The oldest preserved Norwegian film

Under forvandlingens lov, eller Jo tykkere, jo bedre
(The rule of change, or The thicker, the better)
R: Halfdan Nobel Roede. B: Peter Lykke-Seest. D: Olaf Hanson, Ingeborg Hauge, Birger Widt, Signe Danning, Hans Hedemark, Bertha Ræstad. P: Internationalt Films-Kompani AS. No 1911
Print: Nasjonalbiblioteket / National Library of Norway
Engl. subtitles

Halfdan Nobel Roede‘s Under Forvandlingens Lov, eller, Jo Tykkere, jo Bedre is one of four feature films known to have been produced in Norway in 1911, and considered the oldest preserved Norwegian film extant.  An earlier work, Fiskerlivets Farer, eller, et Drama på Havet (‘The Perils of a Fisherman, or, A Drama at Sea’) was made in 1907, but no copies of it are known to still exist.  Under Forvandlingens Lov is a romantic comedy where Camillo and Fancisca discover that their spouses, Julia and Arthus, are having an affair.  They sedate the two and lock them into cages, until they get sick of each other.  Roede (1877-1963) was a friend of Edvard Munch, who sketched the director’s portrait around 1919-20.”
UND Libraries

Edvard Munch: Halfdan Nobel Roede (UNDL)

Peter Lykke-Seest (1868 – 1948) was a Norwegian poet, novelist, playwright, non-fiction writer, script writer and film director.  (…) He made his literary debut in 1896 with the poetry collection Hvide nætter, and published the novel Under Paddehatten in 1898. His most popular film was Historien om en gut from 1919. He published a book on the trial against Vidkun Quisling in 1945.

More about Norwegian film history:

Pastrone’s Sherlock Holmes

Più forte che Sherlock Holmes
R: Giovanni Pastrone. K: Segundo de Chomón. Special effects: Segundo de Chomón. D: Emilio Vardannes, Domenico Gambino. P: Itala Film, Torino. It 1913
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema / EYE collection

“The most remarkable thing about this movie is its director, Giovanni Pastrone, who just a year later would produce the seminal epic feature film Cabiria. (…) The editing, in particular shows some sophistication, as do the camera angles. Although some scenes are shot strictly proscenium-style (the closing fight scene, for example), many are more creative. The cut to the over-the-shoulder shot to display the illustrations is much cleverer than simply cutting to a flat image of the paper (which is what Feuillade probably would have resorted to).”
Century Film Project


>>> the Pastrone films CabiriaIl fuoco

Totò and Fringuelli

Totò entusiasta della nuova moda
R: Emilio Vardannes. D: Emilio Vardannes. P: Itala Film. It 1911
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema / EYE collection
Dutch titles

La moda vuole l’ala larga
R: Ernesto Vaser. D: Ernesto Vaser. P: Itala Film. It 1912
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema / EYE collection
Dutch titles

“Fringuelli tries to fight against the hateful tyranny of fashion, but soon he must realize how many traps he is forced to face to achieve his goal. With his little narrow hat, Fringuelli is definitely out of fashion and everybody around makes fun of him. Eventually he surrenders to the whim of the moment, and gets himself a brand new hat with a wide brim. Unfortunately he exaggerates in the choice of the new hat, which has such a large and wide brim to cause a series of disasters…”

Totò senz’acqua
R: Emilio Vardannes. D: Emilio Vardannes. P: Itala Film. It 1911
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema / EYE collection
French titles

“There have been dozens of clowns who have called themselves Toto, the most famous being the Italian droll, Prince Antonio de Bizancio who claimed lineage from Emporer Constantine. Antonio was a revue favorite in the 1930s and made a number of popular films in Italy after the Second World War. Preceding him was Emilio Vardannes, another Italian comedian who came to the USA in the 1910s and made silent pictures under the name Totò.”
Frank Cullen: Vaudeville old & new: an encyclopedia of variety performances in America. Routledge 2006, p. 1119/20

Emilio Vardannes was born in 1868 in Paris, France. He is an actor and director, known for Bonafacio muratore (1912), Il carretto di Totò (1911) and Totò non ha fortuna (1912).”

“Antonin Bénévent, dit Émile Vardannes (ou Emilio Vardannes en Italie), né à Paris le 13 janvier 1873 et mort à Paris le 13 décembre 1951, est un acteur et réalisateur français. Émile Vardannes a principalement été un acteur comique du cinéma muet italien. Il a commencé sa carrière à l’Itala Film où il s’est fait connaitre sous le pseudonyme de «Toto», puis a pris le pseudonyme de «Boniface» (Bonifacio en Italie), en passant à la Milano Film.”
Wikipedia France

In Cabiria, 1914, Vardannes performs as Hannibal.

>>> Vardannes in Il cavallo del reggimento

VardannesTotò entusiasta della nuova moda


Les inconvénients du cinématographe
R: André Heuzé (?). P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1908
Scène comiques (2me Série) [Filmographie Pathé]

“In this picture we see how the artists engaged to pose for the pictures make the scene so realistic that they get themselves into all kinds of trouble in the city where people are not familiar with their mode of doing things.”

André HEUZÉ est né à , le 5 décembre 1880.
Venu de l’opérette, ce pionnier est engagé dès 1905 par la maison Pathé. Il y écrit et réalise des bandes burlesques basées sur des poursuites comme Le Voleur de Bicyclette, Toto gâte-sauce, La Course à la Perruque ou Les Chiens contrebandiers. Fait remarquable pour l’époque, la plupart des scènes sont tournées en extérieur. Il entame une belle collaboration avec le comique André Deed pour la célèbre série des Boireau, qu’il écrit et supervise, laissant souvent le soin à Lucien Nonguet et Georges Monca de terminer le tournage et le montage. Il quitte Pathé pour se consacrer à des œuvres plus ambitieuses comme une adaptation des ‘Aventures de Lagardère’ et des films à caractère sentimental comme L’Âge du Cœur. Il tourne pendant la première guerre mondiale des films patriotiques comme Paris pendant la guerre ou Debout les Morts. Il abandonne le cinéma pour l’opérette, mais apparaît dans quelques films comme interprète (Poil de Carotte de Duvivier, Le Diable au Cœur de L’Herbier) et signe des scénarios (En bordée de Wuschleger, Le Roman du Spahi de Bernheim, Les Chevaliers de la Cloche de Le Hénaff).
André Heuzé est décédé à Paris, le 16 août 1942.”

Al cinematografo, guardate… e non toccate
D: Ernesto Vaser. P: Itala Film. It 1912
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema / EYE collection
Dutch titles

“Whilst Maciste makes an inter-textual reference to Cabiria, the earlier comedy Una tragedia al cinematografo (1913), produced by Cines, points, even if less explicitly, to another popular epic film: Enrico Guazzoni’s Quo vadis? (1913 > Ivo Blom). At the beginning of the film, a man sees his wife chatting with a friend in front of a movie theatre that is covered with posters of Quo vadis?. (…) Another comedy that focuses on the cinematic public is Al cinematografo, guardate… e non toccate  (1912). (…) The movie theatre that is shown here, the ‘Itala’ theatre in Turin, hosts people of different ages and different marital and social status. The three persons Vaser harasses are also examples of this variety. (…)
Self-referential representations of popularity returned in the series of short films featuring actors identified with particular comic characters. Dramatizing everyday situations which were easily recognizable by the public, these actors/characters often set their actions in the new world of which they were part. As a manifestation of the self-referentiality that is typical of this genre of comedy, the parodic element characterizing these films focused on different aspects of cinema, including its popularity and its status as a mass phenomenon.”
Louis Bayman, Sergio Rigoletto: Popular Italian Cinema. Palgrave Macmillan 2013, p. 155

>>> Una tragedia al cinematografo: Spectators Watching Spectators

Like a Tempting Salome

Come una sorella
R: Vincenzo C. Dénizot. K: Segundo de Chomón. D: Lydia Quaranta, Giovanni Casaleggio, Berta Nelson. P: Itala Film, Torino. It 1912
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema / EYE
Dutch titles

“The short adventure film Come una sorella (…) features the character of Nelly, who sings and dances in an tabarin (cabaret) called Alhambra.  The name alone of this local triggers images of faraway lands and exotic civilizations. Hence, this film stands out as an exception to the important rule that the contemporary drama before 1913 did not include orientalist elements; as a result of its ordinary settings, it was less expensive than the diva film, born the following year. On the other hand, it would also be erroneous to claim that all diva films were lavish orientalist spectacles. (…) Hence, this diva film is an exception to the equally important rule of an alliance among orientalism, aristocracy, and stardom that echoes the diva’s power through the cost of the sets and the variety of her wardrobe.
In Come una sorella, the struggle of values plays itself out within one woman, Nelly, a dancer who performs like a tempting Salome in an orientalist atmosphere. Nelly’s movements arouse the cinematic screen itself to the point that is overwhelmed by vivid red flames. The same kind of tinting – a red that looks like fire mixed with blood – pervades the screen as soon as the airplane of the stunt pilot, Kosalevsky, crashes to the ground, leaving him between death and life. The film’s associations between excitement and destruction, modern technology and female sexuality, are undeniable, but they are resolved when the cabaret singer becomes the adoring nurse who brings her beloved pilot back to health.”
Angela Dalle Vacche: Diva: Defiance and Passion in Early Italian Cinema. University of Texas Press 2008, p. 83, 188

About Lydia Quaranta
“Lydia or Lidia Quaranta was born in Turin, Italy in 1891. She started her career as stage actress at the company of Dante Testa. In 1910 she debuted in film, together with her sister Letizia Quaranta, when the company Itala Film enrolled both. Her true film debut though was in a short called L’ignota/The Unknown Woman (1910), produced by Aquila Films and directed by Edoardo Bencivenga. After a few more Aquila productions, Quaranta played steadily at Itala, as in the airplane drama Come una sorella/Like a Sister (1912, Vincenzo Denizot), the sensational drama Padre/Father (1912, Dante Testa, Gino Zaccaria), starring Ermete Zacconi, Lo scomparso/The Dread of Doom (1913, Dante Testa) with again Zacconi, and the crime story Tigris (1913, Vincenzo Denizot). Together with her sister Letizia, she played in Addio giovinezza!/Goodbye youth! (1913, Nino Oxilia). In 1914 Lydia Quaranta’s cinema career reached its apex when she had the title role in the mega-production Cabiria. ”

437-Lydia Quaranta

Another “tempting Salome”:

L’ultima vittima
R: Roberto Roberti. D: Antonietta Calderari, Giuseppe De Witten, Roberto Roberti, Federico Elvezi. P: Aquila Films, Torino. It 1913
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema/EYE
French titles

“Emma Vallona, an oriental dancer, is suffocated by debts due to her expensive life; so she does not hesitate to induce the Minister d’Angy to endorse a bill in her favour. While the Minister is gradually being overwhelmed by this scandal, which contributes to destroy his political career, she carefree moves to Spain under the false name of Madame d’Ambois. There she meets the Prince of Gébraléon, who asks her to marry him. She agrees but, just before the wedding, the Minister d’Angy reappears. Fearing that he may reveal to her future husband her past, Emma turns to his loyal servant to kill d’Angy. But the servant, in revenge for the woman’s coldness and hardness in rejecting his love, teams up with D’Angy, and together they reveal her mischievous plans to Gébraléon. The revenge of the Prince is terrible.”

Max, the Immortal Lover

Les surprises de l’amour
D: Max Linder, Jacques Vandenne. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1909

“The story tells of two sons and a father, all of whom are paying separate and clandestine attentions to the same girl. They arrive one after the other, and are secreted in various parts of the room, where they remain until all three suddenly peep out together. The final scene, where the elderly papa is enjoining a discreet silence upon his son, is, perhaps the best thing of the kind Messrs. Pathe have yet done.” (The Bioscope, Oct. 21, 1909)

Le Hasard et l’Amour
R: Max Linder. B: Max Linder. D: Max Linder, Lucy d’Orbel, Georges Gorby. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1915
German subtitles

The user kekseksa wrote on IMDb:

“The absurd current system whereby IMDb seems to privilege titles in English rather than the original titles of the films contributes to much confusion (as well as frequently making films unnecessarily difficult to find). (…) Les Surprises de l’amour (1909) and Le Hasard et l’amour (1915) both tend to get known in English as ‘Love’s Surprises’. Again most of the youtube offerings are of the first not the second film, whatever they may claim, although there is at least one correctly titled version of the later film. (…) Could we not please have a campaign to ensure that the original title of the film is ALWAYS the main one to appear and alternative English titles are relegated to a secondary position?”

Yes, I think, we should. KK

De Chomón’s Easter Eggs

Les oeufs de Pâques
R: Segundo de Chomón. B: Segundo de Chomón. D: Julienne Mathieu. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1907

De Chomón was born in Spain on October 17, 1871. He married actress Julienne Mathieu, who started working for early film studio Pathé Frères. It’s said that Julienne influenced her husband to join Pathé, where he began working as an agent and then a director. In 1903 he produced Gulliver en el país de los gigantes, the first of what would become his specialty: trick films. He became so good at creating special effects –  in fanciful shorts that he beautifully enhanced with a special stencil-coloring process dubbed Pathéchrome – that Charles Pathé took notice. He recognized that de Chomón’s work could easily compete with that of the famous Georges Méliès, and thus the Spanish director was given the freedom to create the most fantastical visions his mind could devise.
He went above and beyond, utilizing just about every method available back then: puppetry, multiple exposures, hand-drawn animation, matte shots, and more. His work ranges from gorgeous tapestries of féerie romance like Les Tulipes (1907) to something like The Panicky Picnic (1909, which is the dream you’d have if you gorged yourself on lukewarm sushi. Let’s just say that Méliès himself was probably impressed by (or confused by) de Chomón’s fearless surrealism. De Chomón would collaborate with several other early directors, including ‘Father of the Animated Cartoon’ Émile Cohl. He would also run a shop devoted to color stenciling. By 1912 (at a time when Méliès’s work was in the decline) he was invited to make films in Italy. He would gradually move away from directing and concentrate on cinematography, creating special effects for such mighty epics as Cabiria (1914) and Napoléon (1927).
Plans on returning to producing films ended when de Chomón died of a heart attack in 1929. He was 57, and left behind a legacy of well over 200 films.”

Les Tulipes
R: Segundo de Chomón. B: Segundo de Chomón. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1907

>>> more on this site: Segundo de Chomón

Shakespeare: The Tempest

The Tempest
R: Percy Stow. B: Langford Reed, William Shakespeare (play). P: Clarendon. UK 1908

“Comfortably the most visually imaginative and cinematically adventurous silent British Shakespeare film, Percy Stow‘s The Tempest (1908) takes a different approach from that of Dickson‘s 1899 film of King John, in that it attempts a complete précis of the entire play staged specifically for the cameras.
Explanatory intertitles link a series of mostly very brief scenes, shot both on location and in the studio, the latter being used to stage some fairly elaborate tableaux reminiscent of the French fantasy film pioneer Georges Méliès (the scene where Prospero summons up the tempest is particularly effective). Shakespeare‘s original text is missing, but it captures the spirit of the play most effectively.”
Michael Brooke
BFI sreenonline

“The film’s major success is its portrayal of Ariel. When Ferdinand chases Ariel in the film and she disappears using a simple Mélièsian trick, film has another one of its pivotal moments. This moment crystallises the difference between theatre and film; to put it simply, film can do things that theatre cannot. Although this is not the first time such a moment occurs in film history, given that it happens during the adaptation of a Shakespeare play, it explicitly confirms that film is developing in a separate direction to theatre. And this point extends beyond technical differences; it allows film to accentuate different emotional currents through such visual trickery. Ariel’s ‘disappearances’ in this scene highlights the playful nature of Ariel, and more importantly, Ferdinand.”
Film: Ab Initio

>>> more Shakespeare on this website: Shakespeare on Screen

>>> more Percy Stow films: How To Stop A Motor CarAlice in WonderlandMilling the Militants: A Comical AbsurdityLieutenant Rose and the Chinese Pirates

Griffith 1913

The House of Darkness
R: David W. Griffith. B: Jere F. Looney. K: G.W. Bitzer. D: Lionel Barrymore, Claire McDowell, Charles Hill Mailes, Lillian Gish. P:Biogr aph Company. USA 1913

“The acting, especially by McDowell and Mailes, is top-notch. Some of Billy Bitzer’s camerawork is fairly daring – notably a shot mirroring the famous one in Musketeers of Pig Alley in which actors approach the camera until they are in extreme close-up. In this case, Mailes ‘sneaks’ toward the camera, at times concealing himself behind palm trees, until he emerges in very close range from behind the nearest of them, staring maniacally into space. Bitzer was unable to keep him in focus during the approach (adjusting focal length in the middle of a shot simply wasn’t possible with the technology of the time), but he did manage to set the lens to focus on him at this most frightening final moment. There are also good close-ups of the cat and of hands playing the piano. Griffith makes use of the editing techniques he was known for, especially cross-cutting, to keep the tension high as the pursuit advances.”
Century Film Project

>>> The Musketeers of Pig Alley

‘The Greatest Actor of the Netherlands’

Het vervloekte geld (L’or qui brule)
R: Alfred Machin. B: Alfred Machin (screenplay). K: Alfred Machin, Paul Sablon. D: Louis Bouwmeester, Germaine Dury, Maurice Mathieu. P: Hollandsche Film/ Pathé Consortium Cinéma. NL / Fr 1911/12
Print: EYE collection
Dutch titles

“Snuders, an avaricious boat-owner, insures his boat ‘The Joanna’ against accident very much above its value, and then conspires with Verhoff (Louis Bouwmeester), a notorious drunkard and unprincipled scoundrel, to lose it at sea.
The latter agrees to carry out the plan for a consideration of 300 florins, and the bargain is concluded. To lend colour to the affair, Snuders also engages young Tijen as crew, and, despite the entreaties of his sweetheart, Trunski, the latter signs on. Out at sea Tijen discovers a paper which warns him of the villainy which is on foot. But Verhoff acts quickly, and, whilst the young sailor is sleeping in the cabin, the drunkard locks him in, fires the boat, and himself makes good his escape.
Tijen awakes to find the cabin full of thick smoke, which sears his eyes and chokes his breathing. Half unconscious, but in agony, he gropes his way to the door, and at last succeeds in bursting it open, only to be met with a scorching rush of fire, which leaps in upon him. His clothes rapidly ignite, and with screams of agony the wretched boy rushes across the blistering deck to fling himself into the water, where, already half dead, he perishes miserably.
Verhoff, having regained the shore, with difficulty forces Snuders to pay him his reward, and then deliberately sits down to drown in a drunken orgy the horror which he feels rising within him at the awful deed he has committed. But the liquor merely serves to inflame his imagination, and it is not long before phantoms rise before him. He tries to cry out, but cannot; gulp after gulp of spirit does not cool the fire in his brain, and soon the room seems to be full of ghosts, which swell up huge and menacing. Tijen appears, then Trunski; Verhoff thinks they are real; he clutches at them; they vanish; and then they appear again, and Verhoff knows he is going mad. The end soon comes. Like a wild beast he rages round the room, frenzied with sheer terror, alternately praying and blaspheming, blood gathering in his eyes and foam upon his nostrils. And then at last he crashes down upon the floor; it is over; murder has avenged itself.”

“Dutch stage and film actor Louis Bouwmeester (1842-1925) is often seen as ‘the greatest actor of the Netherlands’ ever. He was born in Middelharnis in 1842. His parents were the traveling actors Louis Rosenfeldt and Louisa Bouwmeester. (…) Louis started his stage career as a young boy and he would continue to play till he was 82. He made his start in popular melodramas, but in 1880 he was engaged by the prestigious theatre company Het Nederlandsch Tooneel (The Dutch Stage). There he became famous for his passionate and fiery roles in classic tragedies and comedies by William Shakespeare, Molière, Sophocles and Joost van den Vondel. (…)
Between 1909 and 1924 he acted in several more silent films, including the Dutch-French coproduction Het vervloekte Geld/L’or qui brule/Arson at Sea (Alfred Machin, 1911-1912), Koning Oedipus/Oedipus (Leon Boedels, 1912), Fatum (Theo Frenkel, 1915) with Henriëtte Davids , De duivel in Amsterdam/The Devil in Amsterdam (Theo Frenkel, 1918) with Eduard Verkade , and Pro Domo (Theo Frenkel, 1918). In Pro Domo, his sister Theo Mann-Bouwmeester appeared as his wife and their grand-niece Lily Bouwmeester played their daughter. His last film part was as a circus director in Cirque Hollandais/Circus Hollandais (Theo Frenkel, 1924) with a young Johan Heesters in a supporting part. Bouwmeester was already more than 80 years old, when he played this role.”

>>>  A Diner’s Performance

>>> more Machin films:  Machin – A French Director in BelgiumBelgian Settings