Shot Through a Microscope

Cheese Mites
R: F. Martin Duncan. D: F. Martin Duncan. P: Charles Urban Trading Company / Micro Bioscope. UK 1903
For the programme “The Unseen World”
Print: BFI

Cheese Mites was the sensation of the first public programme of scientific films in Britain shown at the Alhambra Music Hall in Leicester Square, London, in August 1903. Its claim to being scientific lay in its being shot through a microscope, revealing to a lay audience sights that would normally only have been available to owners of microscopes. The programme, billed as ‘The Unseen World’, also included the microcinematographic studies The Frog, His Webbed Foot, The Circulation of his Blood; The Fresh Water Hydra; and The Circulation of the Protoplasm of the Canadian Waterweed. (…)
But although promoted as scientific, these were not the products of the elite university laboratory-based science. Francis Martin Duncan, the ‘scientist’ behind the films, was an enthusiastic amateur natural historian who was making a living by taking still photographs through microscopes and publishing manuals and articles on the technique needed to do so.
Cheese mites as a species were very familiar to microscopists, frequently being included in beginners’ kits as first subjects to be examined when the instrument was brought home. Percy Smith, who made Mitey Atoms (Secrets of Nature, 1930), a later film on the same subject, joked that a father buying a microscope could defray the cost by putting his family off their dinner. Charles Urban, the entrepreneur behind ‘The Unseen World’, chose to emphasise the revulsion factor by adding shots of a man so revolted by studying his Stilton lunch that he threw it away. Cheese Mites was such a sensation that it led to the production of a spoof; Percy Stow and Cecil Hepworth‘s The Unclean World (1903), which featured clockwork bugs.”
Timothy Boon
BFI Screenonline

>>> Percy Smith’s Micro Cinematography on this site

>>> about Charles Urban: Early Ethnography

>>> Nature / Science

Billy Bitzer Among the Clouds

Automobiling Among the Clouds
K: G. W. Billy Bitzer. P: American Mutoscope and Biograph Company. USA 1904
Print: Library of Congress (Paper Print Collection)
Location: Mount Washington, New Hampshire

“Motion Pictures From The Library of Congress Paper Print Collection 1894-1912”, University of California Press, p. 237 notes: “The title does not indicate that this a race”. That’s correct. There are sources, however, which indicate that the event filmed by Bitzer has been the 1904 Auto Race On Mt. Washington:

“Interestingly, at least three of the early Biograph movies were shot on Mt. Washington, or nearby. The earliest of the three, a short film by the Biograph Company, of the Fabyan House coach at the summit of Mt. Washington, apparently no longer exists, or if it does, its location is unknown.  It’s existence is known only from articles about it in ‘Among The Clouds’. However, copies of the other two exist (…).  Automobiling Among the Clouds, showing the first auto race up Mt. Washington, was produced by the Biograph Company in 1904.  The race, known as ‘Climb to the Clouds’ was one of the earliest auto races in this country.  It took just slightly over 24 minutes for the winner, Harry Harkness, driving a Mercedes, to reach the Summit and claim the trophy.”

Road Map of the Tour

>>> Billy Bitzer, the Inventor  on this site

Italy: Pasquali & C.

R: Ubaldo Maria Del Colle. D: Mario Casaleggio, Annita D’Armero, Lydia De Roberti, Ubaldo Maria Del Colle, Antonio Grisanti. P: Pasquali & C. It 1911

