R. W. Paul: Blackfriars Bridge

Blackfriars Bridge
R / K: R.W.Paul. P: Paul’s Animatograph Works. UK 1896

“An actuality record of Blackfriars Bridge, London, taken from the southern end looking northwards over the Thames by R.W. Paul in July 1896. It was screened as part of his Alhambra Theatre programme shortly afterwards, certainly no later than 31 August, as it is included in a printed programme of that date (as ‘Traffic on Blackfriars Bridge’). Two or three of the pedestrians seem aware of the camera’s presence, though not to any particularly noticeable extent.”
Michael Brooke
Screen Online

“Paul’s single shot film, Blackfriars Bridge (1896) is typical of the visuel density and local appeal of the actuality. Paul positions his camera to maximise the illusion of immediacy and experiential authenticity. Pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages and omnibuses move in and out of frame in a single shot sequence filmed from the side of one of London’s most iconic bridges. Like so many early actualities, the viewer’s gaze is returned by some of the pedestrians who either look straight into the lens as they approach, or look back as if to catch the eye of the camera as they pass. (…) These moments of gradual apprehension are as much the subject of the film as the bustling traffic of Blackfriars Bridge. The indiscriminate spectacle of movement captured prevails, as multiple anonymous faces and bodies move with varying gaits and bearing through the same public space.”
Helen Groth: Moving Images: Nineteenth-Century Reading and Screen Practices. Edinburgh University Press 2013, p. 167

“The definition of ‘rush hour’ in London grows woollier as the years pass: at its worst it seems to stretch demonically from 6am to 9pm. Journey back over a century to July 1896 though and this tantalising half-minute of footage reveals our Victorian counterparts making their way to work across the Thames by tram, horse-drawn carriage and, for the health-conscious (or the poor), good old Shanks’ pony. More or less business as usual then, although compared to the daily human onslaught we face in 21st century London, the commuters caught by R.W. Paul’s static camera proceed at an enviably elegant pace.”
Simon McCallum
archive.org

>>> LANDSCAPES, URBAN VIEWS

More about Robert W. Paul on this site:

>>> 1898: A Story to ContinueThe First SightDangerous Cars II

A Real Clown of the Silent Era

Robinet innamorato di una chanteuse
R: Marcel Fabre (i.e. Marcel Perez). D: Marcel Fabre, Gigetta Morano. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1911
Dutch titles

Robinet chauffeur miope
R: Marcel Fabre. D: Marcel Fabre. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1914
Dutch titles

“One of the happy discoveries of Steve Massa’s new book ‘Lame Brains and Lunatics’ is Marcel Perez (Manuel Fernandez Perez, 1884-1929). Well enough known in the silent era, Massa postulates that Perez’s present obscurity may stem from the fact that his screen name and identity changed so many times (he also changed nations and studios constantly, but that tended to be less of a problem back in the day, when the movie market was truly international.)
Born in Madrid, Perez moved to Paris in his youth and began performing in music halls, circuses and theatres. Like many clowns of the silent era, he was a small man: five feet tall, 125 lbs. His film career in Paris begins circa 1907 where he appeared in at least a couple of shorts for the Eclipse and Gaumont studios. Thus he was one of the earliest comedy stars. In 1910, he began working for Italy’s Ambrosio Company, writing and performing as Marcel Fabre, playing a character called Robinet in Europe, which was translated into Tweedledum in the United States (you see where it’s already getting confusing). World War I forced him to America in 1915, where he made at least one short for Universal’s Joker series (…). He then became Tweedledum again for Eagle Films in 1916, then was known by the unlovely name of ‘Twede-Dan’ at Jester starting in 1918. In 1921 he went over to Reelcraft where he became known as ‘Tweedy’. In 1922, a horrible accident involving a garden rake (which occurred during the filming of one of his comedies) resulted in the loss of a leg, and from this point, he becomes primarily a director of comedies and westerns, both shorts and features. He died of lung cancer in 1929.”
TRAVALANCHE

>>> Slapstick Italiano: Marcel Perez

>>> His great adventure film Saturnino Farandola

468-Marcel_Fabre_1

Marcel Perez alias Marcel Fabre

Vitagraph’s Shakespeare

Julius Caesar
R: J. Stuart Blackton, William V. Ranous. B: Theodore A. Liebler Jr. (scenario), William Shakespeare (play. D: Charles Kent, William Shea, Maurice Costello, William V. Ranous, Florence Lawrence, Paul Panzer, Earle Williams. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1908
Print: BFI
German intertitles

Shakespeare’s historical tragedy of the rise and fall of Julius Caesar, told in fifteen scenes. One of plays by William Shakespeare adapted by the Vitagraph Company of America in 1908. The others were A Comedy of Errors, Othello , Macbeth , Romeo and Juliet, Richard III, Antony and Cleopatra and The Merchant of Venice.
IMDb

