Portrait of a Brave Correspondent

Il supplizio dei leoni (USA: A Mexican Mine Fraud; or, The Game That Failed)
R: Eugenio Perego, Luigi Mele. D: Egidio Candiani, Alberto Capozzi, Annibale Durelli, Giuseppe Majone Diaz, Luigi Mele. P: Pasquali e C. It 1914
Ital. titles

“The reporter was always a natural candidate for exotic adventure yarns. So, sending the reporter to war as a correspondent, especially with World War One just around the corner, made perfect sense to filmmakers who were always looking for an untarnished hero. As early as 1898, a very short film shows about a dozen war correspondents from different New York newspapers rushing to a cable office to file their stories (War Correspondents, 1898, see below). Often a war correspondent was thrown into a film as a minor character without explanation since the silent film audiences were well acquainted with what war correspondents did. (…)
War correspondents were among the most heroic of all the journalists. In Every Inch a King (1914), Walton, an American war correspondent, rescues a woman held captive by an evil queen and summons U.S. marines to stop a fight between two kingdoms. In A Christian Slave (1912), a young newspaper war correspondent is captured, receives a sheik’s hospitality, falls in love with a Christian slave, escapes, and brings back Italian troops to rescue her. In A Mexican Mine ; or The Game That Failed (1914), war correspondent George Ferguson of the Daily Truth, falls in love with the daughter of a banker who has been selling stock in a Mexican goldmine scheme. His editor informs him of the banker’s fraudulent stock scheme and tells him to hurry to Mexico to make a thorough investigation. After a series of daring adventures ― escaping from a cage of 10 lions and a raging fire ―Ferguson makes a miraculous escape and writes an article denouncing the fraudulent gold mine proposition in glowing headlines.”
Joe Saltzman with Liz Mitchell: The Image of the Journalist in Silent Film, 1890 to 1929: Part One 1890 to 1919. University of Southern California. Los Angeles, CA, p. 72-73

War Correspondents
K: William ‘Daddy’ Paley. D: Karl C. Decker. P: Edison Manufacturing Company. USA 1898
Print: Library of Congress (Paper Print Collection)

“Shows a phase of the war excitement* as it affects newspaper men at Key West, Florida. About a dozen war correspondents of the different New York papers are running up the street in a bunch to the cable office to get copy of cablegrams to be in turn transmitted to their different papers. They rush directly toward the audience, turn a corner in the immediate foreground and disappear down a side street. A good-natured struggle occurs here, to see who will make the turn first. Curious natives watch the unusual scene. A horse and carriage follow at a seemingly slow pace, showing by comparison what a rapid head-on foot race has been witnessed.”
Edison Catalog

*Spanish-American War (1898). Appearing: Karl C. Decker, correspondent for the New York Journal (in the carriage).

>>> Spanish-American War 1898

Holland – through Italian eyes

Vita d’Olanda
R / K: Piero Marelli. P: Tiziano Film Torino. It 1911 (?)
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema (Desmet color)

“A documentary film dedicated to the country of the canals and windmills. Piero Marelli, a cinematographer and director, through his remarkable taste and his pictorial use of the illumination, intends to celebrate the peaceful human victory over the natural forces. In the second half of the film the atmosphere changes, the attention is no longer turned to the product but to the manufacturer, the man. Marelli shoots women sewing, kids, the family posing in the coziness of their home. At the end, though, the human face gives way again to the tricks of  light and to the massive silhouettes of the windmills. The film is the assemblage done by the director Pietro Marelli of older materials filmed by himself for the production company Pasquali.”
Museo Nazionale del Cinema

>>> Le bellezze d’Italia on this site

Émile Cohl’s Surrealism

Le peintre néo-impressionniste
R: Émile Cohl. P: Société des Etablissements L. Gaumont. Fr 1910

“The Incoherents (Les Arts incohérents) was a short-lived French art movement founded by Parisian writer and publisher Jules Lévy (1857-1935) in 1882, which in its satirical irreverence anticipated many of the art techniques and attitudes later associated with avant-garde and anti-art. Lévy coined the phrase les arts incohérents as a play on the common expression les arts décoratifs (i.e. arts & crafts, but above all, a famous art school in Paris, the National School of Decorative Arts.) The Incoherents presented work which was deliberately irrational and iconoclastic, contained found objects, was nonsensical, included humoristic sketchs, drawings of children, and drawings ‘made by people who don’t know how to draw.’ Lévy exhibited an all-black painting by poet Paul Bilhaud called Combat de Nègres dans un Tunnel (Negroes Fight in a Tunnel). The early film animator Émile Cohl contributed photographs which would later be called surreal.”