“Founded as Pasquali & Tempo in 1908 by accountant, journalist, director, and producer Ernesto Maria Pasquali and a few Turinese businessmen, Pasquali was to become one of the most aggressive and ambitious Italian film companies. Initially, the company released a number of quality films without owning studios. In July 1910, however, through administrative restructuring and refinancing, Pasquali & Tempo became Pasquali & C. It immediately built its own studios – three, all at once, equipped with artificial lighting – and began turning known and unknown actors and directors into household names. First it created an outstanding screen couple by luring away Alberto Capozzi and Lydia De Roberti from Ambrosio Film, protagonists of Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei (1908). Pasquali also hired other notable actors such as Mary Cleo Tarlarini, Gustavo Serena, Maria Jacobini, and Ubaldo Maria Del Colle, the last of which soon also worked as a director. The films released in this period include the poignant modern drama, Calvario (1911), possibly one of the company’s first multiple-reel-films, as well as the romantic adventure, La prigione infuocata, and the vengeful melodrama, L’Uragano, both directed in 1911 by Del Colle. Between 1911 and 1914, Pasquali had its most productive period. In 1912, Ferdinand Guillaume was hired away from Cines, where he had become famous as Tontolini, to launch the comic series, Polidor (1912-1915), and become Italian cinema’s most celebrated film comedian. (…)
In 1913, Pasquali opened a branch in Rome and hired Enrico Vidali as artistic director. Vidali distinguished himself by directing two of the company’s most remarkable international hits, the six-reel Spartaco (1913) and, aided by De Colle, the nine-reel Jone o gli ultimi goirni di Pompei (1913), produced in only 26 days in open competition with Ambrosio’s much-publicized production of the same title. Pasquali slightly altered the film title to avoid, in vain, a lawsuit from Ambrosio. The success of both films in the world market, where they often competed with the same title, showcased the winning equation of highbrow entertainment and spectacular feature-lenght productions.”
Giorgio Bertellini in: Richard Abel (ed.): Encyclopedia of Early Cinema. Taylor & Francis 2005, p. 500

Per il babbo
R: Umberto Paradisi. D: Tonino Giolino, Giovanni Enrico Vidali, Maria Gandini, Attilio De Virgiliis. P: Pasquali & C. It 1913
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema

“In the first Twentieth Century in Turin, the little boy Tonino goes to the Pasquali film studio in order to draw the salary of his father, who has been sick since three months. Bad news are waiting for him: the father has been fired because he was absent for too long. However Tonino, walking in the Valentino park, sees a troupe filming and he candidates himself to substitute the protagonist. The little boy has a natural talent which allows him to earn some money. The film closes with an happy end: the Pasquali film studio will hire Tonino only during the school vacations and will call back his father as a bookkeeper. The dramatic plot, but with a happy ending, even in its simplicity, is unusual and interesting because it illustrates an image of the silver screen far from the star system, the affluence and the high society. The adventures of Tonino are also a narrative pretext for the Pasquali film studios to explicitly put on their own studios.
The preservation of Per il babbo was carried out by the Museo Nazionale del Cinema di Torino, based on an tinted nitrate print that was bought in 1997 from a private collector. From] the nitrate print, a dupe negative and a positive print colored with the Desmet method were printed on safety film. The restoration was carried out in 1997 at the L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in Bologna.”
Museo Nazionale del Cinema


The Northwestern Pacific Rail Road

“Completion of The Northwestern Pacific Railroad”
Unspecified footage, no credtis. USA 1914

Golden Spike ceremonies and celebration for the completion of the Northwestern Pacific Rail Road, October 23-25, 1914. Filmed in Willits, Cain Rock, Arcata and Eureka, California.

“Northern California’s vast stands of giant redwood trees presented a problem – how to get them to market? Their immense size and weight did not allow for normal lumbering practices. The answer lay in the railroad. The first railroads on the western coast were built in 1854 and for the next century, railroads played a vital role in a thriving lumber industry.
The Northwestern Pacific Railroad, at its height, was an amalgamation of some sixty different companies. Its territory extended along the Pacific coast from San Francisco to California’s Humboldt County, 100 miles shy of the Oregon State line. Some of the forerunners had built extensive and substantial operating lines. Others were short lines, such as the many logging lines in the Humboldt Bay region. Nearly a third consisted of companies which incorporated but never laid a foot of track. All of them contributed, in some fashion, to the rich heritage of the NWP.
Diversity was a key word in the history of Redwood Empire railroading. Gauges varied from the Sonoma Prismoidal, an early wooden monorail, to the broad-gauged logging lines, many built to accommodate their four-legged motive power. In between lay the two foot Sonoma Magnesite Railroad, the first-class narrow gauge North Pacific Coast and, of course, the more common standard gauge lines. Power was supplied by horses, mules, oxen, steam, electricity and internal combustion engines, both gas and diesel. State of the art electric interurban and a fleet of ferries completed a transportation network in the pre-World War II years that many claim was too far ahead of its time. Rarely is so much fascinating diversity found in the origins of one company.”
The Northwestern Pacific Railroad in California

>>> Labour

Broncho Billy: Exploring a Genre

Broncho Billy’s Fatal Joke
R: Gilbert M. ‘Broncho Billy’ Anderson. D: Gilbert M. ‘Broncho Billy’ Anderson, Carl Stockdale, Marguerite Clayton. P: Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. USA 1914

