Nino Oxilia

Per amore di Jenny
R: Nino Oxilia. D: Pina Menichelli, Alberto Nepoti, Amleto Novelli. P: Società Italiana Cines. It 1915
Dutch titles

“Until his career was cut short by World War I, Nino Oxilia was one of the most promising Italian directors of the teens. Formerly a playwright, he entered the world of moving pictures in 1912 and trained in Turin under Ubaldo Maria Del Colle at Pasquali and Mario Caserini at Ambrosio, then directed for Savoia-Film before moving to Rome to work at Celio. He was considered a gifted director of sophisticated melodramas. (…) Oxilia also collaborated with the other member of the holy trinity of Italian film divas, Pina Menichelli. In 1914-15, Oxilia was working for Cines in Rome, both as a director and writer; Menichelli was one of the main actresses at the Cines studio during this period. In 1915, Oxilia directed Menichelli in three films: Papà; Per amore di Jenny; and Il sottomarino n. 27 (Submarine no. 27).
In Per amore di Jenny, Menichelli plays a noblewoman caught between the interest of several men: Baron Burg, who she loves; Baron Galdi, who desires her; and Mario, a blacksmith whose singing brings her pleasure, and whose hopes are dashed by her marriage to Baron Burg. (…) It’s not a case of star-crossed lovers, but the audience is left with the question of what could have been for the two of them, in different circumstances. Mario is heartbroken, while Jenny moves on without too much ado. Moving is the key word. Jenny focuses heavily on showcasing its locations: the beauty of the countryside estate, and the historical sites of Rome, where Jenny and Baron Burg spend their honeymoon. Some of the outdoor shots are stunning, and made even more spectacular by the use of bright tints and tones.”
Silents, Please!

R: Nino Oxilia. K: Giorgino Ricci. D: Ruggero Ruggeri, Pina Menichelli, Amleto Novelli, Suzanne Arduini, Giuseppe Piemontesi, Amerigo Tramonti. P: Cines, Roma. It 1915

Papà is a more comedic film where Giorgetta (Menichelli) is caught between a father and son, and more broadly, two ways of life: the Count di Larzac, Parisian man of leisure, and his rustic son Giovanni, who has been living in the same rural village as Giorgetta. This film is an adaptation of a 1911 three-act stage comedy by Robert de Flers and Gaston Arman de Caillavet, also called Papa.”
Silents, Please!

>>> Oxilia’s Rapsodia Satanica on this site: Lyda Borelli

From Quarrel to War

Fridolin s’en va-t-en-guerre
D: James Aubrey, Elmer Redmond (= Walter Kendig). P: Mittenthal Film Company. Be 1915
Print: Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique
French and Dutch titles

“Short comedy about Heinie and Louie, played by James Aubrey and Elmer Redmond. In Belgium they were known as Fridolin and Otto. In this film Fridolin and Otto quarrel and break up. Disillusioned, they decide each on their own to join the army and continue their personal rivalry.”
europeana 1914-1918

La Bertini Under Cover

L’amazzone mascherata
R: Baldassarre Negroni. B: Arrigo Frusta. K: Giorgio Ricci. D: Francesca Bertini, Alberto Collo, Emilio Ghione, Leda Gys, Teresa Martini. P: Celio Film. It 1914
Print: Cineteca Nazionale del Cinema / EYE collection
Dutch titles

“Sterosky, an international spy who hides himself as the director of a circus, steals from lieutenant Count Alberto Ferrara, important documents. Ferrara is tried and sentenced to life imprisonment. His wife Francesca, certain of his innocence, tries to find evidences that may exonerate her husband. Soon she begins to suspect Sterosky, and keen to find out more she obtains to get hired as horsewoman in the circus, under the nom de plume The masked rider . Eventually, having find out that Sterosky is the real culprit, Francesca tries to escape, but Sterosky chases her. A servant of the Countess denounces him. Recognized his innocence, Alberto is released, while the real culprit is arrested.”

L’Amazzone mascherata sees Francesca Bertini in the role of Franca de Roberti, a woman who vows to clear the name of her husband after he is framed for treason. (…) After her husband is court-martialled and sent to jail, de Roberti figures out the identity of the one who framed him: Jean Stérosky, circus director and secret Silistrian spy, with whom Franca and her husband had previously organized a show. However, she lacks proof, so she decides to go undercover: ‘I’ll visit him in Silistria, but he won’t recognise me.” She joins a travelling circus and achieves fame as The Masked Amazon. (…)
Editing is rather standard and undistinguished, with a few nice choices: the juxtaposition between the Silistrian Loïe Fuller dancers and Franca looking pensive; a double-exposure in which di Roberti recalls Stérosky and his assistant (played by Leda Gys in blackface as a gypsy-type character); the cross-cutting to Lieutenant di Roberti in his cell as she thinks of him. (…)
Really, L’Amazzone mascherata is more of an adventure story than a diva film; Franca de Roberti spends much more time in plot-driven, self-motivated action than she does in lounging around, emoting, etc. However, being a film starring La Bertini, many diva properties are still in effect.”
Silents, Please!

>>>  Assunta Spina: Italian Verism

Margarita Fischer

A Joke on Jane
R: Harry A. Pollard. B: J. Edward Hungerford, Harry A. Pollard. D: Margarita Fischer, Harry A. Pollard, Frank Cooley. P: American Film Manufacturing Company. USA 1914
Print: EYE collection
Dutch titles

“Silent-screen actress Margarita Fischer, with great fanfare, changed her Germanic-sounding name to the more American ‘Fisher’ when America entered World War I. She was but one of several Hollywood stars who wished to disassociate themselves from the ‘Terrible Hun’, but Margarita never went as far as Arnold Kaiser, who wisely became Norman Kerry, or screen villain Gustav Von Seyffertitz who, presumably tongue-in-cheek, briefly acted under the name ‘G. Butler Clonbaugh‘. A stage veteran formerly known as ‘Babe Fischer’, Margarita Fischer came to films in 1910. By 1913 she was firmly established as a leading lady with Carl Laemmle‘s IMP organization and achieved stardom opposite Robert Z. Leonard in Robinson Crusoe and Wallace Reid in The Tribal Law. Fischer married actor/director Harry A. Pollard and together they starred in scores of one- and two-reel melodramas, including a 1913 version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Defecting from IMP in favor of the American Film Company in 1914, the Pollards continued to collaborate on numerous programmers, most of them two-reelers of negligible quality. As two-reelers declined, Pollard formed his own company in 1916, with Fischer as the featured star of five-reel melodramas such as The Pearl of Paradise (1916) and The Butterfly Girl (1917). The company folded later that year and Fischer returned to American. Her career in serious decline by the 1920s, the Pollards invested all their energy into resurrecting it with a lavish remake of Uncle Tom’s Cabin starring Fischer as Eliza, future MGM mainstay Virginia Grey as Little Eva, and James Lowe in the title role. In production for nearly two years, Uncle Tom’s Cabin finally premiered in 1927 to overwhelmingly negative reviews, with most of the blame directed towards a miscast Fischer and Pollard’s old-fashioned direction. The disappointing results of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, along with the advent of sound, forced Margarita Fischer into permanent retirement.”
Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Griffith and the New York Police Dept.

The Burglar’s Dilemma
R: D.W. Griffith. K: G.W. Bitzer. D: Lionel Barrymore, Henry B. Walthall, Robert Harron, Lillian Gish, Dorothy Gish. P: Biograph Company. USA 1912

“In this Cain & Abel inspired story, Walthall‘s character is jealous of his brother’s (Lionel Barrymore) popularity. In an argument, they struggle, and Walthall’s character pushes the larger brother to the floor. Fearing he has killed his brother, Walthall’s character panics; but, coincidentally, a reluctant young burglar (Bobby Harron) begins to enter the brothers’ quarters. Amazed at his luck, Henry’s character locks the burglar in the room with his fallen brother and fetches the police. The burglar will now be blamed for the murder. When the brother turns up alive, though, there will be some explaining to do. Actually Barrymore’s character forgives Walthall’s character surprisingly easily, especially considering his brother’s first reaction to his imagined murder of his own flesh and blood was to try and get away with it. Henry’s performance is excellent in this 15-minute short–from his devious eyes when locking the burglar in the room to the nervous rubbing of his knee while the authorities inspected his motionless brother.”
Henry B. Walthall: Film Reviews – The Silents 1911-1915

“An exciting crime story, with the finale taken from headline stories about the work of New York police. The New York police department was in the spotlight after the gangland slaying of Herman Rosenthal. A point of interest: Bobby Harron’s interrogation by Alfred Paget and John Dillon was Griffith’s version of the widely publicized third degree.”
Russell Merritt
Flicker Alley

“States have adopted several different schemes for classifying murders by degree. The most common separates murder into two degrees, and treats voluntary and involuntary manslaughter as separate crimes that do not constitute murder. (…)
Voluntary manslaughter: (also referred to as third-degree murder), sometimes called a crime of passion murder, is any intentional killing that involves no prior intent to kill, and which was committed under such circumstances that would ’cause a reasonable person to become emotionally or mentally disturbed’. Both this and second-degree murder are committed on the spot under a spur-of-the-moment choice, but the two differ in the magnitude of the circumstances surrounding the crime. For example, a bar fight that results in death would ordinarily constitute second-degree murder. If that same bar fight stemmed from a discovery of infidelity, however, it may be mitigated to voluntary manslaughter.”

The First Advertising Films

K: Alexandre Promio. P: Auguste & Louis Lumière. Fr 1896

Admiral Cigarette
R: William Heise. P: Edison Manufacturing Company. USA 1897

“In May 1896, in the yard of the Geneva home of Lavanchy-Clarke (a Swiss businessman who functioned as a European distributor and promoter for the U.K. soap manufacturer Lever Brothers), the cinematographe operator Alexandre Promio (Lumiere Brothers) shot a film of two women hand-washing tubs of laundry. Placed prominently in front of the tubs were two cases of Lever Brothers soap, one with the French branding ‘Sunlight Savon’, the other with the German ‘Sunlight Seife’. The following month, the film (Laveuses), given the English title “Washing Day in Switzerland (Promio, 1896)”, was shown in New York at Keith’s Union Square Theatre (1896). The official release date is 26 September 1896.

Admiral Cigarette was the first advertising film lodged for copyright at the Library of Congress. The film was released at 5 August 1897 by Edison Manufacturing Company, the director was William Heise, an American film cinematographer and director, active in the 1890s and credited for more than 175 short silent films. Heise is best known for ‘directing’ The Kiss, a 1896 short film that depicted a kiss between May Irwin and John Rice. Direction, at this early stage in cinema, consisted mainly of pointing a stationary camera in one direction and capturing whatever action transpired within the frame. Along with W. K. L. Dickson, Heise was one of the most prolific filmmakers of the nascent days of cinema. He worked with Dickson on many of the early shorts, capturing numerous scenes of everyday life as well as different aspects of performance and sport. He served as cinematographer on 1894’s Bucking Broncho and many others.”

>>> Showbiz 1895: Edison’s Kinetoscope (The Kiss) on this site

>>> Early Advertising Films on this site

Pathé in Australia

A Miner’s Luck
Dir. and stars unknown. P: Photo-Vista Company for Pathé Frères (distribution). AUS 1911

The film was the first in what was meant to be a series of films from Photo Vista. It was shot in and around Beaconsfield.

A Miner’s Luck tells the story of a miner swindled out of his gold claim. The film, whose director is not credited, makes realistic use of its bush settings. This is one of the very few dramatic films made in Australia before 1913 that survive in a substantially complete form.
Surviving reels from this film screened as part of ‘Cinema’s Golden Summer: The Birth of the Feature Film in Australia and the World, 1910-1913’ at Arc Cinema in Canberra.”
Movies From The Silent Era

>>> Australia

Cowboys in the City

The Cowboy Millionaire
R: Frank Boggs, Otis Turner. D: Tom Mix, Mac M. Barnes, William Garwood, Adrienne Kroell, William Stowell, Carl Winterhoff.   P: William Nicholas Selig/Selig Polyscope Company. USA 1909
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

Selig‘s original version of The Cowboy Millionaire (December 1909) was so popular that in early 1913 the company released a two-reel remake, The Millionaire Cowboy, which expanded the stunt riding and roping at the beginning, as well as the high jinks of the cowboys who are invited to visit their now-whealthy friend in the city.”
Charlie Keil, Shelley Stamp: American Cinema’s Transitional Era: Audiences, Institutions, Practices. University of California Press 2004, p. 169 (fn.)

The Australian “Bushranger” Genre

R: Jack Gavin. B: H.A. Forsyth, Ambrose Pratt (novel). K: A.J. Moulton. D: Jack Gavin, Ruby Butler, H.A. Forsyth. P: Southern Cross Motion Pictures. AUS 1910
Filming Locations: Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia.
Original length: ca. 33 min.

