Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Mermaid (1910 , Russia)



Русалка , or The Mermaid - Directed by Vasili Goncharov
Synopsis: A miller interupts his daughter's revelry, and a prince arrives on horseback to propose and make gifts to her of jewelry. The prince leaves and the miller discovers his daughter in jewels, which she tears off. At the wedding feast a woman appears from nowhere and casts a spell, then disappears. The bride is brought to the wedding chambers and the prince kisses her. The woman reappears to confound the prince. Eight years later, the prince is still distracted by the vision of the woman, to the dismay of his wife. The miller, now a mad hermit, confronts the prince at the mill. The princes is drawn by visions of water nymphs into the river. An aide and the princess tracks the prince to the river bed. Then is a shot of the prince caressed by the mermaid at the river bottom. He is surrounded by a tableau of young mermaids.
Cast: Vasili Stepanov, Aleksandra Goncharova, Andrei Gromov
Produced by Aleksandr Khanzhonkov.
Scenario by Vasili Goncharov.
Art direction by V. Fester.
Cinematography by Vladimir Siversen.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Submarine Pirate - 1915



Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: 14 November 1915 (USA)
Directors: Charles Avery, Syd Chaplin
Writer: Mack Sennett
Stars: Syd Chaplin, Wesley Ruggles and Glen Cavender
An inventor and his accomplice plan to rob a ship carrying gold bullion by using a submarine. A waiter overhears their plans, buys himself an admiral's uniform, tricks his way into command of the sub and plots to take the ship himself.

Par le trou de serrure - 1901



Country: France
Language: French
Release Date: May 1902 (USA)
Also Known As: What Happened to the Inquisitive Janitor
As a janitor is cleaning a hotel, he decides to peek through the keyholes to observe some of the guests in their rooms. In room 8, a woman is busy making herself look more attractive, and the janitor enjoys watching her. There are also some interesting things going on in the other rooms on the floor. But the janitor soon finds out that there are also some drawbacks to what he is doing.

Victoria Luise 1913 - experimental color movie



German movie. This is an experimantal color footage that was produced in 1913 during the wedding of emperor Wilhelm´s daughter. Three synchronous black-and-white recordings with monochromatic color filters were used somewhat similar to the later Technicolor system. These pictures were not artificially colorized.
The quality is far behind black/white recordings of the same event. The early orthocromatic material had a bad gamma curve. Therefore, colors are only visible in bright light and with little graduation. Also the color filters greatly reduced the incoming light, forcing them to record with full aperture and a long duration of exposure.
Regretably I dont have many technical details. You can find some information in the documentation "Majestät brauchen Sonne" by Peter Schamoni.
By the way, the streets were actually yellow during this event because a layer of sand was used for the safety of the horsemen.

Kronberger Automobil-Jugendrennen 18.8.1907



(c) Deutsches Filminstitut - DIF e.V.
Germany 1907
Director: Julius Neubronner
English title: Kronberg Youth Motor Race 18.8.1907
Synopsis: Julius Neubronner (1852-1932), a chemist and inventor from Kronberg was one of the first people to film in the Rhine-Main region. He purchased his first camera in 1903, a "Kino" manufactured by Dresdner Foto-Firma. With his camera Neubronner recorded historical events as well as the everyday life of his family. Furthermore, he also shot short sketches performed by himself and his family on a stage set-up in the garden of their home. "Kronberg Youth Motor Race" shows footage of a soapbox race. One of the cars leaves the road and crashes into the crowd.

Le cochon danseur - 1907



Country: France
Language: French
Release Date: 10 August 1907 (USA)
Also Known As: The Dancing Pig
A pig dressed in fancy clothes flirts with a pretty girl, but she humiliates him and tears off his suit; she then makes him dance for her affections.

La course des sergents de ville - 1907



Country: France
Language: French
Release Date: 9 February 1907 (USA)
Also Known As: The Policemen's Little Run
A squat, muscular dog steals a leg of lamb or mutton from a butcher shop, and the local constabulary, armed with truncheons, gives chase. Man's best friend, keeping a firm-jowled grip on the meat, leads the town's finest down streets, across boulevards, through a cellar and up the side of the building to a steep roof, then down again, and to his doghouse. The cops gingerly surround the place, then out bursts the canine and chases the entire force back to their station.

Trafalgar Square Riot - 1913



United Kingdom. A suffragette procession in Trafalgar Square led by Sylvia Pankhurst results in a riot in Whitehall. Policemen are seen escorting Miss Pankhurst away. Some of the scenes here do not look so very different from the more recent Poll Tax riots (1990) or the May Day riots of 2000. (Robin Baker)

Buxton Skyline - 1901



United Kingdom. This panoramic shot of the Buxton skyline captures the famous Georgian crescent designed by John Carr of York for William Cavendish, the Duke of Devonshire, and the 18th century stable block, with its large slate domed roof, also built for the Duke.
The film itself would be shown in the Pavilion theatre, part of the Opera House built by Frank Matcham under the patronage of Mr Tweedale, a travelling film exhibitor who presented a show in early February 1901. Buxton skyline appears as familiar today as it would be to the Edwardian audience and shows the dramatic skyline outlined against the Derbyshire landscape. (Vanessa Toulmin)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bradford Coronation Procession - 1902



This film is part of the Mitchell and Kenyon collection - an amazing visual record of everyday life in Britain at the beginning of the twentieth century.
When Edward VII was crowned, it was a time of great confidence and pride in the British Empire, as shown here by the extravagant and sometimes exotic horse-drawn floats. This was a local event to mark a coronation of international importance, and other parts of this same procession emphasise Bradford's unique contribution to the almighty Empire in the form of its woollen industry. (Rebecca Vick)

March of the Queens - 1915



United Kingdom. Scenes of WWI troops relaxing on Streatham Common, South London in a Topical Budget newsreel. We assume that the title refers to one of the Queen's Own regiments.

Devonshire Hospital, Buxton - 1916



United Kingdom. Built in 1785 as a stable for the Duke of Devonshire's 110 horses, the former Royal Devonshire Hospital in Buxton features an impressive dome larger than St. Paul's in London. By 1881 the buildings had been converted into a pioneering hospital, and were later home to British soldiers returning from the battlefields of the First World War.
This Topical Budget newsreel footage of men undergoing new-fangled treatments in the gleaming thermal mineral water baths is wonderful, though you may wonder how pleasant some of these 'Vapour, Needle and Douche-Spray Baths' actually were. But unlike the happy, healthy-looking veterans shown here, for many horribly injured troops returning from the trenches of the Somme, rheumatism and sciatica would have been the least of their worries. (Simon McCallum)

The Dinosaur and the Missing Link - Part 1 - 1915



Country: USA
Also Known As: The Dinosaur and the Baboon
Two cavemen, The Duke and Stonejaw Steve, call on Miss Araminta Rockface. The hated rivals fight, and Steve wins when he throws The Duke into a pot of boiling water. A title card introduces a third rival, "our unassuming hero, Theophilus Ivoryhead." Miss Rockface invites the three men into her father's drawing room/cave, apologizing for not offering tea, since it has not been discovered yet. The Duke and Steve fight again, and everyone rushes out of the cave. Mr. Rockface notices his pot of food is empty; earlier, Wild Willie the Missing Link had eaten it. Mr. Rockface tells the three suitors they will have to procure their own dinner. Steve locates a desert quail and shoots an arrow at it, but the arrow misses the quail and happily (for Steve) hits The Duke's behind. Meanwhile, Wild Willie is still hungry and goes hunting for snakes. He finds a dinosaur's tail instead, and when he tries to eat it the dinosaur kills him...

The Dinosaur and the Missing Link - Part 2 - 1915



Country: USA
Also Known As: The Dinosaur and the Baboon
Two cavemen, The Duke and Stonejaw Steve, call on Miss Araminta Rockface. The hated rivals fight, and Steve wins when he throws The Duke into a pot of boiling water. A title card introduces a third rival, "our unassuming hero, Theophilus Ivoryhead." Miss Rockface invites the three men into her father's drawing room/cave, apologizing for not offering tea, since it has not been discovered yet. The Duke and Steve fight again, and everyone rushes out of the cave. Mr. Rockface notices his pot of food is empty; earlier, Wild Willie the Missing Link had eaten it. Mr. Rockface tells the three suitors they will have to procure their own dinner. Steve locates a desert quail and shoots an arrow at it, but the arrow misses the quail and happily (for Steve) hits The Duke's behind. Meanwhile, Wild Willie is still hungry and goes hunting for snakes. He finds a dinosaur's tail instead, and when he tries to eat it the dinosaur kills him...

Frogland - 1922



Made in 1922 while Starewicz was in Paris, this film (also known as "The Frogs who Wanted a King") is a fable in the best Aesop tradition... the moral: Be careful what you ask for... you might get it!
The Frogs of Frogland think they need a king... they beg Jupiter (their human god?) to send them one. First, he sends a Wooden King. The frogs realize the Wooden King doesn't do anything (he can just barely roll his eyes...), so they ask Jupiter for "a better King".
Jupiter complies... he sends a Stork King. Storks, of course, eat frogs.
Too late, the Frogs realize the error of their ways. They plead for help from Jupiter, while hiding underwater (This is a technically interesting scene... the frog puppets seem to be in an aquarium, but the bubbles flowing through the aquarium move in sync with their speech... it doesn't look like stop-motion, in other words. He may have used puppets on "rods" for this).
Jupiter is now irritated beyond belief, and "Gives 'em Thunder" (actually lightning). These naughty frogs won't bother anyone ever again.

