Perret: Le portrait ovale

Le portrait ovale (Le portrait inachevé?)
R: Léonce Perret. D: Yvette Andréyor, Raoul d’Auchy, Jeanne Marie-Laurent. P: : Société des Etablissements L. Gaumont. Fr 1910
Engl. subtitles

“Ces deux titres recouvrent donc un seul et même film, retrouvé à la Gaumont, sans titre ni indication de metteur en scène, et inclus dans le coffret déja mentionné sous le titre supposé de Le portrait inachevé, sans qu’aucune indication de date ne nous soit donné. Si le film est encore un peu gauche par rapport, disons, à L’automne du coeur, (…) c’est sans doute qu’il date d’avant; Perret a commencé la mise en scène en 1909, et parmi ses filmographies, on indique un ‘Portrait ovale’, d’après Poe, pour l’année 1910. Ce film se rattache en effet à cette histoire, et conte l’obsession d’un homme, un aristocrate qui a tué la femme de sa vie à l’occasion d’un accident de chasse, alors que le portrait qu’il peignait alors d’elle est resté inachevé. Il cherche des modèles pour la remplacer, en vain, jusqu’au jour ou il rencontre son sosie, physiquement du moins, car la jeune femme est, le pense-t-il, indigne de lui: il voit d’ailleurs Jeanne, sa femme décédée, lui reprocher son choix. jusqu’au jour ou pour lui plaire, Madeleine se grime en jeanne…
Ca nous rappelle forcément quelque chose; bien sur, Vertigo vient d’une histoire similaire, mais aussi, plus proche de ce film, le beau et très noir Rêves* de Evguenyi Bauer: sur un canevas similaire, le Russe allait plus loin dans le drame, mais les trois fils ont en commun le thème du sosie qui va recréer la femme morte. Mais dans ce film, cela s’exprime d’une façon directe, sans trop de pesanteur ni fioriture: Bauer, dont le film date de 1915, délaiera le temps, jouant sur la tension et les tourments intérieurs. Perret, si c’est bien lui, ne s’attarde pas. Mais la façon dont il montre l’obsession, combinée à la tendance à l’adoration de la femme (les cinq premières minutes du film, avec la séance de pose durant laquelle le marquis est hypnotisé par son épouse), nous renvoient à L’automne du coeur, une fois de plus.”
Allen John’s attic

* i.e. Bauer’s film Posle smerti, 1915

>>> Léonce Perret

A Trick Film Factory, ca. 1900

A Railway Collision
R: Walter R. Booth. P: Paul’s Animatograph Works. UK 1900

“The film was a collaborative effort between the pioneers of cinema, Robert W. Paul and Walter R. Booth.  Paul was an electrical engineer who exhibited  Kinetoscope films from 1894, and founded Paul’s Animatograph Works in 1897. During thirteen years of production, Paul’s studio produced 122 short films, a number of which were directed by the illusionist Walter R. Booth. From 1899 to 1906, Paul and Booth would make increasingly complex ‘Trick Films’ – a genre of short films that relied on special effects to achieve their imagery. These skills were developed  through shorts such as Upside Down or The Human Flies (1899) and A Railway Collision (1900) with each film increasing in complexity as Paul and Booth pushed the boundaries of film technology and stage magic performance.”
Emme Bell, Neil Mitchell: Directory of World Cinema: Britain. Intellect Books 2012, p. 148

“W.R. Booth’s A Railway Collision (1900) is one of the earliest examples of this technique in practice [using miniature scale models, KK], as model trains are used to simulate a train crash on an embankment. Unlike some of his other films of the period, Booth does not attempt to enhance the effect by intercutting obviously full-scale material, though his successors would undoubtedly have added a shot inside a carriage full of screaming passengers. Model trains standing in for real ones can be seen frequently in British films over the subsequent decades. Alfred Hitchcock was particularly fond of them, with Young and Innocent (1937) and The Lady Vanishes (1938) contain choice (if not always convincing) examples. By contrast, the miniature work in The Wrecker (d. Geza von Bolvary, 1928) was so effective that much of the footage was recycled in a later film, Seven Sinners (d. Albert de Courville, 1936), whose alarmingly realistic train crashes are leagues ahead of what Booth achieves in A Railway Collision. But their source is clearly visible here.”
Michael Brooke

>>> Fantômas (II) – Juve contre Fantômas, 18 min. 50 sec. – 19 min. 23 sec.

>>> The Obsessions of Walter Booth on this website

Tracking Shots

The Trail of Cards
R: Gilbert P. Hamilton. D: Lillian Christy, Edward Coxen, J. Warren Kerrigan, Louise Lester. P: American Film Manufacturing Company. USA 1913

“Kalem made a series of train films in 1911, most notably The Railroad Raiders of ’62, featuring numerous shots with the camera mounted of a train. Lubin’s The Missing Finger (1912) cuts together four moving shots which function as eyeline matches between two characters. Finally, in The Trail of Cards (American 1913), repeated tracking shots depict an abduction on horseback, while the playing cards of the title are dropped as clues. The self-consciously inventive nature of most of the examples indicates filmmakers still viewed this type of camera movement as a novelty of sorts.”
Charlie Keil: Early American Cinema in Transition: Story, Style, and Filmmaking, 1907–1913. University of Wisconsin Press 2001, p. 160

A Cowboy Hero for the 20th Century

The Law and the Outlaw
R: William Duncan. B: J. Edward Hungerford, Tom Mix. D: Tom Mix, Lester Cuneo, Myrtle Stedman, Florence Dye, Marshall Stedman, Rex De Rosselli, Tom Nash. P: Selig Polyscope Company. USA 1913

“In recognition of Tom Mix‘ importance to the company, Selig built the Diamond ‘S’ Ranch outside of Prescott, which housed the troupe’s livestock and served as a frequent shooting location; it also contained a home built especially for Mix and his family. The ranch’s name was inspired by the Selig company’s logo, an ‘S’ within a diamond, which accompanied virtually  all of the title credits and advertising. (…) Tom Mix was establishing himself as a rugged presence in the Westerns he made for William Selig through mid-1913, but they were merely a prelude to the parts he would write for himself. These roles would establish the predominant cinematic cowboy hero for the twentieth century.
Mix incorporated several rodeo-style stunts into the script he co-wrote for The Law and the Outlaw, released June 4, 1913. In a scene reminiscent of his initial wild west show specialty, Mix is dragged across the ground by a frightened horse. He saves the rancher’s daughter by bulldogging a steer that’s about to gore her. Mix also makes an escape by rolling down a steep, rocky embankment while handcuffed.  Selig advertised that real bullets were used in some scenes. The physicality and variety of Mix’s stunts in Law and the Outlaw created a sensation.”
Andrew A. Erish: Col. William N. Selig, the Man Who Invented Hollywood. University of Texas Press 2012, p. 62-63

>>> Tom Mix, Cowboy Actor

>>> more Tom Mix films on this website: The Rose of Old St Augustine, Captain Kate, Back to the Primitive

Kathlyn Williams

Back to the Primitive
R: Frank Boggs, Otis Turner. B: Edward McWade, Otis Turner. D: Kathlyn Williams, Charles Clary, Joseph W. Girard, Tom Mix, William V. Mong, Tom Santschi. P: Selig Polyscope. USA 1911
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

Kathlyn Williams began work in motion pictures as an actress with Biograph in New York. ‘I was playing in stock,’ she recounted to Photoplay in 1917. ‘One week when I was not working someone called me up from the Biograph studio and asked if I would work two days for them. I was dreadfully insulted at first, but I went out of curiosity expecting to be offered about fifty cents a day.’ To her amazement, D. W. Griffith paid her ten dollars for each day’s work. (…)  Sources agree that she joined the Selig Polyscope Company in 1910 and quickly became the company’s leading actress. From the start, she played an action heroine, although she was also featured in dramatic roles. In 1913-14 she starred in the Adventures of Kathlyn, generally regarded as the first serial with ‘hold-over’ suspense.”
Mark Garrett Cooper
Women Films Pioneer Project

Lost in the Jungle
R: Otis Turner. B: Otto Breitkreutz, William V. Mong. D: Tom Santschi, Kathlyn Williams, William V. Mong, Charles Clary, Frank Weed, Ernest Anderson, Tom Mix. P: Selig Polyscope. USA 1911
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

Lost in the Jungle, the last of the great series of Selig films produced last winter, in which wild animals have been used in the development of the story, and of which Back to the Primitive and Captain Kate have proved notable productions, will be released Monday. October 26. It is understood that the Selig Company will not discontinue the production of films of this type and that another series will be prepared during the approaching winter. Mr. Wm. N. Selig believes that Lost in the Jungle is the climax of the series. (…) Another thrill is promised in the girl’s encounter with a leopard. Shortly before this scene appears, we witness a fierce fight between two leopards and a wild hog. The latter coming out victor. This prepares us for the presence of leopards in the girl’s vicinity, and when we see her crouch and listen intently, as she gazes into the depths of the forest, we are prepared for a life and death struggle. (…)

597-Kathlyn WilliamsIn the making of this scene Miss Williams suffered such severe scalp wounds from the animal’s claws that nine stitches were required to close them, and she was covered with blood to her waist. A leopard is very fond of wild chickens, and at the first rehearsal of the scene, before the man began to turn the handle, everything went well. The chicken was thrown slightly behind and to one side of Miss Williams, as the animal was loosed from his cage, so that he fairly caught sight of its fall. In the second trial the chicken was thrown directly behind Miss Williams, out of the camera’s field; and although the leopard saw that the chicken had been thrown, he did not see it fall, and concluded that it was under Miss Williams. The courage shown by this lady, and her wonderful influence over wild animals, in the production of this film, are really remarkable.”
The Moving Picture World, October 14, 1911

“Toddles, the elephant used, has the reputation of having killed two of his keepers, so our producer was afraid to have me try and wanted me to use a dummy figure. Realizing how much more real it would be to have it true to life, I was anxious to try, and always having been fond of animals, especially wild ones, I set to work to win Toddles as my friend. Knowing the surest way was through his stomach I began visiting him daily with fruit. In fact every time I passed I would have something until at last he began to know me, and whenever he would see me he would trumpet and call, and I was always prepared. After some weeks of this we began our real work. I would lie down within easy reach of him, command him to kneel and then to assist me to my feet with his trunk. Whenever he did what I wanted I gave him an orange. How quickly he understood. At last he would allow me to get on his head. Oh! He was splendid, and I felt as safe up there as on the ground. It took a month to accomplish this, but it was fascinating work.”
Kathlyn Williams, interviewed by the New York Clipper, Apr. 20, 1912

The Adventures of Kathlyn
R: Francis J. Grandon. B: Harold McGrath (story), Gilson Willets. K: Robert L. Carson. D: Kathlyn Williams, Charles Clary, Horace B. Carpenter, Lafe McKee, Tom Santschi. P: Selig Polyscope. USA 1913
Fragment of the first episode (of 13)
Titles removed
Print: EYE

“In the very near future the Selig people will announce the title of the first picture in a series of thirteen two-reel subjects, to be released every other Monday during the following six months. All these two-reel pictures are to be spectacular wild animal dramas, and each subject is to be complete in itself, though it will end in such a manner that the person who has seen one of the series will instantly realize that there is more to come, and be on the lookout for the next picture of the series. The name chosen for the series is ‘The Adventures of Kathlyn,’ and in each subject Miss Kathlyn Williams, star of the Selig Company for several seasons past, will be featured. Miss Williams in the first picture appears as the heir to a throne in a mythical principality in India, and the following films will show the difficulties she experiences in maintaining her rule, the encounters with wild beasts of the jungle which result from her trips through her kingdom, and many surprising and strange circumstances and events incident to her retaining the crown. (…) The scenarios for the entire series come from the pen of Gilson Willetts, author of several popular novels and newspaper writer of renown, and are said to be thrilling in the extreme, and to have been prepared with the special aim in view of enabling Miss Williams to display all the many sides of her art. An arrangement has also been made by which the entire series of stories will run serially in the ‘Chicago Tribune’ and the entire chain of newspapers with which the ‘Tribune’ is affiliated through its syndicated news service. In other words, on the Sunday following the Monday on which the first Adventure of Kathlyn is released, in film form, the ‘Tribune’ and some metropolitan newspaper in every large city in the United States, will publish the story of the film in fiction form in their magazine sections. The week after that the first part of the second ‘Adventure’ will appear in fiction form, just six days after it has been released in pictures.”
The Chicago Tribune, Sept. 6, 1913

>>> Selig’s Tropical Jungle Zoo on this website