Le charmeur 1907

 

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A Brahman stuffs a serpent into a cocoon, and a butterfly woman comes out. She makes more butterflies come out of the same cocoon till a whole crowd of them are swarming the jungle. When the Brahman tries to catch the queen she turns him into the serpent who slinks off into the jungle.

—Tornado_Sam

Director: Segundo de Chomón

Director: Segundo de Chomón

Tragedy of the street 1927

Also known as Dirnentragödie (1927) German silent movie

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Before road movies there were street films, a distinct cycle within German silent cinema. The essential ingredient – misalliance between bourgeois and slum dweller – is present here, though somewhat displaced by Asta Nielsen’s star persona. She plays an aging hooker who falls for handsome Felix, a student who has rowed with his parents and ventured into the lower depths. Dreaming of a new life, she ejects her pimp and invests her savings in a cake shop. Even without that title, though, you wouldn’t bet on a happy ending. Nielsen is a quite restrained sort of diva, and Rahn likewise soft pedals the melodrama, except for the grand finale. He died soon after making this, his contemporaries regretting the masterworks the cinema was thus denied. Well, maybe. ×

Director : Bruno Rahn
Music composed by : Felix Bartsch
Story by : Wilhelm Braun
Screenplay : Leo Heller , Ruth Goetz

Stars: Asta Nielsen, Hilde Jennings, Oskar Homolka

Sorry no English subtitles

Little Tich and his Big Boot Dance 1900

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Filmed in 1900 and released in 1903, this clip from director Clément Maurice, shows the English performer Little Tich performing his famous “Big Boot Dance”. Born Harry Relph, Little Tich was a 4 foot 6 inch (137 cm) tall English music hall comedian and dancer best known for his seemingly gravity-defying routine accomplished by the wearing of boots with soles 28 inches (71 cm) long. Originally gaining fame as a “blackface” artist, promoters on his 1887 U.S. tour made him drop the act (fearing the British accent would ruin the “illusion”) and so in its place Little Tich developed and perfected his Big Boot Dance, a full 100 years before Michael Jackson would lean in similar fashion for his “Smooth Criminal” music video. Returning to England in the 1890s, Little Tich made his West End debut in the Drury Lane pantomimes and toured Europe before setting up his own theatre company in 1895. He continued to star in popular shows until his death from a stroke in 1928 at the age of 60.

 

 

 

 

 

Feature The Clown (Klovnen) 1917

In this love story, set in Paris, the successful circus clown Joe falls in love with Daisy, a dancer.

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Essay by Shari Kizirian

Alone in the center ring, a white-faced clown sings. Rather than making the crowd laugh, he draws tears. This trope is as familiar today as it was in cinema’s earliest days, when the circus and the cinema were more closely linked. According to Italian scholar Carlo Piccardi, “In its first decade the cinema had installed itself in carnivals, sharing its wonderful performances with the coarse spectacles presented by jugglers, acrobats and clowns. It was an often vulgar spectacle among even more vulgar spectacles….”

But unlike cinema, the clown’s lineage is ancient. Since ridiculing humanity’s foibles in Greek, Roman, and medieval literature, the clown has diversified into several distinct stock characters whose origins have been subsumed over time. From Pagliacci to Chaplin’s Little Tramp, from Bozo to Crusty, the clown in all its variety continually pops up in our literature, on our stages, and in our moving images. The white-faced version was first introduced as Pedrolino, in the Italian commedia dell’arte, and popularized in France in the 16th and 17th centuries as Pierrot. At Paris’s Théâtre des Funambules, an innovative Bohemian émigré with the naturalized name of Jean-Gaspard Deburau dressed in baggy white clothes and silently, sometimes violently, mooned over Columbine, introducing mid-19th century Europe to the lovesick clown. The absinthe-soaked poets of the Romantic period like Verlaine transformed him from pathetic to demented in a few stanzas. Russian playwright Leonid Andreyev set the 20th century bar to the grotesque with 1919’s He Who Gets Slapped, about the slighted clown out for revenge. Victor Sjöström and Tod Browning via their changeling Lon Chaney brought the new, mad clown to an international audience.

