Lowell and Lawrence

http://www.cliohistory.org/thomas-lawrence

You may recall that last year I was involved with Neil Brand in a recreation of Lowell Thomas’ celebrated multimedia show, With Allenby in Palestine and Lawrence in Arabia, which in 1919-20 did so much to create the romantic idea of Lawrence of Arabia. On the Bioscope the research led to a detailed post on T.E. Lawrence and his life in film.

The show had one barebones presentation at the British Silent Film Festival before it was decided not to take the project any further. But there are those with other ideas, and one of them is Rick Moulton, an American documentary filmmaker with a particular interest in the work of Lowell Thomas and his media presentations. Moulton and Clio History have now produced a website, Lowell Thomas and Lawrence of Arabia: Making a Legend, Creating History.

It’s a handsomely produced site which tells the romantic tales both of T.E. Lawrence and of Lowell Thomas himself, the American journalist who went out to the Middle East in search of a heroic figure to sell the idea of the war to an American audience, and who succeeded in his quest beyond his wildest dreams. Billed as an exhibition, the site covers Thomas as journalist, T.E. Lawrence as a legend on the making, the attack on Akaba, Lawrence at the Paris Peace conference in 1919, the success of the 1919-20 show, Lawrence at the Cairo conference (where the Middle East was carved up and parceled out), the 1962 David Lean film, and the legacies of both Lawrence and Thomas. The site has just the one video clip and some audio, but it is rich in images and supporting documents, and each section of the site has several sub-pages – there is plenty to explore in what is a site created in the spirit of Lowell Thomas himself.

Lowell Thomas ready to film the pyramids from the air (a hand-coloured photograph from the time)

Lowell Thomas (1892-1981) was an American journalist who gained nationwide fame as a Movietone newsreel commentator, as co-founder of Cinerama, and as a radio and television broadcaster. He started out as a print journalist and adventurer, and it was a mixture of personal experience and drive that in 1917 got Thomas a commission to seek out material that would demonstrate to the American people why it was important to support the First World War. He found little of what he felt to be suitable material on the Western Front, so with British official support he went to the Middle East, where Jerusalem was expected to fall to British troops under General Edmund Allenby.

It was when he was in Jersualem (which fell to Allenby in December 1917) that Thomas came across the extraordinary figure of Colonel T.E. Lawrence, a British officer who was helping encourage an Arab revolt by all manner of unconventional means, including the wearing of Arab clothing. Thomas and his camera operator Harry Chase followed Lawrence for just a couple of days, taking both photographs and motion pictures. By this time, the purpose of Thomas’ expedition was really redundant, since there was no need to sell the idea of the war to American audiences any more, but once the war was over he organised his material into a form in which he could sell it as public entertainment.

Lowell Thomas (to the left of the screen) presenting With Allenby in Palestine and Lawrence in Arabia to a London audience

Thomas originally presented an amalgam of all his war material in New York in March 1919, where he found audiences responded most strongly to the Middle Eastern material. He moved to Britain with a show that was originally called With Allenby in Plaestine, including the Capture of Jerusalem and the Liberation of Holy Arabia. It was a truly multimedia show which Thomas billed as a ‘travelogue’ and presented himself (with Chase as projectionist). It combined live narration with music, lighting, lantern slides and film in a highly complex but slick presentation. Allenby was the great military hero, but it was the story of the incomparably romantic T.E. Lawrence, or Lawrence of Arabia as Thomas dubbed him, that captured the public imagination. Lawrence and Chase had spent little time with Lawrence himself, and had little substantial material to show (just a couple of film sequences taken by Chase showed Lawrence), but it was how Thomas told the tale that made the legend.

The show premiered at the Royal Opera House in August 1919. Retitled With Allenby in Palestine and Lawrence in Arabia, it became a huge hit, tapping into an audience thirst for heroism away from the carnage of the Western front. The Lawrence tale seemed like a clean triumph replete with the values of another, more romantic age. Another major factor in the show’s appeal was how Thomas and Chase brought together word, image and music in a highly polished style we would now probably call televisual. A million people saw it during its London run; four million around the world. It made Lawrence’s name, for good or ill, establishing a legend that he then tried to hide away from for the rest of his life. Thomas followed up the show with his 1924 book Lawrence of Arabia. He produced other travelogues based on further overseas adventures, and looked for other such modern-day heroes to match the success he had found with Lawrence (for example, the adventurer, aviator and polar filmmaker Hubert Wilkins) but never again did Thomas find so perfect a subject. The 1962 feature film Lawrence of Arabia (still in thrall to romance created by Thomas, by way of Lawence’s own self-dramatisation) includes the Lowell Thomas-like figure Jackson Bentley, played by Arthur Kennedy.

Promotional video for the Lowell Thomas and Lawrence of Arabia: Making a Legend, Creating History site

It was an interesting experience trying to recreate the Lawrence part of the show at the British Silent Film Festival last year. Admittedly we only had a narrator, and actor, a PowerPoint slide show and video clips, whereas Thomas’ original show played in an opera house and featured an orchestra and a prologue with oriental dancers writhing before a backdrop of the pyramids. I felt that, though the show worked reasonably well as an entertainment, the script belonged to another age and was historically misleading. Others, however, still hold to the dream of remaking the show in all of its multimedia glory, and Rick Moulton is one of them. The Lowell Thomas and Lawrence of Arabia: Making a Legend, Creating History exhibition site is but a stepping stone to a document on Thomas and Lawrence and hopefully one day that recreation of at least the Lawrence part of the show (Allenby’s star doesn’t shine quite so brightly these days). We have the films, we have the images, we have the script, the music shouldn’t be a problem. But recreating the special presence of Lowell Thomas and still more an audience war-weary yet anxious for unsullied heroes may be that much harder to achieve.

