Britain’s First Epic Film: Jane Shore

Jane Shore (also known as The Strife Eternal in the USA)
R: Bert Haldane / F. Martin Thornton. B: Nicholas Rowe (play) / Rowland Talbot. K: Fred Bovill / Leslie Eveleigh. Art direction: P. Mumford / F. Ambrose. Costumes: W. Davies.  D: Blanche Forsythe, Roy Travers, Robert Purdie, Thomas H. MacDonald, Dora de Winton, Maud Yates, Nelson Phillips, Rolfe Leslie, Tom Coventry, Rachel de Solla, Frank Melrose, Fred Pitt. P: Bulldog production (Will Barker). UK 1915

“His (i.e. Will Barker’s) most famous film, directed by Martin Thornton and released in 1915, was Jane Shore, starring his chief leading lady, Blanche Forsythe. It was the most spectacular British production to that date, employing thousands of extras in some of the set-piece scenes, and, because it dealt with a period of English history in which internal conflict prevaled (the Wars of the Roses), it was seen in some quarters as the British answer to D.W. Griffiths’s contemporary masterpiece set in the American Civil War, The Birth of a Nation. ”
George Perry in ‘Forever Ealing’ (1981)
the studio tour

“Historical incidents associated with our own and other countries have been admirably depicted by the cinematograph. What is regarded as one of the finest of these historical productions is Jane Shore,  which, in addition to its other merits , has the recommendation that it is entirely a product of British enterprise and industry in film-making. Painstaking care has characterised the production of the film, as the many fine scenes with which it abounds clearly show . An indication of the lavish scale on which the film, which comes from the Barker Motion Photography (Limited), is produced, is to be had in the fact that it cost over £10,000, no fewer than 5748 artistes took part in it, and in one scene 3500 people participated. The period with which the story of Jane Shore deals is that of the Wars of the Roses and the stirring episodes of that eventful time. The romantic story of Jane Shore and Edward II., the historic events in which famous personages participate, the gorgeous scenes, the pageantry of the streets, and other features too numerous to mention, combine to make an excellent film. The acting throughout is natural, the costumes are appropriate to the period o of the story, and care has been paid to every detail. The battle scenes are fine examples of what can be accomplished by the cinematographer’s art.”
The Scotsman – Tuesday 11 May 1915

About Bert Haldane:
“He began working for the Hepworth Manufacturing Company in 1910, describing himself as a ‘cinematograph production manager’ and specialising in social dramas and crime films. He joined Will Barker’s company in July 1912, producing more crime films, including The Test (1913) in which a policeman spitefully exposes an ex-convict at his new work place, as well as the more sensational The Lure of London (1914), and The Rogues of London (1915), His social films included As a Man Sows: or, an Angel of the Slums (1914), in which a slum landlord is reformed, as well as films on alcoholism, poverty, unemployment and illegitimacy. Perhaps his most famous films were two literary adaptations, East Lynne (1913) and Jane Shore (1915). East Lynne, a melodrama based on the sensational novel by Mrs Henry Wood and subsequent repertory potboiler, was Britain’s first six-reel film. It was lauded as one of the best British films ever produced and garnered much critical and popular acclaim. Later, film historians were to refer to its polished film techniques. Jane Shore, an historical epic with a huge cast, high production standards and several thousand extras, was even more successful. Variety magazine conceded that, ‘There is still hope for the English picture producer. He is showing signs of improvement…(an) excellent picture – judged by British standards’.”
Simon Baker
Screenonline

>>> Haldane’s The German Spy Peril on this site

Dorothy Davenport

A Brave Little Woman
R: Tom Ricketts. D: Dorothy Davenport, Harold Lockwood. P: Nestor Film Company / David Horsley. USA 1912
Print: EYE (Desmet collection)
Dutch titles
The YouTube title is not correct.

“Daniel Lyttell is very ill, but Doctor Bozel assures Clara that the crisis is over and that her husband will eventually get well. In the dead of the night, a burglar enters the Lyttell home. His silent footsteps reach the ear of the sick man. Clara, too, hears mysterious noises. She pacifies Daniel and tells him to rest and sleep. Softly she steals out of the room to investigate and soon discovers the burglar. Quickly rushes to the telephone, but finds that the wires have been cut. For a moment she hesitates and fears, fears for her husband. Goes to his bedside and rejoices to find him asleep. Hastily dons a wrap and envelops her head in a black veil, leaves the room and busies herself rummaging in the drawers of a desk. The burglar comes upon her but is unable to intimidate the brave little woman.”
Moving Picture World synopsis

“When she moved to Southern California as an actress with the Nestor Film Company in late 1911, Dorothy Davenport became one of the first members of the early film colony soon to be known as Hollywood. One early biography appearing in Moving Picture Stories reported that the actress had remained with the eastern branch of that company until late 1912. However, a photograph in the Los Angeles Public Library shows the personnel of the Nestor Company in Pasadena, California, on December 23, 1911, with Dorothy Davenport a prominent member of the stock company. While at Nestor, which soon became a unit of Universal Pictures, she met actor Wallace Reid, whom she married in October of 1913. Both were popular players at Universal during the mid-teens, but Reid’s career accelerated after 1915 when he signed a long-term contract with the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company and starred in a number of Cecil B. DeMille films, the year before the company merger that produced Famous-Players Lasky.  (…) Wallace Reid’s international stardom was the context for Davenport Reid’s emergence as a motion picture author in the mid-1920s. When the nation’s newspapers reported that Wallace Reid was a drug addict and severely ill in a sanitarium, Davenport Reid became the chief interpreter of her husband’s illness. When Reid died on January 18, 1923, she quickly returned to the screen to make Human Wreckage (1923), a film about the tragic consequences of the illegal trade in narcotics.”
Mark Lynn Anderson
Women Film Pioneers Project

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Dorothy Davenport

>>> Nestor, the first Hollywood Studio on this site

Dramatic Phone Communication

The Telephone
R: Unknown. D: Leo Delaney, Rose Tapley, Dolores Costello. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1910
Release Date: 29 October 1910
Print: Library of Congress under the title “The Fire Story” which does not exist!

Vitagraph had suggested “to play selections from the popular stage musical ‘The Telephone Girl’ to accompany the telephone exchange scene in Vitagraph’s October 1910 film The Telephone.” This has been critized by Clyde Martin, house pianist at Dodge’s Theatre in Keokuk (Iowa):
“During the telephone exchange scene the telephone girl is connecting the frantic wife with her husband at the club, and the men at the club are calling the fire department, from the expression of the telephone girl’s face you can imagine she hears the cracking of the flames on the other end of the wire, that have cut off all means of escape for that frantic mother and child. And in such a scene the Vitagraph company would like to hear the catchy selections from ‘The Telephone Girl’.”
Rick Altman: Silent Film Sound. Columbia University Press 2007, p. 222

Broncho Billy, the First Cowboy

Broncho Billy’s Last Hold-Up
R: Gilbert M. Anderson. D: Gilbert M. Anderson, Vedah Bertram, Arthur Mackley, Harry Todd. P: Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. USA 1912
Print: Jean Desmet Collection at EYE
Dutch titles

“A girl helps Broncho Billy to hide when the sheriff comes looking for him. When a while later he finds her and her mother unconscious, he holds up a stagecoach to bring them to a doctor. The sheriff, still on Billy’s track, shoots him in front of the doctor’s practice.” (YouTube)

Broncho Billy’s Narrow Escape
R: Gilbert M. Anderson. D: Gilbert M. Anderson, Brinsley Shaw, Vedah Bertram, Arthur Mackley. P: Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. USA 1912
Print: Jean Desmet Collection at EYE
Dutch titles

“While looking for work, Broncho Billy meets a girl and falls in love with her. Broncho is then accused of horse theft by a jealous lover of the girl. At the moment that he is to be hanged, Broncho’s beloved girl comes to his rescue.” (YouTube)

Broncho Billy’s Sentence
R: Gilbert M. Anderson. B: Gilbert M. Anderson. D: Gilbert M. Anderson, Virginia True Boardman, Ernest Van Pelt. P: Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. USA 1915

“In 1907, Gilbert Anderson and George Spoor founded Essanay Studios (‘S and A’ for Spoor and Anderson), one of the predominant early movie studios headquartered in Chicago. Gilbert Anderson acted in and directed over 400 short films for the studio. Although he played a wide variety of characters in these, he gained enormous popularity in a series of 148 silent western shorts, becoming the first cowboy star of the movies, ‘Bronco Billy’.” Originally spelled ‘Broncho Billy’. Spoor stayed in Chicago running the company like a factory, while Anderson traveled the western United States to California by train with a film crew shooting movies. Many of these were shot in small towns with trains running through them. These were: San Rafael, Fairfax, Niles and Santa Barbara. Essanay Film Company rented four houses near the Eastside Ballpark in San Rafael.  (…) The film lot was on the Ball Park.  (…) It took up the whole block. The portable stage was sitting outside of right field on the ball park. No one told the San Rafael Colts baseball team. Their star player, Roland Totheroth, remembered, “One day we went to practice and Lo and Behold! There was a bunch of Cowboys and Indians and Horses all over the field.” Roland Totheroth joined Essanay the next year (1912) in Niles, CA and became a camera operator.  In 1916 he went to Hollywood and became cameraman for Charlie Chaplin. (…)
In 1912 they moved from Happy Valley (San Rafael) to Niles, California, a small town in Alameda County near Fremont, CA., where the nearby Western Pacific railroad route was a perfect location for the filming of Westerns. Eventually they moved to Los Angeles as it was becoming the film capital of the world. Many Bronco Billy westerns were shot in Niles, California, along with The Tramp featuring Charlie Chaplin. In Niles they made a picture a week.”
Constanza Perry: Broncho Billy and The Essanay Film Company in Happy Valley
Montecito Area

