Alfred Lind’s ‘Flying Circus’

Den flyvende Cirkus (The pride of the circus, Fragm.)
R: Alfred Lind. B: Carl Otto Dumreicher, Alfred Lind. K: Alfred Lind. D: Rasmus Ottesen, Emilie Otterdahl, Richard Jensen, Lilli Beck, Kirstine Friis-Hjort, Charles Løwaas, Stella Lind. P: Det skandinavisk-russiske Handelshus. Dk 1912

“The film company Det skandinavisk-russiske Handelshus (Scandinavian-Russian Trading) produced 25 feature films in the period 1911-13. The company changed name to Filmfabriken Danmark in 1913 and produced another 71 feature films until 1919, after which only educational and documentary films were produced up until the company’s liquidation in 1923.  Two films, Den flyvende Cirkus and Bjørnetæmmeren (The Bear Tamer) are presumed to be the only surviving productions from Det skandinavisk-russiske Handelshus. The company specialized in sensational topics, and the success of The Flying Circus was soon followed by its sequel, The Bear Tamer, in which Alfred Lind played the title role, wrote the script, directed and shot the film.”
Edition filmmuseum

Alfred Lind was born 1879 in Helsingør, Denmark as Sören Estrup Alfred Lind. He was a director and cinematographer, known for Den flyvende Cirkus (1912), Bjørnetæmmeren (1912), Dødsjockeyen (1915), Alkohol (1920) and more. He died 1959 in Copenhagen.
IMDb/Danske Filminstitut

564-a. lind

Lind as cinematographer:
>>> Afgrunden, Den lille hornblæser

“Danish actress Lili Beck, aka Lili Bech (1883-1939), was the leading lady of many early Swedish films directed by Mauritz Stiller and Victor Sjöström. Beck, who had started as a stage actress in 1905, debuted in Danish cinema in 1911, with the film Morfinisten, directed by Louis Von Kohl and produced by Det skandinavisk-russiske Handelshus. Already in her next film, Taifun (1911) by Von Kohl, she played the lead. After that Lili would play in four more films by the same company, including Alfred Lind’s circus films Den flyvende Cirkus and Bjornetaemmern (both 1912), in which she played a snake enchantress. In 1913 she moved to the company Nordisk where she played in three films by Robert Dinesen (all 1913) and one by August Blom (1914). In 1913 it was rumored Beck would go and work for American film company Vitagraph. Instead, she started to work for the Swedish company Svenska Biografteatren.
Beck, who was married shortly to Erik Magnusson in 1912, remarried Swedish film director Victor Sjöström, in whose debut Trädgardsmästeren /The Gardener (1912) she played opposite Sjöström himself and Gösta Ekman. It was her first Swedish film and Beck would henceforth pursue her career there. After Trädgardsmästeren, Beck played in 11 of Mauritz Stiller’s films between 1912 and 1916, such as Vampyren (1913) and Vingarne/Wings (1916). She also performed in 9 films of Victor Sjöström, including Trädgardsmästeren.”

Seeing / Not Seeing

A Flash of Light
R: David W. Griffith. B: Stanner E.V. Taylor. K: G.W. Bitzer. D: Charles West, Verner Clarges, Joseph Graybill, Stephanie Longfellow, Claire McDowell, Anthony O’Sullivan, Vivian Prescott, William Robinson. P: American Biograph. USA 1910
Print: EYE

“A strongly dramatic picture, yet not altogether pleasant. A love story representing a man sorely deceived, and after an accident depriving him of sight and hearing cruelly deserted by his wife. Then she is induced to come back as the bandages are removed from his partially restored eyes so he may not know the truth. The climax, when the former wife pulls down the curtain and lets in the blinding flash that destroys the partially restored sight forever, is not pleasant, and yet it adds a strong ending to the play. Acted with the ability shown by the Biograph players, this picture will be popular, even though disagreeable, because it arouses the emotions. No matter if they are depressing, the fact that the emotions are stirred is sufficient to make the film popular.”
The Moving Picture World, July 30, 1910

“The implications of the astonishing, quite entertainlingly played conclusion are worth to teasing out. Clearly the wife is no mere bystander to her husband’s tragedy but causes his blindness, literally so in allowing sunlight to inflict the ‘incurable’ condition. Moreover, it inquires only a small metaphorical leap to assign blame to her for his initial blindness as well, brougth by the bright flash of the chemical explosion, which follows hard on her desire to be seen outside the home, by her preferring the world’s ‘glitter’, and by her desire to ‘shine’ on stage. In the visual metaphors of the film, she seeks more light than her husband’s eyes can tolerate. That such desire is reprehensible is reinforced by Griffith’s ‘ethical intercutting’ between the wife and her brilliant party and the husband working away in his windowless basement lab. If the ethical contrast looks less stark than when Griffith used such cutting in, say, A Corner in Wheat, it is hardly less difficult to pinpoint the villain of the piece: this would-be indepent wife seeking the light.”
Scott Simmon: The Films of D. W. Griffith. CUP Archive 1993, p. 76

>>> Griffith 1910

The motif of blindness, another example:

Mieux valait la nuit
R: Unknown. D: Cécile Guyon. P: Société Française des Films Éclair. Fr 1911
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

“Cinema is visual entertainment. It seems only fair then that filmmakers are obsessed with themes around seeing and not seeing. Not being able to see provides an intensely dramatic plot, with regaining one’s vision often constituting the climax. Whether melodramas, comedies, or even documentaries, plots are often constructed in such a way to achieve ‘better vision’. (…)

While preparing to go out with her husband, Simone is blinded by a sudden explosion in her face while her maid helps her do her hair (this accident is shown in a neighbouring room via a reflection in a mirror, while her husband reads a newspaper in the foreground). The doctors tell her she can never see again. Despite giving Simone loving care, her husband eventually grows fond of one of her best friends. The lovers get careless, trusting that Simone can never see them together. But Simone secretly tries an alternative cure which does heal her. She rushes to tell her husband, only to witness him in the arms of his lover, and collapses of a broken heart.
Not much is known about this mysterious Éclair film. The identification of the title is not fully confirmed, and no information about the cast is available in written sources. We believe that Simone is played by Renée Sylvaire , and her rival by Cécile Guyon. Could the husband be the Éclair veteran André Liabel?”
Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi
Antti Alanen: Film Diary

The Abernathy Kids

The Abernathy Kids’ Rescue
R: Unknown. D: Jack Abernathy, Phillip Abernathy, Tom Abernathy. P: Pathé Frères / American Kinema. USA 1911
Print: EYE
German intertitles

“The Abernathy kids had excited public attention when they had ridden a couple of thousand miles to join in the celebration of Teddy Roosevelt’s return from hunting in Africa. They parlayed this into a brief movie career and this is one of their movies.”
IMDb (boblipton)

Louis (sometimes styled Louie) Abernathy was born in Texas in 1899 and Temple Abernathy was born in 1904 in Tipton, Oklahoma. Their father was cowboy and U.S. Marshal Jack Abernathy. In 1909 the boys rode by horseback from Frederick, Oklahoma, to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and back. Louis was nine, and Temple was five. When the boys completed their Santa Fe journey, they began planning a cross-country horseback ride to New York City, again by themselves, to meet Theodore Roosevelt when he returned from his trip to Africa and Europe. They made that trip in 1910. They were greeted as celebrities, and rode their horses in a ticker-tape parade just behind the car carrying Roosevelt. While in New York, the boys purchased a small Brush Motor Car, which they drove, again by themselves, back to Oklahoma, shipping their horses home by train. In 1911, they accepted a challenge to ride horseback from New York to San Francisco in 60 days or less. They agreed not to eat or sleep indoors at any point of the journey. They would collect a $10,000 prize if they succeeded. After a long trip, they arrived in San Francisco in 62 days, thereby losing the prize but setting a record for the time elapsed for the trip. In 1913, the boys purchased an Indian motorcycle, and with their stepbrother, Anton, journeyed by motorcycle from Oklahoma to New York City. This was their last documented adventure.”

