The London Project

Next up for Catalogue Month (our survey of online catalogues and databases, selected for inscription in the Bioscope Library) is The London Project. I did write about this in the very early days of the Bioscope, in a very cursory manner, and it is high time that we returned to it. It’s a work I know quite a bit about, since I produced half of it, and it’s something of which I’m quite proud, even if the database has become a little compromised since the time when it was published in 2005, because it has not been possible to update it since. Databases should never be allowed to stand still. It is contrary to their nature.

The London Project database documents the film venues and film businesses to be found in London during the period 1896-1914 – around 1,000 venues and 1,000 businesses all told. It was the major output of a year-long project (2004-05) sponsored by the AHRB Centre for British Film and Television Studies, hosted by Birkbeck, University of London, and managed by Professor Ian Christie. The two researchers were Simon Brown (working on film businesses) and myself (working on cinemas and audiences). As well as the database we produced several essays, conference presentations and a touring exhibition (‘Moving Pictures Come to London’). But the star of the show was the database.

Interior view of Hale’s Tours (a film show set inside a mock train carriage) on London’s Oxford Street, which first opened May 1906

The London Project documents film businesses in London 1896-1914 and film venues (a more inclusive term than cinemas) from the date of the first identifiable cinema in London (The Daily Bioscope, opened May 1906), again to the start of the First World War. The information is taken from a wide range of sources, including film and stage year books, film trade papers, street and business directories, the records of the London County Council, local newspapers, published and unpublished memoirs, police reports and company records. The database allows searching by name of venue or business, address, London borough (as they were pre-1914), by business type (e.g. production, distribution, production, exhibition, venue), and by person (including notes relating to people).

A typical film business record will give you name, address (and any secondary addresses), category and tp of business, original share capital, trading information, the names of directors, and sources. Names and sources are hyperlinked to other records, making the pursuit of such links a fascinating business as you discover that, say, Cecil Hepworth was not only the managing director of the Hepworth Manfacturing Company, but a director of Film Agency (Russia) Ltd. You find all sorts of unexpected additional business interests and alliances in these lists of directors, especially as we chosen to interpret the film business quite broadly and to include equipment manufacturers, cinema uniform suppliers, electrical engineers, vending machine suppliers, musical instrument suppliers, and so on, reflecting the larger picture of what the cinema business really was (as indicated by the lists of such companies provided by the film trade year books of the period).

Film venues covers every sort of entertainment place in London which showed film on a regular basis betwen 1906 and 1914. That means cinemas, of course, but also theatres, music halls, town halls, sports arenas, converted shops, public baths and amusement parlours. The records are not as extensive as those for businesses (more’s the pity) but they do give you name, address, audience capacity, notes, related businesses and people, and sources of information. So it is possible to trace every cinema managed by Montagu Pyke or by Electric Theatres (1908) Ltd, or to pursue every film show surveyed by the Metropolitan Police in 1909 at a time of social alarm at these new dens of vice which allowed the young of either sex to mix unchaperoned in the dark.

The Bioscopic Team Rooms, aka The Circle in the Square, the first true cinema in Leicester Square, opened June 1909

One feature we were particularly pleased with is the map of London boroughs, which allows you to search for businesses and venues in say Chelsea, Wandsworth, Lambeth or Poplar. It was an important part of the project that we were able to connect cinema history to social history and in particular to the many other histories of London. Geographical data is a good way of helping to achieve this, though we had neither the time nor the resources to take this further and use GIS data or mapping software.

Indeed there is much about the database that could do with an update, as new information has come in and there are plenty of corrections that need to be made. And if only we could have added pictures. But the project money ended in 2005 and it has not been possible to add to the database since. It is hosted by Birkbeck, and I hope that the university continues to do so and to maintain the URLs as they are – each individual business and venue has a unique web address with its ID number included in the URL, essential for citation and future reference.

If you want to pursue the project’s work further and look at what we wrote, four of our essays are freely available online (at present):

The London Project website itself has background information on the project and on the London of the 1896-1914 period. The database is a freely-available resource, and even if the website is not being updated there is still an email address on the site to which you can send fresh information. It’s being collected, somewhere, and maybe one day a fresher, more extensive London Project database will emerge, one that might even go beyond 1914 or beyond the confines of London. We can but hope.

Kevin, Roger and Metropolis

Kevin’s wineglass

Well, it’s been quite a day. As all the silent world knows by now, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has decided to award an honorary Oscar to Kevin Brownlow. Together with Francis Ford Coppola (who is receiving the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award), Jean-Luc Godard and Eli Wallach, he will be receiving his Academy Award at the Academy’s 2nd Annual Governors Awards dinner on Saturday, November 13, at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center. To quote from the Academy’s press release:

Brownlow is widely regarded as the preeminent historian of the silent film era as well as a preservationist. Among his many silent film restoration projects are Abel Gance’s 1927 epic “Napoleon,” Rex Ingram’s “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” (1921) and “The Thief of Bagdad” (1924), starring Douglas Fairbanks. Brownlow has authored, among others, The Parade’s Gone By; The War, the West, and the Wilderness; Hollywood: The Pioneers; Behind the Mask of Innocence; David Lean; and Mary Pickford Rediscovered. His documentaries include “Hollywood,” “Unknown Chaplin,” “Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow,” “Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius” and “D.W. Griffith: Father of Film,” all with David Gill; Brownlow also directed “Cecil B. DeMille: American Epic” and “Garbo,” the latter with Christopher Bird.

Never was an Academy Award more richly deserved, nor – so far as I know – has such an award ever gone to a film historian [correction – he’s the third – see comments]. Brownlow is far more than a historian, of course, being a filmmaker, film preservationist and programme maker, but it is his principled and dedicated investigation into silent film history (out of which has come preservation, exhibition, writing and programmes) that stands out. He made silent films special once again.

