Cenerentola: A Making-of

Cenerentola (Fragment)
R: Eleuterio Rodolfi. B: Arrigo Frusta. D: Fernanda Negri Pouget, Mary Cleo Tarlarini, Ubaldo Stefani, Ernesto Vaser, Marcel Perez. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1913

The young orphan Silviette is taken under the tutelage of Jenny Smart, a famous diva who takes her to the Ambrosio film studio. The girl’s angelic smile [see below] allows her to get the lead role in Cinderella, the new film to be shot in a Count’s villa. (Vimeo)

“There’s always some particularly fascinating about seeing films of films in production from the silent era. The business-like way a team has to go about creating fantasy, the sheer number of people who made up that team, the famous mingling with the functional. (…) Above we have the Ambrosio studio, Turin, in 1913, with the director Eleuterio Rodolfi and actors Fernanda Negri Pouget, Mary Cleo Tarlarini and Ubaldo Stefani, during the filming of Cenerentola (Cinderella). The provenance is unclear.”
The Bioscope


>>> Film within the film: Asta Nielsen: Die Filmprimadonna

>>> Cinderella (Four versions)

Actualities from Turin

Le grandi corse 1909 all’Ippodromo di Mirafiori
R/K: Unknown. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1909
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema

Film footage depicting the Gran Criterium and the Prince Amedeo Prize at the Mirafiori Racecourse.

Esposizione di Torino
R: Giovanni Vitrotti (?). K: Roberto Omegna. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1911
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema

“In 1911 the International Exposition of Industry and Labour took place in Turin to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Italian National Unity. The first part of the film, ‘Nei cantieri dell’Esposizione’, shows an unusual view of the river Po with the construction sites of the pavilions. The construction sites are also visited by the then Prime Minister Luigi Luzzatti. The second part of the video (05:10) presents ‘La giornata d’esultanza’, or the celebrations for the inauguration on April 29, 1911, in the presence of royalties of Italy.”

Grande manifestazione patriottica. 17 marzo 1911
R/K: Unknown. P: Aquila Films. It 1911
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema

“On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy, two thousand mayors meet at the Mole Antonelliana. While they parade, they gaze into the camera, showing very different facial expressions and styles. The ceremony is also attended by the Princess Laetitia Napoleon. The images show also glimpses of Via Roma, Piazza San Carlo, Piazza Castello, the entrance of the Mole Antonelliana, Via Montebello and Via Po.”

Torino – Corso dei fiori in via Roma (13 giugno 1914)
No credits. P: Unknown. It 1914
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema

Overhead shot showing the former Via Roma (before the renovation in the Thirties) adorned to host a parade of floral floats.


A New Weapon for WW I

Birth of a Big Gun
R: A.E. Coleby. P: Cricks and Martin. UK 1908
Print: BFI
German titles

“A new weapon is launched in the pre-WWI naval arms race. This striking film illustrates the processes in the casting and manufacture of a 12-inch, 50-calibre naval gun – the kind of gun that would be used on battleships between 1914 and 1918. It was filmed in early 1908 at the factory of Armstrong Whitworth & Co., based in Newcastle-on-Tyne. The scale of the operation from 85,000 kilos of molten steel to the massive form of the finished gun is nicely filmed to showcase its impressiveness.”
BFI Player

“This major manufacturing company specialised in lifting machinery, armaments, shipping and, later, automobiles and aircraft. In 1908, the company was already 60 years old and well-experienced in casting these large naval guns. The 12″, 50 calibre was not, however, to be one of their most successful models. It was produced for a new class of super dreadnoughts which were commissioned by the Royal Navy in a bid to out-class developments in German shipping. During the mid-1900s, the naval arms race was characterised by its visibility, with representatives of German and British fleets frequently visiting and inspecting the other’s new ships.”
Bryony Dixon
BFI Screenonline

>>> A.E. Coleby as director for Cricks & Martin Films: Making Christmas CrackersThe Pirates of 1920

>>> see also his The Lure of Drink 

>>> WAR

Fatty and Mabel – 1

Fatty and Mabel at the San Diego Exposition
R: Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle. D: Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle, Mabel Normand, Joe Bordeaux, Alice Davenport, Minta Durfee, William Hauber, Harry McCo. P: Keystone Film Corporation. USA 1914/15

