Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Alice Guy: Programme 3: The Social Drama. Issues of Gender, Ethnicity, Race, and Class

Alice Guy: Programma 3: Il dramma sociale. Questioni di genere, etnia, razza ei classe. Tuesday, 28 June 2011 at 10.00, Cinema Lumière - Sala Officinema / Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). Earphone commentary in Italian and English. Grand piano: Günter Buchwald. Presenta Kim Tomadjoglou.

Catalogue: "Guy’s Solax films closely followed current events by situating contemporary social issues at the center of dramatic stories. For a growing, diverse immigrant and mixed racial population, issues of gender, class, ethnicity, race, and morality were often presented in order to invoke traditional family values and to educate spectators through the process of assimilation. Often these stories centered on character flaws of male protagonists who ventured off the righteous path by engaging in activities such as drinking, card playing, and gambling, thereby sacrificing family duty and loyalty in return for personal gratification and pleasure. In almost all of these situations, the family unit, and particularly the “right woman”, be it mother, wife, daughter or “girl in the armchair,” serve as the source of salvation."

"A Fool and His Money, the earliest known film with an all African-American cast, features vaudevillian “Cake-Walk King” and minstrel player, James Russell, as negro laborer Sam Jones. Sam is smitten with the fairer-skinned “coquettish ebony beauty” Lindy Williams, of a more prosperous class. Lindy ignores Sam until he finds a lost wallet filled with cash and then transforms himself into a gentleman of material wealth. But Sam’s temporary flirtation with the upper class is short-lived, after he loses all of his money, and ultimately Lindy, gambling at cards."

THE GIRL IN THE ARMCHAIR. US 1912. D: Alice Guy Blaché. Cast: Blanche Cornwall, Darwin Karr, Lee Beggs; P: Solax. 35 mm. 393 m. ca. 12’ a 18 fps. B&w / tinted. English intertitles. From: Academy Film Archive. - AA: Drama. With a woman as the hero. The man is a gambler who is in debt to a loan shark and steals money from his father's safe. Without him noticing there is a girl in the armchair who overhears everything. She covers up the debt. The man confesses. There is a reconciliation, and soon, wedding bells. The print is often fine.

A MAN’S A MAN. US 1912. D: Alice Guy Blaché. Cast: Lee Beggs; PD: Henri Menessier; P: Solax. 35 mm. 218 m. 10’ a 16 fps. B&w. English intertitles. From the collection of George Eastman House. - AA: Tragedy. On anti-semitism. Children harass a Jewish peddler, Mr. Strauss. Among the pranks of the children is that they frame Strauss' little daughter to fall under a car, but the girl really dies. The driver finds shelter at Mr. Strauss without realizing he is the father. "Money cannot bring back my child". "A man is a man, Jew or Gentile". There is a reunion at the girl's grave. [I may have misunderstood some of the plot.]. Print partly ok, partly from a damaged source, opening titles missing.

A FOOL AND HIS MONEY. US 1912. D: Alice Guy Blaché. Cast: James Russell (The Cake-Walk King); P: Solax. 35 mm. 273 m. 10’30'' a 18 fps. B&w / tinted. English intertitles. From: Library of Congress. - AA: A humoristic drama. All-black cast. Having found a lost wallet Sam starts to spend, dresses up like a dandy, buys a car, and rides to conquer Lindy. A new print from the original source.

THE STRIKE. US 1912. D: Alice Guy Blaché. Cast: Darwin Karr, Blanche Cornwall, Lee Beggs; P: Solax. 35 mm. 728 m. Col. ca. 12’ a 16 fps. B&w / tinted. English intertitles. From: BFI National Archive. - AA: A social drama. The story of a violent strike, stoning windows, planning to wreck the factory at midnight. An ok print with toning and tinting effects.

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