“How are we to understand such a film, at once familiar and strange? There are certainly strong parallels and clear points of intersection between the American Western and the Australian bushranger film. The glory days of bushranging coincide with the period usually assigned to the classical Western (the latter half of the nineteenth century); the setting for both is a frontier where anarchy and order contend and where the land is a strong presence; fiction and fact are mixed up in both kinds of film, and both borrow extensively from local popular and folk traditions (plays, ballads, stories). Moreover, there is a rough coincidence between the heyday of the bushranger film (1906-1911) and what Ed Buscombe has called ‘the crucial formative years’ of the American Western (1903-1913).
The Story of the Kelly Gang was such a feature, presented initially as the only film on the program. During the first months of its presentation in 1906 it was apparently expanded from around 4000 feet to 6000. TSOTKG seems to have been the first commercial secular narrative film to be thus featured in Australia. The Tait brothers, the theatrical entrepreneurs who were backing the venture, clearly believed that there was an audience for an evening’s entertainment based on filmed episodes drawn from the life of a bushranger, Ned Kelly. Undoubtedly they based their speculation on the proven popular success of staged versions of Kelly’s career and of the exploits of other bushrangers. Their faith was warranted, for the film did good business in Australia and in England.
The term ‘bushranger’ can mean many things, but (…) it seems best to begin with an understanding of it as referring to Australian rural bandits. Such outlaws had existed in the colony from 1790 at least. In 1851 the discovery of gold in rural areas of Victoria and New South Wales seems to have provided the conditions for an increase in outlaw activity, or at least for increased public and official attention to such activity. It is generally accepted that bushranging ceased in 1880, with the hanging of Ned Kelly, although this hardly seems likely. Still, all of the bushrangers featured in early films come from the ‘bushranging decades’ of 1860-1880. This is not surprising, for the bushrangers of this period were particularly celebrated and condemned in newspapers, ballads and local stories and their exploits were much written about, staged and illustrated. Bushrangers, especially these bushrangers, continued to be objects of intense popular interest well into the twentieth century.”
William D. Routt: More Australian than Aristotelian: The Australian Bushranger Film, 1904-1914
Senses of Cinema

>>> The Story of the Kelly Gang:  Early Cinema in Australia – 1

Fantasy and Horror

La Poule aux Œufs d’Or
R: Gaston Velle. K: Segundo de Chomón. D: Julienne Mathieu. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1905

“Director Gaston Velle worked with Segundo de Chomon, one of the world’s first special effects artists, on a number of Pathé films. This film is notable for the combination of brilliant stencilled colour and wild effects, while giving close attention to the fable or moral nature of the story being told.
This tale of the hen that laid the golden eggs is a familiar fairytale. The film tells it in four acts: ‘The Conjurer’s Lottery’, ‘The Fantastic Fowls-House’, ‘Ephemeral Fortune’ and ‘The Miser’s Fate’. La Poule aux Œufs d’Or provide plenty of opportunity to pause and revel in fantastic displays, such as when the golden hen turns into a lovely woman, who in turn transforms her fellow chickens into a troupe of elegant dancers. The magic and the mood turn dark when thieves try to steal the eggs and the farmer is driven mad by greed, his paranoia arrestingly depicted as he is surrounded by surreal disembodied eyes.
The film’s epilogue is a fanciful display of magic as the barnyard turns into a fairyland and golden eggs hatch to reveal beautiful women, made even more so through the use of intricate stencilling and liberally-applied, still vibrant dyes.”
Leslie Lewis
Australian Screen

La peine du Talion
R: Gaston Velle. D: Fernand Rivers. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1906
A stencil-coloured effects film

“At the turn of the 20th century, with cinema still in its infancy, there blossomed a short lived form of film called ‘scènes de féeries’ or fairy films. Made famous by the groundbreaking French Pathé Frères company, these curiosities brought the lavish thrills of the theatre to the big screen. They utilised the painted backdrops, elaborate costumes and stage tricks that were popular at the time, while using the power of film to create some even more unbelievable magic to fresh faced viewers. To further add to the spectacle, the film makers also added colour to these films, utilising tinting and hand-stencilling to bring more life to their imagery. (…)
This is a sweet little story where a butterfly collector and his two attractive female assistants are captured by butterflies, who make judgement on the collector, punishing him by pinning him to a mushroom to show him how it feels. He promptly smashes his butterfly net and everyone lives happily ever after! I enjoyed this simple tale quite a bit and the use of colour is nice too.”
David Brook

>>> Gaston Velle‘s Un drame dans les airs on this site: Jules Verne and Gaston Velle