A.W. Sandberg’s The Golden Clown fits somewhere between the lovelorn and the macabre, its story mirroring in many ways that of the real-life Deburau, or at least his myth. Working the hinterlands in a tight-knit, family-owned circus in France, Joe Higgins (Gösta Ekman) plays a version of Pierrot, surprising the local crowd with his talent by singing a sad and beautiful song inspired by his love for the circus owner’s daughter. A Somebody from the Big City happens to be in the audience and the clown goes from sideshow to star in an instant, changing the entire family’s fate. They are thrust into the high life of Jazz Age Paris. Swanky hotels, fine dining, and all the couture money can buy are not enough, and the clown’s once easy-to-please girl, finally his wife, seeks out other urbane pleasures. (The real-life Deburau’s trouble began when he murdered a man who insulted his wife. Crowds turned out for his trial to hear the great mime finally speak. Marcel Carné later told a version of his story in 1945’s The Children of Paradise.)

Shot in Denmark and France, the film is beautifully photographed by Chresten Jørgensen, with imagery ranging from naturalistic landscapes in the countryside to stunning modernist sets on the Paris stage. But The Golden Clown might owe its visual flair more to its director, a former press photographer who started at Nordisk as a cameraman in 1914. Anders Wilhelm Sandberg’s career then followed the highs and lows of the Copenhagen-based studio where he worked most of his professional life.

During the years from 1910 to 1916, Nordisk produced 736 fiction films and Danish movies became synonymous with the salacious—and box-office gold. Beginning with The White Slave and Asta Nielsen’s racy star turn in Afgrunden, Danish exports kept movie censors busy around the world. “From no other country is there sent out such a dung-heap of improper and morally damaging film as from Denmark,” one small-town editor complained in 1913.

Similar films were fertilizer for Nordisk’s fortunes and, before World War I, the studio had a sales presence on every continent and began spending money on higher production values, location shoots, big-name actors, and literary adaptations. In July 1918, the Danish author and screenwriter Aage Barfoed exhorted the film industry to follow a neighbor’s example: “Sweden has accomplished the feat of creating a distinctive film genre. Now it is our turn, if we want to make our mark in the world market. And what is to be done? One thing! We must imprint our films, like all art, with Danish distinctiveness … Our literature, our painting, our music has a rich, a deep and genuine cultural tone. Seize that and make it come alive on the screen!”

Sandberg soon became Nordisk’s leading director, having come up on comedy shorts and detective serials (five installments of The Man with Nine Fingers). His breakthrough film, 1917’s Klovnen (The Clown), starred Denmark’s renowned Valdemar Psilander, whose prodigious output totaled 83 films before he committed suicide at age 32. Released two months after Psilander’s death, the original Klovnen was an enormous hit. The studio then gave Sandberg free rein to adapt Dickens novels, which film historian Graham Petrie says were the director’s true passion. He made Our Mutual Friend (1921), David Copperfield (1922), Great Expectations (1922), and Little Dorrit (1924). Britain’s Pall Mall and Globe Gazette called Our Mutual Friend “worthy representation of one of our best classics,” but the cost of these faithful screen versions became too much for the now ailing studio. A world economy, crippled in the aftermath of war, coupled with disappointing receipts ended Sandberg’s run of lavish adaptations.

In an attempt to resuscitate Nordisk’s former vitality, the studio reverted to the tried and true. Remakes now filled Sandberg’s schedule, including Klovnen, this time with Swedish import Gösta Ekman in the lead role, Danish diva Karina Bell as his sweetheart, and, playing her father, Maurice de Féraudy, who had made his name in Comédie-Française, cast, no doubt, with an eye to the French market. The film itself is steeped in nostalgia, eulogizing in sweet, reverent tones the tranquil days of touring the French countryside in a horse-drawn wagon. Success and city life tear all that asunder, of course, and the parallel to Sandberg’s own rise and fall must have added some personal poignancy to what turned out to be the director’s last Nordisk film.
He left for Berlin, making a couple films there for Terra, working again with some of his old colleagues: cameraman Jørgensen, scriptwriter Poul Knudsen, and stars Bell and Ekman. Talkie assignments came in stutters, his directing career petering out in 1937. According to the biography provided by the Danish Film Institute, he died in 1938 at a spa in Bad Nauheim, Germany, after a long illness. Assessing Sandberg’s films in 1944, critic Harald Engberg surmised that the director’s style had served him well in Nordisk’s heyday but it might have kept him from greatness. While praising him for his craftsmanship, sensitivity, and “photographic superiority,” Engberg thought he simply did not have the stuff of fellow Danes Carl Dreyer and Benjamin Christensen. “He was not a rebel and experimenter,” concluded Engberg, “and altogether prey to the tastes of his time.”

The white-faced clown, on the other hand, has endured, albeit as permutations that suit the time and the creator. Marcel Carne politicized him in The Children of Paradise. Jean-Luc Godard modernized him in Pierrot le fou. Christopher Nolan eulogized him in The Dark Knight. But we’ve not seen his end—his appeal at once his venerable ancestry and his eternal capacity for renewa

Director: A.W. Sandberg
Writers: A.W. Sandberg, Laurids Skands
Stars: Valdemar Psilander, Gudrun Houlberg, Peter Fjelstrup

 

or with added English subtitles

Scenes at His Excellency the Viceroy’s Garden Party at Belvedere 1926

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Part of India on Film: 1899 – 1947
This collection of newly digitised films is part of the BFI’s contribution to the UK-India Year of Culture 2017, in partnership with the British Council. View more films on BFI Player

A summer garden party in 1920s Calcutta – Indian high society enjoy themselves at a Calcutta garden party held to welcome the new Viceroy, Lord Irwin.

This film gave Indian cinema audiences the chance to rub shoulders with India’s elite and catch a glimpse of the men who ruled their country – and their families. We see not one but two Viceroys: Lord Irwin (shown in the first table shots) became Viceroy in April 1926 after Lord Lytton (who was Governor of Bengal and is seen in the second table shot) filled the post on a temporary basis.

The party was held at Belvedere House, the Viceregal residence before India’s capital was moved from Calcutta to Delhi in 1911. While we can name the key British figures in the film, the identity of the Indian guests is unknown, nor does the film identify them.

The film was likely to have been made by Madan Theatres Ltd., an Indian cinema chain. Later shots show Lady Dorothy Wood (Irwin’s wife) and Lytton’s wife Pamela as well as their children, Ann Wood and Anthony and Davina Bulwar-Lytton, who are seated at a ‘children’s table’ along with an Indian royal prince. In spite of these festivities, Irwin’s period as viceroy was not easy as he oversaw intense Indian protests for further political devolution and was forced to negotiate with Gandhi to bring the nationwide Civil Disobedience movement to an end.

Walking back 1928

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(SILENT)Jazz age youngster Smoke Thatcher “borrows” a neighbor’s car to take Patsy, his sweetheart, to a dance after his father refuses to lend him his car. A car-fight with a rival results in the borrowed automobile’s being so wrecked that Smoke cannot return it. The garage to which he and Patsy take the car for repair turns out to be actually a gang’s hideaway and a place where stolen cars are brought and later fenced. The gangsters compel Smoke, accompanied by Patsy, to drive a getaway car, promising enough money to replace the neighbor’s car. The gang robs the bank where Smoke’s father is employed, and they shoot Thatcher in making their getaway. Forced to leave his father wounded in the street, Smoke makes a wild drive through the city, ending up at the police station. He is rewarded for “capturing” the crooks.

—Lloyd Purvis

Directors: Cecil B. DeMille, Rupert Julian
Screenplay: Monte M. Katterjohn
Producer: Cecil B. DeMille
Cinematography: John J. Mescall

Stars: Richard Walling, Sue Carol, Robert Edeson

Newman Laugh-O-Gram 1921

 

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iconauta
Published on 9 May 2018

In the 21st century, when the name Disney is associated with a media conglomerate that has become the embodiment of cultural imperialism, it might be a surprise to see “Newman Laugh-O-Grams”. This is probably Walt Disney’s first credit. The title is based on the theater where it ran. It appears to be based on advertisements that ran in Kansas City, where Walt Disney lived before moving to Hollywood. He made a series of shorts called Laugh-O-Grams, but the studio folded after a year or two due to lack of funds. Once he moved to southern California, the rest is history.
Among the other people who worked at Laugh-O-Gram Studio were Ub Iwerks and Friz Freleng (the latter of whom famously became one of the directors of the Looney Tunes cartoons).
This short is nothing special, just a peek at Disney’s early work.
Disney’s beginning by Lee Eisenberg: