Albert Capellani 1911

L’épouvante
R: Albert Capellani. B: Pierre Decourcelle. D: Mistinguett, Émile Mylo, Paul Capellani, Jean Dax. P: Pathé Frères (S.C.A.G.L.) Fr 1911
German titles, Engl. subtitles

Albert Capellani (1874-1931) had already directed nearly fifty films for Pathé-Frères and S.C.A.G.L. (Société Cinématographique des Auteurs et Gens des Lettres*) before L’Épouvante, the first film he did with Mistinguett. Described by the press as a ‘terrifying cinemadrama, Decourcelle’s original script served as an exemplary vehicle for Mistinguett and her co-star Milo by restricting its action to a very short period of time and to just a few adjacent spaces. (…) L’Épouvante is remarkable in several ways. First, it has only four intertitles, two of which succinctly introduce the characters: Mistinguett, in a luxurious white fur, leaving a theater to get into a waiting car, and Milo casing her bedroom, hearing a sound, and hiding under her bed. Later, another sound cue will let Mistinguett discover and rescue Milo. Second, the extended sequence in which the police pursue him, uninterrupted by intertitles, is confined to the narrow balcony running alongside the apartment and to the steeply sloping roof of what turns out to be a five-story building. Relatively quick cutting keeps the pursuers and pursued proximate yet constantly separate, with closer shots adding to the suspense by linking spectators with Milo and his predicament. Third, the initial sequence in the bedroom includes several shots that are simply extraordinary for 1911. After Mistinguett takes off her jewelry, kicks off her shoes, and climbs into bed, she tosses aside a book, reaches for a cigarette, and looks down at a dropped match. Suddenly, the camera dollies back, distancing the spectator from her and accentuating her vulnerability. An overhead shot past her head then frames the thief’s hand emerging from under the bed and snatching the match. The shock of that shot closes the distance between spectator and character with almost Hitchcockian intensity.
Although perhaps lacking the fever pitch of Griffith’s last-minute rescue films, L’Épouvante certainly belies the widely held notion that the French cinema was incapable of producing exciting action films. Especially in its unique framing and editing strategies, this film is nearly the equal of Lois Weber’s and Phillips Smalley’s Suspense (1913).”
Richard Abel
Giornate del cinemato muto

L’intrigante
R: Albert Capellani. D: Georges Coquet, Catherine Fonteney, Georges Tréville. P: Pathé Frères (S.C.A.G.L.). Fr 1911
Engl. subtitles

“During the period February 1910 until March 1911, Albert Capellani directed no fewer than twenty-five pictures. On the surviving register from that period, we see that he was constantly shooting pictures with only one or two days’ break between them. Movies were still short. For example, the shooting of L’intrigante (working title: L’institutrice), a 275-m drama, took just four days, from December 6 to December 9, 1910. The main actress, Catherine Fonteney, was paid 30 francs per day. The result was a very clever movie, which has fortunately survived. It was about a little orphan girl, who is tormented by her Machiavellian tutor, played by Catherine Fonteney, who seems to have been typecast in this kind of role. (…) The total cost was 295 francs, about one franc pro meter of film.”
Christine Leteux: Albert Capellani: Pioneer of the Silent Screen. University Press of Kentucky 2015

“As documentary evidence, here the photograph is instrumental not only in maintaining hierarchy of classes but in keeping sexuality at bay by associating it with potentially criminal behavior. Yet, as a kind of dream scene projection by the girl, it also creates a haunting disturbance in the final portait of father and daughter as a proper bourgeois family. Nevertheless, (…) L’intrigante trades on the seeming veracity and consequent virtue of photogtaph as a privileged source of knowledge and truth – and, by implication, those qualities extend to their own moving images.”
Richard Abel: The Ciné Goes to Town: French Cinema, 1896-1914. Updated and Expanded Edition. University of California Press 1998, p. 210

* S.C.A.G.L. = Société des Auteurs et des Gens de Lettres. A “prestige” production unit within the Pathé organisation, launched by Charles Pathé in 1908. Capellani became its first artistic director, working as adviser and supervisor to various Pathé directors.

Edgar Jones and Clara Williams

The Bank Cashier
R: Francis J. Grandon. D: Edgar Jones, Clara Williams, Francis J. Grandon. P: Lubin Manufacturing Company. USA 1912

Clara Williams
“Born in Seattle on the third of May 1888, Clara Williams made her first film, Western Chivalry, with ‘Bronco Billy’ Anderson in 1910. After appearing in numerous leading lady roles for Powers Picture Plays in 1911, Williams moved on to take a job with the Lubin Company in Philadelphia in 1912.
There she was cast opposite leading man, Edgar Jones, and put under the direction of director, Francis J. Grandon. Grandons’ stock company was one of the first assigned to make western theme films at the Betzwood studio. Williams was a very skilled ‘female rough rider’ and her riding abilities were exploited in every possible way during her time with Lubin. She appeared in at least two dozen westerns while working for the company. Four of those films survive today. Late in 1912, Grandon and company were sent to California to work on location. When the company returned to Betzwood a few months later, it was without either Grandon or Williams, both of whom had taken jobs with other film companies in California.
Between 1915 and 1918, Clara Williams worked for a number of film companies, among them Kay-Bee Films, Domino Films, Selexart, and the Triangle Film Corporation. In early 1915 she achieved critical acclaim for her role in The Italian, a production of the New York Motion Picture Company, in which she played opposite George Beban. The following year, in a production for Triangle, she appeared in one of the greatest and most famous Westerns of the silent era, Hell’s Hinges, co-starring with William S. Hart and a former Lubin star, Jack Standing.”
Archives of Montgomery County Community College
Betzwood Film Archive

>>> more about Francis J. Grandon

Modern Tourist Postcards

“With the emergence in the seventeenth century of the Grand Tour as a ‘new paradigma for travelling’, Italy, home of classical traditions, became one of the most important destinations without which the education and knowledge of well-bred British travellers was not complete. (…) The fascination for antiquities and pictoresque views of Italian landscapes also created a tradition of visual representation that found in J.M.W. Turner its major exponent.

611-Turner
J.M.W. Turner: Venice, Dogana and San Giorgio Maggiore, 1834

Within this already established cultural context, Italian travelogues and scenic films were the modern expression of the tourist tradition. Although mediated by the camera, the scenery portraits offered to every class of audience the possibility of experiencing a Grand Tour of Italy and discovering its beauties. The artistic and natural richness of the country revealed itself as an inexhaustible source for the Italian film companies. To the British audiences, travelogues of Italy functioned as modern tourist postcards; to the Italian producers these films were the expression of national pride.”
Pierluigi Ercole: ‘Little Italy on the brink’: the Italian diaspora and the distribution of war films in London, 1914-1918. In: Daniel Biltereyst, Richard Maltby, Philippe Meer (ed.): Cinema, Audiences and Modernity: New Perspectives on European Cinema History. Routledge 2013, p. 156

Santa Lucia
R: Unknown. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1910
Print: EYE (Desmet collection)

Travelogue from various cities in Italy. Recordings from boats or from the street.

Il pescara
R: Unknown. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1912
Print: EYE (Desmet collection)

Recordings of the Pescara river in Italy, from the mountains to the sea.

Firenze
R: Unknown. P: Milano Films. It 1913
Print: EYE
German titles

Travel film about Florence which includes: the cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore or Duomo) with the tower (Torre di Giotto or Campanile) and the dome (Brunelleschi), Piazza and Palazzo della Signoria.

Tripoli
R: Unknown. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1912
Print: EYE (Desmet collection)
Dutch titles
Engl. subtitles

Panoramic images of the city of Tripoli, the locals in the remarkable streets, the Marabouts, a camp of Arab nomads, and a sunset seen from the tower of a mosque.

>>> Travelogues 1910

>>> Le bellezze d’Italia. Trittico di visioni pittoresche

LANDSCAPES, URBAN VIEWS

Florence Turner Cries

She Cried
R: Albert W. Hale. D: Robert Gaillard, Charles Edwards, Richard Rosson, Charles Eldridge, Florence Turner, Flora Finch, Edward R. Phillips. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1912
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

Florence Turner is one that I think was extremely important as an early screen comedienne – she was a protean character player as you can see in a surviving comedy like She Cried (1912) where she creates a completely convincing portrayal of a slow-on-the-uptake girl that gums up the progress of the well-oiled assembly-line of a busy box making factory. Daisy Doodad’s Dial (1914) is another that takes her ability to make outrageous faces, and makes a very believable and funny plot to showcase it. Like Marion Davies after her she was an inspired and wicked mimic, and some of the photos from her stage performances where she’s doing people like Larry Semon are amazing.”
Steve Massa
Silent-ology

The Hand Bag – An Unstable Object

The Hand Bag
R: Unknown. D: Flora Finch, Frank Bennett, Rosemary Theby. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1912
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

“Although the outings with [John] Bunny were some of her most popular, Flora [Finch] did plenty at Vitagraph on her own, and while limited in her roles by her distinctive appearance, she still managed to find variation in her characters and never played stock harridans or shrews. The Hand Bag (1912) stars Flora as an old spinster who drops her hand bag on the street while out shopping. (…)”
Steve Massa: Slapstick Divas: The Women of Silent Comedy. BearManor Media 2017

“A paragon of portability and mobility in and of itself, the bag is an inherently unstable object in both its spatial positioning and its internal constitution. To a great extent, the same can be said of the New Woman, a figure who was largely ‘a product of discourse,’ as Sally Ledger has suggested, and thus inevitably a locus of semantic disagreement. Most critical accounts of this fin-de-siecle phenomenon begin, indeed, by drawing attention to the impossibility of defining the New Woman as a single entity. (…) The bag was a perfect metonym for this restless modern woman. As such, it can be differentiated from other common accessories in stock sketches of the character. While both the bicycle and the latchkey captured the keynote of restlessness as well as the gender ambiguity associated with the figure, neither quite conjured the sense of semantic variability and contestation so aptly conveyed in the visual iconography of the woman’s bag. Moreover, as a material mediator in traditional enactments of chivalry, the bag, unlike the bicycle and latchkey, was an object around which interrogations of chivalry might be dramatized. Most importantly, the bag held a unique status as a framing device for character development in the novel and an analogy for literary form.”
Emily Ridge: The Problem of the Woman’s Bag from the New Woman to Modernism. In: Modernism/modernity. Volume 21, Number 3, September 2014, p. 757-780. Project MUSE. Johns Hopkins University Press

>>> Flora Finch and John Bunny

>>> John Bunny and Flora Finch

The War that didn’t Happen

Pro Patria (In the Defence of the Nation)
R: August Blom. B: Fritz Magnussen. K: Johan Ankerstjerne. D: Carl Lauritzen, Valdemar Psilander, Alma Hinding, Gunnar Sommerfeldt, Aage Hertel, Volmer Hjorth-Clausen, Erik Holberg, Axel Mattsson. P: Nordisk Films Kompagni. Dk  1915/16
Print: Det Danske Filminstitut
Danish titles, Span. subtitles

“The war that didn’t happen in 1914-1918.” (IMDb)

“In the years leading up to the First World War, Danish film gained a prominent position among the world’s film producing countries, with Nordisk Films Kompagni the leading company. Danish productions included several war films and films dealing with war-related topics (…). Most of these films, especially after the war broke out, treated the topic from a critical, anti-war stance, as in Pax æterna (1917). This corresponds well with the country’s neutrality in the war, although other approaches also can be found, for instance in the heroic Pro Patria (1916). (…)
An early example of a feature film about a war related topic is En moderne Søhelt (A Modern Naval Hero, 1907) with the multi-artist Robert Storm Petersen (1882-1949) playing a naval officer. This was followed by some films with historical settings, most importantly the ambitious screen version of the author H.P. Holst’s (1811-1893) popular patriotic-epic poem ‘Den lille Hornblæser’ (1849) about the First Schleswig War, 1848-1851. The film Den lille Hornblæser (The Little Bugler) by director Eduard Schnedler-Sørensen (1886-1947) was loosely based on the poem and shot during the summer 1909 by Nordisk’s rival Fotorama in Aarhus, with actors from the local theatre and dragoons and infantrymen from the Aarhus garrisons. The film was a great success and led Fotorama and other companies to shoot more ‘national films’ dealing with war. (…) Urban Gad (1879-1947) and Alexander Christian (1881-1937) directed a film version of colonel Peter Frederik Rist’s (1844-1926) partly autobiographical novel ‘En Rekrut fra 64’ (A Recruit from 64, 1889) for the new company A/S Kinografen in 1910. Gunnar Helsengreen (1880-1939) directed the tragic ‘national war play’ En Helt fra 64 (A Hero from 64, released 26 January 1911) for Fotorama. (…)
In February 1916, Nordisk released a regular war film: Pro Patria, directed by August Blom (1869-1947) and with the greatest Danish male film star at the time, Valdemar Psilander (1884-1917), in the leading role (Psilander tragically died at age 32 the following year). The film tells the story of an unexpected war between two unspecified neighbouring countries – the names on both sides sound German – including a melodramatic love story. General von Wimpfen’s daughter, Elsa, is engaged to Lieutenant Alexis von Kirkhowen, a military attaché at the neighbouring state’s embassy in von Wimpfen’s country. When war is declared, the general forbids his daughter to see Alexis, who is now his enemy. (…) The plot is rather melodramatic and unrealistic. According to [Ron] Mottram, Pro Patria ‘takes a pro-war stand and seems to imply that war is just a matter of honour in which enemies really respect each other.’ Nevertheless, the film was a great success in Denmark, if different advertisements from Viktoria Teatret cinema in Copenhagen are accurate.”
Bjarne Søndergaard Bendtsen: Film/Cinema (Denmark)
1914-1918 online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War

>>> WAR

 

Siegmund Lubin’s Western Factory (2)

The Bravery of Dora
R: Unknown. D: Earl Metcalfe, Edna Payne, E.J. Phillips. P: Lubin Manufacturing Company. USA 1912
Print: The Museum of Modern Art-The Department of Film

“An elderly father and his daughter Dora discover Juan falling down by the side of the road and bring him back home to recover. Described as a half breed in the inter-titles [for unknown reasons], we are given to understand that Juan is half Mexican. The film seems to be set during the later Mexican Revolution, specifically in American territory in the Mexican Border War, which was fought between independence fighters, federals, and the various U.S. armed forces. Soon a U.S. Army division finds refuge in Dora’s family home, and there is a shoot-out with Mexican forces, in which the Mexicans prevail. (…)”
Betzwood

The Sheriff’s Mistake
R: Francis J. Grandon. B: Geraldine Harrison Grey. D: Edgar Jones, Clara Williams, Burton L. King. P: Lubin Manufacturing Company. USA 1912

“America’s first cowboy movies were ‘eastern westerns’ shot in the wilds of New Jersey and Pennsylvania at the dawn of the 20th century. As the film industry slowly drifted to California, the Betzwood westerns were some of the last to be produced on the east coast. Though Betzwood’s owner, Siegmund Lubin, had studios in California and touring companies in Arizona, he was unwilling to give up the production of cowboy movies at his large Betzwood studio, insisting that his directors out west couldn’t keep up with the public demand for more westerns. One of the reasons Lubin bought the Betzwood estate was to have a place to corral his cowboys. He saw the farms and barns and meadows at Betzwood as offering the perfect opportunity to provide his directors with all of the horses, cattle, and scenery they would need to produce his western movies. As soon as settlement was made on the property in August 1912, the first film crews Lubin sent to Betzwood were the companies shooting westerns.”
Joseph Eckhardt: Betzwood’s Eastern Westerns
Betzwood

>>> Siegmund Lubin’s Western Factory (1)

>>> Siegmund Lubin

 

Booth’s Lightning Cartoon

Animated Cotton
R: Walter R. Booth. P: Charles Urban Trading Company. UK 1909
Print: BFI

