Tom Mix, Cowboy Actor

Saved by the Pony Express
R: Francis Boggs. D: Tom Mix, Thomas Carrigan. P: Selig Polyscope Company. USA 1911
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

“Our first scene shows cowboys and their sweethearts, enjoying a quadrille on horseback. ‘Happy Jack’ rides off with Belle Archer, the sweetheart of Jim. Jim, furiously angry, attacks Happy and the cowboys, taking Jim’s pistol from him, hustle him out of the bunk-house. Later the pistol falls to the floor and explodes, the bullet striking and killing Happy, who is alone. The brave fellow writes on a piece of paper before he dies, ‘I shot myself accidentally, Jack.’ A gust of wind blows the note into a corner, Jim entering, is discovered examining his revolver over the dead man, and is accused of murder. Later, we see Jim on trial for his life. The lame cowboy finds the last message of Happy Jack. He limps out to the road and hands the paper to Jim’s friend, the Pony Express rider. His horse goes lame. He lassos and mounts an unbroken broncho and is on his way again in a wild dash to save the life of his friend. The jury foreman is about to pronounce the verdict of ‘guilty,’ when the spunky rider dashes into the courtroom still mounted and delivers the message that proves Jim’s innocence. Then a big hurrah for Jim and the Pony Express rider.”
Moving Picture World synopsis

“Some of the reasons for Mix‘s later popularity may be seen long before he had reached stardom, in Selig‘s Saved by the Pony Express (July 1911). The film shows a novel square dance on horseback, which might be an invention of the Wild West shows from which Mix entered pictures. The plot concerns a false accusation of murder: the note that will clear the accused of the crime has to be carried by the pony express rider in a race against time. The film is perhaps not very well made and does not even make any important use of landscape (…) Nevertheless, it is fascinating to see the ease of the players in the saddle, especially the pony express rider, played by Mix, who jumps off his horse and onto the waiting horses with show-off skill. Mix never pretended to be a great actor, and even at the peak of his stardom chose to be filmed at a long distance from the camera most of the time.”
Eileen Bowser: The Transformation of Cinema 1907-1915. Vol. 2, part 2. University of California Press 1994, p. 172

>>> Francis Boggs

Sage Brush Tom
R: Tom Mix. B: Tom Mix. D: Tom Mix, Goldie Colwell, Ed Brady. P: Selig Polyscope Company. USA 1915
Print: Prelinger Archives San Francisco

Thomas Hezekiah Mix (1880-1940)
“Cowboy Actor. His movie career spanned 26 years, from 1909 through 1935. He made over 300 feature films, produced 88, wrote 71 and had time to direct 117. However, he made only 9 sound films and a cheap 15 chapter series called Miracle Rider. He had a sidekick sorrel steed named ‘Tony’ and the duo was renowned for performing their own stunts. No trick cameras or fake scenes were ever used, but at a price. Mix was injured many times. (…)
His father taught him to ride, and for the next few years he worked various odd jobs in town and as a waterboy for lumberjacks in the Allegheny Mountains. The Army was his vehicle to the outside world enlisting at age 18 and attained the rank of Sergeant spending the duration of his military time in the continental U.S. Tom ended his enlistment by simple desertion (not revealed until his death), found a variety of odd jobs in the Oklahoma Territory then was employed at the 101 Ranch, a defining period in his life, the largest in the country at that time, where he honed his western skills as a horseman and expert shot even winning prizes in Rodeo competition. The Selig Polyscope Company came to Oklahoma to make western movies. Mix was engaged to find cowboys, Indians and locations for filming. He offered to play a part, then signed on with Selig making 170 silent movies and eventually for The Fox Company. (…) His movie career wound down in the 1930’s after silent films were replaced by talkies. He was never successful in making the transition and simply quit accepting an offer to tour with the Sells-Floto Circus. He began his own circus in 1937, but the venture proved a financial disaster. His big top folded in 1938. The final curtain was just around the corner. Two years later, while heading to California to discus a possible return to the movies, Tom Mix died in Arizona when his car plunged into a ravine. (…)”

502-Tom Mix

“For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Tom Mix has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He has his cowboy boot prints, palm prints in Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. A posthumous induction was made into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. There is a Tom Mix museum in Dewey, Oklahoma and another in Mix Run, Pennsylvania. (…)
In 1933 Tom Mix began endorsing Ralston Cereal through the Tom Mix Straight Shooters Club and a radio series that outlasted him by ten years. Millions of kids tuned in glued to their radios. They learned the secret handshake, password and then sent in their saved box tops and hard to come by quarters for such items as the guns, rings, air planes, books, lariats, coins, bandanas, badges, stationery, cowboy clothes, make-up kits, telegraph sets, periscopes and branding irons. Things a must to have in those days by kids.”
Find a Grave