“The biggest thing this picture is missing is a real villain. Arbuckle is obliged to perform double duty and I prefer him to be mischievous but more on the harmless side. Without a more villainous character for contrast, his antics come off as obnoxious and I have no idea why Normand would take him back at the end. A Ford Sterling or Al St. John would have been most welcome. Normand fares better because her character is more sympathetic. She is pursued by her own Electriquette-driving masher and one rather gets the impression that this is not the first time her husband has strayed. She’s a flirty tomboy, exactly the sort of role she was made to play, and it’s enjoyable to watch her dash around Balboa Park in pursuit of her misbehaving spouse. (…)
Both Arbuckle and Normand soon moved on to greener pastures and the real shame of it is that it broke up a charming screen team. While Fatty and Mabel at the San Diego Exposition is broad and simplistic, the film is saved by their chemistry and obvious affection for one another. Of course, Normand did well for herself in Goldwyn features and Arbuckle teamed with St. John and some stage acrobat named Buster Keaton but we can’t help but wonder what fun Normand would have had in that mix.”
Fritzi Kramer
Movies Silently

Mabel and Fatty viewing the World’s Fair at San Francisco, Cal.
R: Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle, Mabel Normand. D: Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle, Mabel Normand, James Rolph Jr., Mme. Ernestine Schumann-Heink. P: Keystone Film Company. USA 1915
Print: Library of Congress

“While this movie is far less entertaining than the comedy in San Diego, it is interesting historically. Obviously, Keystone felt that their two biggest stars, plus the extravagance of the fair itself, could carry the film without a comedy plotline. The scene with the mayor may offer a hint as to why this happened – getting permission to shoot just might not have been as simple as it was at the earlier fair. Or, someone at Keystone may have felt that sending a camera crew 400 miles to San Francisco (as opposed to 100 miles to San Diego), warranted a less risky approach. What will interest people is the footage of post-Earthquake-recovery SF. Some of the buildings of the World’s Fair still stand and even serve as tourist attractions, including the ‘new’ City Hall we see under construction on Market Street. Various views will be familiar to San Franciscans today, although the sheer size and elaborateness of the event outdoes the current waterfront. The early jitney cabs may be of interest to aficionados of classic cars, and the ships to naval historians. All in all, this is a more “interesting,” less exciting movie.”
Century Film Project

>>> Fatty and Mabel – 2

>>> Mabel’s Wilful Way on this website

Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle

Fatty Joins the Force
R: George Nichols. B: Mack Sennett. D: Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle, Charles Avery, Lou Breslow, Harry DeRoy, Minta Durfee, Dot Farley, Edgar Kennedy, George Nichols. P: Keystone Film Company. USA 1913

“Although he appeared in a few earlier shorts, in 1913 Roscoe Arbuckle made some three dozen films. It was the year that he started using the moniker ‘Fatty.’ In 1913, Arbuckle was the first of the great silent comedy stars. Charles Chaplin would make his debut the following year but not star in shorts until the year after that. In 1913 Harold Lloyd was just an unknown extra and Arbuckle had four years before he would discover Buster Keaton. Minus Mary Pickford, Fatty Arbuckle was arguably the biggest movie star in the world in 1913. (…)
Even though the jokes are as amateur as you can expect from a 100 year old film, (a pie in the face) it does have some interesting things to say. Fatty clearly has no ambition here, but his girlfriend does. She pushes him every step of the way. Even though this is only a 13.5 minute short we understand their relationship. He is clearly thrilled with her while she is eager to improve him so as to improve herself by association.”
Eric Nash
Three Movie Buffs: Movie Reviews Archive


S1: Asta in Pre-War Troubles

R: Urban Gad. B: Urban Gad. K: Karl Freund, Axel Graatkjær, Emil Schünemann. D: Asta Nielsen, Charly Berger, Siegwart Gruder, Ellen Lumbye, Paul Meffert. P: Projektions-AG Union (PAGU). D 1913
German titles

