R: James Stuart Blackton. D: Paul Panzer, Lillian Russell, Gladys Hulette. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1909
With a soundtrack by Matt Malsky
Princess Nicotine; or, The Smoke Fairy was the first instance of tobacco product placement (for Sweet Corporal cigarettes and cigars) in the movies.
In 2003, the Library of Congress deemed it significant and preserved it in the National Film Registry.
“When it was made in 1909 Princess Nicotine was a veritible compendium of filmic effects and tricks, specialties of America’s leading film producer, Vitagraph. With debts to Georges Méliès’s pioneering French fantasy films, forced perspective was ingeniously accomplished through on-set optics and larger-than-life sized props. The animation of cigarettes and other smoking paraphernalia is an example of stop motion photography also found in Blackton’s The Haunted Hotel; or the Strange Adventures of a Traveler (1907) and in French Gaumont films by Emile Cohl such as Fantasmagoire and Les allumettes animées (or The Animated Matches) of 1908. But in Princess Nicotine, these effects are in the service of representing a dream state. It seems plausible to interpret the film as a visualization of the smoker’s unconscious condition, whose meanings might be “read” in sexual terms. For example, the animation sequence at the center of the film shows the metamorphosis of the flower into a cigar. These typical feminine/masculine or yonic/phallic symbols are reinforced by the fairy’s concealment in the flower and the male protagonist’s identity as the smoker. Other objects speak to the smoker’s desires – titillation and containment. There’s the difference in scale between the man and the female fairy, a bottle that entraps her, a box that holds his cigarettes, and the fairy’s skirt lifted in an obviously taunting sexual gesture. Release comes with a fitting final scene. The smoker quells the flames ignited by the fairy with a spray of his bottle, which then emanates uncontrollably from his lap, the dream-logical conclusion for a wet dream.”
The Haunted Hotel; or, The Strange Adventures of a Traveler Preview
R: James Stuart Blackton. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1907