Eleuterio Rodolfi

Il biglietto da mille
R: Eleuterio Rodolfi. D: Eleuterio Rodolfi, Mary Cléo Tarlarini. P: S. A. Ambrosio. It 1912
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema di Torino
German intertitles

“Mary Cleo Tarlanini and Eleuterio Rodolfi, favourites of the early Italian screens, are clandestine lovers. A ‘one thousand banknote’ passes from hand to hand, risking to reveal their affair. An example of mischievous comedy, a genre that Rodolfi often starred and sometimes directed.”
Museo Nazionale del Cinema

La meridiana del convento
R: Eleuterio Rodolfi. D: Gigetta Morano, Eleuterio Rodolfi, Ernesto Vaser. P:  S. A. Ambrosio. It 1916
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema di Torino

“Vaser, the painter, dressing up as an old man, manages to get the assignment of the restoration of the frescos of Santa Ingenua convent. Liliana, one of the young boarder, invites her friend Gigetta and her aunt to introduce them her brother, the lieutenant Giorgio. Gigetta and Giorgio fall in love, but an unexpected event impedes their wedding. During an open-air snack organized by the nuns and the boarders, Gigetta climbs a tree and the painter Vaser takes a risqué picture. A long series of vicissitudes begins in order to recover the compromising picture and the plate, involving, besides the convent, also the whole barracks and the commissioner of police. Happy ending: the plate is destroyed and Gigetta herself maliciously tears up the photograph without showing it to the public.”
Museo Nazionale del Cinema

Eleuterio Rodolfi (1876–1933) was an Italian actor, screenwriter and film director. He was a leading figure in Italian cinema during the silent era, directing over a hundred films including The Last Days of Pompeii (1913).
Selected filmography as director: The Last Days of Pompeii (1913),  Cenerentola (1913), Doctor Antonio (1914), Hamlet (1917), Maciste’s American Nephew (1924)

>>> Rodolfi as actor: Le nozze di Figaro


Musician Stories

Fortunes of a Composer
R: Charles Kent. D: Charles Kent, Rose Tapley, Norma Talmadge, Edith Halleran, Wallace Reid. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1912
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

“Samuel Herman, a composer, in seeking recognition for fame and fortune, goes to Paris and takes a position in a small music hall, playing there at night and writing music during the day. His compositions do not find a market and disappointed and disheartened, he sends them to his wife and daughters in America, to be disposed of by them if possible. He loses his memory through an attack of aphasia. His wife and daughters dispose of his compositions for $100,000. They send word to their father to the address which he had given them, but no one knows what has become of him and so the letter is returned unclaimed with a report that the professor is dead. Two years afterwards Herman’s memory returns when he hears his music played upon the street and he determines, after he has fully recovered, to return to America. (…)”
Moving Picture World synopsis

The Musician’s Daughter
R: Jay Hunt. D: Grace Scott, William S. Rising, Roy Applegate, John G. Adolfi, Dorothy Gibson. P: Éclair American. USA 1911
Print: EYE
Dutch titles
Engl. subtitles

Dorothy Winifred Gibson, Titanic’ survivor
“Dorothy Winifred Gibson was born on May 7, 1889 to Pauline Boeson and John A. Brown in Hobroken, New Jersey. Her father died when she was three and her mother married John Leonard Gibson. Between 1906 and 1911 she was an actress and was even on the Broadway musical ‘Dairymaids’. (…) She had joined Cinematographes Éclair and was their number one star. Just a week before [the ‘Titanic’ sank], she had starred in a movie and was on a holiday in Paris, France. The company wired her telling her to come back because they had made a mistake with the film and accidentally damaged her part of the film. She booked passage and sailed on the ‘Titanic’ with her mother and had a cabin on E deck. She carried with her a few dozen pairs of gloves and a 300 dollar ear muff with jet black beads hanging down it. On the night of the sinking, she was playing a game of bridge with her new acquaintances, William Sloper and Fredrick Seward when the steward told them to stop because they were about to turn out the lights. She had just returned to her cabin when she felt a small bump. The bump was so small, that she ignored it and was just about to climb into her bed when her room steward came in, told her to dress warmly, and go up on deck. She put on a sweater and black slippers and went up with her mother. They were put into a lifeboat and then Dorothy dramatically convinced Seward and Sloper to come in as well. Her lifeboat had a small leak and it was swamped. They all had to sit there with their feet in the water and an allegedly French Baron hogging all the blankets. After they were rescued by the ‘Carpathia’, she slept for 26 hours straight. When she got to New York, she was told she was to be the star of the new movie, Saved from the Titanic. In the film, she wore the same clothing that she had when the ‘Titanic’ sank. Unfortunately, the film was lost in 1914 in a fire. She later divorced in 1916 and married Mr. Brulatour in 1915. They divorced in 1919 after Mr. Brulatour was accused of polygamy. She never remarried. She later moved to Paris where she remained. She was a Nazi sympathizer and was arrested in 1944. She escaped from jail and later died in her Paris hotel room of a heart attack on February 17, 1946 at the age of 56.”
Titanic Gazette

