The Suburbanite
R: Wallace McCutcheon. B: Frank Marion. K: A.E. Weed. D: John Troiano. P: American Mutoscope & Biograph. USA 1904

“By the summer of 1904, the Edison Company had abdicated its position as America’s foremost motion picture producer to the American Mutoscope & Biograph Company. Biograph had recognized the importance of fiction headliners and had begun regular ‘feature’ production by mid 1904. With Wallace McCutcheon acting as producer, Biograph’s staff made Personal in June, The Moonshiner in July, The Widow and the Only Man in August, The Hero of Liao Yang in September, and The Lost Child and The Suburbanite next hit in October. These headliners were all enthusiastically received by the vaudeville-going public. They were not offered for sale, however, but kept for exclusive use on the company’s exhibition circuit. Biograph was perhaps the first company, certainly the first company in America, to make regular ‘feature’ production the keystone of its business policy.”
Charles Musser: Before the Nickelodeon. Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company. Berkeley/Los Angeles/Oxford 1991, p. 276/77

The Origins of Paramount

The Virginian
R: Cecil B. DeMille. B: Kirk La Shelle, Owen Wister. K: Alvin Wyckoff. D: Dustin Farnum, Jack W. Johnston, Sydney Deane, William Elmer, Winifred Kingston. P: Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company. USA 1914
Location: Santa Clarita, California, USA

“Paramount Pictures dates its existence from the 1912 founding date of the Famous Players Film Company. Hungarian-born founder Adolph Zukor, who had been an early investor in nickelodeons, saw that movies appealed mainly to working-class immigrants. With partners Daniel Frohman and Charles Frohman he planned to offer feature-length films that would appeal to the middle class by featuring the leading theatrical players of the time (leading to the slogan ‘Famous Players in Famous Plays’). By mid-1913, Famous Players had completed five films, and Zukor was on his way to success. Its first film was Les Amours de la reine Élisabeth, which starred Sarah Bernhardt. That same year, another aspiring producer, Jesse L. Lasky, opened his Lasky Feature Play Company with money borrowed from his brother-in-law, Samuel Goldfish, later known as Samuel Goldwyn. The Lasky company hired as their first employee a stage director with virtually no film experience, Cecil B. DeMille, who would find a suitable site in Hollywood. This place was a rented old horse barn converted into a production facility with an enlarged open-air stage located between Vine Street, Selma Avenue, Argyle Avenue and Sunset Boulevard. It was later known as the Lasky-DeMille Barn. In 1914, their first feature film, The Squaw Man, was released.”

>>> DeMille’s Squaw Man here: De Mille’s First Motion Picture

Phantom Ride and Shooting

From Leadville to Aspen: A Hold-Up in the Rockies
R: Francis J. Marion, Wallace McCutcheon. P: American Mutoscope & Biograph. USA 1906.
Print: Library of Congress

“This short was both entertaining and unique. It starts out with a camera mounted on a train which starts to move. A good part of the movie is a sort of documentary showing the country side and small towns as the train travels through them. This was actually a genre of film at the time, dubbed ‘Phantom Tourism’ where locations were filmed from a moving vehicle. What sets this short apart though, is that it turns into a drama when the tracks are blocked off and some villains rob the train.”
dvd talk

Al J. Jennings, the Robber

The Bank Robbery
R: William Tilghman. K: William Tilghman. D: Al J. Jennings, Frank Canton, Heck Thomas, Quanah Parker. P: Oklahoma Natural Mutoscene Company. USA 1908

“One of the few instances where actors playing the lawmen and the robbers actually were the lawmen and the robbers: William Tilghman was a famous and respected U.S. marshal on the Oklahoma frontier; Al J. Jennings was a convicted train robber who took up acting after having been released from prison; Frank Canton was a widely feared gunfighter; Heck Thomas was a legendary sheriff; Quanah Parker was the son of an Indian father and a white mother who led several Indian revolts.”

Al J. Jennings (1863-1961) was born in Tazewell County in Virginia on November 25, 1863. He ran away from home at the age of 10 and went to Cincinnati because, he said, his father killed his pet squirrel. He then drifted west to Colorado, where he signed on as a hand on Jim Stanton‘s ranch in Trinidad, where he learned to handle a gun. Standing five feet, five inches tall, Al Jennings made up for his medium stature with bravado and an outspoken nature. Al had three brothers, who were all respected citizens, although one, Fred, later joined him in banditry. At one time his father was a circuit court judge. Jennings studied law and was admitted to the bar in Kansas in 1884. In 1892 he won election as county attorney in El Reno, Oklahoma. There was a feud between Al’s brother Ed and another man, and one evening, Ed was shot from behind. As he was dying, he asked Al to avenge him. A trial was held, and Ed’s alleged assassin was found not guilty. Al then devoted his life to revenge.
Soon, Al Jennings was in trouble himself. As he told it in later years, members of the Norman gang, who were clients of his law practice, held up a train. Although Al asserted that he was not with them during the daring escapade, he was incriminated, and even his father believed him to be guilty. Oklahoma authorities put a price of $20,000 on his head, at which time Al Jennings decided to become a bandit in earnest. He joined the Norman gang and became their leader. Many train robberies later, the Norman gang was caught while trying to blow a Wells Fargo safe in an express car. Under a life sentence, Jennings was dispatched to the Ohio State Penitentiary. While in jail, he made the acquaintance of Ohio industrialist Mark Hanna, who was a friend of the warden. Hanna believed Jennings’ contention that his life of crime started when he was unjustly accused, and he persuaded his friend, President William A. McKinley, to commute the sentence to five years. In 1907 he received a full pardon from President Theodore Roosevelt. Jennings returned to Oklahoma, where he ran for public office. He narrowly lost the race for prosecuting attorney in the same county which had posted the $20,000 reward for his capture, dead or alive, years earlier. Later, in 1914, he ran an unsuccessful race for governor of the state in the Democratic primary and finished third.
Jennings on the Screen: Drawing upon his experience and a seemingly unquenchable thirst for publicity, he appeared in many films, of which The Bank Robbery, produced by the Oklahoma Natural Mutoscene Company in 1908 and which re-enacted Jennings’ robbery of the Bank of Cache, in the Oklahoma city of that name, was perhaps the first. (…)”
© 1995 Q. David Bowers

Four years earlier, Philadelphia:

The Bold Bank Robbery
R: Jack Frawley. B: Jack Frawley. P: S. Lubin. USA 1904

Siegmund ‘Pop’ Lubin is remembered today perhaps as one of Edison’s chief rivals in the patent wars at the turn of the last century. Lubin was based in Philadelphia, and is all too often referred to in the history books only for his ‘remakes’ (rip-offs) of popular Edison titles.
It’s true that the Lubin company turned out some pretty audacious imitations (their version of The Great Train Robbery, released a year after Edison’s version), but along the way, Lubin turned out some pretty interesting films which deserve to be evaluated on their own terms.
One such picture is Bold Bank Robbery, made in 1904 by Jack Frawley (who also wrote and shot the picture). The film begins a group of men enjoying a drink and a smoke, dressed in elaborate tuxedos and top hats. They are framed in a theatrical manner in front of a painted flat. What’s remarkable is the sense of space that this single, flat backdrop provides. It’s both highly theatrical yet also hints at the kind of screen space that more sophisticated sets would come to provide in the near future.
This ten minute film includes a tremendous amount of action. There are numerous chase scenes, and the final business, with the last robber being pursued through the streets, on the train, etc. is a remarkable bit of action staging. The exciting outdoor visuals contrast nicely with the painted flats of the interiors.
There are, of course, inevitable comparisons to be made to Edison‘s The Great Train Robbery and to Frank S. Mottershaw‘s Daring Daylight Burglary (produced by Charles Urban), both from 1903. Even the title is reminiscent of the latter film, and the staging of the action recalls Edison’s Great Train Robbery in the bank scenes, and also the final chase with the law pursuing the criminals. Lubin’s films may not have been the most original in their content or innovative in their style, but Bold Bank Robbery remains an exciting film in its own right, with some interesting location changes and, in a few instances, above-average production design.”
The Art and Culture of Movies

Civil War III

In the Border States
R: David W. Griffith. B: Stanner E.V. Taylor. K: Billy Bitzer. D: Charles West, Henry Walthall, Gladys Egan. P: Biograph Company. USA 1910

“Filmed in the year that America commemorated the 50th anniversary of the start of its Civil War, D. W. Griffith’s In the Border States seeks to humanise the war by focusing on the family of a Union soldier whose youngest daughter inadvertently saves her father’s life by offering the hand of kindness to a Confederate soldier. It’s a play on the old Aesop’s Fable about the Lion and the Mouse that we all learnt in school and it’s pulled off with no little skill considering the year in which it was made. But then, it was directed by a man who had established himself as the world’s foremost director after only a couple of years in the chair. Griffith illustrates his growing confidence behind the camera with effective early compositions that direct the audience’s eye towards the slight figure of Gladys Egan, a prolific young actress whose film career would be over by the age of 14, as the young daughter. She is the focal point of the story, and Egan delivers a nicely nuanced performance, never once succumbing to the temptation to convey emotions with exaggerated gestures.”
Richard Cross
Movie reviews

The Confederate Ironclad
R: Kenean Buel. D: Guy Coombs, Anna Q. Nilsson, Hal Clements, Miriam Cooper. P: Kalem Company. USA 1912

“Released in 1912 amidst numerous 50th anniversary commemorations of the U.S. Civil War, The Confederate Ironclad is similar to Pearl Harbor and other ‘blockbuster’ type historical films in that it emphasizes explosions and romance over accuracy and insight. Carefully designed to appease both Northern and Southern audiences, the film tells the story of two brave women, one a Southern sweetheart (Miriam Cooper) and the other a Northern spy (Anna Q. Nilsson), who struggle to outwit each other against the backdrop of runaway trains and powerful warships. One of many Civil War-themed films shot by Kalem at their Jacksonville, FL, facilities, it’s easy to spot such location artifacts as Spanish moss hanging from trees along the battlefront. An interesting point to look for is the animation-assisted explosion that occurs during the train fight sequence. Even by 1912 standards it’s not very good, detracting from the film’s otherwise adequate sense of spectacle. The Confederate Ironclad is notable as one of the first films to have a musical accompaniment score composed specifically for use by local silent movie house pianists. (Local movie houses received copies of the sheet music along with the film.)”
Richard Gilliam, Rovi
NYT movies

Their One Love
R: John Harvey. B: Gertrude Thanhouser. K: Carl Louis Gregory. D: Madeline and Marion Fairbanks, Robert Wilson, Charles Emerson. P: Thanhouser Film Corporation. USA 1915

Leon J. Rubenstein, director of publicity at Thanhouser, put over a good one on the ‘city fellers’ at the Metropolitan newspapers, who, about a dozen strong, came to New Rochelle this week to see the new Edwin Thanhouser releases – Their One Love – a single reel story, comparable only, according to their judgment, to The Birth of a Nation. As the scribes viewed the wonderful action directed by Jack Harvey and the marvelous photography of Carl Louis Gregory taken at night, they wondered how such effects could have been secured, and Ruby told them that Carl Gregory and Al Moses perfected the ‘Nacht o’ Graph,’ a camera that would record night scenes, and all fell for it except ‘Wid’ of the Mail. But the whole production – story, direction, acting, and photography is the most wonderful ever produced at any studio for the regular program. This is only the beginning of the wonderful program that Edwin Thanhouser is to give to a waiting world.”
The New Rochelle Pioneer, April 17, 1915

>>> Civil War I

>>> Civil War II

Civil War I

The Drummer of the 8th
R: Thomas H. Ince. D: Cyril Gardner, Mildred Harris, Frank Borzage. P: Thomas H. Ince. USA 1913

