Za la Mort, the Last Apache

Anime buie
R: Emilio Ghione. D: Hesperia, Kally Sambucini, Emilio Ghione, Amilcare Taglienti. P: Tiber Film. It 1916
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Torino
Span. intertitles

“Anime Buie (‘Dark Souls’), fourth in a series of films featuring the character Za La Mort, an honourable French apache (street criminal gang member) and his adventures in the criminal underworld and beyond. The character was the brainchild of Emilio Ghione, who wrote and directed the decade-long series, as well as starring as Za. With his sharp cheekbones and sunken eyes, Ghione is one of the most distinctive looking actors of his time.”
Hesperia! The diva as star attraction in Emilio Ghione’s Anime Buie
Silents, Please!


“Casque d’Or and Zerlina, the two rivals for Za La Mort’s affections, wait for him to be released from prison. After various provocations, the two women fight and Zerlina is killed. When the police arrive, Casque d’Or admits to the crime, but the police do not believe her and arrest Za La Mort instead. In prison, Za La Mort receives a top hat and tails, and sends a message to his apaches, asking them to bring him some sleeping pills, which will make him appear dead. There is then a gap in the surviving film. The next scene shows Casque d’Or in Mexico, where she has built a career as dancer under the stage name Hesperia. Four millionaires court Hesperia, giving her flowers and going to see her dance in a Mephistophles costume. Za la mort, under the false name of Gil Negro, has instead become a billionaire, apparently thanks to his investment banker, but actually thanks to his forgeries. One evening at a ‘Tabarin’ the two meet again. Za, however, is again arrested and Hesperia begins to work in a circus. When a fire breaks out in the circus tent Za, providentially escaped from prison, saves his woman. They flee together starting a new life as peaceful farmers.”

“Born in Turin to a relatively well-known painter, in whose footsteps he followed early, Ghione got his break in film as an extra in Aquila film and worked consistently in the film industry for almost two decades, passing through most of the major film studios (Celio, Cines, Caesar-Film, and Itala). Although his character’s name was not always featured in the title, Ghione starred in and directed many Za la Mort films, including Nelly la gigolette (1914), Za la Mort (1915), Anime buie (1916) (…) and Ultissime della notte (1924), the last in the series. According to Denis Lotti it wasn’t until his move to Itala in 1919 and its version to Za la Mort that Ghione became a true star as the Italian version of the nineteenth-century Parisian apache, the criminal or street ruffian who populated the novels of Alexandre Dumas and Émile Zola and, onscreen, the wildly popular French Fantômas series (Louis Feuillade, 1913). (…)
The above cited Anime buie reveals both this tendency towards the criminal  and nefarious as well as Ghione’s unique onscreen charisma as Za la Mort. The film features Ghione in a variety of roles: as the apache Za la Mort, who then escapes to America to become the successful businessman Gil Negro, and then as the ultimate cowboy after he escapes from prison with his love interest, Casca d’oro, played by the diva Hesperia. This range shows off Ghione’s ability to incarnate credibly a variety of roles on screen, aided by strategic costume changes. The film’s multiple settings, from continental Europe to urban America and then the Wild West, are the various landscapes into which the character successfully blends, reinforcing the elasticity of persona that characterized Za la Mort and Ghione.”
Jacqueline Reich: Stardom in Italian Silent Cinema. In: Frank Burke (ed.): A Companion to Italian Cinema. John Wiley & Sons 2017, p. 61

Further reading:
Joseph Albert North: Emilio Ghione and the Mask of Za La Mort

>>> Ghione as director: Il circolo nero

>>> Ghione as actor: L’amazzone mascherata


Tu Felix Austria…

Der Millionenonkel
R: Hubert Marischka. B: Alexander Girardi (titles), Ernst Marischka, Hubert Marischka. D: Alexander Girardi, Hubert Marischka, Hilde Radney, Marietta Weber, Leo Fall, Alexander Kolowrat. Music: Robert Stolz. P: Sascha-Film (Alexander Kolowrat). AUS 1913
Engl. subtitles

“1912 gibt es bereits mehr als 100 Kinos in Wien. In diesem Jahr gründet der begeisterte Autorennfahrer und Lebemann Graf Alexander ‘Sascha’ Joseph Kolowrat-Krakowsky die Sascha-Filmfabrik. Um die astronomische Gage von 25 000 Kronen engagiert er den betagten Wiener Operettenstar Alexander Girardi, der als Der Millionenonkel (1913) 30 Rollen seiner Schauspielkarriere in einem einzigen Stummfilm darstellt. Burgschauspielern allerdings bleibt es bis 1916 verboten, in Filmen mitzuwirken.”
Christian Reichhold: 100 x Österreich: Film. Amalthea Signum Verlag 2018. o.S.