>>>  the ‘Titanic’ disaster on this site: Fiction and Newsreel

The Elegance of the Creature

An Otter Study
P: Kineto (Charles Urban). UK 1912
Print: BFI

“The secret haunts of the otter, including underwater scenes filmed in a tank concealed in a stream. Includes scenes of the preparation of the hide and the otter fishing for roach and pike, followed by the pursuit of the otter by men with hounds.”
Synopsis BFI Screenonline

“In this instance, a tank was concealed on the bed of the river and the cameraman was able to film from behind the glass. The reviewer from ‘The Bioscope’ was lavish in his praise and was moved to cite this film as an example of the revolutionary achievements of the cinematograph and as a ‘record-breaker’ in which we are able ‘to view life from an absolutely novel point of view’. (…) So, in a way, our ‘Bioscope’ reviewer is right to see this is a novel treatment of the subject, in which we delight at the elegance of the creature and begin to feel empathy for it.”
Bryony Dixon
BFI Screenonline

>>> about Charles Urban: Early Ethnography

>>> Nature / Science

In the Land of the Head Hunters

In the Land of the Head Hunters
R: Edward S. Curtis. B: Edward S. Curtis (story). K: Edmund August Schwinke. D: Stanley Hunt, Sarah Constance Smith Hunt, Mrs. George Walkus, Paddy ‘Malid, Balutsa, Kwagwanu, Francine Hunt, Bob Wilson. P: Seattle Film Co. USA 1914

“Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952), American photographer and chronicler of Native American peoples whose work perpetuated an influential image of Indians as a ‘vanishing race.’ The monumental ‘The North American Indian’ (1907–30), published under his name, constitutes a major compendium of photographic and anthropological material about those indigenous peoples of the trans-Mississippi West who, as Curtis stated in his preface, ‘still retained to a considerable degree their primitive customs and traditions.’ (…) Curtis’s benefactor, the immensely powerful banker J. Pierpont Morgan, who had agreed to finance the fieldwork for the project, insisted that the lavish set of leather-bound volumes be sold on a subscription basis — and the subscription price had to be high. As a result, ‘The North American Indian’ entered the homes of only the very rich. (…)
The need to generate publicity in order to sell subscriptions led to the circulation of Curtis’s photographs and writings much more widely than ‘The North American Indian’ itself. Between 1906 and 1909, for example, Curtis produced for the popular Scribner’s Magazine a series of photographically illustrated essays devoted to what he called ‘Vanishing Indian Types,’ such as the traditionally nomadic Apaches of the Southwest, the sedentary Pueblo peoples of the same region, and the horse cultures of the northern Plains. (…)
Curtis engaged in a different genre of writing altogether when he produced the scripts for his Indian ‘musicale’ or ‘picture-opera’ in 1911–12. He was an admirer of Mary Austin, whose ‘Indianesque’ verse play ‘The Arrowmaker’ was produced on Broadway in 1911, but he was also indebted to other more explicitly ‘entertaining presentations of Indians, such as ‘Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show.’ The musicale was an elaborate lantern-slide show narrated by Curtis himself to the accompaniment of orchestral music composed by Henry F.B. Gilbert that, in turn, had been derived from Native American music recorded on wax cylinders in the field by the Curtis team.(…) Although the musicale was lauded as a spectacle — it even had a huge tepee onstage, lit from within, plus a full orchestra — and was performed to enthusiastic audiences the length of the east coast, including Carnegie Hall, it was not a financial success, and plans for a full second season were abandoned.
Curtis nevertheless built on the show business aspect of the musicale in his next major venture, In the Land of the Head Hunters (1914), a full-length feature movie. Like Robert Flaherty’s more-famous Nanook of the North (1922), which it partly inspired, Curtis’s film, centred on the Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka’wakw) people of British Columbia, transmitted documentary material — such as ceremonies, hunting customs, and even religious beliefs — via a linear fictitious narrative, a love story, set in a time before contact with whites. The film was spectacular, especially when projected with its original orchestral score, and garnered good reviews, but it also failed to make money.”
Mick Gidley
Encyclopaedia Britannica

