Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Griffithiana 66/70: The Wonders of the Biograph (a periodical)

La Rivista della Cineteca del Friuli / Journal of Film History
ISSN 0393-3857
Anno XXII/XXIII – N. 66/70 – 1999/2000
On the occasion of the retrospective at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (Sacile).
Le meraviglie della Biograph / The Wonders of the Biograph
Edited by Luke McKernan & Mark van den Tempel
Bilingual: Italian and English.
Paperback, 296 p., richly illustrated, colour.
Gemona : La Cineteca del Friuli, 2000


Luke McKernan: Introduction.
    In 1992 Luke McKernan received an envelope from Amsterdam with frame stills from films that had been lost and forgotten. They were from the Mutoscope and Biograph companies which produced well over 5000 films.
    The Biograph resurrection started.
    A restoration project was funded by the Lumière Project of the EU around the Centenary of the Cinema year 1995.
    Included were 200 titles from Nederlands Filmmuseum (NFM) and 100 titles from the National Film and Television Archive (NFTVA / BFI).
    Research was headed by Richard Brown and Barry Anthony's A Victorian Enterprise: The History of the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company, 1897-1915.
Paul C. Spehr: Throwing Pictures on a Screen: The Work of W. K. L. Dickson, Film Maker.
    Paul Spehr's useful, condensed account on Dickson on whom he has written the definitive book. Besides his many other pioneering achievements (listed in my blog remark below) Dickson was the world's first movie cameraman, and he shot the first close-up (Fred Ott's Sneeze). He supervised production of between 500 and 700 films. He wrote his name in three different ways:
– William Kennedy Laurie Dickson
– William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson. (From 1899 until the 1920s. His mother was Elizabeth Kennedy-Laurie.)
–William Kennedy Laurie-Dickson (until his death in 1935: this is how his name is etched on his gravestone).
Richard Brown: The Biograph Group as a Multinational Company.
    Includes a list of 12 Biograph and Mutoscope companies and their incorporation dates (p. 69).

Deac Rossell: The Biograph Large Format Technology.
    Includes patent documentation for the Mutoscope and the Biograph camera, printer and projector.

Barry Anthony: Biograph Fiction.
Stephen Bottomore: "Every Phase of Present-Day Life": Biograph's Non-Fiction Production.
Frank Gray: Emile Lauste's Reminiscences.
    Excerpts from Emile Lauste's autobiography (born 1880), dated 1913 (handwritten) and 1935 (typescript), covering early recollections from until 1897, then glimpses of 1898, 1899 and 1903.

Mark van den Tempel: Making Them Move Again: Preserving Mutoscope and Biograph.
    The writer presents five collections:
– Nederlands Filmmuseum, collection stemming from Willy Mullens who accomplished the first safety film copying project in 1948, resulting in a compilation film called The Memory Box.
– The Library of Congress: paper print collection. Biograph did not register any titles in complete form until 1902 when they began to release films in 35 mm. At that time they transferred their 68 mm films and changed the speed from 30–40 fps to 15–16 fps by copying every other frame. These were registered as paper prints. In 1953 Kemp Niver started transferring the paper prints to 16 mm thereby conserving hundreds of Mutoscope & Biograph films.
– British Film Institute acquired nearly a hundred 68 mm titles in 1969 as part of the collection of Dr. Rolf Schultze, curator of the Kodak Museum at Wealdstone, Harrow. After a false start in the 1970s, preservation began in 1992.
– The Museum of Modern Art came into possession of 25 Biograph negatives in 1939 as part of the estate of the long-closed Biograph studio in The Bronx. Restoration was carried out by Donald Malkames who made new 35 mm prints using Biograph's original printing machine. The original material has long since decomposed.
– Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC, Bois d'Arcy) has digitally restored five Biograph films in the Will Day collection.
    The original image quality varies widely, the final product similarly ranges from sublime to miserable. Important analysis on p. 229
    The marks that obscure parts of some films like white clouds are projection wear, analyzed on p. 231–233.
    There is a striking absence of nitrate deterioration. The state of these films is better than many 35 mm prints of much later date.
    Schultze films are less worn than the Amsterdam films.
    Not all films were of the same width.
    There is a striking absence of hairs and dust on the frame margins.
    In the restoration no tampering took place because of the 30 fps framerate.
    Ethical issues were raised in early digitization: CNC found that the Biograph films had become "too beautiful" and instructed Centrimage to reverse certain corrections.
    Library of Congress pioneered in releasing 200 Biograph films online on their website www.loc.gov

Nico de Klerk: Programme of Programmes: The Palace Theatre of Varieties.

Luke McKernan: The American Biograph at The Palace.
    A major Biograph filmography, p. 249–258.

Barry Anthony: The Biograph Collections in Amsterdam and London.
    Another major Biograph filmography (the holdings of NFM and NFTVA), p. 261–269.

A photo collection p. 270–275.

Turn of the century Mutoscope cartoons about the risqué nature of the scenes, from Stephen Bottomore's I Want To See This Annie Mattygraph: A Cartoon History of the Coming of the Movies (1995). p. 277

Words and music to the Biograph theme song "At the Top of the Tree, or, Biograph Pictures" by Harry B. Norris (p. 281–285).

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