Durand: Camargue Westerns (2)

Pendaison à Jefferson City
R: Jean Durand. B: Joë Hamman. D: Joë Hamman, Berthe Dagmar, Gaston Modot, Edouard Grisollet, Mégé Cadet, Lucien Bataille, Carlos Avril, Vesta Harold. P: Gaumont. Fr 1911
Print: Cinémathèque française, Paris
Engl. subtitles

Filming locations:  Camargue, Bouches-du-Rhône, France (exterior scenes)

“This is a rather elliptical story of three miners, one of whom is accused falsely of killing one of his friends and can only be saved from hanging by the other friend. The mine owner entrusts Bill with a payroll bag that he is to deliver to a distant post (why is unclear), and he asks Burton to accompany him (which the owner overhears). After Burton goes off with Joë instead (why and where is unclear), Bill slips and falls into a deep pool of water and drowns. Rumors begin to circulate in the saloon that Burton is guilty, and, just before being arrested, he desperately asks the female saloon owner to find Joë, who alone can exonerate him (where he has gone also is unclear). In a series of skillful horseback rides, she is successful, and Joë rides up to the scene of the hanging in time to save his friend.
The film is notable for several deep-space exterior shots, and especially for Dagmar and Hamman’s horseback riding. One scene relatively smoothly tracks her horse through a dry gulch, over a narrow bridge (in a low-angle shot), and from the bridge up a steep hillside (in a corresponding high-angle shot). The next depicts Hamman’s ride, capped by an expert sideways descent down another steep hillside. In the end, he fires a single revolver shot like the heroine in Selig’s later Sallie’s Sure Shot, (…)  which miraculously severs the rope from which his friend is hanging.”
Richard Abel
Le Giornate del Cinema Muto

La prairie en feu
R: Jean Durand. B: Joë Hamman. D: Joë Hamman, Berthe Dagmar, Ernest Bourbon, Gaston Modot, Pollos, Folco de Baroncelli, Vesta Harold. P: Gaumont. Fr 1912
Print: Gaumont Pathé Archives
Engl. subtitles

Filming Locations: Camargue, Bouches-du-Rhône, France

“This film anticipates several of the later BISON 101 Indian pictures produced by Thomas Ince (e.g., The Massacre, The Lieutenant’s Last Fight) in that it tells a story about how American Indians were treated badly by the United States government. In South Dakota (where Hamman had lived among Sioux Indians), Chief Yellow Fox gets into a dispute with a government agent over compensation owed to his tribe, and the agent shoots and wounds him in the hand. After the agent’s wife (apparently also an Indian) bandages the wound, Yellow Fox reports the humiliation to his tribesmen, and they vow revenge. At night they set fire to the small town, and the settlers there flee on horseback and in carts and wagons. As the Indians attack one wagon, Yellow Fox is shot, and he goes off to die alone on a hilltop.
The second film that Durand and Hamman shot in the Camargue region, La prairie en feu makes more use of its flat, marshy landscape for both the Indians and white settlers to travel across. The town of Sioux Falls, however, is little more than a few wooden buildings (with a barely visible bank and saloon, side by side), and the only evidence of the Indians’ fire comes in distant plumes of smoke and then the smoke engulfing the buildings. Tinting and toning helps overcome these limitations, especially in the concluding scenes. In the first, purple toning enhances the settlers’ herding of cattle across the watery plain, most notably in a painterly image of two bare trees reflected in the foreground water as horsemen and cattle come forward in the background. In the other, red tinting heightens the scene of Yellow Fox’s ironic death, as he staggers to the top of a burning hilltop, wraps himself in a robe, and lays down in the swirling smoke.”
Richard Abel
Le Giornate del Cinema Muto

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