Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Paul Spehr: "In April 1894 Dickson left Edison under a cloud. He was accused of helping a potential rival, the Latham family, develop a competing camera and projector. The extent to which he aided the Lathams is open to question – everyone, himself included, denies his involvement, but he was the most experienced of those involved, so suspicions remain. But there is no question that he aided his friends Elias B. Koopman, Harry Marvin, and Herman Casler (the KMCD group) in developing a moving image system that was soon Edison’s principal domestic competition. The American Mutoscope Co. was created at the end of 1895 (almost simultaneously with the premiere of the Lumières’ Cinématographe). The company was initially formed to exploit its peepshow machine, the Mutoscope, but the sensation caused by the Cinématographe, followed by the popularity of Edison’s Vitascope, caused them to change course and offer projection. Dickson’s skill as a filmmaker was one of the company’s chief assets. He was responsible for film production, and he elaborated the system he created for Edison. His new studio was an improved design; facilities to develop and process film were more elaborate; and the staff hired and trained included Billy Bitzer and Arthur Marvin – names familiar to Griffith enthusiasts. But by the summer of 1896, when they were ready to make films, it was clear that audiences wanted variety, and favored films taken on location, so even though the company’s camera was designed for studio work it was taken on the road. After establishing production in New York, which Dickson called “Biographing”, he moved on to London and repeated the process in England. Production facilities in France and Germany followed." Paul Spehr
ANNABELLE IN FLAG DANCE / FLAG DANCE BY ANNABELLE (American Mutoscope Co., US 1896). Supv: W.K.L. Dickson; ph: ?; cast: Annabelle Whitford; filmed: rooftop studio, New York City, summer 1896; AMCo. Prod. No. 35; 35mm [blow-up from 16mm], 22 ft., 20” (18 fps); print: LoC. No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "Sandow and Peerless Annabelle were the first performers filmed by the new American Mutoscope Co. Annabelle reprised her Butterfly Dance and several others, among them this example of American patriotism." Paul Spehr
HARD WASH (American Mutoscope Co., US 1896) Supv: W.K.L. Dickson; ph: G.W. “Billy” Bitzer; cast: “Jo-Jo” & his mother; filmed: rooftop studio, NewYork City, summer 1896; © 1896 68818 & 1903 H32079; AMCo. Prod.No. 39; 35mm [blow-up from 16mm], 22 ft., 20” (18 fps); print: LoC. No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "This scene of an African-American woman vigorously scrubbing a black baby was immensely popular with early audiences, and was featured on Biograph’s programs in London and Paris, as well as various locations in the U.S. Edison’s almost identical version, A Morning Bath, was made a few weeks after this was first shown." – Paul Spehr
RIP VAN WINKLE: RIP’S TOAST (American Mutoscope Co., US 1896) Supv: W.K.L. Dickson; ph: G.W. Bitzer; cast: Joseph Jefferson; filmed: Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, late August 1896; © 1896 69095 & 1902 H25401; AMCo. Prod. No. 45; 35mm [blow-up from 16mm pos.], 33 ft., 29” (18 fps); print: LoC. No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "Dickson filmed Joseph Jefferson in scenes from his most popular role, Rip Van Winkle. Seven films were made outdoors at Jefferson’s Massachusetts estate. Jefferson had commissioned Dion Boucicault’s adaptation of Washington Irving’s popular tale, and had been touring in it since 1865. Jefferson’s son Charles B. Jefferson was the producer of Sandow’s variety show, which contracted for the first public showing of the Biograph projection (in September 1896), and he probably arranged this filming. Although this is probably the first multi-part drama ever filmed, before 1900 the 7 scenes were rarely shown as a grouping. This scene, Rip’s Toast, is the one that most early audiences saw." – Paul Spehr
