Charles Lucien Lépine

Odyssée d’un paysan à Paris (aka Odyssée d’un paysan à la ville)
R: Charles-Lucien Lépine. K: Segundo de Chomón. D: Bretteau. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1905

Le matelas de la mariée
R: Charles-Lucien Lépine. K: Segundo de Chomón. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1906

“Charles Lucien Lépine (1859 – 1941) est originaire de Bordeaux. Il début au cinéma avec son concitoyen Pierre Caussade (1860 – 1933), avant que ce dernier ne soit embauché en mai 1898 par Pathé, dont il deviendra le premier opérateur attitré.
En octobre 1899, Lépine dépose le brevet pour un ‘appareil cinématographique de salon’. Cet appareil, inspiré du Kinetoscope Edison, est commercialisé par Pathé en 1900, mais ne figure déjà plus au catalogue l’année suivante. Lépine est également l’auteur d’un brevet pour un ‘stéréoscope de poche pour cartes postales’, déposé le 19 janvier 1903.
Lépine quitte alors Bordeaux pour venir travailler chez Pathé. En 1904, il est opérateur, mais également directeur administratif des deux théâtres de prise de vues, de Vincennes et de Montreuil. Il devient ensuite metteur en scène et réalise une quinzaine de films entre 1905 et 1906. Cette même année il est débauché par la société italienne Carlo Rossi et Cie pour venir tourner à Turin. Il devient directeur artistique des studios et réalise, entre autre, des copies des films qu’il avait tourné en France. Ce plagiat pure et simple déchaîne la colère de Charles Pathé, qui l’accuse de trahir les secrets de fabrication et le fait condamner à 10 mois de prison et 3.000 francs d’amende.
Après un bref passage en Hollande, Lépine retourne en Italie et s’installe 91, Corso Casale à Turin. Il fabrique et commercialise des appareils de projection pour lesquels il dépose de nouveaux brevets. Il est notamment l’auteur, le 9 mai 1919, d’un brevet pour un appareil d’observation directe et de projection de vues fixes sur pellicule. En France, le brevet sera déposé par Pathé qui, après quelques modifications et deux nouveaux brevets, commercialisera l’appareil avec succès sous le nom de ‘Pathéorama’* en 1923.”

*The ‘Pathéorama’ (1922) is a professional film strip viewer for 35 mm film. The filmstrip is positioned directly into the compartment of the Pathéorama and advanced manually by turning a rubber wheel. The images are transported past a frosted celluloid screen and viewed through a magnifying lens. (Science museums group collection)

>>> Alice Guy’s film Le matelas épileptique

>>> Lépine’s film Un jour de paye


A Forgotten Pioneer

Mât de beaupré
K: Ambroise-François Parnaland. P: Parnaland Frères. Fr 1898

Mât de beaupré = bowsprit mast

Ambroise-François Parnaland – a French cameraman and inventor
“Born at Tournus, Saone-et-Loire in 1854, Ambroise-François Parnaland arrived in Paris in 1890 as a chartered accountant. Like his brother Louis, he was fascinated by things mechanical and they both filed several patents for various mechanisms. On 24 April 1895, Ambroise-François decided to found the firm Parnaland Frères to exploit his patent inventions. (…) The Parnaland camera, the Cinepar, was marketed in 1896. The following year, Parnaland made his first films, constructed and sold his cameras, and opened a shop at 5 rue Saint-Denis. In 1898, he filmed the surgical operations of Dr Eugène-Louis Doyen, with the cameraman Clément-Maurice. But Parnaland marketed the films, without Doyen’s permission, and Doyen took him to court. Meanwhile the Parnaland camera was used by Clément-Maurice to make the Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre sound films. (…) Charles Jourjon, a lawyer, decided to provide financial backing. On 22 April 1907, the limited company ‘films l’Eclair, anciens établissements Parnaland’, was created by Jourjon and Parnaland, and a catalogue listing all the Parnaland films made between 1897 and 1907 was published. But the beginnings of the Eclair company were difficult and costly (a chateau at Epinay was bought to serve as studio and office). Parnaland, a somewhat naive partner, was soon removed from management. (…) He died on 23 May 1913 while the Eclair company, the third French firm after Pathé and Gaumont, triumphed on the screens with the adventures of Zigomar.”
Laurent Mannoni
Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema

Celebrations at Aberdeen University

Aberdeen University Quarter Centenary Celebrations
R: Robert W. Paul. P: Paul’s Animatograph Works. UK 1906

A record of the opening of the new buildings of Marischal College, Aberdeen by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra on September 27th 1906. (BFI)

“A veritable epic in comparison with everything else in R.W. Paul‘s catalogue (certainly everything that survives), this official record of Aberdeen University’s quarter-centenary celebrations, as attended by King Edward VII  and Queen Alexandra, appears to have been a collaboration between Paul’s Animatograph Works and Messrs Walker and Company, based in Bridge Street, Aberdeen. Four cameras were used to record the events (which took place on 27 September 1906), and a contemporary account suggests that the film was returned to London overnight by train, processed on the morning of the 28th, and returned to Aberdeen for screening on the 29th, to a gathering that apparently included members of the Royal Family. (…)

Thought to run some fifty minutes in the full version, the surviving copy exceeds half an hour, almost all of it devoted to recording the various processions and celebrations from a discreet distance, with no attempt made at contextualising the material either by associative editing or explanatory intertitles (though a very early shot features a floral display proclaiming what is effectively the film’s title). But to an audience in 1906, this material would have been unusually fascinating in itself, particularly for its detailed footage of the monarch. Though far from camera-shy (unlike his reclusive mother Queen Victoria, he was renowned for his sociability), there is relatively little moving-image material of him. Regular newsreels, bringing equally regular coverage of matters royal, were still a few years away.”
Michael Brooke
BFI Screenonline



The Date was 21 June 1898

Launch of HMS Albion at Blackwall
K: E.P. Prestwich. P: Prestwich Manufacturing Company. UK 1898

“The battleship ‘HMS Albion’ was launched on 21 June 1898 on the River Thames at Blackwall. The event attracted an estimated 30,000 people. The Duchess of York christened the ship, but when Albion entered the water her bulk, combined with the narrowness of the river, caused a wave that swept away a jetty holding spectators, and an estimated 39 people were drowned.  E.P. Prestwich captured this outstanding view of the launch from a distance; the whole battleship can be seen gliding into the remarkably narrow stretch of water in a seemingly serene and gentle scene. Prestwich’s contemporary R.W. Paul filmed the event from a motorboat; his Launch of HMS Albion (1898) contains only a glimpse of the battleship itself, with a shot of rescuers in boats at the scene which caused considerable controversy when it was shown. A third filmmaker, Birt Acres, had two cameras covering the event, but claimed in the London daily newspapers, in a public dig at his rival Paul, that he couldn’t continue to film, as he was too busy helping with the rescue effort; his footage doesn’t survive.”
Shona Barrett
BFI Screenonline

The Launch of HMS Albion
K: Robert W. Paul. P: Robert W. Paul. UK 1898

“This early film captures the launch of the ‘H.M.S. Albion’, which was marred by the collapse of a gangway which resulted in many spectators drowning. Film pioneer Robert Paul was filming the launch at water level – and he continued filming after the collapse of a gangway, while his launch picked up many survivors. His decision to continue filming, and then to exhibit the film, aroused much controversy. (…) The Prestwich film of the launch, Launch of H.M.S. Albion at Blackwall, (…) is taken from the opposite side of the river and shows the ship going down the slipway and turning. It also does not show the gangway collapse.”
BFI Player

“It should have been an occasion of pride and wonder. ‘HMS Albion’ was the largest warship ever launched on the Thames. Unfortunately, its royal christening was followed by one of the worst disasters ever to happen on the Thames. The date was 21 June 1898. Thousands of Londoners had gathered at Blackwall, to the north-east of the Isle of Dogs, to watch the launch of a new battleship from the Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company. (…) The mass of spectators had crammed into every available space to watch the launch. An eyewitness later recounted that some 200 people had crowded onto a flimsy bridge structure, which was clearly marked ‘dangerous’. As the ship hit the water, it sent a colossal backwash crashing over this structure. Over 100 people were swept into the ‘filthy, greasy’ water. Small boats raced to the scene and pulled many out of the Thames. Even so, at least 35 people lost their lives in the incident, most of them women and children. (…) ‘HMS Albion’ went on to see distinguished service during the first world war, before being scrapped in 1919. The tragedy of her launch still ranks as the third worst incident on the Thames, after the ‘Princess Alice’ disaster of 1878 and the sinking of the ‘Marchioness’ in 1989.”

The Albion Battleship Calamity
Find here a poem and more about the “HMS Albion” disaster.


>>> Fiction and Newsreel: on the “Titanic” complex

Griffith’s ‘Gibson Goddess’

The Gibson Goddess
R: David W. Griffith. K: G.W. Bitzer. D: Marion Leonard, James Kirkwood, William A. Quirk (Billy Quirk), J. Waltham, Arthur Johnson, Anthony O’Sullivan, Mack Sennett, Frank Evans, Mary Pickford. P: Biograph Company. USA 1909

D.W. Griffith is certainly not a name associated with comedy, but he did direct a few of them early in his career {including his debut, Those Awful Hats (1909)}, before briefly returning to the genre with The Battle of the Sexes (1928). This comedy short from 1909 – The Gibson Goddess – might also be considered a ‘battle of the sexes.’ (…) The Gibson Goddess is more of a ‘sophisticated’ comedy, if you will, concerned primarily with human behaviour and social stereotypes. Leonard‘s ‘Gibson Goddess’ is a perfectly respectable and innocent woman, but also resourceful when required to be. Her male admirers are shamelessly superficial, abandoning one woman to bestow their affection upon a prettier other, and they bicker pettily among themselves as to who shall have claim over each lady. If the film wasn’t so lighthearted, the men’s ‘stalker’ antics might have seemed rather disturbing, though the actors dilute any worries by behaving, for the most part, as flamboyantly as possible.”
Short Cuts

A “Gibson Goddess” is a woman of ideal beauty as illustrated for Griffith’s era by the American illustrator and cartoonist Charles Dana Gibson (1867-1944), who “was best known for his creation of the Gibson Girl, an iconic representation of the beautiful and independent Euro-American woman at the turn of the 20th century.” (Wikipedia)

646-Gibson Girl
Charles Dana Gibson: Gibson Girl, 1898 (source: Wikipedia)

“Gibson’s curvaceous image of desire is evoked by Griffith only as a split-reel joke, and his casting of Marion Leonard also hints that Gibson’s ideal wasn’t his. The ‘Gibson Girl’ may have been on her way out of fashion by 1909 but that’s partly Griffith’s own doing, to the extent that his films were becoming the most popular mass images of their day, replacing Gibson’s sexualized but static images of desire with Griffith’s virginal but dynamic charmers.”
Scott Simmon: The Films of D. W. Griffith. CUP Archive 1993, p. 73

>>> Griffith 1909