“Joking titles like these were commonplace in the Incoherents’ exhibitions. (…) The idea clearly anticipates Cohl’s film by 26 years. The rationale for taking such delight in verbal-visual dissonance was expressed by the Incoherents’ founder Jules Lévy in 1885. Pictorial language, he argued, was foundering from exhaustion. Violent means must be used to revitalize it, including attempts to find visual equivalents to neologisms in puns, rebuses, and wordplay. Certainly, Le peintre néo-impressionniste (which might have been more accurately titled ‘Le peintre incohérent’) goes a long way in this direction. Its humor is not slapstick but dry and intellectual and, strangely enough, elicits much the same response as the punning intertitles of Marcel Duchamp‘s 1926 avant-garde film Anémic Cinéma.”
Donald Crafton: Before Mickey: The Animated Film 1898-1928. University of Chicago Press 2015, p. 78

>>> Émile Cohl, Master of AnimationÉmile Cohl – the Pathé PeriodÉmile Cohl: Dreams and Nightmares


Lois Weber – the “Wizard”

The Price
R: Lois Weber / Phillips Smalley. B: Based on the poem “Ostler Joe” by George Robert Sims. D: Lois Weber, Philips Smalley. P: Rex for Universal. USA 1911
Print: Milestone Film / EYE Filmmuseum (without music)

Lois Weber was the leading female director-screenwriter in early Hollywood. She began her career alongside her husband, Phillips Smalley, after the two had worked together in the theatre. They began working in motion pictures around 1907, often billed under the collective title ‘The Smalleys.’ In their early years at studios like Gaumont and Reliance, they acted alongside one another on-screen and codirected scripts written by Weber. Indeed, their status as a married, middle-class couple was often used to enhance their reputation for highbrow, quality pictures. In 1912, they were placed in charge of the Rex brand at the Universal Film Manufacturing Company, where they produced one or two one-reel films each week with a stock company of actors, quickly turning the brand into one of the studio’s most sophisticated. The couple increasingly turned their attention to multireel films, completing a four-reel production of The Merchant of Venice in 1914, the first American feature directed by a woman. Later that year they moved from Universal to Hobart Bosworth Productions where they were given more freedom to make feature-length films, among them Hypocrites (1915).”
Shelley Stamp
Women Film Pioneers Project

“Weber wrote a 1915 article for Paramount Magazine titled ‘How I Became a Motion Picture Director,’ and she returned to Universal that same year.  By then she was seen as a prominent director, and Carl Laemmle, head of Universal, allowed her to produce feature-length films — a privilege he had denied her prior to her Bosworth experience.  While at Universal, she made Shoes (1916), which some critics consider her best film.  The best known, however, was Where Are My Children? (1916).  A plea for birth control, it was akin to Hypocrites in bringing both controversy and censorship. Motion Picture Magazine featured her in its issue for July 1916, emphasizing the technically difficult aspects of her job with ‘Lois the Wizard.’  By 1917, she was sufficiently established to start her own studio, Lois Weber Productions.  Among the movies she made during this period were The Price of a Good Time (1917), For Husbands Only (1918), and What Do Men Want? (1921).

The last title may have hinted at personal problems:  when her 18-year marriage ended in a 1922 divorce, Weber suffered a nervous breakdown.  She recovered enough to make A Chapter in My Life (1923), and a burst of energy after a 1926 marriage to Harry Gantz led to The Marriage Clause (1926), Sensation Seekers (1926), and The Angel of Broadway (1927).
In a May 14, 1927 article for the then-popular mass magazine Liberty, Universal’s Laemmle said of Weber:  ‘She knows the motion-picture business as few people know it, and can drive as hard as anyone I’ve ever known.’  That work ethic may have been the cause of both a second divorce and of her long-term gastric ulcer.  She made her last film, White Heat, in 1934, and died of a gastric hemorrhage in 1939, when she was age 58.
Lois Weber was the most consistently successful female director in the early movie industry.  She had her own personal style, and as film history and criticism have evolved during the past few decades, she has regained her proper place as a pioneer.”
NWHM National Women’s History Museum

More Lois Weber films:

>>> How Men ProposeHypocrites SuspenseWhere Are My Children?