Sunday, October 02, 2016

Al Christie – Directors


Mutt and Jeff Join the Opera (US 1911), D: Al Christie, photo: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Le Giornate del Cinema Muto: Al Christie
    A cura di Steve Massa.
    Screened at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, with e-subtitles in Italian (and in Somebody's Widow also in English), grand piano: Philip C. Carli, 2 Oct 2016

Al Christie as director

Mutt and Jeff Join the Opera (US 1911), D: Al Christie, photo: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

MUTT AND JEFF JOIN THE OPERA (US 1911). D: Al Christie. C: Sam Drane, Gus Alexander. PC: Nestor Films. Rel: 21.10.1911. DCP, 7’ (transferred at 18 fps); titles: ENG. Source: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

AA: A pretty crude farce based on the characters of the comic strip created by Bud Fisher. The comical exaggeration has a comic strip quality. Speech bubbles appear as subtitles over the image (see image above). Mutt and Jeff audition for the opera. Jeff is hired: "you will be our leading tenor". Mutt gets to sweep the street. Visual quality at times ok, at times low contrast, in a DCP from a source that is choppy at times.

Mutt and Jeff Discover a Wonderful Remedy (US 1911), D: Al Christie, photo: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

MUTT AND JEFF DISCOVER A WONDERFUL REMEDY (US 1911). D: Al Christie. C: Sam Drane, Gus Alexander. PC: Nestor Films. Rel: 28.10.1911. DCP, 9’ (transferred at 18 fps); titles: ENG. Source: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

AA: Another crude Mutt and Jeff farce. The approach is grotesque and clownish. Mutt and Jeff become quack doctors, establishing a reception of their own. The examination takes place with a big club. The main treatment: electric shocks. "We guarantee to make anything walk". Indeed, a wheelchair bound man walks having received a shock. But with a man on crutches it is different. Ok visual quality on the DCP.

His Friend the Elephant (US 1916), D: Al Christie, C: Harry Hamm, photo: Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, New Zealand.

HIS FRIEND THE ELEPHANT (US 1916). D: Al Christie. SC: Tom Gibson. C: Harry Hamm, Billie Rhodes, Harry Rattenberry, Eddie Barry, George French, Gus Alexander. PC: Christie Film Co. Rel: 13.11.1916. 35 mm, 935 ft, 14' (18 fps); titles: ENG. Source: Nga Taonga Sound & Vision, Wellington, New Zealand (from a 35 mm nitrate print deposited by Len Southward, preserved in exchange by the Museum of Modern Art, New York).

AA: This film is funnier and more in character with the Al Christie comedies noted for their pioneering role in the development of situation comedy and romantic comedy in the cinema. The father of the bride is unrelenting: no money, no bride. Harry gets an inheritance from his uncle. It is an elephant. "His troubles begin". Harry tries to get rid of the elephant but it follows him everywhere. "And you told me you worked in a bank". Two strangers from India are interested in the animal. Before selling the elephant to them Harry discovers a purse full of jewels behind its ear. Funny.

Director Horace Davey

OPERATING ON CUPID (US 1915). D: Horace Davey. SC: Al Christie. C: Neal Burns, Billie Rhodes, Ray Gallagher. PC: Nestor Films. Rel: 29.11.1915 (1,000 ft). dist: Universal. 35 mm, 633 ft, 9' (18 fps); titles: ENG. Source: EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.

AA: A black comedy. It starts in a Mélièsian hospital where all kinds of operations seem possible. There is a triangle drama between a beautiful nurse, an amorous doctor, and the woman's true love. It seems that the doctor gets to operate on his rival. "There is something wrong with his heart". There is a brutal chase and plenty of wild slapstick. An ok print.

Director Scott Sidney

SOMEBODY’S WIDOW (De dertiende man / Een ware comedie) (US 1918). D: Scott Sidney. C: Billie Rhodes (Mary), Cullen Landis (Jack), Billy Bevan. PC: Strand Comedies / Caulfield Photoplay Co. Rel: 29.01.1918 (1 rl.). dist: Mutual. 35 mm, 888 ft, 13' (18 fps); titles: NLD. Source:EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.

AA: A situation comedy, a romantic comedy. A screenwriter and his male secretary have retreated to a holiday beach to focus on work. There is a parody on cliffhangers in the meta-story that the men are writing. On the beach Al Christie's bathing beauties indulge in fun and games. The men are so immersed in work that they do not notice the beauties at all. Until it's time to relax. Mary (Billie Rhodes) poses as a widow: "they always fall for the widow". The secretary knows that the widow business is a bluff. Disguised as the long lost husband: "I have come from the bottom of the ocean to reclaim you". There is a wild chase until the bluff is revealed. Funny.

Director Reggie Morris

Father's Close Shave (US 1920), D: Reggie Morris, C: Laura La Plante, Margaret Cullington, Johnny Ray, photo: Collezzione Steve Massa.

FATHER’S CLOSE SHAVE (US 1920). D: Reggie Morris. C: Johnny Ray, Margaret Cullington, Laura La Plante, Phil Dunham, Edgar Blue, Gene Corey [Gino Corrado], Ward Caulfield, Eddie Baker, Helen Gilmore, Claire Lopez. PC: Christie Film Co. Rel: 16.05.1920 (2 rl.). dist: Pathe. 35 mm, 1803 ft, 24' (20 fps); titles: ENG. Source: Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, Culpeper, VA (preserved 1999).

AA: A farce based on the comic strip Bringing Up Father created by George McManus. Three black kids are reading Bringing Up Father comics which come alive as this film. Maggie is throwing a party, and Jiggs must hide. Jiggs tries to escape on a rope and through the chimney. The "sophisticated party" is a crazy event sporting a count found from the gutter. The perforated paper roll of the player piano gets torn, and Jiggs's cigars keep exploding. Bathing beauties surround Jiggs. There is general mayhem, a wild chase, and lots of slapstick. We return to the kids reading the comics. Overdone, not very funny. An ok to good print.

Director Frederic Sullivan

A PAIR OF SEXES (US 1921). D: Frederic Sullivan. SC: Sam Taylor. C: Neal Burns, Viora Daniel, Henry Murdock, Lillian Biron, Ward Caulfield, Earle Rodney, Dagmar Dahlgren. PC: Christie Film Co. Rel: 10.09.1921 (2 rl.). dist: Educational Pictures. DCP, 20'; titles: ENG. Source: Lobster Films, Paris.

AA: A situation comedy, a mix-up comedy. Jimmy returns home on a quarantined ship without knowing that his wife has moved. At (his former) home there is a surprise: baby twins. At once Jimmy takes them with him to the office, and there is a huge celebration complete with a brass band. The comedy of the mix-up and the misunderstanding is well directed. There is a funny dance sequence and a great chase sequence. Art titles. Visual quality: low contrast on the DCP. Funny.

Directors Harold Beaudine & William Beaudine

NAVY BLUES (US 1923). D: Harold Beaudine. SC: M. B. Hageman. C: Dorothy Devore, Jimmy Harrison, William Irving, Ogden Crane, Ward Caulfield. PC: Christie Film Co. Rel: 01.09.1923 (1,000 ft). dist: Educational Pictures. incomp., DCP, 11' (transferred at 24 fps); no titles. Source: Lobster Films, Paris.

AA: Romantic comedy with cross-dressing and slapstick. It starts with a Navy wedding. Like in Behind the Door the wife gets aboard the ship. This is a cross-dressing story: she dresses as a male sailor. There are comic scenes of washing the ship and participating in drill exercises. There is slapstick, everybody is getting soaking wet, including the captain. There is a long good chase until justice is delivered: the husband gets 30 days of leave. They leave on a biplane. Navy Blues has been shot on actual Navy ships. Cartoons are by Norman Z. McLeod. Funny.

Director William Watson

LONG HOSE (US 1928). D: William Watson. SC: Sig Herzig. titles: Al Martin. C: Jack Duffy, Gale Henry, Jimmy Harrison, Gayle Lloyd, Eddie Baker. PC: Christie Film Co. Rel: 17.03.1928 (2 rl.). Dist: Paramount Pictures. incomp., DCP, 10' (transferred at 24 fps); titles: ENG. Source: Lobster Films, Paris.

AA: A fire brigade comedy, a romantic comedy among seniors. There are the classic ingredients of a fire brigade comedy. The village is so small that there is room but for one fire at a time. The widow's store catches fire, and the fire brigade appears, but somebody substitutes gasoline for water. There is a horrible explosion and true danger as the widow is still in the burning house. The veteran fire chief rescues the widow personally. Lots of physical comedy with the dangerously swinging ladder (the stunt does seem perilous), water jets and a water basin. Funny.

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