“In July 1915 Tom had moved to the excellent town of Las Vegas – the proper one in New Mexico, not the vulgar gambling resort in Nevada – and made his movies there. Sage Brush Tom was one of many. Like the others, it was written, directed and produced by Tom: Colonel Selig left Mix a great deal of autonomy and rarely even visited the set. It is a comedy: Tom buys a photograph of an actress (hardly a racy one – she is all muffled up in an overcoat) and falls in love. He takes his stub of a pencil and writes a clumsy fan letter to her, at her studio (Selig Polyscope) back East – film studios were still back East in those days. (…) It’s light-hearted, inconsequential but mildly amusing. The 1915 audiences in the nickelodeons probably laughed heartily. (…) The short is interesting also because we see the first signs of Mix’s costume getting flashier. There are silver conchas on the seams of his chaps, the bridle he uses has silver ornamentation, and he is using the fancy saddle he won in the 1913 Frontier Days rodeo in Prescott, AZ. Later, of course, Mix would exaggerate this exotic wardrobe and become duded-out in fancy frippery but here we see the start of that process.
Jeff Arnold
Jeff Arnold’s West


Emile Chautard

Le coeur et les yeux
R: Emile Chautard. B: Emile Chautard, Pierre Sales (novel). D: Damorès, Cécile Didier, Maria Fromet, Renée Sylvaire. P: Société Française des Films Éclair. Fr 1911
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

“While cleaning her gloves which she was to wear at a ball, Cecilia meets with an accident and becomes blind. Her slim resources are soon exhausted, and being unable to work, the poor girl is soon brought to distress. Led by her little sister, she is forced to beg. Young Doctor Humbert, noticing the young girl one day, becomes interested, and persuades her to go to his offices, where he operates upon her, and in time the girl recovers her sight. Meantime, the young doctor has fallen in love with his pretty patient, but feels it is a rather delicate matter to declare his affection for the girl, under the circumstances, and cannot gain sufficient courage to do so. (…)”
Moving Picture World synopsis

“Directed probably by Chautard, this film is much more varied in its strategies of representation. A cut-in MS in the opening scene, for instance, accentuates the blinding from a benzine bottle, and a later, matching HA MCU (framed in an iris mask) presents a condense version of the restorative operation. The final long-take AS/LS, which returns to the very room where the blinding occured, then uses the device of a back-ground mirror to unite the couple – for the doctor behaves so shyly that only the reflection of his blown kiss, as he is about to exit, lets the woman literally see his intentions.”
Richard Abel: The Cine Goes to Town: French Cinema, 1896-1914. Updated and Expanded Edition. University of California Press 1998, p. 327

MS = Medium Shot, MCU = Medium Close-up, AS/LS = American Shot/Long Shot

643-MоnsoreauClick at the picture to get the film

La dame de Monsoreau
R: Emile Chautard. B: Alexandre Dumas père (novel). D: Marie-Louise Derval, Henri Bosc, Paul Guidé, Victor Perny, Léonce Cargue, Jean Dulac. P: Société Française des Films Éclair. Fr 1913

Emile Chautard was born in Avignon, France in 1864 (one source states Paris in 1881). He studied for the stage and became a leading man at the Odeon Theatre in Paris, later going on to become the leading man and general manager of the Gymnase Theatre, Ryane Theatre, and Theatre Royal du Parc (Brussels, Belgium). He played the role of Napoleon 1,500 times in Madame Sans Gêne.
He began his screen career in Paris with Pathé in 1907, and directed L’Aiglon and other films, after which he went to Eclair. He was director-general of the Association Cinématographique des Auteurs Dramatiques. Jules Brulatour, one of the most active entrepreneurs in the nascent American film industry, brought Chautard to America. In 1915 he joined the Peerless-World studio in West Fort Lee, New Jersey. The Boss was his first World production. Over a period of time he directed such films as The Annals of Perpetua, The Rack, Love’s Crucible, Little Dutch Girl, The Little Church Around the Corner, Human Driftwood, Sudden Riches, The Heart of a Hero, A Hungry Heart, Forget-Me-Nots, All Man, Friday the Thirteenth, and The Man Who Forgot.

“Chautard and Maurice Tourneur were companions during their student days in the Latin Quarter, Paris. Tourneur was studying art, while Chautard was endeavoring to learn the intricacies of stage technique. Several years later they met at the Theatre Francaise, where Tourneur and Chautard were engaged in making a production. They separated and were again drawn together in the early days of film making in the various studios around Paris. Chautard took up film production, and when the Eclair Company began operation in Paris, he was one of the mainstays of that organization.”
The Moving Picture World, May 27, 1916

>>> Maurice Tourneur

501-chautard  Emile Chautard

The Final Years of Imperial China

Modern China (Extract)
P: Charles Urban Trading Company. UK 1910
Print: BFI (Original length 8 min.)

“These extraordinary views of life and landscape in Beijing were filmed during the last years of China’s Qing dynasty, before the 1911 Xinhai Revolution overthrew imperial rule. The focus is on everyday life, and the views of hawkers, labourers, traders, and artisans reveal the city’s vibrant street culture. (…)
The film is the surviving part of an epic – but unrealised – travelogue shot on over 7,000ft of film over 12 months. But most of that original footage never even left China – through bad luck, incompetence, or both (the producer, Charles Urban, subsequently sacked the photographer) more than 90% was lost or proved to be unusable. The footage had a long life in film catalogues and was in distribution at least until 1919, along the way acquiring the alternative title ‘In Quaint Pekin’.”
BFI Player

The Final Years of Qing Dynasty
Unspecified documentary footage. UK (?) about 1910

>>> China, Early 20th Century on this site

R. W. Paul: Blackfriars Bridge

Blackfriars Bridge
R / K: R.W.Paul. P: Paul’s Animatograph Works. UK 1896

“An actuality record of Blackfriars Bridge, London, taken from the southern end looking northwards over the Thames by R.W. Paul in July 1896. It was screened as part of his Alhambra Theatre programme shortly afterwards, certainly no later than 31 August, as it is included in a printed programme of that date (as ‘Traffic on Blackfriars Bridge’). Two or three of the pedestrians seem aware of the camera’s presence, though not to any particularly noticeable extent.”
Michael Brooke
Screen Online

“Paul’s single shot film, Blackfriars Bridge (1896) is typical of the visuel density and local appeal of the actuality. Paul positions his camera to maximise the illusion of immediacy and experiential authenticity. Pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages and omnibuses move in and out of frame in a single shot sequence filmed from the side of one of London’s most iconic bridges. Like so many early actualities, the viewer’s gaze is returned by some of the pedestrians who either look straight into the lens as they approach, or look back as if to catch the eye of the camera as they pass. (…) These moments of gradual apprehension are as much the subject of the film as the bustling traffic of Blackfriars Bridge. The indiscriminate spectacle of movement captured prevails, as multiple anonymous faces and bodies move with varying gaits and bearing through the same public space.”
Helen Groth: Moving Images: Nineteenth-Century Reading and Screen Practices. Edinburgh University Press 2013, p. 167

“The definition of ‘rush hour’ in London grows woollier as the years pass: at its worst it seems to stretch demonically from 6am to 9pm. Journey back over a century to July 1896 though and this tantalising half-minute of footage reveals our Victorian counterparts making their way to work across the Thames by tram, horse-drawn carriage and, for the health-conscious (or the poor), good old Shanks’ pony. More or less business as usual then, although compared to the daily human onslaught we face in 21st century London, the commuters caught by R.W. Paul’s static camera proceed at an enviably elegant pace.”
Simon McCallum


More about Robert W. Paul on this site:

>>> R.W. Paul and Birt Acres1898: A Story to ContinueThe First SightDangerous Cars II

Broncho Billy meets Charlie

His Regeneration
R: Gilbert M. Anderson. B: Gilbert M. Anderson. D: Gilbert M. Anderson, Lee Willard, Marguerite Clayton, Hazel Applegate, Charles Chaplin. P: Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. USA 1915

