Saturday, October 09, 2010

French Clowns 1905-1914 A-Z, Programme 6

Teatro Verdi, Pordenone (GCM) with e-subtitles in English and Italian and the Masterclass student Judith Rosenberg at the grand piano, 9 Oct 2010

Biographical notes by David Robinson. Film synopses supplied by the Archives Françaises du Film du Centre National de la Cinématographie, Bois d’Arcy. All prints from the Archives Françaises du Film (CNC), Bois d’Arcy. Text in italics from the GCM Catalogue.

(Jeanne Bloch, 1858-1916) For more than 40 years, from 1872, Jeanne Bloch was a major star of the Paris café-concerts, including notably the Alcazar d’hiver, the Scala, and the Parisiana. She was known as “La colossale chanteuse”, reckoned to be one metre sixty – in all directions. Her contemporary Paulus recalled in his memoirs, “Jeanne Bloch, she is laughter, gaiety, health, joie de vivre! She has the public in the palm of her hand! An extraordinary facial mobility, an intelligent  understanding of the stage allows her to undertake any role, child, cocotte, ingénue, working woman, woman of the world, a concierge. Her career will be brilliant. At this moment Jeanne Bloch is still the darling of the goodhumoured public which likes big effects and in-your-face comedy.”

Tartinette rêve aux exploits de Badigeon
(Tartinette's Dream), (Le Film Parisien, FR 1914), D: ?; cast: Jeanne Bloch (Tartinette), Fernand Frey (Badigeon); 35 mm, 171 m, 8 min (18 fps), b&w and tinted. French and English main title and intertitles.
Tartinette reads in the newspaper that Badigeon has just killed a lion. She wants to see this hero, and sets off for Marseille. On the way she falls asleep and dreams. She imagines herself in the brush with Badigeon, who declares her empress of the desert and dresses her in an animal skin. Tartinette gets lost in the forest, and Badigeon searches for her. Mistaking her for a tigress, he climbs up a tree. She teases him. Waking, her former ideal image of Badigeon is destroyed. - A good print. Tartinette is a sturdy funny lady. The disillusionment takes place in her dream.

At Pathé’s Comica Studio, Roméo Bosetti evidently sought a child comic in response to Gaumont’s Bébé and Bout de Zan and Éclair’s Willy. Unfortunately the identity of this naughty child is not known.The glue joke in La Colle forte de Titi looks very much as if it might have been borrowed from Klebolin klebt alles (1909), starring the 8-year-old Curt Bois.

La Colle forte de Titi
(Pathé Comica, FR 1913) D: ?; cast: ? (Titi); Pathé 5810; orig. l: 160 m.; 35 mm, 98 m, 4' (18 fps), incomplete (missing beginning and ending).
For a child as wild as Titi, any opportunity for stupid tricks will do. The malicious Titi teases grown-ups, putting them in crazy situations which he provokes with his pot of powerful glue. But, like the arroseur arrosé, he falls into his glue-pot, and so is punished for his tricks. - Print quality: the source is Pathé Kok. Ok comedy about the child's glue tricks. +

(Tommy Footit, 1884-1927) Tommy Footit was the eldest son of the famous British-born “white clown” George Footit (born Tudor Hall, 1864-1921). In 1886 the older Footit had teamed with Raphaël Padilla to become Footit et Chocolat, a star comedy act of the French circus for almost a quarter of a century and immortalized by Toulouse-Lautrec. In 1910 Footit split from Chocolat in order to work with his sons, but his career did not recover: for a while he ran his own circus, but ended as a barowner. Tommy Footit made seven films for Éclair in 1911. After the war he married Adrienne Lamy, daughter of the proprietor of the Cirque Lamy, but later became mentally disturbed and took his own life at the age of 43. Their sons Victor and George were also circus performers.

Tommy étrenne son cor de chasse
(Éclair, FR 1911) D: ?; cast: Tommy Footit (Tommy); 35 mm, 91 m, 4 min (18 fps), b&w and tinted; incomplete (missing ending).
In a shop, Tommy buys a hunting horn from a strange merchant. As soon as he begins to play he provokes real catastrophes, because his instrument is bewitched. People and objects fly in the air, houses collapse, all to Tommy’s great amusement. Everyone joins in a frenzied pursuit to prevent him from playing, but in vain. Thanks to his instrument he always gets away with it. - Print quality: from a heavily used source with tinting and toning, but the original fine definition of light shines through. A good comedy with funny reversed image effects related to the magic horn and a fine sense of the comedy of the catastrophe, where the world viewed perishes utterly. *

TOTO (1) Unidentified actor.

Les Farces de Toto gâte-sauce
(Pathé Frères, FR 1905) D: Georges Hatot; cast: ? (Toto); Pathé 1303; 35 mm, 87 m, 4 min (18 fps), b&w and tinted.
A young apprentice pastrycook commits non-stop pranks. His victims want to give him a good lesson, but the scamp shuts them in the hen-coop. - An ok print with toning. The escalation of tricks, the revenge of the child to his pursuers leading to a shock ending where he sets their cage on fire.

TOTO (2) An attempt by Pathé to launch a child star to compete with Gaumont and Éclair. The actor is unidentified.

Toto ne boira plus d'apéritif
(Pathé Frères, FR 1911) D: ?; cast: ? (Toto); Pathé 4525; orig. l: 100 m; 35 mm, 81 m, 4 min (16 fps); incomplete (missing ending). Preserved from a Mexican distribution print. Main title in Spanish; one intertitle, in Spanish.
Six-year-old Toto takes advantage of his father’s inattention in a café to smoke a cigarette and get himself an absinthe. A little later the child, now drunk, dances with the waiters. Suddenly, seized by violent feelings of nausea, he takes refuge in his astounded father’s arms, and promises not to smoke or drink absinthe ever again. - Image quality fair to pretty good. A strange story about a child smoking and drinking, with an educational ending.

(Willy Sanders, 1906-1990).The Liverpool-born William Sanders had a considerable success with his first film, The Man to Beat Jack Johnson, made by the British Tyler Company in 1910, and was immediately taken to Paris by the Éclair company, which saw him as a competitor to Gaumont’s mischievous infants, Bébé and Bout de Zan. By 1916, when his film career ended, he had made 65 films, generally directed by Joseph Faivre.

La Ruse de Willy
(Éclair, FR 1913) D: Joseph Faivre; cast: Willy Sanders (Willy); 35 mm, 179 m, 8 min (18 fps).
Mr. and Mrs. Plouff are shocked to learn that someone is stealing food from their larder. Mr. Plouff questions all the servants, but no one knows anything. Mr. Plouff sets a trap, spreading flour on the floor to track the thief’s footprints. That night the Plouffs’ son Willy secretly gets up and discovers the trap. The scamp pulls on one of his father’s shoes and one of his mother’s, and creeps into the kitchen, where he fills his belly, and then goes back to bed. The next day, faced with the incriminating footprints in the flour, Mr. and Mrs. Plouff accuse each other of the theft, but finish by realizing that someone has played a trick on them. The following night Mr. Plouff fills the shoes with extrastrong glue. Willy repeats his naughty escapade, and, after having eaten well, realizes that he cannot take off the shoes. He is astonished in his sleep by the two big shoes protruding from his bed. - Fair quality of the image, from a worn source, black levels ok. Willy attempts to frame his own parents as the noctural thiefs of food.

Le 1er duel de Willy
(Éclair, FR 1914) D: Joseph Faivre; cast: Willy Sanders (Willy); 35 mm, 162 m, 7 min (18 fps).
A big children’s party has been organized for Willy’s name-day. Willy pays court to Solange, a little girl of his own age. At table, Bob, a rival, plays footsie with her. Willy realizes this when his rival touches his foot by mistake. Angry, Willy challenges him to a duel. Before the confrontation, fixed for the following Thursday, Willy practices by fighting his toys. He makes his will and, on the day, declares his passion to his loved one. The boxing match takes place in the garden, but the little girl quickly runs to alert the boys’ mothers, who come and separate them. After explanations, Solange asks them to shake hands, and the two little boys kiss on the cheek. - Routine stuff.