Cameraman's Revenge - 1912



Country: Russia
Release Date: 27 October 1912 (Russia)
The Cameraman's Revenge (1912, 13 minutes) is about infidelity among the insects, a topic which I dare say has never before or after been attempted on film.
Continuity: When the movie is shown in the theater, the camera angle is the one where we saw the scene from, but not the one where the grasshopper filmed the scene from.

Le rat de ville et le rat des champs - 1926



Country: France
Le Rat des villes et le champs (1926) The Town Rat and the Country Rat
The Country Rat visits his friend, the Town Rat, but finds that life in the great metropolis is rather too hectic (and dangerous - there's a live cat among all the puppet rats!)

Swords And Hearts - 1911


A poor girl is secretly in love with a wealthy young planter. During the Civil War she helps him escape capture by Union soldiers. After the war, with his fortune gone, she confesses that she loves him.
Cast
Wilfred Lucas ... Hugh Frazier
Claire McDowell ... Irene Lambert
Dorothy West ... Jenny Baker
William J. Butler ... Old Ben
Charles West ... The Suitor
Francis J. Grandon ... Jennie's Father
Verner Clarges ... Hugh's Father
Kate Bruce ... At Lambert House
Donald Crisp ... At Frazier House / Bushwacker
Frank Evans ... Bushwacker
Guy Hedlund ... At Frazier House / Union Soldier
Florence La Badie ... Undetermined Role
J. Jiquel Lanoe ... Union Soldier / Bushwacker
Charles Hill Mailes ... Bushwacker
W. Chrystie Miller
Alfred Paget ... Union Soldier
W.C. Robinson ... Bushwacker
Directed By D. W. Griffith
Written By Emmett C. Hall
Cinematography By G. W. Bitzer
Details
Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: August 28 1911 (USA)
Filming Locations:Coytesville, New Jersey, USA
Production Co: Biograph Company

Are Crooks Dishonest - 1918



Miss Goulash has just finished conducting a séance at the Mystic Temple, so she and her father decide to take a walk to the park. Meanwhile, two con men are in the park, playing a confidence game with the use of fake jewelry. They succeed in conning Professor Goulash and several other targets. But when they try their trick on Miss Goulash, she becomes suspicious. She soon tricks them out of their money, and gets them pursued by the police. When the con men try to elude a police officer by hiding in the Mystic Temple, they soon find themselves in another battle of wits with Miss Goulash.
Cast
Harold Lloyd ... Harold
Bebe Daniels ... Miss Goulash
'Snub' Pollard ... Snub (as Harry Pollard)
William Blaisdell
Sammy Brooks
Lige Conley
William Gillespie
Helen Gilmore ... Old lady in park
Lew Harvey
Gus Leonard ... Old man in park
Charles Stevenson (as C.E. Stevenson)
Directed by Gil Pratt
Produced by Hal Roach
Details
Country:USA
Language:English
Release Date:23 June 1918 (USA)
Production Co:Rolin Films

Dunces and Dangers - 1918



This one-reel comedy will have you screaming and sweating, as Larry Semon and his girl are chased up and down the sides of buildings, fighting heavies on rooftop ledges, skittering across rickety bridges in mid-air and see-sawing on ladders over the city far below.
Hans Koenekamp was the cinematographer, and he later became senior visual effects wizard at Warner Brothers. This short will help show you why. And it's all a full year before Harold Lloyd stepped out on a ledge for the first time. Highly recommended.
Cast
Larry Semon ... Larry
Madge Kirby ... Larry's Wife
William Hauber
Owen Evans
Pietro Aramondo (as Pete Aromando)
Frank Alexander
Directed by Larry Semon
Written by Larry SEmon
Presented by Albert E. Smith
Country:USA
Language:English
Release Date:5 August 1918 (USA)
Production Co:Vitagraph Company of America

La Pêche aux poissons rouges - 1895



Country: France
Also Known As: Fishing for Goldfish
Production Co: Lumière
A man holds a child of about 10 or 11 months so the child can stand on a table and look down into a large clear goldfish bowl, nearly full of water, with two goldfish swimming in it. The child, dressed in a white gown with a white cap, makes an occasional grab for a fish. The fish evade the child.

Baignade en mer - 1896



Country: France
Also Known As: Sea Bathing
The sea is before us. Some rocks are visible to the right and a narrow jetty extends about ten meters or so about three feet above the sea, held up by two sets of pylons. A woman and several lads about ten years old are coming out onto the rocks, one climbs onto the jetty at the end. He jumps back into the sea as the lads and lady run out to the end of the jetty and jump off. Even though the sea looks to be only about a foot deep, one boy does a flip into the water and repeats it later. The others simply jump in.

La Voltige - 1895



Country: France
Also Known As: Trick Riding
Filming Locations: Lyon, Rhône, Rhône-Alpes, France
In the background is a house. In the foreground, a groom holds the reins of a sleek black horse that stands in profile. A tall man, dressed in a black uniform, demonstrates how to mount the horse then encourages and tries to assist a man in white. The man in white keeps falling, and soon it's apparent that he's an putting on a show. His pratfalls become more elaborate and stylish. The horse stands patient. The little groom laughs to see such sport. And finally, the man in white finds a comic accommodation. The story, though brief, has a beginning, middle, and end.

La Fée aux Choux (1896, France)



Considered to be the first ever fiction film by historians. Directed by Alice Guy Blaché. Also known as "The Cabbage Fairy" (literal title) (English title)

Breathing - 1927, pt 1 of 2



Part 1 of 2. This American film illustrates the many components of the respiratory system, from the nose and throat to the lungs, with the aid of many informative intertitles, illustrations, animations and examples using human models. 2 segments.

Breathing - 1927, pt 2 of 2



Part 2 of 2. This American film illustrates the many components of the respiratory system, from the nose and throat to the lungs, with the aid of many informative intertitles, illustrations, animations and examples using human models. 2 segments

The Deerslayer - 1920



Starring- Emil Mamelok, Herta Heden and Bela Lugosi
A silent film made in Germany and based on the James Fenimore Cooper novel. Bela plays Natty Bumpo's Indian sidekick.

Sherlock Holmes - 1922



American movie. For decades the 1922 version of Sherlock Holmes starring John Barrymore was thought to be lost, surviving only in the form of a few tantalizing production stills, until a battered and incomplete print finally resurfaced in the mid-1970s. Even so, it wasn't until just a couple of years ago that a viewable version was painstakingly completed at the Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y., and it is this restoration which has received several public screenings in recent months. Bearing this background in mind, it's especially dismaying to report that the film, seen at long last, is a decided disappointment. Unfortunately, this is one of those cases in which a rediscovered work falls short of the imagined movie projected in our minds. Silent film buffs and viewers with a special interest in the Barrymores will want to see it anyway, but dedicated fans of the original Holmes stories, in particular, will most likely find it unsatisfying.
Seemingly all the elements were in place for something special when the movie went into production. John Barrymore, in the year of his legendary stage Hamlet, was in his prime; the supporting cast was full of first-rate actors, two of whom (Roland Young and William Powell) made their film debuts here; a number of scenes were filmed on location in London-- an unusual practice at the time --and the constructed sets were strikingly designed and well photographed. But the first and perhaps biggest problem was the structure of the screenplay, which feels off-kilter and oddly lopsided from the outset. The early scenes are focused on the activities of the arch-criminal Professor Moriarty (who was played by that magnificently-named character actor, Gustav von Seyffertitz). We're given much information about this villain's apparently unmotivated evil, but very little information about our hero and his eccentricities. After awhile we're forced to conclude either that the screenwriters thought we already knew enough about Sherlock Holmes, or that they found their bad guy more interesting than their hero.
Cast
John Barrymore ... Sherlock Holmes
Roland Young ... Dr. Watson
Carol Dempster ... Alice Faulkner
Gustav von Seyffertitz ... Prof. Moriarty
Louis Wolheim ... Craigin
Percy Knight ... Sid Jones
William Powell ... Foreman Wells (as William H. Powell)
Hedda Hopper ... Madge Larrabee
Peggy Bayfield ... Rose Faulkner
Margaret Kemp ... Therese
Anders Randolf ... James Larrabee
Robert Schable ... Alf Bassick
Reginald Denny ... Prince Alexis
David Torrence ... Count von Stalburg
Robert Fischer ... Otto
Lumsden Hare ... Dr. Leighton
Jerry Devine ... Billy
John Willard ... Inspector Gregson
Albert Bruning ... Count Orlonieff
Directed By Albert Parker
Written By Earle Browne, Marion Fairfax
Written By Arthur Conan Doyle (story)
Written By William Gillette (play)
Executive Producer Samuel Goldwyn
Producer F. J. Godsol
Cinematography J. Roy Hunt
Art Direction Charles L. Cadwallader
Details
Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: March 7 1922 (USA)
Also Known As: Moriarty
Filming Locations: London, England, UK
Production Co: Goldwyn Pictures Corporation
Did You Know?......
This is one of a few silent Holmes films that have survived, including his first appearance on screen (an Edison short called Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900)), the 1912 Danish short "The Copper Beeches" and a number of the series produced in Britain in the 1920s and starring Eille Norwood as Holmes.
The restoration of this film began in 1970, when the George Eastman House discovered several cans of negative of the film, consisting of incomplete, out-of-order clips. Film historian Kevin Brownlow screened a print of these clips for the film's director, Albert Parker, and with the information Parker gave him began a decades-long process of reassembling the film from the bits and pieces that survived.

