Tracking Shots

The Trail of Cards
R: Gilbert P. Hamilton. D: Lillian Christy, Edward Coxen, J. Warren Kerrigan, Louise Lester. P: American Film Manufacturing Company. USA 1913

“Kalem made a series of train films in 1911, most notably The Railroad Raiders of ’62, featuring numerous shots with the camera mounted of a train. Lubin’s The Missing Finger (1912) cuts together four moving shots which function as eyeline matches between two characters. Finally, in The Trail of Cards (American 1913), repeated tracking shots depict an abduction on horseback, while the playing cards of the title are dropped as clues. The self-consciously inventive nature of most of the examples indicates filmmakers still viewed this type of camera movement as a novelty of sorts.”
Charlie Keil: Early American Cinema in Transition: Story, Style, and Filmmaking, 1907–1913. University of Wisconsin Press 2001, p. 160

A Cowboy Hero for the 20th Century

The Law and the Outlaw
R: William Duncan. B: J. Edward Hungerford, Tom Mix. D: Tom Mix, Lester Cuneo, Myrtle Stedman, Florence Dye, Marshall Stedman, Rex De Rosselli, Tom Nash. P: Selig Polyscope Company. USA 1913

“In recognition of Tom Mix’ importance to the company, Selig built the Diamond ‘S’ Ranch outside of Prescott, which housed the troupe’s livestock and served as a frequent shooting location; it also contained a home built especially for Mix and his family. The ranch’s name was inspired by the Selig company’s logo, an ‘S’ within a diamond, which accompanied virtually  all of the title credits and advertising. (…) Tom Mix was establishing himself as a rugged presence in the Westerns he made for William Selig through mid-1913, but they were merely a prelude to the parts he would write for himself. These roles would establish the predominant cinematic cowboy hero for the twentieth century.
Mix incorporated several rodeo-style stunts into the script he co-wrote for The Law and the Outlaw, released June 4, 1913. In a scene reminiscent of his initial wild west show specialty, Mix is dragged across the ground by a frightened horse. He saves the rancher’s daughter by bulldogging a steer that’s about to gore her. Mix also makes an escape by rolling down a steep, rocky embankment while handcuffed.  Selig advertised that real bullets were used in some scenes. The physicality and variety of Mix’s stunts in Law and the Outlaw created a sensation.”
Andrew A. Erish: Col. William N. Selig, the Man Who Invented Hollywood. University of Texas Press 2012, p. 62-63

>>> Tom Mix, Cowboy Actor

>>> more Tom Mix films on this website: The Rose of Old St Augustine, Captain Kate, Back to the Primitive

Kathlyn Williams

Back to the Primitive
R: Frank Boggs, Otis Turner. B: Edward McWade, Otis Turner. D: Kathlyn Williams, Charles Clary, Joseph W. Girard, Tom Mix, William V. Mong, Tom Santschi. P: Selig Polyscope. USA 1911
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

“Kathlyn Williams began work in motion pictures as an actress with Biograph in New York. ‘I was playing in stock,’ she recounted to Photoplay in 1917. ‘One week when I was not working someone called me up from the Biograph studio and asked if I would work two days for them. I was dreadfully insulted at first, but I went out of curiosity expecting to be offered about fifty cents a day.’ To her amazement, D. W. Griffith paid her ten dollars for each day’s work. (…)  Sources agree that she joined the Selig Polyscope Company in 1910 and quickly became the company’s leading actress. From the start, she played an action heroine, although she was also featured in dramatic roles. In 1913-14 she starred in the Adventures of Kathlyn, generally regarded as the first serial with ‘hold-over’ suspense.”
Mark Garrett Cooper
Women Films Pioneer Project

Lost in the Jungle
R: Otis Turner. B: Otto Breitkreutz, William V. Mong. D: Tom Santschi, Kathlyn Williams, William V. Mong, Charles Clary, Frank Weed, Ernest Anderson, Tom Mix. P: Selig Polyscope. USA 1911
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

Lost in the Jungle, the last of the great series of Selig films produced last winter, in which wild animals have been used in the development of the story, and of which Back to the Primitive and Captain Kate have proved notable productions, will be released Monday. October 26. It is understood that the Selig Company will not discontinue the production of films of this type and that another series will be prepared during the approaching winter. Mr. Wm. N. Selig believes that Lost in the Jungle is the climax of the series. (…) Another thrill is promised in the girl’s encounter with a leopard. Shortly before this scene appears, we witness a fierce fight between two leopards and a wild hog. The latter coming out victor. This prepares us for the presence of leopards in the girl’s vicinity, and when we see her crouch and listen intently, as she gazes into the depths of the forest, we are prepared for a life and death struggle. (…) 597-Kathlyn WilliamsIn the making of this scene Miss Williams suffered such severe scalp wounds from the animal’s claws that nine stitches were required to close them, and she was covered with blood to her waist. A leopard is very fond of wild chickens, and at the first rehearsal of the scene, before the man began to turn the handle, everything went well. The chicken was thrown slightly behind and to one side of Miss Williams, as the animal was loosed from his cage, so that he fairly caught sight of its fall. In the second trial the chicken was thrown directly behind Miss Williams, out of the camera’s field; and although the leopard saw that the chicken had been thrown, he did not see it fall, and concluded that it was under Miss Williams. The courage shown by this lady, and her wonderful influence over wild animals, in the production of this film, are really remarkable.”
The Moving Picture World, October 14, 1911