>>> Broncho Billy and the GreaserBroncho Billy and the School Mistress

TRAUM UND EXZESS, p. 345 f.

The First Film-based Animation

Humorous Phases of Funny Faces
R: J. Stuart Blackton. D: J. Stuart Blackton. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1906
Print: Library of Congress

“The person credited with making the first film-based animation (…), is James Stuart Blackton with his film Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906). (…) The short starts with the artist’s hand drawing on a chalkboard. Soon, however, the drawing starts to move on its own. The film is as primitive as it is fun. A man in a top hat blows cigar smoke into a woman’s face. A clown dances. (…)
Blackton started his career as a journalist and a vaudeville cartoonist. In 1896, he was assigned to cover Thomas Edison’s brand new invention – the Vitascope, an early film projector. Edison proved to be such a good salesman that Blackton ended up buying one. Soon he, along with his vaudeville partner Albert Smith, founded one of the first ever movie studios — the American Vitagraph Company. The company eventually became known for creating some of the first movie adaptations of Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, but before that, they made short ‘trick’ movies – flashy shorts to be shown during vaudeville shows. One of those movies, The Enchanted Drawing (1900) is essentially a filmic version of Blackton’s act with some cinematic sleight-of-hand thrown in. (…) In 1911, Blackton, along with his co-director, the spectacularly talented Winsor McCay, made Little Nemo, a movie that hints at the true potential of animation.”
Jonathan Crow
OPEN CULTURE

Tango Movies

Tango Tangles
R : Mack Sennett. D: Charles Chaplin, Ford Sterling, Roscoe Arbuckle, Chester Conklin. P: Keystone Film Company. USA 1914

“The tango is a dance in 2/4 time, originally from Argentina, and is ‘characterized by catlike walking action and staccato head movements’. Sounds like the perfect dance step for a consummate pantomimist! In fact, the tango had only entered the United States and its consciousness a few years before this film. The 1920 book, ‘Handbook of Ball-Room Dancing’, by Paymaster-Commander A. M. Cree, RN., of all people, notes that ‘In 1912–13, when the ‘Tango’ first came among us, expositions were given on nearly every music-hall, with the result that a few self-styled experts were rushing up and down drawing-rooms, executing vigorous half-moons, scissors, and introduced mattchiche steps into their gyrations, with the result that the dance was immediately voted ‘taboo.’(8-9). Dancers Irene and Vernon Castle, who often demonstrated their talents on the Broadway stage are given credit by some for the step’s introduction here; others claim it was New York City dance instructor Maurice Mouvet who brought it back from his Paris vacation. Whatever circumstances surround its introduction, however, the tango’s exotic and intoxicating allure failed to be squelched even by the advent of World War I, a fact that probably predicted its continuing popularity today.”
Lisa Stein Haven: Tango Entanglement, 2006
Charlie Chaplin

Tangled Tangoist
R: George D. Baker. B: Arthur Ashley (story). D: John Bunny, Flora Finch, Louise Beaudet, Charles Wellesley. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1914

John Bunny and Flora Finch
“Bunny was born in New York city and gravitated to the theater. By 1900, he was appearing on Broadway, and when the new medium of film came along, Bunny jumped in. His first film, Cohen’s Dream, was released in 1909 and he continued to star in comedy short subjects until his death.
Bunny was fat, and used his physique to great advantage. He usually played a lower class guy who is only interested in getting away from his wife and drinking, gambling and having fun.
His wife was usually played by Flora Finch. Finch was a thin, sour faced women with a prominent nose that made her resemble the bird she was named for. She was from a British theatrical family and her career paralleled Bunny – reaching Broadway a few years later. Around 1910, she was cast as Bunny’s wife, and the first successful film comedy team was born. (…)
By 1915, they were the most popular film comedians, neck and neck with Charlie Chaplin. But the films ended with Bunny’s death. Finch continued to act into the talky days, but by the end of her career was mostly appearing in walk-on roles.
By that time, they had been forgotten. Chaplin has revolutionized comedy, moving it from a handful of laughs a reel to a handful of laughs a minute. Films like A Cure for Pokeritis seem too slow paced, and the jokes are not as funny as what we now expect.”
Chuck Rothman
Great but Forgotten

>>> John Bunny on this site

Charles-Émile Reynaud’s Optical Toy

Pauvre Pierrot
P: Charles-Émile Reynaud. Fr 1892

“In 1876 he (i.e. Charles-Émile Reynaud, 1844-1918) decided to make an optical toy to amuse a young child. Improving on the Phenakistiscope and Zoetrope, Reynaud devised the Praxinoscope, patented on 21 December 1877, a cylinder with a band of coloured images set inside. There was a central drum of mirrors, which were equidistant between the axis and the picture strip, so that as the toy revolved the reflection of each picture seen in the mirror-drum appeared stationary, without the necessity for complex stop-start mechanisms. The images blended to give a clear, bright, undistorted moving picture without flicker. (…) A further development was the Projection Praxinoscope which used a series of transparent pictures on glass; an oil lamp illuminated the images and the mirror reflections passed through a lens onto a screen. The same lamp projected a static background, and once again the moving pictures were seen in an appropriate setting.  All three models were demonstrated to the Société Française de Photographie in 1880. In December 1888 Reynaud patented his Théâtre Optique, a large-scale Praxinoscope intended for public projection. By using spools to feed and take-up the extended picture band, sequences were no longer limited to short cyclic movements. The images were painted on gelatine squares and fastened between leather bands, with holes in metal strips between the pictures engaging in pins on the revolving wheel, so that each picture was aligned with a facet of the mirror drum. This was the first commercial use of the perforations that were to be so important for successful cinematography. In 1892 Reynaud signed an agreement with the Musée Grevin in Paris to present the ‘Pantomimes Lumineuses’; the first animated pictures shown publicly on a screen by means of long, transparent bands of images, and on 28 October gave the first show. The apparatus was set up behind a translucent screen and Reynaud apparently gave most of the presentations himself, deftly manipulating the picture bands to-and-fro to extend the sequences, creating a twelve or fifteen minute performance from the 500 frames of Pauvre Pierrot. Two other early subjects were Clown et ses chiens (300 frames) and Un Bon boc (700). Special music was compiled by Gaston Paulin, with magnificent poster artwork by Jules Cheret, and the show was a success.”
Stephen Herbert
Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema

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Reynaud’s Théâtre Optique

“The display of moving live action images was regarded as the ultimate pinnacle to reach. While Le Prince, Friese-Greene, Dickson and others already had managed to capture successful sequences of moving photographs, Reynaud was still playing with painted images. Through the prism of time, his work appears to be almost pointless. At first sight, he did not bring anything new to film. The concept that to create motion one requires a plethora of multiple images moved in rapid succession existed for centuries. Creating a machine that would be capable to move those images so that the eye interprets the result as a single image in motion predates even the early works from Muybridge. So, why is Reynaud’s work still worth a place in the cinematic canon?

The answer to the question above does not reside with the method of production, but rather its content. Poor Pierrot, the only film preserved to this day from the three originally showcased at the Musée Grévin in Paris in 1892, is a work that contains all of the key characteristics of modern film-making. The most important of these is the plot. Here, Reynaud relied on the traditions of pantomime to create a show. The story is quite simple: Harlequin visits Columbine during the night, but what might seem for them to be a night of adventure and fun is interrupted by Pierrot. (…) Needless to say, the plot works in the best traditions of pantomime, and Harlequin’s victory is rewarded in the end, for he is the one to enter Columbine’s home, while Pierrot is losing his wits in the middle of the night. Reynaud’s choice of subject matter displays a high degree of commercial maturity. During nearly a decade of playing at Musée Grévin, he had entertained about half a million spectators with his “absolutely unprecedented show” at a salary of “500 francs a month and 10 percent of the revenue generated by the fifty centimes’ additional admission charge for the show”. They key to this success was the uniqueness of the show.
Ion Martea
Essential Films

“(…) during the 1890s, for at least five years after the theatrical appearance of  Lumière‘s Cinématographe and other related entertainments, Reynaud’s Pantomimes Lumineuses drew well over a thousand paying customers each week. One conclusion is obvious: contemporary audiences, most of whom would also have been familiar with Lumière‘s films, did not regard Reynaud’s handmade cartoonlike shorts as an inadequate or incomplete form of cinema but as attractions in their own right with their own particular pleasures, which must not be judged in relation to what were to prove more pervasive and historically modes of representation.”
Jonathan Crary: Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press 2001, p. 266