Further reading:
In the Land of the Head Hunters

>>> Griffith and the Indians

>>> Colonial Sujets

Alfred Lind’s ‘Flying Circus’

Den flyvende Cirkus (The pride of the circus)
R: Alfred Lind. B: Carl Otto Dumreicher, Alfred Lind. K: Alfred Lind. D: Rasmus Ottesen, Emilie Otterdahl, Richard Jensen, Lilli Beck, Kirstine Friis-Hjort, Charles Løwaas, Stella Lind. P: Det skandinavisk-russiske Handelshus. Dk 1912
Engl. and Span. subtitles

“The film company Det skandinavisk-russiske Handelshus (Scandinavian-Russian Trading) produced 25 feature films in the period 1911-13. The company changed name to Filmfabriken Danmark in 1913 and produced another 71 feature films until 1919, after which only educational and documentary films were produced up until the company’s liquidation in 1923.  Two films, Den flyvende Cirkus and Bjørnetæmmeren (The Bear Tamer) are presumed to be the only surviving productions from Det skandinavisk-russiske Handelshus. The company specialized in sensational topics, and the success of The Flying Circus was soon followed by its sequel, The Bear Tamer, in which Alfred Lind played the title role, wrote the script, directed and shot the film.”
Edition filmmuseum

Alfred Lind was born 1879 in Helsingør, Denmark as Sören Estrup Alfred Lind. He was a director and cinematographer, known for Den flyvende Cirkus (1912), Bjørnetæmmeren (1912), Dødsjockeyen (1915), Alkohol (1920) and more. He died 1959 in Copenhagen.
IMDb/Danske Filminstitut

564-a. lind Alfred Lind

Lind as cinematographer:
>>> Afgrunden, Den lille hornblæser

“Danish actress Lili Beck, aka Lili Bech (1883-1939), was the leading lady of many early Swedish films directed by Mauritz Stiller and Victor Sjöström. Beck, who had started as a stage actress in 1905, debuted in Danish cinema in 1911, with the film Morfinisten, directed by Louis Von Kohl and produced by Det skandinavisk-russiske Handelshus. Already in her next film, Taifun (1911) by Von Kohl, she played the lead. After that Lili would play in four more films by the same company, including Alfred Lind’s circus films Den flyvende Cirkus and Bjornetaemmern (both 1912), in which she played a snake enchantress. In 1913 she moved to the company Nordisk where she played in three films by Robert Dinesen (all 1913) and one by August Blom (1914). In 1913 it was rumored Beck would go and work for American film company Vitagraph. Instead, she started to work for the Swedish company Svenska Biografteatren.
Beck, who was married shortly to Erik Magnusson in 1912, remarried Swedish film director Victor Sjöström, in whose debut Trädgardsmästeren /The Gardener (1912) she played opposite Sjöström himself and Gösta Ekman. It was her first Swedish film and Beck would henceforth pursue her career there. After Trädgardsmästeren, Beck played in 11 of Mauritz Stiller’s films between 1912 and 1916, such as Vampyren (1913) and Vingarne/Wings (1916). She also performed in 9 films of Victor Sjöström, including Trädgardsmästeren.”

Griffith’s ‘Ethical Intercutting’

A Flash of Light
R: David W. Griffith. B: Stanner E.V. Taylor. K: G.W. Bitzer. D: Charles West, Verner Clarges, Joseph Graybill, Stephanie Longfellow, Claire McDowell, Anthony O’Sullivan, Vivian Prescott, William Robinson. P: American Biograph. USA 1910
Print: EYE

“A strongly dramatic picture, yet not altogether pleasant. A love story representing a man sorely deceived, and after an accident depriving him of sight and hearing cruelly deserted by his wife. Then she is induced to come back as the bandages are removed from his partially restored eyes so he may not know the truth. The climax, when the former wife pulls down the curtain and lets in the blinding flash that destroys the partially restored sight forever, is not pleasant, and yet it adds a strong ending to the play. Acted with the ability shown by the Biograph players, this picture will be popular, even though disagreeable, because it arouses the emotions. No matter if they are depressing, the fact that the emotions are stirred is sufficient to make the film popular.”
The Moving Picture World, July 30, 1910