Gilbert M. ‘Broncho Billy’ Anderson was the writer, director, and star of about 375 short films in the brief period of seven years from 1908-1915. With the necessity to produce a lot of films, time and inspiration for the development of complexity of plot, incident, and character was unavailable. His Regeneration is a good example of the resulting films, in which one-dimensional characters confront a simplistic problem that is quickly resolved. Simplistic, frequently used plot elements aided in the writing of the stories. Examples in His Regeneration include: a criminal being saved by an act of kindness and ‘slumming’ members of the upper class visiting a lower class cafe or dance hall. Techniques in camerawork, editing, and blocking of scenes were advancing at the time, particularly in the films of D.W. Griffith, but Anderson’s methods did not significantly progress. Anderson is best known in the character of Broncho Billy, the first western star. In western or contemporary garb, Anderson was an unlikely star, not handsome in face or figure and lacking subtlety in his acting. He had, however, a rough-edged charm and forcefulness that seem to have been sufficient in the earliest period of filmmaking. Anderson withdrew from films after 1920, when younger and handsomer men were the public favorites, and audiences expected more depth and complexity in story and performance than Anderson could achieve.”
Obscure Hollywood

>>> Broncho Billy – The American ShotBroncho Billy, the First Cowboy


Feuillade’s Héliogabal

L’orgie romaine (aka Héliogabale)
R: Louis Feuillade. D: Jean Aymé, Louise Lagrange, Luitz-Morat, Léonce Perret. P: Société des Etablissements L. Gaumont. Fr. 1911
German intertitles

About Heliogabalus
Varius Avitus Bassianus – a 14-year-old high priest of the Syrian sun god Elagabal won the throne of the Roman Empire in the third century A.D. As Heliogabalus (Eliogabalo) he turned his reign in such an scandalous outrage that he was murdered by his own body guards, after just three years in office. Historians throughout the ages have been united to condemn this embodiment of sin and misconduct in the most terrible kind of words. With ‘… the most cruel and infamous wretch that ever disgraced humanity and polluted a throne …’ (the 19th-century American historian S. W. Stevenson) and the unsurpassed ‘Not only the filthiest of all who walk on two legs but even of all who walk on four legs’ (Historia Augusta, a Roman collection of fourth-century imperial biographies) Eliogabalo defies all description and triggers the imagination. No wonder that this rotten apple of a human being is endowed with books, a movie and an opera.
(…) Most likely apocryphal is the story about the banquet in which the sun child buried his guests in violets and other flowers, so that some of them actually choked to death, being unable to crawl out to the top. The scene inspired Lawrence Adema-Tadema to his most famous painting (The Roses of Heliogabalo) and Louis ‘Fantomas’ Feuillade to his film The Roman Orgy.”
Wagner & Heavy Metal

Lawrence Adema-Tadema: The Roses of Heliogabalo (1888)

“Feuillade’s Roman emporer exhibits attractions (including his dismembered self) to his on-screen and off-screen audiences and directly solicits visual curiosity. He performs like the showmen who exhibited films in French fairgrounds and café-concerts in the earliest years of moving images, when filmmakers were less concerned with telling stories than showing a series of views (Gunning 1990). His lion acts are deprived of the solemnities of Christian martyrdom and its promise of spititual renewal, and thus resemble the vulgar amusements of the circus which lay at cinema’s origins and which historical dramas such as this were supposed to transcend. The emperor-showman embraces the highbrow and the lowbrow, historical fiction and circus shows, narrative continuity and spectacle attraction, moral uplift and profitable entertainment. At a time when French writers were debating ‘whether the cinema acts as a significant force of moral reform or as an immoral temptation’ (Abel 1994), he presses on the limits of what bourgeois cinemagoers might tolerate.”
Maria Wyke: The Pleasures and Punishments of Roman Error. In: Basil Dufallo: Roman Error: Classical Reception and the Problem of Rome’s Flaws. Oxford University Press 2018, p. 230-31


The Imperial Japanese Troupe

Japanese Acrobats
K: Edwin S. Porter. P: Edison Manufacturing Company. USA 1904
Print: Library of Congress

“An Oriental man and boy walk on a stage with a painted backdrop of a garden or park, give a slight bow to the camera as if it were an audience member, and remove their silk jackets. Both wear dark tights and leotards with light-colored slippers; the man also wears grey trunks, and the boy sports a white cloth around his middle. Lying on his back on a fitted mat, the man juggles and spins the boy with his feet. The boy’s acrobatic movements include spinning in a tucked ball-like position, flipping lengthwise in a prone position, flipping from a standing position to a shoulder-stand, somersaulting from a standing to a sitting position, repeated flips involving both the hands and feet of the man, and other series of somersaults and turns. After finishing the act, the acrobats take a slight bow and run off the stage, then return for another bow before finally exiting.”
From Edison films catalog
Library of Congress

