Thursday, October 06, 2016

Behind the Door (2016 restoration by San Francisco Silent Film Festival / Gosfilmofond)

Behind the Door. Magazine ad. The shadow behind Hobart Bosworth is a hint at the atrocities involved in the taxidermist's vengeance. Please do click on the images to enlarge them.

Behind the Door. War has been declared. Oscar Krug (Hobart Bosworth) has German family roots. He is manhandled and almost lynched. Photo: Collezione Jay Weissberg.

Behind the Door. Captain Oscar Krug, about to start his war service, says farewell to his beloved wife Alice (Jane Novak). Photo: Collezione Jay Weissberg.

Behind the Door. Oscar Krug, the sole survivor of the ship hit by the torpedo of a German U-Boot. Photo: Collezione Jay Weissberg.

Behind the Door. The unsuspecting German U-Boot commander Lt. Brandt (Wallace Beery) enjoying the hospitality of Oscar Krug. Photo: Collezione Jay Weissberg.

Behind the Door. US 1919. PC: Thomas H. Ince Prods. Dist: Famous Players-Lasky Corp. / Paramount-Artcraft. Supervisor: Thomas H. Ince. D: Irvin V. Willat. Orig. 5969 ft.
    2016 restoration: San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Tinted & toned, Desmet method. 5221 ft / 20 fps / 70 min
    Print source: San Francisco Silent Film Festival / Gosfilmofond of Russia.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto: Riscoperte.
    Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, e-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti, grand piano: Philip C. Carli, 6 Oct 2016.
AA: Released one year after the Armistice of the First World War, Behind the Door still belongs to the current of wartime propaganda films. Late examples of that current included The Heart of Humanity which had had its premiere in February 1919. Special features of these films included sadistic German officers (Erich von Stroheim in The Heart of Humanity, Wallace Beery in Behind the Door) and Red Cross nurses facing fates worse than death. In The Heart of Humanity Stroheim throws a crying baby out of the window before having his way with the nurse. In Behind the Door there is open season among the German submarine's crew with the American captain's wife, whose remains are finally blasted off through the torpedo tube.

Watching Behind the Door I had the feeling that sadism was the raison d'être for this film, and war propaganda was the excuse. Cinema has a special ability to appeal to our basest instincts, and in Behind the Door this ability is liberally put to use.

One of the most terrible effects of war is brutalization. Behind the Door is an account of brutalization and also itself an instance of brutalization.

There is a strong and bold account of xenophobia in the beginning of the film. War has been declared against the Central Powers, including Germany. Captain Oscar Krug (Hobart Bosworth), who has German family roots, is immediately manhandled, and his newly wed wife Alice (Jane Novak) is banished from her father's house although Krug has been enlisted. Because there is no other place for Alice to go she enlists, as well, as a Red Cross nurse on her husband's very ship.

Oscar Krug is a taxidermist, and when they finally sink the submarine of Ltn. Brandt Krug personally rescues Brandt and has him brought to his cabin where he shows him perfect German hospitality. During a long and delicious meal liberal quantities of alcohol are consumed, and Krug learns the unabridged story of Alice's fate ("she fought like a tiger"). After which Krug proceeds to skin Brandt alive. Unfortunately "he died before I was finished".

Krug has become deranged. In his extreme cruelty he has turned out to be a beastly Hun after all. "The German streak crops out sooner or later", say the fellow officers. The xenophobia and the prejudices displayed by the mob in the beginning are proved right.

Like in The Heart of Humanity the strongest performance is that of the villain: Erich von Stroheim in the earlier film, Wallace Beery in this one. With Maurice Tourneur's Victory (also 1919), Behind the Door belonged to the most prominent early roles by Beery who had already acted in dozens of films since 1913.

I have been aware of Behind the Door since reading Kevin Brownlow's books, and I have not been looking forward to see it. Behind the Door is a very well made film, interesting mostly from the viewpoint of the psychopathology of the audiences. Impressive features include the haunting scenes at the graveyard by the sea (in the beginning and in the end of the movie), Krug charmingly "healing" a little girl's doll, the account of the mob violence, the wild fistfight, footage on sailing and being cast adrift, and the sadistic act being conveyed by the reactions to ghastly sounds by fellow officers in an adjacent cabin in a silent film.

A top quality reconstruction and restoration from obviously challenging sources with damaged footage and scenes missing.

Beginnings of the Western 2, Prog. 2: Cowgirl Films

Sallie's Sure Shot (US 1913).  Myrtle Stedman as Sallie who has a way with the gun. Photo: BFI National Archive, London. Please click on the images to enlarge them.

Beginnings of the Western 2, Prog. 2 Cowgirl Films    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto: Origini del Western 2.
    Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, e-subtitles in English and Italian by Sub-Ti, grand piano: Donald Sosin, 6 Oct 2016.

Broncho Billy's Narrow Escape. The duet of Broncho Billy and Vedah Bertram. Photo: EYE on YouTube.

BRONCHO BILLY’S NARROW ESCAPE (Een moeilijke ontsnapping van Broncho-Bill) (US 1912). D: G. M. Anderson. C: G. M. Anderson (Broncho Billy), Vedah Bertram (Lois Martin), Arthur Mackley (Ben Martin), Brinsley Shaw (Baxter), Fred Church, Victor Potel, Harry Todd, Jack Roberts, Pat Rooney, Willis Elder. PC: Essanay. Rel: 6.7.1912. 35 mm, 940 ft, 13'50" (18 fps); titles: NLD. Source: EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam (Desmet Collection).
    Richard Abel: "Ben Martin is a prospector with a partner, Baxter, who wants to marry Lois, Martin’s daughter. Hired by the prospector, Broncho Billy and Lois are attracted to one another, and their singing (to guitar and banjo) irritates both Baxter and her father. The prospector discovers some rich ore and sends Billy off on horseback to stake a claim. Rejected by Lois, Baxter follows and, encountering two sets of cowboys, falsely accuses Billy of stealing the prospector’s horse. After a chase along a wooded hillside, they catch up with Billy, take him into a barn, and threaten to lynch him. Meanwhile, incredulous at Baxter’s accusation, Lois races off on horseback and reaches the barn just in time to prove Billy’s innocence. The film ends with an emblematic close shot of the couple smiling and chatting, until Billy (in an a typical gesture) slides a ring on to her finger."
    "This too is a rather unusual “Broncho Billy” film in that he is an ordinary cowboy falsely accused of being a thief and has to be rescued by the woman he loves, who can ride a horse as well as any man. Also unique is the couple’s pleasure in singing and playing music together, w hich signals their compatibility."
    "Even the camerawork has its unexpected moments, as in several shots near the end, when the characters come forward into silhouette as they pass through the barn door, from the brightly lit exterior to the darkness of the interior."
    "According to David Kiehn, leading lady Vedah Bertram (actual name, Adele Buck) made 22 westerns with Anderson between December 1911 and August 1912, when she suddenly was hospitalized in Oakland, California, with acute appendicitis, and died of a blood clot and inflammation of the heart on August 26, 1912, at the age of 20."
– Richard Abel

AA: In reaction to Richard Abel's thorough program note above I can only confirm that the chemistry between Broncho Billy and Vedah Bertram is appealing, the joy of the duet singing to guitar and banjo is infectious, and the rescue by Lois (Vedah Bertram) is unusual but convincing. Yes, interiors are dark, but the visual quality is ok.

A Girl of the West (US 1912), Rollin S. Sturgeon, starring Lillian Christy, photo Collezione Jay Weissberg.

