Machin – A French Director in Belgium

Je vais me faire raser
R: Alfred Machin. K: Jacques Bizeul. D: Darman. P: Pathé. Be 1914

Alfred Machin (1877-1929) was a French director, cameraman, and producer. In 1907 he made his first films for Charles Pathé. A year later, he travelled to the Netherlands to shoot a number of short documentaries, including Comment se fait le fromage de Hollande and Coiffures et types de Hollande. These films were produced by Kinematograaf Pathé Frères, the Dutch subsidiary of Pathé Frères.
After having made a number of films in Africa, Machin returned to the Netherlands in the autumn of 1911. On a commission from the production company Hollandsche Film, he made a few short feature films for the foreign market. His films portrayed the clichéd image of the Netherlands, with traditional clothes, fishermen, windmills, and wooden shoes. In Volendam, he made films including Het vervloekte geld, a fishing drama starring Louis Bouwmeester. A year later, Hollandsche Film produced a second series of short feature films. It is unclear whether these were also directed by Machin (some sources mention Henri Adréani).
In 1913, Machin became the general manager of Belge Cinéma Film, the Belgian subsidiary of Pathé Frères. Before the First World War began, he made films including Het meisje uit de bloemenvelden (La fille de Delft) and Maudite soit la guerre. When the war broke out, Machin returned to France, where he served in the Army and shot footage of the battle on the Western Front.”

Saïda a enlevé Manneken Pis
R: Alfred Machin. K: Jacques Bizeul. D: Nicolas Ambreville, Balthus, Arthur Devère. P: Belge Cinéma Film. Be 1913

“The 61 cm tall bronze statue on the corner of Rue de l’Etuve and Rue des Grands Carmes was made in 1619 by Brussels sculptor Hieronimus Duquesnoy the Elder, father of the more famous François Duquesnoy. The figure has been repeatedly stolen: the current statue dates from 1965. The original restored version is kept at the Maison du Roi/Broodhuis on the Grand Place.
There are several legends behind this statue, but the most famous is the one about Duke Godfrey III of Leuven. In 1142, the troops of this two-year-old lord were battling against the troops of the Berthouts, the Lords of Grimbergen, in Ransbeke (now Neder-Over-Heembeek). The troops put the infant lord in a basket and hung the basket in a tree to encourage them. From there, the boy urinated on the troops of the Berthouts, who eventually lost the battle.
Another legend states that in the 14th century, Brussels was under siege by a foreign power. The city had held its ground for some time, so the attackers conceived of a plan to place explosive charges at the city walls. A little boy named Julianske happened to be spying on them as they were preparing. He urinated on the burning fuse and thus saved the city. There was at the time (middle of the 15th century, perhaps as early as 1388) a similar statue made of stone. The statue was stolen several times.
Another story (told often to tourists) tells of a wealthy merchant who, during a visit to the city with his family, had his beloved young son go missing. The merchant hastily formed a search party that scoured all corners of the city until the boy was found happily urinating in a small garden. The merchant, as a gift of gratitude to the locals who helped out during the search, had the fountain built.”

>>>Machin’s M. Beulemeester, De medeminaars, and Le moulin maudit

Science Fiction from Denmark

Verdens undergang (The End of the World)
R: August Blom. B: Otto Rung. K: Louis Larsen. Ba: Axel Bruun. D: Olaf Fønss, Carl Lauritzen, Ebba Thomsen. P: Nordisk Film. Dk 1916
Engl. titles

“An astronomer discovers a new comet and calculates that it will enter the Earth’s atmosphere and cause widespread death and destruction. A financier suppresses the news in order to make a killing on the stock market, but even riches cannot protect him when the apocalypse comes. (…)
When the apocalypse arrives, it’s surprisingly well presented, considering the vintage of the film. There are some big crowd scenes, flames in the sky and falling rocks. This is all supposed to be ‘fire and brimstone’ of course, as the presence of a local preacher throughout proceedings has left little doubt that the hand of god has been guiding the meteor in its wayward course across the heavens. And as our sinful duo host a wild party to celebrate Armageddon, complete with a banquet and dancing girls, while the poor miners run through the streets, it doesn’t take a genius to know how things are going to turn out for all our protagonists.
Throughout the film there are a surprising number of exterior scenes, and these are well composed and handled. These serve to sidestep the stilted appearance of many silent movies of the period and lend an air of accessibility to a modern audience. The sanctimony and religious subtext is pretty overt but it’s not overly preachy and doesn’t detract from the proceedings in general.”
Mark David Welsh

384-August Blom  August Blom

>>> Atlantis: A Danish Shipwreck Melodrama on this site

Naming the Federal Capital of Australia

Naming the Federal Capital of Australia, March 12th 1913
R: Raymond Longford. K: Ernest Higgins. P: Spencer Pictures Ltd. AUS 1913
Print: The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA)

Duration of the circle pan shot at the end of the film: 3min 35sec.

“On the morning of Wednesday 12 March 1913, 500 invited guests, over 700 mounted and artillery troops and a public crowd of over 3000 locals came to witness the formal naming of Canberra. Foundation stones were laid by Governor-General Lord Thomas Denman, Prime Minister Andrew Fisher and the Minister for Home Affairs, King O’Malley. The national anthem was played and Lady Gertrude Denman announced the chosen name for the new-born federal capital. And so Canberra’s life officially began…
Directed by Raymond Longford and filmed by Ernest Higgins for Spencer Pictures Ltd, the film of the ceremony captures both the formality of the event and the bush character of Australia’s future capital (…). As part of the NFSA’s extensive collection of moving image works, it is among the early film images of Australia and allows us a glimpse into the cultural and social world of our country in 1913.
The recently completed digital restoration of the film highlights beautiful, clear images of finely dressed guests in Model T Fords, wagons, buggies and bicycles coming down from the Molonglo River to watch the ceremony. We see the grandstand erected for the official guests just below Capital Hill, facing north-east across the valley to Mt Ainslie; Lady Denman, elegant in an ostrich-plumed hat and pearls greeting guests; and the troops from the Australian Field Artillery, Light Horse and New South Wales Lancers.
The film ends with a dramatic panoramic sweep from Mt Pleasant taken the day after the ceremony. It starts roughly at Capital Hill, where both Parliament Houses now stand, moves east to west to Black Mountain and Mt Ainslie, before completing the circle with shots of Duntroon.”
Jennifer Coombes
National Film and Sound Archive

>>>  Raymond Longford and Lottie Lyell on this site


Capellani, Former Theater Director

La Fille du sonneur
R: Albert Capellani. B: André Heuzé. D: Gabriel Moreau, Renée Coge, Ransart. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1906

“From his very first film on – the memorable Le chemineau of 1905, based on an episode from Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Misérables’ – Albert Capellani transports the contents and qualities of bourgeois culture to the cinema. He films Zola, Hugo and Daudet – his Arlésienne of 1908 has unfortunately been lost [found again and restored 2016! KK]. His many fairy tale films (scène des contes), biblical and historical scenes reveal him as a great art director, who also adopted the latest developments in modern dance and worked with its stars Stacia Napierkowska and Mistinguiette. Highly versatile, he had an unerring sense of the best approach to a given genre.
Capellani had worked in the theater as a director and actor until Pathé recruited him in 1905. In a sense, he became a specialist in literary adaptations, especially after his appointment in 1908 as artistic director of S.C.A.G.L. Yet the films (…) include pure melodrama (such as Pauvre mère, “Poor mother,” 1906), crime-suspense films (L’Épouvante, “The Terror,” 1911), classic fairy-tales (Cendrillon, 1907), and historical/biblical costume pictures (Samson, 1908).
With his theatrical background, it is not surprising that Capellani was able to cast many old colleagues in his films, notably Henry Krauss, who played Quasimodo in Notre-Dame de Paris (1911) and Jean Valjean in Les Misérables (1912). Wherever his actors came from, however, Capellani was a master at directing performances. In many cases the acting makes characters who would seem completely conventional figures in most films of the day into people with whom the audience can empathize.”
Kristin Thompson
David Bordwell’s Observations on Film Art

Capellani in Paris:
The Ciné-Tourist

>>> Capellani: Two Deadly Romances

Police Action, Futuristic

La police en l’an 2000
D: Eugène Bréon, Clément Mégé, Marcel Perez. P: Société des Etablissements L. Gaumont. Fr 1910
Print: Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin

“Huge advances had been made in trick film techniques such as double exposures, mattes, split-screen, stop tricks, stop-motion and black screen photography. However, none of these special effects are on display in Police in the Year 2000, instead the film uses only practical effects, and these are also limited to sets and props. The only exception is the binocular vignette laid atop the image when the police officers are scouting for wrong-doers. Interestingly enough, it is a binocular vignette, even though the police uses monocular telescopes.
On the other hand: the movie is aptly filmed, uses rather modern continuity editing and is professionally designed. It feels roomy although it is almost completely studio-bound. The grapplers are cool, and it isn’t perfectly obvious how the criminals are actually lifted off the ground, even if one suspects some kind of wirework is involved. Most of the lifting is, however, done partially off-screen and we seldom (ever?) see entire people flying in the air, supported only by the grapplers. In fact in one scene it is clear that the two purse-snatchers climb up some sort of ladder or construction just out of frame. But the effect is neat, nonetheless. The airships (that we never see in full) are also fairly well designed. They certainly look a lot sturdier than the flimsy little things that did such a good job of invading England in Walter R. Booth’s 1909 movie The Airship Destroyer. They also move past the frame even when there are visible actors in them, as opposed to Booth’s ditto. And at no point is the dirigible replaced by a cardboard cutout (hello again, Booth).”
Janne Wass
scifist 2.0

Cinema and Mass Ideology

An American in the Making
R: Carl Gregory. K: Carl Gregory. D: Harry Benham, Ethyle Cooke, Leland Benham. P: Thanhouser Film Corporation. USA 1913

From Thanhouser’s Narrative History:
An American in the Making, released on April 22nd, saw Harry Benham in the role of an immigrant from Poland. The origin of the film was told by Charles J. Hite:
About a year ago the United States Steel Corporation came to us and requested us to prepare a story in moving picture form, with the idea of circulating the same through our theatres, which would show the human side of this great company. They wanted to convey to the public in general that they had a heart; that they were interested in the education, health and safety of their employees. (…)
Whether Thanhouser’s immigrant was from Poland or from somewhere else was hard to determine by reading press clippings about the film. An article in ‘The Chicago Examiner’ suggested an entirely different national origin: ‘In the movie the young Frenchman of noble family comes to America and starts a new career in the Gary mills.’ ‘The Motion Picture World’ told its readers: “The story deals with a young Hungarian emigrant….”
The theme of success in America was not unique to Thanhouser films, and in an era in which Ellis Island served as the turnstile for countless Europeans seeking a better life in the United States, other film makers were quick to capitalize on the subject. For example, Solax’s Making an American Citizen, released on October 30, 1912, dramatized the arrival of a newly-arrived immigrant in New York City and the difficulty he had at first in adapting to life on this side of the Atlantic.”

“The film’s message is clear: the company protects those who cannot protect themselves and offers prosperity to those who follow it’s guidelines. Employers and state authorities are constantly concerned with the welfare of workers, both inside and outside the workplace. Workers, on the other hand, are childlike and dependent and show no initiative. Only through faithful obedience to external authority, rather than internally generated organizations like unions can success – shown here as a good job, pretty wife, large home, and happy family – be achieved. (…)
By the second decade of the new century, movies were entrenched as the nation’s most popular form of commercial entertainment and one of the most powerful weapons of mass ideology. Reformers, big business, and government agencies understood this and used the new medium to promote their interests.”
Steven J. Ross: Working-class Hollywood: Silent Film and the Shaping of Class in America. Princeton University Press 1998, p. 85

>>> Making an American Citizen  on this site

Theodore Roosevelt’s First Flight

Colonel Roosevelt is invited to fly in Arch Hoxsey’s plane at St. Louis, Mo., 1910
No credits. USA 1910
Location: Kinloch, Lambert Field, Missouri, US
Print: Theodore Roosevelt Association Collection (Library of Congress)

“While participating in the Missouri State Republican Party’s campaign on October 11, 1910, TR is invited to fly in a biplane with Arch Hoxsey as pilot. Accompanied by Herbert S. Hadley, Governor of Missouri (1909-1913) and two men who appear to be Henry W. Kiel, Mayor of St. Louis, and Sheriff Louis Nolte, TR arrives in motorcade at Kinloch aviation field; man, who appears to be Hoxsey, inspects plane; medium shot of TR as he enters passenger seat of biplane; long shot of plane flying; TR alights from plane, joins waiting crowd, enters automobile and drives away in motorcade.”
Library of Congress

“ST. LOUIS, Oct. 12, 1910 (UP) – Col. Roosevelt defied death late yesterday when he went up in an aeroplane with Aviator Arch Hoxsey. More than 10,000 persons breathlessly watched the flight, fearing the colonel’s daring on the spur of the moment might mean his death or injury.
After two laps around the aviation field, Hoxsey brought the machine gracefully to ground, having flown nearly three miles in three minutes and twenty seconds.
‘It was fine. Fine!’ ejaculated the ex-president, as he crawled from the narrow seat through the network of wires.”

>>> Edwin S. Porter’s film Teddy

More Immigrants Stories

Emigrants [i.e. immigrants] landing at Ellis Island
R/K: Alfred C. Abadie (Alfred Camille). P: Thomas A. Edison, Inc. USA 1903
Location: Ellis Island, New York
Print: Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)

“Ellis Island was the gateway to American life for millions of immigrants from 1892 to 1954. This film, shot by prolific filmmaker, writer, producer, and director Alfred C. Abadie, was a production of Thomas A. Edison’s Edison Manufacturing Company. It was listed in a contemporary company catalog under the title ‘Emigrants Landing at Ellis Island’ with the description: ‘Shows a large open barge loaded with people of every nationality, who have just arrived from Europe, disembarking at Ellis Island, N.Y.’ The film opens with a view of the ferryboat William Myers, laden with passengers, approaching the immigration station. The vessel is docked, the gangway is placed, and the passengers are seen coming up the gangway. The film does not show the next stage of the immigration process facing the new arrivals. Entrants were interrogated–often by officials who could not speak their language–and given medical examinations. Many were quarantined or denied entrance after being labeled as diseased or ‘likely to become a public charge.'”
World Digital Library

Move On
R/K: Alfred C. Abadie (Alfred Camille). P: Thomas A. Edison, Inc. USA 1903
Location: Lower East Side, New York
Print: Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)

From a contemporary Edison film company catalog:
“MOVE ON. In certain sections of New York City large numbers of Jewish and Italian push-cart vendors congregate so closely along the sidewalks that they interfere with traffic. Policemen keep them moving. The picture shows how the frightened peddlers hurry away when a bluecoat appears. Some of the carts are piled high with fruits of all kinds, and it is interesting and amusing to see the expressions of combined fear and anxiety on the faces of the men as they hurry away; the fear of being arrested if they stand, and of losing some of their wares if the carts strike an obstruction in the street. Very fine photographically.”
Library of Congress

“In the National Film Preservation Foundation’s notes on this Edison short, which depicts a policeman driving away pushcart fruit vendors on the streets of Manhattan, Scott Simmon writes, ‘As with many early actualities, it is difficult to say how much of Move On is document and how much was staged for the camera—probably a little of both.’ Certainly the policeman comes across as a bit self-conscious and stiff, but apart from that, the film — in spite of its simple subject and brief runtime — offers a vivid glimpse of everyday life in New York during that time period.”
Cinematic Scribblings

Alfred C. Abadie
“A New York City native, Abadie began as camera assistant to James H. White at the Edison Studio around 1898. In 1903, Edison sent Abadie to Europe, the Middle East and North Africa to make actuality films, possibly as an attempt to keep up with similar subjects popularized by the Lumières. Abadie returned to the United States and kept making similar films for Edison through at least 1904. After leaving Edison, Abadie continued to work as a freelance filmmaker and photographer, making educational and industrial films, including Birth (1917), the first film of the birth of a baby.”

