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 Corporation released their first motion picture, The Lost Paradise (1914), on either 31 August or 1 September 1914. Paramount was originally a distribution company for Bosworth, Incorporated, Famous Players Film Company, Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company, Incorporated, Oz Film Manufacturing Company, and Pallas Pictures. Famous Players-Lasky Corporation purchased Paramount circa September-October 1916. In January 1918, Paramount became a distribution brand name for Famous Players-Lasky Corporation. Distribution responsibilities were returned to the Paramount name in the early 1920s. The company became a production company in early 1927 and then, in late 1927 production activities were consolidated under the Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation name.”
Silent Era

>>> DeMille on this site: De Mille’s First Motion Picture


Phantom Ride and Shooting

Leadville to Aspen

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

Print temporarily not available

“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

The Invaders
R: Francis Ford, Thomas H. Ince. B: C. Gardner Sullivan K: Ray C. Smallwood. D: Francis Ford, Ethel Grandin, Ann Little. P: Kay-Bee Pictures. USA 1912

“Indians are clearly the wronged party in this film. The treaty text is shown three times in total, making both its terms and the fact that it was broken by the US government abundantly clear. Nevertheless, the attack on the post is merciless and brutal and the first people to be called ‘victims’ are white. Furthermore, the Indian maid prefers the white man over her Indian suitor who is reasonably rich and liked by her father. Also, even though she favors the white surveyor, even consensual miscegenation is avoided by her death. Miscegenation through rape is equaled with the dishonoring of the woman, as demonstrated by the Colonel’s daughter’s attempt to die before the Sioux and Cheyenne arrive at the post. On the other hand, a more positive attitude towards Indians can be found in the fact that Sky Star is portrayed as a heroine who gives her life to save the whites.
The Sioux are presented as smart and fair – they can read, they know their rights, they protest in a civil manner before they go to war, only go to war after diplomacy hasn’t worked, and they form alliances to fight the whites, they effectively communicate with the Cheyenne via blanket signals. Except for Sky Star non of the Indians have names which sets her apart from other Indian characters, as does her screen time which lies at almost twenty-three percent. The other Indian characters such as ‘the chief’ or the ‘an unwelcome suitor’, and thus resemble types more than actual characters. Nevertheless, it remains that the Indian attack is justified by the broken treaty, thus, providing the characters with a motivation that sets them apart from later screen images of Indians.”
Indian Pictures


Al J. Jennings, the Robber

Bank Robbery
R: William Tilghman. K: William Tilghman. D: Al J. Jennings, Frank Canton, 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

Civil War

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

510-Confederate Ironclad

The Confederate Ironclad
R: Kenean Buel. D: Guy Coombs, Anna Q. Nilsson, Hal Clements, Miriam Cooper. P: Kalem Company. USA 1912
Print temporarily not available

“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

Thomas H. Ince: 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 on this site

>>> Thomas H. Ince: Civil War II


A Recorder of Contemporary Reality

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

“After a short period working for the Éclipse film company, Jasset (1862-1913) was engaged in 1908 by the new Éclair production company to make film series beginning with Nick Carter, le roi des détectives. The detective hero Nick Carter was based on the series of popular American novels which were then being published in France by the German publisher Eichler. Jasset kept the name of the character but invented new adventures with a Parisian setting. The first six sections that Jasset directed were released at bi-weekly intervals in late 1908, and each one narrated a complete story.
Following another short period working for the small Raleigh & Robert company, Jasset returned to Éclair and travelled to North Africa to produce a series of fiction films and documentaries in Tunisia, taking advantage of its natural light and spectacular locations such as the ruins of Carthage. In the summer of 1910 he returned to Paris to become the ‘artistic director’ of the Éclair studio, having oversight of all the company’s production as well as his own film-making unit. In 1911 he made Zigomar, taking his title character from the popular newspaper and magazine stories of Léon Sazie about a master-criminal. This feature-length film was so successful that a second title, Zigomar contre Nick Carter (1912), was made ready within six months, and a third instalment followed in 1913, Zigomar peau d’anguille. Jasset adapted other popular novels such as Gaston Leroux’s ‘Balaoo’ in 1913, and in the same year Protéa, a spy story in which for the first time the title character was a woman, played by a long-time favourite actress of Jasset, Josette Andriot. The Protéa series continued after Jasset’s death.
In 1912 Jasset turned from fantasy and spectacle to realism in making the first of two Zola adaptations, as part of Éclair’s new series of social dramas. For Au pays des ténèbres, based on ‘Germinal’, he took his crew to Charleroi in Belgium to film in authentic locations, and although he updated the story to the present, he went to great lengths to recreate in the studio the detail of the actual mining galleries, exploiting the ability of film to be a recorder of contemporary reality. In the following year, Jasset filmed Zola’s ‘La Terre’ (1913).”