“Shakespearean texts and intertexts had far-reaching manifestations, encompassing everything from relatively inexpensive editions of the complete works, to inclusion in school curricula, to ephemera such as advertsing cards. Yet contemporary commentary indicates that knowledge of Shakespeare, for the most part, was limited to the familiarity with famous phrases, speeches and scenes. (…) Even at Shakespearean performances, stated many critics, much of the audiences engaged primarily with theatrical spectacles rather than the ‘beauty’ of Shakespeare’s poetry. Shakespeare’s presence (…) took the form of a widely circulated ‘reductionist’ (in a nonpejorative sense) approach to the complex urtexts.”
Willam Uricchio and Roberta E. Pearson: Dante’s Inferno and Caesar’s Ghost: Intertextuality and Conditions of Reception in Early American Cinema. In: Richard Abel (ed.): Silent Film. A&C Black 1996, p. 226

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
R: Charles Kent/J. Stuart Blackton. B: Eugene Mullin; William Shakespeare (comedy). D: Florence Turner (Titania), Julia Swayne Gordon, Maurice Costello, Gladys Hulette, Clara Kimball Young. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1909
Print: Silent Hall of Fame

Twelfth Night
R: Charles Kent. B: Eugene Mullin (scenario), William Shakespeare (play). D: Julia Swayne Gordon, Charles Kent, Florence Turner. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1910

“A measurement of Turner‘s prominence at Vitagraph can be taken when one considers the nature of her performances in a selection of her extant films. A skilled comedienne, Turner nonetheless excelled in dramatic roles that called upon her growing command of the developing verisimilar style perfected at Vitagraph during this time. In particular, reflexive roles casting Turner as an actress seemed designed to showcase her prodigious talent. In Renunciation (1910), for example, Turner plays a young woman whose fiancé’s father persuades her to discourage his son’s attentions by emulating a state of dissolution. The film’s success hinges on Turner’s ability to portray convincingly an actress giving a performance designed to deceive her diegetic audience, while at the same time prompting the film’s viewers to recognize both the persuasiveness of the performance and the true emotions the character experiences when engaged in the ruse. Possibly Turner’s most demanding role was the rejected lover in Jealousy (1911), a film now lost. Promoted by Vitagraph as ‘A Study in the Art of Dramatic Expression by Florence E. Turner’, the film was a tour de force for the actress, as she was the sole performer on-screen for the entirety of Jealousy‘s running time.”
Charlie Keil
Women Film Pioneers Project

>>> Starring: The Girls on this site

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

Hamlet: Johnston Forbes-Robertson

Hamlet
R: Hay Plumb. B: Wlliam Shakespeare (play). K: Geoffrey Faithfull. D: Walter Ringham, Johnston Forbes-Robertson, S.A. Cookson, J.H. Barnes, Alex Scott-Gatty, Percy Rhodes, Gertrude Elliot, Adeline Bourne, Grendon Bentley, Montague Rutherford, E.A. Ross. P: Hepworth. UK 1913
Playgroup: The Drury Lane Company
Print: BFI National Archive

“In a 1913 interview, Cecil M. Hepworth, the producer, said that this Hamlet was  ‘the most notable event up to the present in the history of British cinema.’ Even allowing for PR-hype, which even then was escalating into a major industry, the film deserves a niche in history as a unique record of the performance of a major 19th-century Shakespearean actor, Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson. Sir Johnston’s electrifying portrayal of Hamlet, along with the Frederic B. Warde King Lear, provides a time capsule for viewing the acting techniques of eminent Victorians. Moreover, since Forbes-Robertson and his colleagues were actually speaking the lines as they declaimed them on the stage of London’s famous Drury Lane theatre, those familiar with the text can follow the play almost word for word. To appreciate this film, you need to know not less but more about Shakespeare’s play. No danger whatsoever exists, as seems to have been the case with the Barker silent Hamlet, that an audience of mutes might decode vile oaths from the actors’ lip movements. (Interview with C. Hepworth: Bioscope 24 July 1913: 275)”
Internet Shakespeare Editions

Hay Plumb‘s Hamlet (1913) made for the Cecil Hepworth company, marks a definite step forward for British Shakespeare films in that it attempts not only to present an entire play but also has cinematic ambitions over and above just pointing the camera at a reconstituted stage production, the method adopted by most of its predecessors. Sourced from a 1913 Drury Lane stage production, it was partly shot on location in Dorset, with interiors created in Hepworth’s Walton-on-Thames studio. (…)
As with virtually all other British Shakespeare silents (with the exception of Percy Stow’s admirably lucid The Tempest of 1908), there is little context-setting or indeed much indication of who is actually speaking when the intertitles appear on screen. These are somewhat sketchy, glossing over many key themes of the play and virtually demanding at least some degree of prior familiarity from the audience. (…)