There is a detailed account of the reception of Lowell Thomas’ travelogue in London on T.E. Lawrence biographer Jeremy Wilson’s site.

Bioscope Newsreel no. 15

Photograph taken filming of Hide and Seek, Detectives (1918): (L-R) unknown, Tom Kennedy, Ben Turpin, Charles ‘Heinie’ Conklin, Eddie Cline, and Marie Prevost. From Steve Rydzewski (see http://www.flickr.com/photos/wiggleyears)

Behind the scenes the Bioscope is toiling away at two or three major posts, which always take a while to research, but in the meantime here’s your regular Friday round-up of some interesting (we hope) news snippets on silent film and such like.

Cinefest 31
Syracuse’s annual convention of silent and early sound film takes place 17-20 March. Among the auctions and dealers’ tables you can see Lonesome, What Price Glory? (1927), Happiness (1917), The Hushed Hour (1919), Mannequin (1926), and much more. Read more.

National Inventors Hall of Fame
Stephen Herbert’s estimable Muy Blog (on Eadweard Muybridge) reports on the National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees for 2011. They include some major names from the worlds of photography and early film: Thomas Armat (1866-1948), for his motion picture projector, Hannibal Goodwin (1822-1900), for discovering transparent flexible nitrocellulose film, Frederick Ives (1856-1937), for innovation in colour photography, Charles F. Jenkins (1867-1934), for the projector he developed with Armat, and Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), for stop action photography. Read more.

The Great White Blu-Ray
The British Film Institute much acclaimed restoration of Herbert Ponting’s The Great White Silence (1924), will get a Blu-Ray and DVD release in June. The film documents Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s failed attempt to be first to the South Pole. It’s also the first British silent film to make it to Blu-Ray. The dual-format package will include the 1933 re-edited sound version of Ponting’s film, Ninety Degrees South. Read more.

The Marie Prevost Project
Stacia Jones at the excellent and supremely well-named She Blogged by Night has been surveying the career of Marie Prevost in a series of posts. Her trawl through Prevost’s many lost films from the late teens brings up a marvellous array of photographs, posters, lobby cards and slides for the actress who went from Mack Sennett bathing beauty to 1920s stardom to a wretched end in the 1930s. Read more.

The hipster YouTube
Fortune magazine looks into the success story that is Vimeo, the online video site that just does everything right – and apparently invented the ‘like’ button. Proof that you can succeed in online video without recourse to theft, negativity or skateboarding dogs. Read more.

‘Til next time!

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.

The siege of Sidney Street

Home Secretary Winston Churchill (in top hat) watching the Siege of Sidney Street, part of the Pathé’s Animated Gazette’s coverage, ‘Battle of London’, from British Pathé. Bioscope regulars will be delighted to note the stray dog in the bottom left-hand corner

On the night of 16 December 1910 a group of Latvian revolutionaries attempted to rob a jeweller’s shop at 119 Houdsditch in the City of London. Their aim was to obtain funds to support revolutionary activity in Russia (and to support themselves), but their efforts to break in were overheard and nine policemen were called to the scene. The Latvians were armed; the policemen were not, and in the ensuing confrontation three of the police were shot dead and two injured.

The public was horrified by what swiftly became known as the Houndsditch Murders, which followed on from the ‘Tottenham Outrage’ of the previous year when two Latvians had shot dead a constable and a child following an interrupted robbery. One of the Houndsditch gang, George Gardstein, had died of his injuries, having been shot accidentally by a confederate, but a huge manhunt built up to track down all of the gang, a number of whom were arrested before two (neither of whom it is now thought were present at the Houndsditch burglary) were tracked down to 100 Sidney Street, Stepney in London’s East End.

Sidney Street, from the Andrew Pictures coverage. No. 100 is on the far right-hand side of the street, below the number 3 of the ITN Source ID number

The Siege of Sidney Street (or the Battle of Stepney) that was to follow took place 100 years ago on 3 January 1911. It has gained lasting fame for unprecedented scenes that brought armed police and troops onto the streets of London to conduct a siege with desperate revolutionaries, all of which took place before the startled (and undoubtedly thrilled) eyes of the public and the press. Among those recording the events as they happened were five film companies, and it is their story that forms the reason for this centenary post.

The besieged Latvians were Fritz Svaars and William Sokoloff, known as Joseph. They had taken refuge at 100 Sidney Street only for their position to be given away by an informer late in the evening of New Year’s Day. Detectives were sent under cover of darkness to watch over the building while they tried to determine the two men’s movements by contact with a lodger and the informant. Keen not to have the men slip out their grasp, but knowing they would be armed, the police felt they had to act. In the early hours of Tuesday 3 January, armed police were positioned in houses and shops surrounding the block in which contained 100 Sidney Street. By 3.00am there were 200 policemen in place. It was realised that storming the building by its staircase would be foolhardy as the two men would have the advantage by firing down on the police officers, so the adjacent buildings were cleared of other people and the police waited for daylight.

Soldier firing from a shop door, part of the Pathé coverage, from British Pathe

As dawn broke, people started to gather around the police cordon, trying to find out what was happening. The police threw stones at the second-floor window where they believed the two men were hiding. Nothing happened. Then someone threw a brick and smashed a window pane. From the floor below shots fired out and a policeman was hit. A hail of bullets followed as they tried to move the wounded man. The two men were well-armed (they were better munitioned than the police, certainly) and well-positioned. An order was sent to bring in troops from the Tower of London. Scots Guards were sent, on the authority of the Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, who thought upon hearing the news that it would be not interesting if he were to go along and see things for himself.

By this time the press had got wind of the story, and reporters, photographers and newsreel cameramen were arriving on the scene. Five film companies were present: Pathé, Gaumont, Andrews Pictures, Co-operative and the Warwick Trading Company. Pathé (Pathé’s Animated Gazette), Gaumont (Gaumont Graphic) and Warwick (Warwick Bioscope Chronicle) had each recently established a newsreels and were companies with well-established newsfilm credentials. Co-operative specialised in Shakespeare productions, so it is something or a surprise to see them involved, while Andrews Pictures was a small-scale film renter and exhibitor. Presumably any firm who got wind of what was happening and had a camera operator at the ready made the most of the opportunity. Three of the five films taken that day survive: those of Pathé, Gaumont and Andrews.

Frame stills from the lost Sidney Street siege films made by Co-operative (left, showing the arrival of a fire engine) and Warwick (showing crowds in the area after the siege), from an article on the siege films in The Bioscope 5 January 1911, p. 9

The troops assumed positions around the building and began firing (it was by now around 11.00am). The barrage of fire from both sides was relentless and was to continue for around two hours. The crowds around the perimeter were now considerable, and policemen had a difficult time holding them back, as the newsreel films make clear. The films showed the heaving crowds, the troops getting into position, policemen armed with rifles, and gunfire coming from the buildings either side of Sidney Street.

Gaumont’s coverage shows police gunfire from the buildings opposite 100 Sidney Street, from ITN Source

The Home Secretary had not been able to get the better of his curiosity. He arrived by car at midday and positioned himself at the corner of Sidney Street and Lindley Street, peering round to see what was happening. It was an extraordinarily foolhardy action, one which would soon lead to much criticism (and regret on Churchill’s part) but at the time the idea went round that he was directing operations. Pathé’s cameraman gained a huge scoop by obtaining close shots of Churchill (though the story that film was taken of a bullet going through his top hat is quite false). It seems that no other newsreel filmed him – Gaumont certainly did not, as they were positioned on the other side of the street, while Andrews resorted to deceit, declaring that its footage of men looking down at the siege included a rear view shot of Churchill (Churchill did not take up any rooftop position).

Then 100 Sidney Street caught fire. The gunfire ceased momentarily as wisps and plumes of smoke started to pour out of the building, which is vividly shown in the film record. Flames could seen from the windows, then the shooting started up again – not just from the soldiers because, extraordinarily, the men inside were still returning fire. Joseph may have been shot dead at this time (the fire started around 1.00pm), while Fritz Svaars died in the flames when the roof caved in and part of the first floor collapsed. Soldiers fired further volleys, then ceased. No one had escaped from the building and it was clear no one could have survived such an inferno. Fire engines arrived and poured water on the charred remains. As firemen entered the building, part of a wall collapsed and one of them died of his injuries – the third and final death caused by the siege of Sidney Street.

Pathé’s Animated Gazette’s coverage, showing 100 Sidney Street on fire, from British Pathe

The bodies of Fritz Svaars and Joseph were discovered inside, the second only as late as 8.00pm, by which time the newsreel films had been processed, printed and were on show in some London cinemas, scooping much of the press. In the manner of newsreels at this time, the films let the pictures do the talking. Intertitles on the extant films are matter-of-fact and offer little in the way of explanation, though they do employ loaded terms such as ‘assassins’, ‘murderers’ ‘aliens’ and ‘outrage’. The sensational nature of the films was all that was needed. Detailed description and background speculation was for the newspapers; the newsreels had simply to show audiences what the event looked like, to present the moving pictures of what everyone was talking about. The audience themselves would supply the rest.

These were the Houndsditch Murderers, or at least their associates, and most of the public would not have been greatly interested in their affiliations and what drove them to such desperate actions. Their war was not with the British authorities per se, but rather with Tsarist Russia. They (and there were a dozen or so associated with Houndsditch and Sidney Street) were refugees in Britain, which they used as a base for fund-raising and plotting revolution back in Russia. They had strong ideological motivation, and would have been contemptuous of the British police and army as tools of the oppressors. For the popular press they were all anarchists, but most had Social Revolutionary or Marxist affiliations, and had fought in terrible encounters with Tsarist forces, some of them undergoing savage beatings and torture. They believed they would receive similar brutality from the British police should they be caught, which helps explain some of their actions (Fritz Svaars in particular feared that he would break under torture after beatings he had received in Riga a year before). They used robbery to raise funds to support themselves and associates at home, and in some cases for gun-running or the production of propagandist literature.