Click here to view the film

“Asta plays Gertrud von Hessendorf, daughter of General Hessendorf (Siegwart Gruder) who is charged with procuring new aircraft for the military. The two travel to Copenhagen to take a test flight in a giant airship – thrillingly, Asta is in the air for a few seconds although she is soon climbing out of the ship…Military invention is at a delicate point and following a major crash, the country is badly in the need of the confidence boost that a new, indefatigable airship could bring: cue the S1 a ship so advanced enemies will quake and, of course, do anything they can to stop it. This is where the handsome Graf Baldini (Charly Berger) comes in – a man who has already left his mark on the General’s daughter; he is also a spy for a foreign power charged with stealing the designs for the revolutionary new plane.
Instead of furtive looks and skulking shadows, Gad focuses on the relationship between the two which gives his real-life wife ample opportunity to pull the viewer into what will become her conflicted world. She enjoys the frisson of her illicit relationship sneaking small affections during public functions and, most emphatically, enjoying the most liberated of seaside runs as she and the Count break free from a society picnic and just let rip splashing in the shallows and leaving the watcher in no doubt that their affection is real and very true. But this cannot last and Gertrude’s loyalties will be tested to the limits once her love’s true nature is revealed: will she be loyal to father and state or will love guide her heart in frightening, new directions?”

519- s1-Schauburg Essen

Opening of S1 in the Schauburg, Essen, Nov. 1913

More Asta Nielsen:

>>> Afgrunden, Den sorte Drøm , Balletdanserinden Die Filmprimadonna (Fragment)Die Suffragette, Zapatas BandeDas Mädchen ohne Vaterland

A Preparedness Demonstration

San Francisco’s Future
P: Unknown. Contributors: Hearst Metrotone News, Pathé News. USA ca. 1916
Print: Library of Congress

A combination of live action and animation

“By mid-1916, the images of carnage in Europe and Germany’s submarine attacks on Allied shipping turned U.S. public opinion against Austria and Germany, increasing the likelihood of American participation in World War I. ‘Preparedness’ demonstrations, to bolster support for the American military should the nation enter the war, were organized nationwide, particularly in important cities such as New York, Washington, DC, and San Francisco. Radical labor was a small but vociferous minority, opposed to U.S. involvement in the war, capable of stirring up labor unrest and provoking strong reactions from the authorities. The huge San Francisco Preparedness Day parade of Saturday, July 22, 1916, became the target of radical violence. As a pamphlet of mid-July explained, ‘We are going to use a little direct action on the 22nd to show that militarism can’t be forced on us and our children without a violent protest.’ The procession had 51,329 marchers, including 2,134 organizations and 52 bands. The starting signals for the parade, ironically, were ‘the crash of a bomb and the shriek of a siren.’ Military, civic, judicial, state, and municipal divisions were followed by newspaper, telephone, telegraph, and streetcar unions. Half an hour into the parade, a bomb exploded on Steuart Street near Market Street. The bomb was concealed in a suitcase; ten bystanders were killed and 40 wounded in the worst terrorist act in San Francisco history.

This short film, with its animated propagandistic prologue and its title, San Francisco’s Future, sought to motivate viewers to make the right choice between prosperity and justice on the one hand and anarchy, sedition, and lawlessness on the other. It was made shortly after the bombing and was clearly aimed at local audiences. San Francisco screamed with anger and outrage at the bombing. Two known radical labor leaders – Thomas Mooney (circa 1882 –1942) and his assistant, Warren K. Billings (1893 –1972) – were arrested. In a hasty and bungled trial carried out in a lynch-mob atmosphere that featured several false witnesses, the two were convicted. Mooney was sentenced to be executed; Billings to life imprisonment. A Mediation Commission set up by President Woodrow Wilson found no clear evidence of Mooney’s guilt, and in 1918 his sentence was changed to life imprisonment. By 1939, evidence of perjury and false testimony at the trial had become overwhelming. Governor Culbert Olson pardoned both men. The identity of the bomber will probably never be known.”
World Digital Library

>>> WAR

The Bank: Charlie and Edna

The Bank
R: Charles Chaplin. K: Harry Ensign. D: Charles Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Billy Armstrong, Carl Stockdale, Charles Inslee. P: The Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. USA 1915
Print: Cineteca Bologna / Lobster