“Relax and unwind in rewind with this trick film – if you haven’t cottoned on yet all is not as it seems… It might not take you long to cotton on to the trick of this film, but the results are still impressive. Though the various strings, wools and embroideries if this film are certainly animated in one sense, it is not through stop-motion animation. The time-consuming process of manipulating threads frame-by-frame is avoided by simply using reverse film techniques.”
BFI Player

“Framed by live-action sequences, the appeal and title of the film derives from three sequences where a piece of white cotton magically forms an image on a black background. While the techniques of this film, produced by playing in reverse the removal of a carefully constructed image outlined in string, are more akin to the trick film than drawn animation, its aesthetic content is pure lightning cartoon. The slow revealing of the image demonstrates Booth’s awareness and mastery of the narrative of perception that is at the heart of the lightning cartoon. Particularly important is the order of the three images displayed. After the first image (a bicycle) a second image begins to appear, but confounding the expectations established by the first iconographic image, the second never forms a recognisable object, remaining an abstract arabesque. By the final image, which resolves into a fashionable lady, the narrative of perception is heightened, held in tension between the search for the recognisable, as in the first image, and the possibility of this being unrealised, as in the second image. Animated Cotton is thus typical of Booth’s adaptation of the lightning cartoon in combining it with trick film techniques, engaging the perceptual faculties of the audience as they actively seek regognition in the images.”
Malcolm Cook: Early British Animation: From Page and Stage to Cinema Screens. Springer 2018, p. 86-87

Walter R. Booth on this website:
>>> Undressing extraordinary
>>> The Aerial Submarine
>>> The Automatic Motorist
>>> Scrooge, or, Marley’s Ghost
>>> The Hand of the Artist
>>> The Airship Destroyer
>>> A Railway Collision
>>> Diabolo Nightmare

Peter Marzen – The Showman of Trier

Echternacher Springprozession 1906
R: Peter Marzen. K: Peter Marzen. P: Peter Marzen. D 1906

“The Dancing Procession of Echternach, or Hopping Procession, is held once a year to honor Luxembourg’s only saint: Saint Willibrord, the founder of Echternach Abbey. Willibrord, an Irish/Anglo-Saxon missionary (658 – 739) brought Christianity to an area which is roughly situated north and north–west of Echternach (Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany). The annual Procession, which attracts about 13.000 pilgrims, plus numerous spectators, into the small abbey-town, takes place on Tuesday after Whitsun [i.e. the Christian festival of Pentecost]. 9.000 people, mostly dressed in white shirts/blouses and dark trousers/skirts hop through the medieval streets to the haunting rhythm of an ancient tune. The hopping step is sideways and forward.  In the past, though, some pilgrims jumped three steps forward and two backwards. Nowadays the expression ‘the Echternach Step’ is frequently used to refer to politicians who cannot make up their minds. Since 2010 the Dancing/Hopping Procession of Echternach has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List of Mankind’s Immaterial Values.(…)
Dancing has had its place in the church ritual elsewhere than in Echternach. (…)Hence it is difficult to say when Echternach’s procession had its beginning. It is mentioned in records of the eighth century, when pilgrimages to the tomb of St Willibrord began. But it probably existed centuries before that. It is not hard to see in it a Christianized survival of the springtime rites in honor of Diana, whose priests probably borrowed the dance from a propitiatory pageant of an older cult.”
The Echternach Dancing Procession

“Anfänglich präsentiert die Familie Marzen ihre Filme im Wanderkino. 1902 beginnt sie, Säle anzumieten, um Filme vorzuführen. Peter Marzen nimmt eine besondere Position ein. Er zeigt sich nicht nur bei fast jeder Lokalaufnahme selbst im Bild, sondern etabliert sich auch als charismatischer Filmerzähler und wird zum Star im eigenen Kino. Fast wie ein moderner Journalist und Entertainer hat er sowohl die Filminhalte als auch deren Präsentation in der Hand. (…) Die Wanderkinozeit verschafft der Familie Marzen einen Vorsprung, als sie am 24. März [1909] den Kinematographen – das ist gleichzeitig eine Kamera und ein Abspielgerät für 35 Millimeter-Film – im Central-Theater in der Trierer Brotstraße 36 übernimmt. ‘Familie Marzen brachte nicht nur Erfahrung und ihren guten Ruf mit’, sagt Brigitte Braun, eine Pionierin in der Erforschung des frühen Kinos an der Universität Trier. ‘Die Marzens haben auch die richtigen Leute gefilmt.’ Der Trierer Bürgermeister Karl de Nys, der Bischof Michael Korum, mehrmals der deutsche Kaiser Wilhelm II., die Kronprinzessin Maria Adelheid von Luxemburg bei der Thronbesteigung sind einige der Hauptdarsteller der dokumentarischen Filme. Um sie herum immer die Lokalgrößen und die Besuchermasse, sie alle wollen später zu Marzens ins Kino. So kann die Familie ihren Einfluss ausweiten und sich in Trier und der Umgebung etablieren. Kurz nach der Übernahme des Central-Theaters kommt es zum Eklat, und die Familie zerstreitet sich. Ab Sommer 1909 übernimmt Peter Marzen allein die Geschäftsführung und nennt das Kino ‘Marzens Central-Theater’. (…)  Am 28. November 1913 eröffnet er zudem das größte Kino der Moselstadt: Die ‘Germania Lichtspiele’ bieten Platz für etwa 500 Zuschauer.”
Christian Kremer: Eine Trierer Kinolegende
Volksfreund

Peter Marzen: filmmaker, cinematograph entertainer – and showman par excellence

“Peter Marzen was a showman. Apparently he commanded over remarkable abilities in performing an impressive ‘soundtrack’ to silent moving pictures on the screen. He had already served as lecturer for the Marzen family’s travelling kinematograph show which had been managed by his father, Wendel Marzen. In the Central-Theater enterprise, Peter Marzen obviously was the key figure from the beginning. He was the person who incorporated the ‘local’ aspects of the show by standing next to the screen and commenting the short features of the programme in the popular vernacular of the Trier region. (…) By adding his local vernacular extras to the moving pictures on the screen, Peter Marzen adapted foreign screen characters to local attitudes of articulating personal emotions like such as fury, anger, love, and joy.”
Martin Loiperdinger: “The Audience Feels rather at Home”…”: Peter Marzens ‘Localisation’ of Film Exhibition in Trier. In: Frank Kessler (ed.): Networks of Entertainment: Early Film Distribution 1895–1915. Indiana University Press 2008, p. 124-125

Ralph Ince: The Mills of the Gods

The Mills of the Gods
R: Ralph Ince. B: George P. Dillenback (story). D: L. Rogers Lytton, Leo Delaney, Rosemary Theby, Zena Keefe, Tefft Johnson, Adele DeGarde. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1912
Print: EYE
Dutch titles
Engl. subtitles

Between around 1880 and 1924, more than four million Italians immigrated to the United States, half of them between 1900 and 1910 alone. It’s fair to say that this was reflected in American literature and cinema not only because it was topical but also because, especially in the case of cinema, immigrants were a large portion, if not the majority, of movie-goers. Thus, in the early 1910’s we have films such as The Adventures of Lieutenant Petrosino (1912), about an Italian-American police officer who fights organized crime in New York City, and numerous films about the Black Hand, an Italian extortion racket. This Vitagraph production is based on a novel of the same title by George P. Dillenbeck, (c. 1880-1917). The novel was reissued in 1912 including stills from the movie, which was Ralph Ince’s first three-reel “feature” film. At this time longer films began to dominate the market. By 1915 over 600 feature films were produced annually in the United States. Oviously, the story takes place in Italy – there is a mention of the Lake of Como and of traveling to Turin. A wealthy landowner, Lorenzo, causes a waitress, Giulia, to lose her job when she refuses his advances. Miguel, who witnesses the incident, gives her shelter, they marry and a daughter is born. Lorenzo, however, over a period of ten years and more, does all he can to destroy Miguel’s happiness. 
Based on David Bond’s text on YouTube

>>> The Black Hand

>>> The Adventures of Lieutenant Petrosino

>>> The Italian