By happy chance I met Kevin today, being warmly congratulated by all. I asked if I could take a photo of him for the Bioscope – he said I could take the photo, but not publish it online (there have been too many photos, he said), so I have acceded to this request and instead have published a quick snap made of the wineglass he was holding. Cheers to you Kevin.

The event we were both at was a retirement party for Roger Smither, held at the Imperial War Museum in London. Now while Kevin Brownlow is famed among all who revere silent films, Roger will only be known by a few, but his contribution to film history and film culture has been no less important. He retires as Keeper of the IWM’s Film and Video Archive, arguably the world’s oldest film archive (it was founded in 1919), and has presided over the British official film record of the First and Second World Wars, including hundreds of classic titles, and for the First World War a marvellously rich collection of silent film material documenting evey aspect of the war, including the home front experience. He was instrumental in the restoration of The Battle of the Somme (1916) and its inscription on the UNESCO Memory of the World register. He has written knowledgeably on the Somme and other war films in many publications, and he edited the weighty classic This Film is Dangerous, a history of nitrate film, published by FIAF – a body of which he was Secretary-General for some years. He has been an exceptional servant to film archives and the Bioscope warmly wishes him a happy retirement.


And then I left the party to go and see another filmed inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World, Metropolis – specifically the 2010 restored version receiving its UK premiere at the BFI Southbank. It’s interesting speaking to some film archivists to pick up on a bit of a backlash against the Metropolis restoration, which is perhaps a reaction to all the hype. Some are saying that the 16mm inserts don’t add anything, that the film was better the way that it was, and that the whole business is being oversold. Well, seeing the film at last for myself I was hugely impressed by the restoration. It seemed to me to be a model presentation of the material, with the 16mm material clearly of a substandard quality but giving a special thrill to the audience whever it turned up, as you picked up on what had been cut and why, so that you ended up with the sense of watching two films – the one we’ve known before, and the one we have now. It was an engrossing lesson in film restoration and the mutability of cultural artefacts.

The film itself I have never much loved, aside from the exceptional robot transformation sequence, and it seems even more ridiculous than ever. The additional sequences make the filmmakers’ intentions clearer, but they also expose what a muddled plot the film has (and why the cuts were made in the first place). It is muddled not only in narrative, but in conception, dramatic motive, politics and morals. It is a stupendous folly, packed full of glorious, iconic images, but without a single credible idea to hold them together.

I don’t know if the comparison has been made before, but I kept on thinking of Cabiria (1914). It wasn’t just that both films have Moloch scenes, or the histronics of Metropolis that hark back to an earlier age (the film critic Geoff Brown once memorably said of Alfred Abel’s performance that he played someone who, if you asked him what the time was, would mime the operations of a sundial). Metropolis and Cabiria were each epic European productions of the kind that (in the immortal words of Sam Goldwyn) starts out with an earthquake and works its way up to a climax, with buildings tumbling down and flood waters threatening to drown all. The humans are mere ciphers; chaos is all. The spectacle was designed to overawe audiences and to outdo what could be done on the American screen. In a way, Metropolis was a very old-fashioned sort of film for 1927.

Mad folly it may be, but it’s a film that has to be seen, and then argued over. There are ample opportunities to do so now that it has reached the UK – see the list of screenings provided by Eureka Entertainment. The DVD will follow shortly, but it’s a film for the cinema screen if you can.

Busy, busy, busy

Things are a bit hectic down at Bioscope Towers these days, and what with broadband problems, not only is it hard to find time to write posts but even when the time does appear I can’t post them. So, in my lunch break, and before heading off to the Imperial War Museum to mark the retirement of its highly estemeed Keeper of the Film and Video Archive, Roger Smither, and then to the BFI Southbank to see the ‘new’ Metropolis, here are links to some interesting posts on silent cinema which other bloggers have produced lately.

Doing things differently
George Clark reports on the pioneering programme of early films shown at the recent Oberhausen Short Film Festival, for AP Engine. Enthusiastic, but not uncritical.

From the career of Louis J. Mannix
Nick Redfern, at the highly impressive Research into Film blog, takes a break from statistical analysis to tell us about (and quote from) the rare memoirs of a Leeds projectionist operating in the silent era.

Never too late silents
Kristin Thompson assesses the silent films of Joseph von Sternberg through the recent Criterion DVD set at the indispensible Observations on Film Art blog that she shares with David Bordwell.

Kevin Brownlow to receive special Oscar
From the San Francisco Silent Film Festival blog, news that Kevin Brownlow is to be awarded an honorary award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Huge cheers and hats in the air about that piece of news.

The Lindgren manifesto
And from my other, infrequently updated blog, Moving Image, here’s philosopher-film archivist Paolo Cherchi Usai’s provocative but thought-provoking fourteen-point manifesto for film curators of the future, named after the founder of the BFI National Archive. Make of it what you will.


We return to Catalogue Month, during which the Bioscope is highlighting freely available filmographic catalogues and databases for silent film, while entering them into the new Catalogues and databases section of the Bioscope Library. Next up is the first electronic database to be listed, though it is a resource that we have cited several times in previous posts as among the most useful and reliable out there. The database is the Deutsche Filminstitut’s Filmportal, an encyclopaedic database of information on German cinema.

Filmportal documents some 73,500 German fiction films from 1895 to the present day, and is effectively the German national filmography. 7,000 of those records go into great detail, with synopses, reviews, posters and other illustrative material, photographs etc, but even the most basic records list title, cast, credits, and release information, taken from primary sources. There are also 165,000 names, 3,000 of which come with detailed biographies, and names and titles are extensively hyperlinked, making Filmportal eminently, indeed compulsively, browsable. It is also bi-lingual – the site’s primary language is German, of course, but all introductory and explanatory material is also available in English, with further English content promised for the future.

Page from Filmportal for Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari

Searching is by a small search box on the front page, with an advanced option simply letting you search by title, person, role name, content, or freetext. This is very useful in itself, but it is a little disappointing not to have a more comprehensive advanced search offering allowing one to select across time periods, or by combining search terms. It isn’t possible, for example, to determine how many silent films it covers, or even simply to search across the period 1895-1930. Nor does there seem to be a year-search option. To get the best out of Filmportal you just have to start with a simple enquiry, and then explore laterally by utilising the very impressive cross-linking.

These are minor quibbles. In general Filmportal is rigorous, thorough and usefully set out (look out for the red arrow symbols which indicate further information for any one record). It doesn’t name its filmographic sources (except by inference when one is given a review reference or censorship record) but it exudes an air of accuracy and authority. It goes back as far as the first German film production of Max Skladanowsky, and as well as adding information on new German releases it keeps up a fresh feel by presenting new material on the front page and ever-changing features such as Director of the Week. It has a topics section which covers aspects of German film history in depth (and in English too), of which the section on Weimar cinema is going to be of greatest value to silent film afficionados.

There’s more besides, including a multimedia section with trailers, rare film clips, and exclusive audio and video materials to its features, plus an English-language edition of the Deutsche Welle-TV programme Kino (unfortunately not word-searchable). Filmportal does an excellent job in promoting German film and an equally excellent job of making German film enticingly researchable. Go explore.

Return to Opotiki

The Opotiki Silent Film Festival, the New Zealand festival where the audience gets into the swing of things by dressing up in 1920s costume, returns 3-5 September 2010. What sounds like a charming event takes place at Opotiki’s Art Deco DeLuxe Theatre, and here’s this year’s programme, in their own words:

Rudolph Valentino
5.30pm Friday 3rd ~ 1926 ~ 63mins
Ahmed falls in love with Yasmin and they meet secretly until one night, her father and his bandit gang capture, torture and hold him for ransom. Will Ahmed believe that Yasmin betrayed him? A dramatic story of deceit and intrigue – will love win through in the end?

2. HORROR / COMEDY Double-Bill
7.30pm Friday 3rd
Vintage Horror 1920 ~ 67mins
Dr. Jekyll experiments with scientific means of revealing the hidden, dark side of man and releases a murderer from within himself.

with Stan Laurel 1925 ~ 20mins
Comedy favourite Stan Laurel plays Dr. Pyckle. In a parody of the classic horror story, he turns into Mr. Pryde, a fiend who scours London for fresh victims… of practical jokes.

ROBIN HOOD ~ Douglas Fairbanks Snr
2pm Saturday 4th ~ 1922 – 133mins
Classic Tale with our favourite Swashbuckling heart-throb. This was a big-budget spectacular of its age – a timeless story of romance and intrigue, staged on a herculean scale.


Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton & Harold Lloyd
4.30pm Saturday 4th ~ 72mins
The Champion, From Hand to Mouth & My Wife’s Relations. Three Classic shorts from the Kings of Comedy.

THE SHEIK – Rudolph Valentino
7.30pm Saturday 4th ~ 1921 ~ 80mins
Tempestuous love between a madcap English beauty and a bronzed Arab chief! Sheik Ahmed desperately desires feisty British socialite Diana, so he carries her off to his desert tent-palace…


11am Sunday 5th ~ 1928 80mins
An amazing selection of European and US shorts providing a fascinating insight into life before the Talkies.

Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton & Harold Lloyd
1pm Sunday 5th ~ 67mins
The Tramp, An Eastern Westerner & Hard Luck. Three more delightful shorts from our silent comedy favourites.

More details from the festival site, which includes colourful photographs from last year’s festival.

In a galaxy about ninety years ago…

Time for a diversion. This spoof of The Empire Strikes Back has been doing the rounds recently. There have been ‘silent’ versions of Star Wars before now, but generally along the lines of speeded-up film and tinkly piano, good for half a laugh and nothing more. This is a little better. It takes the climax to the film and plays it more or less straight, with the original dialogue replayed as intertitles and the image itself impressively distressed to look like a battered, monochrome dupe (such as was seen by few in the silent era itself, of course, but hey you know what is meant). Anyway, it’s quite good, even a little moving in its way – and it could be just me, but isn’t Mark Hamill rather better as a silent film performer?

Suffragettes before the camera

Asta Nielsen playing a suffragette undergoing forcefeeding in Die Suffragette (1913), from Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek

Early film reflected the society in which it arose, and there is no clearer example of this than the campaign for women’s suffrage. The movement to gain women the vote in Britain reached its climax during the period when mass cinema-going was first underway in the early 1910s, and films reflected the popular understanding of the suffragettes. The militant woman became a standard figure in early ficition films, generally portrayed for comic or satiric effect. At the same time the suffragettes were regularly covered by the newsreels, a dynamic new medium for reporting what was happening in the world to a mass audience.

The relationship between women’s suffrage and early film is explored in Frühe Interventionen: Suffragetten – Extremistinnen der Sichtbarkeit (Early interventions / Suffragettes – extremists of visibility), a series of films and lectures being held at the Zeughauskino, Berlin, 23-27 September 2010. Behind the somewhat forbidding title is a tremendous programme of rare materials uncovered from archives across Europe and curated by Madeleine Bernstorff and Mariann Lewinsky. The films document not only the suffragettes as audiences saw them in fiction and non-fiction films, but also the role of women in early cinema generally, showing how trangressive, rebellious and sometimes just plain exuberant displays by women on screen echoed the drive for changes in society of which the campaign for the vote was but a part.

The Pickpocket (USA 1913), from EYE Film Institute Netherlands

Here is the programme:

Thursday 23. September 20:00 h

Radical maid(en)s
Cheerful young girls’ break-outs, class relations and radicalisations.

