Booth’s Lightning Cartoon

Animated Cotton
R: Walter R. Booth. P: Charles Urban Trading Company. UK 1909
Print: BFI

“Relax and unwind in rewind with this trick film – if you haven’t cottoned on yet all is not as it seems… It might not take you long to cotton on to the trick of this film, but the results are still impressive. Though the various strings, wools and embroideries if this film are certainly animated in one sense, it is not through stop-motion animation. The time-consuming process of manipulating threads frame-by-frame is avoided by simply using reverse film techniques.”
BFI Player

“Framed by live-action sequences, the appeal and title of the film derives from three sequences where a piece of white cotton magically forms an image on a black background. While the techniques of this film, produced by playing in reverse the removal of a carefully constructed image outlined in string, are more akin to the trick film than drawn animation, its aesthetic content is pure lightning cartoon. The slow revealing of the image demonstrates Booth’s awareness and mastery of the narrative of perception that is at the heart of the lightning cartoon. Particularly important is the order of the three images displayed. After the first image (a bicycle) a second image begins to appear, but confounding the expectations established by the first iconographic image, the second never forms a recognisable object, remaining an abstract arabesque. By the final image, which resolves into a fashionable lady, the narrative of perception is heightened, held in tension between the search for the recognisable, as in the first image, and the possibility of this being unrealised, as in the second image. Animated Cotton is thus typical of Booth’s adaptation of the lightning cartoon in combining it with trick film techniques, engaging the perceptual faculties of the audience as they actively seek regognition in the images.”
Malcolm Cook: Early British Animation: From Page and Stage to Cinema Screens. Springer 2018, p. 86-87

Walter R. Booth on this website:
>>> Undressing extraordinary
>>> The Aerial Submarine
>>> The Automatic Motorist
>>> Scrooge, or, Marley’s Ghost
>>> The Hand of the Artist
>>> The Airship Destroyer
>>> A Railway Collision
>>> Diabolo Nightmare

Peter Marzen – The Showman of Trier

Echternacher Springprozession 1906
R: Peter Marzen. K: Peter Marzen. P: Peter Marzen. D 1906

“The Dancing Procession of Echternach, or Hopping Procession, is held once a year to honor Luxembourg’s only saint: Saint Willibrord, the founder of Echternach Abbey. Willibrord, an Irish/Anglo-Saxon missionary (658 – 739) brought Christianity to an area which is roughly situated north and north–west of Echternach (Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany). The annual Procession, which attracts about 13.000 pilgrims, plus numerous spectators, into the small abbey-town, takes place on Tuesday after Whitsun [i.e. the Christian festival of Pentecost]. 9.000 people, mostly dressed in white shirts/blouses and dark trousers/skirts hop through the medieval streets to the haunting rhythm of an ancient tune. The hopping step is sideways and forward.  In the past, though, some pilgrims jumped three steps forward and two backwards. Nowadays the expression ‘the Echternach Step’ is frequently used to refer to politicians who cannot make up their minds. Since 2010 the Dancing/Hopping Procession of Echternach has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List of Mankind’s Immaterial Values.(…)
Dancing has had its place in the church ritual elsewhere than in Echternach. (…)Hence it is difficult to say when Echternach’s procession had its beginning. It is mentioned in records of the eighth century, when pilgrimages to the tomb of St Willibrord began. But it probably existed centuries before that. It is not hard to see in it a Christianized survival of the springtime rites in honor of Diana, whose priests probably borrowed the dance from a propitiatory pageant of an older cult.”
The Echternach Dancing Procession

“Anfänglich präsentiert die Familie Marzen ihre Filme im Wanderkino. 1902 beginnt sie, Säle anzumieten, um Filme vorzuführen. Peter Marzen nimmt eine besondere Position ein. Er zeigt sich nicht nur bei fast jeder Lokalaufnahme selbst im Bild, sondern etabliert sich auch als charismatischer Filmerzähler und wird zum Star im eigenen Kino. Fast wie ein moderner Journalist und Entertainer hat er sowohl die Filminhalte als auch deren Präsentation in der Hand. (…) Die Wanderkinozeit verschafft der Familie Marzen einen Vorsprung, als sie am 24. März [1909] den Kinematographen – das ist gleichzeitig eine Kamera und ein Abspielgerät für 35 Millimeter-Film – im Central-Theater in der Trierer Brotstraße 36 übernimmt. ‘Familie Marzen brachte nicht nur Erfahrung und ihren guten Ruf mit’, sagt Brigitte Braun, eine Pionierin in der Erforschung des frühen Kinos an der Universität Trier. ‘Die Marzens haben auch die richtigen Leute gefilmt.’ Der Trierer Bürgermeister Karl de Nys, der Bischof Michael Korum, mehrmals der deutsche Kaiser Wilhelm II., die Kronprinzessin Maria Adelheid von Luxemburg bei der Thronbesteigung sind einige der Hauptdarsteller der dokumentarischen Filme. Um sie herum immer die Lokalgrößen und die Besuchermasse, sie alle wollen später zu Marzens ins Kino. So kann die Familie ihren Einfluss ausweiten und sich in Trier und der Umgebung etablieren. Kurz nach der Übernahme des Central-Theaters kommt es zum Eklat, und die Familie zerstreitet sich. Ab Sommer 1909 übernimmt Peter Marzen allein die Geschäftsführung und nennt das Kino ‘Marzens Central-Theater’. (…)  Am 28. November 1913 eröffnet er zudem das größte Kino der Moselstadt: Die ‘Germania Lichtspiele’ bieten Platz für etwa 500 Zuschauer.”
Christian Kremer: Eine Trierer Kinolegende

Peter Marzen: filmmaker, cinematograph entertainer – and showman par excellence

“Peter Marzen was a showman. Apparently he commanded over remarkable abilities in performing an impressive ‘soundtrack’ to silent moving pictures on the screen. He had already served as lecturer for the Marzen family’s travelling kinematograph show which had been managed by his father, Wendel Marzen. In the Central-Theater enterprise, Peter Marzen obviously was the key figure from the beginning. He was the person who incorporated the ‘local’ aspects of the show by standing next to the screen and commenting the short features of the programme in the popular vernacular of the Trier region. (…) By adding his local vernacular extras to the moving pictures on the screen, Peter Marzen adapted foreign screen characters to local attitudes of articulating personal emotions like such as fury, anger, love, and joy.”
Martin Loiperdinger: ‘The Audience Feels rather at Home’: Peter Marzens ‘Localisation’ of Film Exhibition in Trier. In: Frank Kessler (ed.): Networks of Entertainment: Early Film Distribution 1895–1915. Indiana University Press 2008, p. 124-125

Ralph Ince: The Mills of the Gods

The Mills of the Gods
R: Ralph Ince. B: George P. Dillenback (story). D: L. Rogers Lytton, Leo Delaney, Rosemary Theby, Zena Keefe, Tefft Johnson, Adele DeGarde. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1912
Print: EYE
Dutch titles
Engl. subtitles

Between around 1880 and 1924, more than four million Italians immigrated to the United States, half of them between 1900 and 1910 alone. It’s fair to say that this was reflected in American literature and cinema not only because it was topical but also because, especially in the case of cinema, immigrants were a large portion, if not the majority, of movie-goers. Thus, in the early 1910’s we have films such as The Adventures of Lieutenant Petrosino (1912), about an Italian-American police officer who fights organized crime in New York City, and numerous films about the Black Hand, an Italian extortion racket. This Vitagraph production is based on a novel of the same title by George P. Dillenbeck, (c. 1880-1917). The novel was reissued in 1912 including stills from the movie, which was Ralph Ince’s first three-reel “feature” film. At this time longer films began to dominate the market. By 1915 over 600 feature films were produced annually in the United States. Oviously, the story takes place in Italy – there is a mention of the Lake of Como and of traveling to Turin. A wealthy landowner, Lorenzo, causes a waitress, Giulia, to lose her job when she refuses his advances. Miguel, who witnesses the incident, gives her shelter, they marry and a daughter is born. Lorenzo, however, over a period of ten years and more, does all he can to destroy Miguel’s happiness. 
Based on David Bond’s text on YouTube