MCKINLEY AT HOME, CANTON, OHIO (Wm. McKinley Receiving Telegram Announcing His Election) (American Mutoscope Co., US 1896) Supv: W.K.L. Dickson; ph: G.W. Bitzer; cast: William McKinley; filmed: Canton, Ohio, 18.9.1896; © 1896, 61793; AMCo. Prod. No. 72; 35mm [blow-up from 16mm pos.], 49.5 ft., 44” (18 fps); print: LoC. No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "The first political campaign film. It was staged to show the Republican presidential candidate William McKinley in a manner suiting his wellpublicized front porch campaign. The tranquil scene of McKinley and an assistant strolling from his porch to a sunny spot in front of the camera masked the hubbub of a day that was the busiest of the campaign. Trainloads of supporters streamed into Canton, Ohio, and paraded to McKinley’s house,where the candidate greeted them from a platform at the front of the yard – conveniently off-camera. This film, and 4 films of a campaign parade that same day, were undoubtedly made at the behest of McKinley’s supporters. Abner McKinley, the candidate’s brother, was a stockholder in the American Mutoscope Co., and a number of railroad executives were on the company’s board. McKinley’s campaign had strong support from railroad companies, who gave particular assistance to the events of the day by offering cheap train rides from Pittsburgh,major points in Ohio, and as far away as Chicago for groups supporting McKinley. The film was shown on 12 October 1896, at the company’s official New York premiere, to an invited audience of party officials and railroad executives, who cheered, demanded a re-run, and were embarrassed when they realized that they had shouted “Speech! Speech!” to a shadow on a screen. On 2 November 1896, Election Day, it was projected on an outside screen at the NewYorkWorld’s Pulitzer Building as part of the paper’s election coverage." – Paul Spehr
EMPIRE STATE EXPRESS NO. 1 (Empire State Express, N.Y. Central R.R.) (American Mutoscope Co., US 1896) Supv: W.K.L. Dickson; ph: G.W. Bitzer; filmed: Palatine, NY, [2].10.1896; © 1897 68807 & 1902 H30327; AMCo. Prod. No. 77; 35mm [blow-up from 16mm pos.], 21.5 ft., 19” (18 fps); print: LoC. No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "Dickson, with Bitzer as his assistant, filmed the NewYork Central Railroad’s crack train, the Empire State Express, running at the record speed of 60 miles per hour. According to the Canastota Bee, 3 October 1896, the film was taken at Palatine, near Canastota,NewYork, the home of Henry Marvin and Herman Casler of the American Mutoscope Co. According to a contemporary timetable, the train was due at Palatine at 12:13 pm. This film was a sensation wherever it premiered, and was probably the initiator of the reports that early audiences fainted and ducked under their seats. Such reports appeared in papers in New York, London, and Paris following the first showing. [Note: This is a blow-up from a 16mm copy made from a Paper Print, and does not reflect the film’s original pictorial quality.]" – Paul Spehr
NIAGARA FALLS: AMERICAN FALLS FROM LUNA ISLAND + AMERICAN FALLS FROM GOAT ISLAND (American Mutoscope Co., US 1896) Supv: W.K.L. Dickson; ph: G.W. Bitzer; filmed: Niagara Falls, NY, 9.1896; © 1897 3553 & 1903 H30732 + © 1897 3560 & 1903 H30733;AMCo. Prod. No. 63 + 64; due film assieme/2 films combined, 35mm, 71 ft., 38” (30? fps); print: MoMA. No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "The first movie audiences took particular delight in scenes of rushing, churning water. These scenes of Niagara Falls were taken in September 1896, while Dickson and Bitzer were filming McKinley and the Empire State Express. It is no coincidence that New Yorkers (and others) going to the Falls might travel on the Empire State Express.When Dickson and his partners, Marvin, Casler, and Koopman, created the American Mutoscope Co. their objective was advertising first; entertainment was an afterthought. Recent scholarship has compared these and similar films to 19th-century paintings of the Falls by Frederic Edwin Church,William Morris Hunt, and others (see “Experiencing Nature in Early Film,” by Katherine Manthorne, in Early Film and American Artistic Traditions, Hudson Hills Press & Williams College, 2005). Dickson was probably familiar with these paintings.He was not alone in filming the Falls.His trip to Niagara coincided with that of Alexandre Promio for Lumière, and Edison’s James White and William Heise arrived soon after." – Paul Spehr