ZIGOTO (Lucien Bataille) see Casimir

Zigoto et l'affaire du collier (Zigoto et le collier / La Trouvaille de Zigoto)
(Gaumont, FR 1911). D: Jean Durand; cast: Lucien Bataille (Zigoto), Berthe Dagmar (the actress), Gaston Modot (a theatre employee); 35 mm, 197 m, 9 min (18 fps). Restored in 2003 by Gaumont and the Archives françaises du film (CNC) from an original nitrate negative; intertitles reconstructed using an original scenario deposited at the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
The Viscount de Vieillenoix offers a pearl necklace to an actress he is wooing. But the following day the precious gift has vanished. The actress goes to a private detective agency. The chief of the agency assigns two detectives to the case, Stout and Zigoto, who have very different methods. Stout posts himself in front of the theatre to watch the comings and goings while sipping port. Zigoto however investigates very clumsily, leaving his own fingerprints at the site of the supposed theft and disturbing a gala show. Zigoto discovers nothing, until he finds the Viscount in possession of an identical necklace. For him there is no doubt of the thief’s identity; he leaps on the Viscount and arrests him. Meanwhile, Stout has fallen asleep in front of the theatre, where the maid drops the necklace out of the actress’s dressing-room window, straight into Stout’s hat. The two rival detectives arrive with their finds at the actress’s house. Stout triumphs; the defeated Zigoto is ridiculed. As for the happy actress, she now has two necklaces. - A good print. A comical cellar of the detectives. Witty intertitles. Pretty funny +

Zigoto, policier, trouve une corde
(Gaumont, FR 1912) D: Jean Durand; cast: Lucien Bataille (Zigoto), Gaston Modot;
Gaumont 3679; 35 mm, 88 m, 4 min (18 fps).
Zigoto finds a bull on the end of a rope, which throws him into an improvised corrida with a policeman. The little bovine passes a procession in which we recognize Onésime. Finally Zigoto goes crazy: he believes he is a bull, and charges at people seated outside a café. - A fair print, verging to high contrast. Dangerous-looking slapstick with the raging bull. +

Zigoto en pleine lune de miel (La Lune de miel de Zigoto)
(Gaumont, FR 1912) D: Jean Durand; cast: Lucien Bataille (Zigoto), Berthe Dagmar (Berthe); 35 mm, 118 m, 5 min (18 fps), b&w and tinted. Intertitles missing.
Zigoto cuddles with his new young wife Berthe on a sofa. Three friends arrive without the young couple showing the least interest, but continuing to hug and kiss on the sofa. The three men embark on a game of cards which degenerates into a brawl, and our two lovers, detached from the world, receive plates and chairs on their heads without even noticing. Fire breaks out in the kitchen, and two firemen arrive and break down the walls with pickaxes rather than extinguish the flames. The couple, still inseparable on their sofa, are soaked by jets of water. The ceiling collapses, and our young lovers continue to exchange kisses in the cellar into which they are precipitated. - A good print. A fine catastrophe comedy. The firemen as destroyers. +

Zigoto à la fête (Zigoto esta la fiesta)
(Comica, FR 1912) D: Roméo Bosetti; cast: Lucien Bataille (Zigoto), Gaston Modot; Pathé 4989; 35 mm, 117 m, 6 min (16 fps). Main title in Spanish; no intertitles.
Through his binoculars, Zigoto sees a funfair. Very enthusiastic, he decides to go to the shooting gallery. But he blinds one eye trying a pistol. Happily he still has one eye left. At the “Aunt Sally” (U.S.: cocoanut shy) stall he knocks out a policeman. No way discouraged, he continues his tour and visits the wax museum. Zigoto tickles a soldier, but the latter, all too real, defends himself, and the visit ends in general scrimmage. A little further on, he responds to the challenge of a wrestler, who quickly sends him waltzing in the air like a common rag doll. This time it is too much: Zigoto returns home, in rags and covered in bruises. - A fair image quality. Mayhem at the fair, at ths shooting gallery, at the waxworks, at the boxing ring. +

ZIZI (Zinel) Also played the character “Snob”, though nothing more is known of the actor.

Zizi fait des courses
(Lux, FR 1913) D: ?; cast: Zinel (Zizi); 35 mm, 91 m, 4 min (18 fps).
Zizi, a shop assistant, has to deliver a hat in a hat-box. On the way he meets his fiancée, and experiences various misdventures. The hat arrives in a pitiable state. - A fair image quality. Zizi as the errand boy. The story is an exercise on the many ways in which the exquisite hat can be battered.

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