“Go to any history of Hollywood, and you’ll find the name of Thomas Harper Ince. Thomas Ince (1880-1924) turned moviemaking into a business enterprise, revolutionizing the industry by developing the role of the producer. In addition to building the first major Hollywood studio, he was responsible for more than eight hundred films over his fourteen year movie career. Realism became the keynote of Ince’s films, whether he tackled social issues, re-created the old west or Civil War battles, or cast the first Hollywood films with Asian actors in lead roles. In later years, melodrama became Ince’s focus as he explored the social changes in America, especially the roles of women. Ince had begun his life on the stage, like his parents before him, and had undertaken every task possible in the theater before a day in 1910 when he found himself thirty years old, married, a father – and nearly broke.
Although movies were considered a step down from the stage, the pay was good. However, after acting in several films, Tom Ince realized he didn’t have the looks for a screen player, and decided to shift to directing. When he shot a series of films with Mary Pickford in 1911, on location in Cuba and set against the Spanish background, they were immensely popular. Ince remembered that lesson when he arrived in California, and expanded an area that had been used in the Santa Monica mountains for the production of westerns, hiring a traveling Wild West show at $2000 a week. With real cowboys and Indians performing against the landscapes, the authenticity impressed audiences. All of these were short films, typically not more than 15 minutes in length, with one or two turned out weekly. The area become known as ‘Inceville‘ and by the end of 1913, had a staff of 700. Ince began working in many other genres, especially Civil War dramas and studies of the changing role of women in American society. (…)”
Brian Taves
Silent Hollywood

R: Thomas H. Ince. B: William H. Clifford. D: J. Barney Sherry, Mildred Harris, Frank Borzage. P: Broncho Film Company. USA 1913

>>> the Ince films The Struggle and The Dream

>>> Civil War II

>>> Civil War III

Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset (3)

Bandits en automobile
Épisode 1: La bande de l’auto grise
Épisode 2: Hors-la-loi
R: Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset. K: Lucien Andriot. D: Henri Gouget, Camille Bardou, Karlmos, Josette Andriot. P: Eclair. Fr 1912

“In 1913 early French film pioneer Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset died abruptly at the age of 51. His filmography of about 60 titles includes all film genres but is today mostly lost. He was particularly interested in detective or crime genres and with series like Nick Carter and Zigomar he is considered as one of the creators of the serial. The spectacular siege of Jules Bonnot’s Gang at Choisy-le-Roi near Paris on April 28th 1912 inspired Jasset to make this Bandits en automobile. French audiences recognized immediately the resemblances with the actual Bonnot Gang, a reason for which the film was prohibited in many cities.”

“One lends only to the rich: that is why these two films based on the deeds of the famous anarchist Bonnot and produced by Eclair in April and May of 1912 are normally attributed to Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset: L’ Auto grise (300 meters) and Hors la loi (420 meters). They were of course news stories reconstructed according to the best tradition of the genre, especially Bonnot’s death at Choisy-le-Roi. The actors who play out Crime and Punishment in these two films were not actors normally seen hanging around the Epinay studios and were not even mentioned in Eclair’s ads in corporate newspapers. (…)  Bandits en automobile was, in fact, prohibited in many cities in France. Since the film censorship board did not exist before the war of 1914, it was up to local authorities to prohibit performances or films that they deemed harmful to public order. The deeds of the Bonnot gang would have left Jasset with too little room for his imagination: he was much more at ease with Zigomar at the heels of the man at the center of a second series of adventures: the detective star of Éclair, Nick Carter.”
XXXIX Mostra Internazionale

“The most immediate influence of Jasset’s work was seen in the films of Louis Feuillade, who was working at Gaumont and took the film serial to new heights with Fantômas (1913–14), Les Vampires (1915–16) and Judex (1916). These variously developed the roles of the resourceful detective, the master-criminal, and the mysterious woman of action who had previously appeared in Jasset’s Nick Carter, Zigomar and Protéa films.  The model of crime and adventure series and serials developed by Jasset and Feuillade was taken up elsewhere in Europe during the next few years: Dr Gar el Hama (1911) in Denmark; Lieutenant Daring (1911) in the UK; Tigris (1913) and the Za La Mort series (1914–1924) in Italy. The Pathé company’s American branch took the serial to new levels of worldwide popularity with its production of The Perils of Pauline (1914). Jasset also contributed to early film theory with a journal article in which he analysed film style and the national characteristics of cinema.”


