Laterna Magica – Magic Lantern

Porcelain figures

Porcelain figures of 18th/19th century magic lanternists, from

A major new book on the magic lantern has just been published. Laterna Magica – Magic Lantern (vol. 1), by Deac Rossell, is the first in a two-part history which, as the publisher’s blurb indicates, looks at the subject not simply as a precursor of the cinema but as a phenomenon with a rich cultural history of its own:

This first volume covers the 17th and 18th centuries, plus the travelling lanternists – often Savoyards – who brought projected entertainment across Europe through the turn of the Nineteenth century. “Laterna Magica / Magic Lantern” is an attempt to bring together into a single narrative parts of lantern history that have previously been treated separately. It follows the central theme of the projected image in depth while simultaneously recognising the diverse and multifaceted offshoots produced by magic lantern culture.

We often think of the magic lantern today as the “precursor” of the movies and modern digital media; this it undoubtedly was. But at the same time, the magic lantern in its day was not a precursor of anything, but was a sophisticated instrument through which news, entertainment, and visual delight was projected for families, informal groups, and, ultimately, public audiences at fixed shows who enjoyed the elaborate and extraordinary visual rhetoric produced by highly skilled showmen.

The book is published by Füsslin Verlag in a bilingual (German/English) edition (the publisher’s website is bilingual too), and looks set to become a standard work. It also has 113 illustrations, most of them in colour. Deac Rossell is one of the world’s leading historians of the popular optical media of the nineteenth century and before, as well as having been at one time head of the National Film Theatre in London.

Buy one, and have your friends look upon you in awe at your erudition and taste…

Slapsticon 2008

A provisional list of titles for this year’s Slapsticon festival has been published. The annual festival of early film comedy takes place this year 17-20 July, Arlington, Virginia. The festival site says that the programme is still being selected, but nevertheless they are already promising (subject to change, of course) a remarkable line-up:

* Why Detectives Go Wrong (1928) — Poodles Hanneford
* Springtime Saps (1929) — Snub Pollard, Marvin Loback
* Winning Winnie (1926) — Ethelyn Gibson
* Three Stooges Rarity Show, hosted by Paul Gierucki
* Sally of the Sawdust (1925) — W.C. Fields
* Number One (1915) — Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew
* Pretzel and Flanagan (1914) — Lloyd Hamilton
* Taking Things Easy (1919) — Eddie Lyons and Lee Moran
* Nearly Spliced (1916) — Leon Errol
* Mishaps of Musty Suffer: Going Up (1916) — Harry Watson Jr.
* All Jazzed Up (1919) — Dan Russell, Hughey Mack
* It’s a Hard Life (1915) — Heinie and Louie (Jimmy Aubrey and Walter Kendig)
* The Bogus Booking Agents (1916) — Ham and Bud
* Sweeney’s Christmas Turkey (1913) — Hughey Mack
* Billy McGrath on Broadway (1913) — Augustus Carney
* Monkey Shines (1922) — Campbell Comedy
* The Tin Hoss (1925) — Hey Fellas
* Open Spaces (1926) — Malcolm “Big Boy” Sebastian
* A Pleasant Journey (1923) — Our Gang
* Among the Mourners (1915) — Chester Conklin, Syd Chaplin
* Are Waitresses Safe? (1917) — Ben Turpin, Charlie Murray
* Trimmed in Gold (1925) — Billy Bevan
* A Rainy Knight (1925) — Raymond Mckee, Eugenia Gilbert
* Taxi Dolls (1929) — Jack Cooper
* Doubling in the Quickies (1932) — Lloyd Hamilton, Marjorie Beebe
* Vacation Waves (1928) — Edward Everett Horton
* The Golf Bug (1923) — Monty Banks
* Golf Widows (1928) — Harrison Ford, Vernon Dent, Will Stanton
* Councel on de Fence (1934) — Harry Langdon
* See America Thirst (1930) — Harry Langdon
* Rush Orders (1921) — Snub Pollard
* Sherlock Sleuth (1924) — Arthur Stone
* Rough on Romeo (1921) — Paul Parrott
* The Rummy (1933) — Taxi Boys
* Harry Langdon Documentary (Paul Killiam) — never released Paul Killiam documentary from the late 1950’s, featuring rare clips and an interview with Vernon Dent.
* The Silent Partner (1955) — Buster Keaton, Joe E. Brown
* The Scribe (1966) — Buster Keaton’s last film
* An Aerial Joyride (1916) — Raymond Griffith
* His Foot-Hill Folly (1917) — Raymond Griffith
* Changing Husbands (1924) — Raymond Griffith and Leatrice Joy
* The Barnyard (1923) — Larry Semon
* Ladies Night in a Turkish Bath (1928) — Dorothy Mackail, Jimmy Finlayson
* Grass Skirts (1930) — Lloyd Hamilton
* Share the Wealth (1936) — Andy Clyde
* Dumb’s the Word (1937) — Edgar Kennedy, Billy Franey
* Alibi Bye Bye (1935) — Clark and McCullough
* Fiddlin’ Around (1938) — Monty Collins, Tom Kennedy
* Pistol Packin’ Nitwits (1945) — Harry Langdon, El Brendel
* Dangerous Females (1929) — Marie Dressler, Polly Moran
* Tomalio (1933) — Roscoe Arbuckle
* The Brown Derby (1926) — Johnny Hines
* His Private Life (1926) — Lupino Lane
* No Father to Guide Him (1925) — Charley Chase