“Toddles, the elephant used, has the reputation of having killed two of his keepers, so our producer was afraid to have me try and wanted me to use a dummy figure. Realizing how much more real it would be to have it true to life, I was anxious to try, and always having been fond of animals, especially wild ones, I set to work to win Toddles as my friend. Knowing the surest way was through his stomach I began visiting him daily with fruit. In fact every time I passed I would have something until at last he began to know me, and whenever he would see me he would trumpet and call, and I was always prepared. After some weeks of this we began our real work. I would lie down within easy reach of him, command him to kneel and then to assist me to my feet with his trunk. Whenever he did what I wanted I gave him an orange. How quickly he understood. At last he would allow me to get on his head. Oh! He was splendid, and I felt as safe up there as on the ground. It took a month to accomplish this, but it was fascinating work.”
Kathlyn Williams, interviewed by the New York Clipper, Apr. 20, 1912

The Adventures of Kathlyn
R: Francis J. Grandon. B: Harold McGrath (story), Gilson Willets. K: Robert L. Carson. D: Kathlyn Williams, Charles Clary, Horace B. Carpenter, Lafe McKee, Tom Santschi. P: Selig Polyscope. USA 1913
Fragment of the first episode (of 13)
Titles removed
Print: EYE

“In the very near future the Selig people will announce the title of the first picture in a series of thirteen two-reel subjects, to be released every other Monday during the following six months. All these two-reel pictures are to be spectacular wild animal dramas, and each subject is to be complete in itself, though it will end in such a manner that the person who has seen one of the series will instantly realize that there is more to come, and be on the lookout for the next picture of the series. The name chosen for the series is ‘The Adventures of Kathlyn,’ and in each subject Miss Kathlyn Williams, star of the Selig Company for several seasons past, will be featured. Miss Williams in the first picture appears as the heir to a throne in a mythical principality in India, and the following films will show the difficulties she experiences in maintaining her rule, the encounters with wild beasts of the jungle which result from her trips through her kingdom, and many surprising and strange circumstances and events incident to her retaining the crown. (…) The scenarios for the entire series come from the pen of Gilson Willetts, author of several popular novels and newspaper writer of renown, and are said to be thrilling in the extreme, and to have been prepared with the special aim in view of enabling Miss Williams to display all the many sides of her art. An arrangement has also been made by which the entire series of stories will run serially in the ‘Chicago Tribune’ and the entire chain of newspapers with which the ‘Tribune’ is affiliated through its syndicated news service. In other words, on the Sunday following the Monday on which the first Adventure of Kathlyn is released, in film form, the ‘Tribune’ and some metropolitan newspaper in every large city in the United States, will publish the story of the film in fiction form in their magazine sections. The week after that the first part of the second ‘Adventure’ will appear in fiction form, just six days after it has been released in pictures.”
The Chicago Tribune, Sept. 6, 1913

>>> Selig’s Tropical Jungle Zoo on this website

Florence Turner’s Pumps

R: Larry Trimble. D: Florence Turner, Courtenay Foote, George Stevens, Emilie Hayward. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1913
Print: EYE
Dutch titles
Engl. subtitles

“Laurence Norwood Trimble (1885 – 1954) was an American silent film director, writer and actor. Trimble began his film career directing ‘Jean’, the Vitagraph Dog, the first canine to have a leading role in motion pictures. (…) He became one of the studio’s leading directors, responsible for all of ‘Jean”s films and most of those made by Florence Turner, John Bunny and Flora Finch. (…) In March 1913 Trimble and ‘Jean’ resigned from Vitagraph, along with actor Tom Powers and Florence Turner. They went to England, where Turner formed her own company with studios at Walton-on-Thames. Trimble later explained that they went to England because in 1913 ‘the power of large companies [in the U.S.] left slight opportunity for an independent producer with small capital.’ Already famous from her Vitagraph films, Turner introduced herself to British audiences with a personal appearance at the London Pavilion on May 26, 1913. She and Trimble then toured Britain for the next six weeks, appearing together in 160 venues.
Trimble was head of production at Turner Films, released by Cecil Hepworth, and over the next three years he wrote and directed some of Britain’s most highly regarded films of the period. They included Rose of Surrey (1913), described by ‘The Bioscope’ as ‘one of the most charming English film comedies ever produced’; My Old Dutch (1915), which ‘The Moving Picture World’ called ‘a rare picture, great in its simplicity, strong in its appeal, and splendidly played by its two principals’; and Far from the Madding Crowd (1915). In August 1916, Trimble left his wife in England and returned to the U.S. with his daughter and his canine star ‘Jean’, who died later that year.”
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
(From Wikipedia)

>>> the Trimble films A Cure for Pokeritis and Her Crowning Glory, starring John Bunny and Flora Finch

>>> Daisy Doodad’s Dial and The Stumbling Block: Florence Turner and Larry Trimble

>>> about Florence Turner: Vitagraph’s Shakespeare   Laurence (“Larry”) Trimble

Marcel Perez and Ambrosio

Robinet in bolletta
R: Marcel Perez. D: Marcel Perez, Gigetta Morano, Ercole Vaser. K: Giovanni Vitrotti. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1911
Print: EYE

L’abito bianco di Robinet
R: Marcel Perez. D: Marcel Perez. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1911
Print: EYE

“In this play on the symmetry of black and white, Robinet leaves home in his bright new suit for a stroll through a blackening industrial landscape.”
Steve Massa
Cruel and Unusual Comedy

Robinet pescatore
R: Marcel Perez. D: Marcel Perez, Nilde Baracchi, Attilio Pietromarchi. K: Giovanni Vitrotti. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1914
Print: EYE

“The Societa Anonima Ambrosio was, with Italia and Cines, one of the premier film studios of Italy. Originally founded in 1902 by Arturo Ambrosio as photographic shop, Ambrosio caught the movie bug and spent time in France, England and Germany familiarizing himself with filmmaking. By 1907 a large and modern studio had been built on 30,000 square feet of land. Their first big hit was 1908’s The Last Days of Pompeii, directed by Luigi Maggi, who piloted many of the company’s most prestigious films. Besides historical epics, costume dramas, and literary adaptations of the work of Gabriele D’Annunzio, the studio’s comedy creators included Gigetta Morano (and her director and co-star Eleuterio Rodolfi), Ernesto Vasar as Fricot, and Perez as Robinet. Morano and Perez moved into feature length comedies for the company – Morano in works such as La meridana del convent (The Convent’s Sundial 1916) and Perez with the four episodes of Le avventure straoridnarissne di Saturnino Farandola (The Extraordinary Adventures of Saturnino Farandola 1914). As with the other studios, World War I disrupted film production and killed international distribution. Ambrosio continued some producing during the war, but Arturo Ambrosio left the company in 1917, and the studio ended production in 1922.
Steve Massa
Cruel and Unusual Comedy

>>> An early film factory in Italy

>>> A Real Clown of the Silent Era with more Robinet films

David et Goliath

David et Goliath
R: Henri Andréani. D: Berthe Bovy, Louis Ravet, René Alexander. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1910
Engl. intertitles

“Surely this must be one of the earliest renditions on film of such an amazing story. Berthe Bovy, from the Comédie-Francaise company, and one of the stars in L’Assassinat du duc de Guise (in which she played a page), is pretty much suited as the then-future king of Israel: boyish-looking, flat-chested and all around angelic, her David comes across as God’s anointed one even if only because it seems he is in need of a real miracle to save his and everyone else’s lives. It also helps that Bovy was clearly having fun with her role, thus imbuing it with an enthusiastic energy. It reminded me of Mia Farrow as Peter Pan –just a bit.”
Christian Doig

“There was a rush of short films about David at the time with six films about David being released in as many years (the others being David and Goliath in 1908, Saul and David in 1909, David and Saul in 1911, David, King of Israel in 1912, and La Mort de Saül in 1913). (…) It’s also worth noting that the German version* has been produced using some kind of early colour process (hence the image above) whereas the French version is in black and white. The appearance is similar to that of early two-strip Technicolor, but as that wasn’t yet in existence then it looks like it was made using either Lee-Turner Colour, Kinemacolor or the Keller-Dorian process.”
Matt Page
Bible Films Blog

* The so called “German version” (i.e. German intertitles) seems identical with the “English version”, which is shown here.

Emblematic Close-ups

She Would Be an Actress
Dir. and actors unknown. P: Lubin Manufacturing Company. USA 1909

“Many emblematic close-ups featured actors gesticulating for the camera, the direct address to the camera reinforcing their function as attractions. (…) Such unmoored close-ups of faces continue to appear in 1907-8, but by 1909, the approach to showing closer views of performers changes markedly. The close shot still marks the end of the film, but filmmakers reinforce connections to the diegesis by curbing direct address, encouraging the performers to ‘stay in character’ and sustaining narrative action from the previous shot. Equally important, such shots became literal cut-ins as the camera moves in slightly, typically preserving total replication of mise-en- scène if not exact continuity of action. One film from 1909, Lubin’s She Would Be an Actress, still uses an emblematic close-up while also providing an example of its successor: the first shot features a close view of a woman reading a book entitled ‘How to Become an Actress’, with the surrounding décor of the following shot fully visible in the background; the last shot, which succeeds the narrative’s resolution in the prior shot, is a closer view of the same woman and her husband smiling at the camera in front of a neutral background. Whereas the first instance of the closer shot provides visual information that a longer shot would not and also contributes to the subsequent unfolding story, the latter is purely emblematic and an auxiliary to the narrative. Not long after this, filmmakers would find it untenable that both options for the close shot could coexist.”
Charlie Keil: Early American Cinema in Transition: Story, Style, and Filmmaking, 1907–1913. University of Wisconsin Press 2001, p. 167-169

>>> Subversive Close-ups

>>> Griffith 02: Close-up

>>> Close-up

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