A Charlie Chaplin Cartoon

Charlie’s White Elephant (aka Charlie et sa belle)
R (Animation): John Coleman Terry. P: Movca Film Service. USA 1916

This is a 1916 Charlie Chaplin cartoon that was fourth in a series of nine cartoons made by the American Movca Film Service. Animated by John Coleman Terry, Hugh Michael “Jerry” Shields and Gustavo A. Bronstrup. In this cartoon, Charlie wants to marry Mabel Normand, but she insists that he brings her a white elephant first. His opponent for the hand of the fair Mabel is, of course, Roscoe Arbuckle.
YouTube / Film Affinity / IMDb / Letterboxd

“Around 1911, Shields met John Coleman Terry (1880-1934) and began experimenting with animation. Art Babbitt, who worked with both men in the early 1930s, recalled their early process: ‘Original drawings were laid flat on the ground and shot in sunlight. There were no pegholes for registry. The period of Jerry Shields was about 1911’. Terry and Shields formed the Movca Film Service in September 1914, claiming to possess ‘an invention that is claimed to be a great improvement over present methods in the manufacture of comic cartoon films.'”
Charlie Judkins
Early NY animators

Another Charlie cartoon:

Charlie on the Windmill / Charlie & The Indians
R (Animation): Hugh “Jerry” Shields. P: Movca Film Service. USA 1915

“With this much material to work from, it’s easy to see parallels, both with the later Felix the Cat cartoons that this team would create, and with the work of Winsor McCay, who influenced them both as well. The backgrounds tend to be undetailed, and white space fills much of the screen. I noticed less of Chaplin’s physical style in this than in Windmill, and a lot more of the imaginative whimsy of Felix cartoons.”
Century Film Project

“Sullivan’s Charlie/Charley series (1918-1919) is often confused with the earlier Charlie Cartoons (1916) produced for Movca Film by S. J. Sangretti and animated by John C. Terry, G. A. Bronstrup, and Hugh Shields. Charlie On the Windmill, often misattributed to Sullivan and Messmer, has been positively identified as part of the Movca series by Dalla Cineteca del Friuli (Bologna, Italy).”
The Internet Animation Data Base


The Girl Without a Country

Das Mädchen ohne Vaterland
R: Urban Gad. B: Urban Gad. K: Guido Seeber. D: Asta Nielsen, Paul Meffert, Max Wogritsch, Hanns Kräly, Fred Immler. P: Deutsche Bioscop GmbH für Projektions-AG „Union“ (PAGU). D 1912
Print: Bundesarchiv Berlin
German titles, Rus. subtitles

Asta Nielsen interprets the role of the gipsy heroine in “The Girl Without a Contry”. A spy, disguised as a painter, induces a gipsy girl to flirt with a young Balkan military lieutenant for the purpose of getting from him the secret plans of a fortification.

“The silent-movie star Asta Nielsen is usually attributed with the sole authorship of her films. She developed and shaped her screen personas and knew how to utilize the scope of the young art form of film to influence all production processes of her movies. Apart from the close artistic partnership with her husband and director Urban Gad, Asta Nielsen appreciated the creative exchange with cameraman Guido Seeber, who in the early days of cinema ranked among the pioneers in regard to camera techniques. In Das Mädchen ohne Vaterland (Urban Gad, D 1912), Asta Nielsen, as a gypsy, balances charmingly fleet-footedly on a canon muzzle – a shot emblematic of the entire film.”
Arsenal Berlin

“In Urban Gad’s Das Mädchen ohne Vaterland, when gipsy girl Zidra (Asta Nielsen) visits the rooms of Lieutenant Ipanoff in a Central European fortress. the camera is positioned so that it has to show either the area near the door left or an alcove rear right. When the visitor knocks,  Zidra hides behind curtains near the door, and Ipanoff shows the visitor to the alcove; thenceforth the camera pans back and forth between the door area and the alcove as Zidra emerges and leaves the room in search of secret plans, Ipanoff comes momentarily to the door and finds her gone, she returns to her hiding place while he is in the alcove, he shows the visitor out, and Zidra emerges, pretending to have been behind the curtains all along.”
Richard Abel: Encyclopedia of Early Cinema. Taylor & Francis 2005, p. 248