Most were Jewish, and were part of the wave of refugees driven out of Russia by the pogroms of the late 1800s and the savage reprisals that followed the failed 1905 revolution. Britain had a reputation as a haven for such refugees, though most ended up in the sweatshops of the East End, desperately poor and roundly despised by the rest of society as ‘aliens’. British film contributed to this climate of hostility. Hepworth produced The Aliens’ Invasion (1905), in which English workmen were shown being thrown out of work because of Jewish immigrants accepting low wages; the Precision Film Company produced Anarchy in England (1909), which recreated the Tottenham Outrage; while Clarendon made The Invaders (1909) in which armed foreign spies occupy a British house disguised as Jewish tailors. However, most often films portrayed anarchists as figures of fun, as in Walturdaw’s The Anarchist and his Dog (1908) – he throws his bomb, but the dog retrieves it. The siege of Sidney Street itself was not dramatised at the time, but the basic details contribute to the climactic scenes of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) and a close recreation was attempted in Hammer’s The Siege of Sidney Street (1960).

The causes that drove the revolutionaries of 1911 have faded into history, even if terrorism on British shores inspired by overseas conflict and a different set of beliefs has not. But the films remain, and the press reports, and the photographs, and the many picture postcards that were produced, as tragedy was turned into commerce. The films not only show extraordinarily exciting things happening on the streets of London, but they show us an area of London never before visited by the motion picture camera. The wretched, run-down area of Stepney of 1911 would not have attracted cameras in the normal course of events, but humble Sidney Street, its environs and inhabitants gain some sort of fleeting immortality each time we run the films again, before disappearing back into history as the cameras once more turn to focus elsewhere.

Map of the Sidney Street area showing the besieged building (marked with red dot) and main camera positions of Andrews (A), Gaumont (G) and Pathé (P). Map from http://www.jewisheastend.com.

Three of the five newsreels made of the Sidney Street siege exist at the BFI National Archive, with further copies of these at British Pathé and ITN Source. Each runs for two to three minutes in length. Happily versions of all three can be found online:

  • The Battle of London (Pathé)
    Copies held by the BFI National Archive and British Pathé. There are two films on the British Pathé site – one is a dupe of the BFI film, the other is not Pathé’s film at all – it is Andrews’ (see below). The Pathé film, shot mostly from the north end of Sidney Street, shows police and troops taking positions (some shots look like they were staged afterwards), Churchill viewing the scene, the building catching fire (front and rear views), the fire brigade, and crowds in the streets afterwards. The intertitles read: “Battle of London. Houndsditch Assassins at bay, Besieged by soldiers and Armed Police” … “Troops firing at the murderers in Sydney [sic] Street” … “Mr. Winston Churchill, Home Secretary, watching the battle with the chiefs of Police and Detectives” … “The Besieged House catches Fire” … “Removing the bodies of the murdered and injured firemen”
  • The Great East End Anarchist Battle (Gaumont)
    Copies held by the BFI National Archive and ITN Source. The version on the ITN Source begins with the Gaumont film then at 2.43 turns into the Andrews film (see below). The film shows crowds and police to the south end of Sidney Street, police pushing back the crowds, views of either side of Sidney Street with smoke from gunfire, police holding back crowds with difficulty, view of the building on fire from rooftop of building opposite. The Gaumont intertitles on the ITN copy read: [No main title] … “The police pushing back the crowd at the commencement of the firing” … “The fire – and after”.
  • Houndsditch Murderers (Andrews Pictures)
    Copies held by the BFI National Archive, British Pathé and ITN Source. The BFI has two versions, one with English and one with German titles, Anarchistenschlat in London. The version online at ITN follows immediately after the Gaumont film; the version online at British Pathé is listed separately (though not as an Andrews film). The film shows views of Sidney Street from the south end with gunfire and police holding back crowds, rooftop view of the building on fire, further gunfire and police holding back crowds, rear view of men on rooftop (intertitles falsely state that Churchill is one of them), rooftop view of building catching fire and arrival of firemen who aim hoses at the building, a number of firemen scale a ladder. [Note: the ITN version is complete and in the correct order; the British Pathe copy is jumbled and incomplete] The intertitles on the ITN copy read: “Houndsditch Murderers. The Great Aliens Outrage at Mile End Shewing the Actual Scenes” … “Police and Soldiers Firing From Alleyways and Windows” … “Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill Directing Operations” [the German version in the BFI does not have this title] … “The Besieged House In Flames” … “Back View and Detectives Firing On Besieged Building” … “Arrival of Fire Brigades From All Parts of London And Entering House”

The BFI reportedly also has a Pathé’s Animated Gazette newsreel item on the December 1910 funeral of the policemen whose deaths led to the Sidney Street siege, Funeral in London of the Policemen Murdered by Burglars in Houndsditch (1910). (It is not listed on the current catalogue but is given in its 1965 Silent News Films catalogue, cat. no. N.323) [Update: The film exists – see comments]


For further information on the Sidney Street siege, there is one essential source. Donald Rumbelow’s The Houndsditch Murders and the Siege of Sidney Street (1973, revised 1988) is the classic account, outstanding in the dramatic detail and in its understanding of both police procedure and the revolutionaries’ motivations.

The Metropolitan Police Service has a short history of the siege from its point of view on its website. For an anarchist viewpoint, try www.siegememory.net, an interactive documentary on the siege currently in development (do check out the video trailer which claims that the mysterious ‘Peter the Painter’ – one of the ‘anarchist’ gang – is an ancestor of David Beckham).

The Museum of London Docklands currently has a small exhibition showing artefacts from the siege, examples of which can be view here. The exhibition runs until April 2011. The Independent has another image gallery, using exhibition artefacts and pictures from Donald Rumbelow’s collection.

The lost prince

Prince John in 1913, from Wikipedia

While sorting out some papers I came across a clipping which I’d quite forgotten about. It comes from the British film trade journal The Cinema in 1913 (there’s no more precise date on the copy, alas), and what it reports, though brief, is so striking that I have to pass it on. It tells us that a member of the British royal family apparently wrote a film scenario – for private consumption only – in 1913:

Princess Mary Writes a Scenario
Princess Mary, the only daughter of the King and Queen, has written a short comedy script for the moving pictures. This has been produced privately, and exhibited at Buckingham Palace. Prince John posed for one of the characters.

Princess Mary (later the Countess of Harewood) was then aged 16. The royal family were well aware of motion pictures and had been to see film shows (usually featuring themselves), and as early as October 1896 a privately-comissioned film had been made of Queen Victoria and guests at Balmoral, which survives (the guests included Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra of Russia). But to be thinking of making their own dramatic film at such an early date is remarkable, not least for showing an awareness of the new popular entertainment that the commonfolk were flocking in their millions to see. Amateur dramatic films started to be relatively common in the 1920s, but 1913 is very early for such a production, whatever the strata of society.

And then there is the one named cast member. Prince John, the youngest son of King George V and Queen Mary, was a severe epileptic and was kept out of public view. There are photographs, but no motion pictures were ever taken of him – or at least that is what has been assumed. In 1913 he was was 8 years old – he would die in 1919, aged just 14. His story was poignantly told in 2003 in the Stephen Poliakoff television film The Lost Prince. The film showed us the boy viewing royal affairs with an innocent yet quizzical air, needing the love of his parents who instead hid him away on a farm, unable to express the emotions nature ought to have made them feel.

Was Prince John filmed after all? It is not certain this report is correct, of course. It could be merely relaying a rumour. But assuming the film did exist, who made it? (if it was a professional he was discreet about it, because I’ve not come across any such report) – and what happened to it? There is a royal film collection, some of which has long been in the care of the BFI National Archive, but the films in the collection are not of so early a date – at least as far as I know. The film is most likely to be lost, not so much because the royals are likely to lose things (I don’t think they often do), but because surely it would have been uncovered by now. Or it may simply have decomposed.

But someone ought to have a second look, just in case.

Kevin Brownlow honoured

From right to left, Kevin Brownlow, Francis Ford Coppola and Eli Wallach posing after the Governors Awards held by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, 13 November 2010. From Reuters

Warm congratulations to Kevin Brownlow on his receipt last night of an honorary Academy Award for his work in documenting and preserving the films of the silent era.

Brownlow received his award alongside Francis Ford Coppola (receiving the Irving G. Thalberg Award) and actor Eli Wallach at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ annual annual Governors Awards ceremony. Jean-Luc Godard was also given an honorary award but declined to turn up. Hollywood luminaries such as Clint Eastwood, Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Oliver Stone, Kevin Spacey and Robert De Niro were in the audience. There are reports on BBC News, Reuters, Entertainment Weekly and the New York Times.

Coppola has gained the all the notices, but Brownlow’s achievement is the real headline news – for silent films, film preservation, the historiography of cinema, and for British cinema – and of course for himself. Kevin took the opportunity to lecture his audience on how American copyright laws had made his work more difficult, while also celebrating the artistry of the filmmakers who made Hollywood the cultural and commercial powerhouse that it remains.

If you are keen to find out more about Brownlow’s career as filmmaker, writer, programme maker and preservationist, I warmly recommend an interview with Brownlow conducted by Ann Harding in 2008, originally published in French but now re-published in English on her excellent blog, Ann Harding’s Treasures:

Update:
AMPAS has published videos of tributes paid to Kevin Brownlow and Kevin’s acceptance speech at the Governors Award ceremony:

There’s also a biography with filmography and a ‘did you know’ on Kevin Brownlow on the AMPAS site.

Kevin Brownlow accepting his award, from oscars.org

The running man

It is perhaps the most iconic of all photographic images. Eadweard Muybridge‘s running man (he made several photographic sequences of a man running, but I’m thinking of the one illustrated here) conjures up the very idea of photography. It has captured the instant, has brought a moment out of its specific time into all time. We can hear the click of the shutter. It is one of a sequence of twelve, any one of which can seen as representative, as all document the same action, but the point where both legs leave the air is the most quintessentially photographic. It is the image for which photography was made.

It is the point where the nineteenth century turns into the modern age. It doesn’t just offer a view of the past – it makes the past coterminous with us. He started running in 1887 and he is running still in 2010. The plain background accentuates the timelessness, leaving us nothing to contemplate save bare, unaccommodated man. It sums up who we are: hurtling forward from who knows where to who knows where, yet never really going anywhere. It simultaneously celebrates and laughs at progress.

The image has classical resonances. There is an echo of Ancient Greek statuary and the Olympic ideal, but the stronger echo is with Leonardo dan Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man‘ or the ‘Proportions of Man’, the idealised, perfectly proportioned figure inscribed within a circle and a square. Muybridge’s man, similarly ideally proportioned, is inscribed within a square. And Da Vinci’s image has an intimation of motion about it – the figure’s body is static but there are two sets of arms and two sets of legs, indicating that idealised man can only be revealed in movement. I run therefore I am.

The image is about time itself. Just as in times past a skull might be used as a memento mori, a means for the observer to contemplate the death that must come to us all, the running man obliges us to contemplate the ceaseless flow of time. The image seeks to defeat time by capturing the moment – the science of sequence photography that Muybridge inspired was called chronophotography, which means ‘picturing time’. A photograph does not capture time in any actual sense; it is a chemical (or now digital) illusion. But it does capture the idea of time, a thing for contemplation.