“The implications of the astonishing, quite entertainlingly played conclusion are worth to teasing out. Clearly the wife is no mere bystander to her husband’s tragedy but causes his blindness, literally so in allowing sunlight to inflict the ‘incurable’ condition. Moreover, it inquires only a small metaphorical leap to assign blame to her for his initial blindness as well, brougth by the bright flash of the chemical explosion, which follows hard on her desire to be seen outside the home, by her preferring the world’s ‘glitter’, and by her desire to ‘shine’ on stage. In the visual metaphors of the film, she seeks more light than her husband’s eyes can tolerate. That such desire is reprehensible is reinforced by Griffith’s ‘ethical intercutting’ between the wife and her brilliant party and the husband working away in his windowless basement lab. If the ethical contrast looks less stark than when Griffith used such cutting in, say, A Corner in Wheat, it is hardly less difficult to pinpoint the villain of the piece: this would-be indepent wife seeking the light.”
Scott Simmon: The Films of D. W. Griffith. CUP Archive 1993, p. 76

>>> Griffith 1910

The Abernathy Kids

The Abernathy Kids’ Rescue
R: Unknown. D: Jack Abernathy, Phillip Abernathy, Tom Abernathy. P: Pathé Frères / American Kinema. USA 1911
Print: EYE
German intertitles

“The Abernathy kids had excited public attention when they had ridden a couple of thousand miles to join in the celebration of Teddy Roosevelt’s return from hunting in Africa. They parlayed this into a brief movie career and this is one of their movies.”
IMDb (boblipton)

“Louis (sometimes styled Louie) Abernathy was born in Texas in 1899 and Temple Abernathy was born in 1904 in Tipton, Oklahoma. Their father was cowboy and U.S. Marshal Jack Abernathy. In 1909 the boys rode by horseback from Frederick, Oklahoma, to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and back. Louis was nine, and Temple was five. When the boys completed their Santa Fe journey, they began planning a cross-country horseback ride to New York City, again by themselves, to meet Theodore Roosevelt when he returned from his trip to Africa and Europe. They made that trip in 1910. They were greeted as celebrities, and rode their horses in a ticker-tape parade just behind the car carrying Roosevelt. While in New York, the boys purchased a small Brush Motor Car, which they drove, again by themselves, back to Oklahoma, shipping their horses home by train. In 1911, they accepted a challenge to ride horseback from New York to San Francisco in 60 days or less. They agreed not to eat or sleep indoors at any point of the journey. They would collect a $10,000 prize if they succeeded. After a long trip, they arrived in San Francisco in 62 days, thereby losing the prize but setting a record for the time elapsed for the trip. In 1913, the boys purchased an Indian motorcycle, and with their stepbrother, Anton, journeyed by motorcycle from Oklahoma to New York City. This was their last documented adventure.”

562-AbernathyBoys. The Abernathy Kids

>>> an Abernathy Kids film from 1910, dir. by Travers Vale, probably lost: IMDb

>>> In Northern Forests

Love and Science (-Fiction)

Amour et science
B: M.J. Hoche (comedy). D: Émile Dehelly, Renée Sylvaire. P: Société Française des Films Éclair. Fr 1912
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

“This comedy from 1912 is a science fiction variant on a modern urban myth called ‘the reluctant bridegroom’ in which the bride-to-be is photographed in a compromising situation. In fact, variations go back much earlier and it appears in Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’.”

“Éclair’s Amour et science (1912) (…) stages a love affair temporarily put on hold by the fiancé’s efforts to invent a television-like telephone. Impatient with his dedication to work only, his girlfriend plays a prank (creating a fictional rival) over the visual phone, which has a traumatic effect on him. The young man’s mental bearing, however, is eventually restored via a complex routine involving a replay of the call. This is secured by way of filming it, but with a revelation that effects a happy resolution, dispersing his love doubts and temporal mental  affliction.”
Jan Olsson
in: Richard Abel (ed): Encyclopedia of Early Cinema. Taylor & Francis 2005, p. 151/52

“The possibility that film might possess a more than simply documentary function also surfaced in claims (…) for the therateupic properties of the moving image. Such claims were voiced by numerous practitioners, and they also figure in the plot of several early feature films. In D.W. Griffith’s A Drunkard’s Reformation (1909), a film inspired by the mental hygiene movement founded by Clifford Beers, the drunkard is cured, according to an intertitle, by seeing ‘his own shortcomings mirrored in a stage play’. The drama-within-the drama became a common trope of films in mental hygiene.
The potential therapeutic properties of the medium were (…) thematized in a handful of early French feature films among them Amour et science (1912), which depicts a madman who is restored to himself by a screening of a film that documents the events that precipitated his psychological breakdown. Similarly, the film Le mystère des roches de Kador (1912) includes a remarkable scene in which a young woman afflicted with hysteria is cured via a film screening.”
Andreas Killen
in: Greg Eghigian (ed.): The Routledge History of Madness and Mental Health. Taylor & Francis 2017, p. 182

Giovanni Pastrone: Il fuoco

Il fuoco
(La favilla, la vampa, la cenere)
R: Giovanni Pastrone (as Piero Fosco). B: Gabriele D’Annunzio (novel), Febo Mari (story). K: Segundo de Chomón. D: Pina Menichelli, Febo Mari, Felice Minotti. P: Itala Film. It 1915/1916
Print: Il Museo Nazionale del Cinema Torino

“Like Rapsodia Satanica, Il fuoco is a film so atmospheric as to be surreal, representing the height of D’Annunzian decadence. It exists on the plane of myth and symbolism much more so than that of the real world: passion and mysterious caprice abound, buoyed by extended visual and narrative metaphors about fire and birds of prey.
Menichelli plays an unnamed poetess, who is also a duchess. At sunset one day, she meets an unknown painter (played by Febo Mari) in the countryside, both working on their art by a reedy riverbank. She approaches him, creeps up on him almost; he is instantly fascinated with this strange, bird-like, beautiful woman, wondering if he will see her again.”
Silents, Please!

“Pina Menichelli is the very ideal of the diva in Il Fuoco (Italy, 1915). Introduced only as an illustrious poetess and countess, she steps out of her chauffeured car in a feathered outfit and hat that makes her look like a bird of prey. And she acts that way too when she meets the young artist Mario (Febo Mari), ‘the unknown painter.’ She is inflamed by the power of his commitment and the beauty of his art but love is a very different kind of thing for her, a momentary conflagration of great excitement and heat that quickly burns out. And fire is the appropriate metaphor for a woman whose seduction includes smashing an oil lamp onto a table just to watch the flames burn. (…)
It’s directed by Giovanni Pastrone, whose Cabiria (1914) is one of the landmarks of Italian epic spectacle. He brings the scale down for this film and takes his camera in closer for the more intimate story. The images and costumes are lavish and the performances tend to the operatic, larger than life in every respect, but he stages these scenes to express the internal drama rather than the external spectacle and in one scene offers a rare and subtly striking truck in from a medium long shot to medium close-up of the two lovers, all the more dynamic in a 1916 film that otherwise resorts to cutting and the occasional pan to reframe.”
Sean Axmaker
Parallax View

Further reading:
Vittorio Renzi: Il fuoco
Garden of Silence – Storie e visioni del cinema muto (Ital.)

>>> Pina Menichelli in Nino Oxilia’s films Per amore di Jenny and Papà

>>> Febo Mari in Una partita a scacchi 

Vingarne – A ‘Gay-Themed Film’

Vingarne (aka Ikarus, Frgm.)
R: Mauritz Stiller. B: Herman Bang (novel), Axel Esbensen, Mauritz Stiller. K: Julius Jaenzon. D: Nils Asther, Lili Beck, Egil Eide, Lars Hanson, Julius Hälsig, Bertil Junggren. P: Svenska Biografteatern AB. Sw 1916
Print: Filmarkivet Svenska Filminstitutet
Engl. subtitles

An adaptation of Herman Bang’s 1902 novel “Mikael”

“The silent era saw two films based on the novel ‘Mikael’  by gay Danish author Hermann Bang:  Vingarne/The Wings (Mauritz Stiller, 1916) and Michael (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1924).  The narrative centres on the relationship between an older artist and his younger protégé.  Both films follow the same basic plot:  Zoret, an aging artist, helps and supports Michael, a young aspiring artist who also models for him. (…) Vingarne survives today only in fragmented form, but Michael has been issued on DVD both in the USA and in Europe, with the American release part of Kino’s series called ‘Gay-Themed Films of the Silent Era.’  The problem with discussing ‘gay-themed films’ of the silent era is that, all too often, modern ideas of queerness, masculinity and sexuality have been transplanted onto these texts created over 90 or 100 years ago.  In the case of Vingarne, we are now privy to information regarding many of the participants in the film that encourages a queer reading even though this information would not have been widely-known at the time of release.”
Shane Brown: Vingarne (Mauritz Stiller, 1916)
Beyond Boundaries

Further reading:
Shane Brown: Queer Sexualities in Early Film: Cinema and Male-Male Intimacy. Bloomsbury Publishing 2016

Gay-themed films on this website:

>>> Algie the Miner: Gay Cinema 1912 ?
>>> A Florida Enchantment: Lesbian? Gay? Queer?

>>> more films by Mauritz Stiller