Onésime: Ultimate Conclusions

Onésime et l’étudiante
R: Jean Durand. D: Ernest Bourbon, Édouard Grisollet, Gaston Modot. P: Société des Etablissements L. Gaumont. Fr 1912
Engl. subtitles

Ernest Bourbon, circus acrobat, actor, director, was born in Vierzon, Cher, France on October 23, 1886. Bourbon began his acting career in 1911 under the leadership of Jean Durand , especially in films about his character Calino or Zigoto. It was in 1912 that the director offered him the role of Onésime who will make him famous. Bourbon then focused his career on this particular character, to the point of staging all of his films on the adventures of this one character, even dropping director Durand from the series and taking over the director’s duties himself. His short career ended in 1918. He died on November 19, 1954 in Paris.”
Westerns all’Italiana

Onésime employé des postes
R: Jean Durand. D: Ernest Bourbon,  Mademoiselle Davrières, Édouard Grisollet. P: Société des Etablissements L. Gaumont. Fr 1912
Engl. subtitles

“When one sees again the really old slapstick films, the Boireau or Onésime series, for example, it is not only the acting which strikes one as belonging to the theater, it is also the structure of the story. The cinema makes it possible to carry a simple situation to its ultimate conclusions which on the stage would be restricted by time and space, that is, to what might be called a larval stage. What makes it possible to believe that the cinema exists to discover or create a new set of dramatic facts is its capacity to transform theatrical situations that otherwise would never have reached their maturity. (…) In this sense certain types of theater are founded on dramatic situations that were congenitally atrophied prior to the appearance of the cinema. (…) The majority of these burlesques are an endlessly protracted expression of something that cries from within the character. They are a kind of phenomenology obstinacy. The domestic Boireau will continue to do the housework till the house collapses in ruins. (…) The action here no longer calls for plot, episodes, repercussions, misunderstandings, or sudden revearsals. It unfolds implacably to the point at which it destroys itself. It proceeds unswervingly towards a kind of rudimentary catharsis of catastrophe like a small child recklessly inflating a rubber balloon to the point where it explodes in his face – to our relief and possibly to his.”
André Bazin: What is Cinema? Essays selected and translated by Hugh Gray. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles/Cambridge University Press, London 1967. Here: Theater and Cinema. Part one, p. 79-80

Onésime champion de boxe
R: Jean Durand. D: Ernest Bourbon,  Mademoiselle Davrières, Édouard Grisollet, Gaston Modot. P: Société des Etablissements L. Gaumont. Fr 1913

>>> The Onésime Series

>>> Zigoto

Alice Guy in America – 3

A Fool and his Money
R: Alice Guy. D: James Russell. P: Solax Film Company. USA 1912

Presumedly the earliest surviving American film with an all black (Afro-American) cast

“The film is a comedy about what happens when a working class black man suddenly comes into a windfall of money. Perhaps the alternate title, ‘Darktown Aristocrats’ best captures the fact that the humor derives from placing black actors in bourgeois settings and clothing.(…) Alisen McMahan argues in an excerpt from her award winning book, ‘Alice Guy Blaché, Lost Visionary of the Cinema’ the film is certainly racist, but it also reflects ‘the dream of assimilation’ associated with both immigrants and the black middle class. For Blaché ‘assimilation meant taking on the stereotypes of the adopted culture.’ Blaché was a French immigrant to the United States which did not prevent her from replicating racist stereotypes of the American culture.”

>>> The Watermelon PatchTwo Knights of VaudevilleA Natural Born Gambler on this site

Matrimony’s Speed Limit
R: Alice Guy. D: Fraunie Fraunholz, Marian Swayne. P: Solax Film Company. USA 1913

“A chase film to the altar, Matrimony’s Speed Limit (Alice GuyBlaché, Solax, 1913) depicts the plight of a financially ruined bachelor, Fraunie, who learns that he has exactly twelve minutes to marry a bride or else he will lose out on a very large inheritance. Made by one of the most prolific early silent filmmakers, Alice GuyBlaché (18731968), this film provides a gendered, comic twist on the terrors of modernity: the collapse of separate public and private spheres, and the unprecedented speed of communications and transportation systems. An urgent telegram and hotrod automobile make a mockery of the institution of marriage, as the film’s title heralds. (…)

As the film reveals, the speed limit of matrimony is, in fact, racial miscegenation (in 1913 American culture). This becomes literalized when Fraunie’s supine, suicidal body actually stops traffic — fortunately, the occupant of the oncoming automobile turns out to be Fraunie’s jilted fiancée, Marian, who had devised the whole scheme, and is herself accompanied by a minister. The two wed immediately, and then retreatto their private domestic space whereupon she discloses her ruse and deception. Fraunie is outraged and attempts to storm off, but Marian steals his hat — of course he cannot go out in public without his hat—and then the two finally embrace. Instead of a marriage-contingent inheritance, Fraunie will have to be satisfied with Marian’s substantial dowry. What could go wrong?

More than just a zippy, entertaining film made by a foundational female filmmaker, Matrimony’s Speed Limit represents a crucial historical text that comically meditates upon the gendered, class, and racial fantasies and anxieties of early twentieth century American culture.”
Margaret Hennefeld
Library of Congress

>>> Alice Guy in America – 1Alice Guy in America – 2  on this site

Lois Weber: Framed Memory

The Rosary
R: Loise Weber, Phillips Smalley. B: Loise Weber. D: Loise Weber, Phillips Smalley. P: Rex Motion Picture Company. USA 1913
Print: BFI

“An impressively experimental one-reeler, The Rosary demonstrates as ever how well director, writer and star Lois Weber was at integrating her Catholic proselytizing into art. Here, the film image is framed within a circular matte made of the titular rosary. It reminds me of the circular shape of magic lantern slides, the shows of which often included poetic or song-based narration–this film, too, being said to be based on a popular song and quite poetic in its flowing juxtaposition of fading images and only four lyrical title cards. (…) The semicentennial Civil War melodrama, of a love story torn by war and nunnery, isn’t of much interest, but the novel way it’s presented as a framed memory is appreciated. A lot of writing on Weber’s films is spent on the often-controversial content of their messages, but it’s also remarkable how conceptually and visually intriguing they could be.”
Cineanalyst (IMDb)

“There is, without doubt, a punitive, finger-wagging side to Weber, the child of a Pittsburgh-area missionary and a onetime street-corner evangelist for the Church Army Workers organization, but it is more than made up for by her robust visual imagination. Suspense (1913) innovates split-screen effects for a thriller that’s every bit the equal of contemporary work by D.W. Griffith, while The Rosary (1913) views a picturesque star-crossed Civil War romance through a matte circle, framed by a string of rosary beads. Weber’s moralizing is the driving force of her work and perhaps necessary to her continued pursuit of it – when motion pictures were still struggling for respectability, how much more might women’s pictures have needed to appear unimpeachably upright? Consistent in her films is a fiery, reformer’s spirit, a tender regard for the suffering of common people that feels as though rooted in a real acquaintance with straightened circumstances, and an attention to the attrition of work, particularly women’s labour.”
Nick Pinkerton: Celluloid Pioneers: Who Were the First Women Filmmakers?

Lois Weber on this website:

>>> Where Are My Children 
>>> The Price
>>> How Men Propose 
>>> Hypocrites
>>> Suspense