Albert Capellani 1911

R: Albert Capellani. B: Pierre Decourcelle. D: Mistinguett, Émile Mylo, Paul Capellani, Jean Dax. P: Pathé Frères (S.C.A.G.L.) Fr 1911
German titles, Engl. subtitles

Albert Capellani (1874-1931) had already directed nearly fifty films for Pathé-Frères and S.C.A.G.L. (Société Cinématographique des Auteurs et Gens des Lettres*) before L’Épouvante, the first film he did with Mistinguett. Described by the press as a ‘terrifying cinemadrama, Decourcelle’s original script served as an exemplary vehicle for Mistinguett and her co-star Milo (sic!) by restricting its action to a very short period of time and to just a few adjacent spaces. (…) L’Épouvante is remarkable in several ways. First, it has only four intertitles, two of which succinctly introduce the characters: Mistinguett, in a luxurious white fur, leaving a theater to get into a waiting car, and Milo casing her bedroom, hearing a sound, and hiding under her bed. Later, another sound cue will let Mistinguett discover and rescue Milo. Second, the extended sequence in which the police pursue him, uninterrupted by intertitles, is confined to the narrow balcony running alongside the apartment and to the steeply sloping roof of what turns out to be a five-story building. Relatively quick cutting keeps the pursuers and pursued proximate yet constantly separate, with closer shots adding to the suspense by linking spectators with Milo and his predicament. Third, the initial sequence in the bedroom includes several shots that are simply extraordinary for 1911. After Mistinguett takes off her jewelry, kicks off her shoes, and climbs into bed, she tosses aside a book, reaches for a cigarette, and looks down at a dropped match. Suddenly, the camera dollies back, distancing the spectator from her and accentuating her vulnerability. An overhead shot past her head then frames the thief’s hand emerging from under the bed and snatching the match. The shock of that shot closes the distance between spectator and character with almost Hitchcockian intensity.
Although perhaps lacking the fever pitch of Griffith’s last-minute rescue films, L’Épouvante certainly belies the widely held notion that the French cinema was incapable of producing exciting action films. Especially in its unique framing and editing strategies, this film is nearly the equal of Lois Weber’s and Phillips Smalley’s Suspense (1913).”
Richard Abel
Giornate del cinemato muto

R: Albert Capellani. D: Georges Coquet, Catherine Fonteney, Georges Tréville. P: Pathé Frères (S.C.A.G.L.). Fr 1911
Engl. subtitles

“During the period February 1910 until March 1911, Albert Capellani directed no fewer than twenty-five pictures. On the surviving register from that period, we see that he was constantly shooting pictures with only one or two days’ break between them. Movies were still short. For example, the shooting of L’intrigante (working title: L’institutrice), a 275-m drama, took just four days, from December 6 to December 9, 1910. The main actress, Catherine Fonteney, was paid 30 francs per day. The result was a very clever movie, which has fortunately survived. It was about a little orphan girl, who is tormented by her Machiavellian tutor, played by Catherine Fonteney, who seems to have been typecast in this kind of role. (…) The total cost was 295 francs, about one franc pro meter of film.”
Christine Leteux: Albert Capellani: Pioneer of the Silent Screen. University Press of Kentucky 2015

“As documentary evidence, here the photograph is instrumental not only in maintaining hierarchy of classes but in keeping sexuality at bay by associating it with potentially criminal behavior. Yet, as a kind of dream scene projection by the girl, it also creates a haunting disturbance in the final portait of father and daughter as a proper bourgeois family. Nevertheless, (…) L’intrigante trades on the seeming veracity and consequent virtue of photograph as a privileged source of knowledge and truth – and, by implication, those qualities extend to their own moving images.”
Richard Abel: The Ciné Goes to Town: French Cinema, 1896-1914. Updated and Expanded Edition. University of California Press 1998, p. 210

* S.C.A.G.L. = Société des Auteurs et des Gens de Lettres. A “prestige” production unit within the Pathé organisation, launched by Charles Pathé in 1908. Capellani became its first artistic director, working as adviser and supervisor to various Pathé directors.