A GIRL OF THE WEST (De Paardendieven) (US 1912). D: Rollin S. Sturgeon? C: Lillian Christy (Dolly Dixon), Helen Case (Polly Dixon), Helen Galvin (Nell), Robert Thornby (Scar-faced Bill), Tom Fortune (John Winthrop), Tom Powers (Jack Jones). PC: Vitagraph. Rel: 20.01.1912. 35 mm, 902 ft, 13' (18 fps); titles: NLD. Source: EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam (Desmet Collection).
    Scott Simmon: "“HOORAY! FOR THE AMAZONS,” shout cowboys in the final intertitle of the slightly mistitled A Girl of the West, which features two gun-toting, rapid-riding young women – the ranch girl (Polly) and the outlaw (Nell) – along with the heroine’s older sister ( Dolly), who lectures her unsuccessfully about proper female behavior in the West. This story has its pleasures, even if the film’s marketing tag – “ Clever as they make’em” – proves to be a bit of a stretch. “ Scar-faced Bill’s” scheme is harebrained even by Western bad-guy standards, and relies on selling a stolen horse to a rancher who has already shaken hands over the purchase w ith the rightful owner. That owner, Dolly’s love, is hardly brighter, failing even to notice that his horse has been stolen until the final shot, when Polly hands him the purchase money she has recovered. Women clearly need to take charge!"
    "The film uses its dull landscapes badly, foregrounding messily staged groups. A Girl of the West is evidently one of the final Westerns Vitagraph shot on the East Coast, and the flat dirt auto roads where the chases are uninventively shot, along with the lack of interiors, add to a visual style that is oddly old-fashioned from this usually sophisticated company."
    "Although Vitagraph had filmed in Southern California on winter tours dating back to 1910, its new Santa Monica studio had opened only the month before this film’s release in January 1912. Its possible director, Rollin Sturgeon, moved West with the new studio, and would prove to be inspired by California landscapes."
    "A Girl of the West’s advertising fails to keep its story straight, conflating the two sisters: “She is full of pluck and able to take care of herself when attacked. ‘She’s a trump.’ Herbeau tells her so and then and there proposes.”Moving Picture World’s review (3 February 1912) makes the same character confusion, and was otherwise underwhelmed. The love-interest sister, Dolly (renamed Daisy in the surviving Dutch print), appears only in the first two and the final shots. It’s as if the ideal heroine needed to be split in two, with our horse woman Polly proving too fully one of the boys to be marriage material. She ends laughingly happy with that.
" – Scott Simmon

AA: Scott Simmon's program note is so good that I can only keep nodding at it. Lillian Christy and Helen Case are attractive as the Western sisters Dolly and Polly. Polly discovers the horse thieves' plot. Plenty of action, but there is little talent in directing and mise-en-scène. Visual quality ok.

The Craven. Anne Schaefer is disappointed at her husband Robert Thornby. He has seduced her with tales of heroism but turns out to be a coward. Photo: EYE on YouTube.

THE CRAVEN (De vrouw van den lafaard) (US 1912). D: Rollin S. Sturgeon. C: Anne Schaefer (Anne [Dutch print: Maud]), Robert Thornby (Harvey Fiske), [William] Eagle Eye (The Mexican), Charles Bennett (Mr. Childs, Anne’s uncle), Fred Burns (Tom Beckett), ? (Black Pete). PC: Vitagraph. Rel: 19.4.1912. 35 mm, 902 ft, 14'50" (16 fps); titles: NLD. Source: EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam (Desmet Collection).
    Laura Horak: "“Only goes to s how that the wife is sometimes the ‘betterman’ of the two. A cowardly husband gets credit for bravery that his wife performs, leading others to believe that he is a man to be honoured,” announced a Vitagraph ad for this film."
    "Anne, the niece of a ranch owner, and the local ranch hands all fall under the spell of a boasting city slicker, Harvey Fiske. Anne marries Harvey, but discovers too late that he is a coward. When a Mexican bandit threatens to kill them if they don’t give him $50, Harvey trembles and goes for the money. Anne grabs a gun and chases the bandit off. The ranch hands, none the wiser, elect harvey to be their sheriff. However, when he receives instructions to apprehend another notorious bandit, he tells his wife he can’t do it. Anne yanks off his ammunition belt and straps it to her own waist, grabs her hat and rifle, and stomps out the door. She manages to track down the bandit and, after a thrilling shoot-out among a stand of tall rushes, kills him. Anne returns home and orders Harvey to recover the body and take the credit. From the house, she watches through the window as he rides into town w ith the body and later shakes the hands of the happy ranch hands."
    "The Craven was one of many films from this period that dramatized white male cowardice (e.g., The Honor of His Family, 1910). It was also one of many in which courageous white women took over for incapacitated brothers, husbands, and sweethearts (e.g., On the Western Frontier, 1910; A Western Girl’s Sacrifice, 1910; The Post Telegrapher, 1912). In fact, Anne Schaefer played a similar role in How States Are Made (1912), shown at last year’s Giornate. Schaefer had moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles with Vitagraph regulars Sturgeon, this film’s director, and actors Thornby, Bennett, and Burns (all in this film) in October 1911 to form the Western branch of the Vitagraph Company. The Western Vitagraph films were often praised for uniting spectacular locations with quality photography, complex plots, and mature acting.
" – Laura Horak

AA: Again the program note – by Laura Horak – fully covers everything. "The newcomer seduces Anne / (Maud in this print) with false tales of heroism". But when there is an invading robber, Anne needs to take care of him. When Harvey, believed to be the hero, is appointed sheriff, he "does not dare refuse". Also the assignment to seize Black Pete needs to be handled by Anne. The psychological depth of this story becomes evident towards the end. Anne's deep shock at the realization that she has killed Black Pete. She asks Harvey to "go ahead and take the reward". Her sorrow and disappointment. Fine performances by Anne Schaefer and Robert Thornby. The landscapes are beautifully photographed. A somewhat duped but ok visual quality.

A Bit of Blue Ribbon. Photo: EYE.

A BIT OF BLUE RIBBON (Het blauwe lint) (US 1913). D: Rollin S. Sturgeon. SC: W. Hanson Durham. C: Mary Charleson (Kitty), Charles Bennett (Jim Hartwell, her father), Anne Schaefer (her mother), Robert Burns (Steve), [William] Eagle Eye (a Mexican). PC: Vitagraph. Rel: 4.1.1913. 35 mm, 741 ft, 11'04" (18 fps); titles: NLD. Source: EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam (Desmet Collection).
    Laura Horak: "Kitty, a ranch owner’s daughter, loves Señor, an old racing horse to whom she has tied a blue ribbon. When her father Hartwell tells her cowboy sweetheart Steve to kill Señor, he refuses. (These parts of the story are not explained in the Dutch intertitles.) Instead, Hartwell undertakes the task; just as he is about to shoot Señor, a Mexican appears and tries to steal Hartwell’s horse. A shot is fired, and Hartwell falls to the ground. The Mexican grabs the ribbon out of Hartwell’s hand and puts it in his hat. Steve arrives, and shots are exchanged."
    "The Mexican rides off, and tells the ranch cowboys that Steve has shot the ranch owner. The cowboys find Steve bending over Hartwell and bring Steve to the sheriff. Hartwell regains consciousness, but has amnesia. After Kitty and her mother tend to him, he regains his memory and tells them the truth."
    "However, the sheriff and cowboys are about to hang Steve for the crime. Kitty leaps on a horse and rides off to stop them, but she encounters the Mexican, who is running away on foot. She leaps off and attacks him, but he steals her horse, dropping his hat with the ribbon in it. She grabs the hat and runs to the hanging tree, arriving ust in time to show the ribbon and explain what really happened. The cowboys chase and shoot the Mexican, who falls off his horse. The synopsis says that the Mexican, “confronted with the evidence of his guilt, the bit of blue ribbon... confesses and is sentenced to death,” but we don’t see this in the surviving print. Instead, after Kitty and Steve embrace, Steve shakes Hartwell’s hand."
    "This convoluted plot was written by W. Hanson Durham, a prolific photoplay writer who was hired by Vitagraph in the fall of 1912 to write and edit scenarios for their Western studio. Durham wrote articles for aspiring scenario writers in the magazine The Photo Playwright, advising them to buy a “brain book” and write down any “striking and strong” title that occurred to them. He bragged that he had bought a Maxwell automobile with the proceeds from his screenplays , and the magazine’s editor praised his “good, strong, virile photoplays.”"
    "William Eagle Eye plays Mexican bandits in both The Craven and this film. Born in Globe, Arizona, in 1880 (or 1887), Eagle Eye played Mexican, Indian, and sometimes Chinese villains in over 40 films. Little is known about him, but he declared himself “Indian” and his occupation “buffalo herder” in the 1910 census, which found him working at an Oklahoma ranch."
    "He was likely Apache or Yavapai, as these groups had been forced onto a reservation near Globe in 1872, after silver was discovered on their land. Eagle Eye worked in films between 1911 and 1924, and is said to have died in Los Angeles in 1927 when he was knocked to the ground in a fist fight.
" – Laura Horak

AA: There is nothing to add to Laura Horak's note in which the film makes more sense than in the print viewed (in which important background information is missing, as is the fate of the bandit). A complicated story of misunderstandings, and a last minute rescue of the hero (Robert Burns) by the heroine (the appealing Mary Charleson). High contrast.

UNA OF THE SIERRAS (US 1912). D: Ralph Ince. SC: Marguerite Bertsch. C: Mary Charleson (Una), George Stanley, Anne Schaefer, Earle Williams, Robert Thornby, Florence Turner, E. K. [Edward Kline] Lincoln, Ralph Ince, Tefft Johnson. PC: Vitagraph. rel: 15.11.1912. 35 mm, 924 ft, 13'41" (18 fps); titles: ENG. Source: BFI National Archive, London.
    Laura Horak: "“Brought up in the Mountains Wild, She is more than a Match for a Crafty Financier. She’s a Hummer and Can Do Things,” announced Vitagraph’s ad. Una is the only child of a California prospector. When he dies, she goes to live with her aunt in the city, accompanied by a tidy fortune (“enough gold to pay the national debt!”). She explores her new surroundings with zest, jumping into the driver’s seat and even onto the hood of a moving car and doffing her outer clothes to splash around in the Pacific. Her wealth and liveliness prove popular, but she spurns Sharpe, a shady investor, in favor of the kindly Clifford, also a stock broker. When Sharpe conspires against Clifford, Una thwarts his plan by convincing her uncle to buy up 50,000 shares of stock and showing up at the boardroom to cast her votes and cast igate the scheming company leaders. In this print, the film ends with Una smiling at the gratified Clifford. In the published synopsis, she asks Clifford “if they are engaged,” and he answers with a kiss."
    "Placing a frontiersperson in the city or a city slicker on the frontier was a sure-fire way to get a laugh in the 1910s and also to symbolically resolve the regional tensions of a large, diverse country. Often these contradictions are enacted by cowboys who romp through the big city, in films from The Cowboy Millionaire (1909) to Manhattan Madness (1916), or by coddled city boys who try their hand Out West, from Algie the Miner (1912) to Wild and Woolly (1917). However, city women also give ranch life a go in The Cow Boy Girls (1910) and The Cowboys and the Bachelor Girls (1910), and frontier females take on the city in the Mabel Normand vehicles Mickey (1918) and Rowdy Ann (1919)."
    "With this film, Rollin S . Sturgeon turned to “comedy without chaps,” the New York Dramatic Mirror noted, though the director credit ultimately went to Ralph Ince, younger brother of the producer Thomas H. Ince. The film was written by Marguerite Bertsch, the prolific Columbia University-educated screenwriter hired as a staff writer at Vitagraph in 1911. She not only rose to editor-in-chief of the scenario depar tment in three years, but also directed four films, telling a journalist: “I never wrote a picture that I did not mentally direct. Every situation was as clear in my mind as though the film was already photographed.”"
    "Born in Ireland, actress Mary Charleson moved to California at a young age and performed in more than 80 films between 1912 and 1920. In 1916 she began appearing opposite Henry B. Walthall. They married two years later, after his divorce, had a daughter, Patricia, and remained together until Walthall’s death in 1936.
" – Laura Horak

AA: A comedy about a girl from the Wild West (Mary Charleson) who arrives at the city, an early instance of a theme that was still valid in Beverly Hillbillies and Coogan's Bluff. (The Finnish counterpart would be Rovaniemen markkinoilla). Mary Charleson is funny as the wild girl, restless in a moving car, throwing her clothes off at the beach, surprising everybody at the shareholders' meeting. A fine roster of female players (with Anne Schaefer and Florence Turner). Well directed, well acted. The acting is natural. A fine print with some duped passages.

SALLIE’S SURE SHOT (US 1913). D: ?. PC: William Duncan. SC: Cornelius Shea. C: Myrtle Stedman (Sallie), William Duncan (deputy Fred), Lester Cuneo (Coyote Jim), Tom Mix (“Injun” Sam), ? (Rob Ralston, Sallie’s father). PC: Selig. Rel: 4.7.1913. 35 mm, 973 ft, 14'25" (18 fps); titles: ENG. Source: BFI National Archive, London.
    Laura Horak: "“A Tale of Devotion and Dynamite.” Coyote Jim and his gang plan to jump Ralston’s mining claim when he leaves his daughter Sallie alone at their mountain cabin. Sallie pulls a gun to scare off “Injun” Sam, who spies on the cabin. After Fred, Sallie’s sweetheart, warns the gang, Jim, Sam, and the others go ahead w ith their plan. They threaten Sallie and take her to the nearby claim. While Fred slowly approaches the claim, the gang prepares to dynamite the cabin, lighting a fuse they have run out a window. As the gang begins to celebrate, Sallie grabs a rifle, keeps them at bay, and whirls to cut the fuse in half with a “sure shot.” After Sallie and Fred return to her cabin Jim relights the fuse, but Fred grabs the dynamite and throws it at the gang. In the explosion’s aftermath, he and Sallie tie them all up and hand them over to the sheriff.
    "Selig films had long dramatized the grit of Western women, from the hardworking sisters who run a Colorado farm in Girls in Overalls (1904) and the dangerous cross-dressing Female Highwayman (1906) to the athletic cowboy girls portrayed by Pansy Perry, Myrtle Stedman, Betty Harte, and Kathlyn Williams. In fact, Sallie was not the first Selig heroine to display such impressive shooting skills – in The Girl from Montana (1907), Pansy Perry’s character races on horse back to rescue her falsely accused sweetheart and shoots through the suspended rope just as he is hung."
    "Myrtle Stedman (née Lincoln) appeared in more than 200 films between 1910 and 1938, the year she died. In addition to cowboy girls, she played militant suffragettes in Selig comedies like When Women Rule (1912) and The Suffragette, or The Trials of a Tenderfoot (1912). Stedman left Selig later in 1913 and worked for several companies. In 1915 she starred in Lois Weber’s film The Hypocrites, and became the first woman elected to the short-lived Motion Picture Board of Trade of America. A journalist noted that Stedman was“ blessed with an abundance of brain, diplomacy and popularity.” Her son, Lincoln Stedman, became a movie actor and theatrical producer."
    "The film was shot in Prescott, Arizona, where the local Chamber of Commerce had lured Selig’s Colorado unit in January 1913, when Lubin’s Western company left for Mexico. Selig made Westerns in Prescott for more than a year, building the Diamond “S” Ranch just outside the town. Tom Mix plays the “half-breed” Sam, which was a regular type for him at this time, unless he was playing the cowboy hero for which he became famous.
" – Laura Horak

AA: A tale of female heroism. Myrtle Steadman is convincing as Sallie, the prospector's daughter, who thwarts the villains' intention to jump her father's claim. Together with her sweetheart Fred she resists the villains' gang, but Sallie's marksmanwhip is crucial: she cuts the dynamite fuse with her bullseye shot. There is a touch of comedy in the finale when the villains are packaged together with rope. An ok, fair print.

Sinfonie della città: Chicago, Tokyo, Beograd (+ a short film on Warsaw)

Beograd – prestonica kraljevine Jugoslavie (YU 1932), D: Vojin Djordjević, photo: Jugoslovenska Kinoteka, Beograd. Please click on the images to enlarge them.

Le Giornate del Cinema Muto
Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, e-subtitles in English and Italian by Sub-Ti, grand piano: Stephen Horne, 6 Oct 2016.

I have lost my notes on this show which is why I just copy the excellent Pordenone catalog notes, also on their website.

AMERYKANIZACJA STOLICY [Americanizzazione della capitale / Americanization of the Capital City] (PL, ca 1931-1932). D: ?. Cinematography: B. Borkowski. PC: Towarzystwo Filmowe “Wytwórnia Doświadczalna”. 35 mm, 62 m, 2'17" (24 fps); titles: POL. Source: Filmoteka Narodowa, Warszawa.
    "Newsreel item. The skyscraper of the Telecommunications and Telegraph Of f ice (Urząd Telekomunikacyjny i Telegraficzny) was built in Warsaw between 1928 and 1934. Situated at the corner of Nowogrodzka and St . Barbara streets, the tower, designed by Polish modernist architect and engineer Julian Puterman-Sadłowski (1892-1953), is 42. 5 metres high, and was one of the tallest buildings on the skyline of the pre-war Polish capital." – Katarzyna Koła-Bielawska

Sinfonie della città 2, Prog. 2 Chicago, Tokyo, Beograd

Halsted Street (US 1934), D: Conrad Friberg, photo: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Halsted Street (US 1934), D: Conrad Friberg, photo: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

HALSTED STREET (US 1934). D: Conrad Friberg. P: Conrad Friberg, Film and Photo League of Chicago. DCP (from 16 mm, 397 ft), 11' (transferred at 24 fps); titles: ENG. Source: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
    "In 1934, after the introduction of sound, Conrad Friberg, a member of the Workers Film and Photo League who also used the pseudonym Conrad O. Nelson, made a silent domestic city symphony about Chicago. That same year another semi- professional filmmaker, the German writer, traveler, and photographer Heinrich Hauser, made another city symphony about Chicago, the feature-length Weltstadt in Flegeljahren. Ein Bericht über Chicago (A World City in Its Teens. A Report on Chicago), which was screened in Pordenone last year. Both Hauser and Friberg placed some emphasis on the situation of the working class in the Depression era. However, whereas Hauser, like Ruttmann and others, presented the city as a space of simultaneity, Friberg introduced an alternative to the cross-section idea of the life of a city. By tracing the length of Halsted Street from south to north through the entire cityscape, his short film preserves the spatial structure of urban space, and literally cuts through the city. Indeed, Friberg announces his course in an opening intertitle, “This Film Presents a Cross Section of Chicago As Seen On Halsted Street.”
    "Tom Gunning has described Friberg’s film, originally shot on 16 mm, as one of the most original urban documentaries produced before World War II, a neglected masterpiece that offers a unique approach to urban geography and an alternative to the city symphony concept . The street defines the structure of the film, a linear path determined by a progressive trajectory along the course of Halsted Street . Due to the length of the street , the film shows a variety of Chicago neighborhoods, which unfold successively on the screen; shop and restaurant signs mark the different ethnic districts, as the film also explores the city as a space of textual inscription. However, Friberg combines this specificity of location and the street-determined cross-section structure, which suggests a linear montage, with the associative and contrasting editing techniques typical of city symphonies, thereby adding another layer of meaning to the film. Halsted Street is not only a genuine cross-section, but also a distinct montage film."
    "The curators of this series would like to thank Tom Gunning (University of Chicago) for drawing our attention to this film and for his inspiring analysis of Halsted Street in “One -way Street : Urban Chronotopes in Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City and Conrad’s Halsted Street”, published in Urban Images: Unruly Desires in Film and Architecture, Synne Bull, Marit Paasche, eds. (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2011). My note is based on Gunning’s article and refers to some of his ideas." – Eva Hielscher

FUKKÕ TEITO SHINFONI [Sinfonia della ricostruzione della metropoli imperiale/Symphony of the Rebuilding of the Imperial Metropolis] (JP 1929). D, PC: Tokyo shisei chosa kai [Tokyo Institute for Municipal Research]. 35 mm, 570 m, 32' (16 fps); titles: JPN. Source: National Film Center of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. Print struck in 2009, from the 35 mm intermediate negative transferred from the 35 mm nitrate print repatriated from the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.
    "The film Fukkõ Teito Shinfoni focuses on the rebuilding of Tokyo in the 1920s as its central theme. On 1 September 1923 the Great Kanto Earthquake devastated Tokyo, causing an enormous fire that burned 36 square kilometers to the ground and killed 68,000 people."
    "Following the disaster, the master commission for rebuilding the city seized the opportunity to make extensive changes in regulations affecting the cityscape, most importantly replacing traditional modes of wooden construction and introducing new architectural styles and materials, such as reinforced concrete and steel. Tokyo was rebuilt, re-emerging as a modern metropolis. In October and November 1929, the Tokyo shisei chosa kai (Tokyo Institute for Municipal Research), which was established in 1922 by Tokyo Mayor Shinpei Goto, organized an exhibition, “Teito Fukko” (Rebirth of the Imperial Capital), to document and display the progress achieved thus far. For this exhibition the Institute also produced the film Fukkõ Teito Shinfoni, which was screened at the city hall in Hibiya."
    "The film follows the city symphony dawn-to-dusk structure, portraying a day in the life of the rebuilt Japanese metropolis. We see the city’s bridges over the Sumida River, modern means of transportation, streets, markets, factories, residential, off ice, and government buildings, work, leisure activities, and neon lights at night, as well as other characteristic city symphony motifs. In addition, further rebuilding activities are underlined. The film also includes a return trip from Tokyo to Yokohama, showing different urban zones and the city’s spatial expansion."
    "In its structure and content of modern urban life, Fukkõ Teito Shinfoni relates to other city symphonies of the era. Its filmmakers were most probably familiar with Walther Ruttmann’s Berlin, as it was widely screened in Japan in 1928 and was proclaimed a great work of art, even though contemporary critics were split between a celebration and a sharp critique of the film."
    "I would like to acknowledge Chris Dähne’s research on this film. My notes are based on her writings (Die Stadtsinfonien der 1920er Jahre, 2013, and “Cinematic Urbanism and Architecture of Tokyo in Times of Epochal Upheaval,” in Eselsohren 2, 2014)." – Eeva Hielscher

Beograd – prestonica kraljevine Jugoslavie (YU 1932), D: Vojin Djordjević, photo: Jugoslovenska Kinoteka, Beograd.

Beograd – prestonica kraljevine Jugoslavie (YU 1932), D: Vojin Djordjević, photo: Jugoslovenska Kinoteka, Beograd.

Beograd – prestonica kraljevine Jugoslavie (YU 1932), D: Vojin Djordjević, photo: Jugoslovenska Kinoteka, Beograd.

BEOGRAD – PRESTONICA KRALJEVINE JUGOSLAVIJE (Beograd – Na razmedji Istoka i Zapada) [Belgrado, la capitale del Regno di Jugoslavia (Belgrado al crocevia tra Est e Ovest) / Belgrade – the Capital of the Kingdom of Yugoslav ia (Belgrade – At the Crossroads between East and West)] (YU 1932). D: Vojin Djordjević. Cinematography: Josip Novak, Anton-Harry Smeh. PC: Jugoslovenski Prosvetni Film, Beograd. DCP (from 35 mm, 1534 m.), 56' (transferred at 25 fps); titles: ENG. Source: Jugoslovenska Kinoteka, Beograd (digital restoration 2K, 2016).
    "The gala premiere of the first great domestic film about our country’s capital city, Beograd – Prestonica Keraljevine Jugoslavije (Belgrade – the Capital of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia), took place in mid- March 1932, at a sold- out screening at the cinema “Uranija”. Its director, Vojin M . Djordjević (1897–1985), was a well - known journalist , photographer, and film historian, who at the time was also the General Secretary of the National Film Centre in Belgrade. He had started to make a short documentary film about Belgrade a few years earlier, but had to abandon it due to lack of funds. In the meantime, Jugoslovenski Prosvetni Film [Yugoslav Educational Film], a production company with offices in Belgrade and Zagreb that enjoyed preferential status and the strong support of the official authorities, was founded, in 1931. Shortly afterwards Djordjević finally was able to obtain the backing he needed for his long-standing project."
    "At the time of the film’s press premiere two months earlier, in mid-January 1932, it was known by its alternate title, Beograd – Na razmedji Istoka i Zapada (Belgrade – At the Crossroads between East and West) and was 2050 metres long. For the public premiere in March it was shortened to around 1500 metres. After the January press show, a reporter for the Belgrade municipal newspaper Beogradske opštinske novine wrote: “It shows the capital as it was and as it is now; the film is a part of the capital’s history as well as a genuine document about the intensive life of today, its modern development and construction, the dynamics of its great progress, and its signif icant role in state, home, and international life. Belgrade that vanishes and Belgrade that is being born, Belgrade that advances with a vigour before which foreigners halt, Belgrade that lives from dawn till dusk.”"
    "Although reactions were largely positive, critics generally thought the film was too long, that it lacked a strong structure, and needed to be greatly shortened to dispense with certain unnecessary repetitions and made more comprehensible for foreign audiences. As a compromise solution, the March premiere version was cut by more than 500 metres. This was received more favourably, as this positive text by a critic in the politically influential journal Vreme (Time) demonstrates: “In a series of scenes representing various views and parts of the capital, magnificent edifices, traffic, parks, landmarks and monuments, street life, points of interest, picnic spots, docks, festivals, sports, construction works on the capital’s modernization, etc., the complete outer appearance of Belgrade was shown... After tiny fragmented films without distinctive significance for the general depiction of the city, Jugoslovenski Prosvetni Film, our biggest production company, has finally created a film about Belgrade that completely shows the life, creation, perspectives, history, and beauty of our capital city.”"
    "From today’s point of view, it seems that this pioneer venture was rather unjustly attacked and criticized at the time it was made, since it did not claim to resemble either in conception or style those significant “city symphony” experiments such as Alberto Cavalcanti’s Rien que les heures (1926) and Walther Ruttmann’s Berlin. Die Symphonie der Großstadt (1927). It undoubtedly created in its unique and documentary manner a film fresco of Belgrade, the city that is a link between East and West, the city that leaped into the age of asphalt and modern multi-storey buildings directly from Turkish cobblestones and damp houses made of mud, rising like a phoenix from the ashes after dreadful destruction and looting in World War I."
    "The film has been restored using the 6 reels of the work print , in which shots were completely out of order and all the intertitles were missing. All of the intertitles incorporated in this new digital copy have been reconstituted using Vojin Djordjević’s original screenplay, which has survived, although today some frames of the film do not exist." – Aleksandar Saša Erdeljanović

Who's Guilty 12: Weighed in the Balance

Who's Guilty? (US 1916), Motion Picture News (24-06-1916), photos: Media History Digital Library. Please click to enlarge them.

WHO’S GUILTY? NO. 12. WEIGHED IN THE BALANCE (Кто виноват? – Невинная жертва / Kto vinovat? – Nevinnaya zhertva) (US 1916). D: Howell Hansel. SC: P. A. Parsons, Mrs. Wilson Woodrow [Nancy Mann Waddel Woodrow]. Cinematography: Henry Cronjager. C: Tom Moore (Tom Clark), Anna Q. Nilsson (Edna Carr), Mary Moore (Tom’s sister), Mathilde Brundage (Tom’s mother). P: William Edgar Shallenberger, Arrow Film Corporation. Filmed: Arrow Film Corporation Studios, Yonkers, New York. Dist: Pathé Exchange, Inc. Rel: 24.7.1916. Copy: 35 mm, 575 m (orig. 2 rl.), 25' (20 fps); titles: RUS.
    Print: Gosfilmofond of Russia.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto: Who's Guilty?
    Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, e-subtitles in English and Italian, grand piano: Daan van den Hurk, 6 Oct 2016.

Federico Striuli: "This episode represents a return to melodrama. Tom Clark’s comfortable life ends when his father suddenly dies. Rolling up his sleeves, Tom manages to find a job in the same mill his father had run, and there he meets Edna Carr. When Tom’s jealous boss Graham fires him, his fellow workers go on strike in support. This chapter was written by P. A. Parsons, the advertising manager of Pathé Exchange." – Federico Striuli

AA: I did not see this episode the title of which reminds us of the Book of Daniel ("You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting" is Daniel's interpretation at Belshazzar's feast about the writing on the wall: "mene, mene, tekel, upharsin"). But as I was waiting in the lobby of Teatro Verdi for the City Symphonies to start I had a chance to watch the startling crowd movement of the strike scene of Weighed in the Balance. So electrifying that I was thinking that Eisenstein might have been inspired.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Monte-Cristo I–II (Henri Fescourt 1929) (2006 reconstruction, Lenny Borger, ZZ Productions, ARTE)

Evento del mercoledi / Midweek Event
Monte-Cristo I–II. FR 1929. PC: Films Louis Nalpas. D+SC: Henri Fescourt – based on the novel Le Comte de Monte-Cristo (1845) by Alexandre Dumas père. 5230 m /21 fps/ 218 min
   Lenny Borger: "Monte-Cristo is being shown at Pordenone in the 2006 reconstruction produced by ZZ Productions for the Franco–German culture channel ARTE. This is based on an incomplete black & white French distribution print preserved by Gosfilmofond of Russia and a nitrate Dutch distribution print salvaged by the Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek. This version corresponds to the 15 reel prints shown in Paris in October 1929. A few shots were blown up from a 17.5mm print in a private collection."
    "An earlier restoration of Monte-Cristo was done by the Czech film archive in 1993 and was shown at Pordenone that year. It was based on two incomplete nitrate prints from the film’s Czech release. Despite the excellent reconstitution, that version is missing some key episodes, notably that of Mr. Morrel’s thwarted suicide.
" – Lenny Borger
    2K DCP from ZZ Productions (Paris).
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto: (Ri)scopriamo / (Re)Discovering Henri Fescourt.
    Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, e-subtitles in English and Italian, grand piano: Donald Sosin, alla batteria: Frank Bockius, 22 Oct 2016

AA: For me the story of Le Comte de Monte-Cristo is special.

I was already seven years old when I started to read, and I then jumped right into great novels. Les trois mousquetaires and Le Comte de Monte-Cristo by Alexandre Dumas père were the first books I read. They also inspired me to learn to write. The names of the heroes I copied from these books were the first words I wrote.

From Les trois mousquetaires I learned the ideal of "one for all – all for one". And also: "vive l'amour, vive la compagnie"!

To learn from Le Comte de Monte-Cristo is more complex. It is about the revenge mentality but also, and more importantly, about transcending that mentality. How to deal with injustice? The only solid answer is to fight for justice. Revenge would mean succumbing to the level of injustice. Instead, we should think like Michelle Obama: "When they go low, we go high".

From the 1910s to the 1930s Frenchmen had a blessed touch in the genre of the epic film. Albert Capellani, Abel Gance, Henri Fescourt, and Raymond Bernard directed several epics of lasting value. Capellani, Fescourt, and Bernard each even directed multi-volume adaptations of Les Misérables, all great. Pordenone's midweek event last year was Fescourt's version of Les Misérables which I skipped since I know pretty well the previous restoration, equal in length, which we screened in our tribute series to the grand restorations of La Cinémathèque française in the 1980s. I studied it thoroughly at the time. Those films were the ones where I learned the name of Lenny Borger who was covering them for Variety.

Fescourt's Monte-Cristo is a much less well known epic, a true discovery, one of the late great silents which never received the attention they deserved since they became victims of the transition to sound film. I have seen other adaptations of Dumas's story, but none of them have been particularly memorable.

Fescourt's version is the exception. It is a masterpiece. Fescourt understands the fairy-tale aspect of the narrative and even emphasizes it with allusions to One Thousand and One Nights. On the other hand Fescourt firmly grounds the tale in physical reality. It has been very important for him to shoot on location, and, as in Les Misérables, there is a special poetic approach to the real historical landscape. The physical becomes metaphysical as the landscape is seen as soulscape. In the 1920s modernization was rapid, but it was still possible to discover landscapes in France that looked like they had done a hundred years ago. One might say that Fescourt's Les Misérables and Monte-Cristo have documentary value in their revelation of the landscapes that were about to disappear.

Even more: they share the special quality to which Andrei Tarkovsky dedicated his book Sculpting in Time (Запечатлённое время / Le Temps scellé / Die versiegelte Zeit / Scolpire il tempo / Vangittu aika / Den förseglade tiden). Tarkovsky found such locations, buildings, objects, and landscapes especially cinematic in which time had imprinted itself. In his Les Misérables and Monte-Cristo Fescourt displayed an innate instinct for such Tarkovskyan qualities.

Other strengths of Fescourt's Monte-Cristo include a joy of storytelling, a rousing sense of adventure, a flair of cinematography in the high spirit of late silent cinema, a mastery of flashbacks and memory flash montages, and a powerful screenplay condensing a complex story into less than four hours.

The ensemble of actors is wonderful, and the German colleagues (Lil Dagover as Mércèdes and Bernhard Goetzke as Abbé Faria) fit in very well. (As did Werner Krauss and Valeska Gert in Jean Renoir's Nana which we saw yesterday). Because the film is otherwise so great it can even endure the fact that there might be reservations about Jean Angelo's interpretation as Edmond Dantès. Angelo was almost 55 years old, and he is wearing pancake makeup and lipstick (as he did in Nana yesterday). There is a certain discrepancy in the heavily made-up hero appearing in ruggedly authentic landscapes.

By the way Les Misérables and Le Comte de Monte-Cristo tell the same basic story. The hero is unfairly condemned to a long and harsh prison sentence. The rest of his life he keeps changing names, disguises and identities while fighting for justice.

Thanks to Lenny Borger for "the full Monty". I look forward to more great discoveries from Mr. Borger who has done much to bring back to general awareness forgotten treasures of the French cinema.

A heroic and engrossing music interpretation by Donald Sosin at the grand piano, with Frank Bockius alla batteria.

A splendid work of reconstruction. This DCP has a digital look of ten years ago.

The last words of Le Comte de Monte-Cristo belong to the most memorable in world literature, but they are not included in Fescourt's film. Walking out of the screening with distinguished Hungarian friends we found them topical in the age of Brexit, Trump, and Orbán. "All human wisdom is contained in these two words, 'Wait and Hope'".

— Mon ami, dit Valentine, le comte ne vient-il pas de nous dire que l’humaine sagesse était tout entière dans ces deux mots:

— Attendre et espérer!

U.S. Presidential Election Films 1896–1924

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Baby Peggy together at the 1924 Democratic Convention in Madison Square Garden in New York, 26 June 1924, photo: LoC. This scene does not appear in the films. Baby Peggy (born in 1918) is still alive at the date of this screening. Please click on the images to enlarge them.

Elezioni presidenziali Americane / U.S. Presidential Election Films 1896–1924
Le Giornate del Cinema Muto
Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, e-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti, grand piano: José Maria Serralde Ruíz, 5 Oct 2016

McKINLEY AT HOME, CANTON, OHIO (US 1896). P+cinematographer: W. K. L. Dickson. Asst cinematographer: Billy Bitzer. Feat: William McKinley, Ida McKinley (wife), George B. Cortelyou (secretary). EX P: Abner McKinley. PC: American Mutoscope Company. Filmed: 18.09.1896, Canton, Ohio. Rel: 12.10.1896 (première: Hammerstein’s Olympia Music Hall, New York City). © 7.1.1897. DCP (from 35 mm), 43" (transferred at 16 fps); titles: ENG. – AA: A glimpse of William McKinley's front porch campaign. Visual quality: slowed down, low contrast, paper print look.

EMPIRE STATE EXPRESS (US 1896). P+cinematographer: W. K. L. Dickson. Asst cinematographer: Billy Bitzer. PC: American Mutoscope Company. Vilmed: 30.9.1896. Rel: 12.10.1896 (première: Hammerstein’s Olympia Music Hall, New York City). © 25.07.1902. DCP (from 16 mm), 17" (transferred at 20 fps); titles: ENG. – AA: A glimpse of the iconic American train view. Visual quality: a low contrast digital transfer from 16 mm.

ROOSEVELT’S ROUGH RIDERS (US 1898). Cinematographer: ?. Feat: First United States Volunteer Cavalry. PC: American Mutoscope & Biograph Company. filmed: 6.1898, Tampa Bay, Florida. © 18.06.1903. DCP (from 35 mm), 29" (transferred at 20 fps); titles: ENG. – AA: A glimpse of Roosevelt's Rough Riders charging towards the camera. Visual quality: a low contrast, duped look.

Theodore Roosevelt, 1900 campaign speech, photo Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, Culpeper, VA. This image is not in one of the films.

GOVERNOR ROOSEVELT AND STAFF (US 1899). Cinematographer: F. S. Armitage. P: Wallace McCutcheon, American Mutoscope & Biograph Company. Filmed: 30.9.1899, New York City. © 21.05.1902. DCP (from 16 mm), 1'11" (transferred at 20 fps); titles: ENG. – AA: A view of the Dewey Parade on a sunny street. Visual quality: low contrast, paper print look.

TERRIBLE TEDDY, THE GRIZZLY KING (US 1901). D: George S. Fleming, Edwin S. Porter. Cinematographer: Edwin S. Porter. PC: Edison Manufacturing Company. © 23.02.1901. DCP (from 35 mm), 55" (transferred at 20 fps); titles: ENG. – AA: This film is familiar in Helsinki as we regularly screen it as a part of our Edison / Porter compilation programme. A crude farce on Teddy shooting teddies, accompanied with his press agent. The pianist José Maria Serralde Ruíz played "Teddy Bears' Picnic" during this movie.

PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT’S HOMECOMING (US 1904). Cinematographer: G. W. “Billy” Bitzer. PC: American Mutoscope & Biograph Company. Filmed: 2.7.1904, Oyster Bay, Long Island, NY. © 12.7.1904. DCP (from 16 mm), 1'12" (transferred at 18 fps); titles: ENG. – AA: The train arrives at the station, observed at some distance with a jumpy camera. The magnitude of the crowd is impressive.

Alton B. Parker, Henry G. Davis, 1904, photo Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, Culpeper, VA. This image is not in one of the films.

JUDGE PARKER RECEIVING THE NOTIFICATION OF HIS NOMINATION FOR THE PRESIDENCY (US 1904). Cinematographer: A. C. Abadie. PC: Edison Manufacturing Company. Filmed: 10.8.1904, Esopus, NY. © 15.8.1904. DCP (from 16 mm), 1'47" (transferred at 16 fps); titles: ENG. – AA: Alton B. Parker gives a speech. Visual quality: low contrast, duped.

A VISIT TO THEODORE ROOSEVELT AT HIS HOME (US 1912). Cinematographer: ?. PC: Pathé Frères. Filmed: 8.1912, Oyster Bay, Long Island. Feat: Theodore Roosevelt, Archibald Bulloch “Archie”Roosevelt (son), William P. Helm (Associated Press correspondent). DCP (from 35 mm), 7'09" (transferred at 18 fps); titles: ENG. – AA: Visiting the Sagamore Hill. Theodore Roosevelt works on his porch, cares for his horse Sidar, and his three hound dogs, and chops down trees. We have a need for pioneer virtues. There is a big crowd when Teddy speaks. A watchable visual quality although with a duped and low contrast look.

ROOSEVELT (US 1912) excerpt: [THEODORE ROOSEVELT AT FARGO, ND]. Cinematographer: Richard J. Cummins. PC: H. A. Spanuth, J. W. Strouse, General Film Publicity & Sales Company. Filmed: 9.1912. Rel: 5.10.1912 (première: Carnegie Hall, New York City). Fragment, DCP (from 35 mm, 350 ft), 4'23" (transferred at 20 fps); titles: ENG. – AA: Teddy gives a speech from the train. A big crowd. A montage of speeches. A fascinating atlas of faces among the listeners. The pianist is inspired. Look: duped, low contrast.

THE OLD WAY AND THE NEW (US 1912). Cinematographer: ?. PC: Universal Film Manufacturing Company. Dist: Film Classic Exchange. DCP (from 16 mm), 9'41" (transferred at 20 fps); titles: ENG. – AA: A crude political caricature on the adversaries, T. Roosevelt and Taft. Election advertisement for Woodrow Wilson.

PATHE NEWS NO. 46: [REPUBLICANS AND PROGRESSIVES MEET] (US 1916). PC: Pathé Frères. DCP (from 35 mm), 1'02" (transferred at 20 fps); titles: ENG. – AA: A view from the Republican convention. There is a close-up of Warren G. Harding. High contrast.

[PRESIDENTS HARDING AND COOLIDGE], excerpt from WARREN GAMALIEL HARDING (US 1920). Cinematographer: Lawrence J. Darmour. PC: Commercial Publicity Film Company. Filmed: 07-08.1920 (Marion, Ohio; Northampton, MA; Plymouth, VT; Washington, D.C.). Sponsor: Republican National Committee. Feat: Warren G. Harding (Ohio Senator), Florence Harding (wife), Dr. Tryon Harding (father), Calvin Coolidge (Governor of Massachusetts), Will H. Hays (Chairman, Republican National Committee), Henry Cabot Lodge (Massachusetts Senator), Edward P. Morrow (Governor of Kentucky), John Calvin Coolidge, Sr. (father). DCP (from 16 mm,), 8'17" (transferred at 20 fps); titles: ENG. – AA: Meeting Warren G. Harding in his hometown Marion, Ohio. Will H. Hays is among the speakers. There is a huge crowd. Watchable although with a duped look, low contrast, and overspeed.

Franklin D. Roosevelt delivering his famous nomination speech for Alfred E. Smith, calling him the happy warrior, LoC.

[DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION, NEW YORK CITY, 1924] (US 1924). PC: International News Reel Corporation. Filmed: 25-26.6.1924 et passim, Madison Square Garden, NYC. Feat: Tom Walsh (Senator from Montana, convention chairman), Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John W. Davis, Ellen Graham Davis, Charles W. Bryan. DCP (from 16 mm), 2'39" (transferred at 22 fps); titles: ENG. – AA: The Democratic National Convention in New York. Skyscrepers. Epic crowds.

Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. Photo: Library of Congress.

PRESIDENT COOLIDGE – TAKEN ON THE WHITE HOUSE GROUNDS (US 1924). P: Theodore W. Case, De Forest Phonofilm. Filmed: 14-15.8.1924, Washington, D.C. Rel: 21.9.1924 (première: Rivoli Theater, NYC). DCP (from 35 mm), 4'30" (transferred at 24 fps), sd.; dial: ENG. – AA: A long take on President Calvin Coolidge reading from his notes. The sound is missing on the DCP. Ok visual quality, contrast on the low side.

AA: An invaluable survey covering almost twenty years with a comprehensive selection on U.S. Presidential film footage during the silent age. Pretty boring regarding cinematic flair and visual quality but invaluable from the viewpoints of political and cultural history.

An excellent new book has been published relevant to the theme:

Charles Musser: Politicking and Emergent Media. US Presidential Elections of the 1890s. 274 p. Oakland: University of California Press, 2016.

Al Christie – Girls

Why Wild Men Go Wild (US 1919), D: William Beaudine, C: Vera Steadman, Bobby Vernon, photo: The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Please click to enlarge the images.

Christie Girls
Le Giornate del Cinema Muto: Al Christie.
A cura di Steve Massa.
All notes by Steve Massa.
Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, e-subtitles in English and Italian by Sub-Ti, grand piano: Neil Brand, 5 Oct 2016.

Steve Massa (GCM catalog and website): "Mack Sennett’s Bathing Beauties are a well-remembered silent comedy staple, but before them Al Christie was specializing in leading ladies who became known as “Christie Girls”. Many of them were discovered in musical comedy or cabaret shows (the first, in 1912, was Victoria Forde, later Mrs. Tom Mix), but his most popular ladies of the 1910s were Billie Rhodes and Betty Compson."