Sedgwick’ s Bioscope Showfront at Pendlebury Wakes, GB 1901, 30m 1’30“
La Grêve des bonnes, France 1907 184m, 10’
Tilly in a Boarding house GB 1911 D Alma Taylor, Chrissie White 7’
Pathé newsreel The Suffragette Derby, GB 1913, ca 5’
Miss Davison’s Funeral, GB 1913, 45m 2’
A Suffragette in Spite of Himself GB 1912 Edison R: Bannister Merwin D: Miriam Nesbitt, Ethel Browning, Marc McDermott 8’, 16mm
Robinette presa per nihilista Italy 1912, D: Nilde Baracchi, 124m, 8’
Cunégonde reçoit sa famille France 1912 D: Cunegonde – name unknown, 116m, 6’
Les Ficelles de Leontine France 1910, D: Leontine – name unknown, 155m, 8’
Tilly and the fire engines GB 1911 2’ D: Alma Taylor, Chrissie White
[A Nervous Kitchenmaid] France c.1908, 74m, 4’
Introduction: Madeleine Bernstorff
Live piano accompaniment by Stephen Horne.

Friday 24. September 18:00 h

The Fanaticism of the Suffragettes
Lecture with images and filmclips by Madeleine Bernstorff

Following the lecture Mariann Lewinsky will present the DVDs Cento anni fa/A hundred Years ago: European Cinema of 1909 and Cento anni fa/A Hundred Years ago: Comic Actresses and Suffragettes 1910-1914 [for more information, see end of this post].

Friday 24. September 19:00 h


Les Femmes députées France 1912 D: Madeleine Guitty 154m 8’
England. Scenes Outside The House Of Commons 28 January 1913 2’
Trafalgar Square Riot 10 August 1913 1913 2’
Milling The Militants: A Comical Absurdity GB 1913 7’
St. Leonards Outrage France 1913 21m 1’
Womens March Trough London: A Vast Procession Of Women Headed By Mrs Pankhurst. March Through London To Show The Minister Of Munitions Their Willingness To Help In Any War War Service GB 1915 23m 1’
Scottish Women’s Hospital Of The National Union Of Women’s Suffrage Societies France 1917 133m 6’30
Dans le sous-marin France 1908 Pathé 145m 5’
Introduction: Madeleine Bernstorff
Live piano accompaniment by Stephen Horne.

Friday 24. September 21:00 h

Women’s Life and Leisure in the Mitchell & Kenyon Collection
Presented by Vanessa Toulmin

The renowned Mitchell & Kenyon Collection provides an unparalled view of life at the turn of the twentieth century and this screening will allow us an opportunity to see women’s life and leisure in industrial England. The social and political background as well as working conditions will be shown on screen. The range and sheer diversity of women in the workplace will be revealed from the domestic to the industrial environment, women played an important role in the transition to modern society. From girls working in the coal mines to spinners and weavers leaving the factory this selection from the Collection will reveal previously unseen footage from the Archive, in a following workshop Vanessa Toulmin will speak about: Discovery and Investigation: The Research Process of the Mitchell & Kenyon Collection.

Women at Work: The ‘Hands’ Leaving Work at North-Street Mills, Chorley (1900), North Sea Fisheries, North Shields (1901), Employees Leaving Gilroy’s Jute Works, Dundee (1901), S.S. Skirmisher at Liverpool (1901), Birmingham University Procession on Degree Day (1901), Life in Wexford (1902), Black Diamonds – The Collier’s Daily Life (1904)
Women in the Social Environment: Liverpool Street Scenes (1901), Jamaica Street, Glasgow (1901), Manchester Street Scenes (1901), Manchester Band of Hope Procession (1901), Electric Tram Rides from Forster Square, Bradford (1902)
Leisure and Play: Sedgwick’s Bioscope Showfront at Pendlebury Wakes (1901), Spectators Promenading in Weston Park, Sheffield (1902), Trip to Sunny Vale Gardens at Hipperholme (1901), Bootle May Day Demonstration and Crowning of the May Queen (1903), Blackpool Victoria Pier (1904), Greens Racing Bantams at Preston Whit Fair (1906), Calisthenics (c. 1905).
Live piano accompaniment by Stephen Horne.

Saturday 25. September 18:00 h

La Neuropatologia
Lecture by Ute Holl+ screening of La Neuropatologia (I 1908)

La Neuropatologia is a medical instructional film by the Turin neurologist Camillo Negri. The film can be read – utilising medical-historical methology – as the presentation of an hysterical seizure, but it could also be called an expressionist drama, a love triangle. Medical fact cannot be visualized without the medical stage, the theatre, the mise-en-scène. End of the 19th century the visual turn in medical methodology and in neurological diagnosis gets introduced.

Saturday 25. September 19:00 h

Staging and Representation: A cinematographic studio

La Neuropatologia opens the view on representational relations. The Austrian company Saturn Film produced so-called ‘titillating’ films for a male audience, but the models also had her own ideas about erotic stagings. Normal work is part of an installation, and a re-enactment of four late-19th century photographies by Hannah Cullwick, who worked as a maid and produced numerous (self)portraits as part of a sado-masochist bond with her bourgeois boss Arthur Munby.

La Neuropatologia Italy 1908 Camillo Negro 107m 5’
La Ribalta (Fragment) Italy 1913 Mario Caserini D: Maria Gasparini 60 m 3’5’
Beim Photographen Austria 1907 Saturn 50m 3’
Das eitle Stubenmädchen Austria 1907 Saturn 50m 3’
Normal Work Germany 2007 Pauline Boudry, Renate Lorenz D: Werner Hirsch 13’ 16mm/DV
Concorso di bellezza fra bambini / Kindertentoonstellung Italy 1909 80m 4’
La nuova cameriera e troppo bella Italy 1912 D: Nilde Baracchi, 138m 7’
Rosalie et Léontine vont au théâtre France 1911, D: Sarah Duhamel + Leontine – name unknown 80m, 4’
L’intrigante France 1910 Albert Capellani 162m 8’
Introduction: Madeleine Bernstorff
Live piano accompaniment

Saturday 25. September 21:00h

Glittering stars, athletic women, first star personas
From 1910 on many female comedians had their own series. There was alsoa strong presence of female artistes and performers in the cinema before 1910.

Danse Serpentine / Annabella USA c.1902 Edison ca 2’ 16mm
La Confession France 1905 D: Name nicht bekannt 60m 3’
Femme jalouse France 1907 D: Name nicht bekannt 58m 3’
Lea e il gomitolo Italy 1913 D: Lea Giunchi 99m 5’
Danses Serpentines France / USA 1898-1902 D: U.a. Annabella 60m 3’
La Valse chaloupée France 1908 D: Mistinguett, Max Dearly 38m 2’
Sculpteur moderne France 1908 R: Segundo de Chomon D: Julienne Matthieu 8’
Les Soeurs Dainef France 1902 65m 3’
Introduction: Mariann Lewinsky
Live piano accompaniment Eunice Martins
Zigomar peau d’anguille France 1913 Eclair Victorin Jasset D: Alexandre Aquillere, Josette Andriot, 940m 45’
On the turntables: Julian Göthe

Sunday 26. September 18:00

Re-Reading Steinach
Lecture and video-presentation by Mareike Bernien

Re-Reading Steinach is a re-assembly of the popular-science film Steinachs Forschungen by Nicholas Kaufmann/UFA from 1922 – with the idea to analyze representations of normative and divergent body-and gender-constructions in the beginning of 20th century.

Sunday 26. September 19:00

Cross-dressings of men and women: Elegant page-uniforms and pantskirts, men in nurse-dresses and the wonderful Lotion Magique which grows beards on breasts and breasts on bald heads.

Mes filles portent la jupes-culotte France 1911 120m 6’
Monsieur et Madame sont pressés France 1901 20m 1’
Le Poulet de Mme Pipelard France 1910 84m 5’
Cendrillon ou La Pantoufle merveilleuse France 1907 R: Albert Capellani 293 m 15’
Il duello al shrapnell Italy 1908 100m 5’
La Lotion magique France 1906 Pathé 80m 5’
La Grève des nourrices France 1907 190 m 10’
Schutzmann-Lied from Metropol-Revue 1908, Donnerwetter! – Tadellos! Germany 1909 D: Henry Bender Beta 2’ (digital sound image reconstruction by Christian Zwarg)
Introduction: Mariann Lewinsky and Madeleine Bernstorff
Introduction to Schutzmannlied: Dirk Foerstner
Live piano accompaniment

Sunday 26. September 21:00

The Woman of Tomorrow
Cinema before 1910 was abundant in non-fiction films about daily work. La Doctoresse is part of a comedy-serial by Mistinguett and her partner Prince. The Russian film The Woman of Tomorrow is about a successful feminist female doctor.

Recolte du sarasin France 1908
L’Industria di carta a Isola del Liri Italy 1909 147m 7’30“
La Doctoresse France 1910, D: Mistinguett, Charles Prince 140m 7’
Zhenshchina Zavtrashnego Dnya / The woman of tomorrow Russia 1914, D: Vera Yurevena, Ivan Mosjoukine, 795m 40’
Live piano accompaniment

Monday 27. September 18:00

Political Stagings of the Suffragettes in England
Lecture by Jana Günther on strategic image politics of the militant English suffragette movement: between permanent spectacle and crusade. The Suffragettes appropriated activist strategies of the workers’ movement and tried out acts of civil inobedience like chaining themselves to railings, hunger strikes and other distruptive acts.
+ presentation of the film A Busy Day aka A Militant Suffragette D:Charlie Chaplin, USA 1914 16mm 6’

Monday 27. September 19:00h

Die Suffragette

The restored version (by Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek) of the Asta Nielsen melodrama Die Suffragette with some rediscovered scenes – including the force-feeding-scene which had been cut because of strict censorship regulations.

Bobby und die Frauenrechtlerinnen/Mijnher Baas + de vrije Vrouwen Germany 1911 Oskar Messter 112m 6’
Pickpocket USA 1913 260 m 13’
Les Résultats du féminisme France 1906 Alice Guy 5’
Die Suffragette Germany 1913 D: Asta Nielsen (Nelly Panburne) 60‘
Introduction: Karola Gramann + Heide Schlüpmann
Live piano accompaniment Eunice Martins

Monday 27. September 21:00h

The Year of the bodyguard
The film essay by Noël Burch deals with the subject of suffragettes in 1912 training under the first English female jiu-jitsu expert Edith Garrud to fight the police and protect their leaders.

Wife, The Weaker Vessel GB 1915 D: Ruby Belasco, Chrissie White, 190m 9’
Le Sorelle Bartels Italy 1910 74m 4’
The Year of the Bodyguard Noel Burch 1981 54’ ZDF
Works and Workers at Denton Holme GB 1910, 90m 5’

In the foyer of Zeughauskino there will be a video installation ‘I would be delighted to talk Suffrage’ by Austrian artist Fiona Rukschcio and a lightbox and bulletin board by Madeleine Bernstorff with materials from the National Archives, London on police spy photographs depicting the suffragettes.

Suffragette Demonstration at Newcastle, from BFI National Archive

Madeleine Bernstorff writes these words about women’s suffrage and film in the notes to the programme:

In the early twentieth century, the cause of women’s suffrage and the suffragette movement became a cinematic topic. Something seemingly untameable had appeared on the city streets, provoking a good deal of anxiety: women, often sheltered ladies of the bourgeoisie, were organising and even demanding participation in democratic processes! By 1913 more than 1,000 suffragettes had already gone to prison for their political actions. In addition to cartoons in the print media, newsreels and melodramas were produced along with countless comedies that referred – in all their ambivalence of subversion and affirmation – to the movement. They told the audience that women belonged at home and not at the ballot box, that these unleashed furies who now appeared in the streets en masse were growing mannish, neglecting their families and even setting public buildings ablaze. In the anti-suffragette films, women’s rights activists were often misguided souls who needed to be brought back to their proper calling. They also left plenty of room for nod-and-wink voyeurism on all sides. Men, too, masqueraded as suffragettes – to illustrate how inappropriate and grotesque it was for women to overstep their roles – or to act out against the prevailing order even more wildly?

The figure of the suffragette in early fiction (usually comedy- the seriousness of Asta Nielsen’s Die Suffragette is a notable exception) film is one that has been written about in several places, though never before has such an extensive collection of relevant films been seen in one place, to my knowledge. However, I would encourage those attending the event to look twice at the newsreels as well. There are many surviving newsreels showing the suffragettes – for the simple reason that they made it their business to be filmed.

The suffragettes showed themselves to be particularly media savvy by staging events that would attract the media. The simplest strategy was to organise marches with banners with bold slogans that could be easily picked up by the cameras. Then there was the obvious tactic of letting the newspapers and newsreels know beforehand of when a march or such like was going to take place. Just occasionally there was active co-operation with the newsreel companies. Rachael Low, in The History of the British Film 1906-1908, reproduces this report from the Kinematograph and Lantern Weekly 25 June 1908, p. 127, which shows how far this could go:

From certain sources whispers had reached us anent Mr. Harrison Ward’s secret conclaves with Mrs. Drummond and Miss Christabel Pankhurst, and as we surmised the plottings of the trio within the suffragette’s fortress have taken definite shape in the form of a picture history of recent performances of the ‘great shouters’ during their campaign … With exclusive right for kinematographing from the suffragists’ conning tower Mr. W. Jeapes obtained some exceptionally interesting pictures, those showing Mr. R.G. Knowles discussing the burning question with some of the leaders at the base of the tower being particularly good, the same remark applying to the life-size portraits of Mrs. ‘General’ Drummond, Miss Pankhurst and others. Mr. Jeapes and Mr. Ward probably never played to a bigger house than they did on Sunday, and the sight of the surging mass of humanity following the pantechnicon ‘conning tower’ as it emerged from Hyde Park, what time the energetic pair on top recorded the scene was something to arouse the envy of any kinematographer with an eye for picture effects.

The film, made by the Graphic Cinematograph Company, was a bit more than the average newsreel (it showed the major demonstration organised by the Women’s Social and Political Union that took place 21 June 1908 in Hyde Park). But the degree of pre-planning, co-operation and indeed the purchase of exclusive rights for a key camera position demonstrates that both news companies and suffragettes recognised the great value of one another, and that we should look on the newsreels of suffragettes as composed works rather than accidental actuality. We see what they wanted us to see.

Even when there wasn’t active co-operation with the newsreels, the suffragettes knew where cameras (still and motion picture) would be positioned, so that their protest acts would gain the greatest publicity. The best known example is that of the 1913 Derby, at which Emily Wilding Davison was killed after running onto the race-course and being knocked down by the King’s horse. The act was captured by a number of newsreels (the Pathé version is to be featured in Berlin) because they were all trained on the final bend before the end of the race, Tattenham Corner, and that is exactly where Davison chose to run out. Again, we see what they wanted us to see.

  • The Gaumont Graphic version of the 1913 Derby is here
  • The Pathé’s Animated Gazette version is here
  • The Topical Budget version is here (accessible to UK schools and libraries only)
  • (The Warwick Bioscope Chronicle version is here but I can’t make it play, and in any case Warwick either missed the incident or it has been cut from the extant film)
  • There are British Pathe compilations of suffragette newsreel footage here and especially here

There isn’t any information online about the Berlin screenings as yet (apart from this post, obviously), but information will appear on the Zeughauskino site once it gets round to publishing its September programme. (Now published)

Update (4 September): The full programme is now available (in German) from (full marks for the striking design).

Finally, the DVD from this year’s Il Cinema Ritrovato mentioned above is now available for sale. Curated by Mariann Lewinsky, Cento anni fa: Attrici comiche e suffragette 1910-1914 / Comic Actresses and Suffragettes 1910-1914 is a DVD and booklet on nineteen films (Italian, French, English, American), featuring such female comedy stars as Tilly and Sally (Alma Taylor and Chrissie White), Cunégonde, Mistinguett, Rosalie, Lea and Gigetta, plus newsreel films (including two compilations) of suffragette action from the UK and USA. The DVD is priced 19.90 € and is available from the Cineteca Bologna site. For those not able to be in Berlin it’s going to be the next best thing.

My thanks to Madeleine Bernstorff for providing the programme information and stills.

Wills and probate

Alfred Darling, the Hove-based film engineer (including Bioscope manufacturer) who left £25,871 in his will when he died in 1931 – approximately £864,608 in today’s money

Was it worth it being a film pioneer? It’s a valid question, because too often the film histories (and the memoirs) can make us think that people helped form the motion picture business for the most romantic of reasons, making their mark on film history. But of course the chief reason they got involved at all was to make money. But did they? We know about the magnates and the handful of stars who found riches, but what about everyone else? Was it really worth it, or might they have been a lot better off not being so starry-eyed about things and working in a bank instead?

We can find some answers, for Britain at least, with the release online of the latest collection of family history records published by the genealogy site Ancestry. This time it is wills – to be precise, England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1861-1941. Here we can see those members of the film business who died before 1941 and who left a will (not all did, of course), and through such records see what effects they left (and to whom) once probate had been granted.

The physical version of the National Probate Calendar is to be found in the Probate Search Room, First Avenue House, 42-49 High Holborn, London, and I can vouch for its great value as a film history research tool. It was through the 1937 will of producer Charles Urban’s second wife Ada Aline (a film executive in her own right) that I found out information about relatives which led me to a living descendant who was holding on to the manuscript of Urban’s unpublished memoirs. The registers themselves do not give such detailed information. They simply give name, address, date of death, where and to whom probate was granted, and the effects i.e. the money they left in their will. To see the full will you need to order it through the Probate Service (information on how to do so is given by Ancestry), but the registers are an excellent starting point.

The Ancestry service is not free, but I have championed the value of online family history resources for film history research before now, and I can’t stress enough how useful such resources are when it comes to researching lives. So, to give you a taster of what you could find, here are some British film pioneers and what they left behind them (in pounds, shillings and pence):

  • Avery, Jack (camera operator, producer) (d. 1927) – £254-7s-4d
  • Brown, Theodore (inventor) (d. 1938) – £311
  • Darling, Alfred (engineer) (d. 1931) – £25,871-18s-6d
  • Day, Will (dealer in film equipment, historian) (d. 1936) – £1,584
  • Haggar, William (producer) (d. 1925) – £16,690-4s-9d (resworn as £16,912-13s-5d)
  • Kearton, Cherry (wildlife filmmaker, producer) (d. 1940) – £1,178-3s-6d
  • Mottershaw, Frank (producer) (d. 1932) – £2,007-11s-7d
  • Pyke, Montague (cinema owner) (d. 1935) – £1
  • Urban, Ada Aline (executive) (d. 1937) – £7,413-18s-4d
  • Williamson, James (producer, chemist) (d. 1933) – £15,046-13s-10d

To calculate what those amounts approximate in today’s money, use The National Archives’ Currency Converter – roughly multiply the figures by between 30 and 35 to get a modern day equivalent.

On the small sample above, it looks like you were a whole lot better off having a film engineering firm than being an inventor, while being a ruined cinema magnate was worst of all. Of course some will have made (or lost) their money on other ventures. Also those who died before 1942 tend to be on the technical side of things – the actors and filmmakers of the 1910s and 20s were still alive in the 1940s.

Anyway, it’s a very welcome resource, and even if you don’t subscribe to Ancestry you can still search for names on the database – you just won’t be able to see the digitised documents. Or make a visit to First Avenue House, where of course you can find indexes and wills post-1941 as well.

Australia’s silent film festival

Miss Mend, from

Australia’s eponymous Silent Film Festival returns a month earlier in the year than last year, with screenings over 11, 16, 18, 23 and 25 September. The festival takes place at Pitt Street Uniting Church and the Wesley Conference Centre, Sydney and features films from Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Russia and the USA. Here’s the full programme:

6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
For the Term of His Natural Life 1927 (Australia)
Pitt Street Uniting Church 264 Pitt Street Sydney

Directed: Norman Dawn
Starring: George Fisher, Arthur McLaglen, Jessica Harcourt, Beryl Gow, Mayne Lynton, Arthur Tauchert, Eva Novak and Dunstan Webb
Tickets: $20/$15 concession and children
Film: digital presentation of restored film
Duration: 98 minutes
Live music: accompanist Colin Offord
Presenter: Bruce Elder Senior Entertainment Writer with the Sydney Morning Herald

7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Passing Fancy Dekigokoro 1933 (Japan)
Wesley Conference Centre 220 Pitt Street Sydney

Directed: by Yasujiro Ozu
Starring: Sakomoto Takeshi, Fushime Nabuko and Tomio Aoki
Tickets: $20/$15 concession and children
Film: digital presentation of restored film
Duration: 101 minutes
Live music: accompanist Riley Lee, world-class master of the shakuhachi.
Presenter: Dr. Carol Hayes Senior Lecturer, Japan Centre,School of Culture, History and Language College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University

Peace through a bowl of tea. The Festival is pleased to present prior to the screening from 6.15-6.45pm a demonstration of a Japanese tea ceremony. This unique and rich event for Festival supporters is presented by the Japan Foundation and Chado Urasenke Tankokai Sydney Association Inc. The Festival acknowledges the assistance of Wakao Koike; Masafumi Konomi , Yoshiaki Matsunaga,, Ryoko Freeman and David Freeman.

10:15 AM to 12:00 PM
The Last Great Magic Lantern Show (Australia)
Wesley Conference Centre 220 Pitt Street Sydney

Presenters: Professor Ian and Margery Edwards and Antony Catrice
Tickets: $20/$15 concession and children
Film: Magic Lantern Slide Presentation
Duration: 75 minutes

12:15 PM to 2:15 PM
Comedies for Kids and the Young at Heart! (USA)
Wesley Conference Centre 220 Pitt Street Sydney

A selection of the Kings of Comedy at their funniest and at full throttle!
Charlie Chaplin in THE ADVENTURER (1917) 23 minutes; Buster Keaton in COPS (1922) 18 minutes; Laurel and Hardy in WRONG AGAIN (1929) 20 minutes; and Max Sennett’s LIZZIES OF THE FIELD (1924) 10 minutes. Winsor McKay, THE PET (1921) 11 mins See the Australian born star Billy Bevan in Lizzies of the Field driving his snoozenburg!

Tickets: $20/$15 concession and children
Film: digital presentation of restored film
Duration: 90 minutes
Live music: accompanist Mauro Colombis
Presenter: Dr Stephen Juan
Anthropologist Dr Stephen Juan is a commentator on all things human in books, newspapers, on radio and television. For more than three decades he taught at the University of Sydney where in retirement he remains the Ashley Montagu Fellow. The author of several best-selling books and member of Channel Nine’s Today, Stephen has long had an interest in cultural history generally and films in particular.

2:30 PM to 4:15 PM
The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari / Das Kabinett des Doktor Caligari 1919-20 (Germany)
Wesley Conference Centre 220 Pitt Street Sydney

Directed: by Robert Wiene
Starring: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt and Lil Dagover
Tickets: $20/$15 concession and children
Film: digital presentation of restored film
Duration: 76 minutes
Live music: accompanist Mauro Colombis
Presenter: Klaus Krischok Director, Goethe-Institut Australien

4:30 PM to 6:30 PM
Miss Mend Part One / Mess Mend 1926 (Russia)
Wesley Conference Centre 220 Pitt Street Sydney

Directed: by Boris Barnet and Fedor Ozep
Based on the novel by “Jim Dollar” aka Marietta Shaginian
Starring: Natalya Glan, Igor Ilyinsky and Vladimir Fogel
Tickets: $20/$15 concession and children
Film: digital presentation of restored film
Duration: 88 minutes
Live music: accompanist Maria Okunev
Presenter: Dr. Karen Pearlman Head of Screen Studies; Australian Film, Television and Radio School

7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
The Italian Straw Hat / Un chapeau de paille d’Italie 1927 (France)
Wesley Conference Centre 220 Pitt Street Sydney

Directed: by René Clair
Starring: Albert Préjean, Geymond Vital, Olga Tschechowa and Paul Ollivier
Tickets: $20/$15 concession and children
Film: digital presentation of restored film
Duration: 105 minutes
Live music: accompanist Sharolyn Kimmorley
Presenter: Jason di Rosso, Associate Producer MOVIETIME ABC Radio National and Film Writer GQ

10:15 AM to 12:00 PM
Buster Keaton and Snub Pollard! (USA)
Wesley Conference Centre 220 Pitt Street Sydney

Romeo and Juliet given an update and set in a tenement neighbourhood where Buster and Virginia’s family fight over the fence separating their respective homesteads. * 18 Minutes

The genius of old Stoneface as Buster plays everyone, including a monkey, in a theatre simultaneously. * 22 Minutes

Buster to the fore again is falsely accused of breaking a window and is hauled before a judge who speaks no English and assumes they are there to be married. The family nightmare starts. * 22 Minutes

IT’S A GIFT – 1923
The talents of the incomparable Australian born, Snub Pollard. * 10 Minutes

Tickets: $20/$15 concession and children
Film: digital presentation of restored film
Duration: 72 minutes
Live music: accompanist Robert Constable
Presenter: Jason di Rosso, Associate Producer MOVIETIME ABC Radio National and Film Writer GQ

12:15 PM to 2:15 PM
Bardelys the Magnificent 1926 (USA)
Wesley Conference Centre 220 Pitt Street Sydney

Directed: by King Vidor
Starring: John Gilbert, Eleanor Boardman, Roy D’Arcy, Karl Dane and John T Murray
Tickets: $20/$15 concession and children
Film: digital presentation of restored film
Duration: 91 minutes
Live music: accompanist Robert Constable
Presenter: Jason di Rosso, Associate Producer MOVIETIME ABC Radio National and Film Writer GQ

3:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Fashion 1920s
Wesley Conference Centre 220 Pitt Street Sydney

Fashion 1920s – Presented by Charlotte Smith

Silent films have played a significant part in the evolution and development of fashion, and it is therefore very appropriate to include this special session in our journey back in time through the silent film medium.

Besides being a time capsule by giving us a fascinating and entertaining glimpse into how people lived and dressed in the past, silent films of the 1920s also presented fashion styles to a worldwide audience and to all classes of society. Many silent screen stars became fashion icons, leading new fashion trends and inspiring people of all walks of life to dress in a similar way.

Charlotte Smith, author of the best-selling book, Dreaming of Dior: Every Dress Tells a Story (HarperCollins Australia) is the curator of the famous Darnell Collection, having inherited it from her godmother, Doris Darnell, in 2004. Since then it has continued to grow to number over 5500 pieces representing 23 different countries, and is considered the largest private vintage clothing collection in Australia.

Tickets: $10/$5 concession and children
Duration: 60 minutes

4:30 PM to 6:30 PM
Chicago 1927 (USA)
Wesley Conference Centre 220 Pitt Street Sydney

Produced: by Cecil B DeMille
Directed: by Frank Urson
Starring: Phyllis Haver, Julia Faye, May Robson and Victor Varconi
Tickets: $20/$15 concession
Film: digital presentation of restored film
Duration: 112 minutes
Live music: accompanist Mauro Colombis
Presenter: Bruce Elder Senior Entertainment Writer with the Sydney Morning Herald

There are more details on the festival site, including booking information, further information on the films and the musicians, and an archive covering the programmes for 2009 and 2007.

Catalogues commerciaux

We have mentioned the large number of cinema-related catalogues that have been digitised by the Cinémathèque française for its online digital library, Bibliothèque numérique du cinéma. Some of these we will go on to describe in detail, but for ease of reference here’s a complete list of all the commerical catalogues. Not all are from the silent era (though most are), and the majority are equipment catalogues, covering cameras, projectors, electrical supply, lighting, fire protection, cinemas seats etc. Notable firms mentioned include Gaumont, Pathé frères, Paul, Urban, Edison, Tyler and Williamson. Many of the catalogues come from the collection of Will Day, whose exceptional collection of films, publications and documentation relating to early film was acquired by the Cinémathèque and comprises one of the most substantial collections devoted to early film anywhere. A number of the catalogues relate to Day’s own film equipment supply business.

All of the links are to the digitised documents, which are in PDF form, downloadable and fully word-searchable.