Charles Dickens, filmmaker

Charles Dickens portrayed in Dickens’ London (UK 1924)

Let Dickens and the whole ancestral array, going back as far as the Greeks and Shakespeare, be superfluous reminders that both Griffith and our cinema prove our origins to be not solely as of Edison and his fellow inventors, but as based on an enormous cultured past; each part of this past in its own moment of world history has moved forward the great art of cinematography.

Sergei Eisenstein

As I write this, in Rochester, Kent, I can look out of my window at the corner of St Margaret Street where, ninety-nine years ago, John Bunny drove past in a carriage, dressed as Mr Pickwick for the turning camera handles of the Vitagraph Company of America. And yesterday and today, on BBC television, we saw a fevered The Mystery of Edwin Drood, much of it filmed fifty yards away in the grounds and centre of Rochester cathedral. Here is the heart of Dickens, and the heart of a grand cinematographic tradition.

Charles Dickens was born two hundred years ago, and his great legacy is being celebrated with books, exhibitions, festivals, conferences, programmes and film seasons. His superabundant influence on cinema and television has been recognised in particular, with a three-month film season at the BFI Southbank underway, an Arena documentary Dickens on Film (with copious examples from the silent cinema) and new television productions of Drood and Great Expectations. Dickens remains something to see.

Dickens was hugely important to the silent cinema, as Eisenstein noted in his famous essay, ‘Dickens, Griffith and the Film Today’, which points out the principle of montage inherent in both Dickens’ novels and D.W. Griffith’s films. Every one of his novels was filmed during the silent era, most more than once. There were specialist Dickens filmmakers, such as Thomas Bentley and A.W. Sandberg. Charlie Chaplin (perhaps the most Dickensian of all filmmakers) loved his works, reading Oliver Twist many times over. It was not just Dickens the novelist who inspired the first filmmakers but Dickens the lover of theatre and the many stage dramatisations of his work. Dickens’s work naturally spilled out of the pages that could not fully contain them onto other dramatic platforms – the stage, the recital, the magic lantern, the cinema. Like all good works of the imagination, they transcend the boundaries of any one medium.

As a contribution to the Dickens bicentenary, and by way of demonstrating his great importance to early film, we have put together a filmography for Dickens and silent cinema. It may be the most extensive yet published; it certainly tries to clear up some of the confusion to be found in listings elsewhere, though there are still problematic corners, and doubtless films still to be identified. It lists both fiction (arranged under the works that inspired them) and non-fiction films, and notes where films still exist (as far as I can discover), and if they are available online or DVD. Where it says afilm is lost, this should not be taken as definitive, as some films will be held privately (noted here as Extant where I have information on these). Please let me know of any errors or omissions.


Barnaby Rudge

  • Dolly Varden (UK 1906) d. Alf Collins p.c. Gaumont
    Cast: not known
    Length: 740ft Archive: Lost
    Note: It is not entirely certain this is based on anything more than the name from Dickens’ novel (Gifford does not list it in his Books and Plays in Films 1896-1915)
  • Dolly Varden (USA 1913) d. Charles Brabin p.c. Edison
    Cast: Mabel Trunnelle, Willis Secord, Robert Brower
    Length: 1000ft Archive: Lost
  • Barnaby Rudge (UK 1915) d. Thomas Bentley p.c. Hepworth
    Cast: Tom Powers (Barnaby Rudge), Violet Hopson (Emma Haredale), Stewart Rome (Maypole Hugh), Chrissie White (Dolly Varden)
    Length: 5325ft Archive: Lost

Bleak House

  • The Death of Poor Joe (UK 1901) d. G.A. Smith p.c. Warwick Trading Company
    Cast: Laura Bayley (Joe), Tom Green (?) (nightwatchman)
    Length: 50ft Archive: BFI
    Note: Apparently based on the character of Jo the Crossing Sweeper [see comments for news of the discovery of this film]
  • Jo, the Crossing Sweeper (UK 1910) d. not known p.c. Walturdaw
    Cast: not known
    Length: 450ft Archive: Lost
  • Jo, the Crossing Sweeper (UK 1918) d. Alexander Butler p.c. Barker
    Cast: Unity More (Jo), Dora de Winton (Lady Dedlock), Andre Beaulieu (Tulkinghorne)
    Length: 5000ft Archive: Lost
  • Bleak House (UK 1920) d. Maurice Elvey p.c. Ideal
    Cast: Constance Collier (Lady Dedlock), Berta Gellardi (Esther Summerson), E. Vivian Reynolds (Tulkinghorne)
    Length: 6400ft Archive: BFI
  • Bleak House (Tense Moments from Great Plays) (UK 1922) d. Harry B. Parkinson p.c. Master
    Cast: Sybil Thorndike (Lady Dedlock), Betty Doyle (Esther)
    Length: 3100ft Archive: Extant (see comments)

The Chimes

  • The Chimes (UK 1914) d. Thomas Bentley p.c. Hepworth
    Cast: Stewart Rome (Richard), Violet Hopson (Meg Veck), Warwick Buckland (Trotty Veck)
    Length: 2500ft Archive: Lost
  • The Chimes (USA 1914) d. Herbert Blaché p.c. US Amusement Corps
    Cast: Tom Terriss (Trotty Veck), Faye Cusick (Meg)
    Length: 5 reels Archive: Lost

Scrooge, or Marley’s Ghost (1901), the earliest surviving Dickens film

A Christmas Carol

  • Scrooge; or, Marley’s Ghost (UK 1901) d. Walter R. Booth p.c. Paul’s Animatograph Works
    Cast: Unknown
    Length: 620ft Archive: BFI Availability: Dickens Before Sound DVD
  • A Christmas Carol (USA 1908) d. not known p.c. Essanay
    Cast: Thomas Ricketts (Scrooge)
    Length: 1000ft Archive: Lost
  • Il sogno dell’usuraio (Italy 1910) d. not known p.c. Cines
    Cast: not known
    Length: 675ft Archive: Lost
    Note: English release title The Dream of Old Scrooge
  • A Christmas Carol (USA 1910) d. J. Searle Dawley (?) p.c. Edison
    Cast: Marc McDermott (Scrooge), Charles Ogle (Bob Cratchit) Viola Dana
    Length: 1000ft Archive: BFI, George Eastman House Availability: A Christmas Past DVD, Internet Archive
  • The Virtue of Rags (USA 1912) d. Theodore Wharton p.c. Essanay
    Cast: Francis X. Bushman, Helen Dunbar, Bryant Washburn
    Length: 1000ft Archive: Lost
    Note: Very loose adaptation of Dickens’ story
  • Scrooge (UK 1913) d. Leedham Bantock p.c. Zenith
    Cast: Seymour Hicks (Scrooge)
    Length: 2500ft Archive: BFI
  • A Christmas Carol (UK 1914) d. Harold Shaw p.c. London
    Cast: Charles Rock (Scrooge), Edna Flugrath (Belle), George Bellamy (Bob Cratchit), Mary Brough (Mrs Cratchit)
    Length: 1340ft Archive: BFI
  • The Right to be Happy (aka Scrooge the Skinflint) (USA 1916) d. Rupert Julian p.c. Bluebird
    Cat: Rupert Julian (Scrooge), John Cook (Bob Cratchit), Claire McDowell (Mrs Cratchit)
    Length: 5 reels Archive: Lost
  • My Little Boy (USA 1917) d. Elsie Jane Wilson p.c. Bluebird
    Cast: Winter Hall (Uncle Oliver), Zoe Rae (Paul), Ella Hall (Clara), Emory Johnson (Fred)
    Length: 5 reels Archive: Lost
    Note: Based on A Christmas Carol and the nursery rhyme ‘Little Boy Blue’
  • Scrooge (Tense Moments with Great Authors) (UK 1922) d. George Wynn p.c. Master
    Cast: H.V. Esmond (Scrooge)
    Length: 1280ft Archive: Extant (see comments)
  • Scrooge (Gems of Literature) (UK 1923) d. Edwin Greenwood p.c. British & Colonial
    Cast: Russell Thorndike (Scrooge), Jack Denton (Bob Cratchit)
    Length: 1600ft Archive: Lost

The Cricket on the Hearth

  • The Cricket on the Hearth (USA 1909) d. D.W. Griffith p.c. Biograph
    Cast: Owen Moore (Edward Plummer), Violet Mersereau (May Fielding), Linda Arvidson (Sister Dorothy)
    Length: 985ft Archive: MOMA, George Eastman House, Library of Congres Availability: Dickens Before Sound DVD
  • The Cricket on the Hearth (USA 1914) d. Lorimer Johnston p.c. American
    Cast: Sydney Ayres, Vivian Rich
    Length: 2000ft Archive: Lost
  • The Cricket on the Hearth (USA 1914) d. Lawrence Marston p.c. Biograph
    Cast: Jack Drumeir, Alan Hale
    Length: 2 reels Archive: George Eastman House, MOMA Available: Grapevine Video DVD-R
  • Sverchok na Pechi (Russia 1915) d. Boris Sushkevich and A. Uralsky p.c. Russian Golden Series
    Cast: Grigori Khmara, Yevgeni Vakhtangov
    Length: 710m Archive: Lost
  • Le grillon du foyer (France 1922) d. Jean Manoussi p.c. Eclipse
    Cast: Charles Boyer, Marchel Vibart, Sabine Landray
    Length: ? Archive: Lost?
  • The Cricket on the Hearth (USA 1923) d. Lorimer Johnston p.c. Paul Gerson
    Cast: Josef Swickard (Caleb Plummer), Fritzi Ridgeway (Bertha Plummer), Paul Gerson (John Perrybingle)
    Length: 7 reels Archive: UCLA (1 reel only) [see also comments]

David Copperfield

  • Love and the Law (USA 1910) d. Edwin S. Porter p.c. Edison
    Cast: Edwin August, Charles J. Brabin
    Length: 1000ft Archive: Lost
  • David Copperfield: part 1; The Early Life of David Copperfield (USA 1911) d. Theodore Marston p.c. Thanhouser
    Cast: Flora Foster (David as a boy), Anna Seer (David’s mother), Marie Eline (Emily as a girl), Frank Crane
    Length: 950ft Archive: Museo Nazionale del Cinema (incomplete?)
  • David Copperfield: part 2; Little Emily and David Copperfield (USA 1911) d. Theodore Marston p.c. Thanhouser
    Cast: Ed Genung (David), Florence La Badie (Emily)
    Length: 950ft Archive: Museo Nazionale del Cinema (incomplete?)
  • David Copperfield: part 3; The Loves of David Copperfield (USA 1911) d. Theodore Marston p.c. Thanhouser
    Cast: d. Ed Genung (David)
    Length: 1000ft Archive: Museo Nazionale del Cinema (incomplete?)
  • Little Emily (UK 1911) d. Frank Powell p.c. Britannia
    Cast: Florence Barker (Emily)
    Length: 1254ft Archive: Lost
  • David Copperfield (UK 1913) d. Thomas Bentley p.c. Hepworth
    Cast: Kenneth Ware (David Copperfield), Eric Desmond (David as a child), Len Bethel (David as a youth), Alma Taylor (Dora), H. Collins (Micawber), Jack Hulcup (Uriah Heep)
    Length: 7500ft Archive: BFI Availability: Dickens Before Sound DVD, 8mins extract
  • David Copperfield (Denmark 1922) d. A.W. Sandberg p.c. Nordisk
    Cast: Gorm Schmidt (David as a adult), Martin Herzberg (David as a boy), Karen Winther (Agnes as a woman), Else Neilsen (Agnes as a girl), Frederik Jensen (Micawber), Karina Bell (Dora), Margarete Schlegel (David’s mother), Rasmus Christiansen (Uriah Heep)
    Length: 3095m Archive: Danish Film Institute Availability: Clips on www.dfi.dk

Dombey and Son

  • Dombey and Son (UK 1917) d. Maurice Elvey p.c. Ideal
    Cast: Norman McKinnel (Paul Dombey), Lilian Braithwaite (Edith Dombey), Hayford Hobbes (Walter Dombey)
    Length: 6800ft Archive: George Eastman House

Store Forventninger (Denmark 1922) directed by A.W. Sandberg, from http://www.dfi.dk

Great Expectations

  • The Boy and the Convict (UK 1909) d. Dave Aylott p.c. Williamson
    Cast: Unknown
    Length: 750ft Archive: BFI Availability: Dickens Before Sound DVD
  • Great Expectations (USA 1917) d. Robert D. Vignola p.c. Famous Players
    Cast: Jack Pickford (Pip), Louise Huff (Estella), Frank Losee (Magwitch), W.W. Black (Joe Gargery), Grace Barton (Miss Havisham)
    Length: 5 reels Archive: Lost
  • Store Forventninger (Denmark 1922) d. A.W. Sandberg p.c. Nordisk
    Cast: Martin Herzberg (young Pip), Harry Komdrup (adult Pip), Marie Dinesn (Miss Havisham), Emil Helsengreen (Magwitch)
    Length: 2527m Achive: Danish Film Institute Availability: Clips on www.dfi.dk

Hard Times

  • Hard Times (UK 1915) d. Thomas Bentley p.c. Transatlantic
    Cast: Bransby Williams (Gradgrind), Leon M. Lion (Tom Gradgrind), Dorothy Bellew (Louisa), Madge Tree (Rachael)
    Length: 4000ft Archive: Lost

Little Dorrit

  • Little Dorrit (USA 1913) d. James Kirkwood p.c. Thanhouser
    Cast: Maude Fealy, Alphonse Ethier, Harry Benham
    Length: 3 reels Archive: Lost
  • Klein Djoorte (Germany 1917) d. Frederic Zelnik p.c. Berliner
    Cast: Lisa Weisse (Djoorte), Karl Beckersachs (Geert), Aenderli Lebius (Batarama)
    Length: 4 reels Archive: Lost
  • Little Dorrit (UK 1920) d. Sidney Morgan p.c. Progress
    Cast: Joan Morgan (Amy Dorrit), Lady Tree (Mrs Clenman), Langhorne Burton (Arthur Clenman)
    Length: 6858ft Archive: Screen Archive South East (20mins only) Availability: SASE website
  • Lille Dorrit (Denmark 1924) d. A.W. Sandberg p.c. Nordisk
    Cast: Karina Bell (Amy Dorrit), Frederik Jensen (William Dorrit), Gunnar Tolnæs (Arthur Clennam)
    Length: 3245m Archive: BFI

Martin Chuzzlewit

  • Martin Chuzzlewit (USA 1912) d. Oscar Apfel and J. Searle Dawley p.c. Edison
    Cast: Guy Hedlund, Harold Shaw, Marion Brooks
    Length: 3 reels Archive: Lost
  • Martin Chuzzlewit (USA 1914) d. Travers Vale p.c. Biograph
    Cast: Alan Hale, Jack Drumeir
    Length: 2 reels Archive: George Eastman House

Mrs Lirriper’s Legacy

  • Mrs Lirriper’s Legacy (USA 1912). d. not known (Van Dyke Brooke?) p.c. Vitagraph
    Cast: Mary Maurice (Mrs Lirriper)
    Length: 1000ft Archive: Lost

Mrs Lirriper’s Lodgers

  • Mrs Lirriper’s Lodgers (USA 1912) d. Van Dyke Brooke p.c. Vitagraph
    Cast: Mary Maurice (Mrs Lirriper), Clara Kimball Young (Mrs Edson), Courtney Foote (Mr Edison), Van Dyke Brooke (Jackman)
    Length: 1000ft Archive: Lost

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood (UK 1909) d. Arthur Gilbert p.c. Gaumont
    Cast: Cooper Willis (Edwin Drood), Nancy Bevington (Rosa Bud)
    Length: 1030ft Archive: Lost
  • [The Mystery of Edwin Drood] (France 1912) d. not known p.c. Film d’Art
    Cast: not known
    Length: 1970ft Archive: Lost
    Note: As a Film d’Art production this would have been made by Pathé, but I have not traced a record of it or an original title in the Pathé catalogue
  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood (USA 1914) d. Herbert Blaché and Tom Terriss p.c. World
    Cast: Tom Terriss (John Jasper), Vinnie Burns (Rosa Bud), Rodney Hickock (Edwin Drood)
    Length: 5 reels Archive: Lost

Thanhouser’s 1912 Nicholas Nickelby, with Harry Benham as Nicholas

Nicholas Nickleby

  • Dotheboys Hall; or, Nicholas Nickleby (UK 1903) d. Alf Collins p.c. Gaumont
    Cast: William Carrington (pupil [Smike?])
    Length: 225ft Archive: BFI
  • A Yorkshire School (USA 1910) d. James H. White p.c. Edison
    Cast: Verner Clarges
    Length: 800ft Archive: Lost
  • Nicholas Nickleby (USA 1912) d. George Nicholls p.c. Thanhouser
    Cast: Harry Benham (Nicholas Nickelby), Mignon Anderson (Madeline Bray), Frances Gibson (Kate Nickelby), David H. Thompson (Squeers), Justus D. Barnes (Ralph Nickleby)
    Length: 2 reels Archive: BFI Availability: Dickens Before Sound DVD, Thanhouser Vimeo channel

The Old Curiosity Shop

  • Little Nell (UK 1906 d. Arthur Gilbert p.c. Gaumont
    Cast: Thomas Nye
    Length: ? Archive: Lost
    Note: Chronophone film designed to be synchronised with disc recording
  • The Old Curiosity Shop (USA 1909) d. not known p.c. Essanay
    Cast: Marcia Moore (Little Nell)
    Length: 1000ft Archive: Lost
  • The Old Curiosity Shop (USA 1911) d. Barry O’Neill p.c. Thanhouser
    Cast: Marie Eline (Little Nell), Frank Hall Crane (Grandfather), Marguerite Snow, Harry Benham
    Length: ? Archive: BFI
  • The Old Curiosity Shop (UK 1912) d. Frank Powell p.c. Britannia
    Cast: Not known
    Length: 990ft Archive: Lost
  • The Old Curiosity Shop (UK 1913) d. Thomas Bentley p.c. Hepworth
    Cast: Mai Deacon (Little Nell), E. Fleton (Quilp), Alma Taylor (Mrs Quilp), Willie West (Dick Swiveller), Warwick Buckland (Grandfather Trent)
    Length: 5300ft Archive: Lost
  • The Old Curiosity Shop (UK 1921) d. Thomas Bentley p.c. Welsh-Pearson
    Cast: Mabel Poulton (Little Nell), William Lug (Grandfather), Pino Conti (Quilp)
    Length: 6587ft Archive: Lost
  • La bottega dell’antiquario (Italy 1921) d. Mario Corsi p.c. G. Salvini
    Cast: Gustavo Salvini, Robert Sortsch-Pla, Egle Valery
    Length: 1987m Archive: Lost

Oliver Twist

  • The Death of Nancy Sykes (USA 1897) d. not known p.c. American Mutoscope
    Cast: Mabel Fenton (Nancy), Charles Ross (Bill Sykes)
    Length: Archive: Lost
  • Mr Bumble’s Courtship (aka Mr Bumble the Beadle) (UK 1898) d. not known p.c. Paul’s Animatograph Works
    Cast: not known
    Length: 60 ft Archive: Lost
  • Oliver Twist (France 1905) d. not known p.c. Gaumont
    Cast: not known
    Length: 750ft Archive: Lost
    Note: Pointer gives 1906 date, Gifford says 1905
  • A Modern Day Fagin (UK 1905) d. not known p.c. Walturdaw
    Cast: not known
    Length: 250ft Archive: Lost
  • The Modern Oliver Twist; or The Life of a Pickpocket (USA 1906) d. not known p.c. Vitagraph
    Cast: not known
    Length: 475ft Archive: Lost
  • Oliver Twist (USA 1909) d. J. Stuart Blackton p.c. Vitagraph
    Cast: Edith Storey (Oliver Twist), Elita Proctor Otis (Nancy), William Humphrey (Fagin)
    Length: 995ft Archive: BFI
  • L’enfance d’Oliver Twist (France 1910) d. Camille de Morlhon p.c. Film d’Art
    Cast: Renée Pré (Oliver Twist), Jean Périer (Fagin), Marie Dornay (Rose)Length: 295m Archive: Lost
  • Storia di un orfano (Italy 1911) d. not known p.c. Cines
    Cast: not known
    Length: 1424ft Archive: Lost
  • Oliver Twist (USA 1912) d. not known p.c. General Film Publicity
    Cast: Nat C. Goodwin (Fagin), Vinnie Burns (Oliver Twist), Mortimer Martine (Bill Sykes), Beatrice Moreland (Nancy), Charles Rogers (Artful Dodger)
    Length: 5 reels Archive: Incomplete print exists (according to Silent Era)
  • Brutality (USA 1912) d. D.W. Griffith p.c. Biograph
    Cast: Walter Miller (young man), Mae Marsh (young woman), Joseph Graybill (victim of anger)
    Length: 2 reels Archive: Library of Congress, MOMA
    Note: Plot features an abusive husband who sees the error of his ways after seeing Bill Sikes in stage production of Oliver Twist
  • Oliver Twist (UK 1912) d. Thomas Bentley p.c. Hepworth
    Cast: Ivy Millais (Oliver), John McMahon (Fagin), Harry Royston (Bill Sykes), Alma Taylor (Nancy), Willie West (Artful Dodger)
    Length: 3700ft Archive: Lost?
    Note: Clips from this film, all that may survive, are included in the travelogue Dickens’ London (UK 1924), held by the BFI
  • The Queen of May (USA 1912) d. not known p.c. Republic Film Company
    Cast: not known
    Length: c.800ft Archive: BFI
    Note: Drama about a poor mother and her daughter, who performs in a stage production of Oliver Twist.
  • A Female Fagin (USA 1913) d. not known p.c. Kalem
    Cast: not known
    Length: 910ft Archive: BFI
    Note: Probably only marginal relationship to Oliver Twist
  • Oliver Twist Sadly Twisted (USA 1915) d. not known p.c. Superba
    Cast: not known
    Length: ? Archive: Lost
    Note: Presumably a parody of some sort
  • Oliver Twist (USA 1916) d. James Young p.c. Lasky
    Cast: Marie Doro (Oliver), Hobart Bosworth (Bill Sykes), Tully Marshall (Fagin), Elsie Jane Wilson (Nancy), Raymond Hatton Artful Doger), W.S. Van Dyke (Charles Dickens)
    Length: 5 reels p.c. Lost
  • Oliver Twisted (UK 1917) d. Fred Evans, Joe Evans p.c. Piccadilly
    Cast: Fred Evans (Pimple)
    Length: 2360ft Archive: Lost
    Note: Probably parodying USA 1916 Oliver Twist
  • Twist Olivér (Hungary 1919) d. Márton Garas p.c. Corvin
    Cast: Tibor Luinszky (Oliver), Sári Almási (Nancy), Gyula Szöreghy (Sikes), László Z. Molnár (Fagin)
    Length: 6 reels Archive: Jugoslovenska Kinoteka (incomplete, 4 reels)
  • Die Geheimnisse von London – Die Tragödie eines Kindes (Germany 1920) d. Richard Oswald p.c. Leyka/Richard Oswald
    Cast: Manci Lubinsky (Percy), Louis Ralph (Jim), Adolph Weisse (Fagin)
    Length: 2137m Archive: Lost?
  • Oliver Twist Jr. (USA 1921) d. Millard Webb p.c. Fox
    Cast: Harold Goodwin (Oliver Twist Jr), Clarence Wilson (Fagin), G. Raymond Nye (Bill Sikes), Scott McKee (Artful Dodger), Irene Hunt (Nancy)
    Length: 5 reels p.c. Lost
  • Nancy (Tense Moments with Great Authors) (UK 1922) d. Harry B. Parkinson p.c. Master
    Cast: Sybil Thorndike (Nancy), Ivan Berlyn (Fagin)
    Length: 1578ft Archive: Lost
  • Fagin (Tense Moments with Great Authors) (UK 1922) d. Harry B. Parkinson p.c. Master
    Cast: Ivan Berlyn (Fagin)
    Length: 1260ft Archive: Lost
  • Oliver Twist (USA 1922) d. Frank Lloyd p.c. Jackie Coogan
    Cast: Jackie Coogan (Oliver), Lon Chaney (Fagin), George Sigmann (Bill Sikes), Gladys Brockwell (Nancy), Joan Standing (Charlotte), Edouard Trebaol (Artful Dodger)
    Length: 7761ft Archive: Film Preservation Associates, LoC, UCLA Available: Dickens Before Sound DVD, Image Entertainment DVD

Our Mutual Friend

  • How Bella Was Won (USA 1911) d. not known p.c. Edison
    Cast: George Soule Spencer
    Length: ? Archive: Lost
  • Eugene Wrayburn (USA 1911) d. not known p.c. Edison
    Cast: Darwin Karr, Richard Ridgeley, Bliss Milford
    Length: 1000ft Archive: Lost
    Note: A third Edison adaptation from Our Mutual Friend, entitled Bella Wilder’s Return is listed by www.dickensandshowbiz.com but the film was never made
  • Vor fælles Ven (Denmark 1921) d. A.W. Sandberg p.c. Nordisk
    Cast: Peter Fjelstrup (Hexam), Karen Caspersen (Lizzie), Peter Malberg (Eugene Wayburn)
    Length: 4664m Archive: Lost

The Pickwick Papers

  • Mr Pickwick’s Christmas at Wardle’s (UK 1901) d. Walter R. Booth p.c. Paul
    Cast: not known
    Length: 140ft Archive: Lost
  • Gabriel Grub, the Surly Sexton (UK 1904) d. James Williamson p.c. Williamson
    Cast: not known
    Length: 400ft Archive: Lost
  • A Knight for a Night (USA 1909) d. not known p.c. Edison
    Cast: not known
    Length: 370ft Archive: Lost
  • Mr Pickwick’s Predicament (USA 1912) d. J. Searle Dawley p.c. Edison
    Cast: Charles Ogle, Mary Fuller, Marc McDermott
    Length: 1000ft Archive: Extant
  • Pickwick Papers: episode 1; The Honourable Event (USA 1913) d. Larry Trimble p.c. Vitagraph
    Cast: John Bunny (Pickwick), James Piror (Mr Tupman), H.P. Owen (Sam Weller)
    Length: 1 reel Archive: BFI Availability: Dickens Before Sound DVD
  • Pickwick Papers: episode 2; The Adventure of Westgate Seminary (USA 1913) d. Larry Trimble p.c. Vitagraph
    Cast: John Bunny (Pickwick), James Prior (Mr Tupman), H.P. Owen (Sam Weller)
    Length: 1 reel Archive: BFI

  • Pickwick Papers: episode 3; The Adventure of the Shooting Party (USA 1913) d. Larry Trimble p.c. Vitagraph
    Cast: John Bunny (Pickwick), Fred Hornby (Winkle), H.P. Owen (Sam Weller)
    Length: 1 reel Archive: Lost?
    Note: The first two episodes (which were also shown together as a two-reeler) were released February 1913, and the third episode in September 1913.
  • Pickwick versus Bardell (Clarendon Speaking Pictures) (UK 1913) d. Wilfred Noy p.c. Clarendon
    Cast: not known
    Length: 1000ft Archive: Lost
    Note: Dramatisation to accompany stage recital
  • Mr Pickwick in a Double-Bedded Room (UK 1913) d. Wilfred Noy p.c. Clarendon
    Cast: not known
    Length: 1000ft Archive: Lost
    Note: Dramatisation to accompany stage recital
  • Mrs Corney Makes the Tea (UK 1913) d. Wilfred Noy p.c. Clarendon
    Cast: not known
    Length: 1000ft Archive: Lost
    Note: Dramatisation to accompany stage recital
  • The Adventures of Mr Pickwick (UK 1921) d. Thomas Bentley p.c. Ideal
    Cast: Fred Volpe (Pickwick), Mary Brough (Mrs Bardell), Ernest Thesiger (Mr Jingle), Hubert Woodward (Sam Weller), Bransby Williams (Sgt Buzfuz)
    Length: 6000ft Archive: Lost

Sketches by Boz

  • Mr Horatio Sparkins (USA 1913) d. not known p.c. Vitagraph
    Cast: Courtenay Foote (Horatio Sparkins), Flora Finch (Teresa Halderton)
    Length: 1000ft Archive: Lost

A Tale of Two Cities

  • A Tale of Two Cities (USA 1908) d. not known p.c. Selig
    Cast: not known
    Length: 1000ft Archive: Lost
  • A Tale of Two Cities (USA 1911) d. William Humphrey p.c. Vitagraph
    Cast: Maurice Costello (Sidney Carton), Norma Talmadge (Lucy Manette)
    Length: 3021ft Archive: BFI, MOMA, UCLA Availability: Grapevine Video DVD-R
  • A Tale of Two Cities (USA 1917) d. Frank Lloyd p.c. Fox
    Cast: William Farnum (Charles Darney / Sydney Carton), Jewel Carmen (Lucie Manete), Charles Clary (Marquis St. Evremonde), Rosita Marstini (Madame De Farge)
    Length: 7 reels Archive: UCLA
  • The Birth of a Soul (USA 1920) d. Edwin L. Hollywood p.c. Vitagraph
    Cast: Harry T. Morey (Philip Grey/Charles Drayton), Jean Paige (Dorothy Barlow)
    Length: 4986ft Archive: Lost
    Note: Loose adaptation in American setting
  • A Tale of Two Cities (Tense Moments with Great Authors) (UK 1922) d. W.C. Rowden p.c. Master
    Cast: J. Fisher White (Dr Manette), Clive Brook (Sidney Carton), Ann Trevor (Lucie Manette)
    Length: 1174ft Archive: Lost
  • The Only Way (UK 1926) d. Herbert Wilcox p.c. Herbert Wilcox
    Cast: John Martin Harvey (Sidney Carton), Madge Stuart (Mimi), Betty Faire (Lucie Manette), J. Fisher White (Dr Manette)
    Length: 10075ft Archive: BFI

Other fiction

  • Leaves from the Books of Charles Dickens (UK 1912) d. not known p.c. Britannia
    Cast: Thomas Bentley (multiple roles)
    Length: 740ft Archive: Cinémathèque Française, Gaumont Pathé Archives
  • Master and Pupil (USA 1912) d. J. Searle Dawley p.c. Edison
    Cast: Harry Furniss (The Master), Mary Fuller (his daughter), Harold Shaw (pupil)
    Length: 1000ft Archive: Lost
    Note: Story about an impoverished artist who illustrates the works of Dickens
  • Dickens Up-to-Date (Syncopated Picture Plays) (UK 1923) d. Bertram Phillips p.c. Bertram Phillips
    Cast: Queenie Thomas
    Length: 1900ft Archive: Lost
    Note: Comedy burlesque

Uncertain titles
Some sources give a Barnaby Rudge (USA 1911) directed by Charles Kent. Kent was working at this time for Vitagraph, and there is no record of such a Vitagraph production. Denis Gifford, in Books and Plays in Films 1896-1915, lists a one-reel Oliver Twist apparently made in Denmark in 1910, but no such production can be found in the online Danish filmography. Some sources list a German Oliver Twist directed by Lupu Pick in 1920, but this appears to have been a production announced but not completed. Magliozzi lists an American 1922 Scrooge held by UCLA, but this is probably the UK title from the Tense Moments with Great Authors series. The 1924 Bonzo cartoon Playing the Dickens in an Old Curiosity Shop (UK 1925) uses only Dickens’ title. The UK 1904 film Mr Pecksniff Fetches the Doctor has no connection with Martin Chuzzlewit.

The Pickwick Coach halts near to the future New Bioscope Towers, from the newsreel Mr Pickwick (Pathé Gazette) (1927), from British Pathe

Non-fiction

  • In Dickens’ Land (France 1913) p.c. Pathé / Travelogue / Archive: Lost [original French title not traced]
  • The Royal City of Canterbury (UK 1915) p.c. Gaumont / Travelogue / 610ft / Archive: BFI
  • Americans Place Wreath on Dickens Tomb at Westminster Abbey (Gaumont Graphic 719) (UK 11-Feb-18) p.c. Gaumont / Newsreel / Archive: Lost?
  • Dickens’ Birth Anniversary (Pathé Gazette) (UK 1918) p.c. Pathé / Newsreel / Archive: British Pathé Available: British Pathé
  • Dickens’ Fair at Botanic Gardens for Home for Blinded Sailors and Soldiers (Gaumont Graphic 783) (UK 23-Feb-18) p.c. Gaumont / Newsreel / Archive: Lost?
  • Homage to Dickens (Pathé Gazette) (UK 1919) p.c. Pathé / Newsreel / Archive: British Pathé Available: British Pathé
  • Dicken’s [sic] Anniversary (Pathé Gazette 641) (UK 12-Feb-20) p.c. Pathé / Newsreel / Archive: British Pathé Available: British Pathé
  • untitled (Around the Town no. 15) (UK 11-Mar-20) p.c. Around the Town / Cinemagazine / Archive: Lost
  • Sir John Martin-Harvey Now Appearing in “The Only Way” (Around the Town no. 105) (UK 01-Dec-21) p.c. Around the Town / Cinemagazine / Archive: Lost
  • Dickens Procession and Confetti Carnival – Southport (Gaumont Graphic 1184) (UK 27-Jul-22) p.c. Gaumont / Newsreel / Archive: Lost?
  • The All-Lancashire Dickens (Pathé Gazette) (UK 1922) p.c. Pathé / Newsreel / Archive: British Pathé Available: British Pathé
  • Dickens Pageant at Camden Town. Famous Author’s Boyhood Home the Scene of Costume Carnival (Gaumont Graphic 1212) (UK 02-Nov-22) p.c. Gaumont / Newsreel/ Archive: Lost?
  • 113th Dickens’ Anniversary (Pathé Gazette 1163) (UK 12-Feb-22) p.c. Pathé / Newsreel / Archive: British Pathé Available: British Pathé
  • Dickens’ London (Wonderful London) (UK 1924) p.c. Graham-Wilcox / Travelogue / Length: 780ft Archive: BFI Available: Dickens Before Sound DVD
  • Within the Sound of Bow Bells (Wonderful London) (UK 1924) p.c. Graham-Wilcox / Travelogue / Length: 839ft / Archive: BFI
  • No. 3 Char-a-banc Tour to Rochester (UK 1924) p.c. London General Omnibus Company / Travelogue / Length: 1066ft / Archive: BFI
  • As in the Days of Dickens (Topical Budget 762-2) (UK 05-Apr-26) p.c. Topical / Newsreel / Archive: BFI
  • Dickens Golden Wedding (Empire News Bulletin 43) (UK 27-Sep-26) p.c. British Pictorial Productions / Newsreel / Archive: Lost?
  • The Golden Wedding of Sir Henry Fielding Dickens and Lady Dickens, 25th September 1926 (UK 1926) / Actuality / Archive: BFI
  • Pickwick Club (Empire News Bulletin 109) (UK 16-May-27) p.c. British Pictorial Productions / Newsreel / Archive: Lost?
  • Frilled Cravats and Flowered Waistcoats (Topical Budget 820-2) (UK 16-May-1927) p.c. Topical Film Company / Newsreel / Archive: BFI
  • Mr Pickwick (Pathé Gazette) (UK 16-May-27) p.c. Pathé / Newsreel / Archive: British Pathé Available: British Pathé
  • Ye Dickens Coach 1827-1927 (unreleased?) (UK 1927) p.c. Gaumont / Newsreel / Archive: ITN Source Available: ITN Source
  • Literature’s Loss (Gaumont Graphic 1756) (UK 19-Jan-28) p.c. Gaumont / Newsreel / Archive: ITN Source Available: ITN Source
  • To the Royal Hop Pole Hotel for Dinner! (Pathé Super Gazette) (UK 30-Jul-28) p.c. Pathé / Newsreel / Archive: British Pathé Available: British Pathé
  • Mr Pickwick and Party (Topical Budget) (UK 30-Jul-28) p.c. Topical Film Company / Newsreel / Archive: BFI
  • Pickwick Centenary at Tewkesbury (unreleased?) (UK 1928) p.c. Gaumont / Newsreel / Archive: ITN Source Available: ITN Source
  • Lorry as a Stage: Dickensian Tabard Players Perform Outside the ‘Old Curiosity Shop’ (Empire News Bulletin) (UK 7-Feb 1929) p.c. British Pictorial Productions / Newsreel / Archive: BFI
  • 1812-1970 – Is Wisions About? (Gaumont Graphic 1868) (UK 14-Feb-29) p.c. Gaumont / Newsreel / Archive: ITN Source Available: ITN Source
  • The Old Curiosity Shop (Pathé Super Gazette) (UK 12-Jun-300 p.c. Pathé / Newsreel / Archive: British Pathé Available: British Pathé


This filmography is indebted to the American Film Index volumes, Denis Gifford’s British Film Catalogue and Books and Plays in Films 1896-1915, Ron Magliozzi’s Treasures from the Film Archives, the Silent Era website’s Progressive Silent Film List, Filmportal, the Danish national filmography, the American Film Institute Catalog for silent films, the Pordenone Silent Film Festival’s Vitagraph Company of America catalogue, the BFI Film & TV Database, News on Screen, the IMDb and other sources. Only when I had exhausted these did I turn to the filmography in Michael Pointer’s Charles Dickens on the Screen. This had two or three titles that had eluded me, a number of film lengths that I hadn’t tracked down, and all in all is a fine piece of research. I commend it to you.

Update (12 February 2012): My thanks to friends at the BFI for some corrections and additions now made to this filmography.

The O’Kalems

Trailer for Blazing the Trail

Blazing the Trail is the title of a new documentary about the New York film company Kalem in Ireland. Kalem was founded in 1907 by George Kleine, Samuel Long and Frank Marion (K-L-M, see?). One of the major American film producers of the silent period, one of their directors, Sidney Olcott, was of Irish descent, and he took a company of players to Ireland in 1910.

Basing themselves in Co. Kerry, the company shot fiction films with strong Irish themes and extensive use of Irish locations. Initially they made The Lad from Old Ireland (1910) [extant] plus a number of travel and scenic films. Such was the success of the fiction film that Olcott returned with a larger company the following year. Among the performers were Gene Gauntier (lead actress and scenarist), Robert Vignola, Jack P. McGowran and Alice Hollister. For this second phase they settled in the village of Beaufort and made the following fiction films (as well some non-fiction) (links are to their entries on the Irish Film & TV Research Online database):

It is generally argued that the object was to make films that would appeal to the Irish-American audience in America, though the films were just as much intended for the general audience. Nevertheless, they made for a distinctive body of work with strong themes of nation, history and landscape, earning them the nickname the O’Kalems. Olcott and Gauntier returned to Ireland in 1913 after leaving Kalem with the Gene Gauntier Feature Players, then Olcott came back again in 1914, hoping to set up a permament studio at Beaufort. The First World War intervened, and this enterprising chapter in Irish (or Irish-American) film history came to a close.

The Gene Gauntier Feature Players made this titles in Ireland:

Sidney Olcott made two further films in Ireland in 1914, released by Lubin:

The films and their story have long attracted interest, for their position in Irish film and for their romantic nationalism. The latest such is Blazing the Trail, written and directed by American academic Peter Flynn, an 86-minute documentary which takes its title from Gene Gauntier’s series of autobiographical articles written for Woman’s Home Companion in 1928/29. It has been produced in conjunction with the Irish Film Institute and is to be released on DVD this summer together with all extant Kalem Irish films. The film is screening tomorrow at the Boston Irish Film Festival (of which Flynn is co-founder and co-director) and recently opened the Killruddery Film Festival. The Boston website has background information on the film, a trailer (see above) and sample clips.

Kalem’s Rory O’More (1911), which tells of Irishman O’More at the time of the 1798 rebellion, pursued by British soldiers. From Irish Film & TV Research Online

Gene Gauntier’s series of autobiographical articles (or at least the first seven) is available from The Silent Bookshelf.

There is a website dedicated to Sidney Olcott – please note it is in French.

On silent film in Ireland generally, see Denis Condon’s Early Irish Cinema 1895-1921.

Things Australian no. 1: The Marvellous Corricks

Les Fleurs Animées (Pathé, France 1906), from the Corrick Collection in the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

For the past few years those attending the Pordenone silent film festival have been treated to examples from an extraordinary collection of early films held by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. The films are those collected (and in some cases made) by the Corrick Family Entertainers, or The Marvellous Corricks, a performing troupe comprising Albert and Sarah Corrick and their eight children which toured Australia, New Zealand and South-East Asia between 1901 and 1914 and which included film in its act.

The Corricks’ show combined song, comedy, dance, lantern slides, poetry readings and film. Some 135 films survive, chiefly titles the family purchased from France, England, the USA and Italy, plus films that they shot themselves, which includes travel footage, a chase comedy (The Bashful Mr Brown) and film of them on tour. The films they purchased are superb in quality, combining fiction and non-fiction, several films with beautiful colouring (around a quarter of the collection is stencil coloured and another quarter tinted and toned). The Corricks clearly had a fine eye for a good film, favouring particular companies (notably Pathé, Charles Urban Trading Company and Edison). Many of the films are unique to the Corrick collection, and include some real cinematic treasures.

The Corricks c.1898: (Front row) Sarah, Ethel, Alice, Elsie, Albert. (Back row) Amy, Ruby, Leonard (the family’s cinematograph expert), Jessie, Gertrude, from the National Film and Sound Archive

As Leslie Anne Lewis writes in her excellent essay ‘The Corrick Collection: A Case Study in Asia-Pacific Itinerant Film Exhibition (1901-1914)’, Albert and Sarah Corrick planned for a musical family, and trained their children in singing, dancing, bell-ringing and playing a wide variety of musical instruments, among them piano, organ, flute, piccolo, cello, violin, saxophone, mandolin and cornet, with the children often proficient in a number of these. They played in concert halls, town halls and the like, stressing the family-friendly wholesome ness of their show, touring all of the Australian territories up to 1907 before going on an international tour. It was during this tour that they picked up many films, though a projector had been part of their act from the beginning. The family’s cinematograph expert was Leonard Corrick, and his film shows were often billed separately as ‘Leonard’s Beautiful Pictures’. Many people in Australia and South-East Asia saw their first films, and their first views of a world outside their home town, from a Corrick family show. It is evidence of how important variety shows were to early film, how film was integrated within such entertainments to be a part of song, dance and showmanship, and how eventually film outstripped itinerant shows such as those of the Corricks and became the show in itself.

The films began the tortuous process of joining the NFSA collection and gradually being properly preserved in 1968, with the definitive work really only being undertaken recently (see Leslie Anne Lewis’ essay for details). Basic information on all of the films can be found on the NFSA catalogue, with much greater details available for those titles shown at Pordenone by browsing the catalogues of past festivals or using the Pordenone festival’s database (which does not include 2010 screenings as yet). For your convenience (because that is the Bioscope’s mission), here is a list of titles that have been identified and screened so far:

  • “AND A LITTLE CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM” (d. D.W. Griffith p.c. Biograph, USA 1909)
  • THE ARRESTED TRICAR (GB? c.1905)
  • AU JARDIN ZOOLOGIQUE DE PARIS (p.c. Pathé, France 1905)
  • A BABY’S SHOE (d. Charles J. Brabin p.c. Edison, USA 1912)
  • BABYLAS VIENT D’HÉRITER D’UNE PANTHÈRE (d. Alfred Machin p.c. Pathé, France 1911)
  • BAIN DE BÉBÉ (p.c. Pathé, France 1904)
  • BASHFUL MR. BROWN (p.c. Corrick, Australia 1907)
  • LA BELLE AU BOIS DORMANT (d. Lucien Nonguet, Ferdinand Zecca p.c. Pathé, France 1902)
  • BETTINA’S SUBSTITUTE; OR, THERE’S NO FOOL LIKE AN OLD FOOL (d. Albert W. Hale p.c. Vitagraph, USA 1912)
  • BICYCLETTE PRÉSENTÉE EN LIBERTÉ (p.c.. Pathé, France 1906)
  • A CANADIAN WINTER CARNIVAL (p.c. Edison, USA 1909)
  • LE CHAPEAU (p.c. Pathé, France 1906)
  • CHASSE AU PAPILLON (p.c. Pathé, France 1906)
  • CHASSE AU SANGLIER (p.c. Pathé, France 1904)
  • COIFFES ET COIFFURES (d. Gaston Velle p.c. Pathé, France 1905)
  • COME CRETINETTI PAGA DI DEBITI (d. André Deed p.c. Itala, Italy 1909)
  • COMEDY CARTOONS (d. Walter R. Booth p.c. Urban, GB 1907)
  • [CORONATION OF KING EDWARD VII AND QUEEN ALEXANDRA] (GB 1902)
  • CRETINETTI LOTTATORE (p.c. Itala, Italy 1909)
  • [THE DAY-POSTLE MATCH AT BOULDER RACECOURSE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA] (p.c. Corrick, Australia 1907)
  • LES DÉBUTS D’UN CHAUFFEUR (d. Georges Hatot p.c. Pathé, France 1906)
  • DEUX BRAVES COEURS (p.c. Pathé, France 1909)
  • LE DINER AU 9 (p.c. Pathé, France 1909)
  • DON QUICHOTTE (d. Lucien Nonguet, Ferdinand Zecca p.c. Pathé, France 1904)
  • DOWN ON THE FARM (p.c. Edison, USA 1905)
  • DU CAIRE AUX PYRAMIDES (p.c. Pathé, France 1905)
  • FANTASIAS ARABES (p.c. Pathé, France 1902)
  • FIRE! (d. James Williamson p.c. Williamson, GB 1901)
  • LES FLEURS ANIMÉES (d. Gaston Velle p.c. Pathé, France 1906)
  • FUNERAL PROCESSION OF NEW ZEALAND PREMIER R.J. SEDDON (New Zealand 1906)
  • LES GRANDES EAUX DE VERSAILLES (p.c. Pathé, France 1904)
  • GUILLAUME TELL (d. Lucien Nonguet p.c. Pathé, France 1903)
  • THE HAND OF THE ARTIST (d. Walter R. Booth p.c. Paul, GB 1906)
  • HER FIRST CAKE (d. James Williamson p.c. Williamson, GB 1906)
  • HISTOIRE D’UN PANTALON (p.c. Pathé, France 1906)
  • HOW JONES LOST HIS ROLL (d. Edwin S. Porter p.c. Edison, USA 1905)
  • AN INDIAN’S GRATITUDE (p.c. Pathé, USA 1911)
  • LES INVISIBLES (d. Gaston Velle p.c. Pathé, France 1906)
  • J’AI PERDU MON LORGNON (d. Charles Lucien Lépine p.c. Pathé, France 1906)
  • [KING EDWARD VII AND QUEEN ALEXANDRA LEAVE A UNIVERSITY GRADUATION CEREMONY] (GB c.1907)
  • LIFE OF A COWBOY (d. Edwin S. Porter p.c. Edison, USA 1906)
  • LIVING LONDON (p.c. Urban, GB 1904) [note: now identified as THE STREET OF LONDON p.c. Urban, GB 1906)
  • THE LOST CHILD (d. Wallace McCuthcheon p.c. Edison, USA 1904)
  • THE MAGICAL PRESS (d. Walter R. Booth p.c. Urban, GB 1907)
  • MARIE-ANTOINETTE (p.c. Pathé, France 1903)
  • LA MÉTALLURGIE AU CREUSOT (p.c. Pathé, France 1905)
  • THE MINER’S DAUGHTER (d. James Williamson p.c. Williamson, GB 1907)
  • MIRACLE DE NOËL (p.c. Pathé, France 1905)
  • MONSIEUR QUI A MANGÉ DU TAUREAU (p.c. Gaumont, France 1907)
  • NAVAL ATTACK AT PORTSMOUTH (p.c. Urban, GB 1907)
  • NIAGARA IN WINTER 1909 (p.c. Urban, GB 1909)
  • PAUVRES VIEUX (Pathé, France 1907)
  • LES PETITS PIFFERARI (p.c. Pathé, France 1909)
  • LA POUDRE ANTINEURESTHÉNIQUE (p.c. Pathé, France 1909)
  • LA POULE AUX OEUFS D’OR (d. Gaston Velle p.c. Pathé, France 1905)
  • [PROCESSION OF BOATS ON RIVER, BURMA] (GB c.1905)
  • RECEPTION ON, AND INSPECTION OF, H.M.S. “DREADNOUGHT” (p.c. Urban, GB 1907)
  • LE REGNE DE LOUIS XIV (d. V. Lorant Heilbronn p.c. Pathé, France 1904)
  • LA RUCHE MERVEILLEUSE (p.c. Pathé, France 1909)
  • LE SCULPTEUR EXPRESS (p.c. Pathé, France 1907) (p.c. Urban, GB c.1905)
  • [THE SHORT-SIGHTED CYCLIST] (p.c. Eclipse, France 1907)
  • LE SINGE ADAM II (Pathé, France 1909)
  • SPORTS AT SEA ON THE S.S. RUNIC (p.c. Corrick, Australia 1909)
  • [STREET SCENES IN PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA] (p.c. Corrick, Australia 1907)
  • TOTO EXPLOITE LA CURIOSITÉ (p.c. Pathé, France 1909)
  • LE TOUR DU MONDE D’UN POLICIER (d. Charles Lucien Lépine p.c. Pathé, France 1906)
  • [TRAVEL SCENES] (p.c. Urban, GB c.1905)
  • LA VIE INDIGÈNE AU SOUDAN ÉGYPTIEN (p.c. Pathé, France 1908)
  • THE WAIF AND THE STATUE (d. Walter Booth p.c. Urban, GB 1907)
  • WHEN THE WIFE’S AWAY (p.c. Paul, GB 1905)
  • WHO STOLE JONES’ WOOD? (p.c. Lubin, USA 1909)
  • A WINTER STRAW RIDE (d. Wallace McCutcheon, Edwin S. Porter p.c. Edison, USA 1907)

Other films in the collection are still in the process of being identified and preserved – the NFSA catalogue lists these, with such intriguing titles as The Burglar and the Baby, A Canine Arthimetician, Elephants Working in a Burmese Forest, Fée Aux Pigeons, Hallo! Haloo! Grinder, A Japanese Teahouse: Dance of the Geishas, Olympic Games in Athens [1906], and A Trip through Switzerland Engadin Valley.

You can read about the Corrick Collection on the NFSA’s Australian Screen site which includes a number of clips from the films (The Hand of the Artist, La Poule aux Oeufs d’Or and Street Scenes in Perth, Western Australia). There’s another overview on the main NFSA site.

Films from the Corrick Collection are currently featuring in My Bicycle Loves You, a collaboration between the NFSA and physical theatre company Legs on the Wall that combines film footage with live performance to reveal the world of the Corrick Family. It played at the Sydney Festival last week and will be playing at the Perth Festival 22-26 February.

Arthur Conan Doyle – a silent era filmography

John Barrymore as the detective in Sherlock Holmes (1922)- a trailer for the Kino International DVD release

Arthur Conan Doyle: Silent era filmography

This filmography accompanies the Pen and Pictures post on Arthur Conan Doyle and his involvement in film during the silent period. Instead of being strictly chronological, it divides up the silent films of Doyle’s works by producer and series, for greater ease of reference. There are also sections on individual films that weren’t part of any series, films of or about Doyle himself, and films which borrow Sherlock Holmes’ name or characteristics but which aren’t strictly speaking adaptations of Doyle’s works.

Each record gives title, country, year, literary source, genre (using terms adopted by Alan Barnes in Sherlock Holmes on Screen), director, production company, leading actor, length, archive (where the film exists) and DVD (where commercially available). Any corrections or additions are most welcome – please add them to the comments at the end of this post.

1. Films of or about Doyle
Films in which Doyle appeared (deliberately or inadvertently), including fiction films, newsreels and documentaries.

  • The $5,000,000 Counterfeiting Plot (USA 1914), none, none, d. Bertram Harrison, p.c. Dramascope, William J. Burns (as himself), 6 reels, lost [Doyle briefly appeared in this feature film alongside its star and subject the real-life detective William J. Burns]
  • Our Mutual Girl: Episode 21 (USA 1914), none, none, ?, p.c. Reliance, Norma Phillips, ?, lost [Doyle was filmed as himself as he arrived by ship to the USA]
  • The Chevrons Club (for POs and NCOs) (Topical Budget 338-1) (UK 13/02/1918), none, newsreel, none, p.c. Topical Film Company, none, 56ft, Imperial War Museum [newsreel showing Doyle at opening of Club]
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Family (Fox News) (USA 1922), none, newsreel, none, p.c. Fox, none, 132ft, University of South Carolina [newsreel showing Doyle family arriving in New York - same event also filmed by the Kinograms and Pathé newsreels]
  • [Conan Doyle and family] (USA 1923), none, newsreel, none, p.c. Fox, none, ?, lost [newsreel of Doyle and family arriving in New York in 1923]
  • Is Conan Doyle Right? (USA 1923), none, documentary, Cullom Holmes Ferrell (‘author’), p.c. Pathé Exchange, none, ?, lost
  • The Lost World (USA 1925 ), The Lost World, adaptation, d. Harry O. Hoyt, p.c. First National, Wallace Beery (Professor Challenger), 9700ft , George Eastman House, DVD [Image Entertainment] [Doyle appeared in prologue, missing from existing copies)
  • Sir A. Conan Doyle (Topical Budget 792-2) (UK 01/11/1926), none, newsreel, none, p.c. Topical Film Company, none, 56ft, BFI [newsreel showing Doyle laying foundation stone of spiritualistic church]

2. Single titles (Holmes)
Sherlock Holmes films that are not otherwise part of a series or collection of films made by a single film company.

  • Sherlock Holmes Baffled (USA 1900), character, parody, d. Arthur Marvin [credited with photography], p.c. Biograph, ?, 284 ft[?], Library of Congress
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; or, Held for a Ransom (USA 1905), character, pastiche, d. J. Stuart Blackton, p.c. Vitagraph, ?, 221 metres, lost
  • Sherlock Holmes and the Great Murder Mystery (USA 1908), character, pastiche, d. ?, p.c. Crescent, ?, 800 ft, lost
  • [The Latest Triumph of Sherlock Holmes] (France 1909), character, ?, d. unknown, p.c. Gaumont, ?, 566 ft [unclear provenance - original title not traced]
  • A Study in Scarlet ( USA 1914), A Study in Scarlet, adaptation, d. Francis Ford, p.c. Universal, Francis Ford (Sherlock Holmes), 2 reels, lost
  • Sherlock Holmes (USA 1916), A Scandal in Bohemia/The Final Problem, adaptation, d. Arthur Berthelet, p.c. Essanay, William Gillette (Sherlock Holmes), 7 reels, lost
  • William Voss, der Milliondeib (Germany 1916), character, pastiche, d. Rudolf Meinert, p.c. Meinert-Film Burstein und Janak, Herr Boerns (Sherlock Holmes), 1041m, Nederlands Filmmuseum
  • Sherlock Holmes (USA 1922), character, adaptation, d. Albert Parker, p.c. Goldwyn, John Barrymore (Sherlock Holmes), 8200 ft, George Eastman House, DVD [Kino]
  • Der Hund von Baskerville ( Germany 1929), The Hound of the Baskervilles, adaptation, d. Richard Oswald, p.c. Erda-Film, Carlyle Blackwell (Sherlock Holmes), 7815ft, DIF
  • The Return of Sherlock Holmes (USA 1929), character, pastiche, d. Basil Dean, p.c. Paramount, Clive Brook (Sherlock Holmes), 6376ft (sound version 7102ft), Library of Congress (sound version only?)

3. Single titles (non-Holmes)
Films made of Doyle’s non-Holmes works that are not otherwise part of a series or collection of films made by a single film company.

  • Brigadier Gerard (UK 1915), Brigadier Gerard, adaptation, d. Bert Haldane, p.c. Barker, Lewis Waller (Brigadier Gerard), 5260 ft, lost
  • Rodney Stone (UK 1920), Rodney Stone, adaptation, d. Percy Nash, p.c. Screen Plays, Rex Davis (Boy Jim), 6500 ft, BFI
  • Un drame sous Napoléon (France 1921), Uncle Bernac, adaptation, d. Gérard Bourgeois, p.c. Éclair, ? , lost
  • The Croxley Master (UK 1921), The Croxley Master, adaptation, d. Percy Nash, p.c. Screen Plays, Dick Webb (Robert Montgomery), 3900 ft, BFI
  • Fires of Fate ( UK 1923), The Tragedy of Korosco, adaptation, d. Tom Terriss, p.c. Gaumont, Wanda Hawley (Corinne Adams), 7185 ft, lost
  • How It Happened (Twisted Tales) (UK 1925), How it Happened, adaptation, d. Alexander Butler, p.c. Repricocity, Sydney Seaward (The Motorist), 750 ft, lost
  • The Lost World (USA 1925 ), The Lost World, adaptation, d. Harry O. Hoyt, p.c. First National, Wallace Beery (Professor Challenger), 9700 ft, George Eastman House, DVD [Image Entertainment]
  • The Fighting Eagle (USA 1927), The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard, adaptation, d. Donald Crisp, p.c. DeMille, Rod La Roque (Etienne Gerard), 8002 ft, extant

Droske 519 (Sherlock Holmes V) directed by and starring Viggo Larsen, from http://www.dfi.dk

4. Nordisk
Danish series of detective dramas which used Sherlock Holmes as a name but which were not adapted from any of the Doyle stories.

  • Sherlock Holmes I/Sherlock Holmes i Livsfare (Denmark 1908), character, pastiche, d. Viggo Larsen, p.c. Nordisk, Viggo Larsen (Sherlock Holmes), 1140ft, lost
  • Sherlock Holmes II/Raffles’ Flugt fra Faengslet (Denmark 1908), character, pastiche, d. Viggo Larsen, p.c. Nordisk, Viggo Larsen (Sherlock Holmes), 680ft, lost
  • Sherlock Holmes III/Det hemmelige Dokument (Denmark 1908), character, pastiche, d. Viggo Larsen, p.c. Nordisk, Einar Zangenberg (Sherlock Holmes), 890ft, lost
  • Sangerindens Diamanter/Sherlock Holmes IV (Denmark 1909), character, pastiche, d. Viggo Larsen, p.c. Nordisk, Viggo Larsen (Sherlock Holmes), 591ft, lost
  • Droske Nr. 519/Sherlock Holmes V (Cab no. 519) (Denmark 1909), character, pastiche, d. Viggo Larsen, p.c. Nordisk, Viggo Larsen (Sherlock Holmes), 1125ft, lost
  • Den grå dame (The Grey Dame)/Sherlock Holmes VI (Denmark 1909), character, pastiche, d. Viggo Larsen, p.c. Nordisk, Viggo Larsen (Sherlock Holmes), 1007ft, lost
  • Sherlock Holmes i Bondefangerklør/Den stjaalne Tegnebog (A Confidence Trick) (Denmark 1910), character, pastiche, d. ?, p.c. Nordisk, Otto Lagoni (Sherlock Holmes), 873ft, Danish Film Institute
  • Den Sorte Haand/Mordet i Bakerstreet (The Blackmailer) (Denmark 1910), character, pastiche, d. Holger Rasmussen, p.c. Nordisk, Otto Lagoni (Sherlock Holmes), 958ft, lost
  • Den forklaedte Barnepige/Den forklaedte Guvernante (The Bogus Governess) (Denmark 1911), character, pastiche, d. ?, p.c. Nordisk, Otto Lagoni (Sherlock Holmes), 1050ft, lost
  • Den stjaalne Millionobligation/Milliontestament (The Stolen Legacy) (Denmark 1911), character, pastiche, d. ?, p.c. Nordisk, Alwin Neuss (Sherlock Holmes), 1017ft, lost
  • Hotelmysterierne/Hotelrotterne (Hotel Thieves) (Denmark 1911), character, pastiche, d. ?, p.c. Nordisk, Einar Zangenberg (Sherlock Holmes), 837ft, lost
  • Den sorte haette (Denmark 1911), character, pastiche, d. William Augustinus, p.c. Nordisk, Lauritz Olsen (Sherlock Holmes), 1273ft, lost

5. Mack Sennett series
Some sources say that Mack Sennett starred in eleven Sherlock Holmes spoofs for Keystone, but these four titles (one made for Biograph) are all I have traced, so far, and the degree to which these were Holmes films at all is unclear.

  • The $500 Reward (USA 1911), character, parody, d. Mack Sennett, p.c. Biograph, Mack Sennett (Sherlock Holmes?), ?, lost
  • The Stolen Purse (USA 1913), character, parody, d. ?, p.c. Keystone, Mack Sennett (Sherlock Holmes?), ?, lost
  • The Sleuth’s Last Stand (USA 1913), character, parody, d. ?, p.c. Keystone, Mack Sennett (Sherlock Holmes?), ?, lost
  • The Sleuths at the Floral Parade (USA 1913), character, parody, d. ?, p.c. Keystone, Mack Sennett (Sherlock Holmes), ?, lost

6. Éclair
The first official Holmes films, sanctioned by Doyle. The first film was produced separately in France; the other eight were produced as a series in Britain.

  • Les aventures de Sherlock Holmes (France 1911), ?, ? , d. Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset, p.c. Éclair, Henri Gouget (Sherlock Holmes), ?, lost
  • Le ruban moucheté / The Speckled Band (Sherlock Holmes no. 1) (France/UK 1912), The Speckled Band, adaptation, d. Adrien Caillard? Georges Tréville?, p.c. Franco-British Film/Éclair, Georges Tréville (Sherlock Holmes), 1700ft, lost
  • Flamme d’argent / The Silver Blaze (Sherlock Holmes no. 2) (France/UK 1912), The Silver Blaze, adaptation, d. Adrien Caillard? Georges Tréville?, p.c. Franco-British Film/Éclair, Georges Tréville (Sherlock Holmes), 1300ft, lost
  • The Beryl Coronet (Sherlock Holmes no. 3) (France/UK 1912), The Beryl Coronet, adaptation, d. Adrien Caillard? Georges Tréville?, p.c. Franco-British Film/Éclair, Georges Tréville (Sherlock Holmes), 2300ft, lost
  • The Musgrave Ritual (Sherlock Holmes no. 4) (France/UK 1912), The Musgrave Ritual, adaptation, d. Adrien Caillard? Georges Tréville?, p.c. Franco-British Film/Éclair, Georges Tréville (Sherlock Holmes), 1290ft, Lobster Films
  • The Reigate Squires (Sherlock Holmes no. 5) (France/UK 1912), The Reigate Squires, adaptation, d. Adrien Caillard? Georges Tréville?, p.c. Franco-British Film/Éclair, Georges Tréville (Sherlock Holmes), 1800ft, lost
  • The Stolen Papers (Sherlock Holmes no. 6) (France/UK 1912), The Stolen Papers, adaptation, d. Adrien Caillard? Georges Tréville?, p.c. Franco-British Film/Éclair, Georges Tréville (Sherlock Holmes), 1400ft, lost
  • Le mystère de Val Boscombe / The Mystery of Boscombe Vale (Sherlock Holmes no. 7) (France/UK 1912), The Boscombe Valley Mystery, adaptation, d. Adrien Caillard? Georges Tréville?, p.c. Franco-British Film/Éclair, Georges Tréville (Sherlock Holmes), 1700ft, lost
  • The Copper Beeches (Sherlock Holmes no. 8) (France/UK 1912), The Copper Beeches, adaptation, d. Adrien Caillard? Georges Tréville?, p.c. Franco-British Film/Éclair, Georges Tréville (Sherlock Holmes), 1700ft, extant, DVD [Grapevine and Synergy Entertainment]

7. London Film Productions
Authorised adaptations of two of Doyle’s non-Holmes novels by leading British film company.

  • The House of Temperley ( UK 1913), Rodney Stone, adaptation, d. Harold Shaw, p.c. London, Charles Maude (Captain Jack Temperley), 4500ft, lost
  • The Firm of Girdlestone (UK 1915), The Firm of Girdlestone, adaptation, d. Harold Shaw, p.c. London, Edna Flugrath (Kate Horston), 5100ft, lost

8. Thanhouser
Unauthorised productions from American film company specialising in literary adaptations.

  • Sherlock Holmes Solves The Sign of Four (USA 1913), The Sign of Four, adaptation , d. Lloyd Lonergan, p.c. Thanhouser, Harry Benham (Sherlock Holmes), 2 reels, lost
  • The Crogmere Ruby (USA 1915), character, pastiche, d. Ernest C. Warde, p.c. Thanhouser, Hector Dion (Sherlock Holmes), short, lost
  • The Crimson Sabre (USA 1915), character, pastiche, d. ?, p.c. Thanhouser, Hector Dion (Sherlock Holmes), short, lost

Der Hund von Baskerville, 2. Teil – Das einsame Haus (1914), from http://www.filmportal.de

9. Vitascope / Greenbaum / PAGU
Two series from producer Jules Greenbaum (or connected with him). The Arsène Lupin series featured the star of the earlier Nordisk series Viggo Larsen; the Der Hund von Baskerville series that followed (unauthorised) was initially made by Greenbaum’s Vitascope company in association with PAGU, but the two split and ended up producing rival episodes – see Alan Barnes’ Sherlock Holmes on Screen for an explanation of the complex history.

  • Arsène Lupin Contra Sherlock Holmes 1: Der alta sekretär (Germany 1910), character, pastiche, d. Viggo Larsen, p.c. Vitascope,Viggo Larsen (Sherlock Holmes), 1115ft, lost
  • Arsène Lupin Contra Sherlock Holmes 2: Der blaue diamant (Germany 1910), character, pastiche, d. Viggo Larsen, p.c. Vitascope, Viggo Larsen (Sherlock Holmes), 1411ft, lost
  • Arsène Lupin Contra Sherlock Holmes 3: Die falschen Rembrandts (Germany 1910), character, pastiche, d. ?, p.c. Vitascope, Viggo Larsen (Sherlock Holmes), 968ft, lost
  • Arsène Lupin Contra Sherlock Holmes 4: Die flucht (Germany 1910-11), character, pastiche, d. ?, p.c. Vitascope, Viggo Larsen (Sherlock Holmes), length?, lost
  • Arsène Lupin Contra Sherlock Holmes 5: Arsène Lupins ende (Germany 1910-11), character, pastiche, d. ?, p.c. Vitascope, Viggo Larsen (Sherlock Holmes), 902ft, lost
  • Sherlock Holmes contra Professor Moryarty – Serie 1: Der Erbe von Bloomrod (Germany 1911), character, pastiche, d. Viggo Larsen, p.c. Vitascope, ?, 2231ft, lost
  • Der Hund von Baskerville ( Germany 1914), The Hound of the Baskervilles, adaptation, d. Rudolf Meinert, p.c. Vitascope, Alwin Neuss (Sherlock Holmes), 4386ft, Munich Filmmuseum, DVD [Edition Filmmuseum, forthcoming release]
  • Der Hund von Baskerville, 2. Teil – Das einsame Haus (Germany 1914), The Hound of the Baskervilles, adaptation, d. Rudolf Meinert, p.c. Vitascope, Alwin Neuss (Sherlock Holmes), ?, lost
  • Detektiv Braun / Sherlock Holmes contra Dr Mors (Germany 1914), character, pastiche, d. Rudolf Meinert, p.c. Vitascope, Alwin Neuss (Sherlock Holmes), ?, lost
  • Der Hund von Baskerville, 3. Teil – Das unheimliche Zimmer (Germany 1915), The Hound of the Baskervilles, adaptation, d. Richard Oswald , p.c. Greenbaum, Alwin Neuss (Sherlock Holmes), ?, lost
  • Der Hund von Baskerville, 4. Teil- Die Sage vom Hund von Baskerville (Germany 1915), The Hound of the Baskervilles, adaptation, d. Richard Oswald , p.c. Greenbaum, Alwin Neuss (Sherlock Holmes), ?, lost
  • Das dunkle Schloss (Der Hund von Baskerville. III. Teil) (Germany 1915), The Hound of the Baskervilles, adaptation, d. Willy Zeyn, p.c. PAGU, Eugen Berg, ?, lost
  • Der Hund von Baskerville – 5. Teil: Dr. Macdonalds Sanatorium (Germany 1920), The Hound of the Baskervilles, adaptation, d. Willy Zeyn, p.c. Greenbaum, Erich Kaiser-Titz , ?, lost
  • Der Hund von Baskerville – 6. Teil: Das Haus ohne Fenster (Germany 1920), The Hound of the Baskervilles, adaptation, d. Willy Zeyn, p.c. Greenbaum, Lu Jürgens, ?, lost

James Braginton as Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet (UK 1914)

10. Samuelson
Authorised versions by leading British film company.

  • A Study in Scarlet (UK 1914), A Study in Scarlet, adaptation, d. George Pearson, p.c. Samuelson, James Bragington (Sherlock Holmes), 5479ft, lost
  • The Valley of Fear (UK 1916), The Valley of Fear, adaptation, d. Alexander Butler, p.c. Samuelson, H.A. Saintsbury (Sherlock Holmes), 6500ft, lost

11. Kowo-Gesellschaft
Unauthorised series of feature films which appear to have carried on the Nordisk/Vitascope tradition of exciting detective dramas borrowing Holmes’ name and little more. Some sources say there were up to twelve titles in the series.

  • Die Kassette (Germany 1917), character, pastiche, d. Carl Heinz Wolff, p.c. Kowo-Gesellschaft für Filmfabrikation, Hugo Flink (Sherlock Holmes), 3983ft, lost
  • Der Erdstrommotor ( Germany 1917), character, pastiche, d. Carl Heinz Wolff, p.c. Kowo-Gesellschaft für Filmfabrikation, Hugo Flink (Sherlock Holmes), 4 reels, lost
  • Der Schlangenring (Germany 1917), character, pastiche, d. Carl Heinz Wolff, p.c. Kowo-Gesellschaft für Filmfabrikation, Hugo Flink (Sherlock Holmes), 3724ft, lost
  • Was er im Spiegel sah (Germany 1918), character, pastiche, d. Carl Heinz Wolff, p.c. Kowo-Gesellschaft für Filmfabrikation, Ferdinand Bonn [?] (Sherlock Holmes), 4 reels, lost

Eille Norwood, star of the Stoll series of Sherlock Holmes films

12. Stoll Film Company
The classic adaptations of the silent era, starring Eille Norwood throughout and adapting most of the Holmes stories published to that date.

  • The Dying Detective (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 1) (UK 1921), The Dying Detective, adaptation, d. Maurice Elvey, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2273ft, BFI, DVD [Grapevine]
  • The Devil’s Foot (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 2) (UK 1921), The Devil’s Foot, adaptation, d. Maurice Elvey, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2514ft, BFI, DVD [Grapevine]
  • A Case of Identity (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 3) (UK 1921), A Case of Identity, adaptation, d. Maurice Elvey, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2610ft, BFI
  • Yellow Face (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 4) (UK 1921), The Yellow Face, adaptation, d. Maurice Elvey, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2020ft, BFI
  • The Red-Headed League (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 5) (UK 1921), The Red-Headed League, adaptation, d. Maurice Elvey, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2140ft, BFI
  • The Resident Patient (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 6) (UK 1921), The Resident Patient, adaptation, d. Maurice Elvey, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2404ft, BFI
  • A Scandal in Bohemia (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 7) (UK 1921), A Scandal in Bohemia, adaptation, d. Maurice Elvey, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2100ft, BFI
  • The Man with the Twisted Lip (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 8) (UK 1921), The Man with the Twisted Lip, adaptation, d. Maurice Elvey, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2412ft, BFI, DVD [Grapevine and Synergy Entertainment]
  • The Beryl Coronet (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 9) (UK 1921), The Beryl Coronet, adaptation, d. Maurice Elvey, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2340ft, BFI
  • The Noble Bachelor (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 10) (UK 1921), The Noble Bachelor, adaptation, d. Maurice Elvey, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2100ft, BFI
  • The Copper Beeches (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 11) (UK 1921), The Copper Beeches, adaptation, d. Maurice Elvey, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2193ft, BFI
  • The Empty House (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 12) (UK 1921), The Empty House, adaptation, d. Maurice Elvey, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 1800ft, BFI
  • The Tiger of San Pedro (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 13) (UK 1921), The Tiger of San Pedro, adaptation, d. Maurice Elvey, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2080ft, BFI
  • The Priory School (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 14) (UK 1921), The Priory School, adaptation, d. Maurice Elvey, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2100ft,BFI
  • The Solitary Cyclist (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 15) (UK 1921), The Solitary Cyclist, adaptation, d. Maurice Elvey, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2140ft, BFI
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles (UK 1921), The Hound of the Baskervilles, adaptation, d. Maurice Elvey, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 5500ft, BFI
  • Charles Augustus Milverton (The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 1) (UK 1922), The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 1900ft, BFI
  • The Abbey Grange (The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 2) (UK 1922), The Abbey Grange, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2200ft, BFI
  • The Norwood Builder (The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 3) (UK 1922), The Norwood Builder, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2100ft, BFI
  • The Reigate Squires (The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 4) (UK 1922), The Reigate Squires, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 1900ft, BFI
  • The Naval Treaty (The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 5) (UK 1922), The Naval Treaty, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 1600ft, BFI
  • The Second Stain (The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 6) (UK 1922), The Second Stain, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2200ft, BFI
  • The Red Circle (The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 7) (UK 1922), The Red Circle,adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 1780ft, BFI
  • The Six Napoleons (The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 8) (UK 1922), The Six Napoleons, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 1790ft, BFI
  • Black Peter (The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 9) (UK 1922), Black Peter, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 1800ft, BFI
  • The Bruce Partington Plans (The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 10) (UK 1922), The Bruce Partington Plans, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2196ft, BFI
  • The Stockbroker’s Clerk (The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 11) (UK 1922), The Stockbroker’s Clerk, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 1830ft, BFI
  • The Boscombe Valley Mystery (The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 12) (UK 1922), The Boscombe Valley Mystery, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2450ft, BFI
  • The Musgrave Ritual (The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 13) (UK 1922), The Musgrave Ritual, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 1750ft, BFI
  • The Golden Pince-Nez (The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 14) (UK 1922), The Golden Pince-Nez, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 1675ft, BFI
  • The Greek Interpreter (The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 15) (UK 1922), The Greek Interpreter, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 1862ft, BFI
  • Silver Blaze (The Last Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 1) (UK 1923), Silver Blaze, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2100ft, BFI
  • The Speckled Band (The Last Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 2) (UK 1923), The Speckled Band, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 1800ft, BFI
  • The Gloria Scott (The Last Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 3) (UK 1923), The Gloria Scott, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2070ft, BFI
  • The Blue Carbuncle (The Last Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 4) (UK 1923), The Blue Carbuncle,adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2000ft, BFI
  • The Engineer’s Thumb (The Last Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 5) (UK 1923), The Engineer’s Thumb, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2000ft, BFI
  • His Last Bow (The Last Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 6) (UK 1923), His Last Bow, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 1600ft, BFI
  • The Cardboard Box (The Last Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 7) (UK 1923), The Cardboard Box, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 1800ft, BFI
  • The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax (The Last Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 8) (UK 1923), The Disappareance of Lady Frances Carfax, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 1800ft, BFI
  • The Three Students (The Last Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 9) (UK 1923), The Three Students,adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2500ft, BFI
  • The Missing Three Quarter (The Last Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 10) (UK 1923), The Missing Three Quarter, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2200ft, BFI
  • The Mystery of Thor Bridge (The Last Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 11) (UK 1923), The Mystery of Thor Bridge, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2200ft, BFI
  • The Stone of Mazarin (The Last Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 12) (UK 1923), The Stone of Mazarin, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 1878ft, BFI
  • The Mystery of the Dancing Men (The Last Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 13) (UK 1923), The Mystery of the Dancing Men, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2600ft, BFI
  • The Crooked Man (The Last Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 14) (UK 1923), The Crooked Man, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 2228ft, BFI
  • The Final Problem (The Last Adventures of Sherlock Holmes no. 15) (UK 1923), The Final Problem, adaptation, d. George Ridgwell, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 1686ft, BFI
  • The Sign of Four (UK 1923), The Sign of Four, adaptation, d. Maurice Elvey, p.c. Stoll, Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), 6750ft, BFI

Douglas Fairbanks parodying Holmes as the detective Coke Ennyday in The Mystery of the Leaping Fish (1916), from http://www.nytimes.com

13. Holmes parodies, allusions etc.
This is a selection of the many individual silent era films which parodied, spoofed, emulated or borrowed the names of Sherlock Holmes. No definitive list could be produced, given the all-pervasiveness of the idea of Holmes as master detective. Title, country, date and production company are given.

  • Un rivale di Sherlock Holmes (Italy 1907), p.c. Ambrosio
  • Miss Sherlock Holmes (USA 1908), p.c. Edison
  • Ein Meisterstück von Sherlock Holmes (Germany 1908), p.c. Internationale Kinematograph
  • A Squeedunk Sherlock Holmes (USA 1909), p.c. Edison
  • The Italian Sherlock Holmes (USA 1910), p.c. Yankee Film Company
  • A Case for Sherlock Holmes (UK 1911), p.c. Cricks & Martin
  • Sherlock Holmes Jr. (USA 1911), p.c. Rex
  • A Canine Sherlock Holmes (UK 1912), p.c. Urban
  • Cousins of Sherlock Holmes (USA 1912), p.c. Solax
  • [Sclau, schlauer, am schlauesten!] (France c.1912, p.c. Eclipse [listed by Barnes as a meeting of detectives Nick Winter, Nick Carter, Nat Pinkerton and Sherlock Holmes - original French title not know]
  • Fricot emulo di Sherlock Holmes (Italy 1913), p.c. Ambrosio
  • The Sherlock Holmes Girl (USA 1914), p.c. Edison
  • Sherlock Bonehead (USA 1914), p.c. Kalem
  • Sherlock Holmes roulé par Rigadin (France 1914), p.c. Pathé
  • Shorty and Sherlock Holmes (USA 1914), p.c. Broncho
  • The Sherlock Boob (USA 1915), p.c. Mica
  • Kri Kri contro Sherlock-Holmes (Italy 1915), p.c. Cines
  • La disfatta di Sherlok-Holmes (Italy 1915), p.c. Cines
  • The Mystery of the Leaping Fish (USA 1916), p.c. Triangle, DVD [Kino]
  • A Black Sherlock Holmes (USA 1918), p.c. Ebony
  • Das Detektivduell (Germany 1920), p.c. Valy Arnheim
  • Lya als Sherlock Holmes (Germany 1921), p.c. Albert Löwenberg
  • Sherlock Brown (USA 1922), p.c. Metro
  • Sherlock Jr (USA 1924), p.c. Buster Keaton Productions, DVD [Kino]
  • Sherlock Sleuth (USA 1925), p.c. Pathé Exchange
  • Københavns Sherlock Holmes (Denmark 1925 ), p.c. Palladium


This filmography has been compiled from many sources. Particular acknowledgments to Alan Barnes, Sherlock Holmes on Screen: The Complete Film and TV History, Jay Weissberg’s notes for ‘Sherlock and Beyond: The British Detective in Silent Cinema’ in the 2009 Pordenone Silent Film Festival catalogue, the German film database Filmportal, the two volumes of the American Film Index, Denis Gifford’s The British Film Catalogue and Books and Plays in Films 1896-1915, the American Film Catalog (online version), the Danish Film Institute online national filmography, and the Internet Movie Database.

Lives in film no. 4: Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson knocks Jim Jeffries out of the ring at the climax of their world heavyweight bout at Reno, Nevada, on 4 July 1910. The referee is the fight’s promoter, Tex Rickard. Frame still from Sights and Scenes from the Johnson-Jeffries Fight (BFI National Archive)

I’m Jack Johnson. Heavyweight champion of the world.
I’m black. They never let me forget it.
I’m black all right. I’ll never let them forget it.

100 years ago, on 4 July 1910, two men met to contest the world heavyweight championship. One was James Jeffries, a former world champion brought back out of retirement to answer the call made by many in America to defend the white race. The other was the Afro-American Jack Johnson, the most iconic sportsman of the era, a man feared inside the ring for his tremendous power and outside it for the threat he seemed to pose to white society. The contest at Reno, Nevada was perhaps the most socially significant sporting event of the twentieth century. And of course the motion picture cameras were there.

Johnson lived much of his life in front of the camera. By the time he began fighting, sales of motion picture rights were a major source of revenue for those in the fight business, and every bout of significance was filmed, generally in its entirety, albeit semi-illegally given that prize fighting was prohibited in most American states. Films of Johnson’s fights were among the most significant of their age, to the point where legislation was created to contain them. Above all, Johnson was the first black person to be a leading film attraction – Dan Streible calls him “the first black movie star”. He helped change how America saw itself.

Arthur John Johnson, or Jack Johnson (1878-1946), was born in Galveston, Texas, the son of a former slave, and began his fighting career in 1897. He emerged as a major contender in the early 1900s, but the leading white boxers of the period mostly declined to fight against him, such was the racism endemic in the sport and American society generally. In particular he was effectively barred from any world heavyweight championship fight. There were other talented black boxers in Johnson’s time, notably Joe Jeannette, Sam McVey and Sam Langford, but they were mostly forced to fight among themselves for black-only championships. Johnson was unusual in his thirsting for the very top, avoiding the likes of Langford as much as possible in his search for the heavyweight crown.

Following the retirement of James J. Jeffries as world heavyweight champion in 1905, the championship and boxing in general went into decline. Two inadequate champions followed, Marvin Hart and Tommy Burns. Johnson became the beneficiary of the impoverished heavyweight scene, for the lacklustre Tommy Burns had failed to attract the crowds and money, and a new black champion, it was suggested, would attract controversy and a challenger to regain white supremacy. Johnson eventually hunted down Burns to Australia, and defeated him in Australia on 26 December 1908, becoming the first black world heavyweight champion. The fourteen-round fight was filmed by the British branch of Gaumont, though the Sydney police dramatically halted the filming and the fight in the final round to prevent the live and future audiences from witnessing any further humiliation for Burns. The film’s distribution around the world greatly helped revitalise interest in heavyweight boxing, while making the idea of a search for a white challenger to retake the crown something of an obsession for white American society. It also made Johnson a considerable film attraction.

The Johnson-Burns fight, Sydney, Australia, 26 December 1908, with the booth housing the motion picture cameras to the right. From Wikimedia Commons.

At first it was believed that a challenger would soon dispose of Johnson, but his easy defeats of such challengers as Stanley Ketchel (filmed for the Motion Picture Patents Company), ‘Philadelphia’ Jack O’Brien, Al Kaufman, and even the future film actor Victor McLaglen (not a title fight), created an atmosphere of panic and the very real search for a ‘white hope’ who would crush the disturbingly confident and powerful Johnson. Eventually former champion Jeffries was persuaded to come out of retirement to face him.

The build up to the fight of the century was tremendous, and the cinema was greatly involved. Films of both boxers in training were released, including one of a bulky and seemingly invincible Jeffries working on his ranch (Jeffries on his Ranch, made by the Yankee Film Co.). The fight itself took place on 4 July 1910 at Reno, Nevada, promoted by the larger-than-life Tex Rickard. Three film companies, Selig, Vitagraph and Lubin, representing the Motion Picture Patents Company, combined to organise the production and distribution of the fight film, under the one-off name of the J. & J. Company, with J. Stuart Blackton of Vitagraph supervising overall production and distribution. The cameras were set up in pride of place on a stand overlooking the ring, with no attempt at closer shots or other viewpoints, but with plenty of material shot prior to the event – enthusiastic crowds filling the street of Reno, both boxers in training, star fighters of times past and present (Abe Attell, ‘Philadelphia’ Jack O’Brien, Sam Langford, Jake Kilrain), and unique film of a portly John L. Sullivan, champion from another era, mock sparring with the first official world heavyweight champion, Jim Corbett (who made racial taunts at Johnson throughout the fight).

The fight lasted fifteen rounds, but was a foregone conclusion from round one, as Johnson humiliated a patently inferior Jeffries. That the fight lasted so long was no indication of Jeffries’ staying power; more likely it was an indication of Johnson’s awareness of the value of a full-length fight film. A film of a fifteen-round fight would command bigger audiences and greater revenue than a one-round knockout. It was commonly felt that Johnson had spun out the fight to increase its revenue (Rickard had promised $101,000 for the boxers, with 75% for the winner, and two-thirds of the movie rights), and this seems borne out by the evidence of the film itself. Johnson patently extends the contest beyond what was necessary, and can be seen taunting the hapless Jeffries during their numerous clinches. However, on the eve of the fight both Johnson and Jeffries had agreed to take lump sums for the movie profits rather than a percentage, so one might judge that Johnson’s motives were as much vengefulness as good business.

Jim Jeffries and Jack Johnson, from American Memory

But the most significant effect of the Johnson-Jeffries fight on the world of film came afterwards. The shock of Johnson’s victory terrified white America and thrilled the black community. Immediately the result was known there were racial conflicts throughout the country, resulting in many deaths and injuries. It was not only Johnson’s defeat of a white man, but his very public cockiness, his fondness for fast cars, fancy talk and fancy clothes, and above all his taste for white women (his various white wives were always prominent in newsreel footage of Johnson) compounded the fears. The existence of the film greatly added to the shock. Not only was one forced to read about the unspeakable Johnson becoming champion over the whites, but he could be appearing in your very own neighbourhood. The film of the fight had to be banned. With the racial violence that followed the fight as the primary excuse, and following heavy lobbying by such interest groups as the United Society of Christian Endeavor, the film was soon barred from many individual cities, and fifteen states went further by banning all prize fight films – it was assumed there would be other Johnson fights and other Johnson films, and so the states legislated against all boxing films rather than the specific cases of the Johnson-Jeffries film.

However, no immediate federal law was passed. Such legislation only arose when another Johnson fight film, that of his contest against ‘Fireman’ Jim Flynn on 4 July 1912, threatened further social unrest. Bills had already been introduced by the grossly racist Congressmen Representative Seaborn A. Rodenberry and Senator Furnifold Simmons to prohibit the interstate transportation of fight films, and on 31 July 1912 the legislation was passed. It was now a federal offence to transport fight films over State lines. This naturally had a severe effect on the production and distribution of boxing films, though it by no means stopped them. The ambiguous legislation, which was much challenged as it seemed directly to contradict reasonable commerce, did not necessarily prevent such films’ exhibition, and there was still a large audience keen to see such films, especially the Johnson-Willard contest of 1915 where the victorious Jess Willard finally proved to be the ‘white hope’ so many had been looking for.

One of the most striking attempts to by-pass the ban on interstate transportation occurred in 1916. The film in question was that of the Johnson-Willard fight; the company involved the Pantomimic Corporation (created by L. Lawrence Weber, the producer of the Johnson-Willard film). A motion picture camera was placed eight inches from the New York-Canada border, pointing north. On the Canadian side was placed a tent containing a box with an electric light. Past this was then run a positive of the Johnson-Willard film, which by means of a synchronising device was then photographed on the American side, and thus a duplicate negative (of doubtful quality) was produced. The whole extraordinary process was deliberately given wide publicity, but Pantomimic lost the ensuing court case, for having violated the spirit if not the letter of the law.

The law was a preposterous one, contrary to the basic rules of commerce and unashamedly racist in intent. It was widely violated throughout the 1920s, as the continued production of fight films indicates, and the Johnson ‘threat’ was in any case over. However, it was not until the late 1930s that calls for the legislation to be repealed were heard. Boxing was now seen to be popular among all classes, with a clear following among women, and the new, unthreatening black champion Joe Louis, modesty and courtesy personified, was the very model of what white America hoped to see. The Senate finally passed a bill permitting the interstate shipment of prize fight films on 13 June 1939.

Jack Johnson with one of his fast cars, from the Henry E. Winkler Collection of Boxing Photographs, University of Notre Dame

After the Willard fight, Johnson’s life went into decline. He had been sentenced to a year’s imprisonment in 1913 for violation of the anti-‘white slavery’ Mann Act (“transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes”) but skipped bail and fled to France, where he successfully defended his title against Frank Moran, the film of which was widely derided for its obvious spinning out of the fight to make a more commercial film offering. The Willard fight took place in Havana, Cuba, and he only returned to the USA to serve out his sentence in 1921, after spending time in Spain and Mexico. He carried on fighting in prison and following his release, and continued to appear before the motion picture cameras, though now in dramatic films, albeit very obscure titles made for the Afro-American community: As the World Rolls On (1921) and For His Mother’s Sake (1921) (Johnson had made at least one fiction film during his time in Spain).

Johnson kept on fighting until 1938, as well appearing on stage, refereeing fights, giving talks and making personal appearances. Always fond of fast cars and speeding, he died in a car crash in 1946.

From having been probably the most reviled man of his age, posthumously Johnson has undergone a considerable change in reputation. Always honoured by most fight fans for his boxing ability and his historical importance, he was increasingly held up as an example of black empowerment, starting with Howard Sackler’s 1967 play The Great White Hope, filmed in 1970 with James Earl Jones as the Johnson-like character Jack Jefferson. There then followed Bill Cayton’s Academy Award-nominated documentary Jack Johnson (1970) with its superb Miles Davis jazz score, which ends with the imposing words (spoken by Brock Peters) cited at the top of this post. Sympathetic biographies followed, notably Randy Roberts’ Papa Jack: Jack Johnson and the Era of White Hopes, and recently Geoffrey C. Ward’s book Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, which was turned into a documentary by Ken Burns with another jazz soundtrack, this time by Wynton Marsalis. There is now a strong move in the US for Johnson’s 1913 conviction to be overturned, with Congress recommending in 2008 that he be granted a presidential pardon, a motion that received the unexpected support of Senator John McCain.

Finding out more
The PBS Unforgiveable Blackness website has extensive information on Jack Johnson and his times, including a special Flash feature on the Jeffries fight.

As noted above, the key biographies are Randy Roberts, Papa Jack: Jack Johnson and the Era of White Hopes, and Geoffrey C. Ward, Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson. On the Johnson-Jeffries fight in particular, see Robert Greenwood, Jack Johnson vs. James Jeffries: The Prize Fight of the Century; Reno, Nevada, July 4, 1910.

For the history of fight films in the silent era, with extensive information on Jack Johnson, there is the excellent Fight Pictures: A History of Boxing and Early Cinema, by Dan Streible, to which this post in much indebted, particularly the filmography. Acknowledgments also to Larry Richards, African American Films Through 1959: A Comprehensive, Illustrated Filmography.

Two essays cover the legislative back ground to the Johnson films: Barak Y. Orbach, ‘The Johnson-Jeffries Fight and Censorship of Black Supremacy‘, and Lee Grieveson, ‘Fighting Films: Race, morality and the governing of cinemas, 1912-1915′, in The Silent Cinema Reader, edited by Grieveson and Peter Kramer.

The Chronicling America site of digitised historic newspapers has a special section on the Johnson-Jeffries fight.

For celebratory centenary events, see www.johnsonjeffries2010.com.

In 2005 Jeffries-Johnson World’s Championship Boxing Contest (1910) was added to the National Film Registry as a work of “enduring significance to American culture”.

Parts of this post are taken from a long essay I wrote for Griffithiana in 1998 entitled ‘Sport and the Silent Screen’.

Filmography

1. Fight films
(Note: Fight films tend to be recorded under a variety of titles, but US copyright titles are given where available. Dates are the dates of the fights)

  • [Jack Johnson v Ben Taylor] (GB, 31 July 1908, producer unknown)
  • World’s Heavyweight Championship Pictures between Tommy Burns and Jack Johnson aka The Burns-Johnson Boxing Contest (GB/Australia, 26 December 1908, Gaumont)
  • World Championship, Jack Johnson vs. Stanley Ketchell [sic] (USA, 16 October 1909, J.W. Coffroth)
  • Jeffries-Johnson World’s Championship Boxing Contest, held at Reno, Nevada, July 4, 1910 (USA, 4 July 1910, J&J Company) [The cut down version held by the BFI is entitled Sights and Scenes from the Johnson-Jeffries Fight. There were also a number of re-enactment films made of the fight - see Streible, Fight Pictures]
  • Jack Johnson vs. Jim Flynn Contest for Heavyweight Championship of the World (USA, 4 July 1912, Jack Curley/Miles Bros.)
  • Johnson-Moran Fight / The Grand Boxing Match for the Heavyweight Championship of the World between Frank Moran and Jack Johnson (France? 27 June 1914)
  • Willard-Johnson Boxing Match (USA, 5 April 1915, Pantomimic/L. Lawrence Weber) [Streible records a pirated version of the fight as well]
  • Note: Denis Gifford’s British Film Catalogue lists a Jack Johnson v Bombardier Billy Wells fight film made in 1911 by Will Barker, but though the film was advertised the fight itself was abandoned and the film never made.

2. Fiction films

  • Une aventure de Jack Johnson, champion de boxe toutes catégories du monde (France 1913)
  • Fuerza y nobleza (Spain 1917-18, four-part serial)
  • Black Thunderbolt (Spain 1917-18, released in USA in 1921 by A.A. Millman, 7 reels) [it is possible that this is the same film as Fuerza y nobleza]
  • The Man in Ebony (USA 1918, T.H.B. Walker’s Colored Pictures, 3 reels) [uncertain credit, because Johnson did not live in the USA 1913-1919]
  • As the World Rolls On (USA 1921, Andlauer Production Company, 7 reels)
  • For His Mother’s Sake (USA 1922, Blackburn Velde Productions, 5-6 reels)
  • Madison Sq. Garden (USA 1932, Paramount) [guest appearance]

3. Other films
(Note: Some of these titles probably reproduce material from earlier releases, such as the Kineto films of Johnson in training)

  • Burns and Johnson Training (GB? 1909) [given by Streible, not by Gifford]
  • Jack Johnson in Training/How Jack Johnson Trains (GB? 1909, Kineto) [given by Streible and BFI database, not by Gifford]
  • Jack Johnson Training Pictures/Jack Johnson Training (GB? 1910, Kineto) [given by Streible, not by Gifford]
  • Johnson Training for his Fight with Jeffries (USA 1910, Chicago Film Picture Co.)
  • Mr Johnson Talks (USA 1910, American Cinephone Co.) [gramophone recording synchronised to film]
  • How the Champion of the World Trains, Jack Johnson in Defence and Attack (GB 1911, Kineto) [given by Streible, not by Gifford. The title of the copy in the Nederlands Filmmuseum is Jack Johnson: Der Meister Boxer der Welt]
  • Jack Johnson, Champion du Monde de Boxe (Poids Lourds) (France 1911) [newsreel]
  • Jack Johnson Paying a Visit to the Manchester Docks (GB 1911) [newsreel]
  • Jack Johnson and Jim Flynn Up-to-date (USA 1912, Johnson-Flynn Feature Film Co.)

The Dreyer standard

Dreyer puts his hand up to block the camera, from a documentary ‘Carl Th. Dreyer’ available on http://english.carlthdreyer.dk

After a long period of waiting, it is good to be able to announce the official launch of the Danish Film Institute’s much-anticipated Carl Th. Dreyer website.

It has been worth the wait. The website (available in Danish and English versions) contains extensive and handsomely presented information on Denmark’s greatest filmmaker. There is a biography (creatively illustrated by photographs of Dreyer running down the right-hand column); thoughtful essays and articles on Dreyer’s visual style, his working method, and workplaces with which he was associated; explorations of key themes in his work; and biographical pieces on his various collaborators.

And then there is the gallery. Here is where things get really good. On one side there is a great selection of photographs and posters, the former including both personal photos as well as production stills. On the other side, there are the film and sound clips. There are extracts from some of the feature films (including Leaves from Satan’s Book among the silents), shorts, videos and sound interviews with Dreyer (some in Danish, some in English or with English titles), and films about Dreyer.

Then there is Dreyer’s Archive. This is a database of original scripts, work papers, photos, research material, newspaper clippings, book collection and more than 4,000 letters, mostly deriving from Dreyer’s estate. It is well put together, with exemplary indexing and hyperlinked cross-linking, though it is all in Danish and contains description of the archive contents, not digitised copies (the introduction to the database says that “all relevant material has been digitised, e.g. artifacts, photos and manuscripts” but this seems to relate to onsite access at the DFI).

Carl Th. Dreyer’s Die Gezeichneten (Love One Another) 1922, from http://english.carlthdreyer.dk

There is also an excellent filmography, providing a complete overview of every film with which Dreyer was involved, as screenwriter, director, editor and actor. Each record contains a short introduction, complete credits, stills, posters, technical data, scripts, plot summaries, DVD availability, selected reviews from Danish papers, and background information on the films’ production, reception and sources.

Here’s a list of all of Dreyer’s silent films (with director’s name in parenthesis and Dreyer’s credit on the second line):

The Leap to Death (Rasmus Ottesen, DK, 1912)
Scriptwriter Actor

Dagmar (Rasmus Ottesen, DK, 1912)
Scriptwriter

The Hidden Message (Kay van der Aa Kühle, DK, 1913)
Scriptwriter

War Correspondents (Vilhelm Glückstadt, DK, 1913)
Scriptwriter

Won by Waiting (Sofus Wolder, DK, 1913)
Scriptwriter

The Secret of the Bureau (Hjalmar Davidsen, DK, 1913)
Scriptwriter

Lay Down Your Arms! (Holger-Madsen, DK, 1915)
Scriptwriter

The Skeleton Hand (Alexander Christian, DK, 1915)
Scriptwriter

Money (Karl Mantzius, DK, 1916)
Scriptwriter

The Devil’s Protegé (Holger-Madsen, DK, 1916)
Scriptwriter

Evelyn the Beautiful (A.W. Sandberg, DK, 1916)
Scriptwriter

The Spider’s Prey (August Blom, DK, 1916)
Scriptwriter

A Criminal’s Diary (Alexander Christian, DK, 1916)
Scriptwriter

The Temptation of Mrs. Chestney (Holger-Madsen, DK, 1916)
Scriptwriter

The Mystery of the Crown Jewels (Karl Mantzius, DK, 1916)
Scriptwriter

The Mysterious Companion (August Blom, DK, 1917)
Scriptwriter

Which is Which? (Holger-Madsen, DK, 1917)
Scriptwriter

Convict No. 113 (Holger-Madsen, DK, 1917)
Scriptwriter

The Hands (Alexander Christian, DK, 1917)
Scriptwriter

Hotel “Paradise” (Robert Dinesen, DK, 1917)
Scriptwriter

The Music-hall Star (Holger-Madsen, DK, 1918)
Scriptwriter

Misjudgement (Alexander Christian, DK, 1917)
Scriptwriter

Gillekop (August Blom, DK, 1919)
Scriptwriter

Lace (August Blom, DK, 1919)
Scriptwriter

The President (Carl Th. Dreyer, DK, 1919)
Director Scriptwriter

Leaves from Satan’s Book (Carl Th. Dreyer, DK, 1921)
Director Scriptwriter

The Parson’s Widow (Carl Th. Dreyer, SE, 1921)
Director Scriptwriter

Love One Another (Carl Th. Dreyer, DE, 1922)
Director Scriptwriter

Once upon a Time (Carl Th. Dreyer, DK, 1922)
Director Scriptwriter

Michael (Carl Th. Dreyer, DE, 1924)
Director Scriptwriter

Master of the House (Carl Th. Dreyer, DK, 1925)
Director Scriptwriter Production design

The Bride of Glomdal (Carl Th. Dreyer, NO, 1926)
Director Scriptwriter

The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Th. Dreyer, FR, 1928)
Director Scriptwriter Editor

The whole site is a model of how to present any creative person’s legacy, let alone a leading filmmaker. It is easy to navigate, well-designed, amply visual, and has extensive cross-linking to encourage one to explore further and see how the site is structured. And new material is promised, so it is only going to get better and better. If only some other of the great names in silent film history could have similar definitive treatment (D.W. Griffith? Georges Méliès? Louis Lumière? Sergei Eisenstein? Where are the sites that these people deserve?). It’s about time – and the standard has been set.

Lives in film no. 3 – Dan Leno

Dan Leno, from http://www.rfwilmut.clara.net/musichll/xleno.html

In 1921 Charlie Chaplin returned home to Britain to an ecstatic welcome. Touring his old London haunts, however, he found one shop-owner less than overawed by his worldwide fame. Chaplin went to a photographer’s shop on Westminster Bridge Road where he recalled seeing a framed picture of his comic idol, Dan Leno. It was still there. This conversation then followed:

My name is Chaplin … You photographed me fifteen years ago. I want to buy some copies.

Oh, we destroyed the negative long ago.

Have you destroyed Mr. Leno’s negative?

No, but Mr. Leno is a famous comedian.

Such is fame, as Chaplin notes. The man in the picture, Dan Leno, was for anyone of Chaplin’s generation the epitome of comedy. He was among the funniest and the most loved of comedians of the Victorian age, one whose career formed a bridge between the pantomime clowning of the Joe Grimaldi early-19th century era and the era of motion pictures that was to bring about the unprecedented fame of Leno’s successor as public favourite, Chaplin himself.

Dan Leno (1860-1904) was one of the greatest of all comedians. Born George Wild Galvin, the child of entertainers (as was Chaplin), he was raised in poverty in London, first trod the boards aged just four, and first rose to prominence by winning a world clog-dancing competition in Leeds in 1880. He made it to the main London stages by 1885, immediately acclaimed as a comic master, and soon established as a national favourite, particularly on account of his peformances in Drury Lane pantomimes. His artistry was built around an uncanny ability to mimic the trials and absurdities of everyday living. Leno excelled in making his comic characters as realistic as they were comic, products of an acute sense of human characteristics. As a railway guard, waiter, shop-walker, lodger, recruiting sergeant, swimming instructor or Widow Twankey (he was the archetypal pantomime dame), Leno’s befuddled demeanour reflected life’s puzzlements in a form that all could recognise and delight in. Max Beerbohm wrote of him:

Dan Leno’s was not one of those personalities which dominate us by awe, subjugating us against our will. His was of that other, finer kind — the lovable kind. He had, in a higher degree than any other actor I have ever seen, the indefinable quality of being sympathetic. I defy anyone not to have loved Dan Leno at first sight. The moment he capered on, with that air of wild determination, squirming in every limb with some deep grievance that must be outpoured, all hearts were his.

Leno’s humour was grounded in character observation and word-play, but as with all great comedians it was a shared understanding with his audience that made him special. He pinpointed what Beerbohm identified as “the sordidness of the lower middle class, seen from within” while making that “trite and unlovely material … new and beautiful”. How we laugh at ourselves is how Dan Leno made us laugh.

Dan Leno is now the subject of a new biography, the first since 1977. Barry Anthony’s The King’s Jester: The Life of Dan Leno, Victorian Comic Genius is published by I.B. Tauris and it is a delight from start to finish. Anthony (previously co-author with Richard Brown of A Victorian Film Enterprise: The History of the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company and a fine booklet on the Kinora) is well-known among a small coterie of music hall historians for his meticulous research and encyclopaedic knowledge. He also writes beautifully. The research is worn lightly, the observations are acute, the characters stand out vividly, and the material is handled in an engaging style that makes the Victorian music hall era come alive. There is much on the Victorian music hall in general, so that the book serves as a valuable general history as well as biography. It is particularly good at giving you the essence of Leno’s performances (and those of others), as if a motion picture camera had been there.

But, as Anthony points out, towards the end of Leno’s career, the motion picture cameras were there. Leno’s later career coincided with the rise of mass media as means to package and spread fame, and Leno was filmed on several occasions. Interestingly, the films that were made of Leno for the most part did not attempt to record his performances but rather focussed on his celebrity. There was a surprising number of films made of Leno – at least a dozen. But the reason why he seldom turns up in film histories is that only one of these films survives, and that in a non-film state.

Leno was first filmed on 23 June 1899 on a trip by the music hall society the ‘Water Rats’ to Box Hill in Surrey. Impresario A.D. Thomas had them filmed on the road to Mitcham travelling in coaches (‘The Rats’ off on a Picnic), at play befor a crowd of spectators (‘The Rats’ at Play) and picnicing (‘The Rats’ at Dinner). Alongside Leno were such notables as Herbert Campbell, Joe Elvin, George Robey, Will Evans and Harry Randall. A few days later Thomas filmed the Music Hall Sports at Herne Hill in London, the sports being interspersed with comic performances intended to raise money for the Music Hall Benevolent Fund. Dan Leno featured in Burlesque Indian Attack on Settlers’ Cabin, Dan Leno’s Attempt to Master the Wheel (in the character of his famous role of Mrs Kelly) and Burlesque Fox Hunt. All titles were subsequently included in the Warwick Trading Company catalogue.

Leno was filmed at other charity events. Birt Acres filmed Dan Leno’s Cricket Match in July 1900 at another mix of charity and sports, where Leno again took a turn on a bicycle. A year later, in September 1901, he was back on the cricket field (at Stamford Bridge) for Warwick’s Dan Leno’s Day Out, paired with Dan Leno, Musical Director, where he mock-conducted the Metropolitan Police Band in ‘A Little Bit Off the Top’. A few days later he appeared before the 70mm camera of the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company for Dan Leno’s Record Score, which showed him in comic argument with a wicket-keeper (for photographs from the day in Black and White Budget see the excellent Arthur Lloyd website). Anthony records that the film was exhibited alongside genuine cricket film of C.B. Fry and Ranjisinhji. Another Biograph film was Mr Dan Leno, Assisted by Mr Herbert Campbell, Editing ‘The Sun’ (1902) in which Leno and the frequent partner in pantomime, a comic promotional film for a journal run by the notorious Horatio Bottomley. This was the only film to show an acted peformance from Leno, apart from Bluebeard (1902), an extract from a Drury Lane pantomime in which Leno played Sister Anne, produced by Warwick.

Dan Leno and his wife Lydia in The Obstinate Cork (1902), from The King’s Jester: The Life of Dan Leno, Victorian Comic Genius

Biograph produced the only film of Leno that exists today. Its 70mm products were often issued in flip-card or flip-book form through a variety of devices for viewing at seaside arcades (through the Mutoscope) or in the home (through the Kinora). Biograph made two films in 1902 of Leno with his family in the garden at their home in Clapham, one of which showed Leno and his wife Lydia struggling to open a bottle of champagne and eventually resorting to a giant property axe to do so. The Obstinate Cork survives – in private hands – as a Kinora reel (i.e. a set of flip-cards for exhibiting in a Kinora) and forms the only moving image that exists of the great comedian.

As said, most of these films did not present Leno in performance but rather Leno the celebrity, seen clowning in public, playing up to his popular persona. They crossed the barrier between fiction and non-fiction. If any were to be discovered they wouldn’t so much show us Leno’s art as his popularity, and that would be so precious in itself. Leno the comic giant belonged to his time. Nothing dates so remorsely as humour. What makes one generation roll in the aisles makes the succeeding generation shrug its shoulders or wince with embarassment. What matters for our understanding of the history of comedy is not whether we would find Grimaldi, Leno or Chaplin funny today (though we might) but that we appreciate just what they meant to the people of their time. This is what Barry Anthony’s book achieves so well. It tell us enough to give a good idea of Leno’s comedy, but still more it shows us how key he was to his times, how people identified with his humour, how much he was of his times and yet transcended his times. The films that were made of him were not intended to replicate his act but to reflect the profound affection with which he was held by millions.

Dan Leno suffered throughout his professional life from a series of mental and physical breakdowns, brought on by the pressures of huge popularity. He died in 1904, aged just 43.

Finding out more
Leno made a number of sound recordings, and unlike his motion picture legacy, all of these survive. Recordings from 1901 and 1903 can be heard Music Hall Perfomers site, while his famous number ‘The Grass Widower’ can be heard on YouTube. Peter Preston has written an interesting piece in The Guardian comparing Leno’s passing fame to that which endures for Marlon Brando – as unlikely a pairing as one could imagine. Paul Morris’ essay on the English Music Hall site evocatively sums up Leno’s art. Finally, Leno’s comical pseudo-autobiography, Dan Leno Hys Booke (1899) is available online from the Internet Archive.

Lives in film no. 1: Alfred Dreyfus – part 3

Scene outside the court room at Rennes, probably showing chief prosecution witness General Mercier on the left, from the Société Française de Mutoscope et Biographe Dreyfus trial scene film, courtesy of Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.

Part one of this series covered the early films of the Dreyfus affair made by Georges Méliès; part two completed the picture with the early films made by Biograph and Pathé. This final post supplies a plain filmography, for reference purposes. It includes a film by Lubin which was overlooked for the first two posts. It is arranged by film company. It does not include post-silent era productions.

American Mutoscope and Biograph Company

Dreyfus Receiving His Sentence (USA 1899)
Cast: Lafayette [Sigmund Neuberger] (Alfred Dreyfus)
68mm bw st ??ft
Archive: none
Impersonation. “Lafayette, the mimic, showing Capt. Dreyfus reading the verdict of the court-martial in his prison, and meeting with Madame Dreyfus. This picture is very dramatic, and true to the details of the actual scene.” (American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, Picture Catalogue, 1902)

Trial of Captain Dreyfus (USA 1899)
Cast: Lafayette [Sigmund Neuberger] (Alfred Dreyfus)
68mm bw st ??ft
Archive: none
Impersonation. “An impressive character impersonation by Lafayette, the great mimetic comedian. The scene is from the famous court-martial at Rennes, ending with the prisoner’s dramatic declaration, ‘I am innocent’.” (American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, Picture Catalogue, 1902)

British Mutoscope and Biograph Company

The Zola-Rochefort Duel (UK 1898)
ph. W.K.-L. Dickson
68mm bw st 45″ (30fps)
Archive: Filmmuseum (Amsterdam)
Dramatic sketch. “This is a replica of the famous duel with rapiers between Emile Zola, the novelist, and Henri Rochefort, the statesman. The duel takes place on the identical ground where the original fighting occurred, seconds and doctors being present as in the original combat. The picture gives a good idea of how a French affair of honor is conducted.” (American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, Picture Catalogue, 1902)

Amann, the Great Impersonator (UK c.1899)
Cast: Ludwig Amann (Emile Zola/Alfred Dreyfus)
68mm bw st 30″ (30fps)
Archive: BFI National Archive (London)
Impersonation. Quick-change artist Amann impersonates first Emile Zola and then Alfred Dreyfus.

[American Biograph at the Palace] (UK 1899)
68mm bw st 35″ (30fps)
Archive: Filmmuseum (Amsterdam)
Comic sketch/advertisement. A tramp and a billsticker come to blows while the latter puts up a notice saying ‘Have You Seen the Mutoscope’. There are several posters advertising the Palace Theatre and the Biograph/Mutoscope, two of which mention the Dreyfus films.

Lubin

The Trial of Captain Dreyfuss at Rennes, France (USA 1899)
p. Siegmund Lubin
35mm st bw ??ft
Archive: none
Listed in Library of Congress Motion Pictures Catalog 1894-1912, copyrighted 28 September 1899

Pathé Frères

L’affaire Dreyfus (France 1899)
Jean Liezer (Dreyfus)
35mm bw st 155m
Catalogue nos. 516-523
Archive: BFI National Archive (one, possibly two, episodes only of eight, Entrée au conseil de guerre and maybe Dreyfus dans sa cellule à Rennes)
Description: French descriptions taken from Pathé Frères 1897-1899 catalogue; English versions taken from The Era, 21 September 1899.

No. 516/515: Arrestation, aveux du colonel Henry (20m)
“M. Cavaignac, ministre de la guerre, discute avec son chef de cabinet. Il mande un planton et lui ordonne de faire introduire le colonel. Le ministre interroge l’inculpé et lui présente le faux; le colonel se trouble et nie l’authenticité de la note. Mais, confronté avec le général accusateur, le colonel fait ses aveux. Le ministre le fait arrêter.”

No. 517/516: Au mont Valérien: suicide du Colonel Henry (20m)
“Aspect de la cellule. On aperçoit le colonel très agité. Le prisonnier envoie son gardien porter un message. Pendant ce temps, un général lui rend visite, le prie d’espérer et se retire. Mais le colonel, découragé, saisit son rasoir et, d’un élan énergique, il se coupe la gorge et tombe inanimé sur le sol.”

No. 518/517: Dreyfus dans sa cellule à Rennes / Dreyfus in the Military Prison at Rennes (20m)
“Assis à côté de sa femme, il veut la convaincre de son innocence et la prie d’espérer. Embrassades et pleurs. Un capitaine de gendarmerie entre et prévient Mme Dreyfus que l’heure de sa visite est écoulée.Les époux s’embrassent et Dreyfus reconduit sa femme jusqu’à la porte. Entrent les deux défenseurs: Mes Demange et Labori. Dreyfus les fait asseoir; ils se mettent ensemble à compulser le dossier.” / “Showing the cell in the prison in which Dreyfus, the accused, is confined during the time of his wife’s daily visit. Embraces and tears. A sergeant enters to tell Madame Dreyfus her visiting time is up. The parting of husband and wife is most pathetic and emotional. Dreyfus conducts his wife to the door. The two counsels for the defence, Maîtres Demange and Labori, then enter. The latter with his usual smile on his face full of good nature. Dreyfus asks them to be seated, and the three examine some documents together connected with the case.”

No. 519/518: Entrée au conseil de guerre / Entering the Lycee, 6.0 am (20m)
“Dreyfus traverse la rue et entre au Conseil. Mes Demange et Labori suivent en causant avec animation. Viennent ensuite les officiers témoins: général Mercier et autres, puis le colonel Jouaust, président du Conseil.” / “Streets lined with soldiers with fixed bayonets. Dreyfus with the Captain of Gendarmerie, crosses the street and enters the Lycee. Maître Demange and Labori, who appear very excited, then enter, followed by Officer-witnesses, General Mercier and other well-known personages are easily recognisable. Then comes Colonel Jouaust, the President of the Court.”

No. 520/519: Audience au conseil de guerre / Court Martial at Rennes (20m)
“Les avocats se concertent. Le colonel Jouaust les avertit que la séance va commencer: la cour entre, on introduit l’accusé. Le président donne la parole au général Mercier qui dépose.” / “A scene at the Lycee at Rennes, showing the military Court Matial of Captain Dreyfus. The only occupants of the room at this time are maîtres Demange and Labori, who are holding an animated conversation. The judges begin to arrive, and take their seats, Colonel Jouaust declares the court open, and orders the Sergeant to bring in the accused. Dreyfus enters, saluting the court, followed by the Captain of Gendarmerie, who is constantly with him. They take their appointed seats in front of the judges. Colonel Jouaust asks Adjutant Coupols to call the first witness, and General Mercier arives, and proceeds with his deposition. The scene which is a most faithful portrayal of the Court-Martial at Rennes, shows the absolute portraits of the principal personaes in the famous trial.”

No. 521/520: Sortie du conseil de guerre / Leaving the Lycee (20m)
“Officiers témoins, général Mercier en tête. Puis Dreyfus, accompagné d’un capitaine de gendarmerie. Viennent ensuite Mes Demange et Labori.” / “After the sitting witnesses go out, General Mercier first, followed by a number of others. Then Dreyfus, accompanied by Captain of Gendarmerie. Then Counsels for the Defence, Maîtres Demange and Labori, who seem pleased with their morning’s labours, and glad of the fresh air.”

No. 522: Prison militaire de Rennes, rue Duhamel (20m)
“Arrivée de l’officier d’infanterie assistant à l’entrevue dans la cellule. Arrivée de Mme Havet, tante de Mme Dreyfus et de M, son père. Sortie de Mme Dreyfus; Mme Havet et M l’accompagnent. Sortie de l’officier.”

No. 523: Avenue de la Gare à Rennes (15m)
“Sortie de Dreyfus du lycée. Aussitôt le barrage fermé, deux gendarmes sortent du lycée en traversant l’avenue pour aller ouvrir la porte de la manutention. Vient ensuite Dreyfus, suivi du capitaine de gendarmerie préposé à sa garde.”

L’affaire Dreyfus (France 1908)
d. Lucien Nonguet
p. Ferdinand Zecca
35mm bw st 370m
Catalogue no. 2237
Archive: Archives du Film (?)
Description: “L’Affaire Dreyfus – Cette intéressante vue nous donne une vivante idée des principaux incidents de l’affaire Dreyfus qui troubla si violemment les milieux militaires français en 1894. Alfred-Henri Dreyfus, officier au Ministère de la Guerre, était accusé d’avoir vendu des secrets militaires à une puissance étrangère. Il fut jugé et reconnu coupable, d’après des preuves insuffisantes, puis condamné à la détention à l’île du Diable où il resta huit ans. Jusqu’au moment où l’influence de ses partisans démontra qu’il était victime d’un complot . Finalement, il fut gracié par le président Loubet et reprit sa place dans l’armée. Dans la première scène, on voit Estherazy s’emparer d’un papier sur le bureau d’Henry pour l’envoyer à Swartzkoppen. Henry le voit le prendre, mais n’en laisse rien savoir, parce que c’est lui qui a forgé le document et l’a mis juste à l’endroit où on pouvait s’en emparer. Un garçon du baron découvrit le document sur son bureau et le fit tenir au Ministre de la Guerre – qui soupçonne Dreyfus. Il fait venir ce dernier et le prie de signer son nom. Cela fait, il compare l’écriture avec celle du document et accuse Dreyfus de trahison. Il appelle des agents de la sûreté et Dreyfus est arrêté. Nous le voyons ensuite dans sa cellule où vient le voir sa fidèle femme convaincue de son innocence. Il est traîné devant le conseil de guerre et, après un rapide procès, condamné à une terrible sentence. Alors, il est dégradé en place publique et voit son sabre brisé sur le genou d’un officier, son supérieur. On l’emmène en prison, marqué comme un traître, et c’est une pathétique scène que celle de son départ pour l’île du Diable. On le voit dans sa solitude, alors qu’il passe son temps à regarder l’horizon, rêvant de sa famille dans la patrie lointaine. Enfin, après des années de souffrance, pendant lesquelles ses amis luttèrent pour sa justification, Henry avoue son faux et se suicide. L’heureuse nouvelle de la grâce arrive au prisonnier dans sa case et nous le voyons rentrer en France où il est replacé dans le grade qu’il avait précédemment dans l’armée” Et voilà justement comme on écrit l’histoire au cinématographe-monopole ! Ne croirait-on pas voir quelque vieille image d’Épinal dont se réjouissait notre enfance ? Un tel document au lieu de relever la faveur du cinéma est de nature à l’abaisser … mais quoi ? tout le monde n’est pas Michelet !” [This is a French translation of part of a review in Moving Picture World, 4 July 1908, reproduced at http://filmographie.fondation-jeromeseydoux-pathe.com]

Société Française de Mutoscope et Biographe

[Dreyfus Trial Scenes] (France 1899)
68mm bw st c.4mins (30fps)
Archive: Filmmuseum (Amsterdam)
Actuality. Several scenes filmed at Rennes during the time of the Dreyfus re-trial, including fleeting views of Dreyfus himself and several of the major participants in the drama.

[Trial scene 1]
Scenes at Rennes in front of Lycée court building. Carrying out evidence in a basket? Various presumably notable figures exit the main gates.

[Trial scene 2]
Carriage arrives outside the Lycée for woman, presumably Lucie Dreyfus. Large gathering of military officers.

[Trial scene 3]
Guards on foot and on horseback lined up outside Lycée with their backs to a figure who comes out of the building (presumably Dreyfus) and passes by (view obscured) to left, with rapid panning shot.

[Trial scene 4]
Possibly General Mercier standing by the main gate to the Elysée. Dreyfus’ lawyer Fernand Labori may be in this scene as there are reports of British audiences cheering Labori and booing Mercier.

[Trial scene 5]
Large crowd (probably journalists) coming out of a doorway during the trial, some of whom recognise the camera.

Dreyfus in Prison
View from above of the prison courtyard showing Dreyfus and an accompanying officer walking out of one door and in through another. Sequence repeated. Title from London Palace Theatre of Varieties programme, 21 August 1899.

Madam Dreyfus Leaving the Prison
Lucie Dreyfus and her brother-in-law Mathieu Dreyfus walking along street, with panning shot. Title from London Palace Theatre of Varieties programme, 21 August 1899.

Dreyfus Walking from the Lycée to the Prison
Figures leave court room including Dreyfus (only half-visible) past the guards on foot and on horseback all with their backs turned. Dreyfus followed as he passes to the left by panning shot. Guards then disperse. Title from Manchester Palace Theatre of Varieties programme, 4 December 1899.

Star-Film

L’affaire Dreyfus (France 1899)
d. Georges Méliès
Cast: Georges Méliès (Fernand Labori)
35mm bw st 240m c.15mins
Catalogue nos. 206-217
Archive: BFI National Archive (London) [nine episodes from original eleven; nos. 216 and 217 are missing]
Descriptions taken from the Warwick Trading Company catalogue (November 1899):

No. 206: La dictée du bordereau / Arrest of Dreyfus, 1894 (20m)
“Du Paty de Clam requests Captain Dreyfus to write as he dictates for the purpose of ascertaining whether his handwriting conforms to that of the Bordereau. He notices the nervousness of Dreyfus, and accuses him of being the author of the Bordereau. Paty du Clam offers Dreyfus a revolver, with advice to commit suicide. The revolver is scornfully rejected, Dreyfus stating that he had no need for such cowardly methods, proclaiming his innocence.”

No. 216: La dégradation / The Degredation of Dreyfus in 1894 (20m)
[note that the catalogue number is not correct in terms of historical chronology]
“Shows the troops ranging in a quadrant inside the yard of the Military School in Paris. The Adjutant, who conducts the degredation, reads the sentence and proceeds to tear off in succession all of the buttons, laces, and ornaments from the uniform of Captain Dreyfus, who is compelled to pass in disgrace before the troops. A most visual representation of this first act of injustice to Dreyfus.”

No. 207: L’Ile du diable / Dreyfus at Devil’s Island – Within the Palisade (20m)
“The scene opens within the Palisades, showing Dreyfus seated on a block meditating. The guard enters bearing a letter from his wife, which he hands to Captain Dreyfus. The latter reads it and endeavours to talk to the Guard, who, however, refuses to reply, according to strict orders from his Government, causing Dreyfus to become very despondent.”

No. 208: Mise aux fers de Dreyfus / Dreyfus Put in Irons – Inside Cell at Devil’s Island (20m)
“Showing the interior view of the hut in which Dreyfus is confined. Two guards stealthily approach the cot upon which Dreyfus is sleeping. They awake him and read to him the order from the French minister – M. Lebon – to put him into irons, which they proceed at once to accomplish. Dreyfus vigorously protests against this treatment, which protests, however, fall on deaf ears. The chief sergeant and guards before leaving the hut, inspect the four corners of same by means of a lantern.”

No. 209: Suicide du Colonel Henry / Suicide of Colonel Henry (20m)
“Shows the interior of the cell of the Prison Militaire du Cherche-Midi, Paris, where Colonel Henry is confined. He is seated at a table writing a letter on completion of which he rises and takes a razor out he had concealed in his porte-manteau, with which he cuts his throat. The suicide is discovered by the sergeant of the guard and officers.”

No. 210: Débarquement à Quiberon / Landing of Dreyfus from Devil’s Island (20m)
“A section of the port Quiberon, Bretagne, at night where Dreyfus was landed by French marines, and officers after his transport from Devil’s Island. He is received by the French authorities, officers, and gendarmes, and conducted to the station for his departure to Rennes. This little scene was enacted on a dark rainy night, which is clearly shown in the film. The effects are further heightened by vivid flashes of lightning which are certainly new in cinematography.”

No. 211: Entrevue de Dreyfus et de sa femme à Rennes / Dreyfus in Prison of Rennes (20m)
“Showing room at the military prison at Rennes in which Dreyfus the accused is confined. He is visited by his counsel, Maître Labori and Demange, with whom he is seen in animated conversation. A visit from his wife is announced, who enters. The meeting of the husband and wife is most pathetic and emotional.”

No. 212: Attentat contre Me Labori / The Attempt Against Maître Labori (20m)
“Maître Labori is seen approaching the bridge of Rennes in company with Colonel Picquart and M. Gast, Mayor of Rennes. They notice that they are followed by another man to whom Colonel Picquart calls Labori’s attention. They, however, consider his proximity of no importance, and continue to speak together. As soon as their backs are turned, the man draws a revolver and fires twice at Maître Labori, who is seen to fall to the ground. The culprit makes his escape, pursued by Colonel Picquart and M. Gast.”

No. 213: Bagarre entre journalistes / The Fight of the Journalists at the Lycée (20m)
“During an interval in the proceedings of the court martial, the journalists enter into an animated discussion, resulting in a dispute between Arthur Myer of the `Gaulois’, and Mme Severine of the `Fonde’, resulting in a fight between Dreyfusards and Anti-Dreyfusards, in which canes and chairs are brought down upon the heads of many. The room is finally cleared by the gendarmes.”

Nos: 214-15: Le conseil de guerre en séance à Rennes / The Court Martial at Rennes (40m)
“A scene in the Lycée at Rennes, showing the military court-martial of Captain Dreyfus. The only occupants of the room at this time are Maître Demange and secretary. Other advocates and the stenographers now begin to arrive and the sergeant is seen announcing the arrival of Colonel Jouaust and other officers comprising the seven judges of the court-martial. The five duty judges are also seen in the background. On the left of the picture are seen Commander Cordier and Adjutant Coupois, with their stenographers and gendarmes. On the right are seen Maître Demange, Labori, and their secretaries. Colonel Jouaust orders the Sergeant of the Police to bring in Dreyfus. Dreyfus enters, saluting the court, followed by the Captain of the Gendarmerie, who is constantly with him. They take their appointed seats in front of the judges. Colonel Jouaust puts several questions to Dreyfus, to which he replies in a standing position. He then asks Adjutant Coupois to call the first witness, and General Mercier arrives. He states that his deposition is a lengthy one, and requests a chair, which is passed to him by a gendarme. In a sitting position he proceeds with his deposition. Animated discussion and cross-questioning is exchanged between Colonel Jouaust, General Mercier, and Maître Demange. Captain Dreyfus much excited gets up and vigorously protests against these proceedings. This scene, which is a most faithful portrayal of this proceeding, shows the absolute portraits of over thirty of the principal personages in this famous trial.”

No. 217: Dreyfus allant du lycée à la prison / Officers and Dreyfus Leaving the Lycee (20m)
“The exterior of the Lycee de Rennes, where the famous Dreyfus Court-Martial was conducted, showing hte French staff leaving the building after the sitting, and crossing the yard between the French soldiers forming a double line. Maîtres Demange and Labori also make their appearance, walking towards the foreground of the picture, and at length Captain Dreyfus is seen approaching, being accompanied by the Captain of Gendarmes, who is conducting him back to prison.”

Lives in film no. 1: Alfred Dreyfus – part 2

Alfred Dreyfus (inset) walks from the courtroom at Rennes, with the military guard lined up with their backs against him because of the disgrace that he represented. This and other frame grabs taken from the Biograph series of Dreyfus trial scene films, with kind permission of the Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.

This series looks at the ways in which the early motion picture recorded and influenced the lives of some significant individuals. We have started with Alfred Dreyfus, and in part one we saw how Georges Méliès documented the ‘Dreyfus affair’ by creating a multi-part drama that demonstrated great fidelity to genuine incident and appearance. For part two, we look at the responses of other film companies to Dreyfus, which ranged from dramatic sketches to on-the-spot news coverage. Firstly, a recap of the Dreyfus story itself.

The Dreyfus affair
Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish French officer, was arrested in October 1894 on suspicion of spying for Germany. A military court suspended him from the Army and on highly dubious evidence he was sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island. In 1896 one Colonel Picquart found documents which seemed to offer convincing evidence of Dreyfus’ innocence and it became apparent that the guilty party was another French officer, Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy. The military authorities under General Auguste Mercier ordered the matter hushed up, and Picquart was transfered to Tunis. But Dreyfus’ family continued to plead his cause, and a campaign led by the author Emile Zola (who wrote an open letter to the French president Émile Loubet famously entitled ‘J’accuse’) resulted in a fresh trial in 1899, which became a mockery through the Army’s refusal to admit that it could be in the wrong and the general anti-Jewish hysteria that abounded. Dreyfus was found guilty again (to the shock and disgust of world opinion), but President Loubet swiftly pardoned him. The case was reviewed in 1906 and Dreyfus found innocent. The whole affair saw France bitterly divided between Dreyfusards (generally liberals, Socialists, anti-clericals and intellectuals) and anti-Dreyfusards (generally Roman Catholics, monarchists, anti-Semites and nationalists). It became the major political crisis of the Third Republic, and seriously weakened the world view of France as a champion of liberal values.

Francis Doublier
It’s not certain whether Lumière cameraman Francis Doublier‘s tale of exhibiting films of the Dreyfus affair while he was touring Russia in 1898 is apocryphal or not, but it is such a good story – recounted several times in histories of documentary – that has to be included for the record. He told the story several times – this version comes from a lecture that he gave in 1941 at New York University, which was reproduced in 1956 in Image magazine:

The Dreyfus affair was still a source of great interest in those days, and out of it I worked up a little film-story which made me quite a bit of money. Piecing together a shot of some soldiers, one of a battleship, one of the Palais de Justice, and one of a tall gray-haired man, I called it “L’affaire Dreyfus.” People actually believed that this was a filming of the famous case, but one time after a showing a little old man came backstage and inquired of me whether it was an authentic filming of the case. I assured him that it was. The little old man then pointed out that the case had taken place in 1894, just one year before cameras were available. I then confessed my deception, and told him I had shown the pictures because business had been poor and we needed the money. Suffice to say, I never showed “L’affaire Dreyfus” again.

Whatever the precise truth, Doublier’s story reveals two fundamental truths about film – one, that it doesn’t matter what the image literally shows but what you say that it shows that counts; two, that audiences aren’t always quite a dumb as filmmakers like to believe that they are. Or at least some of them aren’t.

Biograph
Biograph is a name associated with D.W. Griffith, but the original company was the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company and it made use of a 68mm filmstock which produced films of startling size and image quality. In term of product, it produced both comic sketches, often of a midly salacious nature for viewing through the peepshow Mutoscope, and films of actuality which tended to feature at prestige theatre screenings. It gained a high reputation for films of news, sport, travel and famous personages, particularly when one of its founders, William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson, moved to Britain in 1897 to become filmmaker for the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company. Biograph diversified further, and the Société Française de Mutoscope et Biographe was formed in 1898. These two companies, and the American parent company, each produced Dreyfus-related films.

The Zola-Rochefort Duel, from The Wonders of the Biograph (1999/2000).

The first Biograph film related to the Dreyfus affair was the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company’s The Zola-Rochefort Duel, made around June/July 1898. This was the year of Emile Zola’s polemical open letter ‘J’accuse’ which brought the Dreyfus injustice out into the open. Henri Rochefort was a journalist and a rabid anti-Dreyfusard. The film dramatises a duel with swords between the two men in a park. A Biograph catalogue record describes it this:

This is a replica of the famous duel with rapiers between Emile Zola, the novelist, and Henri Rochefort, the statesman. The duel takes place on the identical ground where the original fighting occurred, seconds and doctors being present as in the original combat. The picture gives a good idea of how a French affair of honor is conducted.

However, there was no duel fought between Zola and Rochefort in reality, so either the film is meant to be symbolic or it is based on a false news report.

The American Biograph at the Palace – an advertising film for Biograph films (which were billed in the UK as American Biograph) at the Palace Theatre, London, highlighting films of the Dreyfus trial. From Richard Brown and Barry Anthony, A Victorian Film Enterprise. (1999).

The following year, at the time of the trial, Biograph used all of its publishing muscle (the British company was managed by newspaper and magazine interests) to promote itself as the company with all that anyone needed to see relating to the story of the hour. It produced an advertising film in which a billsticker puts up posters advertising Dreyfus films to be seen at the Palace Theatre in London (Biograph’s showcase theatre). The British company also produced Amann, the Great Impersonator, in which quick-change artist Ludwig Amann poses before the camera as Zola and Dreyfus, while the American branch made two films staring Lafayette, ‘the great mimetic comedian’, entitled The Trial of Captain Dreyfus and Dreyfus Receiving His Sentence (these latter two films do not appear to exist, but the three British films do).

Crowds pouring out of the courtroom at Rennes, filmed by Biograph. Dreyfus trial scenes, Filmmuseum.

However, Biograph’s major contribution to the Dreyfus affair was made by its French branch. The Société Française de Mutoscope et Biographe produced a series of what are effectively news reports filmed outside the courtroom at Rennes during Dreyfus’ second trial over August-September 1899. Here we are taken away from the comic sketches and dramatic reconstructions to the startling reality. The series of films (which are held by the Filmmuseum in Amsterdam) are extraordinary to witness, not just because they document the actuality, but because they do so with a camera style that comes across as all too modern. This is the inquisitive news camera, eagerly gazing on history in the making, making us news voyeurs, as we urge the camera to give us whatever glimpse it can of the personalities involved.

Alfred Dreyfus, in hat and dark civilian clothes, accompanied by an official (with white trousers), walks in the prison yard at Rennes, filmed by the Biograph camera from a high vantage point. Dreyfus trial scenes, Filmmuseum.

The camera operator certainly tried his best (we don’t know his name; some sources credit Julius W. Orde, but he was a director of the French company, not a cameraman). The most remarkable achievement was to capture a few seconds of of Dreyfus exercising in his prison yard, filmed from a platform built on a overlooking roof. It is pure paparazzi, except that the operator was working with a camera which with all its batteries and accoutrements weighed over half a ton. The fleeting sight of the man of the hour became a huge coup for Biograph, its brevity only enhancing the sense of a precious image snatched by the ingenuity of the operator. This film captured the headlines, but a second film of Dreyfus – illustrated at the top of the post – was also obtained, just managing to show him (via a frantic panning shot) walking from the court room across the street with a guard all standing with their backs to him because of the dishonour he represented (there was supposed to be a practical side to it as well, because the guard would be looking out for assassination attempts rather than looking at Dreyfus). A third film in the Filmmuseum set has a similar line-up of guards but it is unclear whether Dreyfus passes through them.

Lucie Dreyfus (second left) and Mathieu (second right) leaving the prison at Rennes, filmed by the Biograph cameraman tracking left. Dreyfus trial scenes, Filmmuseum.

The other film among the Dreyfus set that attracted much interest was filmed of Dreyfus’s wife Lucie and his brother Mathieu walking from the prison, with the camera tracking left to follow them as they turn a corner. The camera feels invasive, but we are also struck by the ordinariness of the scene, as the subjects recede in to the distance and the indifferent passers-by drift past or glance at the oddness of the Biograph camera. The remaining surviving films from this set include shots outside the court, with notable figures coming and going – one appears to be General Mercier, the lead prosecution witness. The films really should receive careful analysis from experts in the field, because none of the footage is accidental; the cameraman was trying as far as he could to capture something of all of the notable names. Another shot shows someones leaving the courtoom and entering a carriage (possibly Lucie Dreyfus), while another shows people pouring out of the courtroom into the open air in such a clear and animated image that the years fall away and we are back there in Rennes in 1899.

The other valuable thing about the Biograph films of the trial is that we know something of their reception. Of the court yard scene, a British theatre reviewer (from an unidentified journal clipping) wrote:

Out … comes Captain Dreyfus in civilian attire escorted by an official. Before the pair have walked five yards towards us the official espies the camera [it is not clear if this is the case], and at once hurries his charge out of sight again through the nearer door. Captain Dreyfus, who has come out for daily exercise, does not get much, for he is not in our sight for more than five seconds. The Biograph kindly repeats the view, not as an encore, but in consideration of its brevity. Without being an artistic success, it is likely to remain for some time the view that will excite the most interest. Last night it was received in ominous silence, but was heralded and succeeded by loud cheers.

This account (part of a longer review) shows how such films could be viewed both ironically and straightforwardly, while exciting a range of emotions in the general audience. Other reports reveal the sympathies of the British audience – film of Dreyfus’ lawyer Labori was cheered, while film of General Mercier was roundly booed (this also indicates that the films had live commentary from someone explaining who was to be seen going in or out of the courtroom).

Pathé
While Georges Méliès’s L’affaire Dreyfus (discussed in part one) is relatively well-known, the L’affaire Dreyfus series produced by Pathé is less-discussed, chiefly because only one part of an original eight items survives. However it was quite similar in method to Méliès’s films, using dramatisation to document the reality and breaking up the the story into dramatic tableaux which could either be viewed singly or as a complete set. In this case we know the name of the actor who played Dreyfus – Jean Liezer. These are the titles of the individual episodes:

  • Arrestation, aveux du colonel Henry
  • Au mont Valérien: suicide du Colonel Henry
  • Dreyfus dans sa cellule à Rennes
  • Entrée au conseil de guerre
  • Audience au conseil de guerre
  • Sortie du conseil de guerre
  • Prison militaire de Rennes, rue Duhamel
  • Avenue de la Gare à Rennes

Each episode was 20 metres in length. To judge from the one episode that survives (at the BFI National Archive), Dreyfus dans sa cellule à Rennes, the style was more restrained than that adopted by Méliès (though Pathé like Méliès showed the bloody suicide of Colonel Henry). It place emphasis on producing a pseudo-realistic of the personalities and places involved, with a greater concentration on the events surrounding the second trial (conseil de guerre). The extant film (no still available to illustrate, unfortunately) shows the guards with their backs to those entering the courtroom. Were the whole series to survive, one suspects that it would be a comparable work to that of Méliès, in its keen attention to detail if not in dramatic verve.

Frames from L’affaire Dreyfus (1908), directed by Lucien Nonguet, from Dreyfus à l’écran film programme, Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme, 2008

What does survive, however, is a second Pathé film, made nine years after the trial and two years after Dreyfus was finally found innocent. This is a longer work (370 metres) and a single, multi-scene film, directed by Lucien Nonguet and produced by Ferdinand Zecca. However, from the frame stills (I’ve not seen the film myself) the mise-en-scène seems remarkably similar to the 1899 films, the emphasis still being on documenting the look of key incidents through close replication of people and locations (compare the trial scene, to the right of the above frames, with the trial scene filmed by Méliès, illustrated in part one). The major difference comes through an additional character – this L’affaire Dreyfus features Esterhazy, the man who produced the document betraying French miitary secrets to the Germans that Dreyfus was accused of having written. His guilt is made clear from the opening scene, turning a series of unfortunate incidents in something with tragic impetus.

Photograph of Dreyfus leaving the courtroom at Rennes, showing the guard with their backs turned. Taken from the Dreyfus Rehabilitated site, http://www.dreyfus.culture.fr

Envoi
The 1909 film was the last to be made of the Dreyfus case until 1930. In 1915 the French banned any dramatic representation of the Dreyfus case from being made, and when Richard Oswald’s 1930 feature film Dreyfus was made, France still refused to allow it to be screened. But for the silent period, it was documenting history in the making that was important. The young medium used every means at its disposal to record the news story of 1899 (for some, the news story of the century) and to turn it into profitable entertainment. It employed both dramatic reconstruction and actuality, pushing the boundaries of the medium’s expression in each case, and demonstrating the power of motion pictures to capture the moment in a form that no other medium could quite emulate. Cinema brought you face to face with life itself.

Though it may be something of an inappropriate speculation, given Dreyfus’s Jewish faith, there is something of the Christian Stations of the Cross in the early Dreyfus films. Each illustrates the key stages in the victim’s noble passage to the point where false justice is executed through a series of tableaux. In each the victim is noble, passive, and wronged. The narrative does not develop in a form that is understandable to anyone new to the story, but instead represents passages of suffering told through tableaux that the faithful will recognise as having special meaning. It is interesting that the main multi-scene film narratives made in the 1890s are the two L’affaire Dreyfus films, assorted lives of Christ (by Lumière, Pathé and others), and Méliès’ Cendrillion (1899), or Cinderella – another episodic tale of suffering and redemption.

But what of Alfred Dreyfus himself? He is not recorded as being aware of the films that were made of him, and of course they were only a trivial distraction in the context of the issues that raged around him, issues of patriotism, religion, race and social order. Dreyfus was pardoned soon after the farce of the second trial, and was finally pronounced innocent in 1906. Despite the way it had treated him, he rejoined the Army, but retired on grounds of ill-health in 1907. However, he joined the Army once more in 1914 and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel (he had had hopes of eventually becoming a general before the catastrophe of 1894). He was awarded the Légion d’honneur in 1918, and died in 1935.

Information on Biograph, including the filming and exhibiting of Biograph films, can be found in two sources in particular: Richard Brown and Barry Anthony, A Victorian Film Enterprise: The History of the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company, 1897-1915 (1999) and Mark van den Tempel and Luke McKernan (eds.), The Wonders of the Biograph, special issue of Griffithiana, nos. 66/70, 1999/2000). Although more has been discovered since it was written (not least the Biograph trial films), Stephen Bottomore’s article ‘Dreyfus and Documentary’, Sight and Sound (Autumn 1984) is still the best source for learning about the relationship between the Dreyfus affair and early film. Stephen also covers still photography, making it clear just what a media scramble the whole Affair was.

For extensive background information on the Dreyfus affair, the personalities and the issues involved, see the generally excellent Dreyfus Rehabiliated website. Unfortunately its section on the films of the affair is muddled. For a concise and informative book acount, see Eric Cahm, The Dreyfus Affair in French Society and Politics. For an atmospheric eye-witness account of the second trial itself, read G.W. Steevens’ The Tragedy of Dreyfus (1899), available from the Internet Archive.

The Biograph and Pathé films are not available online or on DVD.

The third and final part of this account will be a filmography.

Lives in film no. 1: Alfred Dreyfus – part 1

L’affaire Dreyfus: la dictée du bordereau – the first part of Georges Méliès’ 1899 film series. October 1894 – Dreyfus (seated) gives a sample of his handwriting and is accused by Colonel Du Paty de Clam (left) of being the author of the Bordereau

I’m starting up a new series here at the Bioscope. It is going to document the ways in which the early motion picture recorded and influenced the lives of some significant individuals. Public lives from 1896 onwards started to be different to a significant degree because they began to be led in front of motion picture cameras, which could record them in reality or reconstitute them dramatically as entertainment. Each post in the series will investigate an individual of significance to social, cultural or political history and try to see them particularly in the light of the cinema. Each post will include a filmography including both non-fiction and fiction films. I don’t know whether any of the subjects will be actors or filmmakers – maybe so. But the series starts with a French soldier, victim of one of the most notorious cases of miscarriage of justice in history, Alfred Dreyfus.

The Dreyfus affair
Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935), a Jewish French officer, was arrested in October 1894 on suspicion of spying for Germany. A military court suspended him from the Army and on highly dubious evidence he was sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island. In 1896 one Colonel Picquart found documents which seemed to offer convincing evidence of Dreyfus’ innocence and it became apparent that the guilty party was another French officer, Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy. The military authorities under General Auguste Mercier ordered the matter hushed up, and Picquart was transfered to Tunis. But Dreyfus’ family continued to plead his cause, and a campaign led by the author Emile Zola (who wrote an open letter to the French president Émile Loubet famously entitled ‘J’accuse’) resulted in a fresh trial in 1899, which became a mockery through the Army’s refusal to admit that it could be in the wrong and the general anti-Jewish hysteria that abounded. Dreyfus was found guilty again (to the shock and disgust of world opinion), but President Loubet swiftly pardoned him. The case was reviewed in 1906 and Dreyfus found innocent. The whole affair saw France bitterly divided between Dreyfusards (generally liberals, Socialists, anti-clericals and intellectuals) and anti-Dreyfusards (generally Roman Catholics, monarchists, anti-Semites and nationalists). It became the major political crisis of the Third Republic, and seriously weakened the world view of France as a champion of liberal values.

L’affaire Dreyfus: L’île du diable. April 1895 – Dreyfus (seated) within the palisade on Devil’s Island, where a guard brings him a letter from his wife but is forbidden to speak to him. Dreyfus was imprisoned on the island for over four years.

The Dreyfus affair was debated across the world. It filled the newspapers, and the second trial at Rennes in 1899 witnessed a media frenzy of a kind we are all too familiar with today. Eager to participate in that frenzy and take advantage of one of the first news stories of worldwide interest to come into its view was the motion picture camera. Films were made of the Dreyfus affair because they were excellent business, but also – in one significant case – because they enabled the filmmaker to express his dedication to the Dreyfus cause. The motion picture industry responded with newsfilm, dramatic reconstructions and sketches, so that the Affair served as a demonstration of everything that the young medium could do to capture the semblance of reality.

L’affaire Dreyfus: Mise aux fers de Dreyfus. 6 September 1896 – Dreyfus is placed in irons inside his cell on Devil’s Island. He was shackled to his bed for a period between September-October 1896 after a false report of an escape attempt.

Four companies produced films on the Affair while it was ongoing: Star-Film (i.e. Georges Méliès), Pathé Frères, the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company and its sister company the Biograph and Mutoscope Company for France. There’s a lot to cover so the latter three will be covered in a second post, with a full filmography in a third post. Here we will tackle the contribution by Georges Méliès.

Star-Film
George Méliès is said to have picked up his strong Dreyfusard feelings from discussions with his cousin Adolphe. It is heartening to know that France’s great creative filmmaker in the early years of cinema chose the right side. He set about making his Dreyfus films with an eye to commercial opportunity but also as a means to express his personal sympathies – probably the first time that film had ever been used in this way. His approach was radical – he would make a multi-part news narrative, tracing the Dreyfus story from his original imprisonment in 1894 to the second trial in 1899. At a time when films were almost entirely single-shot narratives of less than a minute in length, Méliès produced a 15-minute, eleven-part chronological series of documentary fidelity and great cinematic invention (strictly speaking it was twelve parts, as one scene covers two catalogue numbers in the Star-Film catalogue). Filming took place August-September 1899, while the trial was taking place, at his studios at Montreuil, Paris.

L’affaire Dreyfus: Suicide du Colonel Henry. 31 August 1898 – Colonel Joseph Henry, who discovered the ‘bordereau’ that incriminated Dreyfus but who later forged documents in an attempt to compromise the Dreyfus-supporting Colonel Picquard, cuts his throat with a razor while in prison in Paris.

Méliès did not consider filming actuality – he got nearer to his idea of the truth through dramatic recreation. He took great care to replicate locations, using newspaper illustrations and photographs as reference, and employing performers who looked like the leading players in the real-life drama. An unnamed blacksmith played Dreyfus because of a physical similarity, while Méliès himself played Dreyfus’ bearded lawyer, Fernand Labori. The choice of tableaux indicate Méliès’s sympathies while showing both his commercial sense and artistic imagination. The series (nine parts of the original eleven survive today at the BFI National Archive and are illustrated throughout this post) starts with Dreyfus being accused of writing the Bordereau, the notorious document that betrayed French military secrets to the Germans. The scene in which Dreyfus was dishonourably discharged from the French army by having his sword symbolically broken is lost, so next comes Dreyfus imprisoned on Devil’s Island, followed by a scene in his cell in which he is placed in leg-irons, punishment for a supposed escape attempt. Méliès’s Dreyfusard sympathies are already made clear. The scene then switches to France to show Colonel Henry in prison, the man whose zealous loyalty led him to forge documents intended to compromise Dreyfus supporter Colonel Picquard, spectacularly cutting his throat with a razor blade. It’s the point where Méliès meets Tarantino; probably the first blood to be seen shed in cinema history.

L’affaire Dreyfus: Débarquement à Quiberon. 30 June 1899 – Dreyfus (the figure in civilian clothes in the centre) returns to France at Quiberon (where a storm rages) to face his second trial.

With the next scene the news realism takes over. Dreyfus is shown returning to France at the port of Quiberon, at night, in the middle of a storm. Lightning flashes, the performers are soaked in water, sailors on the boat bob up and down on the waters – it is as far as possible the scene as it had occured only a few weeks before Méliès started filming. We then see Dreyfus in jail, where he converses with his lawyers (including Méliès as Labori, giving himself the heroic defender role – was this series the first set of films in which named living people were portrayed by actors?) before meeting with his wife Lucie in a calculatedly pathetic scene.

L’affaire Dreyfus: Entrevue de Dreyfus et de sa femme à Rennes. 1 July 1899 – Dreyfus (furthest right) in prison at Rennes meets his wife Lucie for the first time in four years. Georges Méliès, playing the lawyer Labori, is the figure in the centre, with another Dreyfus lawyer, Edgar Demange, portrayed to the right.

Next follows what was an assassination attempt on Labori, Méliès going to the trouble of replicating the locale, next to a bridge crossing the river Vilaine at Rennes. Labori survived a shot in the back and is seen in the next scene in which Dreyfusard and anti-Dreyfusard journalists come to blows. The scene appears symbolic, but reflects actual uproar that occurred at the court-house in Rennes on 14 August 1899 when news of the attack on Labori was reported, with a confrontation occuring between anti-Dreyfusard Arthur Myer of the Gaulois and Dreyfusard ‘Séverine’ (Caroline Rémy) of the Fonde, as the Star-Film catalogue relates. A New York Times report makes clear the connection between the two incidents. For film form enthusiasts the scene is most remarkable for the way the journalists all run at and past the camera, breaking the cinema screen’s fourth wall in revolutionary style. However there is some dramatic licence, because the injured Labori did not return to the trial for a week after the shooting.

L’affaire Dreyfus: Attentat contre M. Labori. 14 August 1899 – In the company of Colonel Picquart and M. Gast, Mayor of Rennes, Dreyfus’s lawyer Labori is shot in the back by a would-be assassin beside the river Vilaine at Rennes.

L’affaire Dreyfus: Bagarre entre journalistes. 14 August 1899 – rival news reporters fight one another during the court martial proceedings upon hearing the news of the attempted assassination of Labori.

The double-length court room scene is where Méliès took the greatest trouble in depicting the news as it was more or less happening. The catalogue description makes clear the minute attention to detail regarding personality, action and appearance (text from the English language version in the Warwick Trading Company catalogue):

A scene in the Lycée at Rennes, showing the military court-martial of Captain Dreyfus. The only occupants of the room at this time are Maître Demange and secretary. Other advocates and the stenographers now begin to arrive and the sergeant is seen announcing the arrival of Colonel Jouaust and other officers comprising the seven judges of the court-martial. The five duty judges are also seen in the background. On the left of the picture are seen Commander Cordier and Adjutant Coupois, with their stenographers and gendarmes. On the right are seen Maître Demange, Labori, and their secretaries. Colonel Jouaust orders the Sergeant of the Police to bring in Dreyfus. Dreyfus enters, saluting the court, followed by the Captain of the Gendarmerie, who is constantly with him. They take their appointed seats in front of the judges. Colonel Jouaust puts several questions to Dreyfus, to which he replies in a standing position. He then asks Adjutant Coupois to call the first witness, and General Mercier arrives. He states that his deposition is a lengthy one, and requests a chair, which is passed to him by a gendarme. In a sitting position he proceeds with his deposition. Animated discussion and cross-questioning is exchanged between Colonel Jouaust, General Mercier, and Maître Demange. Captain Dreyfus much excited gets up and vigorously protests against these proceedings. This scene, which is a most faithful portrayal of this proceeding, shows the absolute portraits of over thirty of the principal personages in this famous trial.

L’affaire Dreyfus: Le conseil de guerre en séance à Rennes. 12 August 1899 – The court room at Rennes, with the lead prosecution witness General Mercier (centre) making a showy entrance. Dreyfus, dressed in military uniform, is seated on the raised dais to the right.

L’affaire Dreyfus concluded with a now-lost scene showing Dreyfus being led away to prison once more. The set of films was produced with the intention of capturing audience attention immediately following the trial (which ended on 9 September 1899). The films could be bought as a complete set (lasting some 15 minutes) or individually, according to taste and pocket. Méliès’ granddaughter much later wrote that there were pitched battles in the theatres where the films were shown. Police had to separate Dreyfusards from anti-Dreyfusards, which supposedly led to the film being banned by the French government and that consequently no film was allowed to be shown about the Dreyfus affair until 1930. However, there is no concrete documentary evidence that I’m aware of for the film being banned, or even for the scuffles in theatres, and in any case the French ban on accounts of the Dreyfus affair was not made until 1915 (so, for example, Pathé made a film about Dreyfus in 1908). However, there must have been great uncertainty among some exhibitors about showing the film, as film historian Stephen Bottomore suggests that some British theatres chose not to screen the films because of the unseemly passions they might arouse, so one can hardly expect less of a reaction that this in France. Nevertheless the films were never removed from the Star-Film catalogue, and by remaining on sale one has to deduce that they were never banned, not in France or anywhere else.

In truth we don’t know much about the reception of Méliès’ films. We have commentaries, and we have concerns raised in some quarters about the dramatisation of actuality. “Where is this new kind of photo-faking to stop?” asked Photographic News, wringing its hands in mock despair. What we can gather from watching what survives today is that the news story gave the filmmaker the opportunity to produce a documentary (there can be no other word for it) using every valid filmic device at his disposal while expressing through the mise-en-scène his sympathy for Dreyfus the victim.

Unsurprisingly the films do not give us much of an idea of Dreyfus the man, but it is remarkable that they give us anything of him at all. Throughout the affair, and in all acounts that were made of it, Alfred Dreyfus was a cipher, a figure upon who one could unload one’s prejudices or sympathies. Dreyfus (shown left, in 1895) was not an unremarkable man. He had had a notable military career, and was recognised for his keen intelligence. He seems to have been something of an unpopular figure, however, standing out from his fellow officers by being neither one of the humbler sort (he was wealthier than most of them) nor an aristocrat. A perceived aloofness stood against him. During both trials he refused to play the pity card and put his faith in reason – a stubborn policy when surrounded by such rabid anti-Semitism and blind refusal from many to accept that the French military could do any wrong. But there was nobility in such a stance, and Méliès’ Dreyfus does at least give us some sense of his principled forebearance, and this at a time when films had not yet advanced to giving much sense of individual character in dramatic representations. Among the many ‘firsts’ that can be ascribed to L’affaire Dreyfus is surely the first human portrayal of someone on screen.

The Méliès L’affaire Dreyfus is available to view online on the Europa Film Treasures site and as part of the 5-DVD set issued by Flicker Alley, Georges Méliès: First Wizard of Cinema (1896-1913) (also the source of the frame grabs used here). For a filmic analysis, see Michael Brooke’s Georges Méliès blog.

For extensive background information on the Dreyfus affair, the personalities and the issues involved, see the excellent Dreyfus Rehabiliated website. Unfortunately its section on the films of the affair is muddled. For a concise and informative book acount, see Eric Cahm, The Dreyfus Affair in French Society and Politics.

The essential account of the Dreyfus Affair and early film is Stephen Bottomore’s essay ‘Dreyfus and Documentary’, Sight and Sound, Autumn 1984, to which these posts are much indebted.

Part two will explore the dramatic records made by Pathé, at the time of the trial and later, and the extraordinary actuality films of the trial made by Biograph. Part three will be a Dreyfus filmography.

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