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


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.”

>>> Slapstick Italiano: Marcel Perez

>>> His great adventure film Saturnino Farandola


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.

“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

Ince presents: Civilization

R: Reginald Barker, Thomas H. Ince, Raymond B. West. B: C. Gardner Sullivan. K:  Joseph H. August, Irvin Willat, Clyde de Vinna. Mus: Victor Schertzinger. D: Howard Hickman, Enid Markey, Lola May, Kate Bruce, J. Frank Burke, Claire Du Brey, George Fisher, Charles K. French, Herschel Mayall. P: Thomas H. Ince Corporation. USA 1915/1916

Thomas Ince‘s Civilization contained the first original full orchestral and choral film score for an American feature, composed by American-born Victor Schertzinger (his first film credit). (amc filmsite)

“Echoes of Biblical teachings were prominent in the filmmaking of Thomas H. Ince, as he recognized its resonance with audiences of his time. This was most prominently the case with Civilization (initially titled ‘He Who Returned’), which had a simple but sweep-ing purpose encapsulated by a one newspaper head-line: ‘Aims Film to Shorten Life of War—Thomas Ince Contends Great Movie Spectacle ‘Civilization’ Is Excellent Peace Argument.’ This was a time when the United States struggled to remain neutral and avoid becoming involved in the conflict that had en-gulfed Europe. Civilization was directed by a team in 1915, and released in April 1916, and even before the public saw it, Ince arranged a viewing by President Wilson and his cabinet, and sent another print to the Pope. Although advertised as a million dollar spectacle, that was closer to its box-office return of $800,000; Civilization actually cost approximately $100,000. After the opening in Los Angeles in April, lack of anticipated business prompted additional recutting and new scenes shot before the New York premiere. Not only a ‘Peace Song,’ but also a march, both composed by Victor Schertzinger, were issued as accompanying sheet music. (…)
Civilization must be considered in the context of the time in which it was made; President Wilson would run for re-election in 1916 on the slogan, ‘He kept us out of war.’ Even as Americans were dismayed at the war’s slaughter in Europe, the sinking of the British passenger liner ‘Lusitania’ in 1915, which resulted in the drowning of 100 Americans, nearly goaded the United States into participation. The event signaled the increasingly antagonistic attitude toward Germany for quickly adopting submarine warfare to blockade the Allies. Underwater vessels became a popular motion picture topic, appearing in other Ince productions, and it is crucial in Civilization  accurately depicting the German motivation, to sink surface ships carried war supplies, as well the appalling consequences in loss of life. (…) The antagonists seem Teutonic, with spiked helmets and upturned moustaches, yet the capitol building of the country is also a domed structure clearly modeled on the United States Capitol; Ince seems to be indicating that warlike actions may well spring up in America. ‘Photoplay Magazine’ added, ‘True, it all might happen to us, or to any other nation ….’ In the final sequence, the soldiers return home and reunite with their families.”
Brian Taves
Library of Congress

“The battles are large-scale and epic, but not tied to the characters in such a way as to make us really care what’s going on. Our main characters spend a lot of the movie in a beatific trance. Even when they aren’t, they are given to rather broad pantomiming, as when the King tells the Count that he will be allowed to marry his love, and the Count immediately spreads his arms wide and stares up in rapture. The effects, editing, and production design are all good quality, certainly compared to the average Thomas Ince production, but (…) it’s hard not to compare it unfavorably to D.W. Griffith’s lavish production values. In no way does it measure up, even the battle scenes are frankly weak just in comparison to the previous year’s The Birth of a Nation. While it’s realistic that there’s a lot of smoke on the battlefield, so much is used that it tends to obscure the action, and you can’t really make a good battle scene just showing one side of the fight. Apparently a success in its day, Civilization came off to me as too clumsy and blunt in its message, and not really a great example of film technique of the period.”


Flying Train, 68mm

The Flying Train / Wuppertaler Schwebebahn
P: Deutsche Mutoscop und Biograph G.m.b.H.  D 1902
Print: The Museum of Modern Art, N.Y.

