Clay Animation

The Sculptor’s Nightmare
R: Wallace McCutcheon. K: G.W. Bitzer. D: Mack Sennett, Harry L. Solter, Tony O’Sullivan, Edward Dillon, David Wark Griffith. P: American Mutoscope and Biograph Company. USA 1908
Print: Library of Congress (Paper Print Collection)

“At a political club, the members debate whose bust will replace that of Theodore Roosevelt. Unable to agree, each goes to a sculptor’s studio and bribes him to sculpt a bust of the individual favorite. Instead, the sculptor spends their fees on a dinner with his model during which he becomes so inebriated that he is taken to jail. There he has a nightmare, wherein three busts are created and animated from clay (through stop-motion photography) in the likenesses of Democrat William Jennings Bryan and Republicans Charles W. Fairbanks and William Howard Taft. Finally an animated bust of Roosevelt appears.”
Library of Congress

“Clay animation is a technique of making clay characters and using stop motion animation to make the clay come to life and have movement in the film. Claymation has been used for many years and it seems to be used less and less in today’s society with the advances in CGI (Computer Generated Imagery). Claymation has had a long history and has made some major successes in its years of being in use. The first clay animation film was made in 1908 by Thomas Edison. This film was called The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend*, this was known as a trick film that used some claymation throughout. Another early clay animation film was called the The Sculptor’s Nightmare which was also released in 1908. Claymation started becoming more and more popular and by the time 1916 came along it was everywhere. Willie Hopkins and Helena Smith Dayton produced a lot of different clay animation films in the early 1916’s. The first feature length clay animation film was called I go Pogo and it was directed by Marc Paul Chinoy in 1980.”
Kim Cullian

* produced in 1906 by E.S. Porter!

Clay animation by Walter R. Booth:

Animated Putty
R: Walter R. Booth. P: Kineto Films. UK 1911

“Ancient ancestors of Wallace, Gromit and Morph abound in this trick film filled with malleable magic. Walter Booth made a number of films that began to explore the potential of stop-motion to bring cut-outs, string, and here clay to life. Many of these scenes are also filmed backwards adding to the uncanny effect, with the devilish, gargoyle faces towards the end of the film being particularly delightful.”

>>> The Obsessions of Walter R. Booth

The Female Status as Image

How Men Propose
R: Lois Weber. B: Lois Weber. D: Chester Barnett, Grace Darling, Phillips Smalley. P: Crystal Film Company. USA 1913

How Men Propose (1913) is a particularly imaginative rendition of the narrative implications of resistance to the equation between woman and image of the male look. (…) How Men Propose offers one of the most interesting forms of female ‘primitive’ narration, since in this film the woman actually responds to her status as image.”
Judith Mayne: The Woman at the Keyhole: Feminism and Women’s Cinema. Indiana University Press 1990, p. 174

>>> Lois Weber and her films Suspense, Hypocrites. The Price, Where Are My Children

Caserini’s Parsifal, 1912

R: Mario Caserini. B: Alberto A. Capozzi. K: Angelo Scalenghe. Ba: Arrigo Frusta. D: Dario Silvestri, Mario Bonnard, Mary Cléo Tarlarini, Maria Caserini Gasparini, Antonio Grisanti. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1912
Print: EYE Amsterdam
Dutch titles

“In 1904, Edwin S. Porter directed Parsifal, a twenty-five-minute silent screened in New York City. It consists of eight scenes from the opera, including ‘Magic Garden’ and ‘Return of Parsifal’. Other early silent films associated with Wagner‘s work include Franz Porten‘s Lohengrin (1907), in which the director played the title role and his daughter played Elsa; Pathé’s Tristan et Yseult (1909), directed by Albert Capellani; Ugo Falena‘s Tristano e Isotta (1911), which starred Francesca Bertini, one of the most celebrated film stars; and Mario Caserini‘s Parsifal (1912) and Sigfrido (1912). (…) In 1921, Max Reinhardt produced another Wagner silent film, Parzifal, a ‘Kinoweihfestfilm’ (a festival film for the consecration of a screen), a sarcastic challenge to the sacred status of Wagner’s ‘Parsifal’, which he called ‘ein Bühnenweihfestspiel’ (a festival play for the consecration of a stage).”
Jeongwon Joe, Sander L. Gilman: Wagner and Cinema. Indiana University Press 2010. Introduction by Jeongwon Joe, p. 4

>>> Caserini’s Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei: Blockbusters from Italy

Émile Cohl: Dreams and Nightmares

Un drame chez les fantoches
R: Émile Cohl. P: Gaumont. Fr 1908

Le cauchemar de fantoche
R: Émile Cohl. P: Gaumont. Fr 1908

Clair de lune Espagnol
R: Émile Cohl. P: Gaumont. Fr 1909

Le mobilier fidèle
R: Émile Cohl. P: Gaumont. Fr 1910

“He was the world’s first filmaker to devote himself exclusively to animation. In 1908 he amazed Paris movie audiences with his first film, Fantasmagorie, in which white stick figures cavorted against a black background. He went on to create some 100 brief cartoons, drawing and photographing each frame himself. Cohl introduced the first regular cartoon character, ‘Fantoche’, a little puppet who appeared in several of his films, and the first cartoon series, The Newlyweds and Their Baby (1912 to 1913). He also developed an animation trick he called ‘metamorphosis’, achieved through skillful use of line, in which a character or object seamlessly transforms into another. (Now known as ‘morphing’, Cohl’s idea is a staple effect of computer-generated imagery, in both animated and live-action films). Though rudimentary, Cohl’s surviving work still has the power to charm and amuse. Among his other films are The Puppet’s Nightmare (Le cauchemar de fantoche, 1908), The Moon-Struck Matador (1909), The Wonderful Adventures of Herr Munchausen (1910), and The Museum of Grotesques (1911).”
Bobb Edwards
Find a Grave

>>>  Émile Cohl, Master of Animation

A Dutch Chase Film

De mésaventure van een Fransch heertje zonder pantalon aan het strand te Zandvoort
R: Bernard (Albert) Mullens, Willy Mullens. K: Bernard (Albert) Mullens. D: Willy Mullens. P: Alberts Frères. NL 1905

“This short is among the oldest surviving Dutch fiction films.
In July 1905 several Dutch newspapers reported on a man who pulled off his trousers on a public beach at Zandvoort. Front page news, according to these newspapers. However, some of these newspapers forgot to mention that this unscrupulous incident was part of the production of this classic chase film.”

Another Mullens film:

Het Vogeltje
R: Bernard (Albert) Mullens. D: Anton Roemer. P: Alberts Frères Amsterdam. NL 1912

“In the press the performances of Alberts Frères were praised often because of the quiet projection, the variety of offerings in drama and comedy, their colour films and musical accompaniment, the explanations and lectures of Willy Mullens and finally cosiness and atmosphere of their theatre spaces. Also specific genres of film such as the coloured spectacles, auto races, nature films and actualities like The Zeppelin, are mentioned. Alberts Frères thus offered a total experience, an event, with films at the heart of that event.”
Kaveh Askari, Scott Curtis, Frank Gray, Louis Pelletier, Tami Williams, Joshua Yumibe (ed.): Performing New Media, 1890-1915. Indiana University Press 2014, p. 120

Further Reading:
Ivo Blom: Jean Desmet and the Early Dutch Film Trade. Amsterdam University Press 2000

>>> Chase Films

A Sensational Melodrama

Padre (Frgm.)
R: Gino Zaccaria, Dante Testa. K: Giovanni Tomatis. Special effects: Segundo de Chomón. D: Ermete Zacconi, Lydia Quaranta, Dante Testa, Giovanni Casaleggio, Febo Mari, Signor Ravel, Valentina Frascaroli. P: Itala Film, Torino. It 1912
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema / EYE (Desmet Collection)
Dutch titles

“An ordinary tale of wronged imprisonment that is partly redeemed by the fact that it chooses not to follow the usual path of the protagonist seeking revenge for wrongs suffered, and greatly enhanced by an impressively staged climactic blaze and rescue from a collapsing staircase which is (as far as I’m aware) quite unlike anything filmed up to that point.”
Richard Cross

“L’industriale Evaristo Marni, invidioso del successo di un suo concorrente, Andrea Vivanti, istiga un operaio ubriacone, Tonio, ad appiccare il fuoco allo stabilimento di Andrea. Questi, che pochi giorni prima aveva contratto un’ingente assicurazione per il suo opificio, è accusato di incendio doloso e condannato all’ergastolo. Il disgraziato lascia sola al mondo una bambina, che Evaristo accoglie in casa propria per placare la voce della coscienza.
Tredici anni dopo, Andrea riesce a evadere dalla prigione e sotto le spoglie di un cenciaiolo fa ritorno alla città natale. Frequentando l’osteria dei ‘Due Bicchieri’ fa conoscenza di Tonio, ed è grazie a lui che Andrea scopre la verità sulla sua disgrazia. Andrea si reca subito da Evaristo per vendicarsi, ma vedendo come Roberto, unico figlio di Evaristo, stringe affettuosamente a sé la figlia del condannato, la sua ira si placa. Andrea rinuncia alla vendetta e decide di ripartire. Intanto Tonio, credendo di essere stato preso in giro dal suo complice Evaristo, per vendicarsi appicca il fuoco alla villa. L’incendio notturno fa ritornare Andrea alla villa: qui incontra finalmente sua figlia Lidia, che non riconoscendolo, lo implora di salvare colui che crede suo padre. Riesce a salvare il suo rivale, che però morirà qualche ora dopo, confessando, sul letto di morte, la propria colpa.”

Chomón‘s skill in trick photography and special effects soon became visible in Itala films such as the sensational melodrama, Padre (Father). This film also was praised for the dramatic acting of the famous theater actor Ermete Zacconi, leading to other vehicles for Zacconi such as Lo Scomparso (The Dread of Doom) (1913) and L’Emigrante (The Emigrant) (1915).”
Richard Abel: Encyclopedia of Early Cinema. Taylor & Francis 2005, p. 333

>>> Segundo de Chomón

R: Febo Mari. K: Natale Chiusano, Segundo De Chomón. D: Ermete Zacconi, Valentina Frascaroli, Enrichetta Sabbatini, Felice Minotti, Amerigo Manzini, Lucia Cisello. P: Itala Film, Torino. It 1915
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema
Ital. titles

Ermete Zacconi (14 September 1857, Montecchio Emilia, Province of Reggio Emilia – 14 October 1948 in Viareggio) was an Italian stage and film actor and a representative of naturalism and verism in acting. His leading ladies on stage were his wife Ines Cristina Bagni and Paola Pezzaglia.He had lead roles in plays by William Shakespeare, Carlo Goldoni, Alfred de Musset, Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg. He also performed in films. His most notable film roles include L’emigrante (1915), Summer Rain (1937), Processo e morte di Socrate (1939), and Le Comte de Monte Cristo (1943).”

Wetzlar, Germany 1914

R: Oskar Barnack. D 1914
Print: Deutsches Filminstitut-DIF

“Dokumentation der Internationalen Regatta des Frankfurter Regatta-Vereins e.V. am 31.5./1.6. 1914 am Deutschherrnkai in Frankfurt am Main. (…) Seit den 1910er Jahren hat Oskar Barnack, der Erfinder der Leica, mit seiner selbstkonstruierten Filmkamera Geschehnisse rund um Wetzlar im Bild festgehalten. Er dokumentierte Flutkatastrophen, Stadtfeste, medizinische Experimente, Sportereignisse und die Firma bei der er als Chefkonstrukteur beschäftigt war: die Optischen Werke Ernst Leitz in Wetzlar.”

Wetzlarer Wintersport an der Brühlsbachwarte
R: Oskar Barnack. D 1914
Print: Deutsches Filminstitut-DIF

Kreis-Tierschaufest (Ochsenfest) in Wetzlar
R: Oskar Barnack. D 1914
Print: Deutsches Filminstitut-DIF

“A documentary on a festival in Wetzlar. Carriages representing the seasons of a farmers life drive by. Footage of the Domplatz and Kornmarkt in Wetzlar. Further carriages: traditional dresses from Wittenberg and the carriage of the Union Club, a society that was famous for its choir, which still exists today. Animals are lined-up for the award ceremony on Finsterloh festival square, near Büblinghausen. They are judged by a jury visible in the background. On the stand: the contemporary haute volée of Wetzlar.”
Filmarchives Online

>>> Germany 1903

Capellani in Holland

L’absent (De afwezige)
R: Albert Capellani. B: George Mitchell (play). D: Henri Étiévant, Henri Rollan, Jeanne Grumbach, Germaine Dermoz. P: Pathé Frères – SCAGL/Hollandsche Film. Fr/Ne 1913
Without titles
Print: EYE

“Dries, a farmer and a widower, lives with his mother-in-law G rietje and his son Peter. He falls in love with Minna, a widow, and marries her despite the opposition of his family and friends. In anger his son Peter leaves home to enlist, while Grietje takes up her residence in another cottage.
Six years pass, during which Grietje becomes acquainted with Minna’s daughter Dina and starts to mediate between the families. Peter falls ill in Sumatra, but after seeing Dina’s picture he recovers and is drafted home again to Holland. He meets Dina and the two find that they truly love one another. Minna now sets herself to bring about general reunion, and this she eventually succeeds in doing.”
eye film

Henri Rollan, real name Henri Martine, was born in Paris on 23 March 1888. In 1906 he started his acting career with the great André Antoine at the Theatre de l’Odeon, where he would remain until 1909, playing in classics such as Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. In 1910 Rollan debuted in film, perhaps attracted by previous film contributions by renowned stage actors such as Charles Le Bargy. His first film was probably the Film d’Art production L’Héritière (1910), directed by Henri Pouctal and André Calmettes and starring Paul Mounet of the Comédie française. In the same year Rollan played in the Pathé film L’Amour et le temps (Michel Carré 1910), a mythological tale starring young Raymonde Dupré as Cupid and thespian Henry Krauss as grumpy old Father Time. Several more Pathé films followed, such as L’Absent (Albert Capellani 1913), in which Henri Étievant played the lead as a Dutch farmer whose son and mother-in-law (Jeanne Grumbach) refuse his second wife (Germaine Dermoz) and her daughter.”
European Film Star Postcards

>>>  Capellani 1906Capellani, Former Theater DirectorCapellani: Two Deadly RomancesGerminal

A Lesbian Hero, Italy 1915

R: Mario Roncoroni. B: Giovanni Bertinetti. K: Luigi Fiorio. D: Mario Mariani, Cristina Ruspoli*, Giovanni Spano, Filippo Vallino. P: Corona Film. It 1915

* Silent’s please! names Valeria Creti instead of Cristina Ruspoli playing the role of Filibus.

“Created during a time when heroic thieves were common in European popular culture, Filibus (the first of thirty films directed by actor Mario Roncoroni) featured as a protagonist a roguish female modeled on Ponson du Terail‘s anti-hero ‘Rocambole’. The Baroness Troixmonde is a respectable member of society, but in the guise of ‘Filibus’ she terrorizes Sicily from her zeppelin, which is full of technologically-advanced equipment and weaponry. The zeppelin is manned by a staff of mask-wearing, black-skin-suit-clad male assistants who obey the Baroness’ commands instantly. The zeppelin is her headquarters and her home, and she descends to land only to rob or to hobnob with the socialites and dance with women as the tuxedo-wearing dandy Count de la Brieve. By contrast, Marlene Dietrich‘s famous cross-dressing scene in Morocco did not take place until 1930; the Baroness precedes Dietrich as a lesbian hero, and arguably the first in cinema, by over a decade. At the end of Filibus she eludes her enemy, Detective Hardy and flies off into the sunset.”
Jess Nevins

“Rocambole is a fictional adventurer created by Pierre Alexis Ponson du Terrail, a 19th-century French writer. The word rocambolesque has become common in French and other languages to label any kind of fantastic adventure.”

New York Stories, about 1900

At the foot of the Flatiron
K: A.E. Weed. P: American Mutoscope and Biograph Company. USA 1903
Print: Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)

“This street level view is of the Broadway side of the Flatiron, or Fuller Building, near the narrow north corner. Filmed on a very windy day, pedestrians of various descriptions are seen passing by the camera, clutching hats and skirts against the wind. According to some New York City historians, this corner was known as the windiest corner of the city, and in the era of the long skirt, standing on it was considered a good vantage point for a glimpse of a lady’s ankle. Policemen would chase away such loungers from the 23rd Street corner, giving rise to the expression ‘twenty-three skidoo.'”
Library of Congress

“But outside of a few slapstick moments – a man’s hat flies from his head off screen, and a woman’s skirt blows dangerously high –  the moving people, seemingly propelled by the wind, are no more than moving objects. This film is a cacophony of visual images, drawing the viewer’s attention to lines and angles more than the specifity of human form.”
Eric Gordon: The Urban Spectator: American Concept Cities from Kodak to Google. UPNE 2010, p. 69

Guido Covents, Domitor: International Society for the Study of Early Cinema, Facebook, August 2021:
“It is fascinating watching a simple ‘street view’ with people passing by, people with their live and stories – the filming makes them very present and even makes one curious who they were – a fraction of live – a glance of eternity, something what made and makes cinema and recordings of images so attractive.”

>>> more films by A.E. Weed on this site: The Suburbanite, Subject for the Rogue’s Gallery, From Show Girl to Burlesque Queen

What happened on Twenty-third Street, New York City
R: George S. Fleming, Edwin S. Porter. D: A.C. Abadie, Florence Georgie. P: Edison Manufacturing Company. USA 1901
Print: Library of Congress

“In What Happened on Twenty-Third Street, New York City (Edison, 1901), a woman in a light ankle-length dress passes over a subway grate during a stroll down the city sidewalk; predictably, a burst of air blows her skirt up around her knees. This little film is unusual because it starts out as a bit of actuality footage: it’s shot on location, where passing pedestrians glance occasionally at the camera. Oddly, when her bit is finished, the young woman — an actress — also casts an ambiguous look at the camera. According to the Edison catalogue, the spectacle of her predicament occurs ‘greatly to her horror and much to the amusement of the newsboys, bootblacks, and passersby,’ but her glance at the camera not only imposes a certain distance between the actress and her character but suggests some level of collusion between her and the audience.”
Cinematheque Froncaise

“This 1901 short, shot from the Thomas Edison company is quite literally titled. It was filmed on 23rd street and 6th avenue (There’s a Best Buy on that corner today) and shows a simple street scene, but with one bit of staged action acting as a sort of punchline to the film.
Apart from the man and the woman who walk toward the camera and across the grate, it’s obvious that everyone else are just ordinary pedestrians. You can see many of them openly staring at the camera as they pass and some of them change direction so suddenly that you have to wonder if they were told to move out of the way by the director.
The finale of the film, when the actress’s skirt is blown up (almost to her knees!), seems silly and mild today, but was quite risque for the time. Only a year after this movie was filmed and the Flatiron building was completed (also on 23rd street), legend has it that men and boys would loiter around the base of the building (where due to its unique shape, strong winds were generated) in the hopes of catching a glimpse of a young woman’s shapely ankle. Police officers of the time would tell the men to, ‘Skiddoo’, thus creating the popular phrase of the time, ’23 Skiddoo’.”
Scott Nash
Three Movie Buffs

“Skidoo is a virtual ghost town located in Death Valley National Park. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. (…) The name Skidoo comes from the expression 23 skidoo, a slang expression of the time, for which various origins have been suggested.”

A Street Arab
P: Thomas A. Edison, Inc. USA 1898
Location: New York, N.Y.
Print: Library of Congress (Paper Print Collection)

Arab (n.)
late 14c. (Arabes, a plural form), from Old French Arabi, from Latin Arabs (accusative Arabem), from Greek Araps (genitive Arabos), from Arabic ‘arab, indigenous name of the people, perhaps literally “inhabitant of the desert” and related to Hebrew arabha “desert.” Meaning “homeless little wanderer, child of the street” is from 1848 (originally Arab of the city), in reference to nomadic ways. Arab League formed in Cairo, March 22, 1945.”

>>> Modern New York