>>> Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset (1),   Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset (2),   Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset (4)



Méliès am Nordpol

À la conquête du pôle
R: Georges Méliès. B: Georges Méliès nach Jules Verne. K: Georges Méliès. D: Georges Méliès, Fernande Albany. P: Georges Méliès / Pathé. Fr 1912
Dtsch. Titel, frz. Untertitel

“Diese fantastische Reise ist der längste von allen Filmen Georges Méliès (1861 – 1938). 34 Bühnenbilder und 650 Meter Filmrolle erzählen die stürmische Polarexpedition des Professor Maboul, der vom Filmemacher selbst verkörpert wird. Dieses Werk vereint die verschiedenen Elemente, die das Talent und den Erfolg von Méliès ausmachen: poetische Welten, Trickaufnahmen, theatralische Inszenierungen, raffinierte Apparaturen, wunderbare Kulissen und Mondlandschaften.
Das Thema dieses Films ist in der damaligen Zeit hochaktuell: 1909 beanspruchen die Forscher Peary (1856-1920) und Frederick Cook (1865-1940) beide die Eroberung des Nordpols für sich. 1911 erreichen Roald Amundsen (1872-1928) und Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912) mit einem Monat Unterschied den Südpol. Dieser Wettbewerb fasziniert die Menschen.
1911 sind die Finanzen der Star Film von Georges Méliès angekratzt. Nach fünfzehn Jahren gefilmter Kreativität und Fantasie, muss der Filmemacher der Konkurrenz ins Auge sehen: die Filmindustrie entwickelt sich, organisiert sich um. Die Konsequenz daraus sind neue Techniken und Ästhetiken, die den Publikumsgeschmack verändern.
Méliès hatte schon ein Jahr lang nicht mehr gedreht, als Charles Pathé (1863-1957), dessen Firma sich zu jener Zeit in vollem Aufschwung befindet, ihm die Finanzierung der Star Film Produktionen anbietet. Im Gegenzug übernimmt Pathé die Studios des Filmemachers in Montreuil als Sicherheit, erhält die Exklusivrechte am Verleih und die Verlagskontrolle über die Werke. Auf diese Weise gelingt Georges Méliès hier ein spätes Wunderwerk seines fabelhaften Repertoires. A la conquête du Pôle ist der gelungenste seiner sechs letzten Filme, die alle von Pathé finanziert wurden.
Die Ironie des Schicksals fügt sich so, dass die Unterstützung von Pathé den Ruin von Georges Méliès, dessen Verschuldung mit jedem Dreh anwächst, nur noch beschleunigt. Dem Filmemacher gelingt es nicht, sich den technischen, ästhetischen und industriellen Entwicklungen des Kinos anzupassen. So reichen die Einnahmen seiner letzten Filme nicht aus, um die finanzielle Situation von Star Film zu stabilisieren, die ihre Aktivität 1913 für immer einstellt.”
Cinema Arte TV

>>> Méliès: Attraction and Narration

>>> Amundsen am Nordpol

Marriage for Money

Le coeur et l’argent
R: Louis Feuillade / Léonce Perret. D: Suzanne Grandais, Renée Carl, Raymond Lyon, Paul Manson. P: Gaumont. Fr 1912