That aside, it’s a competent production, helped by Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson’s charismatic performance in the title role (he was pushing sixty at the time, but he looks a fair bit younger) – his facial expressions and lively body language help overcome the limitation of the lack of a soundtrack, though this is still keenly felt as there is little overall attempt at reinventing the play for the cinema.
That said, although still fairly primitive – most scenes are still presented as single-shot tableaux – Hamlet does at least make some use of the cinema’s grammar. The camera occasionally moves, several scenes are shot on location, the ghost is conveyed through double exposure and there’s even a brief instance of cross-cutting, as Ophelia’s corpse is discovered while Laertes talks to Claudius.”
Michael Brooke
BFI Screenonline

609 Johnston Forbes-Robertson

“Johnston Forbes-Robertson (1853-1937) was an English actor and theatrical impresario that George Bernard Shaw and other critics considered to be the finest Hamlet (1913) of his generation. Forbes-Robertson had trained to be an artist and was not overly fond of acting, but he took to the boards to make a living. He did his apprenticeship with Samuel Phelps‘ company and made his theatrical debut in 1874. He played the second lead in the company of Henry Irving, indisputably the greatest actor of his generation and the first actor to be knighted. Forbes-Robertson did not play Hamlet until he was 44 years old, but excelled at it. He was famed for his magnificent voice. Other Shakespearean roles he was hailed for were Leontes in ‘The Winter’s Tale’, Othello and Romeo.”
Jon C. Hopwood
IMDb

>>> more Shakespeare on this website: Shakespeare on Screen

The Wrath of the Gods

The Wrath of the Gods
R: Reginald Barker. B: William H. Clifford, Thomas H. Ince. D: Sessue Hayakawa, Tsuru Aoki, Frank Borzage, Kisaburô Kurihara, Henry Kotani. P: New York Motion Picture (Thomas H. Ince). USA 1914
Special effects: Raymond B. West
Filming Locations: Inceville Studio, Santa Monica, California

“On 12 January 1941, a volcano erupted on the island of  Sakura-Jima in Kagoshima prefecture, in the southern part of Japan. Because of the stream of lava, the island of Sakura-Jima became connected to Osumi Peninsula on Kyushi, one of the main islands of Japan. It was one of the largest disasters in the history of Japan. Thomas H. Ince lost no time in grasping an opportunity to make a film based on this event. (…) The filming of  The Wrath of the Gods began on 27 January 1914, only fifteen days after the eruption, and finished on 13 February. The eruption of Sakura-Jima was not only a subject with hot news value but also a good opportunity for Ince to make a spectular film with an authentic depiction of Japan and its people. (…) Ince wanted to make The Wrath of the Gods his Cabiria. The Wrath of the Gods was far more than a news film or a travelogue. Ince made his project into a spectular melodrama and a sensational event movie by exploiting the exotic landscape and people. Hayakawa was not a star of this film. He was not even a leading character of this project but merely an ingredient to compose the melodrama. Aoki played a leading role in the film but in a strategic manner. First of all, Ince fictionalized Aoki’s birthplace and connected it to the eruption of Sakura-Jima in a tear-jerking way. (…)

In this melodramatic moralistic dichotomy, Japan is not regarded as a modern nation. It is not an indepent existence, but a place somewhere in a totalized primitive region. It is not so much a historical community as an atemporal space where superstitious savages live. In The Wrath of the Gods, the binary axis is not drawn between a historical region and a modern nation-state, but in a more archetypal way between the civilized and the savage. With this de-historicization, the film, which originally has a news or travelogue quality, turns into a melodramatic fable that regards the civilized America and Christianity as good and the primitive space and its religion as evil.”
Daisuke Miyao: Sessue Hayakawa: Silent Cinema and Transnational Stardom. Duke University Press 2007, p. 57-64

>>> Subtle Understatement: Sessue Hayakawa on this website

>>> Reginald Barker films: The CowardThe BargainThe Italian

 

A Wild West Made in Germany

Die Jagd nach der Hundertpfundnote oder Die Reise um die Welt
R: Willy Zeyn. B: Rudolf del Zopp. K: Georg Paezel. D: Josef Coenen, Hansi Dege, Senta Eichstaedt, Fred Goebel, Karl Harbacher, Cowboy Jenkins, Ernst Körner, Adele Reuter-Eichberg. P: Karl Werner (Berlin/Köln). D 1913

“The episodic structure [of some earlier German films. KK] survives in Die Jagd nach der Hundertpfundnote oder Die Reise um die Welt, a film of the ‘Nobody’ series which was (…) produced in 1913 in Berlin by Karl Werner. The female detective Nobody follows the hero in his journey around the world which he undertakes following a bet with his friends to bring back a particular 100 pound note within three months. At great speed they pass through Cairo, Bombay and Nagasaki to eventually arrive in a Wild West composed of images familiar from American westerns.”
Deniz Göktürk: Moving Images of America in Early German Cinema. In: Thomas Elsaesser, Michael Wedel (ed.): A Second Life: German Cinema’s First Decades. Amsterdam University Press 1996, p. 97

>>> Ruth Roland – a Girl Detective

Traffic in Souls

Traffic in Souls
R: George Loane Tucker. B: Walter MacNamara, George Loane Tucker. K: H. Alderson Leach. D: Jane Gail, Ethel Grandin, William H. Turner, Matt Moore, William Welsh, Millie Liston, Laura McVicker, Irene Wallace, Howard Crampton. P: Independent Moving Pictures Co. of America (IMP). USA 1913

“Advertisements for the film said that it was based on the Rockefeller White Slavery Report and on the investigation of the Vice Trust by District Attorney Whitman. In a news item in 17 Dec 1913 NYDM, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. denied that any films about white-slave traffic had his sanction or were in any way approved by the Bureau of Social Hygiene, through which he conducted his investigations of white-slave traffic. Furthermore, he stated that ‘the use of my name in any such connection is absolutely unauthorized, and that I and those associated with me in this work regard this method of exploiting vice as not only injudicious but positively harmful.’ Var [= Variety] commented, ‘there’s a laugh on the Rockefeller investigators in the play in the personality of one of the white slavers, a physical counterpart of John D., himself so striking as to make the observer sit up and wonder whether the granger of Pocantico Hills really came down to pose for the Universal.’
According to modern sources, the film was cast by IMP editor Jack Cohn and was made without the knowledge of IMP officials. Director Tucker quit IMP and went to the London Film Company in England after Traffic in Souls was shot. Jack Cohn cut it from ten to six reels. The popularity of the film (modern sources claim that it cost $5,700 to make and that it grossed approximately $450,000) touched off a wave of white-slave pictures.
The National Board of Censorship of Motion Pictures viewed the film on 27 Oct 1913 and passed it with five minor alterations.”
AFI Catalog

George Loane Tucker’s 1913 Traffic in Souls (aka ‘While New York Sleeps’), one of our earliest feature-length films, pretended a concern with so-called white slavery while offering audiences the titillation they craved in this era of the earliest film femme fatale — the vamp. Traffic in Souls was a huge hit in its time, providing a solid foundation on which Universal Pictures was built, and earning its place on the National Film Registry as a culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant film. (…)
Technology plays a large role in this film. The manager writes the daily returns on a tablet that form magically on a similar tablet in Trubus’ office, the imagination of the film’s creators prefiguring email. Trubus is unmasked for what he is by Mary, dis-charged from the candy store because of the immorality attached to her sister’s situation — kidnapping is no excuse for low morals, apparently — and hired by Mrs. Trubus (Millie Liston) to replace the sexually loose secretary (Laura McVicker) she has discovered smooching with the manager. Mary learns the truth and brings a microphone her father has invented to eavesdrop on Trubus and his manager —an early phone bug. We also have an early example of product placement — Edison recording cylinders are used to record the conversation the bug picks up.
The precision of the police assault on the brothel is a masterful bit of filmmaking. Loane Tucker builds suspense as the police get their orders and man various positions on top of and surrounding the brothel. When the police storm the building, the camera work is kinetic and dizzying, and Burke’s pursuit of the manager to the roof ends in a quick, realistic way with the manager ending as a slick on the cement below, a scene with which moviegoers are now quite familiar.
The ruin of Trubus is the ruin of his family as well — his daughter’s (Irene Wallace) betrothal to the season’s most eligible bachelor unceremoniously ended and an outraged mob screaming for blood at his predatory hypocrisy, his wife killed by the shock and shame of the double life he has been leading. The audience feels that Lorna has learned her lesson about straying into a willful life of her own, redemp-tion for having thrilled to the madam’s whip hovering over her quivering, tearful form.”
Marilyn Ferdinand

George Loane Tucker became a director in 1910 and went on to make many one-reel films for studios such as IMP and Reliance-Majestic. In 1913, he gained considerable notoriety for making the sensationalistic Traffic in Souls, a racy exposé of white slavery. A tremendous box-office success, the film is credited with starting a trend of increasingly sexy films. Just before the film was released, Tucker had moved to England where he made a few more highly regarded films. In 1917, he returned to the U.S. and continued directing. One of his most acclaimed works was The Miracle Man (1919), the film that featured Lon Chaney in his first starring role. Tucker was highly regarded in Hollywood and when he died of a lingering illness in 1921 at the age of 49, he was hailed as ‘the First of the Immortals”.”
Rotten Tomatoes

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