Venezuela 1915

Don Leandro el inefable
R: Lucas Manzano, Enrique Zimmerman. D: Antonia de Puértolas, Rafael Guinad, Manolo Puértolas. P: Unknown. Venezuela 1915 (other sources: 1919)
Print: Tesouros do Cinema Latino-Americano (Mexico / Argentina / Venezuela / Lima-Peru / Cuba)

“Uno de los primeros largos de ficción del cine mudo venezolano fue Don Leandro, el inefable (1919), donde figura Lucas Manzano como director y actor. A la manera de Chaplin, muestra a un hombre que viene del campo a la ciudad. Es interesante porque muestra a Caracas como una metrópolis cuando en realidad no era así.”
Guillermo Barrios, arquitecto e historiador del cine

Zimmerman, Enrique: Pioneer director of the Venezuelan cinema who initiated the production of feature-lengths in that country in the 1910’s. His first film, La dama de las cayenas of 1913, is a parody of the famous work by Alexandre Dumas fils, ‘Camile’. It was co-directed with Lucas Manzano. This was followed in 1915 by Don Leandro l’ineffabile, also co-directed with Manzano.”
Luis Trelles Plazaola: South American Cinema/ Cine De America Del Sur: Dictionary of Film Makers/ Diccionario De Los Productores De Peliculas. La Editorial, UPR 1989, p. 219

List of Venezuelan Films

More about the Venezuelan cinema (Spanish):
Historia del Cine de Venezuela

UK: Temperance Propaganda and War

The Lure of Drink
R: A.E. Coleby. D: Blanche Forsythe, Roy Travers, A.E. Coleby, Maud Yates. P: Barker. UK 1915
Print: National Film and Television Archive

“This surprisingly violent piece of temperance propaganda uses shock tactics to hammer its point home. Big-hearted Ned has sworn off booze, enjoying a happy and sober marriage with widowed Peggy. But when Peggy’s conniving rival Kate tempts him with a tipple, Ned’s ‘dormant demon’ is unleashed in a dramatic Jekyll-and-Hyde-like transformation.
While the film’s pro-temperance agenda is obvious, you may need to look a little closer to spot the WWI subtext. Military recruitment posters adorn most of the pub interiors, inviting the punters to ‘fall-in’. While these are routinely ignored by the idle drunks, the final scene implies that Ned, now a reformed character, goes on to fight for his country. Watch out, too, for the striking street and dock scenes filmed around the west London borough of Ealing; the film was produced at the first generation of Ealing Studios by pioneer William Barker.”

“Ealing Studios is a television and film production company and facilities provider at Ealing Green in west London. Will Barker bought the White Lodge on Ealing Green in 1902 as a base for film making, and films have been made on the site ever since. It is the oldest continuously working studio facility for film production in the world, and the current stages were opened for the use of sound in 1931.”

The Spectator, 27 NOVEMBER 1915

>>> the US film Absinthe: An Anti-Alcohol Message

A Story of Life in Little Italy

The Two Roses
R: Unknown. D: Marie Eline, Frank Hall Crane, Anna Rosemond. P: Thanhouser Film Corporation. USA 1910
Print: Deutsche Kinemathek / Museum für Film und Fernsehen, Berlin
German and Engl. titles
Original music composed and performed by Günter A. Buchwald

“The writer of the scenario is unknown, but it may have been Lloyd Lonergan. Lonergan was an experienced newspaperman still employed by ‘The New York Evening World’ while writing scripts for the Thanhouser productions. He was the most important script writer for Thanhouser, averaging 200 scripts a year from 1910 to 1915. The film director is unknown, but two Thanhouser directors are possible. Barry O’Neil was the stage name of Thomas J. McCarthy, who would direct many important Thanhouser pictures, including its first two-reeler, Romeo and Juliet. Lloyd B. Carleton was the stage name of Carleton B. Little, a director who would stay with the Thanhouser Company for a short time, moving to Biograph Company by the summer of 1910. Film historian Q. David Bowers does not attribute a cameraman for this production, but two possible candidates exist. Blair Smith was the first cameraman of the Thanhouser company, but he was soon joined by Carl Louis Gregory who had years of experience as a still and motion picture photographer. The role of the cameraman was uncredited in 1910 productions.
The role of the Italian father Tony was played by Frank H. Crane. Crane was involved in the very beginnings of the Thanhouser Company and acted in numerous productions before becoming a director at Thanhouser. In the role of Tony’s wife was Anna Rosemond, who was one of two leading ladies for the first year of the company. Marie Eline, played the role of Tony’s son, was concealed in masculine make up and black hair for the role of the Italian boy. ‘The Moving Picture World’ said, ‘[m]aybe you’d never recognize her if we did not tip you off. Don’t pass the tip to others in your place, but see if their little favorite doesn’t fool them completely in her masculine makeup.’ Other members of the cast have not been identified.”

>>> on this site:  The Italian

Air Pirats – a British SF, 1911

The Pirates of 1920
R: David Aylott, A.E. Coleby. P: Cricks & Martin Films. UK 1911
Print: BFI National Archive

“A rip-roaring adventure tale with a nod to Jules Verne, as a band of futuristic cut-throats and their black-bearded captain forsake the high seas for the wild blue yonder, terrorising the skies in their trusty airship. After bombing a liner and stealing gold bullion from its hold, the band of ruffians try to make good their escape, with only a valiant naval officer and his sweetheart to bar their way.
The film only survives in the BFI National Archive in an incomplete form, with the last four minutes missing. A synopsis that exists in a contemporary journal indicates that the missing footage shows the naval officer and the police arriving in the nick of time while the airship is still grounded to rout the pirates and rescue the heroine.”

“Although, in the term ‘science fiction’, the second word qualifies the first, it’s tempting to tot up the success rate of guesses and Pirates of 1920 scores well. The silent, black-and-white short imagines ‘air pirates’ who use balloon-driven vessels to bomb ships, with the lofty brigands then sliding down ropes to take hostages. Within three years of the release date, there would be a world war in which the Germans used airships against ships, although this prophecy was not entirely the film-makers’ – H G Wells, the begetter of so much in this genre, had published a novel, ‘The War in the Air’, in 1908, anticipating the elevation of the battlefield. The movie did show its own prescience, though with a longer perspective. The attackers from the earth’s atmosphere are a kind of hijacker and, in this sense, the film foresees a tactic of terrorists between the 1960s and, with a mass-suicidal-homicidal twist, 9/11. Modern viewers may also reflect that, with tighter aviation security in the 21st century, sea piracy and hostage-taking were revived as weapons of terror. The scenes in which the invaders threaten the captain eerily resemble those in a movie released more than a century later, Captain Phillips, with the exception that, whereas Paul Greengrass’s camera rarely stops moving, Aylott’s and Coleby’s hardly starts.”
Mark Lawson
New Statesman, 5. Dec. 2014

>>> on this site:  The Airship Destroyer

Charlie and Family

His Trysting Place
R: Charles Chaplin. B: Charles Chaplin. K: Frank D. Williams. D: Charles Chaplin, Mabel Normand, Mack Swain, Phyllis Allen. P: Keystone Film Company. USA 1914

“The longer two-reel format gives Chaplin, as director, the chance to delve more deeply into the background situations of each of his sets of characters before throwing them into the usual rowdy Keystone park-set confrontation. The scene in the cafe, for example, between Charlie and Ambrose as they clash over their respective meals, builds slowly to the climax rather than rushing straight to a physical slapstick confrontation as an early Keystone short might have done. All this is in service of the main plot point of the resulting confusion caused when the men mix up their respective coats. Chaplin was now happier to take his time over comedy ‘business’ establishing deeper character through action and allowing the storyline room to unfold and breathe, unlike most of the breakneck paced Keystone output favoured by studio boss Mack Sennett.”
Brian J. Robb
Chaplin: Film by Film

Lyda Borelli, la diva amata

Ma l’amor mio non muore
R: Mario Caserini. B: Emiliano Bonetti, G. Monleone. K: Angelo Scalenghe. D: Lyda Borelli, Mario Bonnard, Gian Paolo Rosmino, Vittorio Rossi Pianelli, Dante Cappelli, Maria Caserini. P: Film Artistica Gloria. It 1913
Print: Cineteca Italiana di Milano
Engl. subtitles

“In the early Italian film industry, ‘diva’ meant female star in the ‘long’ feature film. The latter was approximately sixty minutes long, four reels, with some close-ups for the film star or diva, artificial lighting, a fairly static camera and many-layered compositions in depth. A mixture of the Catholic mater dolorosa, of the Northern European femme fatale in literature and in painting and of the new woman of modernity, the Italian diva would move from the roles of prostitute to socialite, or from rags to riches in the very same melodrama, so combining stereotypes of femininity from both the upper and lower classes.”
Angela Dalle Vacche: The Diva Film. In: Peter Bondanella: The Italian Cinema Book, 2014
Early & Silent Film

“In 1913, Lyda Borelli had reached the apex of her theatrical career. Performing in Italy’s most famous theatres, she appeared in plays by Victorien Sardou, Henry Bataille, Georges Ohnet, the very repertory that would soon become the backbone of diva cinema. Borelli’s most acclaimed performance was in Oscar Wilde‘s Salome, which had its Italian premiere at the Teatro Valle on 10 March 1909. In her Salome costume, Borelli was portrayed by painter Cesare Tallone and in a photographic series by Emilio Sommariva: popularized by postcards, these representations of Borelli’s theatrical career fueled the public imagination and showed decisive for the construction of her iconic image in her first feature, Ma l’amor mio non muore.”
Ivo Blom

Ma l’amor mio non muore! was specifically written for Lyda Borelli, one of Italy’s leading stage actresses and featured her performing two of her most famous roles on stage: Salome and Zaza in front of an undoubtedly star-struck audience of extras. It’s one of the moments; historical film as history in itself; the actress and her effect.
As Ivo Blom notes in the booklet for the Cineteca di Bologna DVD release, it’s also a document of La Borelli finding her way with the new medium: her first time on screen, developing her film acting style and so instinctively well, even from the modern viewpoint. Next to Asta Nielsen, Borelli’s acting is amongst the most naturalistic you’ll find in 1913. Yes there are a few moments of over-wrought arms-aloft, hand-jiving but look closely and you’ll notice an incredible range of expression: fleeting moments of anger, and even disgust that wouldn’t be found on the face of many.
Borelli didn’t care about her ‘look’ so much as her expression, it seems, even though the look took care of itself… and her storytelling is in many ways well in advance of the film’s narrative.
Mario Caserini directs well with lots of similarities to contemporaries in Italy as well as elsewhere in Europe – Bauer, Christensen, Blom, Perret et al. There is, as Blom notes, less editing than in American cinema but long takes on huge sets which provide their own ‘cuts’ in the story.”

“This all takes place over the first couple of acts of the film, which are relatively slow – this section is generally told in lengthy shots where the action is staged in deep space. It’s skilfully done, and the sets are lovely, but on the whole the setup drags a bit. This part of the story is drawn out more than necessary, in my opinion, but the filmmakers also make a more serious error: filling the screen with a large amount of actors who are not Lyda Borelli. Luckily, the filmmakers seem to have realized this, and the camera thereafter consistently finds its rightful view: the dramatic grace of la divina Lyda.”
Silents, Please!

“In the WWI era – the heyday of the Italian film diva – Lyda Borelli, Pina Menichelli, and Francesca Bertini were the most famous Italian actresses to grace the screen: all beautiful and talented, each bringing something different to the cinema. Although not the first of the three women to enter films, Lyda Borelli is generally considered to be the first film diva, and continues to be marketed as such (e.g., ‘Lyda prima diva!’ by the Cineteca di Bologna). Borelli was a well-established stage actress who launched her film career in 1913 with Ma l’amor mio non muore! (Love Everlasting, lit. But my love will never die!) Being of the stage, Borelli’s cinematic acting was very influenced by theatrical conventions: she acts with a unique, flowing, decadent style which delighted her many fans and gave rise to the verb borelleggiare, i.e. “to Borelli-ize” or imitate Borelli — the 1917 edition of the ‘Dizionario Moderno’ explains the term as ‘Young women fussing and moping around, in the manner of the beautiful Lyda Borelli’s gratuitous and aestheticizing poses’. Characterized by poses and dancelike movements based on painterly figures, it is an acting style that is out of fashion now, but breathtaking, and much appreciated in her time.”
Silents, Please!

>>> Lyda Borelli; Rapsodia satanica

The Last Days of Pompeii, three versions

Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei (English version)
R: Luigi Maggi. B: Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton (novel). K: Roberto Omegna, Giovanni Vitrotti. D: Umberto Mozzato, Lydia De Roberti, Luigi Maggi, Ernesto Vaser, Mirra Principi. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio, Torino. It 1908

“The first film version was the British short film The Last Days of Pompeii (1900), directed by Walter R. Booth. Eight years later followed Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei / The Last Days of Pompeii (Arturo Ambrosio, Luigi Maggi, 1908). In 1913 followed two more Italian silent film versions, Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei / The Last Days of Pompeii (Mario Caserini, 1913), and Jone ovvero gli ultimi giorni di Pompei / Jone or the Last Days of Pompeii (Giovanni Enrico Vidali, Ubaldo Maria Del Colle, 1913).
The first sound version was the Hollywood production The Last Days of Pompeii (Ernest B. Schoedsack, Merian C. Cooper, 1935), with Preston Foster and Basil Rathbone. It carried a disclaimer that, although the movie used the novel’s description of Pompei, it did not use its plot or characters. The film was a moderate success on its initial release, but made an overall loss of $237,000.”
Paul van Yperen

Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei
R: Mario Caserini, Eleuterio Rodolfi. D: Fernanda Negri Pouget, Eugenia Tettoni Fior, Ubaldo Stefani. P: Ambrosio. It 1913
Engl. subtitles

“(…) the feature-length Ancient World cinematic epic was born in 1908 when The Last Days of Pompeii was produced in Italy. It was Italy which took the lead in crafting these early epics, directors drawing on the native tradition of staging grand opera but, by shooting on location, constructing massive sets and deploying thousands of extras, establishing the visual parameters of the new cinematic genre. The choice of the early nineteenth century British novel by Bulwer-Lytton, already adapted three times for the stage in England, as the basis of the first great epic underlines the continuity with the existing literary and theatrical tradition. Two new film versions of Lytton’s novel were produced in Italy in 1913 and they were joined in the cinemas by adaption of Sienkiewicz‘s ‘Quo vadis’ (1912), Gustave Flaubert‘s ‘Salammbo’ (filmed as Salambo, 1914), and Cardinal Wiseman‘s ‘Fabiola’, 1916.”
Jeffrey Richards: Hollywood’s Ancient Worlds. A&C Black 2008, p. 25

“The story, involving dovetailing romantic jealousies and Egyptian treachery, is neatly complicated and occasionally exhausting, and the characterizations are weak; but the film is a feast for the eyes. Scene after scene matters. Until Vesuvius blows its stack, signaling an ‘Ozymandias’-message, the intricate compositions and exceptional fluidity of gesture and motion ensure an irresistibly cinematic result. White birds flutter and take flight; a man, from his balcony, overlooks the sea, both appearing in the frame; a blind slave girl, we are told by a title, is walking home when she unexpectedly enters the frame and walks in our direction. We become ‘home’ for her, a representation of what is unknown for her in her life. When she veers to frame-right to drink from an accustomed fountain, we see also what is known to her in her sightless life. In the same shot, therefore, we take in her groping in the dark of blindness and also in the light of habit and experience. This is terrific stuff.”
Dennis Grunes

Jone ovvero gli ultimi giorni di Pompei
R: Ubaldo Maria Del Colle, Giovanni Enrico Vidali. B: Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (novel). K: Raimondo Scotti. Ba: Domenico Gaido. D: Cristina Ruspoli, Luigi Mele, Giovanni Enrico Vidali, Suzanne De Labroy, Giovanni Ciusa, Michele Ciusa. P: Pasquali e C., Vay e Hubert. It 1913
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Torino

>>> Quo vadis?:  Blockbusters from Italy

>>> Cabiria

A Secret Society Adventure

Il circolo nero
R: Emilio Ghione. D: Emilio Ghione, Lea Giunchi, Alberto Collo, Angelo Gallina, Amedeo Ciaffi, Fernando Ribacchi. P: Celio Film, Roma. It 1913
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Torino, previously restored by the EYE Filmmuseum
Dutch titles

“Count Raoul Ruggeri, left penniless, asks the president of the Circolo Nero , the head of a criminal gang, to borrow him some money. Eventually he is forced to join the gang, but when they ask him to kill a man, he realizes the tremendous mistake he has made. That’s why he decides to leave Rome and take refuge in America. In the West he starts a new life and falls in love with Edith Brown, the only daughter of the rich farmer who has offered him a job. Meanwhile De Bondre, the head of the ‘Circolo Nero’, manages to escape the police in Rome and flees to America. In Chicago he meets Raoul by chance and, by threatening to reveal his dark past, he forces him to take part in a robbery in the master’s farm. Raoul refuses. To take revenge, De Bondre kidnaps Edith. After a dramatic chase, Raoul reaches De Bondre at the edge of a cliff; eventually De Bondre falls into the abyss, while Edith and Raoul come finally together.”
European Film Gateway

Further reading:
Joseph Albert North: Emilio Ghione and the Mask of Za La Mort

>>> Za La Mort on this site

Another Italian crime fiction:

Aspettando il diretto di mezzanotte
No credtis. P: Itala Film, Torino. It 1911
Print: Cineteca Nazionale del Cinema/EYE Filmmuseum
Dutch titles

“The banking executives of the Jonnes e C. bank, are preparing and discussing the shipment of a large sum of money. A porter, who is cleaning the office, spies them. The box with the money is brought to the lonely railway station to be embarked on the midnight train, along with another box. The guardian, whom the box with the money is entrusted, wants to watch over it personally in the warehouse; but soon he is overcome by sleep and dreams that many hands are fumbling in the dark to open the box. (…)”
European Film Gateway

A Space Travel Fantasy from Italy

Matrimonio interplanetario
R: Enrico Novelli. B: Enrico Novelli. P: Latium Film, Roma. It 1910
Print: Cineteca del Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Torino

“According to Paolo Bertetti, writing on the website
Fantascienza, Matrimonio Interplanetario is one of a very few Italian films of this era dealing with the topic of space travel. Bertetti also mentions a series of films produced for Cines in Rome by French director Gaston Velle, which included Viaggio a una Stella | Voyage to a Star (1906), a remake/self-plagiarism of his film Voyage autour d’une étoile of the same year. The only other known silent Italian space travel film is Un viaggio nella luna | A Trip to the Moon of 1921, a now-lost animated film produced by Lilliput-Film of Rome.(…)
Matrimonio interplanetario is clearly much influenced by Méliès – the production design is very reminiscent of his classic space films Le voyage dans la lune (Fr 1902) and Le voyage à travers l’impossible (Fr 1904); the films of Segundo De Chomón, Ferdinand Zecca, and Gaston Velle are also reference points. Matrimonio Interplanetario was directed by Enrico Novelli (pseudonym: Yambo), who two years earlier had published a science fiction novel, ‘La colonia lunare’ | ‘the Lunar Colony’, which was a source of inspiration for this film.(…)
Denis Lotti of the University of Padua has written an essay that explores the relationship between this book and the film, particularly the chapter ‘I promessi sposi lunari’ | ‘The Lunar Betrothal’. An interesting point that Lotti makes is, that while Interplanetario matrimonio is far from being a Futurist work, some aspects of the film can be connected to the concepts idealized by the Futurists; he mentions the alphabet animation of the wireless transmission in relation to the Futurists’ ideas about the deconstruction of language.”
Silents, Please!

>>> Méliès’ films here:
Méliès: Attraction and Narration

>>> Gaston Velle: Jules Verne and Gaston Velle

Buon Anno!

Buon Anno!
R: Arrigo Frusta. D: Ernesto Vaser. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1909

601-Buon anno!