Sunday, April 29, 2018

Reynaud’s Praxinoscope for the Lantern -- April 29, 2018

This article, from the 10-November-1882 Photographic News, describes Charles-Émile Reynaud's projecting praxinoscope.


THE photographing of animals in motion has led to some ingenious improvements of the lantern. Many of our readers saw Mr. Muybridge's lantern when in this country, how he brought his pictures, by a sort of Zoetrope action, rapidly before an audience one after the other. The Reynaud praxinoscope does the same thing, and does something else besides: it projects a scene upon the wall, and then animates this scene with living characters.

M. Reynaud's apparatus is said to be capable of being worked by the aid of an ordinary lamp. In the picture here shown, which we take from our contemporary La Nature, the whole mechanism is displayed so that our readers will be able to understand the arrangement. There are two projections, although only one lamp is used; one lens projects a scene, the other—the upper lens shown projects the moving figures.

With the scenic picture or photograph we have nothing to do; that is very simple. As regards the photographs “of motion” which are to follow one another, these are cemented together by joints of fabric, so as to make a band, such as is shown lying on the table. The slides may be coloured if desired, and made to harmonise in this way with the tinted scene on which they are to appear. The bands, which should be made flexible with rubber binding, are placed around the praxinoscope or zoetrope, whichever it may be termed, the instrument, as will be seen, having its sides or circumference distended; the praxinoscope is, moreover, pierced with openings, one corresponding to each picture, as in an ordinary zoetrope. The way in which the praxinoscope is revolved is also shown.

To understand how the luminous rays that form the images are made to fall properly, the reader must imagine a condensing lens which is placed close to the flame of the lamp, but which is not shown in our picture. There is, moreover, a mirror inclined at an angle of 45°, which reflects the luminous rays, and sends them through the pierced openings we have just spoken of. In this way luminous figures of the moving praxinoscope are formed upon the facets of glass in the upper portions of the instrument, and are thence projected through the upper lens upon the screen.

By converging upon the screen the two lenses of the instrument, we get at once an animated scene.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Waterer Watered (1895) -- April 28, 2018

This post is part of the Springtime Silent Movie Challenge: In the Beginning..., hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently. "Here’s the challenge. Before June 21, 2018, you will:
"Watch 5 movies made between 1906 and 1914
"Watch 5 movies made in 1905 or before
"Share your experience on your blog, on social media or here in the comments (I will set up a special post for the purpose to publish on June 21)"

For my five 1905 or before movies, I thought I would look at some pioneering efforts.

My third film is one of the first films to be projected before a paying audience.

When I was in grammar school, I read several books about film comedy.  At least one them called "L'Arroseur Arrosé" ("The Sprinkler Sprinkled" or more commonly "Watering the Waterer" in English) the first movie comedy.  I think they were correct.

The film begins with a man watering a flowers in a garden.  He wears clogs, a long apron and a straw hat.  A boy enters the frame and stands on the hose.  The water stops spraying from the hose.  The gardener looks at the hose and the boy lifts this foot.  The gardener gets sprayed in the face and his hat flies off.  The kid runs and the gardener catches him and pulls him back to the center of the frame by his ear.  The gardener spanks the kid.  When the gardener is done, the kid walks briskly off the screen and the gardener resumes watering.

This is still funny 123 years later.

Brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière grew up in Lyon.  Their father operated a small factory which made photographic plates and generated losses.  Both brothers went to technical school.  After they graduated, they ran the factory.  They automated the process of making plates and money.  Both brothers were inventors who made many improvements to the dry plate process and later developed the first commercial color film process.

Their father retired in 1892 and they began to work on making moving pictures.  By 1895, they had created the Cinematographe, a device which could shoot movies, make prints and project them.  On 22-March-1895 they had a private screening at the Society for the Development of the National Industry in Paris. On 28-December-1895, they showed their films to a paying audience in Paris.  This is generally considered to be the beginning of commercial cinema.

"L'Arroseur Arrosé" was the second film on the program.

"The Lumière Cinematograph," Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, December, 1936

The brothers sent cameramen around the world to film many famous places and people.  They soon lost interest in movies and concentrated on color photography.  When  magician Georges Méliès, who was to become a pioneering filmmaker, wanted to buy a camera, they told him that film was just a novelty.  They would not sell him a camera.  

Next Saturday:  A film by the first women director, who was one of the first directors of either gender.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Boss Shows Him How -- April 27, 2018

Moving Picture World, 06-April-1918
This is an odd little story.  Jesse Lasky was one of the founders of Paramount, the company that released Roscoe Arbuckle's Comique productions.  In the photo, Arbuckle and Lasky pose in a horse-drawn streetcar from "The Bellboy."  I wrote about the movie here:
Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton in "The Bell Boy"

The story describes Lasky and Arbuckle operating an electric streetcar.  Sounds made-up.

Moving Picture World, 13-April-1918
Roscoe's friend and costar Buster Keaton was given a draft status of 1-A, meaning he was eligible to be drafted.  "When Buster goes the screen will lose one its newer favorites; one who has more than made good from the first jump -- and he's more than a powerful jumper."

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Tiger Man -- April 25, 2018

Moving Picture World, 13-April-1918
William S Hart was an experienced stage actor who was fascinated with the American west. He often played what became known as the Good-Bad Man. In The Tiger Man, Hart is an escaped criminal who saves a lost wagon train.

Moving Picture World, 20-April-1918
Meanwhile, Hiller and Wilk, which may have had something to do with WH Productions, was rereleasing Hart's old Triangle productions, along with those of Douglas Fairbanks and Norma Talmadge.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Funniest Ever Released -- April 23, 2018

Moving Picture World, 06-A;pril-1918
Billy West closely imitated Charlie Chaplin in a long series of comedies for different studios. While Chaplin was making the excellent Mutual comedies, West was making imitations of Chaplin's Essanay comedies. When Chaplin moved on to First National distribution, Billy West was still making comedies for King-Bee. King-Bee created some interesting ads.

Moving Picture World, 06-A;pril-1918
Billy West appeared with Oliver Hardy and Ethel Burton in "The Soldier," directed by Arvid E Gillstrom.

Moving Picture World, 06-A;pril-1918
Charles Parrott became Billy West's new director.  When Parrott became a movie comedian, he took the name Charley Chase.

Moving Picture World, 06-A;pril-1918
King-Bee claimed that Billy West comedies were playing in 80 per cent of theaters in the New York/New Jersey area.

Moving Picture World, 06-A;pril-1918
King-Bee's planned feature film was indefinitely delayed.

Moving Picture World, 13-A;pril-1918
King-Bee celebrated its first anniversary.

Moving Picture World, 20-A;pril-1918
New director Charles Parrott was to host the first anniversary celebration.

Moving Picture World, 27-A;pril-1918
A photo of Charles Parrott.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Dickson Greeting (1891) -- April 21, 2018

This post is part of the Springtime Silent Movie Challenge: In the Beginning..., hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently. "Here’s the challenge. Before June 21, 2018, you will:
"Watch 5 movies made between 1906 and 1914
"Watch 5 movies made in 1905 or before
"Share your experience on your blog, on social media or here in the comments (I will set up a special post for the purpose to publish on June 21)"

For my five 1905 or before movies, I thought I would look at some pioneering efforts.

My second film is called the "Dickson Greeting" and it may have been the first American movie shown to the public.

I picked this film because when I was in grammar school, I don't remember what grade, I bought a Scholastic book about Thomas Edison.  I have always been interested in Edison.  One chapter, illustrated with a line drawing, described a meeting of a women's group.  As a special attraction, they got to see a movie.  The book described someone, Edison I think, but I could be wrong, walking into the frame, talking to the audience with perfect synchronization, removing his hat, and bowing.  I knew enough about movies by that time to know that no one had made a synchronized sound film and that no one had demonstrated a projector by that time.  Other books I had read in the Anza branch library, books about film history, did not mention this demonstration.  I figured someone was exaggerating, which made me distrust other things in the book.

Century, June, 1894
The film may have been shot on 20-May-1891.  Some accounts say that it was shot at the Black Maria studio in West Orange, New Jersey, but other accounts say that the Black Maria was not used until 1893.

We only have three seconds of the film, which may have been longer.  One thing I always notice about early Edison films is the intense light.  This was necessary because film stock was not very sensitive.  Notice that the subject of the film has his eyes closed.
The subject of the film turns out to be the man who invented the camera used to shoot the film, William Kennedy Laurie (WKL) Dickson, the leader of Edison's team which worked on motion pictures. Edison took credit for the invention and Dickson spent many years trying to get credit.

Dickson was a Scot but was born in France.  He came to America in 1879 and by 1883 he was working for Thomas Edison.  When Edison came up with the idea for a device that could record and show moving pictures, Dickson got the assignment to make it happen.

Century, June, 1894
A later view shows the interior of the Black Maria.  The Kinetograph camera is on the right.  There are wires between it and a phonograph, but probably not mechanism to synchronize them.

New York Sun, 28-May-1891
This article offers a more realistic view of the meeting that was described in the book:

"A little while ago there was a great convention of the women's clubs of America. Mrs. Edison is interested in women's clubs and their work and she decided to entertain the Presidents of the various clubs at the Convention. Edison entered into the plan, and when 147 club women visited his workshop he showed them the working model of his new Kinetograph, for that is the name he has given to the most wonderful of all his wonderful inventions.

New York Sun, 28-May-1891
The surprised and pleased club women saw a small pine box standing on the floor. There were some wheels and belts near the box and a workman who had them in charge. In the top of the box was a hole perhaps an inch in diameter As they looked through this hole they saw the picture of a man. It was a most marvelous picture. It bowed and smiled and waved its hands and took off its hat with the most perfect naturalness and grace. Every motion was perfect. There was not a hitch or a jerk. No wonder Edison chuckled at the effect be produced with his Kinetograph."

The device which shot the film was called a Kinetograph.  The device used for view was called a Kinetoscope.

Next Saturday:  The first comedy film. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Pathé to Push Lloyd Comedies -- April 20, 2018

Moving Picture World, 27-April-1918
Happy 125th birthday to Harold Lloyd, who was born on 20-April-1893.  

This Pathé ad features both Toto, whom Hal Roach was trying to promote as the next big Rolin comedy star, and Harold Lloyd. He is reading a book entitled How to Box.

Moving Picture World, 06-April-1918
Harold Lloyd's "Follow the Crowd" is listed with other releases, including a Pearl White serial, The House of Hate.  Harold's movie "is a smashing, laugh-producing series of startling incidents..."

Moving Picture World, 06-April-1918
"On the Jump" featured Harold as a bellhop and Snub Pollard as the house detective at the Squirrel Inn.  Bebe Daniels was the leading lady.  "There are a number of amusing knockabout situations which will bring laughter."

Moving Picture World, 13-April-1918
A review of comic actors says "Harold Lloyd is a young performer with a real comic bent.  He is a personable young fellow of the Max Linder, dress-suit type."

Moving Picture World, 13-April-1918
 Last month we saw Harold visit New York.  This month he has returned "After signing a new contract for his appearance in Pathé-Rolin comedies."  Perhaps Harold's contract status is the reason Hal Roach was looking for a new star. 

Moving Picture World, 13-April-1918
"Follow the Crowd" is "a typical number, with some good small business in it."

Moving Picture World, 20-April-1918
Pathé to Push Lloyd Comedies."

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Tarzan of the Apes is Doing Big Business -- April 19, 2018

Motion Picture World, 06-April-1918
At the same time, First National had Tarzan of the Apes and Charlie Chaplin.

Motion Picture World, 13-April-1918
"Get in on this hurricane of publicity."

Motion Picture World, 20-April-1918
"Look what Tarzan took."

Motion Picture World, 27-April-1918
"They can't resist Tarzan of the Apes."

Motion Picture World, 27-April-1918
"'Tarzan of the Apes' is Doing Big Business."

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Flame of the Barbary Coast -- April 18, 2018
Today is the 112th anniversary of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.

John Wayne played Duke, a cowboy who came to San Francisco, visited the Barbary Coast, and fell in love with Flaxen, played by Ann Dvorak and got fleeced by gambler Tito Morelli, played by Joseph Schildkraut.  Seeking revenge, Duke went home and learned how to gamble and how to spot cheaters from his friend Wolf, played by William Frawley.  Duke returned to the Barbary Coast and won a pile of money, which he used to open a new joint on the Coast.  Duke tried to get Flaxen and Tito fought him until the earthquake and fire destroyed both of their gambling houses.   The special effects were not very impressive, which is unusual for a Republic movie.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Anne Shirley and William Holden 100 -- April 17, 2018
Anne Shirley and William Holden were both born 100 years ago today, on 17-April-1918.  Her name was Dawn Paris.  When she became a child actress, she took the name Dawn O'Day.  When Dawn O'Day starred in an adaption of Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, she took the name of the character she played, Anne Shirley. William Beedle, Jr changed his name only once, to William Holden.
My favorite Anne Shirley movie is Murder, My Sweet, and adaption of Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely.

William Holden had such a long career and made so many good movies that it is hard to pick a favorite.
His first big hit was Sunset Boulevard.
He did a good job with the comedy in Born Yesterday.

Harry Anderson, RIP -- A[pril 17, 2018
I remember Harry Anderson from Night Court.  I also remember him as a magician.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Spike Milligan 100 -- April 16, 2018
Spike Milligan was born 100 years ago today, on 16-April-1918.  He served in World War Two.  He was a founder of The Goon Show.

According to Dr Richard Wiseman's 2002 study, Milligan wrote The World's Funniest Joke:
"Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, 'My friend is dead! What can I do?' The operator says, 'Calm down. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead.' There is a silence; then a gun shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says, 'OK, now what?'"

Miloš Forman and Isao Takahata, RIP -- April 16, 2018
Two directors died recently.

Miloš Forman started out in Czechoslovakia. In the US, he made many popular films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus and Ragtime.

Isao Takahata was one of the founders of Studio Ghibli. He directed animated features like Grave of the Fireflies and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Charlie Chaplin in His First Million Dollar Picture -- April 15, 2018

Rock Island Argus, 27-April-1918
Charlie Chaplin and Brownie (playing Scraps) were the stars of Chaplin's first movie for First National release, "A Dog's Life."

Rock Island Argus, 27-April-1918
The Spencer Square Theater in Rock Island, Illinois featured the short film prominently in its advertising.

Moving Picture World, 06-April-1918
I like the image in this ad.  "The One and Only."

Moving Picture World, 06-April-1918
Charlie was inspired by a stray which sought refuge in the studio, but used a bigger dog for the movie.

Moving Picture World, 20-April-1918
Charlie got a visit from TL Tally, a Los Angeles-area exhibitor and Vice President of First National.

Moving Picture World, 20-April-1918
Someone mentions Charles Joshua Chaplin, the Nineteenth Century painter.  The author has his dates a bit off.  CJ Chaplin lived from 1825 to 1891.  He was a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.  Read about him in Wikipedia:

Moving Picture World, 20-April-1918
Three reels was an unusual length for a comedy.

Moving Picture World, 27-April-1918
"His first picture for 8 months."  "And it's a 3 reeler without a foot of padding and only 11 short sub-titles." 

Moving Picture World, 06-April-1918

With Chaplin gone for more than a year, Essanay released Chase Me Charlie, a feature compiled in Britain from several of Chaplin's Essanay shorts.  They referred to it as "A Chaplin Jingle."

Moving Picture World, 06-April-1918
"The sub-titles are in verse form and the comedy is a Chaplin jingle, although the main title is "Chase Me, Charlie." George Kleine distributed the film.  

Moving Picture World, 13-April-1918
At the same time, Essanay continued to rerelease Chaplin's individual comedies.  Some of these were also part of Chase Me Charlie, such as "His New Job," "The Tramp," "In the Park," "The Champion," "A Woman" (listed as "The Woman"), "By the Sea" and probably others.  

Moving Picture World, 13-April-1918
This article says that Chase Me Charlie was six reels.  The previous article said it was five reels.  The IMDB says it is seven.

Moving Picture World, 20-April-1918
"While there is a lack of continuity, there are many laughs."  "This picture was originally presented in England, and many of the subtitles have a distinctive English flavor and refer to English location."

Moving Picture World, 27-April-1918
In this ad, Charlie juggles a bunch of Charlies and drops one Charlie.

Moving Picture World, 20-April-1918
Chaplin left Mutual, but his short comedies were still in distribution, legally or not.

Moving Picture World, 13-April-1918
Meanwhile Charlie toured the country with his friends Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford to promote sales of Liberty Bonds to pay for the war.

Moving Picture World, 20-April-1918
It appears that Chaplin was going to pay a solo visit to Atlanta to promote war bonds.

Moving Picture World, 27-April-1918
Chaplin did not wind up in the US Army.