Tuesday, March 31, 2015

They Ain't No Place Like It Nowhere -- March 31, 2015

Washington Times, 31-March-1915

"Come on out to Universal City and see all these maniacs earning their salaries."

With expositions in both San Francisco and San Diego dedicated to the newly opened Panama Canal, and with tourism to Europe cut off, Universal hoped to attract visitors to its new studio, Universal City.  "Stop off if you are going to the San Francisco and San Diego expositions.  Take the SANTA FE to Los Angeles.  It's only a step from there.  See How the Movies Are Made." 

Friday, March 27, 2015

News of the Week March 27, 1915 -- March 27, 2015

The 27-March-1915 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.

"Secretary of the Navy Daniels breaking ground for memorial chapel in National cemetery at Arlington, Virginia.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  Josephus Daniels was Secretary of the Navy during the entire Woodrow Wilson administration. 

"English troops wearing winter uniforms in France.  Copyright 1915 by Universal Animated Weekly."  The winter of 1914-1915 was very severe. 

"German sea raider reaches Newport News.  Copyright 1915 Hearst-Selig News Pictorial."  Prinz Eitel Friedrich, a passenger liner, was used as a very successful German commerce raider, sinking 11 ships.  Unable to continue because of low coal supplies and worn engines, she sailed into Newport News on 11-March-1915 and was interned. 

"Wreck of a Boston and Maine train at Claremont, New Hampshire.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  A Boston and Maine passenger train hit a washed out section of track and derailed on 26-February-1915. 

"Canadian troops marching through streets of Montreal.  Copyright 1915 by Universal Animated Weekly." Canadian troops were an important part of the British Imperial forces on the Western Front. 

"Clearing ground for Chicago's new Union station.  Copyright 1915 Hearst-Selig News Pictorial."  Chicago Union Station didn't open until 1925.  It is still used today. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mary, Mary, I'm all for You -- March 24, 2015

Washington Times, 24-March-1915

"This is a still of Mary Fuller.  Aw, what's a still?  Why, a still picture...This is a still of Our Mary -- Universal Mary -- Queen Mary -- Tomboy Mary and she's not married."  I guess this was meant to distinguish Mary Fuller from Mary Pickford. 

With expositions in both San Francisco and San Diego dedicated to the newly opened Panama Canal, and with tourism to Europe cut off, Universal hoped to attract visitors to its new studio, Universal City.  "Take the Santa Fe to Los Angeles and a trolley from there.  See How the Movies are Made."

Mary Fuller had appeared in many Edison films including the 1910 "Frankenstein."  She was the title character in "What Happened to Mary," which is often called the first movie serial.  Later she starred in the Edison series "The Active Life of Dolly of the Dailies."  By 1915, she had moved to Universal.  Her career ended a few years later. 


Friday, March 20, 2015

News of the Week March 20, 1915 -- March 20, 2015

The 20-March-1915 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.

"Start of annual walking race between New York City Hall and Coney Island.  Copyright 1915 by Universal Animated Weekly."  The Coney Island Handicap Racewalk has been going on since 1911.  Now it all takes place in Coney Island.  The race took place on 22-February-1915.  Panos Anthony of the Greek American Athletic Club won that day.  That may be him wearing number one. 

"Russian prisoners captured by the Germans in the Eastern campaign.  Copyright 1915 Hearst-Selig News Pictorial."  Russia invaded East Prussia early in the war to relieve pressure on its allies.  The Germans stopped them and took many prisoners. 

"Sir Thomas Lipton's yacht 'Erin,' turned over to the British Red Cross.  Copyright 1915 Hearst-Selig News Pictorial."  British yachtsman Sir Thomas Lipton, founder of the tea company, tried to win the America's Cup five times between 1899 and 1930, always with a boat named Shamrock.  He never won, but he was widely respected for his sportsmanship.  Erin was his personal yacht. 

"French liner LaTouraine leaving New York last week.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  SS La Touraine sailed on the French Line between Le Havre and New York on 22-January-1915. 

New York Sun, January 15, 1915

"Opening day at the Panama Pacific Exposition.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  We saw the Hearst-Selig News Pictorial version of this last week.  The Panama-Pacific International Exposition opened in San Francisco on 20-February-1915.:

"German soldiers receive news from home on the battle line in East Prussia.  Copyright 1915 by Universal Animated Weekly."  At this stage in the war, German soldiers still wore the boiled leather pickelhaube. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Kick a Cripple and Get a Laugh -- March 17, 2015

Washington Times, 17-March-1915

"Any guy who can kick a cripple out of bed in a hospital and create spasms of mirth is some comedian.  That's real humor."  I'll bet. 

With expositions in both San Francisco and San Diego dedicated to the newly opened Panama Canal, and with tourism to Europe cut off, Universal hoped to attract visitors to its new studio, Universal City.  "Take the SANTA FE direct to Los Angeles.  Universal is only a few minutes from there Come out and See How the Movies are Made."

Billie Ritchie dressed in a tramp costume and wore a small moustache.  Ritchie claimed he was wearing the tramp costume two or three years before Charlie Chaplin was born in 1889, and that Chaplin was imitating his act.

Moving Picture World, November 11, 1916

Friday, March 13, 2015

News of the Week March 13, 1915 -- March 13, 2015

The 13-March-1915 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.

"Opening day at the Panama Pacific Exposition.  Copyright 1915 Hearst-Selig News Pictorial."  The Panama-Pacific International Exposition opened in San Francisco on 20-February-1915:

"Enrico Caruso plays at being a camera-man ere he sails for Europe.  Copy 1915 by Pathe News."  Tenor Enrico Caruso is considered the greatest opera singer of all time.  My grandfather revered him. 

"The famous Death's Head Hussars of Germany commanded by the Crown Prince.  Copyright 1915 by Universal Animated Weekly."  A regiment of Prussian hussars had worn the death's head since the time of Frederick the Great. 

"Mayor Harrison of Chicago buys a paper on 'Old Newsboys' day.  Copy 1915 by Pathe News."  Carter Harrison, Jr was mayor of Chicago for five terms.  Old Newsboys Day is a charity event still held in some cities, where businessmen sell papers to raise money. 

"Argentine sailors guests of the U. S. while waiting for their new vessel.  Copyright 1915 Hearst-Selig News Pictorial."  Dreadnaughts Rivadavia and Moreno were built by the Fore River Shipyard in Massachusetts for the Argentine Navy during the South American dreadnaught race. 

"Remembering the Maine at the military mast and anchor monument in Washington.  Copyright 1915 by Universal Animated Weekly."  The sinking of the armored cruiser USS Maine in Havana harbor on 15-February-1898 helped to trigger the Spanish-American War.  Maine's military mast stands as part of a monument at Arlington National Cemetery. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

See How the Movies Are Made -- March 10, 2015

Washington Times, 10-March-1915

"The Buildings at Universal City have different architectures on the four sides."  This ad talks about how that allows multiple companies to shoot films at the same time. 

With expositions in both San Francisco and San Diego dedicated to the newly opened Panama Canal, and with tourism to Europe cut off, Universal hoped to attract visitors to its new studio, Universal City.  "Universal City is only a trolley ride from Los Angeles and Los Angeles is on the direct line of the Santa Fe.  Go to you favorite theater, see some Universal pictures, then come out to Universal City and See How the Movies Are Made."

Monday, March 9, 2015

Miss Mend -- March 9, 2015

This post is part of  the Russia in Classic Film Blogathon, hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently.  Congratulations to Fritzi for getting this blogathon sponsored by Flicker Alley's The House of Mystery.  Flicker Alley was kind enough to provide a screening copy of this movie. 

My first  post for the blogathon was about the 1912 film "Departure of a Grand Old Man." 

Be sure to click on most images to see larger versions.  

I grew up in San Francisco's Richmond District, a neighborhood with a large Russian-American population.  Looking out my parents' back window, I could see the Russian Orthodox Holy Virgin Cathedral.  Many of my friends went there after school for Russian lessons.

Many of my friends' grandparents had fled the Russian Revolution.  Some came directly to San Francisco, some went to Manchuria, and others went to Shanghai.  The ones in Manchuria and Shanghai left when the Japanese invaded or the Chinese Communists took over.  They and their families were often proud of Russia's accomplishments in the Great Patriotic War (World War II to us), space exploration, and the arts, but they did not generally have a sense of humor about Communism.  This is unfortunate because most Russian people I have known have had wonderful senses of humor. 

When I was young, we didn't see many Russian or Soviet movies.  I didn't see a pre-Revolution movie until we saw Vladislav Starevich's "The Ant and the Grasshoper" in a college film class. I first saw Battleship Potemkin on a public television station.  Then I saw it several times in film classes and theaters.   Later I saw lots of Eisenstein, Strike, Ten Days that Shook the World, Alexander Nevsky, the first two parts of Ivan the Terrible.  I didn't see many other Soviet movies until DVDs, TCM and YouTube came along. 

I was happy to get the opportunity to see Miss Mend, a 1926 Soviet movie serial, released by Flicker Alley in a two-DVD set.  The print is beautiful.  The score by Robert Isreal is emotionally moving.  The extras, a documentary on the making of the movie and another on the recording of the score, helped me to understand the movie much better. 

1926 was a time of transition in the Soviet Union.  Lenin had died in 1924.  Stalin had not yet consolidated his power.  Lenin's New Economic Policy continued.  The government encouraged foreign investments and the importation of foreign experts, technology and methods. 

In the film industry, movies like Eisenstein's and Potemkin and Pudovkin's Mother were great critical successes at home and abroad, but Soviet audiences voted with their rubles and their feet for exciting, slick American movies like The Thief of Baghdad with Douglas Fairbanks. 

Miss Mend, based on satirical novels written by Marietta Shaginyan, using the pen name Jim Dollar, was an attempt to outdo American movies for excitement and spectacle.    The film was directed by Fedor Ozep and Boris Barnet, who had been students of pioneering film theorist Lev Kuleshov.  Kuleshov had the idea that moving picture actors should move.  He encouraged athleticism, which worked well for Barnet, a boxer who also starred in Miss Mend

The structure of the serial reminded me more of the French serials of Louis Feuillade, who made Fantômas and in Les Vampires than of American serials because each of the three episodes was the length of a short feature.   

Our heroine, Miss Vivian Mend, is played by Natalya Glan.  Miss Mend had the spunk and fire of serial queens Pearl White or Ruth Roland, and was just as able to join the action, but did not get many opportunities.  Early in the film, she leaps out of the window of her office to stop a cop who is beating a striker.  She runs from the police, which leads the first of many chases in the movie.  After that, she spends much of her time waiting for the heroes to find her nephew or the man upon whom she wants revenge.  The men who meet her fall in love with her.  This later has unfortunate consequences. 

Since this is a Soviet film, we don't have a single hero, we have a collective hero.  Barnet, played by co-director Boris Barnet, is a muckraking reporter.  Vogel, a news photographer, was played by Vladimir Fogel.  Barnet and Vogel were roommates with clerk Tom Hopkins, played by comedian Igor Ilyinsky.  Barnet is very handsome.  Vogel wears glasses and has a melancholy nature.  Barnet and Fogel were both students of Kuleshov. 

Igor Ilyinsky, who played comic relief Tom Hopkins, was a popular film comedian who was apparently compared to Chaplin.  Reading comments on Miss Mend, I have seen him likened to Roscoe Arbuckle and Oliver Hardy.  I'll join the party and say he reminds me of Lloyd Hamilton, a big guy with a delicate walk and mannerisms.  In any event, he is funny. 

When Miss Mend jumps out of the window, Hopkins, who works with her, jumps out, too and tries to help her get away from the police.  I enjoyed his use of a cane to trip them up and to nudge one into the river.  Barnet and Vogel, reporting on the strike for the Littletown Herald, see their roommate in trouble and join the chase.  Miss Mend jumps in the back of a passing auto and asks for help.  The passenger she meets is Arthur Stern, the son of the factory owner, played by Ivan Koval-Samborsky.  He gives her a false name, takes her home, and meets her little nephew, John. 

My first thought was, we have the Three Musketeers, now here is d'Artagnan.  In an American movie, after meeting cute that way, Stern and Miss Mend would have overcome some misunderstandings, then gotten married.  Since this is a Soviet film, Stern degenerates into a brute and eventually tries to rape Miss Mend. 

But the brutish attempted rapist Stern is not the primary villain.  The central bad guy is Cheche, played by Sergey Komarov, another student of Kuleshov.  Komarov's performance is not athletic, but he shows great body control with Cheche's stiff movements.  Cheche shows the influence of Fritz Lang's Doctor Mabuse, sitting at the center of a vast criminal conspiracy.  In fact, after little John is kidnapped by the minions of Cheche, Vogel speaks my second-favorite subtitle of the movie:

That could be the plot of several of Lang's movies. 

Since this is a Soviet film, Cheche is not spreading havoc just for the hell of it or for personal greed.  He is working for or with a cabal of evil capitalists who want to destroy the Soviet Union.  Scientists working for Cheche have developed poison gas and a plague bacterium that can be spread through insulators used on radio antennae.  As with many serials, the plot doesn't always make sense.  The insulators will be installed in the Soviet Union and used in an act of bacteriological terrorism. 

Chases include the pursuit of a motorcycle on stolen horses and the pursuit of an ocean liner by a speedboat.  Spectacle includes a well staged train wreck.  There is plenty of slapstick, including the three heroes dressing up in suits of armor to spy on Cheche and the capitalists. 

When I was young, I would watch American movies set in Europe, in the Soviet Union, in Asia and in Africa and I often wondered how they looked to people from those places.  I don't remember seeing any movies from those places set in America.  Miss Mend makes some effort to represent America.  Most of the signs are in English.  Things like inscriptions on photos are in English.  Many things like letters are in Russian.  I can't find it in my notes, but I think I remember seeing one letter in English with a PS in Russian.  The first thing that told me I was not looking at America was the uniforms of the cops.  They didn't look American.  That and the peoples' teeth. 

Since this is a Soviet film, there are a few shots taken at America.  The heroes pursue a sailor who has stolen a letter to a waterfront dive.  A John Ford movie breaks out and there is a huge fight.  A sailor of African descent gets shot and killed shortly before the police arrives.  Someone points out the dead sailor.  A cop says "No big deal, he's black." 

The Americans pursue Cheche and Stern to America on two ships.  Since this is a Soviet film, the Americans cannot save the day.  The efficient Soviet police arrest Cheche.  That is not the end, because he bolts away and tries to escape by hanging onto the cable of an elevator.  The elevator machinery gives Cheche his comeuppance. 

Earlier I mentioned my second-favorite subtitle.  Vogel also spoke my favorite subtitle, when the American were trapped on the plague ship:

I think I can safely say that this is a unique subtitle for a movie serial. 

And finally, if this blogathon has given you an urge for some Russian delicacies and if you ever find yourself in my old neighborhood, San Francisco's Richmond District, be sure to visit the Cinderella Bakery at 436 Balboa Street.  You can find piroshki or pirogi or some nice dark rye bread.  My Ukranian-Canadian-American father-in-law, whom we dearly miss, loved the place. 

This post is part of  the Russia in Classic Film Blogathon, hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently and sponsored by Flicker Alley's The House of Mystery

My first post for the blogathon was about the 1912 film "Departure of a Grand Old Man." 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Departure of a Grand Old Man -- March 8, 2015


This post is part of  the Russia in Classic Film Blogathon, hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently.  Congratulations to Fritzi for getting this blogathon sponsored by Flicker Alley.  Tomorrow's post for the blogathon will be about the 1926 Soviet serial Miss Mend

Be sure to click on most images to see larger versions.  

Count Lev (Leo) Nikolayevich Tolstoy was born on his family's estate, Yasnaya Polyana, near Tula in 1828.  He grew up hearing his father's stories about the Napoleonic Wars.  After failing at college and accumulating large gambling debts, Tolstoy joined the army.  While serving in the army, he began to write and published his first novels.  He served in the Crimean War and developed a hatred of war and violence.  His novels, including Anna Karenina, War and Peace and Resurrection, are still widely read. 