Holmes - The Devils Foot - 1921


Full Title: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes #2: The Devil's Foot
Cast
Eille Norwood ... Sherlock Holmes
Hubert Willis ... Dr. John Watson
Harvey Braban ... Mortimer Tregennis
Hugh Buckler ... Dr. Sterndale
Directed By Maurice Elvey
Story Written By Arthur Conan Doyle
Details
Country:UK
Language:English
Release Date: April 1921 (UK) June 11 1922 (USA) May 21 (New York)
Production Co: Stoll Picture Productions

Holmes - The Dying Detective - 1921


Full Title: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Dying Detective Sherlock Holmes (Eille Norwood) knows that a man has killed a former partner but he can't prove it unless he finds a dying detective who knows what really happened. Norwood would play Holmes in over thirty films and he's quite good in the role bring an intelligent looking character but that's about the only good thing here. The story is somewhat hard to follow and again, Holmes isn't given much to do.
Cast
Eille Norwood ... Sherlock Holmes
Hubert Willis ... Dr. John Watson
Harvey Braban ... Mortimer Tregennis
Hugh Buckler ... Dr. Sterndale
Directed By Maurice Elvey
Story Written By Arthur Conan Doyle
Details
Country:UK
Language:English
Release Date: April 1921 (UK) June 11 1922 (USA) May 21 (New York City)
Production Co: Stoll Picture Productions

Holmes - Man With The Twisted Lip - 1921


Full Title: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes #8: The Man with the Twisted Lip
Nellie St. Clair becomes distraught over the disappearance of Neville, her respectable, middle-class husband last seen in the second story window of a seedy waterfront dive, and goes to Holmes and Watson for help. When Holmes and the police arrive, they find a filthy beggar, not St. Clair, in the building which also serves as an opium den. The missing man's clothes are found in the room along with his son's broken toy and a bloody fingerprint on the window sill. Holmes initially suspects foul play especially after St. Clair's coat, weighted down with with copper coins, is found on a nearby riverbank. However, after the Great Detective interviews the beggar in his cell, he is able to solve the case and reunite Mrs. St. Clair with her husband.
Cast
Eille Norwood ... Sherlock Holmes
Hubert Willis ... Dr. John Watson
Robert Vallis ... Neville St. Clair
Paulette del Baze ... Mrs. Nellie St. Clair
Mme. d'Esterre ... Mrs. Hudson (uncredited)
Directed By Maurice Elvey
Written By William J. Elliot
Story Written By Arthur Conan Doyle
Cinematography By Germain Burger
Details
Country:UK
Language:English
Release Date: April 1921 (UK) February 1 1922 (USA)
Filming Locations: England, UK
Production Co: Stoll Picture Productions

A Helpful Sisterhood - 1914



A girl joins a wealthy sorority and soon finds herself unable to keep up with their free-spending ways
Cast
Norma Talmadge ... Mary
Mary Maurice ... Grandmother
Marie Weirman ... Sophie
Marie Tener ... Louise
Mary Anderson ... Alice
Leo Delaney ... Detective
Van Dyke Brooke ... Mr. Vardon
Arthur Cozine ... John
Cortland Van Deusen ... Bert (as C. Van Deusen)
Ernest Cozzens ... (unconfirmed)
Directed by Van Dyke Brooke
Written by Margaree P. Dryden (story)
Details
Country:USA
Language:English
Release Date:31 March 1914 (USA)
Production Co:Vitagraph Company of America

Sarah Bernhardt on Stage - 1905

So They Tell Me - circa 1919



American movie. So They Tell Me, circa 1919, skewers the top headlines of its day, the World War I era.
Crude animation attempts to punctuate the sardonic and off-color humor supplied by political raconteur Warren W. Brown(?). Though the jokes are somewhat esoteric by today's standards, the tone straddles between bombastic entertainment and nativist propaganda.
Targets include labor activist Eugene Debs, Prohibition, the League of Nations, the Wobblies, Russian & German instability, the Bolsheviks, and fat women in bathing suits and burnt Christmas pudding.
An interesting snapshot of the mood of the US during the war at the beginning of the last century, WWI.

The Martyrs Of The Alamo - The Birth Of Texas - 1915



American movie. The story of the defense of the mission-turned-fortress by 185 Texans against an overwhelming Mexican army in 1836.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hamlet, the Fencing Scene with Laertes (1900, France)



"Le Duel d'Hamlet" is a milestone in many respects. It has a reputation of being the first movie screened with a synchronized soundtrack. (The sound of swords striking one another were recorded on a now-lost cylinder recording.) Also, this is the first fiction film with a major star in the lead role.
There are various surviving prints of this film. I've seen a 45 second version with titles, and a nearly 2 minute version without titles.
The movie consists solely of a saber fight. Bernhardt plays a cross-gender Hamlet, and Pierre Magnier is her fellow duelist, Laertes. A few bystanders, in Rennaissance dress, stand off to the right of the screen, and in the background, next to a painted backdrop.
The filming style is very 'Lumiere-esque.' Single, stationary camera shot. Brief running time. All action is clearly presented on a stage. A documentary of one scene from a theater production.
Near the end of the film, Bernhardt is slashed by Laertes' poisoned-tipped knife. She staggers, and in a daze, gives her most restrained death scene on film. She falls backwards in a faint. The bystanders catch her before she hits the floor. Hoisting her horizontal body up in the air, they act as pall bearers, somberly carrying her offstage.
On a historical note, this is the only footage taken of Sarah Bernhardt before her disastrous knee injury - which occurred in 1905, when she jumped off a parapet in the final scene in a production of La Tosca, during a South American tour.
She's very nimble in this film. She's 56 years old in this film, and is more buoyant than anyone else on the screen. There's no leaning on other actors, or clutching to sturdy furniture for support - as she tends to do in later films. "Le Duel d'Hamlet" is the closest we can get to see what Bernhardt was like in her prime. In 'Hamlet', she has the grace of a dancer. (This review was extracted from imdb site)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Frontier Flirtation - 1903



American movie. Opens on a stage with a painted backdrop of a forest or garden. On a park bench center stage sits a well-dressed woman with a dark veil obscuring her face, holding an open parasol overhead and a closed fan in her lap. A mustached cowboy enters, dressed in fringed chaps, boots, Western hat, neck kerchief, and pistol belt. When he spies the woman, he primps for a moment, arranging his mustache, and then approaches her. The cowboy takes off his hat and bows, then leans into the bench to talk with her. She rebuffs his numerous attempts to take her hand, but finally allows him to lift her veil. The cowboy reacts in horror as an animal face, perhaps a monkey's, is revealed, and then runs off the stage. A stylish gentleman in a suit with a straw boater and cane enters and sits familiarly beside the woman. He reaches over and removes what proves to be a mask as he and the now-beautiful woman have a good laugh. At one point, the gentleman gives her a kiss on the cheek.

Skating On Lake, Central Park - 1902



American Mutoscope and Biograph Company
Camera: Frederick S. Armitage
An interesting view of Central Park before there was a skyline of buildings. All along the length of the park on both sides and to the north, with the exception of the Dakota Apartments located at 72nd Street and Central Park West, It was virtually impossible to see anything other than sky above the trees. In the nineteenth century when people went to visit the park, they really were leaving the ''city.'' By 1900, except for the townhouses and tenements all along the length of the eastern side and along Central Park West, buildings taller than four to six stories were located near Herald Square and further south.
On 74th Street on the west side of the park the apartment building known as the "Dakotas" (built 1880-1884) acquired the name because it was so far up the island where there wasn't much else around, that people would say "It might as well be the Dakota Territories." It would be a few years beginning in 1904 with the opening and expansion of the subway that the boom in building would take off in the city's outer boroughs (The Bronx and Queens). Speculators began constructing entire city tenement blocks in earnest anticipation of arriving subway stations and a growing population.
Recommended reading:
The Park and the People / A History of Central Park
- Roy Rosenzweig, Elizabeth Blackmar
(This is the best history available)
Central Park - John S. Berman
(A good collection of photos from the Museum of the City of New York)

Kiss Me - 1904



American movie. This short film is from The American Mutoscope & Biograph Company.

Old Maid Having Her Picture Taken - 1901



American movie. An old maid is walking about the studio while the photographer is getting his camera ready. She first looks at a hanger, which immediately falls from the wall, not being able to stand her gaze. Then she looks at the clock, and her face causes it to fall to the floor with a crash. She then walks over to the mirror, which suddenly cracks in several places. The photographer then poses her. Just as he is to press the button the camera explodes with a great puff of smoke, completely destroying the camera and demolishing the studio. The picture finishes up with the old maid tipping back in her chair and losing her balance, displaying a large quantity of fancy lace goods. A sure winner.

Conscience de Magistrat (1908, France)



Charles Pathé
With his brother Émile, he founded Pathé Frères (Pathé Brothers, 1896) in Paris, a company that manufactured and sold phonographs and phonograph cylinders. The company placed the Kinetoscope, Thomas A. Edisons newly invented viewing device, in theatres throughout France. Using the camera developed by Louis and Auguste Lumière, Pathé Frères filmed numerous short subjects, the majority of which are sensational criminal adventures, melodramatic love stories, and comic anecdotes. In 1909 Pathé produced his first long film, Les Misérables, a four-reel screen version of the novel by Victor Hugo. That same year he originated the Pathé Gazette in France (U.S.: 1910; U.K.: 1911), which was an internationally popular newsreel until 1956. In 1914 Pathé Frères released from its studios in the United States the first episodes of The Perils of Pauline, one of the earliest and best remembered screen serials. The company also began publishing the screen magazine Pathé Pictorial.

Little Toys - 1933



A brief scene from the rare Chinese silent Little Toys (1933), starring the beautiful Ruan Ling-yu, the "Chinese Garbo", one of China's leading actresses who committed suicide at age 24.
In the film Ruan plays a toymaker who supports her family and community with her craft of toymaking. War and strife and loss becomes her lot in life but the courageous character of "Sister Ye" carries on no matter what befalls her.

The House in Kolomna - (1913, Russia)



This silent film from 1913 features the incredible Russian actor Ivan Mosjoukine (Иван Мозжухин) in a story based on Alexander Pushkin's comic poem. The plot is simple: a young girl is in love with a handsome guardsman but not allowed to be with him, so she persuades him to dress as a kitchen-maid & work in her mother's house. See what happens next.Directed by Peter Tchardynin (Петр Чардынин)
This is simply a delightful adaptation of Pushkin's verse story, "The House in Kolomna", with solid craftsmanship by Pyotr Chardynin and some fine performances from the cast. The cast and their director seem to get themselves thoroughly into the spirit of the story, and it is both interesting and entertaining to watch.
The story is one of Pushkin's lightest works, a fluffy and fun household tale, yet with his usual keen eye for human psychology and behavior. It starts with pretty young Parasha and her officer boyfriend trying to trick Parasha's mother into accepting the boyfriend as the new cook, and then leads into some very amusing situations from there. The humor is a nice combination of the absurd and the subtle, and this adaptation does an impressive job of communicating almost all of it.
Ivan Mozzhukhin seems to be having a great time in his role as the officer, and his performance is very entertaining and often rather resourceful. Sofya Goslavskaya is charming and engaging as Parasha, and she also gives a thoughtful performance that contrasts nicely with Mozzhukhin's boisterous style, making them a good working combination. Praskovya Maksimova, as the mother, has to play the straight part for most of the movie, but she also makes the most of her chances.

Ménilmontant (1926, France)



Kirsanoff's best known work is Ménilmontant (1926), which takes its name from the Paris neighborhood of the same name. The film is a silent, but does not contain any intertitles. It begins with a flurry of quick close-up shots depicting the axe murder of the parents of the protagonists, two girls.[1] As young women, they are portrayed by Nadia Sibirskaïa, Kirsanoff's first wife, and Yolande Beaulieu; their mutual love interest is played by Guy Belmont.[4] The film uses many other techniques that were relatively new at the time, including double exposure.
Director: Dimitri Kirsanoff
Writer: Dimitri Kirsanoff
Stars: Nadia Sibirskaïa, Yolande Beaulieu and Guy Belmont
There is an old German proverb that says that size doesn't matter ( well, size does count for this count having in mind the perimeter of his Teutonic heiresses… ) and the saying rings true with "Ménilmontant" a medium-length silent film directed by Herr Dimitri Kirsanoff, and a striking, disturbing masterpiece.
Herr Kirsanoff's direction is astonishing in every aspect of the film, particularly in its technique. It's a mixture of drama, avant-garde, experimental film and hyper realism. The story depicted in the film ( the terrible life of two orphan sisters ) doesn't allow any concession to the audience; to watch "Ménilmontant" today still invokes amazement, distress and an infinite sadness.
From the very start of the film ( superb, striking and masterful editing by Herr Kirsanoff himself ) the director shows power and imagination and a strong control of film narrative ( there is no need of intertitles ). Kiransoff's use of imagery is thrilling and brilliant. Images emphasize a ruined happy childhood and the duality and dangers of a big city ( flashbacks, imaginative camera angles, dreamy and poetic shots ) not to mention the sorrowful life of the two orphans, an existence of loneliness, abandonment and despair that broke the heart of a heartless German aristocrat, especially the superb scene in which the younger sister ( touching Dame Nadia Sibirskaia ) ,alone and hungry on a bench park with her baby, accepts some bread from an old man, a moving and lyrical scene, that summarizes the spirit and achievement of this oeuvre.
"Ménilmontant" is a work of art, a striking experimental style in the service of a tragic and sad story, brilliantly and disturbingly balanced.

I Graduated, But ... (1929, Japan)



Only a few minutes survive of this essentially lost silent film of famed Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu called I Graduated, But ... From 1929. Consider this video like watching a longer than usual trailer for the film. :)
It's about a recent college graduate who can't find a job because he considers an entry level office job beneath him. This forces the wife to have to work to support them, which makes the husband jealous and angry. Finally he is humbled and goes back to the same business to ask for work again, he is hired, and the marriage is restored.
It's funny to see in the couple's apartment a poster for Harold Lloyd's Speedy, an American silent film that came out the year before! It shows you that the Japanese were well aware of American films, and admired them.

Ceylon in 1930, Honeymooners holiday, Sri Lanka



Amateur home movie from 1930. A couple of British honeymooners in the middle of an 18-month trip round world reach Ceylon.
Colombo, Ceylon, Sri Lanka, India. Asia.
The Galle Face and hotel. Beach scene, deserted. Sunday morning in swimming pool. Playing, diving, swimming. Calling on the Pitkins and visiting Mount Lauinia being pulled in rickshaw. On beach. Shaking hands with dog. Drive along the sea road with the Roberts in horse-drawn cart and car at Bentota. Fishermen on beach hauling in nets (?). A glimpse of the disastrous floods, May 1930 flooded villages. Short of 750 mile Tour of Ceylon. A jungle road with car. Kurunesala: Singhalese types. Carrying on head. Villages. Buffalo at work. Paddy field five teams of oxen yoked. Potter's Clay at Mihintale. Interesting spinning of the wheel Trincomalee. Palm Trees. Fisherman's boats on beach.

Commissioner Higgins Visits Ahmedabad Girls' School (1904, United Kingdom)



A group of girls of different ages, wearing uniform dresses and saris, wave bunches of flowers around in a rhythmic exercise, directed by a woman teacher (18). A small group of European men and women visitors walk quickly past the girls and out of shot (21). The girls continue to wave the flowers (66). The group of Europeans walk back, waving at the camera and the girls (71). Blank (72). The visitors and their hosts on a verandah of a large building; the girls, led by their teacher, emerge in a line waving their flowers and perform an intricate dance movement. They finish in a close group to one side; the spectators wave and cheer and the girls wave their flowers for the camera (138ft).
The Salvation Army had first exhibited films in February 1897, and almost immediately announced plans to produce films of its own. This did not happen in Britain until 1903, with the establishment of the Salvation Army Cinematograph Department, which was set up as ‘a novel method of influencing the unsaved’ (Wiggins, 1964, 394). Indeed, over the next few years, the Army increasingly looked to exploit film and organise regular film screenings as a way to attract, particularly working-class, audiences to its meetings (Rapp, 1996, 163-4).
By 1906, the Cinematograph Department had produced 74 films. The vast majority of these (53 films) covered the Army’s work in Britain – for example Our Slummers at Work – but there were also eight films produced in Palestine during the founder General Booth’s tour, and thirteen from India. Historian Dean Rapp in analysing the surviving films, notes the ‘elementary’ nature of the productions – in their ‘minimal use’ of editing, titles and emerging camera techniques – but also considers how the Army sought to define itself through its on-screen appearances. He emphasises the prominent role of General Booth as a patriarchal figure within many of the films and argued that the films ‘portray the Army as it proudly viewed itself: hierarchically saluting, drilling, parading, inspecting troops and paying homage to its leaders, while also energetically preaching outdoors, distributing literature and playing music’. The Indian films ‘portray the worldwide scope of the Army’s evangelism’ and were probably, Rapp argues, ‘the first British missionary films produced by a Christian organization’ (Rapp, 1996, 171-173).
The films served to define the Salvation Army and, in exploiting a popular interest in film, also attracted audiences to the meetings. During 1904 a two-hour programme put together by the Cinematograph Department was used for a ‘cinematograph tour’, accompanied by speakers, across Salvationist Halls in England and Scotland. ‘Cinematograph displays’ were also advertised at the Electric Theatre during the Salvation Army’s International Congress in June 1904, while in September 1905 a ‘Cinematograph review’ of General Booth’s tour was held at the Royal Albert Hall (War Cry, 2 September 1905, 16). After 1908, the group’s engagement with cinema shifted. At this point the Army dismantled its Cinematograph Department, as it now joined a nationwide campaign against film immorality, cinema as a social space and film exhibition on Sundays (Rapp, 1996, 179). While the group’s engagement with cinema changed entirely, the function of this engagement did not. The group still sought to exploit a popular interest in cinema, to generate publicity, and define itself as a prominent moral campaigner, not now through film exhibition, but through film discourse.
The Salvation Army had first arrived in India in September 1882 – with a party of just four officers – but by 1904, War Cry was writing of ‘an army of about 50,000 soldiers and adherents’ (War Cry, 28 May 1904, 3). Colonel Bates, auditor-in-general, returned from India after a six-month visit in April 1904 and wrote about his experiences in ‘inspecting almost every phase of our work in the great Indian Empire’ (War Cry, 16 April 1904, 9). He noted the work carried out for ex-prisoners, the establishment of three rescue homes for women and the support given to children, orphaned and destitute as a result of famine. The Army’s broader work in education was also noted. A further report claimed that ‘so great is the lack of schools amongst the native populations of India that the Salvation Army has, in addition to its ordinary Spiritual and Social work, organised an [sic.] Educational work, which already numbers 415 day schools and eleven industrial boarding schools. These are attended by over 11,000 children’ (Social Gazette, 14 May 1904, 1). War Cry further noted that by the summer of 1904 there were 2,080 corps and outposts in India and Ceylon (War Cry, Summer Number 1904, 11).
Finally, this film – and the others depicting Salvation Army work in India – are part of a broader promotion and emphasis on the Army’s work in India during 1904. In March, Major Ewens gave an address on India and Ceylon at Eastleigh, which was accompanied by ‘seventy lantern views’, while in April, ‘interesting scenes of Indian life’ were shown at Fulham (War Cry, 5 March 1904, 6, 23 April 2904, 7). Major Byers ‘in Indian dress, talked on life and work in India’ at Peterborough in May, and Colonel Jeya Kodi ‘related thrilling incidents of work in India’ to an audience at Seaham Harbour (War Cry, 7 May 1904, 7, 14 May 1904, 7). Most notably, in June 1904, Commissioner Higgins, the army’s resident secretary for India, arrived in England as one of 47 representatives from India – including boys and girls from the schools – in order to take part at the Army’s International Congress. Before the Congress, the contingent spoke at Southend-on-Sea, where, according to War Cry, ‘the Commissioner’s Salvation talk, together with the Indians’ bright costumes, quaint music, thrilling testimonies and passionate earnestness, combined to make Southend, although on the banks of the Thames, as glowing and delightful as a scene on the Ganges’ (War Cry, 2 July 1904, 12). The tour continued over the next three months, with the party divided into two contingents, travelling extensively, in particular, across Scotland, and Yorkshire. By September, when they attended a meeting in Luton War Cry reported that ‘inside meetings to date have been attended by nearly fifty thousand people, and the outside crowds everywhere have been enormous’ (War Cry, 17 September 1904, 7).
One of thirteen films produced in India between 1903 and 1906, Commissioner Higgins Visits Ahmedabad Girls School, indicates both the ways in which the Salvation Army looked used film to define itself – here as moral educators – and to promote its work as an international missionary organisation. In two shots, the film highlights the pageantry and almost military organisation of the Indian children, firstly presenting, as Rapp termed it, a ‘pom-pom drill’ and then marching, still with pom-poms, around in a circle. This certainly fits with an imperial ideal or organising and militarising foreign subjects.
The visit of Commissioner Higgins and his accomplices may be almost comical in its brevity – he twice walks across the screen, acknowledging the camera, but not the performing children – and the fixed camera’s initial focus on the girls’ performance, rather than the officials who work in and out of shot, seemingly highlights an emphasis on displaying the Indians. The appearance of Higgins and the officials – and the performance staged on their behalf – does though serve to indicate to British audiences the hierarchy of British leadership and the local celebration of British officials. Certainly, the film mirrors Army reports of the time in its stress on the apparent enthusiasm and gratitude of the local people for the work of the Army. A report in War Cry in 1904 described a scene in India, similar to that depicted here. ‘The Salvation Army Officer’s visit is eagerly looked forward to by the villagers’, it explained. ‘The day school is decorated, the bandsmen play proudly and all the villagers stop work to look at the Muktifauj. Tom-Toms are beating, women run to the doors of their houses and children from the Army School sing as they march along “Rajah, rajah alla” (Jesus shall reign)’ (War Cry, 28 May 1904, 3). The film thus serves as part of a far broader discourse on the role and work of the British officials in India, with talks, lantern shows, and in particular, the extensive summer tour of Indian representatives, all bringing both the display and exoticism of India and the overseas missionary work of the Army to British audiences.

10th U.S. Infantry, 2nd Battalion Leaving Cars - 1898



American movie. "Hurrah here they come! Hot, dusty, grim and determined! Real soldiers, every inch of them! No gold lace and chalked belts and shoulder straps, but fully equipped in full marching order; blankets, guns, knapsacks and canteens. Train in background. Crowds of curious bystanders; comical looking 'dude' with a sun-umbrella strolls languidly in the foreground, and you almost hear that 'yaller dog' bark. Small boys in abundance. The column marches in fours and passes through the front of the picture. More small boys all colors. The picture is excellent in outline and full of vigorous life. Written by Edison Catalog (1898)

Love and War - 1899



American movie. "An illustrated song telling the story of a hero who leaves for war as a private, is promoted to the rank of captain for bravery in service, meets the girl of his choice, who is a Red Cross nurse on the field, and finally returns home triumphantly as an officer to the father and mother to whom he bade good-by as a private. The film presents this beautiful song picture in six scenes, each of which has a separate song, making the entire series a complete and effective novelty."
This dramatic feature is ambitious for something made in the 19th century, and it is quite creditable for its era. It also has some thoughtful moments, and so it still has something to say. It contains enough ideas for a much longer feature, even a full-length feature, and it packs them into a running time of just about two minutes with efficiency and decent craftsmanship.
The story starts with a young man leaving his home and his loved ones to fight in the war (apparently the still quite recent war with Spain), and it then follows both the soldier in the field and his family back at home as the war proceeds. It's the kind of story that would become fairly commonplace in cinema some years afterwards, but it is an involved story for a movie of its year.
Each scene is significant in showing the ways that the war created a painful tension between the young man's family life and his perceived responsibility to his country. The opening scene of him saying good-bye is easily one of the better such scenes made before 1905 or so.
In 1899, they just did not make movies much longer than this, and so the film-makers must have thought out carefully how to pack the most meaningful material into a short running time. It could easily have been expanded into a worthwhile movie at several times its length, yet it would still be a fair number of years before that would become commonplace.
All of that makes this little film quite worthwhile for its day. It requires extra attentiveness to watch, due to physical deterioration of the film, but it is worth the effort.

Burial of Maine Victims - 1898



American movies. "Taken at Key West, Fla., March 27, 1898. First comes a detachment of sailors and marines in the left foreground, while at the right is seen a crowd of small colored boys, which precedes any public procession in the South. Then follow the nine hearses, each coffin draped with THE FLAG. At the side of each wagon walk the pall bearers, surviving comrades, their heads bowed in attitudes of grief. Next come naval officers and marines, and lastly a procession of carriages, followed by a large crowd on foot. The scene is reproduced as it actually occurred. The figures are life size and well in the foreground." Written by Edison Catalog

Wreck of the Battleship Maine - 1898



American movie. "Taken in Havana Harbor from a moving launch, and shows the wreck of the 'Maine' surrounded by wrecking boats and other vessels. The warped and twisted remains show how thoroughly this immense mass of iron and steel was blown out of all semblance of a vessel. The background of this picture is formed by the shores of Havana Harbor, and as the yacht moves around, a panoramic view of the shores adds an interesting feature." Written by Edison Catalog (1898)

U.S. Infantry supported by Rough Riders at El Caney - 1899



American movie. "Up the road comes a detachment of infantry, firing, advancing, kneeling and firing, again and again. The advance of the foot soldiers is followed by a troop of Rough Riders, riding like demons, yelling and firing revolvers as they pass out of sight. Other troops follow in quick succession, pressing on to front." Written by Edison Catalog

Skirmish of Rough Riders - 1899



American movie. "Shielded by a thick bit of timber at a turn of the road stands a company of mounted men, awaiting the order to advance. In the foreground, left by the flotsam of battle, is a dead horse from the shelter of which two marksmen are picking off the enemy. Suddenly comes the command, 'Forward,' and the riders dash up the road, out of sight, leaving behind them a great cloud of dust and smoke. A detachment of infantry covers the advance, and volley repeatedly as they press forward." Written by Edison Catalog

Shooting Captured Insurgents - 1898



American movie. "A file of Spanish soldiers line up the Cubans against a blank wall and fire a volley. The flash of rifles and drifting smoke make a very striking picture." - from the Edison Catalog.
A contingent of soldiers marches forward with a group of prisoners. The officer in charge directs that the prisoners be lined up against a wall, to be executed. He gestures with his sword as the soldiers take aim, and then prepares to give the order to shoot.
Of course, it would've been dangerous and extremely difficult to film actual events during the Spanish-American War. So the Edison Manufacturing Company did the next best thing by re-enacting an event for this short.
Even though it wasn't "real", I can only imagine how disturbing it would have been back in 1898 to see people being lined up and killed. Due to its gritty, documentary-like feel, it is still somewhat unsettling to view even today. This short has been preserved by the Library of Congress and I viewed it as one of the unadvertised bonus shorts found in the DVD boxed set of "The Movies Begin - A Treasury of Early Cinema, 1894-1913".

Congress of Nations - 1900



American movie. A new and sensational film, which deals in a highly up-to-date way with the international situation. A magician steps upon the stage carrying a hoop covered with white paper. Then in quick succession the flags of Germany, Russia, Ireland, England and China are brought forth, and from each a soldier is produced corresponding with the flag of each nation. The magician adds a bit of comedy to the scene by producing a decidedly Hibernian policeman from the flag of Erin's Isle. The magician then waves his hand and the flags of all nations slowly dissolve and blend into one huge American flag. The American flag is then dissolved and the military representatives of the nations form a tableau over which is draped their respective flags.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fire! - 1901



American movie. Firefighters ring for help, and here comes the ladder cart; they hitch a horse to it. A second horse-drawn truck joins the first, and they head down the street to a house fire. Inside a man sleeps, he awakes amidst flames and throws himself back on the bed. In comes a firefighter, hosing down the blaze. He carries out the victim, down a ladder to safety. Other firefighters enter the house to save belongings, and out comes one with a baby. The saved man rejoices, but it's not over yet. Another resident appears upstairs. He jumps.
This is quite an ambitious film for 1901, and it's clear that a lot of thought and attention to detail has gone into its' making. It's very similar - for obvious reasons - to Edwin S. Porter's Life of an American Fireman, but was actually made two years earlier. Strange then that Porter's opus receives such attention from film historians while James Williamson's more impressive and exciting (for my money) effort seems to be held in much less regard.
Some of the scenes of the fire are particularly impressive and excitingly staged - especially the sequence when the fireman hacks his way into the victim's bedroom which is clearly genuinely ablaze (well, the curtains, anyway). It has to be said, though, that the film plays its strongest hand too early as nothing that follows matches the power of this scene. Definitely worth a look though...

Stop Thief -1901



American movie. A lad from a butcher shop is carrying a tray laden with a roast or a leg of lamb. A hobo grabs it and runs. The boy gives chase, joined by dogs, as neighbors watch the spectacle. The hobo jumps into a large rain barrel, followed by the dogs. The boy arrives on the scene and pulls out the dogs, one at a time, until he reaches the bottom of the barrel. He's in for a surprise.
The crime chase film was a popular genre in the early history of film, and it perhaps began here, with James Williamson's 'Stop Thief!' Many of these films, including this one, are notable for their fluid succession of shots to create (at least at the time) an exciting continuity of action. Demonstration of this can be seen in three 1903 crime chase films also included on Kino and the BFI's programs--they being 'A Daring Daylight Robbery', 'A Desperate Poaching Affray' and 'The Great Train Robbery'. Later, D.W. Griffith expanded upon this genre with his last-minute rescue films, such as in 'The Girl and Her Trust' (1912). Also, Williamson created one of the earliest comedy chase films, 'Our New Errand Boy' (1905). Pathé and Keystone comedies, notably, but also just about every other studio, continued the tradition of chase comedies passed the early stages of cinema history. By the 1920s, there was still Buster Keaton making some exceptionally funny slapstick chases, including the one in 'Cops' (1922).
'Stop Thief!' is a three-shot film and appears primitive compared to the chase films that followed it. It involves a vagabond stealing a loaf of bread; he's then pursued by the baker, or deliveryman, he stole the bread from. Some dogs also enter the chase. The thief hides in a barrel, but unsuccessfully, as his pursuer pulls him out and begins assaulting him. The continuity editing interestingly doesn't follow the modern rule of the axis of action. In the first shot, the characters exit the frame at the left side in the background. They enter the second shot from the left, which they had just exited from. After exiting the second shot at the right side, they then enter the third shot from the right. Following the modern continuity rules of direction across the screen, that's all backwards. In 1901, however, the rules hadn't been invented--because film pioneers like Williamson had only just begun to establish them. Another 1901 movie made by Williamson, 'Fire!', obeys this rule of continuity, as do his later films 'An Interesting Story' (1904) and 'Our New Errand Boy'. In addition, Michael Chanan ("The Dream That Kicks") makes an interesting suggestion that in 'Stop Thief!' Williamson was following theatrical continuity.
The other continuity element here is the direct cuts, which have continued to be the preferred transition between shots throughout the history of film. That's a given nowadays, but Williamson and other pioneer filmmakers were faced with conscious decisions on such elementary matters back then when there wasn't an established history of film grammar.

Chess Fever (1925, Russia)



Original Title: 'Shakhmatnaya goryachka'
Script: Nikolai Shpikovsky
Cast: Vladimir Fogel, Anna Zemtsova, Boris Barnet, José Raúl Capablanca
With an international chess tournament in progress, a young man becomes completely obsessed with the game. His fiancée has no interest in it, and becomes frustrated and depressed by his neglect of her, but wherever she goes she finds that she cannot escape chess. On the brink of giving up, she meets the world champion, Capablanca himself, with interesting results. (IMDB.com)
Though not his first film, Russian director/cinema theorist V. I. Pudovkin's 'Chess Fever' was the first to be released. Essentially a comedy, this 2-reel exercise in montage manages to make the game of chess seem thoroughly cinematic. Illustrating his theory that "The foundation of film art is editing", Pudovkin uses apparently unrelated images to fashion a smooth, well-integrated unified whole. He goes so far as to rabbet in shots of legendary chess master José Raúl Capablanca so that his film will have a 'star'.
Other grandmasters to be seen in this movie: Ernst Grünfeld, Frederick Yates, Frank Marshall, Richard Réti, Rudolf Spielmann and Carlos Torre (all playing in the 1925 Moscow International Tournament ).
00:40 At the tournament
02:25 In the days of the chess fever
04:39 − Remember, my darling, the most dangerous thing for the family life is... chess!
04:57 On the signboard is written "Chessplayer, stop here!"
05:50 On the wall-advert is written "Chess Tournament"
10:02 − I loved only you...
10:09 − And you love only chess!
10:16 − Between us all is finished!
10:29 − I will poison myself...
10:34 − I surrender. I will drown myself!
11:07 − Grandfather, my life is broken!
11:20 − My child, take the source of consolation and peace.
11:31 The title of the book is 'Pleasure of the sage. Anthology of the most antique chess problems'
11:43 Late wishes
12:12 − Kolecka has just played such a fine Queen's Gambit... I can't breathe!
12:26 There is no place in life
13:11 Pharmacy
13:28 − Give me something in big quantity and strong against pain.
14:09 Maybe love is stronger than chess?
15:14 Maybe love is stronger than chess?
15:29 Back to the fiancée
16:10 − Leave me alone! Because of chess I hate all the world...
16:19 − I understand this feeling. When I meet a beautiful woman, I also hate chess.
16:34 − Finally I meet a chess enemy!
16:41 − Tell me how you saved yourself from chess fever...
17:06 On the wall-advert is written "International Chess Tournament"
17:14 − I give a final look, and then ... that's all!
17:22 At the tournament
17:33 − Pass! Pass!
18:05 Here are the effects of the Champion's narrations
18:18 − Darling, darling! I didn't know it is such a wonderful game!
18:33 − Darling, let's play a Sicilian...
18:53 The family happiness begins!

How To Use A Telephone - 1927



Attention Central California Residents: This film shows the actual cutover date from operator assistance to direct-dial (local only) in Fresno and Madera California.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Doubles for Darwin - 1924



American movie. A famished Felix reads an advertisement telling of a large reward for anyone that can give proof for the theory of evolution. He hurries to South Africa via Transatlantic Cable and interacts with the local animals. He angers a troop of monkeys by telling them why he's there (they're offended he would suggest they could be related to humans) and they chase him back through the cable to America.
Felix is starving to death when he notices a newspaper ad offering a large reward for anyone who can prove Darwin's theory that man comes from monkeys. When Felix heads off to find the answer in South Africa I kept waiting for something racial to happen but it never did, which was pretty shocking considering when this film was made. On the whole, there really isn't too many laughs here and in fact not too much happens throughout the running time. The best scene in the film is one where Felix finds a "family tree" of monkeys and asks them if they are related to humans. The old style animation might be tough for some viewers to take but I've always found it quite charming.

Felix the Cat in Hollywood - 1923



American movie. Felix the Cat was the first animated superstar, and these early shorts reveal the source of the character's phenomenal popularity. Animator Otto Messmer created Felix for "Feline Follies," a one-shot cartoon designed to fill a gap in an installment of the Paramount Screen Magazine. Messmer had learned how to use mime and expressions by studying the films of Charlie Chaplin, and even in his relatively crude debut film, Felix seems alive.
Felix decides to make his way to Hollywood, but has no money. The owner of a failing shoe store promises Felix $500 if he can help bring in new business, which Felix ingeniously manages to do, but the owner stiffs him out of the money. Felix finds a way to get to Hollywood, anyway, and while there meets up with the famous stars of the day, like Charlie Chaplin and Ben Turpin.
Otto Messmer and Pat Sullivan's Felix the Cat was the first widely popular cartoon character in film history. In this one, there's a gag involving gum and shoes at the beginning, and Felix transforms himself into the likeness of handbag to travel to Hollywood, which is rather representative of the fantastic nature of the Felix cartoons. In Hollywood, Felix meets his peers, including Charlie Chaplin, who some say is the basis for much of Felix, and who Messmer caricaturized in another animation series. Felix also meets caricatures of Ben Turpin, William S. Hart, Douglas Fairbanks, Cecil B. DeMille and President of the Motion Picture Association of America, Will Hays, who others say was the basis for the next big cartoon star, Mickey Mouse. 'Felix in Hollywood' is one of the earliest screen efforts at caricaturizing live-action movie stars, something Looney Tunes are now famous for. Additionally, as Disney would similarly capitalize on later creations, the image of Felix was marketed extensively, appearing on merchandise and in newspaper comic strips.

Une Noce En Bretagne (1908, France)

L'heritage de La Vieille Fille (1910, France)



Ferdinand Zecca (1864 in Paris March 6, 1947 in Paris) was an early French film director.
Zecca was a cafe entertainer, playing the cornet, before switching to film in his mid-30s. His first film credit, Le Muet mélomane (1899), was the film version of a musical fantasy which he and a colleague named Charlus performed in Parisian cafés at the time.
At the Paris World Fair (Exposition Universelle) in 1900, French film manufacturer, Charles Pathé, hired Zecca to assist him in setting up his pavilion. Zecca did so well that Pathé hired him as assistant to the director of his film factory in Vincennes.
Between 1900 and 1907, Zecca directed or supervised hundreds of Pathé films. After Pathé bought the rights to Star films, Zecca started editing George Melies' films. He also acted, produced, and on occasion wrote films. He co-directed La Vie et la passion de Jésus Christ (1905), which with a length of 44 minutes was one of the first feature-length films about Jesus.

An Animated Luncheon - 1900



American movie. A short film from The Edison Manufacturing Company from 1900. The scene takes place in a fashionable cafe. A well dressed couple enter, and after a careful perusal of the menu, conclude on an order of boiled eggs and Welsh rarebit. The obliging waiter delivers the order. The guests break open the eggs, and two beautiful white chickens fly across the room. The diners then perform a similar trick with the Welsh rarebit just served, and two beautiful snow white rabbits hop from the dish and are seen kicking and squirming as they are lifted to the floor. It was all a joke, but the waiter is not on. Your audience will catch on, for it is a good, lively subject, full of action.

Barcelone, Parc au Crépuscule (1904, France-Spain)

Création de la Serpentine (1908, France)



Fourteen years earlier, Thomas Edison's company had filmed the Serpentine dance -- a woman in a flowing road, waving arms around, producing pretty geometric patterns -- as the entire point of SERPENTINE DANCE. But the movies had moved on, and in this movie, Segundo de Chomon uses it as a point of grammar in this rather confused, although interesting film. We get scenery, with a fiddler playing as 18th century patrons do a minuet; we get some Melies moments as the devil appears, makes the dancers vanish and takes the fiddler to pandemonium, where they produce an entire corps de ballet doing the serpentine dance. It's quite lovely.
But it's clear that De Chomon was trying to integrate these elements and produce a story, using these bits as grammatical devices. And the story is a bit muddled. Is dance the product of the devil? Are the dancers imps tempting the audience into evil?

L'insaisissable Pickpocket - 1908



Country: France
Here's yet another fine trick film made possible by the camera-work of Segundo de Chomon, the man to whom Pathe turned whenever they wanted to take a chunk of Georges Melies' market away. Here he does Melies one better in a film that was much copied.
It's a film in which a pickpocket constantly escapes the flics, and the technique for the camera tricks is fairly obviously: stop the camera, remove the actor, have the other actors come on and start the camera again. Still,l the variations are numerous and keep you interested in how he's going to do it this time and, more interesting from a technical viewpoint, there are several scenes that were shot on site -- not in the studio, where people like Melies had all the factors under control.

Le Miroir Magique (1908, France)

Rescued by Rover - 1905



Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
The film opens with Rover, a collie playing with a child in front of a fireplace. Later that day, the baby is taken out in a pram by her nurse. The nurse refuses to aid a beggar woman, and is then distracted upon meeting a soldier. While talking to the soldier, she pays no attention to the baby, and the beggar woman approaches from behind and snatches the sleeping child.
In the next scene, the nurse confesses to the mother that the child has been lost. Rover, also sitting in the room, listens before jumping through the window and racing down the street, going around a corner and across a river. The dog makes its way to a slum and barges through each and every door; he finds the right one and enters. In an attic, the beggar woman is removing the clothing from the child; the dog enters and is driven off by the beggar.
The dog leaves the house and swims back across the river, down the street and into its master and mistress's home. In a study, the child's father is sitting; Rover enters and pleads with him to follow. They leave, with the man following the dog across the river in a boat to the slums. They enter the room where the child is hidden, and the father quickly takes the child from the beggar woman and leaves with the dog. Upon their return home, the child is placed in the arms of the mother, while Rover prances happily around them.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

La maison Ensorcelée (1907, France)



At its heart, this is a variation on one of Melies' most imitated -- especially by himself -- shorts: some travelers enter an abandoned house, and then, inside, everything goes all pear-shaped, as chairs vanish, the house rocks back and forth and the travelers are, eventually, scared out of their wits.
As such, it is not much. However, its director, Segundo de Chomon, elaborates the theme enormously. First, this one is shown in a dozen separate scenes, as first we see the travelers approaching the house and the spirit haunting the place is shown. In the middle are two major stop-motion pieces as food is carved by invisible hands.. The camera also moves, showing the house rocking back and forth.
But although this is much more elaborate than the usual Melies pieces, it does not depart from the basic situation. It uses the tricks, largely, for their own sake. It would be in the next couple of couples that these camera tricks would cease to be the point of the film and become part of the grammar of cinema.

El hotel electrico (1908, Spain-France)



In summation, as baggage is checked in that baggage moves by itself to a room where it opens itself revealing lots of brushes that now move out. We next see a man and a woman sitting down before we see the man's boot get unbuckled by itself. With the boot off, a brush moves itself up and down on the front end. We next see the woman's coat come off by itself before her hair gets a thorough brushing-also by itself-before the hair ties itself into a bun. Then comes a scene of a man in front of a wall full of electrical switches. As he pulls one large switch down, we cut to a scene of various chairs and other furniture moving in chaotic ways as the short ends...Primitive but still fascinating look at trick photography in the early 20th century. Must have truly awed audiences back then. Definitely worth a look for silent film buffs.

L'HERITAGE DU RAPIN (1908, France)

An Interesting Story - 1904



American movie. The adventures of an inattentive man. He's at his kitchen table, reading. A woman brings his hat and points to the clock. He continues reading and pours coffee into his hat. He leaves, still reading, trips over a servant who's on her hands and knees cleaning the walk. He walks through jump-roping girls, runs into a mule, walks into the only other person on an empty street, and then walks into the path of a steamroller. Two cyclists approach his flattened body. Out come their air pumps, and soon our genial hero has set off again, nose in his book.

La Signora Cannone ha Caldo (1910, Italy)

The Frogs Who Wanted a King (1922, France)

The Boy and The Elephant (1913, France)

Buy your own cherries (1904, United Kingdom)

The magic sword (1901, United Kingdom)

The over-incubated baby (1901, United Kingdom)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Kiddies Cakewalk (1903, United Kingdom)

A Chess Dispute (1903, United Kingdom)



A stationary camera looks on as two dapper gents play a game of chess. One drinks and smokes, and when he looks away, his opponent moves two pieces. A fight ensues, first with the squirting of a seltzer bottle, then with fisticuffs. The combatants wrestle each other to the floor and continue the fight out of the camera's view, hidden by the table. The waiter arrives to haul both of them out.

Burstup Homes Murder Case - 1913



American movie. A spoof of Sherlock Holmes who was quite popular at the time.
Directed by Alice Guy Blache in the Solex Studios.

Wiggle Your Ears - 1929



American movie. Ear wiggling--girls can't help falling in love with boys who can do it. Wheezer thinks it's ridiculous.
Authors Leonard Maltin and Richard W. Bann rightly characterize "Wiggle Your Ears," a 1929 Our Gang short silent film as "an amusing but absolutely bizarre two-reeler." [from their book: THE LITTLE RASCALS: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF OUR GANG] That assessment is spot on in terms of both story and cinematography (the use of disarmingly extreme close-ups).
In this video, you will see that ear-wiggler Harry Spear and blonde bombshell Jean Darling make a cute, but ultimately tragic couple. You will witness Mary Ann Jackson rising from the ashes of thankless toil and heartbreaking despair to fall in love with faux-ear-wiggler Joe Cobb. You will see a bemused contribution by Farina. Best of all, you will behold Bobby "Wheezer" Hutchins—willing to connive at deception by pulling Joe;s ear(s) with a string, but who remains absolutely (and wonderfully) unimpressed and derisive about everybody's actions. ("Wheezer" was Our Gang's resident raspberry expert.)
These kids were cast members of Hal Roach's Our Gang on the eve of the motion-picture-sound revolution. They may have been succeeded by the most popular Rascals of all--e.g. Spanky, Darla, Alfalfa, Buckwheat, Porky, Butch, et al.--but they were no less charismatic and fun to watch. Their delightful work deserves public rediscovery. This video provides one means to that end.

Shivering Spooks - 1926



American movie. *The kids are playing baseball when a man dressed in Middle-Eastern clothing comes out and tells them to be quiet. They join Mary, Farina, and Scooter in the gang's hide-out while Mary is reading ghost stories. While on the other side of the wall, the Arab-looking man is cheating people out of their money by staging a fake séance using state-of-the-art special effects. The cave entrance for the gang's hide-out collapses, so they light candles and dig into the wall, entering into the house. The "suckers" find out they are being cheated and run to get the cops to book the guys. The guys find out that the kids are in the house, and one dresses up in a ghost costume and chases the kids throughout the house.
*(This is the censored version.)

Thundering Fleas - 1926



American movie. A 1926 Our Gang Short Featuring Oliver Hardy.

The Sun Down Limited - 1924


Country: United States
Language: English
Director: Robert F. McGowan
Writers: Hal Roach (story), H.M. Walker (titles)
Stars: Lassie Lou Ahern, Peggy Ahern and Joe Cobb
Release Date: 21 September 1924 (USA)
Also known as: Sundown LTD. (USA - alternative title)
Production Co: Hal Roach Studios
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White
Plot Keywords: Children | Our Gang | Actor Shares First Name With Character
Genres: Comedy | Short | Family
Mickey and Joe manage to climb into the engine car in the railyards and cause all sorts of mischief until they are thrown out.... so they build their own railroad! Far more elaborate and far-fetched than this sweet-natured series usually is, once again, it works because of the playfulness and reality of the kids. 

War Feathers - 1926



War Feathers is a 1926 short silent comedy film directed by Robert F. McGowan and Robert A. McGowan. It was the 54th Our Gang short subject released.
(From Wikipedia)

WolfBlood - 1925



American movie. Wolf Blood, also known as Wolfblood: A Tale of the Forest, is a silent 1925 werewolf movie starring George Chesebro, who also directed it.
The film has been referenced in a number of books as being the first werewolf movie ever made. There is no official music score primarily because the film was made during the silent era of movie making.

His First Flame - 1927



His First Flame (1927) is an American silent comedy film starring Harry Langdon and directed by Harry Edwards. Additional cast members include Natalie Kingston, Ruth Hiatt, Vernon Dent, and others.
In a review of Langdon's collective work, critic Michael Barrett discussed the film and wrote, "His First Flame was Langdon's first feature, made for Sennett but not released until 1927 to cash in on his First National hits. Its central feature is a romantic triangle between rich idiot Langdon, his golddigging fiancee Kingston, and his woman-hating uncle Dent. In a segment of very dark humor on the joys of domestic violence, Harry witnesses two simultaneous donnybrooks in neighboring houses, one in the foreground and the other in deep focus in the background. This is one of the set's clearest examples of Langdon's tendency to exploit humiliation and unease, an area of comedy that crosses into an audience's discomfort zone. Among these early works, this daring sequence is perhaps the clearest application of Agee's warning (or celebration) about Langdon's strange territory, though Agee was probably thinking most of the homicidal feature Long Pants." (From Wikipedia)
Directed by Harry Edwards, Produced by Mack Sennett, Written by Frank Capra and Arthur Ripley, Starring Harry Langdon and Natalie Kingston

The Sealed Room - 1909



American movie. In this movie suggested by Poe's "A Cask of Amontillado", The king constructs a cozy, windowless love-nest for himself and his concubine. However, she is not faithful to her sovereign, but consorts with the court troubadour. In fact, they use the king's new play chamber for their own lovecraft. When the king discovers this, he sends for his masons. With the faithless duo still inside, the masons use stone and mortar to quietly seal the only door to the vault...
Cast
Arthur V. Johnson ... The Count
Marion Leonard ... The Countess
Henry B. Walthall ... The Minstrel
Linda Arvidson ... A Lady-in-Waiting
William J. Butler ... Nobleman at Court
Verner Clarges ... Nobleman at Court
Owen Moore ... Nobleman at Court
George Nichols ... Workman
Anthony O'Sullivan ... Workman
Mary Pickford ... A Lady-in-Waiting
Gertrude Robinson ... A Lady-in-Waiting
Mack Sennett ... A Soldier
George Siegmann ... Nobleman at Court
Directed By D. W. Griffith
Cinematography By G. W. Bitzer
Written By Frank E. Woods
From The Story By Honoré de Balzac "La Grande Breteche"
From The Novel By Edgar Allan Poe "The Cask of Amontillado"

The Golden Louis - 1909



American movie. Directed and Written By D. W. Griffith, Cinematography, Arthur Marvin. As a frail young girl is outside begging in the snow, she collapses from weakness and from the cold. A well-dressed gentleman passes by and sees her, and he leaves a valuable gold coin in the shoe that she was using to collect alms. Meanwhile, at a gambling house nearby, another man is having a bad night and is becoming desperate. He walks outside, and he notices the girl and the coin. He could easily take it, but he is torn between his need and his pity for the girl. Written by Snow Leopard
Anita Hendrie ... The Mother
Adele DeGarde ... The Child
Owen Moore ... The Good Samaritan
Charles Inslee ... The Gambler
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Linda Arvidson ... Reveller
Kate Bruce Gladys Egan George Gebhardt ... Reveller
Arthur V. Johnson ... Gambler
Florence Lawrence Marion Leonard ... Reveller
Wilfred Lucas Mack Sennett ... Gambler / Reveller
Dorothy West ... Reveller
Herbert Yost ... Gambler / Reveller

R.F.D. 10,000 B.C. - 1917



American movie. Unreleased stop motion animation from Edison Studios in 1917.

New York City (Sanitation) Dumping Wharf - 1903



American movie. Photographed April 28, 1903.
Thomas A. Edison, Inc.
Camera: James Blair Smith
The film shows a wharf where a barge is being loaded with trash from two-wheeled, horse-drawn wagons. The trash is dumped off the edge of the pier onto the barge, where men with shovels are spreading the piles of debris. The camera pans left to the next barge, where four-wheeled carts are shown dumping excavation rubble. Probably filmed on the East River, this is one of several New York City Sanitation Department dumping wharves in operation at the time.

New York Police Boat Patrol Capturing Pirates - 1903



American movie. Photographed May 10, 1903.
Thomas A. Edison, Inc.
Camera: Edwin S. Porter, James Blair Smith

This was probably filmed in the southern part of the Upper New York Bay looking towards the Narrows, with Fort Lafayette partly visible in the far background. The subject is a simulated capture of three ''pirates'' in a rowboat by the police gunboat ''Patrol.'' Puffs of smoke appear as the gunboat fires several rounds from the bow cannon, which can be clearly seen later in a side view of the boat [1:04]. The ''Patrol'' was a steel twin screw, 135 foot, 118 ton police boat, built in 1893 at Sparrow's Point, Maryland.

Eastside Urchins Bathing in a Fountain - 1903



American movie. October 30, 1903
Directed by Edwin S. Porter
Original Edison catalog description:
Shows a number of boys bathing in a fountain on the East Side. While they are at the height of their amusement, which consists of splashing the bystanders and swimming around, a policeman suddenly appears. There is immediately a wild scramble from the fountain, the boys seizing their clothing and dashing away, almost nude, through the streets.
"It's da Cops! Cheese it!!"
This is one in a series of films done by Porter for Edison Studios in which he documented the city's ghetto life. While many of the films produced were 'actualities,' there are some like this one, which were set up specifically for the camera.
Film from the Library Of Congress

Railway hopper car dumper in action - 1897



American movie. This movie dates back to 1897 and shows a hopper car dumping machine in operation, quite incredible.

The Astor Tramp - 1899


Country: United States
Release Date: November 1899 (USA)
Filming Locations: Orange, New Jersey, USA
Production Co: Edison Manufacturing Company
Runtime: 2 min
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White
Genres: Short | Comedy
"A side splitting subject, showing the mistaken tramp's arrival at the Wm. Waldorf Astor mansion and being discovered comfortably asleep in bed, by the lady of the house."   

Annie Oakley - 1894



American movie. Early film of Annie Oakley (Phoebe Moses) shooting, made in Thomas Edison's Black Maria studio.

Carmencita - 1894



American movie. The first woman to ever step in front of a motion picture camera in 1894. No sound.

Ella Lola, a la Trilby - 1898



American movie. A young, dark-haired woman performs a dance inspired by George du Maurier's character Trilby, in an early modern dance style reminiscent of Isadora Duncan. She dances barefoot without stockings and is dressed in a long, flowing gown bound across the bosom in Grecian style, with inside fringe and a draped cape hooked to her wrist. She also wears what appears to be a garland headpiece. Holding her gown with one hand throughout, the dancer performs a series of kicks and turns with leg kicks front and back, rocking, and round de jambe.

Ella Lola - 1898



American movie. Ella Lola - Turkish bellydancer - 1898
From the New York clipper, 4/19/02, p. 167: Ella Lola was born Sept. 2, 1883, in Boston, and made her first appearance as a dancer at the age of eleven years, and by her clever work has steadily come to the fore, until now she takes rank among the best in her class. She has been featured at various times with road companies, and has met with success at the leading vaudeville houses through the country.
Apparently filmed in Edison's "Black Maria" studio in West Orange, New Jersey.