“Charlie the janitor loves Edna, the pretty bank secretary, but her sweetheart is another Charles, the cashier. One of the best of the Chaplin Essanay comedies, the film’s plot is a reworking of his Keystone film, The New Janitor (1914), incorporating a dream sequence inspired by Fred Karno‘s ‘Jimmy the Fearless’. Just as in the Karno sketch – in which Chaplin starred as Jimmy, a downtrodden young man who became a hero in his dreams – in The Bank Charlie dreams he saves Edna in an attempted bank robbery, only to wake up and discover it was a dream. The film’s equivocal ending was new to film comedy, yet such endings became a signature of the Chaplin films.
The memorable close-up of Chaplin in The Bank, when his note and gift of a few flowers to Edna are rejected, anticipates the ending of City Lights (1931). (Chaplin claimed in 1918 that this was his favorite bit in all his comedies). Chaplin brings the camera closer to his actors in this film, and the use of close-ups to convey thought and emotion is notable. The large sets and impressive city exteriors in the film were the result of yet another move by the Chaplin unit. In June 1915, Chaplin arranged for his remaining productions to be based in the larger quarters afforded by the Majestic Studios located at 651 Fairview Avenue in the Boyle Heights, a neighborhood east of downtown Los Angeles.”

“Essentially a remake of The Janitor, a movie Chaplin made while he was at Keystone, The Bank sees his character warring with a fellow janitor (Billy ArmstrongA Woman, Work) in the bank at which they’re both employed, while also mistakenly believing that the bank’s stenographer (Edna Purviance –  The Champion, Shoulder Arms) has a crush on him.   Sadly for him, her eye is actually on the bank’s dapper cashier (Carl Stockdale), whose name is also Charlie.
There’s plenty of Chaplin’s customary slapstick in The Bank, but the level of violence is quite restrained compared to some of his other work from this period, and he clearly made an effort to tell a story rather than simply string together a series of loosely connected sketches.  But the story is a strangely disjointed one, which means that The Bank consequently feels like two movies edited together to achieve a respectable running time.   The conventional slapstick is found in Chaplin’s rivalry with Armstrong’s character, while his mistaken belief that the stenographer is in love with him, and the manner in which her true love is brought to light, is loaded with pathos.  It’s almost as if Chaplin really did make The Bank in such a way that, if the plot strands didn’t mesh, they could each be released as separate shorts. There’s no mistaking the increasing sophistication in Chaplin’s comedy, though.  While many of his early shorts had a feeling of spontaneity that sometimes ran dry halfway through, the quality of the humour in The Bank remains consistent throughout, and he even makes use of a running joke which sees him glare accusingly at any piece of carpet that somehow manages to trip him up.”
Richard Cross
20/20 Movie Reviews


Palermo 1910

Nella conca d’oro
R / K: Piero Marelli. P: Tiziano Film Torino. It 1910
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema (Desmet color)

“The golden valley is the area where Palermo stands. The documentary shows us the best-known beauties filmed with a fixed camera, slow tracking shots and split screen inspired by the most picturesque picture postcards. The Pretoria fountain, the big theaters, the funicular railway and the cloister of Monreale abbey run on the screen. The beauty of Palermo is also in the life of its people who are shown while meeting and buying at the fish market or at work building Sicilian carts to sell as souvenirs. The film ends with the view of the harbor.

The preservation of Nella conca d’oro was carried out by the Museo Nazionale del Cinema di Torino, from a tinted and toned nitrate print acquired by the Museum in 1994 with a small collection of landscape documentaries. From the nitrate print, a dupe negative and a positive color print using the Desmet method were printed on safety film. The process was carried out in 1997 at the Haghefilm laboratory in Amsterdam.”
Museo Nazionale del Cinema

>>> Marelli’s Vita d’Olanda on this site

>>> Le bellezze d’Italia on this site

Sidney Drew, Comedy Star

Jerry’s Mother-In-Law
R: James Young. B: Van Dyke Brooke (play), L. Rogers Lytton (scenario). D: Clara Kimball Young, Sidney Drew, L. Rogers Lytton, Kate Price, James Young. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1913
Print: EYE, Desmet Collection
Dutch titles

“A two-reel comedy dealing with the family of a young married man, which is invaded by the wife’s aggressive mother. Kate Price proves very effective in this part and proceeds to stir up trouble for the newlyweds, portrayed by Sidney Drew and Clara Kimball Young. The situations are farcical and keep the audience in constant good humor. All of the scenes were good: The French ball, in the museum, at the club, the shower bath, shopping, etc. Married folks will particularly enjoy this.”
The Moving Picture World, November 29, 1913

>>> Sidney Drew as director: A Florida Enchantment

>>> also by James Young: The Picture Idol