“In an effort to find his voice, Feuillade often experimented stylistically, as in the two mystical fantasies, Spring and The Fairy of the Surf. Spring is the weaker of the two, though superimpositions and transitions of angels frolicking atop water are impressive. The Fairy of the Surf presents a moody, selectively-tinted pictorialism, exemplified by the boat scenes on rocky water that were later presented in Victor Sjostrom‘s, A Man there Was (1917). The historical films Roman Orgy (1911) and The Agony of Byzance (1913) have strong social/moral messages. Roman Orgy is weaker in composition and narrative structure, although slow, lengthy takes freeze into magnificent paintings, encouraging viewers to reflect on the film’s content. The use of long shots visually weakens The Agony of Byzance, although Laviosa’s score for the film is compelling. Feuillade also neglected to inform viewers that Emperor Constantine was such a devout Catholic that he executed his unbelieving wife and son.
A Very Fine Lady (1908) is Feuillade’s comic, X-rated response to Guy-Blaché‘s risqué Madame’s Cravings; a well-endowed Renée Carl walks down the street, wreaking complete social disruption in her wake. Feuillade excels in moral tales and social-injustice dramas such as The Defect (1911), The Trust: Or the Battles for Money (1911), and The Heart and the Money. Moodily melodramatic and pictorially striking, The Heart and the Money is a seamless split-screen gem that concerns a young woman’s fatal lesson that marriage for money leads to destruction. The Trust: Or the Battles for Money initiates the realism of Feuillade’s Life as it Is series. Again, issues of greed are frowned upon. Rich in close-ups, point-of-view shots, noir lighting, angle shots, and suspense, this film introduces the character of the private detective.
The Obsession (1912) is Feuillade’s timely psychological response to the Titanic disaster. There is some nitrate damage toward the end of this film about obsessive premonitions but not enough to disrupt the story. It is notable for its combination of noir-like pictorial beauty and documentary style, as when the Titanic departs Cherbourg at night, with steam and fog foreshadowing the fatal iceberg. Feuillade’s interest in the architectural integrity of lines is depicted in this film in high-angle shots of train tracks, which also appear in The Defect and other films. Feuillade’s Bout de Zan Steals an Elephant (1913) concerns an impoverished little boy, lost in large clothing, who manages to traverse the upper class through the friendly theft of an elephant. Successive Bout de Zan and Life as it Is installments led Feuillade to create additional series, including his best-known works such as Fantômas (1913), The Vampires (1915), and Judex (1916).”
Army R. Handler

Konsequenzen des Feminismus

Les résultats du féminisme
R: Alice Guy. P: Société des Etablissements L. Gaumont. Fr 1906

Alice Guy trat Ende 1895 als Sekretärin von Léon Gaumont in das Comptoire Général de Photographie, Paris, ein und unterstützte ihren Chef wenige Monate später dabei,die Firma zu übernehmen. Das war der Beginn der Gaumont-Filmproduktion, in der Alice Guy von Anfang an eine entscheidende Rolle als Regisseurin und Produktionsleiterin spielte. 1907 begleitete Alice Guy ihren Ehemann Herbert Blaché in die USA und gründete dort ihre eigene Firma, die Solax. (1910-14). 1920 entstand ihr letzter Film. Ihre Autobiografie wurde 1976 posthum von der Association Musidora herausgegeben. (…)
Komödiantinnen gab es im Frühen Kino in großer Zahl, aber sie wurden erst in den letzten zwei Jahrzehnten wiederentdeckt. Dabei handelt es sich in der Regel um Schauspielerinnen, aber auch die Regisseurin Guy verfügte offenbar über ein großes Talent zur Komik. (…)
Die Epoche des Frühen Kinos ist auch die Blütezeit der Ersten Frauenbewegung. Der Aufbruch aus den bürgerlichen Ordnungen der Kultur, der Moral, des Rechts ist beiden eigen. Gleichwohl hielten sie Distanz zueinander. Wenn die Frauenbewegung sich überhaupt zum Kino äußerte, teilte sie die konservativen Bedenken der ‘Volkserzieher’. Wie (dieses Beispiel) zeigt, zogen die Filme umgekehrt den expliziten Feminismus ins Lächerliche, liessen aber gleichzeitig die ‘neuen’ Frauen, sowie den Aufruhr in der Geschlechterordnung auf der Leinwand sichtbar werden. Die Guy machte da keine Ausnahme.”
Erste unter Gleichen. Die Filmarbeit der Alice Guy von 1896 bis 1920
Kinothek Asta Nielsen