“Ich kenne keinen anderen Asta-Nielsen- Film aus dieser Zeit, bei dem die Schauspielerin so bei sich selbst zu sein scheint wie als Mädchen ohne Vaterland. Barfüßig trägt sie den ganzen Film über nur das eine körperbetonende, raffiniert verschlissene Kleid. Das Klischee des ‘Zigeunermädchens’, der ‘schönen Wilden’, dient als Vorwand für den Versuch, eine ‘naive’ Körpersprache ohne gesellschaftliche Prägungen zu artikulieren, damit ist sie noch ganz Kind ihrer Zeit. In der Zidra -Rolle, die die Nielsen offensichtlich sehr genießt, darf sie auf Vaterland, militärischen Ehrenkodex und gesellschaftliche Normung pfeifen – anarchistisch handeln und fühlen. Einen Ausdruck völliger Freiheit wagen, das beschreibt das Faszinosum der Kunstfigur Zidra, ihre auf männliche wie weibliche Zuschauer gleichermaßen zielende erotische Attraktion. In diesem Zusammenhang ist es sehr aufschlussreich, dass Leutnant und Spion gefasst und exekutiert werden, sie jedoch entkommen kann und auch nicht weiter verfolgt wird. Für die Zensur und aufrechte Patrioten war allein ihre Existenz als Mädchen ‘ohne Vaterland’ schon die Höchststrafe. Nur unter diesem patriotischen Klischee konnte der Film seine anarchistische Konterbande in die Köpfe der Zuschauer schmuggeln.”
Helmut Herbst: Der Star, das Handwerk und die Konterbande. Asta Nielsen und ihr Film Das Mädchen ohne Vaterland (1912)
Frühe Filmtechnik

Asta Nielsen on this site:

>>> AfgrundenBalletdanserinden, Die Filmprimadonna, Zapatas Bande, Die Verräterin

Explosive Christmas

Making Christmas Crackers
D: A.E. Coleby. P: Cricks & Martin Films. UK 1910

“This seasonal interest film shows the girls and women of Messrs Clark, Nickolls and Coombs factory making Christmas decorations (probably at the company’s licensed Clamico Works, at Victoria Park, London). It illustrates the various processes involved, with some work done by hand and some with the aid of machines.
The workforce that we see consists exclusively of women. The girls are all very neatly dressed and orderly – in marked contrast to some other films of industrial processes such as the same year’s A Day in the Life of a Coal Miner, in which women are seen doing very heavy physical labour. As was usual for interest films of this type, the finished product is seen being enjoyed by a bourgeois family round the Christmas tree, with Santa putting in a special cameo appearance. Presumably the producers were aiming at this respectable middle-class audience and at those a bit further down the social scale who might aspire to join it.”
Bryony Dixon
BFI Screenonline

“This is an interesting film for a number of reasons. Its production was sponsored by Clark, Nickolls & Coombs, the company who were responsible for making the crackers, and it shows that their workforce was almost entirely made up of women. These working class women stand in distinct contrast to the middle-class family shown enjoying the fruits of such factory labours around the Christmas tree – suggesting this was a form of advertising and possibly education, demonstrating both the processes of manufacture and that the company sold (or at least aimed to sell) their products to an aspirational middle-class market. The idea of consumerism and consumption at Christmas is clearly not a new one!”
Another Kind Of Mind

“The Christmas cracker was invented by London-based confectioner and baker Tom Smith (1823 – 1869) who set up shop in Goswell Road, Clerkenwell in the 1840s. Smith initially produced wedding cakes and sweets. On a trip to Paris he discovered the French ‘bon bon’, a sugared almond wrapped in a twist of tissue paper. Bonbons proved a hit at Christmas time and to encourage year-round sales, Smith added a small love motto inside the wrapper. The inspiration to add the explosive ‘pop’ was supposedly sparked by the crackling sound of a log fire. Smith patented his first cracker device in 1847 and perfected the mechanism in the 1860s. It used two narrow strips of paper layered together, with silver fulminate painted on one side and an abrasive surface on the other – when pulled, friction created a small explosion. To stave off competition, the company introduced a range of cracker designs, which were marketed as a novelty for use at a wide range of celebrations. Tom’s son, Walter, added the elaborate hats, made of fancy paper, and sourced novelties and gifts from Europe, America and Japan. The success of the cracker enabled the business to grow and move to larger premises in Finsbury Square, employing 2,000 people by the 1890s, including many female workers.”
The Christmas cracker

A Visit to Peak Frean & Co’s Biscuit Works
P: Cricks & Martin Films. UK 1906

George Howard Cricks and John Howard Martin first met when they both worked for Robert Paul in the late nineteenth century. Martin was in charge of the darkroom, and Cricks of the sale of films and equipment through Paul’s Animatographe Depot in High Holborn.
Cricks left to form his own company, and Cricks and Martin was founded in 1908, when Martin replaced Cricks’ first partner, Henry Martin Sharp, at their studios in Mitcham in Surrey. In 1910 they moved to bigger studio premises at Waddon New Road in Croydon. (…)
Their output until 1912 was short comics, melodramas and industrial subjects, not unlike many other British manufacturers at that time. Their comedies were routine, although The Biter Bit (1909) showed some invention within the chase format by showing an escalating chase on foot, by bicycle and finally by car. (…)
Where Cricks and Martin particularly excelled were in their industrial subjects. They produced a great number of finely made subjects chronicling aspects of various British industries such as A Day in a Pottery Works (1909), The Birth of a Big Gun (1908), and Making Christmas Crackers (1910), and in Cliff Climbing (1908) they secured amazing views of a professional egg collector dangling from a cliff face at Flamborough Head in Yorkshire.
On the fiction side, by 1911 Cricks and Martin were developing series with recurring comic characters including Charley Smiler, played by Fred Evans, who would find fame as the character Pimple for the Clarendon Film Co. In October 1911 they announced an ambitious expansion in the scope of their projects, with better plots, better acting and better production. By the end of the year they had the largest producing staff of any British manufacturer and had produced their first feature length film, Pirates of 1920 (1911).”
Simon Brown, Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors
BFI Screenonline

>>> Labour

Percy Smith’s Micro Cinematography

To Demonstrate How Spiders Fly
R: F. Percy Smith. P: Kineto. UK 1909

Percy Smith believed that he could cure people of their fear of spiders by showing them blown up images of their eight legged foes on the cinema screen. This short film uses an animated model spider to show how the spider ‘throws’ its silken threads to make a web. The little fellow is quite comical and is the first of several animated creatures to appear in Smith’s films.
A spider is shown standing on a piece of rock. A thread is produced until sufficient to bear the spider’s weight. In a humorous fashion, the spider lifts all eight legs off the craggy outcrop and is pulled into the air, sailing off into the unknown. In the next sequence we see how the spider uses its legs to manipulate the web, turning on its back then gathering in the thread with its feet. The film ends with a live action shot of a spider in its lair, scrabbling around looking for tasty morsels.”
Jenny Hammerton
BFI Screenonline

“As soon as pictures could move, naturalists were desperate to capture on film the subjects of their obsession – birds, bees, flowers, animals and plants of all kinds. Pioneers such as Oliver Pike, Percy Smith, F. Martin Duncan and J.C. Bee-Mason invented the genre, invented their own equipment and methodology, developed techniques and braved the elements to capture images that still fascinate us today. (…) The first British film featuring animals in a deliberate set up was made by William K. Dickson for his Biograph Company in London in December 1899, and featured a fight between a tarantula and a scorpion – although arguably this was an opportunistic film of an existing animal act. The first deliberate attempt to portray wildlife on film was Charles Urban‘s 1903 Unseen World series, drawing mainly on the talents of sequence photographer and lecturer F. Martin Duncan. (…) Urban’s personal mission to use film for education was an important factor in his fostering the careers of wildlife filmmakers such as Percy Smith, and in 1907 he developed the Kineto brand specifically to promote scientific and travel subjects. Oliver Pike, an unusually ‘driven’ nature photographer with technical flair, made his own film In Birdland (1907), which played at the Palace Theatre in London for six weeks and sold an impressive 100 prints.”
Bryony Dixon
BFI Screenonline

The Acrobatic Fly
R: F. Percy Smith. P: Charles Urban Trading Company. UK 1910

“Smith was a true pioneer, inventing original (and bizarre) methods for time lapse and micro cinematography, involving all kinds of home-made devices, including alarms all over his home to wake him up in the middle of the night if the film in the camera needed changing. With endless patience, he could spend up to two and a half years to complete a film. He also had the popular touch, with the happy knack (as he put it himself) of being able to feed his audience ‘the powder of instruction in the jam of entertainment’.”
Bryony Dixon
BFI Screenonline

>>> Oliver Pike’s St. Kilda, Its People and Birds

>>> Percy Smith’s The Birth of a Flower

>>> Nature / Science