Broncho Billy and the Rustler’s Child
R: Gilbert M. ‘Broncho Billy’ Anderson. D: Gilbert M. ‘Broncho Billy’ Anderson, Brinsley Shaw, Eugenia Clinchard, Evelyn Selbie. P: P: Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. USA 1913
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

The Tomboy on Bar Z
R: Gilbert M. ‘Broncho Billy’ Anderson. D: Virginia True Boardman, Jay Hanna, Brinsley Shaw, Fred Church. P: Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. USA 1912
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

“In a 1909 issue of Moving Picture World, G.M. Anderson gave readers a glimpse into the world of filming westerns for Essanay. Since the company had yet to set up a branch in Niles, California, Anderson and a group of players would travel west to Colorado, California, Montana and even Mexico to film. Although the company made nature-based scenic pictures, like Wonder of Nature, Anderson also used these excursions westward to give a realistic, documentary-like feel to even his earliest Westerns. ‘We have some good stories to put on out there, stories written by authors whose Western stories are standard and of the best. Capable talent has been employed to interpret the stories and a score or more of real live cowboys are going to assist.’ He began to explore the genre further, experimenting with different scenarios and characters. The character of Broncho Billy wouldn’t become a theater mainstay until 1911, but once Anderson began to focus on the character of Billy, audiences took notice in a big way. The tradepapers and fan magazines dubbed him ‘The idol of small boys and girls, and big men and women;’ it was this universal appeal that made him the first Western star and one of the first and most popular photoplayers. He had to learn how to handle a horse, and although he was not a true cowboy, Anderson’s rugged good looks and tough but kind on-screen persona perfectly fit into the genre and the audience’s image of what a true cowboy would be. With Broncho Billy’s entrance, the ‘ridiculous stage cowboys’ were gone and the ‘typical puncher of the plains’ had taken their place. Even after Anderson sold his stock in Essanay in 1916, he remained very much tied to the Western genre. He made a handful of Westerns following his Essanay departure, but they failed to be as popular as his previous efforts. Newer cowboy stars had begun to rise in popularity – including William S. Hart, Tom Mix, John Ford and Harry Carey — and they began to take the form Anderson pioneered and expand it in ways he that couldn’t.”
Janelle Vreeland
Classic Movie Hub

>>>  Broncho Billy, the First Cowboy

>>>  The Greaser Character

>>>  Broncho Billy – The American Shot

Chaplin’s ‘Caught in the Rain’

Caught in the Rain
R: Charles Chaplin. B: Charles Chaplin. K: Frank D. Williams. D: Charles Chaplin, Mack Swain, Alice Davenport, Alice Howell. P: Keystone Film Company. USA 1914

Caught in the Rain is an important work in Chaplin’s career as it is his first film in which scenario and direction were exclusively his own. Chaplin remembered in his autobiography: When I started directing my first picture, I was not as confident as I thought I would be; in fact, I had a slight attack of panic. But after Sennett saw the first day’s work I was reassured…Caught in the Rain…was not a world-beater, but it was funny and quite a success. The film draws upon past successes; Caught in the Rain is not an ambitious effort. The comedy begins in a park (a throwback to Twenty Minutes of Love) quickly moves to a bar (the excuse for Chaplin’s sure-fire drunkard), and finishes with a hotel lobby and room mixup (in the manner of Mabel’s Strange Predicament). Chaplin ends the film with the Keystone Cops for good measure. Chaplin revisited similar situations in A Night Out (1915).
Charlie Chaplin

Twenty Minutes of Love
R: Joseph Maddern, Charles Chaplin. B: Charles Chaplin. K: Frank D. Williams. D: Charles Chaplin, Minta Durfee, Edgar Kennedy, Chester Conklin. P: Keystone Film Company. USA 1914


Luigi Maggi’s Figaro

Le nozze di Figaro
R: Luigi Maggi. B: Pierre-Augustin Beaumarchais (play). D: Gigetta Morano, Eleuterio Rodolfi, Ernesto Vaser, Umberto Scalpellini, Ada Mantero. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1913
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema (Desmetcolor)

“‘The Marriage of Figaro’, comedy in five acts by Pierre-Augustin Beaumarchais, performed in 1784 as ‘La Folle Journée; ou, le mariage de Figaro’ (‘The Madness of a Day, or the Marriage of Figaro’). It is the sequel to his comic play The Barber of Seville and is the work upon which Mozart based the opera ‘Le nozze di Figaro’ (1786). ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ was written between 1775 and 1778. The play reverses the character of Count Almaviva from the romantic hero of ‘The Barber of Seville’ to an unscrupulous villain and is generally critical of aristocratic corruption, which it contrasts with lower-class virtue. In the previous play, Figaro, who is the Count’s loyal factotum, helped his master win the hand of Rosine (known as Rosina in the opera), now the Countess Almaviva. Figaro is betrothed to Suzanne, the Countess’s maid. Because Count Almaviva wants Suzanne as his mistress, he attempts to prevent the couple’s marriage. Suspicious of his master, Figaro sends the Count an anonymous letter informing him that the Countess has a lover. Various intrigues ensue, during which Suzanne and the Countess change places to deceive both the Count and Figaro. Eventually, Figaro learns that Suzanne has always been faithful to him. The Count admits his dishonourable intentions and gives his permission for Figaro and Suzanne to marry.”
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

“Although Beaumarchais did not invent the type character of the scheming valet (who has appeared in comedy as far back as Roman times), his Figaro, hero of both plays, became the highest expression of the type. The valet’s resourcefulness and cunning were portrayed by Beaumarchais with a definite class-conscious sympathy. ‘Le Barbier de Séville’ became the basis of a popular opera by the Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini. The second play, which inspired W.A. Mozart’s opera ‘Le nozze di Figaro’ (1786), is openly critical of aristocratic privilege and somewhat anticipates the social upheavals of the Revolution of 1789. Beaumarchais’s life rivals his work as a drama of controversy, adventure, and intrigue. The son of a watchmaker, he invented an escapement mechanism, and the question of its patent led to the first of many legal actions. For his defense in these suits he wrote a series of brilliant polemics (Mémoires), which made his reputation, though he was only partly successful at law. After 1773, because of his legal involvements, Beaumarchais left France on secret royal missions to England and Germany for both Louis XV and Louis XVI. Despite growing popularity as a dramatist, Beaumarchais was addicted to financial speculation. He bought arms for the American revolutionaries and brought out the first complete edition of the works of Voltaire. Of his dramatic works, only his two classic comedies were to have lasting success. Because of his wealth, he was imprisoned during the French Revolution (in 1792), but, through the intervention of a former mistress, he was released.”
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

505-Beaumarchais  Pierre-Augustin Beaumarchais

>>> Luigi Maggi on this site: The Last Days of PompeiiLuigi Maggi,  Maciste, Blockbusters from Italy

Filming the Process of Whaling

Whaling Afloat and Ashore
R: Robert W. Paul. P: Paul’s Animatograph Works. UK 1908

“Although R.W. Paul remained in the film business until 1910, Whaling Afloat and Ashore is thought to be the last of his films to survive, and exists only in an incomplete copy. (…) It is immediately notable for its length and variety. Two years earlier, Paul’s cameraman had made a very static and repetitive film of the Aberdeen University quarter-centenary celebrations, but here there seems to be a genuine effort to instruct the audience in the process of whaling, in much the same way that the near-contemporary A Visit to Peek Frean and Co’s Biscuit Works (Cricks and Martin, 1906), showed every detail of the biscuit-making process. Although the term ‘documentary’ had yet to be coined, this film is a clear ancestor of pioneering works like John Grierson‘s Drifters (1929) and Robert Flaherty‘s Man of Aran (1934), albeit made over two decades earlier.”
Michael Brooke

“In 1896, the Norwegian Government had restricted whaling during certain parts of the year as a result of lobbying from the fishing industry that considered whaling harmful to their operations. This provided an opportunity for Ireland’s Local Government Board to encourage the Norwegian whalers to establish stations on Ireland’s west coast and the Congested Districts Board sold Rusheen to the whaling company for £100. The Norwegians lived and socialised mainly on the nearby ships, coming ashore occasionally to visit the pubs on Inishkea North and South Islands. Once the station was operational, another strange sight greeted the islanders when a film crew arrived and proceeded to capture the whaling activity for posterity in a film entitled Whaling Afloat and Ashore. (…) The film may have had a promotional basis as commercial whaling was a lucrative business at the time and there was also an emerging genre of showing the intricate detail of industrial production processes.”
Patricia Byrne
The Irish Story

More about Robert W. Paul on this site:
>>> 1898: A Story to ContinueThe First SightDangerous Cars II, Blackfriars Bridge

>>> Labour