Edgar Jones and Clara Williams

656-The Bank Cashier

The Bank Cashier
R: Francis J. Grandon. D: Edgar Jones, Clara Williams, Francis J. Grandon. P: Lubin Manufacturing Company. USA 1912

Print temporarily not available

Clara Williams
“Born in Seattle on the third of May 1888, Clara Williams made her first film, Western Chivalry, with ‘Bronco Billy’ Anderson in 1910. After appearing in numerous leading lady roles for Powers Picture Plays in 1911, Williams moved on to take a job with the Lubin Company in Philadelphia in 1912.
There she was cast opposite leading man, Edgar Jones, and put under the direction of director, Francis J. Grandon. Grandons’ stock company was one of the first assigned to make western theme films at the Betzwood studio. Williams was a very skilled ‘female rough rider’ and her riding abilities were exploited in every possible way during her time with Lubin. She appeared in at least two dozen westerns while working for the company. Four of those films survive today. Late in 1912, Grandon and company were sent to California to work on location. When the company returned to Betzwood a few months later, it was without either Grandon or Williams, both of whom had taken jobs with other film companies in California.
Between 1915 and 1918, Clara Williams worked for a number of film companies, among them Kay-Bee Films, Domino Films, Selexart, and the Triangle Film Corporation. In early 1915 she achieved critical acclaim for her role in The Italian, a production of the New York Motion Picture Company, in which she played opposite George Beban. The following year, in a production for Triangle, she appeared in one of the greatest and most famous Westerns of the silent era, Hell’s Hinges, co-starring with William S. Hart and a former Lubin star, Jack Standing.”
Archives of Montgomery County Community College
Betzwood Film Archive

>>> more about Francis J. Grandon

Modern Tourist Postcards

“With the emergence in the seventeenth century of the Grand Tour as a ‘new paradigma for travelling’, Italy, home of classical traditions, became one of the most important destinations without which the education and knowledge of well-bred British travellers was not complete. (…) The fascination for antiquities and pictoresque views of Italian landscapes also created a tradition of visual representation that found in J.M.W. Turner its major exponent.

J.M.W. Turner: Venice, Dogana and San Giorgio Maggiore, 1834

Within this already established cultural context, Italian travelogues and scenic films were the modern expression of the tourist tradition. Although mediated by the camera, the scenery portraits offered to every class of audience the possibility of experiencing a Grand Tour of Italy and discovering its beauties. The artistic and natural richness of the country revealed itself as an inexhaustible source for the Italian film companies. To the British audiences, travelogues of Italy functioned as modern tourist postcards; to the Italian producers these films were the expression of national pride.”
Pierluigi Ercole: ‘Little Italy on the brink’: the Italian diaspora and the distribution of war films in London, 1914-1918. In: Daniel Biltereyst, Richard Maltby, Philippe Meer (ed.): Cinema, Audiences and Modernity: New Perspectives on European Cinema History. Routledge 2013, p. 156

Santa Lucia
R: Unknown. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1910
Print: EYE (Desmet collection)
Travelogue from various cities in Italy. Recordings from boats or from the street.

Il pescara
R: Unknown. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1912
Print: EYE (Desmet collection)
Recordings of the Pescara river in Italy, from the mountains to the sea.

R: Unknown. P: Milano Films. It 1913
Print: EYE
German titles
Travel film about Florence which includes: the cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore or Duomo) with the tower (Torre di Giotto or Campanile) and the dome (Brunelleschi), Piazza and Palazzo della Signoria.

R: Unknown. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1912
Print: EYE (Desmet collection)
Dutch titles
Engl. subtitles
Panoramic images of the city of Tripoli, the locals in the remarkable streets, the Marabouts, a camp of Arab nomads, and a sunset seen from the tower of a mosque.

>>> Travelogues 1910

>>> Le bellezze d’Italia