“In his accomplished performance Girardi gives the best of stage technique. However, Der Millionenonkel is particularly significant for exploring the possibilities of  cinematography.  The film is no longer based on depicting set scenes; space and perspective are cut loose from theatrical antecedents. The point of view is mobile and the framing ranges from long shot to close up. On several occasions cross-cutting is used to indicate concurrent actions in different places. Shots of telephone conversations, for example, alternate between the two participants. The film attempts to establish narrative continuity by showing segmented actions. But the selection of shots do not always make sense visually. (…) Nonetheless, Der Millionenonkel introduces techniques that acknowledge film as an art form with tis own possibilities. Fast paced, ful of fun and with reminders of familiar songs in the intertexts, the film was a great success.”
Willy Riemer: Literature and Austrian Cinema Culture at the Turn of the Centuries. In: Ernst Grabovszki, James N. Hardin (ed.): Literature in Vienna at the Turn of the Centuries: Continuities and Discontinuities Around 1900 and 2000. Camden House 2003, p. 179-204, here p. 189

>>> Alexander Girardi as singer: Tonbilder

>>> Austria

Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset (4)

Au pays des ténèbres
R: Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset. B: Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset (scenario), André de Lorde (play). Based on the novel “Germinal” by Emile Zola. K: Lucien Androit. D: Charles Krauss, André Liabel, Paul Guidé, Marcel Vibert, Maryse Dauvray, Cécile Guyon. P: Société Française des Films Éclair. Fr 1911/1912
Dutch titles
French subtitles

“Au pays des ténèbres est un film français réalisé par Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset en 1911 et sorti en 1912. Il est adapté du roman ‘Germinal’ d’Émile Zola. Le film raconte l’histoire d’une communauté qui subit une catastrophe minière, probablement inspirée par la catastrophe de Courrières. La plupart des scènes ont été tournées à Charleroi.
Musique: Dion de Syracuse”

“Au pays des ténèbres (The Land of Darkness, 1912), a drama about miners. This was released in the Netherlands under the German title ‘Glück auf!’, which referred both the greeting exchanged by miners and a play of the same name by Herman Heijermans, which had been staged in the Netherlands in 1910.”
Ivo Blom: Jean Desmet and the Early Dutch Film Trade. Amsterdam University Press, 2003, p. 160

“Both Éclair and Pathé (…) released adaptations of  Zola’s ‘Germinal’ (1885), a work whose ambivalent attitude toward violence as a means of improving industrial labor conditions may have seemed relatively safe for the screen now that the syndicalists and their general strike strategy were on the decline. Jasset’s adaption, Au pays des ténèbres (1912), was part of a series of so-called social dramas that Éclair  began to produce in late 1911. This two-part film upated Zola’s story to the present and condensed it into the rivalry of two miners, Charles Mercourt (Charles Krauss) and Louis Drouard (Marcel Vibert), over an orphan girl, Claire Lenoir (Cécile Guyon), who is torn between them and her own attraction to a young engineer, Roger Joris (Liabel). There is some truth to Sadoul’s charge that this film reduces the working-class milieu of the northern coal fields to an exotic backdrop for romantic intrigue, ‘in which princes [still] marry shepherdesses.’ But Jasset’s work does have considerable merit, as Sadoul himself acknowledged. For one thing, Éclair’s publicity drew attention to the location shooting in Belgium, which is especially notable in the first reel where the two miners walk with Claire along a country canal and Claire later persuades Charles not to drawn himself. For another, the studio decors for the mine interiors are quite detailed, and the acting of the principals is consistently restrained.”
Richard Abel: The Ciné Goes to Town. French Cinema 1896 – 1914. Updated and Expanded Edition. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London 1998, p. 344

>>> Capellani’s Germinal

Le mystère du pont Notre Dame
R: Emile Chautard, Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset. B: Emile Chautard (scenario), Pierre Sales (novel). D: Germaine Dermoz, Gilbert Dallev, Henri Gouget, Roger Karl, André Liabel, Renée Sylvaire, Edmond Duquesne. P: Société Française des Films Éclair. Fr 1912
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

“Germaine Darlot’s father forbids a marriage between her and Claude Duval. Claude wants to commit suicide because of this, but when he wants to jump into the river he drives away a robber who has just robbed a rich gentleman. He drags the rich gentleman to his house, who dies there. Claude and Germaine flee to the colonies, where Claude becomes the mining director. When another woman fancies Claude, Germaine becomes jealous, suspects him of adultery, and reports Claude. He is sentenced to twenty years in prison. Germaine becomes a nurse at the prison where Claude is being held and where the ‘real’ robber also happens to be. He was seriously injured in an explosion and on his deathbed he confesses to Germaine the true story. Claude is restored to honor, and their marriage receives the blessing of Germaine’s father.”

>>> Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset (1)Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset (2), Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset (3)

>>> Emile Chautard


Anything but Realism

Aux feux de la rampe
(Les batailles de la vie – Épisode 1)
R: Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset. B: Robert Boudrioz (scenario). K: Lucien N. Andriot. D: Josette Andriot, Cécile Guyon, André Liabel. P: Société Française des Films Éclair. Fr 1912
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

Two former lovers meet twenty years later when the man has to compete with the son of the woman. (EYE)

“Le capitaine Delord et la jeune mademoiselle de Breteuil s’aiment, et vont se marier… sauf que le jeune militaire est gravement blessé, ce qui va entraîner la fin de leurs fiançailles. Vingt années plus tard, la jeune femme est devenue la veuve d’un comte, et leur fils Raoul se lance dans la vie: il est reporter, et écrit un article très critique sur le vieux général Delord… Celui-ci voit rouge et décide de provoquer le jeune paltoquet en duel, ignorant qu’il s’agit du fils de son ancienne bonne amie… Celle-ci va devoir intervenir.”
Allen John’s attic

“Early efforts to tone down the excess of melodrama can be found in the prewar series of so-called realist films made by Louis Feuillade for Gaumont (La vie telle qu’elle est, 1912), Ferdinand Zecca and René Leprince for Pathé (Scènes de la vie cruelles, Scènes de la vie bourgeoise, Drames de la vie moderne, 1912) and Victorin Jasset for Éclair (Les batailles de la vie, 1913). The titles are quite revealing in terms of the ingenuousness of their misrepresentation for, as the films themselves reveal, they are anything but the ‘slice of life’ or ‘kitchen sink’ realism they purport to be but instead are fairly indistinguishable from the moralising melodramas even though the subject matter is more orientated towards social issues. Thus, for example, the evils of greed and the deleterious effects of strikes and syndicalism make frequent forays on to the screen, only to be swept aside by the recentring forces of right-minded thinking (i.e. the bourgeois morality).”
Susan Hayward: French National Cinema. Routledge 2006, p. 101

>>> Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset (1)Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset (2), Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset (3)

Alice Guy in America – 2

Two Little Rangers
R: Alice Guy. D: Vinnie Burns, Blanche Cornwall, Magda Foy. P: Solax Film Company. USA 1912
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

“By 1911, Solax was making enough money for the Blachés [i.e. Alice Guy and her husband Herbert Blaché] to move into their own large house. (…) For the two years that it was successful, the Solax Company jump-started the careers of several actors and made stars out of performers such as Darwin Karr and Blanche Cornwall, who starred in a series of melodramas that critiqued the social system, such as A Man’s a Man (1912), The Roads That Lead Home (1913), The Girl in the Armchair (1913), and The Making of an American Citizen (1911) as well as action films like The Detective and His Dog (1912) and the multi-reeler The Pit and the Pendulum (1913). (…)  Guy also made numerous action films with female characters as heroes, many of them starring Vinnie Burns. Guy first cast Burns when she was an unknown teenager, then trained her to do her own stunts in actions films such as Two Little Rangers (1912), Greater Love Hath No Man (1913), and Guy’s masterpiece at Solax, the three-reeler Dick Whittington and His Cat (1913), for which the director had a real boat detonated.”
Alison McMahan
Women Film Pioneers Project

The Pit and the Pendulum (part I)
R: Alice Guy. B: Edgar A. Poe (novel). D: Darwin Karr, Fraunie Fraunholz, Blanche Cornwall, Joseph Levering. P: Solax Film Company. USA 1913

“The first adaptation of “The Pit and the Pendulum” was directed by Alice Guy-Blanché, the first woman to ever step behind the camera. Released in 1913, the film focuses on young lovers (Darwin Karr and Fraunie Fraunholz), who are framed for stealing jewels from the Church, leading them to being arrested and tortured. The Pit and the Pendulum (1913) was remarkably horrific for its day, including graphic details of live rats gnawing at Alonzo’s chest, among other tortures — presumably including a pit and a pendulum. Unfortunately, this is all secondhand from contemporary reviews, as Alice Guy’s adaptation of “The Pit and the Pendulum” is partially lost, with only the first of its three reels surviving.”
Perry Ruhland

>>> Griffith’s Edgar Allan Poe

>>> Alice Guy in America – 1

Submerged in Gloom? Not Really.

R: André Liabel. B: Alphonse Daudet (novel). D: Villeneuve, Damorès, Olga Demidoff, Renée Sylvaire, Bahier. P: Société Française des Films Éclair. Fr 1913
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

“Drama about the life of Jack, a boy who grows up without a father. Jack is sent to boarding school by his mother. He decides to leave school when his mother marries one of the teachers. He soon finds work as an apprentice metal worker, but after a false accusation of theft, he embarks on a boat as a stoker in Saint-Nazaire. The ship perishes, but Jack survives. Eventually he goes to Paris to study medicine because he is in love with Cecile, the doctor’s daughter, where he ended up after his ship accident. She later rejects him because she is ashamed that he is a bastard. Jack dies of sorrow.”

Extended summary in English: Moving Picture World synopsis

“This is a four-part picture made by the Paris Eiclair Company, from the novel of Alphonse Daudet. The production does not make good entertainment for the average house. It will, of course, have greater interest for the comparative few who have read the book. The whole story is submerged in gloom; there is not a light, a sprightly touch throughout the length of the picture. There is a good cast, among the players being Mr. Liable and Miss Sylvaire. The death of Jack was painfully prolonged.”
The Moving Picture World, December 20, 1913

Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897), French short-story writer and novelist, now remembered chiefly as the author of sentimental tales of provincial life in the south of France. (…) Psychologically, Daudet represents a synthesis of conflicting elements, and his actual experience of life at every social level and in the course of travels helped to develop his natural gifts. A true man of the south of France, he combined an understanding of passion with a view of the world illuminated by Mediterranean sunlight and allowed himself unfettered flights of the imagination without ever relaxing his attention to the detail of human behaviour. (…) As he grew older Daudet became more and more preoccupied with the great conflicts in human relationship, as is evident in his later novels: ‘Jack’ (1876) presents a woman torn between physical and maternal love; ‘Numa Roumestan’ (1881), the antagonism between the northern and the southern character in man and woman; ‘L’Évangéliste’ (1883), filial affection struggling against religious fanaticism; and ‘La Petite Paroisse’ (1895), the contrarieties of jealousy.” (…)
Jacques-Henry Bornecque

André Liabel was a French actor, film director and screenwriter, known for Zigomar, peau d’anguille – Episode 1 (1913, dir. by Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset), Koenigsmark (1923, dir. by Léonce Perret) and Dans l’ombre du harem (1928, dir. Liabel with Léon Mathot). He began his career as comedian by working full-time as an actor for the cinematographic compagny Laboratoires Éclair which had just opened its new studios at Épinay-sur-Seine in 1908. He performed in more than sixty films until 1933. He also was assistant director.

>>> Liabel as actor in Zigomar contre Nick Carter

Westerns: Too much of this sort?

The Hero Track Walker
R: Kenean Buel (?). D: George Melford, Alice Joyce, Frank Lanning. P: Kalem. USA 1911
Print: EYE
German titles

“Willy (George Melford) is a cowboy who gets fired, and then teams up with an Indian to rob a train. He rescues Myrtle (Alice Joyce), who has been chased up a tree by a cow. She takes a liking to him, which the Indian notices. He apparently isn’t crazy about the robbery scheme, and while Willy sets fire to the railroad trestle, the Indian rides over and informs Myrtle, and they rush to the scene. Myrtle throws away the dynamite just in time, and then tells everyone that Willy was the hero, and he is surprised to be rewarded. Very far-fetched plot and poor character motivation, but it is lighthearted and at least the picture is clear. Kalem manages to get a train into the film. German intertitles.”
Viewing comments Stanford

The Mystery of Lonely Gulch
R: Theodore Wharton. D: George Larkin. P: Pathé Frères / American Kinema. USA 1910
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

Summary (Moving Picture World synopsis)

“A film by the American company of this house which has merits, yet it can scarcely be said to come up to the quality of the pictures produced by the same house upon other subjects. There is such a strong disposition in these times to run to mining or ranching pictures that the Pathe firm has caught the infection and this is one of the films produced. The acting is good, as the acting in all Pathe films is good, but it is the same threadbare subject, with but the impersonation of an actor to afford a novelty. There is too much of this sort of thing in the present output of the various companies. Unless some novel feature is reproduced the films mean little and the many of them that have been turned out have become in a way commonplace. The situations here are perhaps somewhat novel, for actors and actresses do not as a rule travel in such a country; still, when an actress succeeds in landing what this one terms an easy mark, possibly their presence anywhere can be satisfactorily explained. Owing to the suspicions of the sheriff the chicanery of the couple is exposed, the man is arrested and the woman sent about her business. The ending is quite in keeping with the idea of punishing wickedness which generally obtained, but the methods taken to secure the money of the ranchman are open to criticism. They are rather suggestive in their application and might afford a basis upon which a weak minded person might operate.”
The Moving Picture World, November 5, 1910

More Wharton films on this site:
The Bang Sun Engine (New Adventures of J. Rufus Wallingford, No. 7)
From the Submerged

A Vitagraph Commercial

A Vitagraph Romance
R: James Young. B: James Young (scenario). D: Clara Kimball Young, Flora Finch, J. Stuart Blackton, Edward Kimball, James Morrison, Albert E. Smith, William T. Rock, Florence Turner, Ruth Owen, Edith Storey. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1912
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

“It tells a good story convincingly and uses the Vitagraph plant as a background and in a very interesting way. The romance has its beginning at a seaside resort of which we have seen some pretty glimpses. It is here that a young author (James Morrison) meets and falls in love with the daughter of a senator (Clara Kimball Young). The senator (Edward Kimball) refuses his consent and sends the girl to boarding school where we find Flora Finch as the principal. There’s a moonlight elopement from the school troubled waters for the young people and then they get a job with The ViItagraph Company where at length the forgiving senator finds them. The Vitagraph scenes are very good. In the office, Messrs. W.T. Rock, A.E. Smith and J. Stewart Blackton are in consultation. Mr. S.M. Spedon enters for a moment just before the senator is introduced. The visitor is conducted through the yard so to the studio where one of Miss Florence Turner’s pictures is being made. This he interrupts to greet his daughter right in the middle of a scene. Mr. James Young is both author and producer and has made an excellent offering.”
Moving Picture World, September 28, 1912

“Since the earliest days of the motion picture, fans have always been inquisitive about what went behind the scenes.  In response of a flood of questions from readers, fan magazines ran hundreds of articles that attempted to unravel the mysteries of movie making – how screenplays were written, movies filmed, actors trained. Many early films, too, catered to the curiosities of eager fans. A series of movies, A Vitagraph Romance (1912) and Mabel’s Dramatic Career (1913), and two Charlie Chaplin films, A Film Johnnie (1914) and His New Job (1915) dramatized the joys and pitfalls of filmmaking for all the world to see.”
S. Barbas: Movie Crazy: Stars, Fans, and the Cult of Celebrity. Springer 2016, p. 116/117

>>> James Young films Jerry’s Mother-In-LawThe Picture Idol

Flora Finch and John Bunny

Stenographer Troubles
R: Frederick A. Thomson. B: Van Dyke Brooke. D: John Bunny, Flora Finch, Florence Turner, Lillian Walker, Clara Kimball Young, Norma Talmadge. P: Vitagraph. USA 1913
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

“One of the funniest Bunny pictures that has come out. The very best Vitagraph players have good roles, and it made a houseful roar with laughter. Flora Finch, as the stenographer who is acceptable to the boss, John Bunny, because he thinks there will be no danger of her flirting instead of working, draws a most astonishingly farcical character. When Florence Turner, Bunny’s rather fiery wife, got in a rage on account of her the house bellowed. It most surely is a picture not to be missed. It is full of good character and full of laughter from beginning to end. Such a picture will repay special advertising.”
Moving Picture World, February 22, 1913

>>> John Bunny and Flora Finch

>>> The Stenographer’s Friend