CHARGE PAR ESCADRONS, EXÉCUTÉE PAR LE 1er RÉGT. DE CUIRASSIERS (Charge of the French Cuirassiers – Paris) (The Mutoscope & Biograph Syndicate, GB 1897) Supv: W.K.L. Dickson; ph: ?; filmed: Bois de Boulogne, Paris; 8/9.1897;AMCo. Prod.No. 83E; 35mm, 700 frames (44 ft.), 23.5” (30? fps); print: NFM. Preservato Preserved from a 68mm original. No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "After launching production in London Dickson traveled to the Continent; the first stop was Paris, where this restaging of a familiar Lumière subject was made. Dickson had undoubtedly seen the Lumières’ film, as it was one of the most popular films on the program at the Union Square Theater during the summer of 1896, and the theater was only a short walk from the American company’s New York headquarters. In an effort to intensify the effect of the assault, the horses charge the camera, passing on both sides. As described by H.L. Adam (in his article “Round the World for the Biograph”, published in The Royal Magazine, June 1901): “At another military display, in France, the photographer confesses that he himself was nearly answerable for the premature quietus of a fellow creature. It was a charge of Cuirassiers, and as they were approaching,Mr. Dickson waved his hand as a signal for them to take a slightly different direction. They answered to the signal, swerved, collided, and down went one of their number, biting the dust in curious confusion.” – Paul Spehr
A CAMP OF ZINGAREE GYPSIES (The Mutoscope and Biograph Syndicate, GB 1897) Supv: W.K.L. Dickson; ph: ?; filmed: near Budapest, 9.1897; AMCo. Prod. No. 87E; 35mm, 41 ft., 27” (30? fps); print: NFM. Preserved from a 68mm original. No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "In September 1897 Dickson was in Austria-Hungary and Germany to film subjects suitable for European audiences – and those in the U.S. as well. While in Budapest he went to the countryside to film local scenes. As described in the Biograph Company’s 1902 catalogue: “The real Zingari gypsy is an exceedingly picturesque person, quite different from the wandering nomads we are accustomed to see in America.Our photographer was very fortunate in getting one of these camps by the side of a Hungarian highway, and his work was so successful that one could hardly get a better insight into the life of the strange people if he were to spend months traveling in their own country.The naked children are rolling about on the grass with the dogs, the women are smoking pipes and cooking the evening meal over an out-door fire.The mother is telling fortunes for a stranger, and the whole scene is one of animation. Photographically the view is almost perfect.”" – Paul Spehr
MILITARY EXERCISE – ALDERSHOT (A Terrible Spill) (The Mutoscope and Biograph Syndicate, GB 1898) Supv: W.K.L. Dickson; ph: ?; filmed: Aldershot, England, 18.2.1898; AMCo. Prod. No. 108E; 35mm, 896 frames (56 ft.), 29” (30? fps); print: NFM. Preserved from a 68mm original. No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "Military subjects were consistent crowd-pleasers, and this film showing a near fatal accident was especially popular. As described in the company’s 1902 catalogue: “One of the best known and one of the most sensational moving pictures ever made. ... Our camera was stationed at the side of an English run-way filled with obstructions, which is used for cavalry exercises, at Aldershot. Picture to be taken was a number of hussars jumping one of the stiffest of the obstacles. The horses came over in fine form, one after another, until almost the end of the picture,when one of them slips throwing the cavalryman over his head and falling heavily on top of him.The other horsemen immediately following barely escape landing on the prostrate horse and man. The latter was severely injured. At the end of the picture several soldiers are seen running up, picking him up and carrying him away.”" – Paul Spehr
CONWAY CASTLE – PANORAMIC VIEW OF CONWAY ON THE L. & N.W. RAILWAY (Conway Castle) (The Mutoscope and Biograph Syndicate, GB 1898) Supv: W.K.L.Dickson; ph: Emile Lauste; filmed: Conway,Wales, 2.1898; AMCo. Prod. No. 107E; 35mm, 142 ft., 2’11” (30? fps), col. (printed on colour stock, reproducing original hand-colouring?); print: NFM. Preserved from a 68mm original. No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "The Irish Mail train filmed on the London & Northwest Railway at Conway, Wales. One of the most popular of the “phantom ride” films, it shows a panorama of the countryside and the castle as the train runs through the Welsh countryside." – Paul Spehr
IRISH MAIL – L. & N.W. RAILWAY – TAKING UP WATER AT FULL SPEED! (The “Jennie Dean” – Bushey) (The Mutoscope and Biograph Syndicate, GB 1898) Supv: W.K.L.Dickson; ph: Emile Lauste; filmed: Bushey, England, 2.1898; AMCo. Prod. No. 112E; 35mm, 116 ft., 1’54” (30? fps); print: NFM. Preserved from a 68mm original. No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "On the same trip promoting the Irish Mail, Dickson captured this remarkable scene, on the London & Northwest Railway, at Bushey, England. The camera is mounted on a train running parallel with the Irish Mail, pulled by an engine named the Jennie Dean. During the filming a third train passes between the two.Near the end of the shot the trains change tracks, allowing a better angle for recording the process of taking water from troughs along the track." – PAUL SPEHR
FEEDING THE PIGEONS IN ST. MARK’S SQUARE, VENICE (The Mutoscope and Biograph Syndicate, GB 1898) Supv: W.K.L. Dickson; ph: Emile Lauste; cast: W.K.L. Dickson; filmed: 5-6.1898; 35mm, 79 ft., c.50” (24 fps); print: BFI National Archive, London. Preserved from a 68mm original (Schultze Collection). No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "While in Italy to persuade Pope Leo XIII to appear on film Dickson made several side trips for filming. Most were to film supplementary religious subjects, but in Venice he filmed tourist sites. His appearance in this film, shot in front of St. Mark’s and near Quadri’s, might seem ego-driven, but it was probably to control the young girl who was featured. She had a tendency to forget the pigeons and distractedly wander off-camera, but she returned when bidden by Mr. D. The girl and the woman are unidentified." –Paul Spehr
POPE LEO XIII (The Mutoscope and Biograph Syndicate, GB 1898) Supv: W.K.L. Dickson; ph: Emile Lauste; cast: Pope Leo XIII, Count Camillo Pecci, Mons. DellaVolpe; filmed: giardini del Vaticano, Roma, 5-6.1898; 35mm, 345 ft., c.5’ (30? fps); print: NFM. Preserved from 68mm originals. No intertitles. 5 scenes:
(1) Pope Leo XIII, carried through the Vatican Loggia on his way to the Sistine Chapel
(2) Pope Leo XIII, in his carriage, passing through the Vatican Gardens with escort of noble guard commanded by Count Camillo Pecci. His Holiness is met by His Excellence, Monsignor Della Volpe
(3) Pope Leo XIII in his chair
(4) Pope Leo XIII, resting on his way to his summer villa
(5) Pope Leo XIII, walking at twilight through some favourite haunt in the Vatican Gardens
Paul Spehr: "Dickson considered the films he made of Pope Leo XIII in the Vatican to be one of the outstanding achievements of his career, and his contemporaries agreed. The Pope was rarely seen, since he continued a protest of the political status of the Papal States begun by his predecessor and refused to leave the Vatican. Because of his age (88) and frequent illnesses his advisors were reluctant to let him be filmed, but they apparently relented when persuaded that the Pope could extend his blessing to people that he could not reach otherwise.The Pope consented to pose for 6 or 7 films.The exact number taken is confused because of changes made in how they were exhibited and the different titles applied to suit the anticipated audiences.The first public exhibition was at New York’s Carnegie Hall, 14 December 1898, but by agreement the papal films were not shown on the company’s programs at variety theatres. Many people saw them on Mutoscopes or at specially arranged projections." – Paul Spehr
THE VATICAN MILITARY GUARD, CONSISTING OF A DETACHMENT OF NOBLE GUARDS, COMMANDED BY COUNT PECCI, FOLLOWED BY A PALATINE GUARD OF HONOUR, SWISS GUARD, GENDARMES, AND FIRE BRIGADE (The Mutoscope and Biograph Syndicate, GB 1898) Supv: W.K.L. Dickson; ph: Emile Lauste; filmed: Vaticano, Roma, 4-6.1898; 35mm, 77 ft., 50” (30? fps); print: NFM. Preserved from a 68mm original. No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "The short lengths of film available required careful staging, with no allowance for waste, and this scene is an outstanding example of Dickson’s ability to compress visual information to create interest and clarity. Five units of Vatican militia were succinctly recorded in a film lasting less than a minute. The groups approach the camera in an “S” pattern, which allows maximum viewing of each unit. Though the camera is elevated to give perspective, the units pass close enough that faces can be clearly distinguished." – Paul Spehr
THE CORONATION OF QUEEN WILHELMINA OF HOLLAND AT AMSTERDAM (The Mutoscope and Biograph Syndicate, GB 1898). Supv: W.K.L. Dickson; ph: Emile Lauste; cast: Queen Wilhelmina, Queen Mother Emma; filmed: Amsterdam, 6.9.1898; 35mm, 399 ft., c.6’ (30? fps); print: NFM. Preserved from 68mm originals. No intertitles. /6 scenes (order may vary):
(1) Plechtige intocht van H.M. Koningin Wilhelmina in Amsterdam / Wilhelmina Vertrekt per Koets Van CS [Royal Procession of HM Queen Wilhelmina in Amsterdam / Wilhelmina Departs by Carriage from Central Station]
(2) Arrival of the Queen at the Palace, Amsterdam, Sept 6th
(3) Review of the Royal Netherland Guards in the Costumes of the Middle Ages (Coronation of Wilhelmina Guard of Honor)
(4) The Royal Procession to the Church before the Coronation Ceremony
(5) The Royal Procession from the Church after the Coronation Ceremony
(6) The Queen and the Queen Mother on the Palace Balcony Responding to the Call of the Populace (The Queen and Her People)
Paul Spehr: "Six films made in September 1898 recorded the coronation ceremonies of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands in Amsterdam. Wilhelmina had succeeded to the throne on the death of her father in 1890, but her mother, Queen Emma, had been regent untilWilhelmina reached the age of 18 in September 1898. She is shown arriving and leaving the church, reviewing guards dressed in costumes of the Middle Ages, and waving to the crowd from a balcony of the Palace.This series was filmed in segments that could be shown individually or grouped together to document the event. During the late 1890s the British and American Mutoscope companies provided timely coverage of events of the day, and audiences were intrigued by more detailed and candid views of royalty." – Paul Spehr
LAUNCH OF THE “OCEANIC” (The Mutoscope and Biograph Syndicate, GB 1899) Supv: W.K.L.Dickson; ph: Emile Lauste; filmed: Belfast, Ireland, 14.1.1899; AMCo. Prod. No. 299E; 35mm, 38 ft., 20.25” (30? fps); print: MoMA. No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "This stunning shot records the launch of the largest passenger vessel built up to that time.The film was rushed to London to be on the screen at the Palace Theatre within 3 days of the launch. TheWarwick Trading Co. also filmed the event, and joined the race to the screen." – Paul Spehr
KING JOHN (A Scene – “King John”, Now Playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre: The Last Moments of King John of England in the Orchard of Swinstead Abbey / Beerbohm Tree, The Great English Actor) (The British Mutoscope and Biograph Company, GB 1899) Supv:W.K.L.Dickson; ph: ?; cast: Herbert Beerbohm Tree (King John), members of the cast from Her Majesty’s Theatre, London, England; filmed: Thames embankment studio, London, 18.9.1899; AMCo. Prod. No. 493E; 35mm, 84 ft., 57” (24 fps); print: BFINA. Preserved from a 68mm original from the NFM. No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, a leading performer of London’s theatre world, was recorded in 4 scenes from Shakespeare’s King John. It was a new role for him, and the film was made just prior to its opening. The Sketch’s H. Chance Newton reported “... [the] writer called upon Mr. Beerbohm Tree... found that popular actor-manager and his numerous adherents just passing through a most trying ordeal. In other words, Mr. Tree and the whole strength of his company were being ‘biographed’ wholesale, retail, and certainly for exportation, by that shrewd firm which supplies Animated Photographs to this or that amusement resort throughout the United Queendom… It was truly a very quaint experience to see this extensive company ... who will to-night (Wednesday) ... present... ‘King John’ ... Hurrying off clothed in more or less ‘complete steel’ – and in perfect makeup – to the vicinity of the Hotel Cecil, to be snapshotted, as it were, for pictures to be presently shown in all sorts of places in Europe, but especially at the Palace Theatre, London. For the going and coming and the to-ing and fro-ing of the latest King John and his vast retinue a new and picturesque awning had been prepared outside Her Majesty’s Theatre and several ‘Black Marias’ had been chartered for the carrying of the company .... There was also something of humour in the sight of ... hurrying back with the dark-blue-armoured King John Tree at their head, newly escaped from the clutches (and the ‘Kodaks’) of the Animated Photographers. ... the production, which, whatever its other merits may prove to be, will to-night assuredly be hailed as one of the grandest examples of mise-en-scène ever witnessed even at this theatre.”" – Paul Spehr
RIFLE HILL SIGNAL STATION NEAR FRERE CAMP (Rifle Hill Outpost) (The British Mutoscope and Biograph Company, GB 1899). Supv: W.K.L. Dickson; ph:William Cox? John Seward?; filmed: Camp Frere, South Africa, 7.12.1899; AMCo. Prod. No. 568E; 35mm, 46 ft., c.30” (24 fps); print: BFINA, London. Preserved from a 68mm original (Schultze Collection). No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "In the fall of 1899 Dickson was in South Africa filming the campaign to relieve the besieged British at Ladysmith during the Boer War. The huge and very visible camera made it difficult to get near combat, but Dickson seized opportunities to record actions that reflected the activities he and his associates were seeing. As Dickson described this scene in his book The Biograph in Battle: “We again visited the outposts, and managed, not without extreme difficulty, to haul our machine, &c., to the top of Rifle Hill signal station, just in time to catch a message from Colonel Kitchener [Author’s Note: not the General], which was flagged to picket No. 8, the operators kindly waiting until we got the machine in position before they sent the message. The men were watching the enemy below while the signalling was in progress, Captain Bartram being in command of signal and picket.This is a splendid scene, and one of which we are very proud, for we nearly killed ourselves and our horses in our endeavour to get planted in time. .... This is the message which was sent to O.C. No. 8 picket: ‘Have your picket under arms and send out patrol. Kitchener, December 7th.’ It was sent in plain flag, Morse, not code, so that any one who knew Morse could read this message.”" – Paul Spehr
