Love, powered by Otis Company

An Elevator Romance
R: Unknown. D: William Garwood. P: Thanhouser Film Corporation. USA 1911
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

“A wealthy, hustling young Westerner comes East, and immediately calls up his boyhood chum, now a staid businessman in a New York skyscraper. The Westerner is charmed by the sweet voice of the telephone girl who answers his call from the office switchboard, and determines to make her acquaintance. In fact, one of the first things he does after reaching his friend’s office is to make inquiries, and he is made happy by an introduction. He soon finds that while the voice is charming, the girl’s appearance and manner are much more so. But the girl, being modest and retiring, does not approve of such an informal acquaintance. She practically snubs the Westerner, and he sees that he has made little progress in his suit. And time is valuable for he soon must go back to his home, and he has already decided that he will take a bride with him. Love finds a way, as it usually does. The energetic suitor bribes the elevator man to let him take his place for an hour, picking out the time when he knows a girl will go to lunch. She is the only passenger in the car in that trip (although it takes energy to accomplish it), and by some mishap, the elevator gets out of order between floors. (…)”
The Moving Picture World, April 29, 1911

“The impossibility of this farce injures its ultimate chances of any real success. To begin with the girl would at once recognize the hero even in his disguise as the elevator boy, while the transition from coldness to a friendly regard is unseemingly rapid. A fine effect was missed in this elevator scene as it might easily have been shown in motion of descent, which was not done save for a brief second or so and then but poorly. The constant posing of the leading man each time he passed in front of the camera, his long drawn out sighs and forced facial expression ruined his work and spoiled his otherwise pleasing personality. The office scene is well staged and the acting of the employer and the old bookkeeper deserve praise. The fire was also well done.”
The Morning Telegraph, April 30, 1911

The history of modern elevators
The first electric elevator was built by Werner von Siemens in 1880 in Germany. The inventor Anton Freissler developed the ideas of von Siemens and built up a successful enterprise in Austria-Hungary. The safety and speed of electric elevators were significantly enhanced by Frank Sprague who added floor control, automatic elevators, acceleration control of cars, and safeties. His elevator ran faster and with larger loads than hydraulic or steam elevators, and 584 electric elevators were installed before Sprague sold his company to the Otis Elevator Company in 1895. Sprague also developed the idea and technology for multiple elevators in a single shaft. (…) In 1874, J.W. Meaker patented a method which permitted elevator doors to open and close safely. In 1887, American Inventor Alexander Miles of Duluth, Minnesota patented an elevator with automatic doors that would close off the elevator shaft. (…) By 1900, completely automated elevators were available, but passengers were reluctant to use them.”

Nestor, the first Hollywood Studio

Her Indian Hero
R: Al Christie, Jack Conway, Milton J. Fahrney. D: Jack Conway, George Gebhardt, Dorothy Davenport, Victoria Forde, Russell Bassett, Eugenie Forde. P: Nestor Film Company. USA 1912
Print: Prelinger Archives

“Although William Selig is usually credited with building the first studio in Los Angeles and shooting the first feature in the city, the first studio in the city of Hollywood was the Nestor Studio, established by David Horsley. Not having obtained a license to use filmmaking equipment from Thomas Edison’s East Coast Motion Picture Patents Company, the Nestor Studio (formerly the Centaur Film Company of Bayonne, New Jersey) moved to California in 1911. Through a contact they made on the train to the west coast, Horsley and writer-director Al Christie met the owner of the Blondeu Tavern. Located at the northwest corner of Sunset and Gower, the small roadhouse was struggling as a result of Hollywood’s recent liquor ordinance. The Nestor Company leased the building for thirty dollars a month, and built the first Hollywood film stage ever on the site. (…) They began creating the first movies ever made on a Hollywood stage – including Her Indian Hero and The Law of the Range. The studio would often shoot a couple one-reelers or two-reelers at a time, filmed from scripts usually written the night before.”
Steve Lee
Hollywood Lost and Found

“On October 27, 1911, Nestor opened the first movie studio actually located in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles. (…) Other East Coast studios had moved production to Los Angeles, prior to Nestor’s move west. The California weather allowed for year-round filming and the ambitious studio operated three principal divisions under its Canadian-born general manager, Al Christie. Christie moved permanently to Southern California from the East, where he had been working with the Horsleys creating the popular silent-era Mutt and Jeff comedy shorts. One division at the Hollywood location, under director Milton H. Fahrney, made a one-reel Western picture every week while the second division, under director Tom Ricketts, turned out a one-reel drama every week. In addition to running the operation, Christie oversaw a weekly production of a one-reel Mutt and Jeff episode. (…) On May 20, 1912, the Nestor Film Company merged with the Universal Film Manufacturing Company headed by Carl Laemmle. Several other motion picture companies, including Laemmle’s Independent Moving Pictures (IMP), merged with Universal, which had been founded in April 1912. Nestor became a brand name that Universal used until at least mid-1917.”

>>> the Nestor production By the Sun’s Rays with Lon Chaney

>>> Dorothy Davenport

Operating on Cupid
R: Horace Davey. B: Al Christie (scenario). D: Billie Rhodes, Ray Gallagher, Neal Burns. P: Nestor Film Company. USA 1915

“A black comedy. It starts in a Mélièsian hospital where all kinds of operations seem possible. There is a triangle drama between a beautiful nurse, an amorous doctor, and the woman’s true love. It seems that the doctor gets to operate on his rival. “There is something wrong with his heart”. There is a brutal chase and plenty of wild slapstick.”
Antti Alanen: Film Diary


Nestor Film Company


Children versus adults

The Skeleton
R: Unknown. D: Early Gorman, Charles Manley, Matty Roubert, Mai Wells. P: Powers Picture Plays. USA 1912

The Magic Glass
R: Hay Plumb. D: Reginald Sheffield. P: Hepworth. UK 1914

“An X-ray magnifying glass? What could possibly go wrong? This story – one of numerous early films to make comic hay with mad inventions – relies on a common cinematic trick. A vignette shows the view through the magnifying glass in a ‘door’ or ‘wall’, so the inventor spies his son stealing food from the cupboard or the maid helping herself to the brandy. Inevitably the tables soon turn…
This comedy from the studio of Cecil Hepworth was one of many directed in the early 1910s by Hay Plumb with the same cast and crew.”
BFI player

>>> Hay Plumb’s Hamlet on this site

>>> Hay Plumb as actor: Tilly the Tomboy Visits the Poor

Ford Sterling

Stolen Glory
R: Mack Sennett. D: Ford Sterling, Fred Mace, Alice Davenport, Charles Avery, Victoria Forde. P: Keystone Film Company. USA 1912
Print: BFI

Mack Sennett, Keystone’s presiding genius, ran his studio as an assembly line, pumping out comedies by the yard, with an accomplished, hard-wearing troupe of performers able to fit themselves perfectly into the rigours of whatever routine Sennett had dreamt up for them this week. Three things were particularly noticeable about the films: the unquenchable vitality of the performers, the opportunistic taste for sketches to be devised out of some local event or eye-catching piece of scenery, and the phenomenal speed. One knows all about the knockabout thrills of American slapstick, but looking at a film like Love, Speed and Thrills (1915), the sheer number of shots, angles and different set-ups was prodigious, and seemed to run counter to the demand for getting out the films cheaply and quickly. They made such work for themselves, simply by the pursuit of comic excellence. Not that one could call all of the films strictly funny as such – not funny now, that is – and that the grotesquely gesticulating Ford Sterling was ever revered as a comedian has left posterity baffled. Sterling pulled every face known to man (and a few that man has now happily forgotten) in his efforts to draw laughter out of the curious Stolen Glory (1912), where he and Fred Mace play warring Civil War veterans, filmed interrupting a genuine war veterans’ parade, apparently without any protest from the participants.”
Luke McKernan
Pordenone diary 2008–day four
The Bioscope

A Muddy Romance
R: Mack Sennett. D: Mabel Normand, Ford Sterling, Charles Inslee, Mack Swain, Charles Avery. P: Keystone Film Company. USA 1913

Ford Sterling
“He is remembered for his work with Keystone Studios in Edendale, California and was the original chief of the ever popular fictional bumbling police unit The Keystone Cops. Born George Ford Stich, Jr. he ran away from home at a young age to join the circus and also performed on Mississippi River show boats. In 1905 he got his start on the stage in the play ‘Breaking Into Society.’ He then moved to California and in 1911 began his career in silent films with Biograph Studios. After director Mack Sennett left to set up Keystone Studios, he followed him and there he performed as ‘Chief Teeheezel’ in the Keystone Cops series of slapstick comedies in a successful career that spanned twenty-five years. In 1914 he co-founded the Sterling Film Company with director and cinematographer Fred J. Balshofer. A prolific actor, he appeared in over 275 films during his career, most notably Tango Tangles (1914), Between Showers (1914), and The Show Off (1926). His last film was The Headline Woman (1935, with Heather Angel).”
William Bjornstad
Find a Grave

Double Crossed
R: Ford Sterling. D: Ford Sterling, Emma Bell Clifton, Mack Swain, Chester Conklin, Al St. John. P: Keystone Film Company. USA 1914

“Sterling took to the farcical, fast-paced world of Sennett’s new Keystone Film Company like a fish takes to water. There his stage training, his acrobatic experience, and penchant for silly faces that only a cartoonist could perfect would not only come in handy, but make him famous. He starred in many of Keystone’s earliest releases, including the very first one that was likely filmed, At Coney Island (1912) and the first one Sennett released, Cohen Collects a Debt (1912). Mabel Normand and Fred Mace were frequent co-stars. Sterling seems to have portrayed a comical Jewish character for some of these films, although in a short time he would be identified – perhaps forever – with his ‘Dutch’ character. This character, often called ‘Schintzel’ or other German-sounding names, had a frock coat, a battered top hat, round wire frame glasses and a chin beard. This was merely his look; what made the characterization pure Ford was a hammy, cartoony, go-for-broke performance style complete with his crowning glory: goofy faces. These were his ‘trademarks’ in a sense, even used to advertise his talents.”