Méliès’ Adventurous Automobile Trip

Le raid Paris-Monte Carlo en deux heures
R: Georges Méliès. B: Georges Méliès. D: Fernande Albany, Antonich, Blondet, Séverin Cafferra. Victor de Cottens, Harry Fragson, Félix Galipaux, Louis Maurel Georges Méliès. P: Star Film. Fr 1905

“For the 1904 Folies Bergère cabaret revue, the director Victor de Cottens approached Méliès — then at the height of his fame as a filmmaker — with the idea of combining theatre and cinema by presenting a short film as one of the fourteen segments of the stage production. The two directors worked out a scenario that would parody the motoring adventures of King Leopold II of Belgium, who was famous for driving, and often crashing, fast cars. In the stage-screen amalgamation devised by Méliès and de Cottens, the segment began as a sketch with live performers before continuing as a film; at the end of the film, the actor playing the King, as well as other actors playing cheering spectators, returned to the stage to finish the sketch live.

Méliès drew the cast of the film from various sources. Harry Fragson, a London-born singer and comedian who was one of the stars of the Folies Bergère at the time, played the lead role of King Leopold. Louis Maurel, a Paris singer and comedian who had worked with Fragson in the 1903 Folies Bergère revue, was the chauffeur. In the scene in front of the Paris Opera, the celebrities assembled include Jean Noté, a singer at the opera house; the short actor Little Pich, whose persona was a close imitation of the better-known British comedian Little Tich, and who also acted in films by Pathé Frères and the Gaumont Film Company; the tall actor Antonich, known as the “Giant Swede;” Félix Galipaux, who had been a popular music hall monologuist in Paris since the 1880s and who acted in several Méliès films; Jane Yvon, a Folies Bergère entertainer; Séverin Cafferra, a popular mime; and de Cottens himself. Fernande Albany, who also appeared in Méliès’s films The Impossible Voyage, Tunnelling the English Channel, and The Conquest of the Pole, played the plump lady in the Dijon scene, and the Folies Bergère entertainers Blondet and Raiter also made appearances. Méliès himself plays two roles in the film: a mailman who gets knocked over by the car, and the octroi official who explodes. Méliès also cast more extras in the film than was usual for him, sometimes staging them in layered arrangements for visual clarity, and sometimes letting them move at whim to create more disorganized, naturalistic groupings. (…)

‘An Adventurous Automobile Trip’ premiered at the gala opening night of the Folies Bergère revue on 31 December 1904. It ran for six months at the Folies Bergère, lasting more than 300 performances. Méliès also intended for the film to be shown by exhibitors elsewhere, outside the context of the revue. Thus, after its Folies Bergère run, it was released as a standalone item by Méliès’s Star Film Company and numbered 740–749 in its catalogues, where it is advertised as a grande course fantastique funambulesque. As with at least four percent of Méliès’s output, the film was available both in black-and-white and in individually hand-colored prints sold at a higher price.”

A coloured version of this film: