Vive La Commune!

La Commune
R: Armand Guerra. P: Le Cinéma du Peuple. Fr 1914
French intertitles, Engl. subtitles

Armand Guerra‘s 1914 film commemoration of the 1871 Paris Commune (this is the first part of two, the second part was not concluded because of the outbreak of WW1). The last two minutes of the film includes footage by Armand Guerra of a 1911 gathering of some surviving revolutionaries of the Paris Commune, including the anarchist Nathalie Lemel.

“Produced by an anarchist cooperative (probably the first in film history), directed by a Spanish anarchist, the film dramatizes key scenes from the 72 days and nights of the 1871 Paris Commune – still counted as the most extraordinary urban revolt in European history. Just before the film ends, there’s an unexpected leap from historical re-enactment to the actual. Suddenly, before our eyes, the last 20 or so living veterans of the Commune are standing in front of the Louvre in 1914. Due to the technological marvel of cinema, a full century later, we can see these stalwart revolutionaries move, smile, stare back at us quizzically. Before the camera’s lens, they seem bemused and yet proud. If it is true that in the cinema there is essentially no past – only the present moment of projection – then these aged men and women offer a direct, immediate and inspiring challenge to the present-day. Vive La Commune.”
Disruptive Film: Everyday Resistance to Power

“Nach der Kapitulation Frankreichs gegenüber den Preußen im Jahre 1870 und dem Niedergang des Second Empire (Zweites französisches Kaiserreich) wird Adolphe Thiers zum Oberhaupt der Exekutivgewalt der republikanischen Regierung ernannt. Die Pariser fühlen sich gedemütigt, der Volksaufstand steht unmittelbar bevor. Am 18. März 1871 bestellt Thiers General Lecomte zu sich, auf dass dieser die Kanonen von Montmartre einhole, die man erworben hatte, um die Hauptstadt zu verteidigen, und die von der Nationalgarde aufbewahrt wurden. Das Volk stellt sich den Truppen entgegen, dann verbrüdert es sich mit ihnen. Dies stellt den Beginn der Erhebung dar: Thiers flüchtet nach Versailles; die Generäle Lecomte und Thomas werden hingerichtet. Zehn Tage später wird die Pariser Kommune ausgerufen und mit ihr etabliert sich eine Art Selbstverwaltung, welche der Stadt vorsteht.”
FAUD: Pariser Kommune (1871) und Aufstand in Kronstadt (1921)

“‘Le Cinéma du Peuple’ war die wohl erste anarchistisch-sozialistische Filmkooperative der Filmgeschichte, die (nach einer Adresse des Anarchistenkongresses aus dem August des Jahres) am 28.10.1913 in Paris gegründet wurde. Ihr Ziel war es, mit Hilfe des Films die Intellektualität des Volkes anzusprechen, um so seine Emanzipation voranzutreiben. Die Gruppe produzierte u.a. den 13minütigen Film Les Misères de l’Aiguille (1914, Raphäel Clamour) mit der dem Surrealistenzirkel nahestehenden Schauspielerin, Filmregisseurin, Journalistin und Schriftstellerin Musidora, den 23minütigen Historienfilm La Commune (1914, Armand Guerra), der klar die Partei der Aufständischen während der Pariser Kommune 1871 ergriff, oder das kurze Arbeiterdrama Le vieux Docker (1914, Armand Guerra). Mit dem Kriegeintritt Frankreichs im August 1914 gab die Gruppe ihre Arbeit auf.”
Heinz-Hermann Meyer
Lexikon der Filmbegriffe

About Armand Guerra
Eric Jarry: Armand Guerra (1886-1939) Movie-maker and Pioneer of Militant Movie-making

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

>>> Alice Guy’s film L’émeute sur la barricade


Lost and Won

Brother Bill
R: Ralph Ince. B: Ralph Ince. D: Ned Finley, Edith Storey, Chester Hess, Kingsley Higgins, Frank Tyrell. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1913
Print: EYE (Desmet collection)
Dutch titles

“An offering with a very interesting situation, full of the life of the back-woods. In its setting of wild scenes it gets over pretty powerfully. The two central roles are played by Edith Storey and Ned Finley (Bill). Bill’s brother has fallen in love with a girl in the mountain village and has made a tough character there jealous. Bill, to save his brother, comes to town and, in a dramatic scene, takes the girl from a village dance by force. It is now very dramatically shown, how the two fall in love with each other. In doing this the leading players acquit themselves most creditably and arc well supported by Chester Hess, in the role of Jim. The whole story is clear and the scenes, are well photographed for the most part. It makes a good offering.”
The Moving Picture World, April 5, 1913

“Because of the proximity of the actual West, in time and in place, it is important to acknowledge a contemporary dimension to Westerns that are set in modern times. Through contemporaneity, a film like Mexican Filibusters can be considered part of the Western family, just like The Colonel’s Escape (1912, Kalem). Also, the contemporary stories of A Cowboy Millionaire and Lost and Won are typical for the early Western, even compared to more historical stories of How States were Made (sic!) and Brother Bill. Some films show a temporary mix of modern and historical layers, playing with the moment of transition between the past and future (A Cowboy Millionaire or Lost and Found, sic!), and are still related to a film set in the days (when) States were Made or the days the witches were burnt at the stake (Rose O’Salem-Town). Different notions of Western-realism are at work because generic conventions are not set. Hence, there are no rules for the genre such as ‘a Western has to have horses in it,’ or ‘has to be set west of the Mississippi.'”
Nanna Verhoeff: The West in Early Cinema. After the Beginning. Amsterdam University Press 2006, p. 124

Lost and Won
R: Unknown. D: Hobart Bosworth. P: Selig Polyscope Company. USA 1911
Print: EYE (Desmet collection)
Dutch titles, Engl. subtitles

“In this film about love lost and found, a scene is inserted that consists of non- fiction footage of an oil well in operation.* Radical cuts are made between narrative fiction and nonfictional display. (…) In this film the inserted footage could be taken out without changing the flow of the narrative. But clearly, this would also spoil the film (…) as (real, sensational) spectacle. Clearly, judgments about good or bad editing, successful or failed narratives are impossible to make and are not relevant. There is a more adequate way to assess this film, and others of its kind, if we balance what we see (today) with the indications of projected reception within the films. Such films had several ambitions, which were all met, without one necessarily disrupting the other.”
Nanna Verhoeff: The West in Early Cinema. After the Beginning. Amsterdam University Press 2006, p. 302-303

* there is a far more impressive example for a similar spectacle in Sennett’s The Gusher, Keystone 1913

>>> another film by Ralph Ince, The Mills of the Gods

Albert Capellani 1911

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

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.

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.

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.

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


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

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. (…)”

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

>>> 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