenyon appear to have restricted their activities to Blackburn and its surrounding locality. Their last surviving titles are between 1911 and 1913. Although the company continued to be listed under the ownership of both men until 1915, no films have been found from this period. James Kenyon retired to Southport in 1915 leaving Mitchell to run his separate photographic business in Blackburn. Kenyon returned to Southport in the early 1920s and the partnership was dissolved in 1922. James Kenyon died 6 February 1925 and Sagar Jones Mitchell died aged 85, 2 October 1952.”
Vanessa Toulmin
Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema

>>> Diving Lucy on this website: The Biggest English Comedy Hit of the Year

Vitagraph’s Shakespeare

Julius Caesar
R: J. Stuart Blackton, William V. Ranous. B: Theodore A. Liebler Jr. (scenario), William Shakespeare (play. D: Charles Kent, William Shea, Maurice Costello, William V. Ranous, Florence Lawrence, Paul Panzer, Earle Williams. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1908
Print: BFI
German intertitles

Shakespeare’s historical tragedy of the rise and fall of Julius Caesar, told in fifteen scenes. One of plays by William Shakespeare adapted by the Vitagraph Company of America in 1908. The others were A Comedy of Errors, Othello , Macbeth , Romeo and Juliet, Richard III, Antony and Cleopatra and The Merchant of Venice.
IMDb

“Shakespearean texts and intertexts had far-reaching manifestations, encompassing everything from relatively inexpensive editions of the complete works, to inclusion in school curricula, to ephemera such as advertsing cards. Yet contemporary commentary indicates that knowledge of Shakespeare, for the most part, was limited to the familiarity with famous phrases, speeches and scenes. (…) Even at Shespearean performances, stated many critics, much of the audiences engaged primarily with theatrical spectacles rather than the ‘beauty’ of Shakespeare’s poetry. Shakespeare’s presence (…) took the form of a widely circulated ‘reductionist’ (in a nonpejorative sense) approach to the complex urtexts.”
Willam Uricchio and Roberta E. Pearson: Dante’s Inferno and Caesar’s Ghost: Intertextuality and Conditions of Reception in Early American Cinema. In: Richard Abel (ed.): Silent Film. A&C Black 1996, p. 226

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
R: Charles Kent/J. Stuart Blackton. B: Eugene Mullin; William Shakespeare (comedy). D: Florence Turner (Titania), Julia Swayne Gordon, Maurice Costello, Gladys Hulette, Clara Kimball Young. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1909
Print: Silent Hall of Fame

Twelfth Night
R: Charles Kent. B: Eugene Mullin (scenario), William Shakespeare (play). D: Julia Swayne Gordon, Charles Kent, Florence Turner. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1910

“A measurement of Turner’s prominence at Vitagraph can be taken when one considers the nature of her performances in a selection of her extant films. A skilled comedienne, Turner nonetheless excelled in dramatic roles that called upon her growing command of the developing verisimilar style perfected at Vitagraph during this time. In particular, reflexive roles casting Turner as an actress seemed designed to showcase her prodigious talent. In Renunciation (1910), for example, Turner plays a young woman whose fiancé’s father persuades her to discourage his son’s attentions by emulating a state of dissolution. The film’s success hinges on Turner’s ability to portray convincingly an actress giving a performance designed to deceive her diegetic audience, while at the same time prompting the film’s viewers to recognize both the persuasiveness of the performance and the true emotions the character experiences when engaged in the ruse. Possibly Turner’s most demanding role was the rejected lover in Jealousy (1911), a film now lost. Promoted by Vitagraph as ‘A Study in the Art of Dramatic Expression by Florence E. Turner’, the film was a tour de force for the actress, as she was the sole performer on-screen for the entirety of Jealousy‘s running time.”
Charlie Keil
Women Film Pioneers Project

>>> Starring: The Girls on this site

Francesca Bertini

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Francesca Bertini, Still from La piccola fonte, 1917

La terra promessa
R: Baldassarre Negroni. D: Francesca Bertini, Alberto Collo, Emilio Ghione. P: Celio Film. It 1913 (Frgm., 1. act)
Dutch titles