Intensely Patriotic

Martyrs of the Alamo
R: Christy Cabanne. B: Christy Cabanne, Theodosia Harris (novel). K: William Fildew. D: Sam De Grasse, Allan Sears, Walter Long, Alfred Paget, Fred Burns. P: Fine Arts Film Company. Supervisor: David W. Griffith. USA 1915

Christy Cabanne (1888–1950), after Annapolis and the US Navy, became a stage actor and writer, then entered films as assistant to DW Griffith. He wrote and directed movies from the famous Life of Villa in 1912 up till a forgettable Western, Silver Trails, in 1948. He wrote and/or directed twenty Westerns in all (this 1915 one was already his eleventh), of which this one and his 1937 The Outcasts of Poker Flat (the Preston Foster/Van Heflin one) were probably his most famous and best. In later years he was reduced to Poverty Row B movies but he contributed importantly to the history of the genre.
Martyrs of the Alamo’s sub-title, ‘The Birth of Texas’, makes explicit reference to The Birth of a Nation. The treatment is intensely patriotic, appropriately for 1915, and much play is made of the American flag. The opening titles tell us that “Liberty-loving Americans who had built up the Texas colony were denied their rights.” So it’s pretty clear where we stand. The Mexicans, apart from assailing the virtue of American women and being free with alcohol, are Roman Catholics who cross themselves before going into battle. Of course they are also cowardly and flee before the blazing guns of the defenders.
The main hero, though, and with top billing, is Silent Smith (Sam De Grasse), scout and fearless fighter, who has fallen for an old soldier’s daughter (Juanita Hansen). He is sent by Travis to get reinforcements from Houston. It was lucky, in the pre-talkie days, that Silent could be so taciturn. Canadian De Grasse was one of the most famous villains of the silent era and Douglas Fairbanks (who is in the credits for this film as a Texas soldier but it’s difficult to spot him) used him all the time as the bad guy. But here he is the good guy.”
Jeff Arnold’s West

“The story of Texas’s independence from Mexico may have had a special resonance for audiences at the time, since the Mexican Revolution had been raging for years, and would continue to rage for several more. American moviegoers also saw varied depictions of that war as it proceeded, but doubtless they also looked to the past for answers as to where the United States stood in relation to its Southern neighbor.
What they saw here no doubt confirmed their strongest prejudices. The ‘Americans’ are a minority of fur-capped white folks (with one blackface servant), who are stoic in the face of constant harassment by sombrero-clad ‘Mexicans’ and soldiers dressed like wooden-toy-soldier equivalents of Napoleon’s troops. Santa Ana (played by Walter Long, who was the infamous ‘Gus’ in The Birth of a Nation and was a policeman in Traffic in Souls), an ‘inveterate drug user’ given to ‘orgies’ is a memorable villain – apparently the troops’ insults to white womanhood originate at his level. The ‘good’ guys include Jim Bowie (Alfred Paget, who had been in The Unchanging Sea and In the Border States), who appears here to be a fop with a habit of constantly fondling his knife, a very tall Captain Dickinson (Fred Burns, who would later star in Westerns like The Dude Bandit and Wild West), and Silent Smith (Sam de Grasse, who went on to be in The Man Who Laughs and The Black Pirate). The flower of white womanhood is represented by Juanita Hansen (who ironically had problems with drugs and was also in The Secret of the Submarine) and Ora Carew (who had been ‘Dolores’ in In Old Mexico and ‘The Gypsy Girl’ in Tangled Paths). The revolt breaks out, apparently, because Dickinson’s wife is insulted, so he shoots down the officer who spoke to her in cold blood, and the Mexicans have the audacity to arrest him. Under the short-lived new regime, whiteness is spared from insults because all the Mexicans remove their sombreros and stand respectfully out of the way when Americans walk past. Never mind that this was the ‘cruel yoke of oppression’ when applied to whites in the Reconstruction South in Birth of a Nation.”
Century Film Project

>>> The Birth of a Nation on this site