“This archive footage, from 1904, illustrates the kinds of acrobatic feats that were made famous by Professor Risley‘s Imperial Japanese Troupe, a group of Japanese performers that toured the world in the late 1860s.”
The Japan Times, Jan 4, 2013

“With the help of the U. S. consul and local American merchants, Risley cobbled together the needed funding and secured permission for what was dubbed the ‘Imperial Japanese Troupe’ to head abroad. In early 1867, the troupe arrived in San Francisco and embarked on a strikingly successful tour across the United States and eventually around the world. (…) Risley’s Imperial Japanese Troupe ultimately played a signature role in introducing the then mysterious world of Japan to those in the West. Risley’s activities are a more or less perfect distillation of one of the major themes of my own work, namely how popular entertainment has served as a medium for cross-cultural exchange. (…) I want to highlight one last cultural artifact of interest. It is a short motion picture filmed in Thomas Edison’s New York Studio on April 29, 1904 now at the Library of Congress. It shows two Japanese acrobats performing what was by then known simply as a Risley act. It was this foot-juggling routine that catapulted its namesake to fame and fortune, and its performance by two Japanese entertainers aptly illustrates the ongoing legacy of international exchange via performance and popular culture.”
Matthew Wittmann: John Hewson Pruyn, Richard Risley, and the Misemono


Simply a Series of Views

A Day in the Hayfields
P: Hepworth Manufacturing Company. UK 1904
Print: BFI

A Day in the Hayfields (1904) merges two of the most popular non-fiction genres of early cinema, the industrial and the scenic. The industrial film was a series of shots following a particular process from beginning to end. It might be a specifically industrial process like the blasting and shaping of slate, a more rural subject like strawberry picking or, as in this case, the cutting and gathering of hay.
The industrial was an interesting way of combining the simplicity of non-fiction filming – you did not have to write a story or cast actors – with the interest of a story, as the audience followed a particular item through its various stages until it reached the finished product, here in the form of haystacks. The scenic, on the other hand, was normally plotless, simply a view or series of views of a particular place or event. (…) However, the pleasure of the scenic for the audience lay in the picturesque quality of the images, at a time when urban audiences in particular did not necessarily have the opportunity to travel to the countryside.
A subject like this was particularly suited to the Hepworth Company, since it had a reputation for photographic excellence, deriving from its output of non-fiction scenic films.”
Simon Brown

>>> Labour

The Man with the Glass Eye

The Man with the Glass Eye
R: Unknown. D: Harry Lonsdale, Mercy Hatton. P: British Empire Films. UK 1916

An interesting contribution by the The Cine-Tourist, referring to the locations of the film:

“This telegram, sent to her father by a woman who has just married his personal secretary, is the only explicit indication of place in what remains The Man with the Glass Eye (1916). Her fall from grace is a fall from the comforts of Hampstead to the miseries of Mean Street. It is also a movement across London, from northern to southern suburb. The social difference is expressed in contrasted domestic interiors.”

Read more here: The Cine-Tourist

500-Glass eye


The Prison – a Paradoxical Place

The Impossible Convicts
R: G.W. Bitzer. K: G.W. Bitzer. P: American Mutoscope & Biograph. USA 1906

“With The Impossible Convicts (1906), director G.W. Bitzer has some fun with reversing footage (…). A group of convicts in prison dress are marched backwards down into their cells and locked in. They stage a desperate prison escape, which morphs vaguely into a Marx Brothers-like farce, with the guards chasing the prisoners, and characters emerging from different cells to those they entered. Like an Escher etching, time and gravity don’t obey the rules; sometimes they move forwards, and sometimes in reverse. This three-minute film ostensibly unfolds in one shot, and if you blink you’ll miss the shot transitions, and for a dreamlike moment wonder why everybody has suddenly started moving backwards. For its eccentric and novel approach, and its stone staircase that moves when kicked, this early short film (…) is worth your time.”
IMDb (ackstasis)

“The trick film’s mocking of penal authority via the metamorphoses of convicts’ bodies in When Prison Bars and Fetters are Useless (1909) and the subversion of time in The Impossible Convicts, provides a potentially deeper understanding of prison’s ‘structure of feeling’ than the later prison film. Unencumbered by the generic conventions of the studio system era, early prison films provide a striking vantage point from which to explore prison and prisoner’s paradoxical place within the popular imaginary.”
Alison Griffiths: The carceral aesthetic: Seeing prison on film during the early cinema period. In: Early Popular Visual Culture. Vol 12, 2014, Issue 2, p. 174-198. (abstract).