>>> The Black Hand

>>> The Adventures of Lieutenant Petrosino

>>> The Italian

Hamlet: Johnston Forbes-Robertson

R: Hay Plumb. B: Wlliam Shakespeare (play). K: Geoffrey Faithfull. D: Walter Ringham, Johnston Forbes-Robertson, S.A. Cookson, J.H. Barnes, Alex Scott-Gatty, Percy Rhodes, Gertrude Elliot, Adeline Bourne, Grendon Bentley, Montague Rutherford, E.A. Ross. P: Hepworth. UK 1913
Playgroup: The Drury Lane Company
Print: BFI National Archive

“In a 1913 interview, Cecil M. Hepworth, the producer, said that this Hamlet was  ‘the most notable event up to the present in the history of British cinema.’ Even allowing for PR-hype, which even then was escalating into a major industry, the film deserves a niche in history as a unique record of the performance of a major 19th-century Shakespearean actor, Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson. Sir Johnston’s electrifying portrayal of Hamlet, along with the Frederic B. Warde King Lear, provides a time capsule for viewing the acting techniques of eminent Victorians. Moreover, since Forbes-Robertson and his colleagues were actually speaking the lines as they declaimed them on the stage of London’s famous Drury Lane theatre, those familiar with the text can follow the play almost word for word. To appreciate this film, you need to know not less but more about Shakespeare’s play. No danger whatsoever exists, as seems to have been the case with the Barker silent Hamlet, that an audience of mutes might decode vile oaths from the actors’ lip movements. (Interview with C. Hepworth: Bioscope 24 July 1913: 275)”
Internet Shakespeare Editions

Hay Plumb‘s Hamlet (1913) made for the Cecil Hepworth company, marks a definite step forward for British Shakespeare films in that it attempts not only to present an entire play but also has cinematic ambitions over and above just pointing the camera at a reconstituted stage production, the method adopted by most of its predecessors. Sourced from a 1913 Drury Lane stage production, it was partly shot on location in Dorset, with interiors created in Hepworth’s Walton-on-Thames studio. (…)
As with virtually all other British Shakespeare silents (with the exception of Percy Stow’s admirably lucid The Tempest of 1908), there is little context-setting or indeed much indication of who is actually speaking when the intertitles appear on screen. These are somewhat sketchy, glossing over many key themes of the play and virtually demanding at least some degree of prior familiarity from the audience. (…)

That aside, it’s a competent production, helped by Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson’s charismatic performance in the title role (he was pushing sixty at the time, but he looks a fair bit younger) – his facial expressions and lively body language help overcome the limitation of the lack of a soundtrack, though this is still keenly felt as there is little overall attempt at reinventing the play for the cinema.
That said, although still fairly primitive – most scenes are still presented as single-shot tableaux – Hamlet does at least make some use of the cinema’s grammar. The camera occasionally moves, several scenes are shot on location, the ghost is conveyed through double exposure and there’s even a brief instance of cross-cutting, as Ophelia’s corpse is discovered while Laertes talks to Claudius.”
Michael Brooke
BFI Screenonline

609 Johnston Forbes-Robertson

“Johnston Forbes-Robertson (1853-1937) was an English actor and theatrical impresario that George Bernard Shaw and other critics considered to be the finest Hamlet (1913) of his generation. Forbes-Robertson had trained to be an artist and was not overly fond of acting, but he took to the boards to make a living. He did his apprenticeship with Samuel Phelps‘ company and made his theatrical debut in 1874. He played the second lead in the company of Henry Irving, indisputably the greatest actor of his generation and the first actor to be knighted. Forbes-Robertson did not play Hamlet until he was 44 years old, but excelled at it. He was famed for his magnificent voice. Other Shakespearean roles he was hailed for were Leontes in ‘The Winter’s Tale’, Othello and Romeo.”
Jon C. Hopwood

>>> more Shakespeare on this website: Shakespeare on Screen