Tolstoy's Christian pacifist ideas were developed in works like The Kingdom of God is Within You.  These works were often banned in Russia and Tolstoy was excommunicated by the Orthodox church.  His pacifist ideas directly influenced Mohandas K Gandhi, with whom he corresponded, and, through Gandhi's writings, influenced Martin Luther King, Jr. 

The three reel movie "Departure of a Grand Old Man" was co-directed by Yakov Protazanov and Elizaveta Thiman.  I don't know much about Elizaveta Thiman except that she also appeared in the film.  Protazanov was a pioneer of Russian cinema. He made many films before the Revolution.  Protazanov left the USSR and spend some years in Europe, but returned in 1923.  In 1924, Protazanov directed Aelita, Queen of Mars, an influential science fiction movie.  He went on to make talkies and continued directing until 1943. 

"Departure of a Grand Old Man" dramatizes the end of Tolstoy's life.  It begins with actuality footage of Tolstoy walking the grounds of his estate.  In one shot, he walks towards the camera and in another he walks away.  He carries a walking stick that can open into a stool. 

Another actuality shot has Tolstoy walking with Vladimir Grigoryevich Chertkov, described in a subtitle as "'chief' Tolstoyan."  The Tolstoyans attempted to practice Tolstoy's religious and social ideas. 

The fiction film begins with a title: "The peasants come with a request that they be given some land." 

We see a servant lounging outside of a home, having a smoke.  This scene looks as if it was shot indoors.  Three peasants approach and bow to the servant. They make a request with vigorous gestures.  He goes inside and they wait. 

The next shot is set in Tolstoy's sitting room.  In a balanced composition, we see a couple on the left, a young woman and a balding man. I think the young woman represents Tolstoy's daughter and secretary, Alexandra Lvovna, played by co-director Elizaveta Thiman. Tolstoy's wife, Countess Sophia Andreyevna Tolstaya, played by Olga Petrova, is in the center. Tolstoy with a younger man is on the right. Tolstoy is played by Vladimir Shaternikov. The servant appears on the left and states the request of the peasants.  Sophia Tolstaya instructs the servant to tell the peasants to get lost.  Some people say that they see her counting money in this scene, but I can't tell.  Tolstoy and the young man, Chertkov, played by Mikhail Tamarov, discuss a book and a manuscript. 

Alexandra Lvovna argues with Sophia Tolstaya.  Sophia Tolstaya stands up and faces Tolstoy, who is also standing.  This forms a new composition, with Chertkov standing in the middle.  "I cannot permit my family to be ruined," says Sophia Tolstaya before she stalks off, walking between the two men, and exits.  Alexandra Lvovna steps forward to recreate the composition.  Both she and Chertkov talk to Tolstoy, who nods, gestures with his hands, and exits to the left. 

The three peasants are still waiting outside when Tolstoy appears on the porch.  The peasants bow to him and state their case.  He walks down the stairs and joins them. 

The peasants plead with Tolstoy and he listens, but then he says "I'm not the boss...The land belongs to the Countess..."  The peasants continue to plead, but Tolstoy shrugs and exits to the right.  The peasants look after him, express their disgust, and exit to the left. 

The next scene appears to be an interior.  There are a stairway and a cabinet in the background.  The same three peasants bow to Tolstoy.  I think this is meant to be at a later date or time, but there is no transition.  All four men are dressed as they were before.  One unwraps a handkerchief and produces some money.  "Master, give this money to the Countess..."  Tolstoy takes the money and counts it.  He gestures upstairs and exits up the stairway.  He looks back as the peasants huddle to talk.  "When you ask for concessions, he's not the boss...but he's quick to take money..."  Tolstoy lingers at the top of the stairs and watches as they exit to the right.  The poor print and the weight of his beard make it impossible to see his expression, but his gestures indicate that he feels guilty.  He appears to cry and exits. 

In the next shot, Sophia Tolstaya is sitting in a rocking chair reading when Tolstoy enters from the darkness at the left, holding out the money.  She takes it readily.  She counts it while he pleads with her.  The subject is not clear to me.  She puts the money in her purse and argues with him.  He falls to his knees.  She pats the back of his head, but has an exasperated expression on her face. 

The next shot is in an office. Tolstoy sits at a desk and Chertkov sits on a couch.  They talk and then Tolstoy writes.  Tolstoy clutches his forehead and tears up the paper.  Chertkov leans over him.  "It's increasingly unbearable...this mad luxury in the midst of unnecessary need and penury..."  Tolstoy stands and exits to the right. 

In the next shot, which appears to have been filmed outdoors by a stable, a man saddles a white horse.  Another other man holds a lantern, which may indicate that this scene was supposed to take place at night.  The man saddling the horse turns and we see that he is Tolstoy. 

Tolstoy shakes the man's hand and goes to mount the horse, but Sophia Tolstaya runs into the scene from the foreground and stops him.  She pleads with him and they both motion to the other man, who leads the horse away.  Tolstoy has second thoughts, but Sophia Tolstaya leads him away. 

"The making of a will without Sophia Andreyevna's knowledge..."  In this shot, Tolstoy sits at the center, at a tiny table in what may be a garden or a forest.   Chertkov crouches over him on the right.  Another man kneels on the left.  A man in a uniform cap stands in the background with his back to the scene.  Tolstoy reads a document and then signs.  As Chertkov picks up the document, a peasant carrying wood enters in the background.  All the men are startled.  Tolstoy signs more pages, I think, and the man in the background walks forward, then back.  Chertkov picks up the document.  The  other man and the uniformed man sign as witnesses.  Chertkov signs the document and hands it to Tolstoy.  We see that the tiny table was his walking stick with the folding seat.  "Let the income from my books go to the common good.  I name Chertkov editor and publisher of my works."  Tolstoy gives the document to Chertkov, who raises his hat and shakes hands with Tolstoy.  The other man leads Tolstoy away in the background and Chertkov and the uniformed man follow them. 

"Tolstoy hands Chertkov the manuscript of a new work..."  We are back in the office for this shot.  Tolstoy sits at his desk while Chertkov sits in a chair in a three quarter back view.  Tolstoy hands Chertkov a manuscript.  Chertkov turns towards the camera and looks at the pages.  The composition with the two men to one side suggests that someone else will enter the frame.  Sophia Tolstaya enters from the left and stands next to Tolstoy, placing a hand on his shoulder and kissing his forehead.  He stands and they appear to argue about the manuscript.  Chertkov stands and Sophia Tolstaya moves between the two men.  She tries to take the manuscript from Chertkov and Tolstoy moves between them.  Chertkov exits to the left while Tolstoy and Sophia Tolstaya argue.  Alexandra Lvovna enters from the left and stands between them.  Tolstoy slumps in his chair and Alexandra Lvovna comforts him while Sophia Tolstaya stomps out to the right. 

"Tolstoy allows a poor woman to gather brushwood in the woods."  Tolstoy walks along a road dressed as he was in the actuality shots at the beginning of this movie.  He meets a woman who walks with a young child.  The woman bows and turns to walk with Tolstoy.  She picks up a stick to show him what she wants.  He pats the child's head and gives the mother permission.  He exits towards the camera while the woman and the child walk away from it. 

"Men hired by  Sophia Andreyevna to protect the woods."  The child sits playing in the foreground while the mother gathers wood in the middle background.  A man on a horse appears in the distant background.  When he gets closer, we see that he seems to be wearing a Cossack uniform. 

The Cossack gallops towards the mother, who drops the wood and runs to pick up her child.  The man dismounts and beats the woman with a stick.  He grabs her arm and drags her and the child out of the shot to the right. 

We are back to the stable we saw when Tolstoy tried to leave, but the shot is at an angle.  The Cossack drags the mother and child into the frame.  He hands the horse's reins to an attendant and roughly drags his captives.  This is the shortest shot so far in the movie.  It increases the feeling of urgency. 

Outside of the home, the mother struggles with the Cossack.  Tolstoy enters from behind the stairway.  The mother kneels in front of him, begging for protection.  Tolstoy says something to the Cossack, who shrugs and exits to the right.  Tolstoy calls for help.  Alexandra Lvovna enters from the left, sees what is happening and calls for more help.  The balding man from the early scenes enters.  Alexandra Lvovna bandages the mother's head. 