“‘The Flying Train‘ depicts a ride on a suspended railway in Germany in 1902. The footage is almost as impressive as the feat of engineering it captures. For many years our curators believed our Mutoscope rolls were slightly shrunken 70mm film, but they were actually shot on Biograph’s proprietary 68mm stock. Formats like Biograph’s 68mm and Fox’s 70mm Grandeur are of particular interest to researchers visiting the Film Study Center because the large image area affords stunning visual clarity and quality, especially compared to the more standard 35mm or 16mm stocks.”
The Museum of Modern Art, N.Y.

The MoMA version, original speed, upscaled and colorized by Denis Shiryaev:

“Upscaled to 4K; FPS boosted to 60 frames per second, I have also fixed some playback speed issues; Stabilized; Colorized – please, be aware that colorization colors are not real and fake, colorization was made only for the ambiance and do not represent real historical data.
Note: Contrary to the text at the beginning, the city ‘Wuppertal’ didn’t yet exist in 1902. Back then, these were a handful of seperated cities and towns called ‘Elberfeld’, ‘Ronsdorf’, ‘Cronenberg’, ‘Vohwinkel’ and ‘Barmen’. These cities were united in 1929 under the name ‘Barmen-Elberfeld’ and were renamed into ‘Wuppertal’ in 1930, according to the fact that the cities are located around the Wupper river.”
Denis Shiryaev

“Bereits vor 1900 verloren auf die Kamera zurasende Züge an Attraktivität und wurden kaum noch in dieser Blickperspektive gedreht. Stattdessen wurden Aufnahmeapparate auf Lokomotiven gesetzt, um für unzählige Landschaftspanoramen stetig gleitende Kamerafahrten zu erzielen. Diese ‘Reisebilder’ akzentuieren industrielle Technik alsTeil der Landschaft, wenn spektakuläre Streckenverläufe oder kunstvolle Brückenbauten befahren werden. Als Sujet nicht-fiktionaler Aufnahmen wurden Lokomotiven und Züge erst wieder von der Technikfaszination der Avantgarde in den 1920er und 1930er entdeckt. Wegen ihrer eigentümlichen technischen Bauweise konnte die Wuppertaler Schwebebahn eine gewisse Attraktivität bewahren. Als ‘Flying Train’ (1901) fand sie über den Verbund der Mutoskop- und Biograph-Gesellschaften weite Verbreitung.”
Martin Loiperdinger: Industriebilder. In: Uli Jung und Martin Loiperdinger (Hrg.): Geschichte des dokumentarischen Films in Deutschland. Band 1: Kaiserreich (1895-1918). Stuttgart: Reclam 2005, p. 324

Just for Fun: Wuppertal Schwebebahn 1902 & 2015 side by side video, by pwduze, YouTube:

La mort du duc d’Enghien en 1804

La mort du duc d’Enghien en 1804
R: Albert Capellani. B: Léon Hennique. D: Georges Grand, Henry Houry, Germaine Dermoz, Paul Capellani, Henri Étiévant, Daniel Mendaille, René Leprince. P:  Pathé Frères. Fr 1909

“An exceedingly well acted and photographed picture of a historical episode in French history, which occurred during 1803-1804, when Napoleon was first consul. It relates graphically the fate of the Duke D’Enghien, who was supposed to be plotting against Napoleon and planning to place a Bourbon on the throne. Napoleon assumed that the Duke was the Bourbon prince who was to succeed to the throne, though he had no proof. Spies reported the Duke’s absence for days at a time, but he was much in love and was really at the home of his inamorata, or engaged in the pleasures of the chase. Nevertheless, he was condemned to be executed, and even though some excuse for pardoning him was sought, none was found and he was shot at Versailles.
The action is very vivid. The characters do their work in the spirit of the piece and occasion, and one imagines for the time that the actual scene is transpiring before one’s eyes. The Pathés have been particularly happy in their reproductions of dramatic incidents in French history, and this picture is no exception to the rule. The interpretation is so convincing that one acquires almost unconsciously a keener understanding of the men who were instrumental in enacting the roles here reproduced.”
The Moving Picture World, December 31, 1909