Billie Rhodes. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Billie Rhodes
WALTZING AROUND (Kind, jij kunt dansen!) (US 1918). D: Scott Sidney. C: Billie Rhodes, Cullen Landis, Billy Bevan. PC: Strand Comedies/Caulfield Photoplay Co. rel: 5.3.1918 (1 rl.). dist: Mutual. 35 mm, 702 ft, 10' (18 fps); titles: NLD. Source: EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "Billie Rhodes was born Levita Axelrod in San Francisco in 1894, and started singing there on the Orpheum Circuit when she was only 11 years old. After some time spent in stock companies and the West Coast run of the Victor Herbert operetta Babes in Toyland, she made her film debut in 1913 for Kalem, who kepther busy in action and Western pictures. Still singing in nightclubs, she was seen by Al Christie and hired for his ensemble at Nestor Comedies. Starting with A Maid by Proxy (1915 ) , Billie was always the young ingénue and heroine, and although she had a resemblance to Mabel Normand – being small with dark hair and eyes – Billie was quick to point out that ”the kind of comedy I did was light comedy, not the knockabout comedy that Sennett did.”
    "When Christie set up his own studio in 1916 Billie came along, and appeared in films for his then - new Christie brand, as well as his later Cub and Strand Comedies, such as Her Rustic Romeo and Waltzing Around (both 1918). Billie later remembered that the Christies had numerous financial problems and often couldn’t pay everyone’s salaries, so she ended up working for (and marrying) comedian and producer William“ Smiling Bill” Parsons, who moved her into starring features that included The Girl of My Dreams (1918), Hoopla, and The Blue Bonnet (both 1919)."
    "Parson’s death in 1919 ended the trajectory of Billie’s career, and after a few independent features for the State’s Rights market, in addition to supporting comic Joe Rock in shorts like Little Red Robin Hood (1922) and Laughing Gas (1923), she left the screen in 1925, returning tonight clubs. She had wisely saved her money, and kept busy doing what she liked until her death at age 93 in 1988.

AA: Hubby is eager to learn to dance to catch up with wife who has "dancitis". Her best girlfriend secretly teaches him to dance although he "has two left feet". A chain of misunderstandings inevitably follows. Incomplete. Print ok to good.

Inoculating Hubby (US 1916). The mother-in-law, the wife (Betty Compson), and the hubby. D: Al Christie, photo:Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, Culpeper, VA.

Betty Compson
INOCULATING HUBBY (US 1916). D+SC: Al Christie. Pres: Horace Davey. C: Betty Compson, Neal Burns, David Morris, Stella Adams, George B. French, Harry Rattenberry. PC: Cub Comedies, Christie Film Co. Rel: 13.10.1916 (1 rl.). Dist: Mutual. Copy: 35 mm, 945 ft, 14' (18 fps); titles: ENG. Source: Library of Congress Packard Center for Audio Visual Conservation, Culpeper, VA (printed 1979).
    "Betty Compson’s career began thanks to her talent on the violin. At first accompanying silent films on the bill in vaudeville houses, one day when one of the acts went on a binge she was put on stage, barefoot and with raggedy clothes, as a violin-playing street urchin. After touring all over California, she eventually hit Hollywood, and after an introduction to Al Christie (who said her real name of Eleanor Luicime sounded like a vegetable) the re-named Betty was told to report to Universal City. Like Billie Rhodes, much of her early screen time was spent with Eddie Lyons and Lee Moran. Her first film was Wanted: A Leading Lady (1915), which she said was a fictionalized version of her coming to the studio. Making an extremely positive impression, she was set, and was soon busy making shorts. She later told the New York Sunday Mirror Magazine Section:"
    "“Up at six, work at seven, so the director might use all the sunshine. The sets had no roof for we depended entirely on the sun... I was young, had plenty of fun and ambition in me, had lots of hard experiences and didn’t mind the aching work. Those Christie comedy roles demanded plenty of trick falls, punchings, slappings, rough-houses, in which they hurled bric-a-brac. Sometimes they worked in the rain, soaked to the skin. For some reason directors always chose the coldest winter days for making scenes in which we had to fall into swimming pools, tanks or the ocean.”"
    "Again like Billie Rhodes, Betty came along when Christie went independent, and two production units were set up for each of them to headline. Betty was paired with Neal Burns in many of the Cub Comedies that the producer released through Mutual, which included titles like Inoculating Hubby, Those Primitive Days (both 1916), Love and Locksmiths (1917), and Betty’s Adventure (1918), but in late 1918 she left the company. Many reasons have been given for the split – one version has the producer firing her for refusing to make a personal appearance , another cites Christie’s perennial money problems; Betty herself said she wanted to do more than slapstick. On her own she moved around – doing other shorts, Western serials, and features – but what really set her feature career on course and made her a star was George Loane Tucker’s The Miracle Man (1919), with Lon Chaney. For a while she had her own production company, for items such as Ladies Must Live (1921) and The Little Minister (1922), and was very busy in the 1920s. She even went to England and made features such as The Royal Oak, Woman to Woman (both 1923), and the recently rediscovered The White Shadow (1924). Her best-remembered films are Paths to Paradise, The Pony Express (both 1925), The Docks of New York, and The Barker (both 1928). Although she made a smooth transition to talking pictures the bulk of her starring sound films were routine, and by the mid-1930s she was playing supporting roles. She retired in 1948, and made a few stage appearances, ran a cosmetics business, and started Ashtrays Unlimited, a company that supplied personalized ashtrays to hotels and restaurants, which kept her busy until her death in 1974.

AA: Betty Compson had a long and fascinating career. For me she is above all the star of Josef von Sternberg's The Docks of New York. She was one of Sternberg's great leading ladies. This comedy would have been perfect for Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi's "Oh! Mother-in-Law" compilation programme four years ago. In this film mother-in-law takes command immediately upon arrival. Hubby is then no longer seen at home before bedtime. Professor Pill's advice: "this medicine will turn hubby into a tame housecat". Hubby gets wind of the ruse, pretends to take the pill and overdoes the impact outrageously. He meows, jumps onto the kitchen table, laps up milk and carries kittens between his teeth. The mother-in-law starts quickly packing her bags. From a jumpy, scratched and duped source, yet watchable.

Al Christie, Vera Steadman, Dorothy Devore. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Vera Steadman
WHY WILD MEN GO WILD (US 1919). D: William Beaudine. SC: W. Scott Darling. Cinematography: E. G. Ulman. C: Bobby Vernon, Vera Steadman, Jimmie Harrison, George B. French, Gus Leonard. PC: Christie Film Co. DCP (from 16 mm, 381 ft), 12' (transferred at 21 fps); titles: ENG. Source: Undercrank Productions / Ben Model, New York.
    "Many of the “beach girls” in silent comedies were basically decorative, and outtakes even exist of the Sennett girls complaining about going into water that was too cold, but Vera Steadman was a record-holding diver and swimmer from the Los Angeles Athletic Club. Born in Monterey in 1900, she had no previous experience on stage or screen when she joined Keystone in 1915 – it was her devotion to water sports and her good looks that brought her to Sennett’s attention. In films such as Those College Girls (1915), The Surf Girl (1916), and Her Native Dance (1917), she alternated showing off her swimming prowess with being “eye candy,” and by 1918 she graduated to leading ingénue in Her Blighted Love and The Summer Girls. Other offers came her way, and she spent time making the rounds of the various comedy units, such as Universal and Fox Sunshine Comedies, and became an elegant leading lady for madcap Larry Semon in Traps and Tangles and Scamps and Scandals (both 1919). Her first appearance for Christie was in A Rustic Romeo (1919), and outside her roles in the features Scrap Iron (1921) and Meet the Prince (1924), the Christie studio would be her screen home until 1931."
    "Through the 1920s she made more than 70 comedies, and supported every male comic on the lot – Bobby Vernon, Jimmie Adams, Neal Burns, and especially “goofy gob” Billy Dooley. A few of her other shorts include Back from the Front (1920), Exit Quietly (19 21) , Fool Proof (19 2 3 ) , Getting Gertie’s Goat(1924), Run Tin Can (1926), A Moony Mariner (1927), and Sappy Service (1929), not to mention the Christie features 813 (1920), Stop Flirting (1925), and The Nervous Wreck (1926)."
    "Playing multiple variations on the basic comic sweetheart , from time to time the opportunity arose to have her poolside or at the beach. Having continued her competitive swimming in the 1920s and racking up more records , often no narrative logic had her in the water, as you’ll see at the very end of Why Wild Men Go Wild (1919). The arrival of sound saw her career drop off. After a couple of 1931 talking shorts for Christie, the rest of her screen work consisted of uncredited bits in features, such as Morning Glory (1933), A Star Is Born (1937), and Meet John Doe (1941). Her film appearances came to an abrupt end when she was hit by a car in 1941, and was told that she would never walk again. But in keeping with the spirit of her competitive swimming, within two years she did indeed walk again, and although she left the movie business she was on hand for many of the Sennett studio reunions, before her death in 1966.

AA: Vera Steadman was one of the real "Bathing Beauties" first with Mack Sennett, then with Al Christie. I saw this film but failed to take notes, so I quote Bob Lipton (New York City, 28 Jan 2014, IMDb): "A Bit Tame. James Harrison takes Bobby Vernon home to meet his sister, Vera Steadman. Bobby is on his best behavior, but Vera prefers wild men, so when a wild man is reported stealing chicken, James disguises himself as the thief and has Bobby drive him off ... until the real one shows up in this decent but unremarkable Christie Comedy from 1919."

Helen Darling

Helen Darling
NO PARKING (Theo zoekt een woning) (US 1921). D: Scott Sidney. SC: Frank Roland Conklin. C: Neal Burns, Helen Darling, Jane Hart. PC: Christie Film Co. rel:25.12.1921 (2 rl.). dist: Educational Pictures. DCP (from 35 mm, 1588 ft), 26'; titles: NLD. Source: EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "Helen Darling was one of the many “Christie Girls,” along with Viora Daniel, Gayle Lloyd, Josephine Hill, Ann Christy, and Doris Dawson, whose main job was to be “straight women” for the studio’s male comics, and were charming and attractive as they provided love interest for their leading men. Darling was born Helen Mitchell MacCorquodale in Oregon , and was a café dancer when she was brought to films by Christie in 1919. Between 1919 and 1922 she supported Bobby Vernon, Earle Rodney, Eddie Barry, and Neal Burns in numerous shorts, on the order of Love in a Hurry (1919), A Bashful Bigamist (1920), Falling for Fanny, No Parking (both 1921), and The Son of a Sheik (1922). She also found the time to appear in shorts like Single and Double and Twin Husbands (both 1921) for Universal, as well as some Arrow Broadway Comedies produced by Morris Schlank featuring Harry Gribbon and Eddie Barry, before leaving the screen in 1922. Her last known credit is for the story of the Universal Western short Hearts of the West (1926)."

AA: A disaster comedy with affinities with Buster Keaton's One Week made the year before. This is an even more Sisyphean epic about a family's effort to establish a home. As soon as they have the do-it-yourself home standing it turns out that baby is under the floor and the whole thing needs to be torn down. They move the home on wheels with many risky turns during the odyssey. When the home finally collapses beyond repair the baby is nearby playing in the mud, and it turns out they have hit oil. Funny.

Dorothy Devore

Dorothy Devore
SAVING SISTER SUSIE (US 1921). D: Scott Sidney. SC: Walter Graham. C: Dorothy Devore, Earle Rodney, Katherine Lewis, Eugenie Forde. prod:Christie Film Co. Rel: 13.11.1921. dist: Educational Pictures. DCP, 22'; titles: ENG. Source: Lobster Films, Paris.
    "The most popular of Christie’s star comediennes was Dorothy Devore, who spent five extremely fruitful years with the producer. Born Alma Inez Williams, in Fort Worth, Texas, after moving to Los Angeles as a child she sang and danced in amateur revues and L.A. nightclubs. She made her film debut in the late 1910s in the Universal one -reelers of Eddie Lyons and Lee Moran, usually playing Lyons’ young wife or girlfriend in shorts like House Cleaning Horrors (1918) and Marry My Wife (1919). From there she settled on the Christie lot, and was soon headlined as a plucky girl who always gets into hot water and has to go to great lengths to get herself out of it . In 1972 she told Anthony Slide in The Silent Picture:"
    "“Al Christie was wonderful. There were two brothers, Charles and Al. Charles handled all the business; he was in the background more or less. And Al, of course, was producing and directing; he directed many of my films. The studios were small, and, well, it was like a family, and you knew everyone. Of course, naturally, daily or at least yearly, it grew and grew and grew. But when I first started in 1919, it was just very small; it was on the corner of Gower and Sunset Boulevard, Paramount was on the other side, adjoining on Vine and Sunset.”"
    "Her screen adventures in Saving Sister Susie (1922), Kidding Kate, Navy Blues (both 1923), Stay Single, and Getting Gertie’s Goat (both 1924) made her a comedy star, and her years with Christie culminated in the feature Hold Your Breath (1924), where she staked her claim on Harold Lloyd territory by climbing and dangling off a tall building. All this popularity led her to move out and star in all types of features, such as crime dramas like Money to Burn (1925) or the society story Mountains of Manhattan (1927). At the end of the 1920s she returned to two -reelers, for Jack White Comedies like Up in Arms (1927), Cutie (1928), and Auntie’s Mistake (1929), which took her to the end of the silent era, when she retired after only a couple of appearances in talkies. In her later years she became a resident of the Motion Picture Country Home, where she died in 1976.

AA: Dorothy Devore has to pose as a child while getting acquainted with "a rich catch". The "catch" wishes Dorothy were ten years older. When he soon meets her in her grown-up dress he proposes immediately. The priest refuses to wed "an under-aged". Before the happy end the police interferes in the farce.

Babe London

Babe London
A HULA HONEYMOON (US 1923). D: Al Christie. SC: Walter Graham. C: Babe London, Henry Murdock, Dorothy Vernon, William Irving. PC: Christie Film Co. Rel: 18.02.1923 (2 rl.). Dist: Educational Pictures. DCP, 20' (transferred at 24 fps); titles: ENG. Source: Lobster Films, Paris.
    "A silent comedy character fixture who was typecast as the funny fat girl because she was more than plump at 250+ pounds was Babe London. Determined to get into movies at a young age, she talked her family into moving from Oakland in Northern California to Los Angeles so she’d be near the studios. Like Dorothy Devore, she got her foot in the cinematic door in comedies with Eddie Lyons and Lee Moran at Universal . She was only 18 when she made her debut in 1919, and that same year she got a career boost with a good role in Charlie Chaplin’s A Day’s Pleasure. Soon she was working with the likes of Joe Rock and Earle Montgomery, George Bunny, and Stan Laurel, in addition to appearing in features such as When the Clouds Roll By (1919), Merely Mary Ann (1920), and When Romance Rides (1922). In 1923 she became important support in Christie Comedies: “ I was there for a long time as a featured comedienne. I worked in practically every picture Al Christie directed while I was there. He seemed to like me. He got a kick out of me as a bum Mary Pickford. He put a Mary Pickford wig on me, you know, with curls and all that.” (Interview with Anthony Slide, The Silent Picture, no .15, Summer 1972)"
    "She supported everyone on the Christie lot – she was an annoying little girl who thought Bobby Vernon in disguise as a child was a great playmate in Second Childhood (1923), had a yen for Jimmie Adams in Done in Oil (1923) as a lunch-counter cook, and in Kidding Kate (1923) she’s Dorothy Devore’s fat older sister who is having a beau she’s never met before come to visit, so Babe and mom make Dorothy pretend to be a little girl so she’ll be no competition for Babe. Christie did star her in one comedy, A Hula Honeymoon (1923), where she and country sweetheart Henry Murdock win a contest for a honeymoon in Hawaii. While there Henry starts a flirtation with a Hawaiian girl, so Babe learns how to hula tow in him back. A unique angle for this picture is that it was actually shot on location in Honolulu and on board ship going over."
    "When her Christie contract ran out, Babe segued to Educational and Jack White Comedies, where she supported Lloyd Hamilton, Al St. John, Lige Conley, and even starred in some one-reel Cameo Comedies, such as Scrambled Eggs (1925). Features like Go West (1925), The Fortune Hunter, All Aboard (both 1927), and Tillie’s Punctured Romance (1928) also kept her busy. Af ter 1929 her screen appearances became more sporadic, although in 1931 she returned for one of the best roles of her career playing Oliver Hardy’s chubby fiancée Dulcy in Laurel & Hardy’s Our Wife. After spending most of the 1930s on the East Coast, she returned to Hollywood in the early 1940s and did all kinds of uncredited bits in features, such as Six Lessons from Madame La Zonga (1941), Jackass Mail (1942), The Paleface (1948), and The Good Humor Man (1950). Like her old co-star Dorothy Devore, Babe London took up residence at the Motion Picture Country Home, and spent her last years painting portraits of stars and locations from the silent era, before her death in 1980.
" (All notes in italics by Steve Massa, GCM catalog and website).

AA: This one starts with a wedding. The honeymoon trip to Honolulu takes place on an ocean liner. They move aboard in a ramshackle car. There is a mess with ship tickets, and hubby has to work in the kitchen. In Hawaii there are jokes with hula hula and greeting via rubbing noses. Hubby is about to get married with a Hawaiian princess. There is a wild chase and a last minute escape aboard the ocean liner, but it turns out that it is going towards China. The Hawaiian blues ends with the couple in a rowboat headed for America. Print quality: from a duped, low contrast source.