From 1896 to 1926 – part 2

Lumière train (1897)

L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat (1895)

Part two of our series taken from the series of articles written in 1926 by Edward G. Turner of the British film company Walturdaw, reminiscing on thirty years in the film trade, has him describe the sorts of films he showed in the 1890s. He recalls many individual titles, and interestingly the majority of them are from British producers.

The first films used were Edison Kinetoscope subjects, 40 ft. long. I can remember “The Cock Fight,” “Scene in a Bar Room,” “Tyring a Wheel,” “The Black Diamond Express,” and “The Comic Wrestlers.”

Then McGuire and Baucus, of Dashwood House, Bishopsgate street, provided us with a number of subjects, the saleswoman there being Miss Rosenthall, sister of J. Rosenthall, whom all old operators will remember. McGuire and Baucus were years after taken over by the Warwick Trading Co., when Chas. Urban presided over its fortunes.

Lumière were the best source of our supply, as he had sent out to various parts of the world a number of cameras. Of his subjects I remember: “The Dancers from the Moulin Rouge,” “A Market Scene in Paris,” “Diving from a Raft,” “A Pillow Fight,” “A Street Scene in Paris,” “The Gardener,” “Bad Boy and Hose Pipe,” “High Diving at Milan Baths,” “A Train Arriving at a Station,” “The Sleeping Coachman,” “Comic Boxing in Tubs,” “Dublin Fire Brigade,” “Heavy Load of Stone.”

R.W. Paul’s list included “The Miller and the Sweep,” “Whitewashing a Fence,” “David Devant Conjuring,” “Children at Tea,” “Bill Stickers,” and “A Sea Cave.”

Films were also supplied by Birt-Acre, of Barnet, the most famous of which were “Policeman, Solider and Cook,” “The Magic Sausage Machine,” and “A Man Going to Bed.”

G.A. Smith, of Brighton, produced “The Corsican Brothers,” in 75 ft., and a number of excellent subjects besides.

Williamson, of Brighton, produced a large number of small subjects, including his films of the Boxer Rising in China.

Later, came the old showman’s wonderful film “The Poachers,” of which I think Col. Bromhead will bear kindly remembrance; the Sheffield Photo Co.’s “Daylight Burglars”; and later, the faked films of the South African War, made by Mitchell and Kenyon.

The South African War provided many films, and the public wanted more.

What an impetus these films gave to the Trade!

What a remarkable memory he had. Historians of the period will note that his chronology may be a little awry, but he is almost completely spot on with which producer supplied which titles – some of which survive to this day, others now are lost with only evidence such as this to tell us of their one-time significance. “Miss Rosenthall” is Alice Rosenthal, sister of Anglo-Boer War cameraman Joseph Rosenthal, and later a film producer herself. Birt-Acre is Birt Acres, “McGuire and Baucus” were Franck Z. Maguire and Joseph Baucus. “Williamson” is James Williamson. Next up, financial crisis, and a crucial change of exhibition policy…

Limbering up for Pordenone

Films cans from the Bible Lands collection, from

As the time gets nearer to the Pordenone Silent Film Festival (let’s hope they get the hotel details soon to those of us planning to go…), some advance news items are being published. Firstly, there this report in Variety on a newly-found home movie of Charlie Chaplin taken by the future broadcaster Alastair Cooke:

Newly discovered footage of Charlie Chaplin at play, lensed by a young Alistair Cooke, makes its bigscreen debut when Italy’s 26th Pordenone Silent Film Festival kicks off, Oct. 6-13.

Cooke himself thought the 15 minutes he shot in 1933 on Chaplin’s yacht off Catalina Island were lost, but literary executor Colin Webb alerted Chaplin scholar David Robinson of the find, and Robinson, as artistic director of the festival, squeezed it into this year’s program. Cooke was 24 and a student at Yale when he pitched a series of star interviews to Blighty’s the Observer Sunday paper.

Sharing the spotlight at Pordenone this year is a series devoted to little-known Weimar titles as well as a tribute to Rene Clair.

And there’s the extraordinary story of the ninety-three cans of film (see above) apparently all taken in the Middle East in 1897, and being presented at the festival by the redoubtable Lobster Films, who seem always to have a knack of finding the extraordinary among early films. But ninety-three films from 1897 just boggles the mind – so many to have been taken, let alone so many to have survived. But who took them? No one is saying, so far.