562-AbernathyBoys. The Abernathy Kids

>>> an Abernathy Kids film from 1910, dir. by Travers Vale, probably lost: IMDb

>>> In Northern Forests

Love and Science (-Fiction)

Amour et science
B: M.J. Hoche (comedy). D: Émile Dehelly, Renée Sylvaire. P: Société Française des Films Éclair. Fr 1912
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

“This comedy from 1912 is a science fiction variant on a modern urban myth called ‘the reluctant bridegroom’ in which the bride-to-be is photographed in a compromising situation. In fact, variations go back much earlier and it appears in Shakespeare‘s ‘Twelfth Night’.”

“Éclair’s Amour et science (1912) (…) stages a love affair temporarily put on hold by the fiancé’s efforts to invent a television-like telephone. Impatient with his dedication to work only, his girlfriend plays a prank (creating a fictional rival) over the visual phone, which has a traumatic effect on him. The young man’s mental bearing, however, is eventually restored via a complex routine involving a replay of the call. This is secured by way of filming it, but with a revelation that effects a happy resolution, dispersing his love doubts and temporal mental  affliction.”
Jan Olsson
in: Richard Abel (ed): Encyclopedia of Early Cinema. Taylor & Francis 2005, p. 151/52

“The possibility that film might possess a more than simply documentary function also surfaced in claims (…) for the therateupic properties of the moving image. Such claims were voiced by numerous practitioners, and they also figure in the plot of several early feature films. In D.W. Griffith‘s A Drunkard’s Reformation (1909), a film inspired by the mental hygiene movement founded by Clifford Beers, the drunkard is cured, according to an intertitle, by seeing ‘his own shortcomings mirrored in a stage play’. The drama-within-the drama became a common trope of films in mental hygiene.
The potential therapeutic properties of the medium were (…) thematized in a handful of early French feature films among them Amour et science (1912), which depicts a madman who is restored to himself by a screening of a film that documents the events that precipitated his psychological breakdown. Similarly, the film Le mystère des roches de Kador (1912) includes a remarkable scene in which a young woman afflicted with hysteria is cured via a film screening.”
Andreas Killen
in: Greg Eghigian (ed.): The Routledge History of Madness and Mental Health. Taylor & Francis 2017, p. 182

Giovanni Pastrone: Il fuoco

Il fuoco
(La favilla, la vampa, la cenere)
R: Giovanni Pastrone (as Piero Fosco). B: Gabriele D’Annunzio (novel), Febo Mari (story). K: Segundo de Chomón. D: Pina Menichelli, Febo Mari, Felice Minotti. P: Itala Film. It 1915/1916
Print: Il Museo Nazionale del Cinema Torino

“Like Rapsodia Satanica, Il fuoco is a film so atmospheric as to be surreal, representing the height of D’Annunzian decadence. It exists on the plane of myth and symbolism much more so than that of the real world: passion and mysterious caprice abound, buoyed by extended visual and narrative metaphors about fire and birds of prey.
Menichelli plays an unnamed poetess, who is also a duchess. At sunset one day, she meets an unknown painter (played by Febo Mari) in the countryside, both working on their art by a reedy riverbank. She approaches him, creeps up on him almost; he is instantly fascinated with this strange, bird-like, beautiful woman, wondering if he will see her again.”
Silents, Please!

“Pina Menichelli is the very ideal of the diva in Il Fuoco (Italy, 1915). Introduced only as an illustrious poetess and countess, she steps out of her chauffeured car in a feathered outfit and hat that makes her look like a bird of prey. And she acts that way too when she meets the young artist Mario (Febo Mari), ‘the unknown painter.’ She is inflamed by the power of his commitment and the beauty of his art but love is a very different kind of thing for her, a momentary conflagration of great excitement and heat that quickly burns out. And fire is the appropriate metaphor for a woman whose seduction includes smashing an oil lamp onto a table just to watch the flames burn. (…)
It’s directed by Giovanni Pastrone, whose Cabiria (1914) is one of the landmarks of Italian epic spectacle. He brings the scale down for this film and takes his camera in closer for the more intimate story. The images and costumes are lavish and the performances tend to the operatic, larger than life in every respect, but he stages these scenes to express the internal drama rather than the external spectacle and in one scene offers a rare and subtly striking truck in from a medium long shot to medium close-up of the two lovers, all the more dynamic in a 1916 film that otherwise resorts to cutting and the occasional pan to reframe.”
Sean Axmaker
Parallax View

Further reading:
Vittorio Renzi: Il fuoco
Garden of Silence – Storie e visioni del cinema muto (Ital.)

>>> Pina Menichelli in Nino Oxilia’s films Per amore di Jenny and Papà

>>> Febo Mari in Una partita a scacchi 

Vingarne – A ‘Gay-Themed Film’

Vingarne (aka Ikarus, Frgm.)
R: Mauritz Stiller. B: Herman Bang (novel), Axel Esbensen, Mauritz Stiller. K: Julius Jaenzon. D: Nils Asther, Lili Beck, Egil Eide, Lars Hanson, Julius Hälsig, Bertil Junggren. P: Svenska Biografteatern AB. Sw 1916
Print: Filmarkivet Svenska Filminstitutet
Engl. subtitles

An adaptation of Herman Bang’s 1902 novel “Mikael”

“The silent era saw two films based on the novel ‘Mikael’  by gay Danish author Hermann Bang:  Vingarne/The Wings (Mauritz Stiller, 1916) and Michael (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1924).  The narrative centres on the relationship between an older artist and his younger protégé.  Both films follow the same basic plot:  Zoret, an aging artist, helps and supports Michael, a young aspiring artist who also models for him. (…) Vingarne survives today only in fragmented form, but Michael has been issued on DVD both in the USA and in Europe, with the American release part of Kino’s series called ‘Gay-Themed Films of the Silent Era.’  The problem with discussing ‘gay-themed films’ of the silent era is that, all too often, modern ideas of queerness, masculinity and sexuality have been transplanted onto these texts created over 90 or 100 years ago.  In the case of Vingarne, we are now privy to information regarding many of the participants in the film that encourages a queer reading even though this information would not have been widely-known at the time of release.”
Shane Brown: Vingarne (Mauritz Stiller, 1916)
Beyond Boundaries

Further reading:
Shane Brown: Queer Sexualities in Early Film: Cinema and Male-Male Intimacy. Bloomsbury Publishing 2016

Gay-themed films on this website:

>>> Algie the Miner: Gay Cinema 1912 ?
>>> A Florida Enchantment: Lesbian? Gay? Queer?

>>> more films by Mauritz Stiller

1903: A Dash to the North Pole

A Dash to the North Pole (extract)
K: Anthony Fiala. P: Kineto. UK 1909
Engl. and German intertitles
Print: BFI

“The polar regions have always exerted a powerful draw for filmmakers. This is partly to do with the natural allure of the unknown, but it also reflects how well the snowy wastes render on film. They are all spectacularly beautiful. The earliest polar film in the BFI National Archive is a British 1909 release of footage from the 1903 American Ziegler expedition to the North Pole.”
Bryony Dixon
BFI Screenonline

Industrialist William Ziegler sponsored a new polar expedition under Anthony Fiala in 1902. His hope to be associated with the discovery of the pole failed, but he died before their return with the news. (…)
The thirty-nine explorers set out in the Steam Yacht ‘America’ on June 26, 1903, intending to expand the work done in 1901. They dropped anchor in Teplitz Bay and reoccupied the original Camp Ziegler.  An advance camp six miles north was named Camp Abruzzi. While the party was settling down for the winter the ice suddenly rose up to crush the ship and sink it without a trace. This might have proved to be a major tragedy, but they decided to rely on the supply ship to rescue them in the spring, and they carried on all their routine work which included putting the North Pole party in the field. It would appear that all of nature’s forces were mustered to defeat this futile attempt by man to peer into the polar region because the plans for a field party in 1904 were delayed by the weather and then the supply ship failed to appear during the year. (…)
In the spring of 1905 Fiala and a small sledge party started for the North Pole, but the ice conditions which prevented a ship from reaching them a year before now became so soft that the party was forced to abandon the trip. They returned to camp in time to greet the arrival of a worried rescue expedition on the ‘S.Y. Terra Nova’. This ship was called out after the ‘Frithjof’ was forced to retire because of ice damage.
They returned to the United States in 1905 to learn that William Ziegler was dead. He had passed on the year before, without receiving any news of his expedition, perhaps hopefully dreaming that his name had been linked with the discovery of the North Pole.”
Ziegler Polar Expedition 1903-05