"The writer is sick at heart at the tragedy which has taken place."  The next shot begins with the first fade-in I have noticed in the movie, as Tolstoy enters his office, holding a candle.  He stands by his desk, looking troubled.  "Tolstoy attempts to kill himself."  He exits the shot to the left. 

Tolstoy enters the room with the cabinet, where he had taken the peasants' money.  He reaches up and takes a belt from the top of the cabinet.  He makes a noose with unsteady hands.  He attaches it to a hook on the wall, then sits at the table on the left to compose a suicide note.  He writes, then crumples and tears the paper and drops it on the floor. 

As Tolstoy sits, despairing, we see a costumed person dissolve into view.  The costume is hard to identify at first because of the dark background, but the person appears to be kneeling and praying.  After she crosses herself, we see that she is a nun.  She turns to Tolstoy, who is looking at her, makes a gesture, and dissolves away.  Tolstoy stands and gestures to his neck.  The nun appears again, dissolving in as she enters from the right.  She appears to plead with Tolstoy against self destruction.  She backs away, dissolving out as she exits to the right.  Tolstoy slumps down at the table. 

We see Alexandra Lvovna sleeping in a bedroom.  She sits up as if she had heard something.  She lies down again, then gets up.  She paces the floor, listens at the door, then exits. 

She enters the room with the cabinet, sees Tolstoy with his head down on the table, and then sees the noose and reacts with horror.  She holds it out and pleads with him. 

They embrace and cry together.  She leads him off to the right. 

"Spititual crisis.  He leaves Yasnaya Polyana."  They enter the office from the left, then stop in the center of the frame.  Tolstoy makes a statement.  Alexandra Lvovna gets him to sit at his desk and gives him pen and paper.  He writes and she exits to the left.  She returns with a heavy suitcase and a hat.  The balding man follows her with Tolstoy's shoes and a coat.  The man helps Tolstoy put on his sweater, and then his coat.  Tolstoy wants to wear the shoes he has on, and then declines to wear a belt around his coat, perhaps because it would remind him of the noose.  The man exits to the right with the shoes and the suitcase, and Tolstoy speaks to Alexandra Lvovna , then exits to the right. 

We see the gates of the estate.  Then we see a horse-drawn carriage approaching straight towards the camera.  When it turns, we see that Tolstoy and a young man are the passengers.  The carriage stops and Tolstoy looks back at the estate.  Then the carriage goes on. 

We see Sophia Tolstaya doing the accounts by the light of a candle.  A servant wearing an apron enters from the left with a note.  She questions the servant, who doesn't know anything, then exits to the left. 

She passes through Tolstoy's office, from right to left, pausing to look around.  She finds something on the floor, perhaps a shoe, then looks through his desk.  She exits to the right. 

Sophia Tolstaya enters Alexandra Lvovna's room and questions her.  Alexandra Lvovna hands her a letter, which she reads.  "I am doing what any man of my age normally does: I am leaving the life of the world to live in solidtude..."  Sophia Tolstaya looks angry, and then argues with Alexandra Lvovna, who tells her off.  Sophia Tolstaya exits to the right. 

"Sophia Andreyevna Tolstaya pretends to commit suicide."  She staggers down the stairs, through the room with the cabinet, and exits to the left. 

She leaves the house.  She exits the shot to the left. 

Alexandra Lvovna looks concerned and leaves her room. 

"The Countess, her face changed, rushes to the pond."  She runs down a path towards and past  the camera.  After a moment, in the same shot, we see Alexandra Lvovna and the servant with the apron running after her.  I'm not sure what "her face changed" refers to.  Perhaps it is a translation of a Russian idiom. 

Sophia Tolstaya runs to the edge of a pond, emotes, and then collapses. 

Alexandra Lvovna and the servant run into the shot and comfort her.  They help her to her feet and lead her out of the scene. 

"Lev Tolstoy visits Shamordin Monastery to visit Sister Maria Nikolaevna."  Tolstoy walks away from the camera towards an unusual archway.  His sister was a nun. 

We see Tolstoy talking to his sister, who is the nun who appeared when he tried to hang himself. 

As Tolstoy talks, the scene dissolves to a shot of him with six children in a simple cabin.  I think this shows the simple life to which he aspires. 

We dissolve back to the monastery and they continue to talk.  Then we dissolve to a scene in the same cabin.  Tolstoy repairs a boot while a young man looks on.  It may be Chertkov, but I'm not sure.  When Tolstoy is done with the boot, the young man unwraps a package and appears to hand him a loaf of bread.  The bread may be a symbol. 

We dissolve back to the monastery.  Tolstoy is standing and talking.  His sister picks up a prayer book or Bible.  We dissolve to a scene of Tolstoy standing on a hillside, tending a herd of cows. 

We dissolve back to the monastery and for a moment we see both Tolstoys.  One is dressed in black and one is in white.  One looks troubled and one looks happy.  Tolstoy talks to his sister and mimes writing. 

We dissolve back to the cabin.  Tolstoy sits at a table writing. 

We dissolve back to the monastery.  Tolstoy paces and looks troubled.  Alexandra Lvovna enters and embraces him.  She greets her aunt and then Tolstoy says "Let us be on our way!"  The women help him with his coat, and then he embraces his sister. 

"On 31-October-1910, the seriously ill Tolstoy found refuge with the manager of the railway station at Astapovo."  We see three people step down from a railroad car and walk towards the camera.  They are one man and two women.  I can't tell who they are.  The man is not Tolstoy. 

We see the three people approach a building.  They may Alexandra Lvovna, Sophia Tolstaya and Chertkov.  They peer in the window. 

There is a very short panning shot of a train station.  Perhaps it is the actual Astapovo station. 

There is a panning high-level view of a train station.  This may also be an actuality shot. 

We see Tolstoy lying on a bed, surrounded by three people, two men and a woman.  One man is a doctor.  The woman and the other man may be Alexandra Lvovna  and the balding man from the early scenes.  "So this is the end!  And there is nothing!"  were Tolstoy's last words.   The doctor listens to his heart.  Chertkov enters, holding a manuscript, and sits down.  The three people gather around the doctor and ask him for reassurance. 

Sophia Tolstaya  rushes into the scene and the others exit.  She kneels by the bed and kisses Tolstoy's hand.  He puts his hand on her head.  They appear to reconcile.  He sits up, then falls back dead.  Sophia Tolstaya weeps.  In real life she was not allowed to see him. 

"Documentary photograph: Leo Tolstoy on this deathbed."  The next shot seems unusual for a 1912 movie.  It is the famous deathbed photograph of the writer.  This is followed by a closer deathbed photograph. 

We see a slow panning shot of dark clouds.  A superimposed shot of Tolstoy and Jesus dissolves in on the clouds.  Tolstoy talks to Jesus.  I wonder what he is saying. 

Jesus opens his arms and embraces Tolstoy, welcoming him to Paradise.  They dissolve away and the movie ends. 

The movie inspired some controversy.  Sophia Tolstaya  sued or threatened to sue the producers because of their harsh depiction of her.  The movie was banned by the censors because the Orthodox Church objected to the excommunicated Tolstoy being welcomed into Heaven by Jesus. 

A 2009 movie, The Last Station, told the story of Tolstoy running away from his wife and dying in a train station. 

The combination of staged and actual shots, especially the still photos, was unusual, not only for a 1912 movie, but for a movie of any period.  It could almost be a show on the History Channel. 

Somehow this film survived censorship, a potential lawsuit, a world war, a revolution, another world war, and the fall of the Soviet Union.  If you'd like to watch it, here is a version on YouTube.  The British Film Institute made a transfer from a print found in the Gosfilmofund archive.  Neil Brand improvised the score. 

This post is part of the Russia in Classic Film Blogathon hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently and sponsored by Flicker Alley.  Thank you to Fritzi for all the hard work.  Thank you to everyone who visited and I encourage you to read as many posts as you can, and leave comments.  Bloggers love comments. 

Tomorrow's post for the blogathon will be about the 1926 Soviet serial Miss Mend