Lumière in America

Arrivée d’un train à Battery Place
R: Alexandre Promio. P: Auguste & Louis Lumière. Fr 1896
Location: New York City, station of Battery Place. The train is the famous “El” (= Elevated Railway).

Grande roue
R: Alexandre Promio. P: Auguste & Louis Lumière. Fr 1896
Location: Chicago, corner of Wrighwood and Clark Street, near to the Giant Wheel

Descente des voyageurs du pont de Brooklyn
R: Alexandre Promio. P: Auguste & Louis Lumière. Fr 1896
Location: New York City, Manhattan, Brooklyn Bridge

“He (i.e. Alexandre Promio) was a member of the Lumière team that set out to conquer the United States, arriving early September 1896 and filming several scenes along the East Coast, in answer for a demand for American Lumière scenes. He left on 25 September (the negatives were developed in France), then moved on to Italy when he probably took the famous travelling shot from a Venice gondola, since claimed as the first time that anyone had moved the camera.”
Luke McKernan
Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema 

>>> Promio, Lumière operator

Durand: Camargue Westerns (3)

Cent dollars mort ou vif
R: Jean Durand. B: Joë Hamman. D: Joë Hamman, Gaston Modot, Berthe Dagmar, Max Dhartigny, Ernest Bourbon. P: Gaumont. Fr 1912
Location: Camargue, Bouches-du-Rhône, France

“This is the first of the Gaumont westerns in which Hamman plays a bad man who, unlike Broncho Billy, cannot be redeemed. (…) The centerpiece of the film (…) puts Hamman’s stunt work on display in and around the train – and has no intertitles to distract from the action. In one shot, he rides up to the train rounding a bend toward the camera, dismounts his horse, and runs and grabs onto a hand-hold – and his shirt looms into CU (in the left foreground) as the train passes. After shooting several of the posse, from the last train car, he crawls (in MCU) onto the last car’s roof and crawls off over the other cars to reach the speeding locomotive. An unusual shot looking straight down at the chains and bars linking the still-moving locomotive and first train car shows him desperately, and finally successfully, trying to uncouple one from the other. Hamman would return to this stunt work, with variations, in Le railway de la mort, released four months later.”
Richard Abel
Le Giornate del Cinema Muto

Le railway de la mort
R: Jean Durand. D: Joë Hamman, Gaston Modot, Berthe Dagmar, Max Dhartigny, Ernest Bourbon, Édouard Grisollet, Gustave Hamilton, Joaquim Renez. P: Gaumont. Fr 1912
Location: Camargue, Bouches-du-Rhône, France

“(…) Le Railway de la mort is less concerned with narrative continuity than with setting up dangerous stunts in ever more spectacular action sequences, one after another. A grim adventure tale that borrows liberally from Jack London, this “lust for gold” story turns two friends, Joe Barker and Tom Burke, into fierce antagonists in their frantic search for the secret claim that a dying gold miner has entrusted to them.
Shot on location in the Camargue region, the story supposedly is set on the Nebraska prairie, among and beyond towns named Rockfield, Silver City, and Fort William. The flat, empty, sometimes marshy landscape is familiar from Hamman’s other westerns, but now the chases involve not only horses and, as in Cent dollars mort ou vif, a train, but also the only automobile in the area. The exterior sets also are more elaborate than those of the previous films, often arranged in deep-space compositions. Especially notable, however, are the framed shots early on (more characteristic of Léonce Perret) looking out from darkened interiors, accentuated by deep blue toning, as when Joe opens a door to see Tom steal away in the night and then, framed by a tent opening, Tom goes off alone on horseback.
Most striking, of course, are the action sequences. Tom, in a long shot, leaps onto the last car of a passing train, quickly pursued by Joe on horseback; in a reverse-angle shot from within the train car, Tom and Joe trade gunshots. When Joe fails to catch the train, he races across the flooded prairie to a high signal arch over the tracks, from which he can drop onto the top of the last train car. (…) In a stunning long shot, the locomotive hits the timbers, flips over on its side, plows into the dirt, and Joe, in a cut-in closer shot, crawls out of the cab window, barely alive. In the final sequence, months later, Joe discovers the mining claim that Tom is now working. He stealthily approaches Tom’s storehouse of explosives and, softly silhouetted through gingham curtains, opens a window to toss a burning brand inside. When the smoke of the explosions clears, the whole site is in ruins, and a dissolve reveals the dying Tom crawling to Joe’s body and grasping from his clutched hand a few tiny gold nuggets.”
Richard Abel
Le Giornate del Cinema Muto

>>> Durand: Camargue Westerns (1)

>>> Durand: Camargue Westerns (2)