Print temporarily not available

“The first time we see Francesca Bertini, she is a piano teacher, just like Asta Nielsen in The Abyss (Afgrunden). (…) For the moral standards of those days and in the eyes of the censorship board, La terra promessa was a daring film because it states that an unmarried woman is entitled to have a relationship with more than one man. (…) Asta Nielsen’s influence is undeniable: Magda (in The Abyss) not only lives alone, but she replaces one man with another, even though she chooses badly in doing so. In other words, while the diva film usually features a man with two women, Bertini followed Asta’s example by choosing several plots in which one woman has two men. (…) This is perhaps why the film, at least abroad, was retitled Ore e cuore, to show that the times were mature enough, as far as the perception of women was concerned, for a happy ending rather than some kind of public or private loss, as happens in The Abyss. (…) Betty can come across as a foreign-born, hence more emancipated, woman. Such a controversial role confirmed the risks Bertini was willing to take with her professional and public reputation. Even if the names of the characters were English, the audience knew that the players were Italian.”
Angela Dalle Vacche: Diva: Defiance and Passion in Early Italian Cinema. University of Texas Press 2008, p. 161

La Signora delle camelie
R: Gustavo Serena. B: Renzo Chiosso / Alexandre Dumas fils (novel “La Dame aux Camélias”. D: Francesca Bertini, Carlo Benetti, Olga Benetti. P: Caesar Film. It 1915/1916
Print: Il Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Torino

“Born in Florence, she was daughter of a comic theatre actress. Bertini began performing on stages as a child, particularly in Naples, where her family was settled. In 1904, at the age of 16, she moved to Rome, where she improved her acting skills, especially on theatre stages, and attempted to perform in the just-born Italian movie production.
Her first important movie, Histoire d’un pierrot, was under the direction of Baldassarre Negroni in 1913. Gradually she developed her beauty and elegance, plus a strong, intense, and charming personality, which would be the key of her success as a silent movie actress. With Assunta Spina in 1915 she took care of the scripts as well as performing the role of the main character. Bertini was popular internationally, her sophistication emulated around the world by women moviegoers. Reputedly, in 1915 she earned $175,000—a record for the time; Mary Pickford wouldn’t catch up until the following year. She developed the current acting techniques of movie actresses by making it more sober, banning broad gestures or the mincing ways of the Diva. She is one of the first film actresses to focus on reality, rather than on a dramatic stereotype, an anticipation of Neorealistic canons. The expression of authentic feelings was the key of her success through many films. She could perform with success the languid decadent heroine as well as the popular common woman. Other important roles were Odette, Fedora, Tosca and the Lady of the Camellias.”
Wikipedia

>>> La Bertini Under Cover

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Lyda Borelli

Rapsodia satanica
R: Nino Oxilia. B: Alberto Fassini. K: Giorgio Ricci. M: Pietro Mascagni. D: Lyda Borelli, Andrea Habay, Ugo Bazzini. P: Società Italiana Cines. It 1915/1917
Print: Cineteca di Milano
French subtitles

“The story of Rapsodia satanica is as agonizing and troubled as the fate of the countess Alba d’Oltrevita, played by the divine Lyda Borelli. Nino Oxilia’s masterpiece was completed in spring 1915 but was not released in theaters until 1917 due to mysterious inside disputes at Cines: that would result in a delay of almost three years in giving the world a film that was the most genuine attempt at making a total work of art for the screen. In deference to the Gesamtkunstwerk of Wagnerian fame, the film condenses pictorial quotations that range from Symbolism to the Pre-Raphaelites, literary references to the Faust tradition and Dannunzian decadence, spectacular architectural allusions to art nouveau, all embellished with original music by Pietro Mascagni. Rapsodia satanica, however, was not only a sophisticated and aesthetic compendium of the best artistic movements: it’ s a film in a league of its own with Nino Oxilia’s poetic sensitivity and compositional expertise and Lyda Borelli’s extraordinary performance. She expresses with her body and eyes the controversial aspects of her character, distilling the sensuality of eroticism, the raving hysteria of madness, the dark mood of death.”
Giovanni Lasi
Il Cinema Ritrovato

“1914 hatte die italienische Produktionsgesellschaft Cines den Opernkomponisten Pietro Mascagni mit einer Partitur zu Rapsodia satanica des Lyrikers Nino Oxilia beauftragt. Die nicht zuletzt von Carl Spitteler vergötterte Diva Lyda Borelli verkörpert darin eine weibliche Faust-Figur, die alternde Aristokratin Alba, die von Mephistopheles ihre Jugend wiederbekommt – unter der Bedingung, dass sie der Liebe entsagt. Das ‘poema cinema-musicale’, ein eigentliches Gesamtkunstwerk-Experiment, wurde 1917 uraufgeführt. Wie die Filmhistorikerin Mariann Lewinsky schreibt, ist nicht die Handlung zentral, sondern die allmähliche Entfaltung ästhetischer Effekte: ‘Ausstattung und Szenerien sind im Kontext ihrer Zeit modisch und avantgardistisch: die Bilderwelten des Jugendstils und des Symbolismus. Die Musik trägt die aus Posen, Gesten und Blicken modulierten stummen Arien der Diva und greift gleichberechtigt ein: Den dritten Teil liess Mascagni nach seinen Vorstellungen neu drehen. Hier entsteht aus dem Zusammenspiel der Medien eine überwältigende Performance.'”
Neue Zürcher Zeitung

>>> Lyda Borelli, la diva amata (I)

The Naked Truth

Hypocrites
R: Lois Weber. K: George William Hill, Dal Clawson. D: Courtenay Foote, Myrtle Stedman, Herbert Standing, Adele Farrington, Nigel de Brulier, Margaret Edwards. P: Hobart Bosworth Company. USA 1914/15
Print: The American Film Institute Collection / Library of Congress
Portug. subtitles

“The film follows the parallel stories of an early Christian ascetic and a modern minister, with most actors in dual roles. Gabriel (Courteney Foote) is a medieval monk who devotes himself to completing a statue of ‘Truth’, only to be murdered by a mob when his work turns out to be an image of a naked woman. The contemporary Gabriel is the pastor of a large wealthy urban congregation for whom religion is a matter of appearances, not beliefs. The hypocrisy of the congregation is exposed by a series of vignettes in which the Naked Truth, literally portrayed by a nude Margaret Edwards, reveals their appetites for money, sex and power. (…)
Hypocrites was a shocking and controversial film whose release was held up for many months by the difficulty of distributing a film with full nudity. Weber’s sincerity and reputation allowed her to use something that in the hands of a male director would have been considered scandalous and immoral. The film was passed by the British Board of Film Censors. However, because of the full and recurring nudity through the film, it caused riots in New York, was banned in Ohio, and was subject to censorship in Boston when the mayor demanded that the film negatives be painted over to clothe the woman.
Hypocrites and the technique was widely admired at the time for its extraordinary use of multiple exposures and intricate editing, and propelled Weber to the front ranks of silent directors. The use in the film of traveling double exposure sequences of the woman is considered impressive for 1915.”
Wikipedia

hypocrites-465

hypocrites2-466

“However shocked audiences are today or then by Weber’s gender, they were even more shocked by this movie’s content, which includes full-frontal female nudity, possibly the first time that occurred in a non-pornographic context in American film. Its inclusion emphasizes the fact that Weber clearly considered the cinema to be an art form (contrary to those who insist that no one but D.W. Griffith saw this at the time), and its use is deliberate to jolt a complacent audience into awareness of the movie’s message. This film is in that sense simultaneously subversive and also supportive of morality as it was understood by elite classes at the time. The fact that its ‘shocking’ content was used to support a Christian message is precisely why it was able to succeed where a more explicit challenge to social order would have been completely suppressed.”
Century Film Project

“From the start, Weber’s vision of truth is sensuous, sensual, voluptuous, and chaste — both erotic and ethereal, an object of desire that’s also an emblem of higher, even holy aspirations. She knew what a vision of paradox she was offering, what a sense of noble naïveté she risked exposing, because such holy foolishness is the very subject of the movie’s heroic and tragic drama. (She also fused Catholic and Protestant principles, breaching the schism in a way that would prove similarly fruitful for later filmmakers.) I don’t know whether Weber read Freud (who lectured in the United States in 1909) or followed the burgeoning American bent for psychoanalysis, but she displays a passionate fascination with the unconscious, and with the irrepressible presence of sexuality, as seen in her very equation of truth and a naked woman, and her depiction of the scandal resulting from that revelation.”
Richard Brody
The New Yorker, July 19, 2018

“So bizarr das Gleiten von einem Bild- und Zeitraum zum nächsten auch sein mag (und es liegt gar nicht so fern, bei all dem an Maya Deren zu denken), auf jeden einzelnen dieser Bild- und Zeiträume lässt sich Lois Weber mit staunenswerter Lust am Detail und an der realistischen Fülle der Inszenierung dann ein. Die Nacktheit und Dürre der Allegorie erfährt sehr postwendend stets Konterkarierung in mal historien-, mal gesellschaftsfilmwürdig ausgemalten Szenarien. Und in jedem dieser miteinander nur durchs allegorische Membrangleiten verträglichen Räume erweist sich Weber, die selbst als Predigerin begann und im Laufe der zehner Jahre zum echten und hoch bezahlten Regiesuperstar mit eigener Produktionsfirma wurde, als wirkliche Könnerin. (Sie stürzte, Griffith durchaus vergleichbar, in den Zwanzigern ab, drehte noch einen einzigen Tonfilm und das war’s dann.)”
Ekkehard Knörer
cargo

Further Reading:
Núria Bou: The Female Thinking in Movement
COMPARATIVE CINEMA

>>> Lois Weber’s films How Men ProposeThe Price, Suspense, Where Are My Children?

Jurassic Park, anno 1915

The Dinosaur and the Missing Link: A Prehistoric Tragedy
R and Animation: Willis H. O’Brien. P: Conquest Pictures Company / Herman Wobber. USA 1915/1917

“This little seen curio, being only one reel in length shows us a foretaste of what Willis H. O’Brien was to achieve with considerably greater success in 1933’s immortal classic King Kong. The Dinosaur and the Missing Link is the earliest of ‘Obie’s work and still in existence today. (…)
Willis O’Brien’s animation methods had been in use in the very early days of film, but it would be these skills that he would perfect from simple trick photography to the exhaustive stop-motion animation processes that became a vital element in feature-length motion pictures and a precurser to contemporary computer graphic animation.
The entire cast of his early films were constructed of wooden skeltons over which the likenesses were sculpted in clay. Today it’s increasingly difficult to appreciate the sheer hard work that went into creating living, breathing monsters for early cinema audience’s delight, particulary with the all too real graphics that we now come to expect.”
Classic Horror Movies

A Mafia-connected Gang

The Black Hand
R: Wallace McCutcheon. K: G.W. Bitzer. D: Anthony O’Sullivan, Robert G. Vignola. P: American Mutoscope & Biograph. USA 1906
Print: Silent Hall of Fame

The Black Hand: The True Story of a Recent Occurrence in the Italian Quarter of New York (…) capitalized on dramatic events reported in the newspapers. On 17 february (1906), local newspapers reported that police detectives had captured ‘Black Hand’ Italian gangsters by staking them out in the meat locker of a local Italian American butcher. The detectices were responding to the butcher, who had sought police protection when ‘the Black Hand’ tried to extort money from him.
Less than a month later on 29 March, Biograph released The Black Hand, directed by Wallace McCutcheon and shot by Billy Bitzer. It is a fictional story about ‘the Black Hand’ or Mafia-connected gangs of southern Italian immigrants who extorted money from other immigrants with threats of kidnapping, murder, and arson. In short, ‘the Black Hand’ was a protection racket in urban immigrant neighborhoods.
The Black Hand capitalizes on the notoriety of the well-known urban immigrant gangs as well as the February headline while appealing to new immigrant Italian audiences in its portrayal of the good Italian immigrant butcher.”
Lauren Rabinovitz: 1906 – Movies and Spectacle. In: American Cinema 1890 – 1909. Themes and Variations. Ed. by André Gaudreault. New Brunswick, New Jersey, and London 2009, P. 161 f.

Wallace McCutcheon, previously a stage director, was taken on by American Biograph in the spring of 1897 following the departure of W. K-L. Dickson and Elias Koopman for England. (…)
As head of production he supervised the film-making of others, but also wrote, directed and on occasion filmed for himself. In this he found particular creative assistance from his friend Frank Marion, notably in the 1902-3 period when the company was making the switch from the 68 mm large format to standard 35 mm.
Among his most noted productions were the Foxy Grandpa series (1902) and two proto-Westerns based on the life of the scout Kit Carson, Kit Carson and The Pioneers, both 1903, and both employing multi-shot narratives that give an indication of the coming changes to film production. Edison’s The Great Train Robbery, also of 1903, showed a far greater fluidity of movement and owed far less to the stage, but McCutcheon and Marion’s The Escaped Lunatic made at the same time as the Edison production, is an embryonic chase film of some significance, an idea developed further in the highly popular Personal of the following year.
In May 1905 McCutcheon and his regular cameraman A.E. Weed were lured away from Biograph by Edison, and he now found himself working alongside Edwin S. Porter, the director of The Great Train Robbery. Biograph went through a low period creatively and financially that McCutcheon’s return in late 1907 could not repair. McCutcheon had failed to find the same creative relationship with Porter that he had had with Marion (also now departed from Biograph and soon to form the Kalem Company with George Kleine and Samuel Long), but he was to play his part in reviving the fortunes of Biograph by employing in 1908, albeit as an actor, the greatest director of the silent era, D.W. Griffith (it was Harry Marvin who decided that Griffith should direct).
By this time McCutcheon was in poor health and many of his production duties were being undertaken by his eldest son, Wallace McCutcheon Jr., with whom he is sometimes confused. (…) Both Wallaces had left Biograph by mid-l908, whereupon Griffith became the sole director for the Biograph company. In 1909 Wallace Snr was directing at Gaston Méliès’ new studio in Fort Lee, New York, apparently staying on in a supervisory role when Méliès moved to San Antonio, Texas, in 1910.”
Luke McKernan (revised May 2013)
Who’s Who in Victorian Cinema

>>> the Edison films by McCutcheon on this site: Teddy and Borderline Cinema (The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend)

A Moral Tale

Get Rich Quick
D: William Russell, William Garwood, Marguerite Snow, Marie Eline. P: Thanhouser Film Co. USA 1911
Print: The Museum of Modern Art, N.Y.

“The moral tale, a staple of early film, observes in this case how an elaborate swindle, the ‘Utopia Investment Corporation’, affects one of its participants. The film challenges the quest for material wealth without concern for those victimized.
A review in ‘The Billboard’ praised Marguerite Snow’s acting as being ‘the most natural we have ever seen in a moving picture’, the story as ‘excellent’, and the picture as ‘splendidly photographed’. Another review noted the ‘novel’ technique of ‘the dissolving picture appearing through the newspaper headlines’. The narrative progression is smooth without having to depend on too many titles.”
Silent Beauties

America’s First Female Director

Suspense
R: Lois Weber / Phillips Smalley. B: Lois Weber. D: Lois Weber, Val Paul, Douglas Gerrard, Sam Kaufman. P: Rex Motion Picture Co. USA 1913
Print: The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Lois Weber, who kept that simple name all of her life, was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania to a very religious family. Many of her relatives were preachers, and at a young age, she played the piano at church and sang in the choir.
In 1897, she left home to take voice lessons in New York with the goal of becoming an opera singer. She toured with a singing group, where she met Wendell Phillips Smalley, the company stage manager. He was a descendant of Wendell Phillips, a human rights pioneer who had supported Lucy Stone and other suffragists, and it therefore is not surprising that Smalley encouraged Weber to keep her maiden name. His influence on her clearly was powerful, and she never returned to the religiosity of her roots.
They married in 1904 and soon were involved with the pioneer motion picture industry. She first worked for the Gaumont Company, where she was fortunate to be mentored by the world’s first female director, Frenchwoman Alice Guy Blaché. In 1911, the couple moved on to the Rex division of Universal Pictures. As part of Universal, Weber managed all the roles basic to production: she directed, wrote stories and subtitles, designed sets, gathered props, and edited film.
For a brief period in 1914-1915, Lois Weber and her husband left Universal to work for Bosworth Company. It was there that she made the first of the full-length, social-message films for which she became known. Weber’s realization that moral messages could be conveyed through film resulted in her most famous film,  Hypocrites (1914) which was especially controversial because she posed naked to represent ‘the naked truth’.”
National Women’s History Museum

376.- lois weber

More about Lois Weber:
Anne Marie Sweeney in The Projector

Further Reading:
Núria Bou: The Female Thinking in Movement
COMPARATIVE CINEMA

Lois Weber on this site:
>>> Where Are My Children, The Price, How Men Propose, Hypocrites