Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Who Won the Battle of Jutland? -- 31-May-2016

Film Daily, 08-January-1922

100 years ago, on 31-May and 01-June-1916, the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet fought in the North Sea.  This was the only time the dreadnaughts of the two navies fought a large-scale battle during World War One.  People still disagree about who won and which British admiral deserved the most blame.

The Germans destroyed more British ships and killed more British sailors, but the Grand Fleet was much larger than the High Seas Fleet, so I believe that the British came out far ahead.

I believe that British Admiral David Beatty and his command made some mistakes that nearly cost the British the battle.  I support Admiral John Jellicoe, the Commander in Chief.

Educational released this short on the subject in late 1921. 

Newspaper reports on the battle are on my other blog:

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Fighting Sullivans -- May 30, 2016


Happy Memorial Day, everyone.  I thought this was a good day to write about 20th Century-Fox's The Fighting Sullivans, the story of the five Sullivan Brothers from Iowa.  They enlisted in the Navy in early 1942, and all served together on the light cruiser USS Juneau (CL-52).  On 13-November-1942, during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, the Juneau was sunk by torpedoes.  All five brothers died in the sinking or in the eight days before the ten survivors were found.

The Navy named a destroyer after the brothers, USS The Sullivans (DD-537).  After serving in World War II and the Korean War, the ship was preserved as a memorial in Buffalo, New York.

At the end of the movie, the Sullivans' mother christens the new destroyer.   As it slides down the ways, she says to her husband, "our boys are afloat again." 

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Illusion of Motion -- May 20, 2016

This post is part of the Classic Movie Ice Cream Social Blogathon, hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently (http://moviessilently.com/2016/05/20/the-classic-movie-ice-cream-social-is-here/).  Fritzi wants to focus "on classic movie-themed cheer. I’m supplying the ice cream (in digital form) and you’ll bring the cheer."

When my daughter was younger, we went to Disneyland every summer.  There were two places on Main Street that we would always visit.  The Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlour served delightful ice cream in huge waffle cones which were made on the premises.  I usually had mint chip.  Then we would go to the adjoining Penny Arcade.

 I always had to put a penny in the delightfully painted clamshell Mutoscopes.



What is a Mutoscope?  Why did I have to go play with them every year?  The Mutoscope is a hand-cranked entertainment machine that works like a giant flipbook. When I was a kid, I tried to build a device like it, but always had trouble getting it to work.


Each machine carries instructions and extensive patent information on a plate on the front of the machine.  The instructions are simple: "Push Penny in Slot Then Turn Crank to the Right."

When you put your penny in the slot, a light comes on.  You see a photo on a card.  When you turn the crank, each photo snaps forward, revealing the next one.  The sequence of photos gives the illusion of motion.  The cool thing is, you can turn the crank as fast or as slow as you like.  You can't go backwards.  Here we see Charlie Chaplin and Mabel Normand in a scene from a Keystone comedy.  Someone with good eyes could probably tell which one.

And here we see a scene from a Tom Mix western, probably one of his early Selig Polyscope productions.

Magic: Stage Illusions and Scientific Diversions, Including Trick Photography, Albert Allis Hopkins, ed.
from Magic: Stage Illusions and Scientific Diversions, Including Trick Photography, edited by Albert Allis Hopkins:
"The 'mutoscope' is compact, and the pictures are large. It is not any larger than the cover of a sewing machine. The enlarged bromide prints, measuring four by six inches, are mounted in close consecutive order around the cylinder and extend out like the leaves of a book, as shown in the illustration. In the operation of the mutoscope the spectator has the performance entirely under his own control by turning a crank which is placed conveniently at hand, and may make the operation as quick or as slow as he desires, and can stop the machine at any particular picture at will.  Each picture is momentarily held in front of the lens by the action of a slot attached to the roof of the box, which allows the pictures to slip by in much the same way as the thumb is used upon the leaves of a book."

The Mutoscope was invented by William Kennedy Laurie (WKL) Dickson, who had led the Edison team that developed the Kinetoscope and Kinetograph.   The Mutoscope and its accompanying camera, the Mutograph, were carefully designed to work around Thomas Edison's patents on motion picture devices. 

How did I get interested in the Mutoscope?  Several times when I was young I took a book out of the Anza Branch Library that explained how movies work.  I can't remember the title.  I tried to make several of the pre-cinema devices in the section on early moving picture devices. 

The Young Folk's Cyclopædia of Games and Sports by John Denison Champlin and Arthur Elmore Bostwick, 1890
The Thaumatrope (from the Greek for "wonder turner") is a card, often disk-shaped, with a string tied through a hole on each side.  On each face of the card is a part of a picture, most famously a bird on one side and a cage, upside down relative to the bird, on the other.  The person playing with the Thaumatrope takes a string in each hand and spins the card rapidly.  Persistence of vision merges the images together so the bird appears to be in the cage, or, in the example above, the rider appears to be on the horse.  This was a popular toy in the Nineteenth Century.  There is some disagreement about whether it was invented by a Frenchman or an Englishman.

I used to make Thaumatropes with my daughter. Kids enjoy them and I recommend making them as a good way to pass a rainy afternoon.

The Young Folk's Cyclopædia of Games and Sports by John Denison Champlin and Arthur Elmore Bostwick, 1890
Zoetropes were harder.  There are two basic types.  Each has a series of drawings meant to represent phases of an action.

Scientific American / New Series, Volume 20, Issue 14, April 3, 1869
One type of Zoetrope has the images on the face of a disk.  The disk may have slots or notches between the images.  The disk is rotated in front of a mirror.  Looking though the slots intermittently interrupts our view of the images and persistence of vision allows us to see the images as if they are moving.

This can also be done with a second disk in front of the one with the images.  The front disk has the slots and it rotates in the opposite direction from the one with the images.  I built one of these as a project for university class.  I should have taken a photo.

The Story of the Motion Picture: 65 B.C. to 1920 A.D. By Ben Jehudah Lubschez
The other type of Zoetrope, also called a Phenakistoscope or Daedaleum (I love these names), has the images on a strip of paper lining the inside of a drum.  There is a slot toward the rim of the drum above each image.  Looking through the slots of the rotating drum also gives the illusion of motion.

When my daughter was young, I purchased a toy drum-type Zoetrope and we drew strips to view in it.  Just recently, my wife took her class to a field trip at the Disney Family Museum in San Francisco's Presidio.  They created Zoetrope strips. 

Magic: Stage Illusions and Scientific Diversions, Including Trick Photography, edited by Albert Allis Hopkins

The methods above used drawing or posed photographs to recreate motion.  In 1878, San Francisco photographer Eadweard Muybridge used a series of cameras to photograph the stages of motion as it was happening. This took place down the Peninsula from where I lived, at the Stanford Farm, the future home of Stanford University.  I found this fascinating.  I wanted to reanimate Muybridge's images and I wanted to create my own, but I could never gather enough functioning cameras.  Muybridge went on to do studies of many kinds of motion, and used a Zoetrope to present them. 

Magic: Stage Illusions and Scientific Diversions, Including Trick Photography, edited by Albert Allis Hopkins.
German inventor Ottomar Anschutz created the Electrical Tachyscope in 1887 and demonstrated it at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  It used an early form of strobe light to achieve intermittent motion. 

from Magic: Stage Illusions and Scientific Diversions, Including Trick Photography, edited by Albert Allis Hopkins:
"The apparatus is the invention of Ottamar Anschuetz, of Lissa, Prussia. A special camera was used, adapted to take a number of photographs in quick succession. The instrument for displaying the pictures is called the "electrical tachyscope." It consists of an iron wheel of sufficient diameter to hold an entire series of positive prints on the periphery. The wheel is arranged upon a rigid standard, and provided with a series of pins which register exactly with the picture. Upon the standard behind the wheel is located a box containing a spiral Geissler tube which is connected with the terminals of a Ruhmkorff coil. The primary coil is provided with a contact maker and breaker adapted to be operated by the pins projecting from the wheel, so that every time a picture comes before the Geissler tube it is illuminated by an electrical discharge through the tube. This discharge, being instantaneous, shows each picture in an apparently fixed position. These pictures succeed each other so rapidly that the retinal image of one picture is retained until the next is superimposed upon it, thereby giving to the observer the sense of a continuous image in constant motion."

French artist and inventor Charles-Émile Reynaud created the Praxinoscope, which improved on the Zoetrope by replacing the slots with a set of mirrors in the middle of the drum. The video was shot at the Musee Mechanique in San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf.  The Musee Mechanique is a wonderful place to visit to play with old amusement machines. 

Magic: Stage Illusions and Scientific Diversions, Including Trick Photography, edited by Albert Allis Hopkins.
Reynaud went farther than the Praxinoscope or the Zoetrope with their simple strips of drawings.  He created the Théâtre Optique, which used a long chain of drawings on glass, along with projected backgrounds, to create beautiful animated cartoons which could be presented to large audiences.

from Magic: Stage Illusions and Scientific Diversions, Including Trick Photography, edited by Albert Allis Hopkins:
 "Up to the time of the invention of this theater, the apparatus that produced the synthesis of the successive phases of an action were limited to reproduction upon a very small scale, which can only be enjoyed by a limited group. The object of the optical theater was to provide an apparatus for the reproduction of a series of actions upon a considerable scale. The continuity of the image obtained by the praxinoscope, invented in 1877 by M. Reynaud, had not up to this time been realized by any projecting apparatus. The effect is produced by using a crystalloid band upon which the images are painted as represented at A in our engraving. The operator can revolve it in one direction or the other by means of two reels. The images pass before the lantern, B, and are projected by the aid of the objective, C, upon an inclined mirror, M, which projects them upon the transparent screen, E. Another projection lantern, B, causes the appearance on the screen of the scene, amid which appear the characters, which change their posture according as the painted band, A, is revolved by the operator."

Inspired by Reynaud, I drew a couple of animated films on strips of paper.  If they still exist, I should try to scan them and animate them.

Reynaud premiered the Théâtre Optique in 1892 to much acclaim.  In 1893, a team working for Thomas Edison demonstrated the vertical Kinetoscope, which allowed an individual to watch a movie.  In 1895, Auguste and Louis Lumière demonstrated a projector which allowed a crowd of people to watch a movie.  The Théâtre Optique was quickly forgotten,  In 1910, Reynaud threw his equipment and most of his animations into the Seine.

 Despite sad stories like Reynaud's, I get a lot of pleasure out of looking at pre-cinema, and sometimes trying to recreate it.  If you catch kids in the right mood, it can help them understand how movies work.

This post is part of the Classic Movie Ice Cream Social Blogathon, hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently (http://moviessilently.com/2016/05/20/the-classic-movie-ice-cream-social-is-here/).  Thank you to Fritzi for all the hard work.  Thank you to everyone who visited and I encourage you to read and comment on as many posts as you can.  Bloggers love comments.  

This post is my second blogathon post of 2016 and my 42nd since 2007.  This is my 24th blogathon.    This page has a list of all my blogathon posts.  


Coincidentally, the first day of this blogathon is the 125th anniversary of the first public demonstration of the horizontal Kinetoscope by a team of Thomas Edison's workers led by WKL Dickson.  On 20-May-1891, in West Orange, New Jersey, they played this film, later called the "Dickson Greeting," to the National Federation of Women's Clubs.  The Kinetoscope required further development, which came to fruition in 1893. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Senta Berger 75 -- May 13, 2016

Happy 75th birthday to voluptuous Austrian actress Senta Berger.  She appeared in movies directed by Sam Peckinpaugh like Major Dundee and Cross of Iron.  I enjoyed The Quiller Memorandum


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Iconic City Hall -- The Times of Harvey Milk -- May 10, 2016

The San Francisco Arts Commission sponsors the Art on Market Street Program, which has local artists put up a series of works on bus shelters on Market Street.  Iconic City Hall is a series by Kelli Inouye which depicts movies that have used San Francisco's beautiful City Hall.

The Times of Harvey Milk, which should not be confused with the 2008 dramatic film Milk, was a 1984 documentary about Harvey Milk, an activist who became San Francisco's first openly gay elected official. 

My father and I were watching a parade when Harvey Milk came along and shook our hands and gave my father a flier.  They talked for a bit, then Milk moved on.  My father told me that Milk would never get elected unless the city went to district elections.  Soon after, we went to district elections and Milk won. 

I was on my way to a medical appointment when they said on the radio that Supervisor Milk and Mayor George Moscone had been assassinated.   This was 9 or 10 days after I was on my way to another appointment and the radio reported about the massacre in Jonestown, Guyana.  It was a horrible month. 

It took me a while to find this image.  I took it on 12-November-2015.  The label said this poster was was number 5 of 6.  I never found number 6. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Forgotten -- May 8, 2016


Happy Mothers' Day, everyone.  I'm grateful for my mother and my wife and my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law and cousins and friends. All excellent mothers.

I wasn't too impressed by The Forgotten, but  Julianne Moore was excellent as a mother whose 9 year old son died.  People start to tell her that her son never existed, but she knew he did.  The conspiracy to convince her nearly succeeds, but at the end she remembers.  Confronting an agent of the conspiracy, she says "I had life inside me. I had life. I have a child. I have a son. I have a son, and his name is Sam, you son of a bitch." 

I wanted the agent to pause, then ask "What does the 'U' stand for?" 

Friday, May 6, 2016

News of the Week May 6, 1916 -- May 6, 2016

The 06-May-1916 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.  I am sad to report that this is the last "News of the Week as Shown in Films" that I have been able to find.  I wonder by the editors of Motography decided to drop the feature.  I'm going to miss it. 

"Here is a fully equipped camera reporter in Mexico -- a daring Mutual sharpshooter and his Yaqui bodyguard."  The Yaqui resisted the central government and tried to remain independent.

"Pearl White, the Pathe star, dons painter's gard to help on the Motion Picture Exposition sign.  Pathe News."  Pearl White was the first serial queen.  As a stunt, she climbed the scaffolding to put up signs for the exposition at Madison Square Garden. 

"Australia believes in preparedness.  The launching of her new fighter, the Brisbane, at Sidney.  Pathe News."  HMAS Brisbane was a light cruiser which was lauunched on 30-September-1915.  She served in the Pacific and the Mediterranean during World War One.  She was scrapped in 1936.

"Women police n the making.  School girl cops who help keep order in New York City.  Universal Weekly."  The Home Defense League was formed to train auxiliary officers to support the New York Police Department.  Perhaps this had something to do with that. 

"The wood in 'Home Run' Baker's bat is the most dependable of any whiffed by the N.Y. Yankees.  Selig-Tribune News."  Frank Baker was the third baseman in the "$100,000 Infield" of the Philadelphia Athletics.  He received the nickname "Home Run" by hitting two key home runs against the New York Giants, against Rube Marquard and Christy Mathewson, in the 1911 World Series.  After one of the fire sales that are still traditional with the Oakland Athletics, he went to the New York Yankees.  I guess "whiffed" didn't mean "struck out" then. 

"Home again! U.S. Dreadnaught 'New York' returning from five month's practice in Cuban waters -- Mutual News."  USS New York (BB-34) had been commissioned on 15-May-1914.  She patrolled with the British Grand Fleet during World War One.  She served in the Atlantic and the Pacific during World War Two.  After the war, she was one of the ships used in the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa! -- May 5, 2016

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone. ¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa! was an unpopular 1936 movie directed by Fernando de Fuentes.  The movie flopped when it was first released.  It showed the cruelty of war and of Pancho Villa.  In later years, it was seen as a classic. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Citizen Kane 75 Years -- May 1, 2016

Happy International Labor Day to all.

75 years ago, on 01-May-1941, Citizen Kane premiered at the RKO Palace theater on Broadway.  Orson Welles hit a grand slam on his first effort as a director, Citizen Kane.   It used to be at the top of lists of the Greatest Film Ever.  It doesn't appear to get there much anymore, but it is still a wonderful movie.  The movie had a mixed reception.  The Hearst papers hated it because everyone thought that Kane was William Randolph Hearst.  It hurt the reputation of Marion Davies, who was a lot more talented than Kane's second wife.  Writer Herman J Mankiewicz spent many years trying to get people to acknowledge that he played a large part in the creation of the movie.

Today is also the 100th birthday of actor Glenn Ford.  The Big Heat is one of my favorite movies.