BATTLE OF SPION KOP: AMBULANCE CORPS CROSSING THE TUGELA RIVER (Operations of Red Cross Ambulances after Spion Kop / Battle of the Upper Tugela) (The British Mutoscope and Biograph Company,GB 1899). Supv: W.K.L. Dickson; ph: William Cox? John Seward?; filmed: Spion Kop, South Africa, 25.1.1900; AMCo. Prod. No. 591E; 35mm, 3 scenes, 37 ft. + 45 ft. + 47 ft., c.2’ (24 fps); print: BFINA, London. Preserved from 68mm originals (Schultze Collection). No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "A dramatic panorama of the valley of the Tugela River, with the British troops trailing home dejectedly after failing to take Spion Kop. The camera is behind a squad of British soldiers in a trench covering the retreat. The 1902 catalogue had this to say: “This is probably as near an actual scene of battle as a camera will ever get in modern warfare. It was taken from the second line of intrenchments [sic] during the battle of the Upper Tugela, in which the British, under General Buller met with defeat at the hands of the Boers. The British lost about 500 men in this engagement, and our picture, taken at the rear of the British fighting line, shows the wounded being brought in on litters, and in ambulances. The scope of the view is very broad, taking in the Tugela with its temporary pontoon bridge, and the reserve force on the opposite bank of the river, and the distant mountains where the Boers are stationed. Spion Kop is prominent among the peaks. Photographically the subject is sharp and clear.” Dickson, in his book The Biograph in Battle: “The battle rages on with unabated fury; the slaughter on both sides is obliged to be terrible. .... By morning three thousand of our braves had captured the mountain and driven the Boers off. This would have been a triumphant success had they been able to withstand the deadly cross-fire of the enemy ... they soon had to abandon or be utterly annihilated. Some... bitter disappointment. “We were not long in following with our Cape cart, and ... succeeded in getting a good picture of the Ambulance Corps crossing the Tugela River over a hurriedly spanned pontoon bridge. .... “The picture has an additional value that in the back-ground is part of the battlefield whereWarren’s men fought so gallantly as they advanced towards and up Spion Kop to the right. ... twenty minutes of valuable time had to be sacrificed in order to prove that General Buller’s permission covered our movements. ....” – Paul Spehr
GORDON HIGHLANDERS IN LADYSMITH (Ladysmith – Gordon Highlanders Marching Out to Meet Relief Column / Relief of Ladysmith) (The British Mutoscope and Biograph Company, GB, 1899). Supv:W.K.L.Dickson; ph: [W.K.L.Dickson]; filmed: Ladysmith, South Africa, 2-3.3.1900; AMCo. Prod. No. 613E; 35mm, 51 ft., 32” (24 fps); print: BFINA, London. Preserved from a 68mm original (Schultze Collection). No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "Dickson recorded the formal ceremonies for the relief of Ladysmith, where the Gordon Highlanders had been under siege by the Boers since 1 November 1899. (General Buller made an informal entry on the day before.) Dickson was filming under some handicap, as both of his assistants, Cox and Seward, were ill and had been taken back to Durban. An inexperienced assistant had been hired, but Dickson was also succumbing to enteric fever. Dickson (The Biograph in Battle): “...a busy day for all. By 10 a.m. we have secured a Biograph and other pictures of the beleaguered Gordon Highlanders en route from camp to welcome the entrance of the relief column, headed by General Buller and Staff. This is our next picture, but regretfully we must face the sun to secure it. Every facility has been given us by Colonel Scott, in command of the Highlanders, who, with other regiments, line the streets on both sides – our cart be conspicuously a nuisance, from the back of which we took the Bios.The cart had to displace the soldiers, the back reaching out into the street as we had no tripod … this we found impossible to drag over the mountain, and so had left it behind. ... I found standing at my side Winston Churchill. ....”" – Paul Spehr. - AA comments: a magnificent show. The Monkeyshines (1889) are to the cinema like the Lennart Nilsson photographs of an emergent baby in the mother's womb. These are some of the most valuable images of the history of the cinema, making sense in a new way in this programme. W.K.L. Dickson often favoured high speeds (30 fps or more, even 40-50 fps?), from his early Edison days to his latest Biograph wide image specials. Many films were shown much too slowly.

No comments: