R: Unknown. D: Glen White, Sadie Weston. P: Gem Motion Picture Company. USA 1913
Print: EYE (Jean Desmet Collection)
“Almost from the very outset motion picture producers found a lucerative niche producing films with an anti-alcohol message. The 1902 film Les victimes de l’alcoolisme was the first attempt by the newly formed Pathé company to exploit the burgeoning demand for anti-absinthe and anti-alcohol propaganda. Les Victimes de l’alcool (1911), a far more sophisticated film, was enthusiastically promoted by the temperance movement and was a huge success for Pathé. Absinthe (1913) is the only surviving U.S.-made absinthe related motion picture from the pre-ban era, featuring one of the very few filmed versions of absinthe being prepared and consumed.”
R: David W. Griffith. B: Dell Henderson. K: G.W. Bitzer. D: W. Chrystie Miller, Joseph Graybill, Stephanie Longfellow, Edward Dillon, Alfred Paget. P: Biograph Company. USA 1910
“At one time the Biograph Company had quite a reputation for sermons. Here is one which has much of the original flavor, representing a young man disobeying the wishes of his father, a minister, to become a preacher; sinking lower and lower until just as his father dies he kills a man in a saloon brawl, and but for the plea of a sister would have been taken to prison, even as his father died. Whatever may be thought of this type of picture individually, the power it exerts upon an audience cannot be questioned. Like the horrible examples graphically shown in the goody-goody Sunday school books these films possess a fascination which cannot be denied, yet perhaps few would care to acknowledge its influence. The dramatic attractiveness in this particular instance consists in reproducing a domestic scene, unhappily too common, in some of its aspects at least, in such a way that the events seem to be transpiring before the audience. It is a graphic and impressive illustration of the commandment to honor, which means obey, one’s parents.”
The Moving Picture World, December 31, 1910
Making An American Citizen
R: Alice Guy. D: Lee Beggs, Blanche Cornwall. P: Solax Film Company. USA 1912 (Frgm.)
“Making an American Citizen was produced and released by Solax. The film was aimed at the immigrant working class audiences who were going to the movies at the time. Very few middle class people went to the movies on a regular basis. Being part of the progressive era, Guy-Blaché was interested in changing the attitude toward women, which is very evident in the film. (…)
Upon his arrival in America, Ivan’s wife grows tired from carrying all the luggage, and collapses on the dock. With the Statue of Liberty looming in the distance, Ivan is delivered his first of many rude awakenings when a well-dressed American boldly approaches him. The American informs Ivan that, in America, the men don’t treat their women like slaves, and he must change his behavior if he’d like to truly assimilate into the American way of life. The American man is depicted as a refined representative of the time-honored genteel tradition the United States holds so dear. (…)
Despite the film’s shortcomings, it is a masterpiece of American cinema and storytelling, largely due to Alice Guy-Blaché. Despite the fact that she is often overshadowed by such male peers as Thomas Edison, Edwin S. Porter, the Lumiere Brothers, and D.W. Griffith, Guy-Blaché was an incredible pioneer in the film industry.”
“The film exemplifies and instructs the viewer in the making and performing of whiteness. Because of his ethnicity, Ivan Orloff (Lee Beggs), the ethnic type, is viewed as a bearer of social illness, improper behavior, and an offense to proper white American behavior. Interesting enough, Blaché (i.e. Alice Guy. KK) codes proper white behavior through a feminist lens. But her feminism is decidedly problematic in terms of race. In America becoming a good white husband entails relearning every day peformance and performing American whiteness. Performing whiteness properly is the main lesson learned by the immigrant couple.”
Gwendolyn Audrey Foster: Performimg Whiteness: Postmodern Re/constructions in the Cinema. New York 2003, p. 54
TRAUM UND EXZESS, S. 350 f.
Wiesbaden im Film
No credits. D 1914
Print: Deutsches Filminstitut – DIF
Archive title. Fragment. Filmed in Wiesbaden city. First released on the occassion of the Thalia Theatre cinema’s opening in Wiesbaden’s Kirchgasse 72 (Church Alley 72) on January 31st 1914.
“Der Film zeigt Aufnahmen der Stadt Wiesbaden. Er wurde zur Eröffnung des Thalia-Theaters am 31.1.1914 erstmals öffentlich aufgeführt. Von den ursprünglich 5 Episoden des Films (Das Thalia-Theater vor der Eröffnung / Ein Sonntagsbummel auf der ‘Wimmelstrasse’ / Von der Kirchgasse zum Kochbrunnen / Unsere Feuerwehr / Eine Rundfahrt durch Wiesbaden) ist heute nur noch ein Fragment erhalten.”
“Der Architekt Reinhard Hildner, der auch Teilhaber war, entwarf das Haus mit Foyer und Garderobe, Platz für Orchester und großer Leinwand und fügte den Bau in eine schwierige L-förmige Baulücke ein. ‘Ein wahres Schmuckkästchen, anheimelnd, stimmungsvoll, intim. Der Farbakkord ist auf Grün und Lila abgestimmt. Grün ist der Grundton der Wandflächen, die antikisierende Darstellungen in römischer Manier zeigen, kräftig Lila, fast heliotropfarben der in schweren aber weichen Falten hernieder hängende Vorhang der Bühne’, schreibt die Zeitung.
Zwar gab es in Wiesbaden schon seit 1907 verschiedene Örtlichkeiten, in denen auch Filme gezeigt wurden, aber das hier war neu – diesen Standard bot niemand: Das Filmtheater hatte ein Foyer, Garderoben (nicht ganz unwichtig bei der Damenhutmode in 1914), vor der Vorstellung wurde Varieté oder eine Dichterlesung geboten.
Das Orchester umfasste Pauke, Geigen, Cello, Piano, Harmonium – acht Musiker samt Kapellmeister intonierten die Stummfilme. 500 Personen hatten Sitzplätze im Thalia: Ganz vorn gab es eine einfache Holzbestuhlung, dann folgten die gepolsterten Reihen und hinten gab es gar gemütliche Sofas. Auf den billigsten Plätzen kostete ein Billet 10 Pfennig, ganz hinten, wo das Bild weniger flimmerte, kostete der Sitzplatz schon 50 Pfennig.”
Als ich tot war
R: Ernst Lubitsch. D: Ernst Lubitsch, Luise Scheurich, Helene Voss, Julius Falkenstein. M: Sabrina Hausmann / Aljoscha Zimmermann. P: Projektions-AG Union (PAGU)/ Paul Davidson. G 1915
Print: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau-Stiftung
“‘The Lubitsch Touch’ has long been the phrase used to describe the unique style and cinematic trademarks of director Ernst Lubitsch. But what exactly is ‘The Lubitsch Touch’?”
“The subtle humor and virtuoso visual wit in the films of Ernst Lubitsch. The style was characterized by a parsimonious compression of ideas and situations into single shots or brief scenes that provided an ironic key to the characters and to the meaning of the entire film.”
“It was the elegant use of the Superjoke. You had a joke, and you felt satisfied, and then there was one more big joke on top of it. The joke you didn’t expect. That was the Lubitsch Touch….”
“The phrase does connote something light, strangely indefinable, yet nonetheless tangible, and seeing Lubitsch’s films – more than in almost any other director’s work – one can feel this certain spirit; not only in the tactful and impeccably appropriate placement of the camera, the subtle economy of his plotting, the oblique dialogue which had a way of saying everything through indirection, but also — and particularly — in the performance of every single player, no matter how small the role.”
“1) a specifically Eastern European capacity to represent the cosmopolitan sophistication of continental Europeans to Americans – and with a double edge, as becomes clear in the ‘American understood’ gag; 2) a critical affection for flawed individuals who operate according to double standards (…)”
The Lubitsch Touch
The Post Telegrapher
R: Francis Ford, Thomas H. Ince. D: Lillian Christy, Jack Conway, Francis Ford, Mildred Harris, William Myers, Robert Stanton, Ann Little. P: Bison Motion Pictures / New York Motion Picture. USA 1912
Print: EYE collection / Jean Desmet Collection
“After taking over the New York Motion Picture Company’s West Coast productions, Ince hired performers from the Miller Bros. 101 Ranch Real Wild West Show and leased 28 square miles of canyons and rolling grasslands above Santa Monica for locations. Included in the arrangement were fifty Oglala Sioux from South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation.
The Post Telegrapher was Ince’s sixth large-scale western; all were two-reelers, with plots that had settled into a formula. As Moving Picture World (27 April 1912) summarized, while praising the series, ‘We know in advance that the Indians are going to have a war dance and attack the settlers, that some hero or heroine will go through all sorts of perils to reach the military post, and that the troops will arrive in the nick of time.’
Francis Ford’s title role underlines how fully this film is a prototype for his brother John Ford’s westerns. As in The Searchers, we open with a settler’s family, among whom only one daughter will survive the Indian attack. Of Ford’s cavalry films, this is closest to Fort Apache, with romances and a Custer-like massacre near an isolated fort in the 1870s (President Grant’s portrait overlooks the Colonel’s office).”
Scott Simmon (GCM catalog and website)
>>> Thomas H. Ince