About Louis Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Enghien
“At the outbreak of the French Revolution, he emigrated with his father and grandfather a few days after the Storming of the Bastille, and in exile he would seek to raise forces for the invasion of France and restoration of the monarchy to its pre-revolutionary status. (…) Early in 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte, then First Consul of France, heard news which seemed to connect the young duke with the Cadoudal Affair, a conspiracy which was being tracked by the French police at the time. (…) The news ran that the duke was in company with Charles François Dumouriez and had made secret journeys into France. This was false. (…) However, the duke had previously been condemned in absentia for having fought against the French Republic in the Armée des Émigrés. Napoleon gave orders for the seizure of the duke.
French dragoons crossed the Rhine secretly, surrounded his house and brought him to Strasbourg (15 March 1804), and thence to the Château de Vincennes, near Paris, where a military commission of French colonels presided over by General Hulin was hastily convened to try him. The duke was charged chiefly with bearing arms against France in the late war, and with intending to take part in the new coalition then proposed against France.
The military commission, presided over by Hulin, drew up the act of condemnation. (…) On 21 March, the duke was shot in the moat of the castle, near a grave which had already been prepared.  (…)
The execution of Enghien shocked the aristocracy of Europe, who still remembered the bloodletting of the Revolution. Either Antoine Boulay, comte de la Meurthe (deputy from Meurthe in the Corps législatif) or Napoleon’s chief of police, Fouché, said about his execution ‘C’est pire qu’un crime, c’est une faute’, a statement often rendered in English as ‘It was worse than a crime; it was a blunder.’ The statement is also sometimes attributed to Talleyrand.
Conversely, in France the execution appeared to quiet domestic resistance to Napoleon, who soon crowned himself Emperor of the French.”


Lionel Barrymore

The Woman in Black
R: Lawrence Marston. B: Based on the play “The woman in black” by H. Grattan Donnelly. K: Tony G. Gaudio. D: Lionel Barrymore, Alan Hale, Mrs. Lawrence Marston, Marie Newton, Millicent Evans, Charles Hill Mailes, Hector V. Sarno, Jack Drumier, Frank Evans. P: Klaw & Erlanger, Biograph Company. USA 1914
Print: Library of Congress
Music (from original 78 rpm records of the late 1910s and the early 1920s) added by Robert Fells

The Woman in Black is based on a successful play produced by the powerful Klaw and Erlanger combine that dominated much of the American theater in the early 20th century. In the 1910s, the company began filming some of its most popular plays but ultimately the venture was not successful. In this film, Lionel Barrymore starred with Alan Hale (Sr.), both of whom would have long careers in movies extending through 1950.”

“Mary, a young gypsy girl, is seduced by the immoral Robert Crane and abandoned. She is exiled from the gypsies and, along with her mother Zenda, known as ‘The Woman in Black,’ she vows revenge. Meanwhile, Crane blackmails Stella Everett’s father into forcing her to marry him, even though she loves Frank Mansfield, Crane’s rival for a congressional seat. Frank wins, but Stella still faces the prospect of marriage to Crane until Zenda comes to her with a plan. On their wedding day, after the vows are recited, Crane lifts the veil from his wife’s face and discovers that his bride is actually Mary. Now Stella and Frank are free to marry, and Zenda has gained her revenge.”
AFI catalog

Lionel Barrymore
Lionel Barrymore, original name Lionel Herbert Blythe, (born April 28, 1878, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. — died November 15, 1954, Van Nuys, California), American stage, film, and radio actor who forged a career as one of the most important character actors of the early 20th century. Perhaps the least flamboyant member of the Barrymore acting family, he was best known to modern audiences for his performance as Mr. Potter in the classic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Barrymore was the son of the stage actors Maurice and Georgiana Barrymore, founders of the celebrated family of actors. Although he appeared in a few plays in his teens, he did not intend to enter the family profession and instead studied painting in Paris for three years. He found that he was unable to earn a living as a painter, however, and he returned to the United States and to acting. (…)

In 1926 Barrymore left Broadway permanently for Hollywood and began a long line of outstanding screen characterizations. His early notable films included Sadie Thompson (1928) and The Mysterious Island (1929). His performance as an alcoholic defense attorney in A Free Soul (1931) won him an Academy Award as best actor. He appeared with his brother, John, in Grand Hotel (1932) and with both John and their sister, Ethel, in Rasputin and the Empress (1932). (…) In his later years Barrymore projected an image of an irascible (but usually lovable) curmudgeon, a role in which he exploited to the fullest his distinctive traits — a tall stooped posture (though, because of arthritis and other injuries, he usually performed in a wheelchair from 1938 on), shaggy eyebrows, and a hoarse, rasping voice. His portrayal of the avaricious Mr. Potter in Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life belongs to this period.”
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

>>> Lionel Barrymore on this website: The Little Tease, The House of Darkness, The Burglar’s Dilemma, The New York Hat, The Musketeers of Pig Alley, Friends, The Miser’s Heart, Death’s Marathon, The Battle at Elderbush Gulch, The Switchtower

Lawrence Marston (1857–1939)
“Lawrence Marston was a well-known stage director, among whose accomplishments were ‘Ben Hur’, ‘The Prince of India’, and ‘Thais’ for his long-time employers, Klaw & Erlanger. Lawrence Marston was with Thanhouser in 1912 and 1913 and directed a number of films there, including Thanhouser’s first three-reel production released as a single unit, The Star of Bethlehem. (…) Marston departed from Thanhouser and went to American Biograph, where he was located by late autumn 1913.”
Thanhouser Biographies

>>> Marston films on this site: The Evidence of the Film,  His Uncle’s Wives,  When the Studio Burned

Griffith, perfectly improvising

A Feud in the Kentucky Hills
R: David W. Griffith. B: David W. Griffith. K: G.W. Bitzer. D: Mary Pickford, Charles Hill Mailes, Kate Bruce, Walter Miller, Henry B. Walthall, Robert Harron. P: Biograph Company. USA 1912

“In an almost off-handed sequence of shots, Griffith bridges the two halves of the film and sets in motion the series of events that precipitate the outbreak of the feud. The film’s rhythm shifts quickly and noticeably to a heightened level, reflecting the movements and emotions of the combatants, and Griffith’s deft combination of long, medium and close shots keeps the audience perfectly situated throughout the battle. This entire sequence, while it must have been carefully considered in advance of filming, was almost certainly improvised on site, the better to take advantage of the distinctive landscape near the Delaware Water Gap in Pennsylvania. In such a situation, reliance on a detailed shooting script would have been more of a hindrance than a help to Griffith, lending support to the notion that A Feud in the Kentucky Hills was not ‘written’ in any usual sense.”
Steven Higgins: A Feud in the Kentucky Hills. In: Paolo Cherchi Usai (ed.): The Griffith Project. Volume 6: Films Produced in 1912. Bloomsbury Publishing 2019, p. 143

>>> Griffith 1912 on this site

Chomón’s Reply to Méliès

Le Voyage sur Jupiter
R: Segundo de Chomón. K: Segundo de Chomón. P: Pathé. Fr 1909
Supervision and special make-up effects: Ferdinand Zecca for Pathé
Print: Archivo Nacional de la Imagen – Sodre (Montevideo)
Music: Giovanni Piccardi (2017)

“After begining his career in Spain (see e.g. El heredero de Casa Pruna [The Heir of the Pruna House]), Segundo de Chomón worked for Pathé in Paris between 1906 and 1909, where he directed a number of trick films competing with those of Méliès and using the stencil coloured film process known as Pathéchrome that he had invented. A Trip to Jupiter, which is clearly inspired by Le Voyage dans la lune [A Trip to the Moon] directed by Méliès in 1902, is a good example of the films made by de Chomón during that period. It also shows how the cinematographic language had progressed since1902. The esthetics of the two films are very similar in a kind of a fantasised Middle-Ages style, the stories also follow broadly the same line: travel to space via an unlikely means,  fight with unfriendly natives and return to earth. However there are substantial  differences, in A Trip to the Moon, a team of scientists use a cannonball to travel to the moon where they destroy the local king before falling back to earth where they are officially celebrated after landing in the sea.  A Trip to Jupiter does not involve an actual space trip: a king who has watched a kind of film, presented to him by his astronomer, showing fantasy representations of the Moon, Saturn and Jupiter, observes the same representations through a telescope and when he goes to sleep dreams that he is climbing a ladder bringing him to the same planets. When he reaches Jupiter, he is captured by soldiers who bring him to the king of the planet, Jupiter himself, who strikes bolts of lightning at him and finally throws him out of the planet. The film then shows the same sets in reverse order to bring back the king ot his bed where he wakes up in great agitation. The film is composed of 33 shots organised in three scenes.”
A Cinema History

614 Chomón

“Chomòn uses more traditional sets than the two-dimensional almost surrealistic façades and matte paintings that Méliès used during the making of his legendary space films, and they are all extremely beautifully designed, as are all the props and costumes. The movie is partly filmed on location at an actual old castle, which gives it a gritty and majestic feel. The hand colouring of the prints in this film is also exquisitely made by Pathé’s army of women working at the company’s colouring factory. There is also a bit of camera genius when de Chomón describes the ladder to Jupiter. The climbing is all made in two single shots, with the camera moving upwards with the king for long stretches. This was achieved by laying out the stars and planets as large cutouts on the floor, the gods and goddesses looking like they are standing or sitting, but actually lying on their backs, and the king crawling vertically on the floor with the ‘ladder’ suspended beneath him. The camera is actually suspended from the ceiling and filming straight down. The effect is completely obvious, but clever nonetheless this was one of the very earliest tracking shots, and without doubt the most impressive tracking shot up until the major films by D.W. Griffith.”
Janne Wass: A Trip to Jupiter
scifist 2.0

>>> Segundo de Chomón

A Family of Film Actors

Vendetta d’amico
R: Unknown. D: Oreste Grandi, Gigetta Morano, Ernesto Vaser, Angelo Vestri. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1911
Print: EYE (Desmet collection)
German intertitles

Un successo diplomatico
R: Unknown. D: Gigetta Morano, Eleuterio Rodolfi, Camillo De Riso. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1913
Print: EYE (Desmet collection)
Dutch intertitles

Eleuterio Rodolfi (1876-1935) trained as a theatre actor before starting in comical films, where he played a witty and sometimes unfortunate gentleman. From late 1913 on, he began film directing too, focusing on comedy. Camillo De Riso (1854-1924) had a theatre career behind him before starting in film, just like Morano and Rodolfi. A son of a stage actor, he started a family of film actors. Beginning in 1912 at Ambrosio, De Riso formed a successful trio with Morano and Rodolfi, contributing with his rotund face and generous look of bourgeois bonhomme. In late 1913 De Riso started at the Gloria company, where he created the gay epicure and shameless libertine character of Camillo.

One typical example of the Morano/Rodolfi comedies is Vendetta d’amico (Friendly Vengeance, Ambrosio 1911), in which two friends fight over the same woman. One wins and marries her, but then discovers that she is prodigal. He leaves a suicide note, and she marries the other friend, who soon discovers her wasteful conduct. Husband number one laughingly reappears. In Un successo diplomatico (A Diplomatic Success, Ambrosio 1913), Morano is an ambassador’s daughter who travels to Berlin as she suspects her husband of infidelity. Her father (Camillo De Riso), travels to find her, and discovers that she is courted by a diplomat (Rodolfi). He prevents her from making two mistakes (unjust infidelity and adultery) and deters the suitor by informing him that she is a dangerous terrorist.”
Ivo Blom: All the Same or Strategies of Difference. Early Italian Comedy in International Perspective

>>> Eleuterio Rodolfi

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.