The image also represents the historical moment between the still image and the motion picture. Muybridge was interested in dissecting motion by capturing that which could not be detected by the naked eye, namely the individual elements of motion. He was not trying to create motion pictures (though he did experiment with these as a sideline). Motion pictures do not reveal the invisible as such; they replicate visible reality. But Muybridge’s vision and technical accomplishment led the way to motion pictures as others built on the logic of what he had established. It is right that he is the usual starting point for histories of film.

The running man is also telling us a story. One of the most engrossing elements of the Muybridge exhibition currently on show at Tate Britain is how it leads us to imagine Muybridge playing out the psychodrama in his head following his acquittal for the murder of his wife’s lover (and she died soon after). Much has been made of the women in his sequence photographs, shown as they are in submissive, playful, dancing, teasing, eroticised or domestic roles. The men, however, are all going somewhere, doing physical, masculine things – lifting, wrestling, throwing, marching, chopping, running. Muybridge himself appears (naked) in some sequences, and just as we can see all of the women in the photographs as Flora Muybridge, so all the men are Eadweard Muybridge, emblematised as the man running for the sake of running, wanting to be doing something that it is good for man to be seen doing, without really knowing why.

Then there is athletics itself. This is not just an image of a man out of time. It is a photograph, or a set of photographs, of an athlete. Competitive sports became hugely important in the late nineteenth century, and in 1878 Muybridge photographed members of the San Francisco Olympic Club. In 1884 he started work at the University of Pennsylvania, producing hundreds of photographic sequences, many of them showing athletes from the university. American universities were hotbeds of the new enthusiasm for sports, and sport was becoming an important expression of what it meant to be a (male) American. The running man is someone who ran with a purpose, who knew what it meant to run.

The sequence photographs of the running man did not come out of nowhere. Produced as part of Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion series (1887), they came as the culmination of an exceptional career in photography. As the exhibition makes clear, Muybridge was a photographer of considerable accomplishments long before he started photographing galloping horses and running men. His work ranged from stereoscopes (3D images) to extraordinary panoramas. He was a photographer of landscapes and cityscapes, always able to capture something beyond the mere replication of a reality. Even before he began his motion studies in the late 1870s he was revealing something of the mystery of time and motion in his work. The necessarily long exposures that came with wet plate photography meant that the apparent instant is really a record of the passage of seconds. The passing of time is reflected in the stillness.

The running man as an instantly recognisable symbol of what it is to be human is a part of modern culture. The man running ever forwards yet getting nowhere has been used in pop videos such as Talking Heads’ Road to Nowhere and U2’s Lemon. Videos inspired by Muybridge’s work, often inspired by the figure running endlessly against a black background with white lines, can be found all over such sites as YouTube and Vimeo, as modern artists demonstrate a compulsion to revisit his vision. Muybridge sequences have been used on posters, book covers, murals, television trailers and T-shirts. The running man even runs endlessly across twelve frames on the lenticular ruler I bought at the exhibition.

And then there is the science. For all that we can philosophise about time, or see the image(s) as depicting a crisis in the idea of masculinity, or see them for the inspiration they gave to artists such as Duchamp, Bacon and Twombly (and Muybridge wanted to inspire artists), the running man and all the other Animal Locomotion sequences were commissioned by a body of scientists. The University of Pennsylvania paid him $40,000 to undertake work of a scientific character, and the committee than oversaw his work included an anatomist, a neurologist and a physiologist. The running man was there to be studied. He was demonstrating the processes of human motion, revealing action and musculature as it had not been possible to show before. The white grid on the black background is there for scientific reasons: to gain the measure of a man.

The running man is not a complete work in itself. It/he is part of Plate 62 of Animal Locomotion; one of twelve images taken in succession (plus another twelve images giving a side-on view of the same action). It is one twelfth of a work that one cannot ever pin down. Looking at the twelve images in sequence does not really tell us what the work signifies; looking at one of the images does not give us the full work; looking at the sequence animated falsifies what Muybridge tried to achieve. And the man did not run forever, as the animations suggest. He ran from one end of the track to another. Then he stopped. Muybridge’s work is endlessly mysterious to contemplate.

The Muybridge exhibition at the Tate is a marvellous experience, and you should go if you can. It covers every aspect of his remarkable career, clearly explained and illuminatingly displayed. There are his haunting images of the Yosemite, the breathtaking panoramas of San Francisco, hypnotically beautiful cyanotypes (the blue-toned contact proofs from which published collotypes were made), and a Zoopraxiscope projector with which he exhibited proto-animation ‘films’ on disc based on his photographic sequences. A little more context, in the form of the works of his peers and those he has influenced, would have been welcome, but of his work there can be no complaint. OK, perhaps just one. In the exhibition there is no Plate 62. There is Plate 63, in which the same athlete runs a little faster, and not quite as iconically (he leans forward too much). The quintessential Muybridgean image isn’t there.

Sam Kula

Photograph of Sam Kula by Lois Siegel, www.siegelproductions.ca/ottawarocks/avtrust.htm

This is just a short notice to mark the sad passing of Sam Kula, one of the leading figures in international film archiving for many years. He was 77 years old and died at Ottawa General Hospital on Wednesday, 8 September 8, 2010. Sam joined the BFI in 1958 and became deputy curator under Ernest Lindgren, before joining the American Film Institute (where he was among those who oversaw the publication of the multi-volume AFI Catalog) and then the National Archives of Canada, where he established its film, sound and television section, serving as the director of the audiovisual archives 1973-1989. He served on the executive committee of FIAF, the international federation of film archives, and its television equivalent, FIAT, and was president of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) for two terms. He was also founding member of Canada’s Board of the AV Preservation Trust. He was the author of The Archival Apprisal of Moving Images (1983) and Appraising Moving Images: Assessing the Archival and Monetary Value of Film and Video Records (2002), and made notable contributions to moving image history and archiving in numerous authoritative articles.

Sam’s work encompassed the moving image medium in all its forms and for all periods. However one of the most notable incidents in his archival career related to the silent era: the Dawson City collection. He played a major role in the discovery, care and historiography of the extraordinary discovery of over 500 reels of silent film that were found in 1978 underneath a boarded-up swimming pool in Dawson City in the Yukon Territory, where the films had been buried in the permafrost (ideal archival conditions) for forty-nine years. The story of the find has been documented in an earlier Bioscope post. It is the film archivist’s romantic tale par excellence, and alone serves as memorial to one of world audiovisual archiving’s most dedicated servants.

There is a memorial web page with a guest book to sign.

The photograph of Sam Kula is by Lois Siegel, www.siegelproductions.ca/ottawarocks/avtrust.htm.

Salim Baba

From time to time I’ve been posting on the bioscope tradition in India and the delightful examples of the handful who preserve the tradition of the travelling bioscope showmen or bioscopewallahs by taking film projectors – sometimes of great age – into the streets to show film clips to audiences of eager children.

This phenomenon has been picked up on by a number of filmmakers, as noted in an earlier post about the bioscopewallahs. Some of these videos are available online, and we have already posted the wonderful Prakash Travelling Cinema about a man who tours the streets of Ahmedabad operating a c.1910 Pathé projector, handcranked but adapted for sound.

Children crowding round the street projector, from Salim Baba

Now another of the films has been published online, Salim Baba, a 15-minute documentary by Tim Sternberg, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2008 in the best short documentary category. It’s about as good a short film as you could hope to find – not startling in any way, just immaculately observant. It tells of 55-year-old Salim Muhammad, who lives in Kolkata and pushes round a small cart with a hand-cranked, customised projector of venerable age (one source says it is an 1897 Bioscope, another says that it is Japanese in origin). Again it has been adapted for sound, and he shows shows snippets of Bollywood songs and action sequences for a gaggle of excited children who crowd round the cart and pop their heads under a curtain to view the blurred and colour faded images. Salim inherited the tradition from his father, who used the same projector from the silent era onwards, and he is now passing it on to his sons. The love of cinema – its contents, its technology and its effect on people – fills the film. Do take a look.

A previous Bioscope post, The last bioscopewallah, tells Salim Muhammad’s story in greater detail.

Acknowledgments to the Documentary Blog where I found the link to the film.

The Muybridge controversy

Eadweard Muybridge, The Human and Animal Locomotion Photographs, published by Taschen

The long-awaited Eadweard Muybridge exhibition opens at Tate Britain on 8 September, running until 16 January 2011. The exhibition has been developed by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC, where it ran April-July under the title Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change. The Tate exhibition is entitled ‘Eadweard Muybridge: The Photographer who Proved Horses Could Fly’, which has to win some sort of an award for direst exhibition subtitle of the decade, but the change from the Washington show is significant. Because since the Muybridge show opened in America controversy has arisen over the authenticity of some of Muybridge’s works, and in particular the name ‘Helios’.

‘Helios’ was a name adopted by Eadweard Muybridge when marketing his photographs in the United States in the 1860s, in the period before he took up sequence photography. Muybridge had emigrated from the UK to the USA in 1851, when his surname was still that which his parents would have recognised, Muggeridge, and initially was involved in book selling. He moved to California and changed his name to Muygridge. After a traumatic stagecoach crash he returned to Britain in 1860. The biography is a bit vague for the next few years, but somewhere along the line he pick up considerable skills in the wet collodion photographic process. He returned to the United States in 1867, traded as Helios, and revealed himself to be a photographic genius (now named Muybridge), with stereoscopic and panoramic views of landscapes and cityscapes which reached the pinnacle of the art-form. Then in 1872 he was approached by railroad baron Leland Stanford to help settle a debate about whether a horses hooves left the ground when galloping, using rapid photography, and the rest was proto-motion picture history.

‘Helios’ photograph of Yosemite Falls, credited to Eadweard Muybridge, from Yosemite: Its Wonders and Its Beauties (1868) by John S. Hittell, c/o http://www.yosemite.ca.us. Note the ‘Helios’ credit in the bottom right-hand corner

The controversy lies in the ‘Helios’ period. Just as the Washington exhibition opened, a photography historian Weston Naef was interviewed for a fairly explosive three-part piece about Muybridge for Artinfo which claimed that much of Muybridge’s work at this time was the work of another photographer, Carleton Watkins, who photographed the Yosemite region at around the ame time as Muybridge. Here are the three parts:

You’ll have to read Naef’s interview to get the full conspiracy theory, but essentially he argues that Muybridge bought negatives from other photographers, particularly Watkins, marketing them under the ‘Helios’ name, then goes on to claim that Watkins taught Muybridge all he knew, sometimes standing over him to coach him (there is no evidence for either of those last two assertions). There are two aspects to this: the arguments and the conclusion. The arguments range from the intriguing to the silly. The silliest is where Naef says that no one could become a photographic genius with the speed that Muybridge showed, giving this reasoning:

It seems very likely that when Muybridge returned to San Francisco in 1867 that he would have acquired — in the same way he acquired patents and the rights to publish books — he would have used the same kind of method to establish himself in a new business in San Francisco, and that new business would have been as a publisher of photographs rather than as a maker of them. There is no evidence for how in 1868 he could have gained the mastery required to make many of the exceptional small works that are on view in the first several galleries. The mystery remains: When did Muybridge perform the 10,000 hours of practice in photography that people who are involved in studying the psychology of learning believe is required to become a world-class master in any subject?

What tosh. There are very few people who put in 10,000 hours of practice at anything and come out geniuses. They come out as averagely proficient. Geniuses tend to leap-frog the stages that we ordinary mortals have to follow, and to do so damn quickly. Muybridge was a photographic genius because he was gifted.

But if some of the reasoning is faulty (and I should add that Naef has many more arguments in favour of the photographer he admires, namely Watkins), the conclusion has an element of probability about it. Why might not have Muybridge marketed the work of others under the Helios trademark? He was a businessman before he became an artist (or scientist, depending on your point of view). It may have taken a while before he saw photographs as something he wanted to create rather than objects he wanted to sell. It’s a speculative area that merits further investigation, but with the realisation that this is but one small aspect of the career of a major creative artist. One of the exciting things about Muybridge is that we are still discovering so much about him, and that so many intriguing mysteries remain about him.

Naef’s allegations have led to all sorts of online speculation. The best responses have been Muybridge authority Stephen Herbert’s Muy Blog, which looks at Muybridge’s ‘lost’ years of the 1860s while artfully debunking Naef, and Rebecca Solnit, author of the excellent Muybridge biography Motion Studies (aka River of Shadows) whose piece in The Guardian ably defends Muybridge against the campaign of innuendo.

Part of Muybridge’s 1878 photographic panorama of San Francisco, from America Hurrah!

Meanwhile, there’s a major exhibition to enjoy, which promises to bring together “the full range of his art for the first time”, exploring the ways win which Muybridge created and honed such remarkable images, works which influenced artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Francis Bacon and Philip Glass’s music, and which continue to resonate powerfully with artists today. Highlights include a seventeen foot panorama of San Francisco and recreations of the Zoopraxiscope (pre-film motion pictures on a disc) in action.

Needless to say, plenty of associated publications and events will be around to coincide with the exhibition. Most exciting among the former is probably going to be Taschen’s monumental Eadweard Muybridge, The Human and Animal Locomotion Photographs (published 25 September), put together by Hans Christian Adam. This reproduces all 781 plates from Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion (1887), the entirety of The Attitudes of Animals in Motion (1881), and an authoritative chronology by Stephen Herbert. At long last it looks like we have a replacement for the venerable volumes produced by Dover Publications. No less essential will be Marta Braun’s new biography, Eadweard Muybridge, published on 24 September, by Reaktion. Plus there’s the exhibition book, Eadweard Muybridge, edited by Philip Brookman, and from the Tate shop an irresistible selection of Muybridgean goodies, including posters, bags, calendars, prints, postcards, notebooks, T-shirts, rulers, and the inevitable fridge magnets.

Muybridge photographic sequences, from http://www.taschen.com

On the events side, Muy Blog provides this list (with the promise of adding more as they emerge):

Eadweard Muybridge at Tate Britain
8 Sept – 16 Jan
Tate Britain, Millbank
First major UK retrospective of Muybridge’s entire career.
Tickets £10/£8.50 from htpp://www.tate.org.uk/britain

Muybridge in Kingston Launch Day
Sat 18 Sept 12.30-7pm
Kingston Museum & Stanley Picker Gallery
Public launch of the Muybridge in Kingston exhibitions with special events for all the family, including a magic lantern show from Professor Heard, shadow puppetry from Zannie Fraser and an evening launch lecture on Muybridge’s links to the history of the moving and projected image by Muybridge expert Stephen Herbert.
All welcome – no booking required.

Park Nights at Serpentine Gallery Pavilion
Becky Beasley & Chris Sharp
Fri 24 Sept 8pm
Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens
13 pieces, 17 feet is a monologue in thirteen parts that finds its point of departure in Muybridge’s extraordinary 1878 San Francisco panorama.
Tickets £5/£4 from http://www.serpentinegallery.org/park_nights/

Late at Tate: Eadweard Muybridge
Fri 1 Oct 6pm-10pm
Tate Britain, Millbank
An evening of Muybridge-inspired events.
Visit htpp://www.tate.org.uk/britain for further details.

In Conversation: Trevor Appleson
Wed 6 October 7pm
Stanley Picker Gallery
Exploring Muybridge’s influence on contemporary arts practitioners.
Limited seating – to reserve a FREE place please call 020 8417 4074

Muybridge & Moving Image History
Thurs 14 Oct, 28 Oct & 11 Nov 7pm
Kingston Museum
Evening lecture series offering unique insights into the relationship between Muybridge’s work and the history of visuality, film and animation.
Limited seating – to reserve a FREE place please call 020 8547 6460

See also the events programme given on the Muybridge at Kingston site (Kingston-on-Thames being the birth and deathplace of Muybridge and home of a huge collection of his works at its museum).

Once again, the Tate Britain exhibition runs from 8 September 2010 to 16 January 2011.

Well, all I can say is, beat that, Carleton Watkins.