Saturday, October 14, 2000

The Wonders of the Biograph (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Sacile 2000) restorations from Nederlands Filmmuseum

Feeding the Pigeons in St. Mark's Square, Venice (GB 1898). W. K.-L. Dickson, a female companion and a little girl. Photo: BFI National Archive.


A large collection of films shot in the Biograph format (68 mm) has now been successfully preserved on 35 mm. The projection speed is 30 fps. These films are true revelations that hardly anyone has seen in a hundred years. The films have been compiled into a witty and exciting touring show of 11 programmes by Nederlands Filmmuseum. The compilations were made by Nico de Klerk with the help of Mark van den Tempel and others at NFM. The films were identified by intertitles in English. The duration of the films is one minute on the average.

Biograph 1: Addressing the Audience (this program was not shown, at least not as scheduled)
Maxim Firing Field Gun – Aldershot (GB 1897)
[Herbert Campbell as "Little Bobbie"] (GB [1900])
[Een man van de wereld] / [A Man of the World] (GB [1900])
Naar 't Tolhuis / [To the "Tolhuis"] (NL 1899)
De zieke gemeente-ambtenaar / [Sick Municipal Clerk] (NL 1899)
Rudge and Whitworth, Britain's Best Bicycle (GB 1902)
He Didn't Finish the Story (US 1899)
Charlie Wanted the Earth (US 1899)
He and She (GB 1898)
A Good Story (GB 1898)
The Sandwich Man (US 1899)
The Barber Saw the Joke (GB [1902])
Water Polo - Worthing Swimming Club (GB 1898)
Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race (GB 1899)
A Multicycle Race (US 1897)
[Wilhelm II op keizerlijk jacht] / [Wilhelm II on Royal Yacht] (DE 1899)
Ferryboat and Tug Passing Governors Island, New York Harbor / [New York Harbor and South Brooklyn Ferry] (US 1897)
Panorama of Grand Harbour, Malta (GB 1901)
Through Miller's Dale (Near Buxton, Derbyshire) Midland Rail / Through the Chee Tor Tunnel in Derbyshire (GB 1899)
Climbing Jacob's Ladder (US 1899)
Down Mount Tom (US 1899)
Elephants at the Zoo (GB 1898)
Taking On a Pilot (US 1897)
A Tug in Heavy Sea (GB 1898)
A Blast at the Solvay Quarries (US 1898)

Biograph 2: Where to Place the Camera?
[Charge of the Carabiniers – Aldershot] (GB [1898])
[Hondekarren] (NL [1898])  *
Threshing Machine at Work (US 1897)  *
Feestelijk bezoek van HM Konigin Wilhelmina aan Rotterdam (NL 1899)
[Huwelijksstoet ter Gelegenheid van het huwelijk van Wilhelmina en Hendrik] (NL 1901)
Jumping Hurdles (US 1897)
When the Bugle Sounds ”Charge” (DE 1899)
Menai Bridge, the Day Irish Mail from Euston Entering the Tubular Bridge over the Menai Straits (GB 1898)
Launch of the ”Oceanic” (GB 1899)  *
The Albany Day Boats (US 1897)
[Een Jacht, en Profil] (US [1900])
”Shamrock” and ”Columbia” (US 1899)
[International Yacht Races on the Clyde] (US [1901])
[International Yacht Races on the Clyde] (US [1901])
Coasting on Sleds in the Stockholm Sport Park on Sunday (GB 1902)
Shooting the Chutes (US 1896)
Empire State Express (US 1896)
Battleships ”Maine” and ”Iowa” (US 1897)
Four Warships in Rough Seas (GB 1900)
[Tram Journey Through Southampton] (GB [1900])
Irish Mail – L. & N.W. Railway – Taking Up Water at Full Speed (GB 1898)
From Vaudreuil to St. Anne’s (US [1900])
[Railway Trip Through Mountain Scenery and Tunnels] (US [1900])
Across Brooklyn Bridge (US 1899)

Biograph 3: ”Twentieth-Century Damsel”
The Wonderful Mutoscope (GB [1898])
A Just Cause for Divorce (US 1899)  *
A Mouse in a Girls’ Dormitory (US 1897)
The Black Cat and the Dinner for Two (GB [1898])
Tolhuis! Kiele! Kiele! (NL 1899)
The Female Drummer (US 1899)
Hazing Affair in a Girls’ Boarding School (US 1899)
The Stolen Stockings (US 1898)
The Nurse’s Joke (US 1899)
An Interrupted Sitting (US 1898)
[Slaapkamerpret] (FR [1899])
The Finish of Mr. Fresh (US 1899)
[Ongewenst vader] (DE [1900])
[Geen bedelaars in de keuken] (GB [1898])
The Amorous Guardsman (GB 1898)
The Price of a Kiss (US 1899)
A Bowery Cafe (US 1897)
Her First Cigarette (US 1899)
Duel to the Death (GB 1898)
[An Interrupted Kiss] [GB (1898)]
Love’s Young Dream (US 1897)
Armor Vs. Amour (US 1899)
Union Square – New York (US 1896)  *
View on Boulevard, New York City (US 1896)  *
In a German Bath (DE 1899) Halensee

Biograph 4: ”Les feuilles remuaient au vent”
American Falls, Goat Island (US 1896)
Sad Sea Waves (US 1897)
Feeding Seagulls off the Irish Coast (GB 1899)
[Fun on a Sand Hill] (DE [1899])
Skating in Central Park (US 1900)
[Horse Race at Epsom] (GB [1899])
A Pillow Fight (US 1897)
[Kinderspiel] (US [1899])
Een kinderfeest op het eiland Marken (NL [1899])
An Irish Peasant Scene – Feeding Pigs (GB 1899)
A Stable on Fire (US 1896)
[Maidenhead Junction] (GB [1898])
Facial Expressions – The Fateful Letter (GB 1898)
Keystone Express (US 1897)
Haverstraw Tunnel (US 1897)
Place de la Concorde (GB 1897)
[In the Friedrichstrasse] (DE [1899])
Jumbo, Horseless Fire-Engine (US 1897)
[Molens van de Zaanstreek] (GB? [1899])
[Hollandse visservloot] (GB 1898)
American Falls, Luna Island (US 1896)
Ninth Regiment, N.G.N.S.Y. (US 1899)
German Garde Kurassiers (DE 1900)
Amsterdams vreemdelingenverkeer (NL 1899)
Still Waters Run Deep (US 1897)
Water Polo – Worthing Swimming Club (GB 1898)
[German Battleship ”Kaisere Wilhelm II”] (DE 1900)
Landing at Villefranche from U.S. Cruiser ”Olympia” (GB 1899)

17 Oct 2000 Donald Sosin played and sang "You All Know Those Biograph Pictures".

Ken Wlaschin: The Silent Cinema in Song 1896–1929, An Illustrated History and Catalog of Songs Inspired by the Movies and Stars, with a List of Recordings. McFarland, 2009: "Also in 1899 the first song about the movies was published by Feldman. It was 'The Biograph,' a British music-hall ditty introduced at the Palace Theater in London by composer / lyricist Frank Leo. The Biograph company was Edison’s principal competitor in the early years of the movie industry, and the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company was its English subsidiary. Biograph films were very popular in England, especially at the Palace Theater in Leicester Square, and the word “biograph” became a generic name for movies. The song begins: "

I’ll sing in praise of a modern invention
One of the greatest of this present age
It’s the Biograph I now allude to
And may be seen on most every stage.
First, all the lights must be low
Then commence with the show

"The sheet music includes a note suggesting that the lights be turned down while the chorus is sung, to create the mood of “flickering lime[light] à la Biograph.” There upon a white sheet we find Living pictures of ev’ry kind Some of them funny, and some of them sad Some make us sorrowful, some make us glad Ev’ry one must regret I’m sure That it wasn’t in vogue before So we might see our dead Heroes of yore On this wonderful Biograph."

"Subsequent verses talk about how people a hundred years in the future will be able to see events of the present time, including the queen on parade and the Prince of Wales winning the Derby “by the aid of a lime.” A humorous verse tells about a woman sitting in the stalls who faints when she sees her husband on screen courting another woman “on the wonderful Biograph.” (“The Biograph” was discovered and preserved by British film historian David Robinson). "

"In 1900 a second English music-hall song about the movies became popular. Like the earlier song, it was concerned with the Biograph company and its programs at the Palace Theater in London. Harry B. Norris’s “At the Top of the Tree or Biograph Pictures” focuses on celebrities, the people who have fame and are thus “at the top of the tree.

You all know those Biograph pictures,
celebrities shown on a screen
The photos of notable people,
displayed as they daily are seen
Tho’ some may provoke wry grimaces,
and others no more than a smile
You’ll see all the popular faces,
applauded in vigorous style.
Lucky celebrities on the tree-top
They’ve climbed to the summit intending to stop
Honour and glory their portion shall be
Because they are right at the top of the tree.

"There are nine verses and choruses, each about a di›erent celebrity, including English statesman Joseph Chamberlain, the Lord Mayor of London, American jockey Tod Sloan and army commander Lord Roberts, plus an heiress, a golfer, a yachtsman and a wealthy drunkard who has “slipped from the top of tree.” The sheet music, published in 1900 in London by Frank Dean, shows a woman in white tie on the screen of a large theater, and it says that the song was “sung with great success by Miss Vesta Tilley” and “sung also by Horace Mills.”  Ken Wlaschin: The Silent Cinema in Song 1896–1929, An Illustrated History and Catalog of Songs Inspired by the Movies and Stars, with a List of Recordings. McFarland, 2009.

Biograph 5: Yesterday’s News
[American Biograph at the Palace] (GB 1899)
Plechtige intocht van H.M. Koningin Wilhelmina in Amsterdam (GB 1898)
Arrival of the Queen at the Palace, Amsterdam (GB 1898)
Review of the Royal Netherlands Guards in the Costumes of the Middle Ages (GB 1898)
The Royal Procession from the Church after the Ceremony (GB 1898)
The Queen and the Queen Mother on the Palace Balcony Responding to the Call of the Populace (GB 1898)
2Bloemencorso te Haarlem op 4 juni 1899 (NL 1899)
The Great Ottawa Fire (US 1900)  AA: panorama shot, 360° effect
Bumping Race (Cambridge May Races) (GB 1899)
La Sortie du Congrès de Versailles (FR 1899)
The Marriage of the Earl of Crewe and Lady ”Peggy” Primrose at Westminster Abbey (GB 1899)
From War to Peace – First Departure of SS ”St. Louis” from Southampton (GB 1898)
The Mardi Gras Carnival (US 1898)
The Dreyfus Case
[Dreyfus, Captain Alfred] (FR 1899)
[Na de rechtzaak] (FR 1899)
The Zola-Rochefort Duel, Paris (GB 1898)
Amann, the Great Impersonator (GB 1899)

Biograph 7: People in Front of the Camera too slow a speed in this screening
[Prinsengracht] (NL [1898])
”The Lane” on Sunday Morning (GB 1899)
[The Henley Regatta] (GB 1901)
[De Boulevard van Scheveningen] (GB 1898)
Een trambestorming op zondag op den dam (NL 1899)
[American Biograph in Circus o. Carré] (NL [1898])
Venice, Feeding the Pigeons in St. Mark’s Square (GB 1898)
The Georgetown Loop (US 1901)
Tapping a Blast Furnace – Newcastle (GB 1899)
Relieving the Guard at St. James’s Palace (GB 1897)
The Gordon Highlanders: Returning to Camp (GB 1897)
The Vatican Guards, Rome (GB 1898)
Funeral Procession of the Misericordia (GB 1898)
Capuchin Monks (GB 1898)
Procession of Armenian Monks, Including the Abbot- Archbishop St. Lazar, Venice (GB 1898)
Ringrijden voor sjeeten te Harlem (NL 1899)
Changing Guard (Berlin) (GB 1897)
[King Edward VII at the Birthday Celebration of the King of Denmark] (FR 1901)
Antarctic Expedition – Sir George Newnes’ Farewell to Officers and Crew (GB 1898)
[Koninklijk jacht tijdens de vissersvlootrevue bij muiden] (NL [1899])
[Paul Kruger in gesprek] (FR [1900])
Queen Margherita of Italy (GB 1898)
McKinley at Home, Canton, Ohio (US 1896)
POPE LEO XIII (five film cycle) screened in an order different from the following announced list
– Pope Leo XIII Carried Through the Vatican Loggia on His Way to the Sistine Chapel (GB 1898)
– Pope Leo XIII in His Carriage, Passing Through the Vatican Gardens (GB 1898)
– Pope Leo XIII, in His Chair (GB 1898)
– Pope Leo XIII, Resting on His Way to His Summer Villa (GB 1898)
– Pope Leo XIII Walking Before Kneeling Guards (GB 1898)

Biograph 8: How Shots Hang Together
Captain Deasy’s Daring Drive, Ascent (DE 1903)  * car drive on railway tracks
Worthing Life-Saving Station (GB 1898)
Launch of the Worthing Life-Boat: Coming Ashore (GB 1898)
Me and My Two Friends (GB 1898)
Spanish Coronation Bullfight (GB 1902)
RIP VAN WINKLE (six film cycle) *
– Rip Meeting the Dwarf (US 1896)
– Rip Leaving Sleepy Hollow (US 1896)
– Rip’s Toast to Hudson and Crew (US 1896)
– Rip’s Twenty Years’s Sleep (US 1896)
– Awakening of Rip (US 1896)
– Rip Passing Over the Mountain (US 1896)
Venice / Italy
The Grand Canal, Venice (GB 1898)  *
Panorama of the Grand Canal, Venice; Passing the Vegetable Market (GB 1898)
[Brug der Zuchten] (GB 1898)
Boys Bathing – Venice (GB 1898)
[Venetië-Havengezicht met gondels] (GB 1898)
Neapolitan Dance at the Ancient Forum of Pompeii (GB 1898)
Edward VII’s succession of Queen Victoria
Panoramic View of Windsor Castle (GB 1898)
Her Majesty the Queen Arriving at South Kensington on the Occasion of the Laying of the Foundation Stone of the Victoria & Albert Museum (GB [1899])
[Building Being Pulled Down] (US [1900])
Coronation of Their Majesties King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, First Scene (GB 1902)
Coronation of Their Majesties King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, Second Scene (GB 1902)
Captain Deasy’s Daring Drive, Descent (DE 1903)

Biograph 9: Staging the World
Three Linotype Machines (GB? [1900])  *
Agoust Family of Jugglers (GB 1898)  *
[Parade Britsetroepen] (GB [1900])
Charge d’un escadron du 27e dragons, contre une batterie du 11e régiment en position, faisant feu sur l’ennemi (GB 1897)
Fort Hill Fire Station (US 1897)
Hotel on Fire, Paris (Rescue Work by Paris Pompiers) (GB 1898)  * extraordinary multi-action
”Man Overboard!” (GB 1899)
A Camp of Zingaree Gypsies (GB 1897)
[The Battleship ”Odin” With All Her Guns in Action] (DE 1900)
[Why Papa Can’t Sleep] (GB [1898])
Dutch Fishing Boats (GB 1898)
[Een nat pak] (GB? [1897])
Bath Scene – Holland (GB 1898)  * boats, swimmers, horse
A Country Dance (US 1897)
”Jarabe” Dance, Streets of Mexico, Pan-American Exposition (US 1901)
[Sailors of HMS ”Black Prince” Firing Cannon and Rifles] (GB [1900])
A Bad (K)night (US 1899)
Playing Doctor (GB 1898)  a doll as a "patient"
The Dairy Maid’s Revenge (US 1899)  *
The Spirit of His Forefathers (GB 1900)
A Midnight Fantasy (US 1899)  *  a cigar store Indian comes alive
[Op leven en dood] / [On Life and Death] (GB [1899])  duel

Biograph 10: Visual Attractions
Apple Blossoms (US 1899)
King John (GB 1899) – Herbert Beerbohm Tree. David Robinson 2000: Tree was the first major English-speaking stage star to see the importance of motion pictures as record.
Fencing Contest from the Play ”The Three Musketeers” (GB 1898)
An Intrigue in a Harem (US 1899)
Baxter Street Mystery (US 1899)
[Twee clowns boksen ondersterboven] (GB [1899])
Has He Hit Me? (GB 1898)
[Stealing a Dinner] (GB [1898])
Hurdle Jumping by Trained Dogs (US 1899)
”King” and ”Queen”, the Great High Diving Horses (US 1899)
Wrestling Pony and Man (US 1896)
The Landing of Savage South Africa at Southampton (GB 1899)
Dancing Darkies (US 1896)
[Clifton Suspension Bridge] (GB [1900])
[Warships at Sunset] (GB? [1900])
The Artist’s Dream (US 1899)
Phillis Was Not Dressed to Receive Callers (US 1898)
A Scandalous Proceeding (US 1899)
A Rural Courtship (US 1896)
Les Parisiennes (US 1897)
Conway Castle – Panoramic View of Conway on the L. & N.W. Railway (GB 1898)
[Deep Sea Divers] (GB? [1898])
Rare Fish in the Aquarium (DE? 1899)
Watersnood in Buurt YY (NL 1899)
Surf Dashing Against England’s Rocky Coast (GB 1897)
The Tarantella, an Italian Dance (GB 1898)
Pelicans at the Zoo (GB 1898)
The Smallest Train in the World (US 1899)
From Monte Carlo to Monaco (FR 1899)

Biograph 11: Making Up a Programme
[De conferencier] / [The Comedian] (US? [1900])
Trout Poachers (US 1897)
An Oriental Highway (US 1901)
Bayonet Versus Bayonet – Aldershot (GB 1897)
Military Exercise – Aldershot (GB 1898)
He Got More Than He Bargained For (GB [1899])
[Een jacht gaat overstag] / [One Yacht Tacks] (US [1899])
Home Life of a Hungarian Family (GB 1897)
The Poster Girls and the Hypnotist (US 1899)
Harvesting Corn (US 1897)
A Hard Wash (US 1896)
[Kerstman en fee] / [Santa Claus and Fairy] (GB [1898])
[Koninklijke familie] / [Royal Family] (NL [1902])
[Funérailles de Félix Faure] / [President Faure's Funeral] (FR [1898])
M. Guerin's Headquarters – Fort Chabrol (FR [1899])
Aankomst der vredesconferentie te Haarlem, 4 Juni 1899 / [Arrival at the Peace Conference at Haarlem] (NL 1899)
Réception du Président Krüger à l'Hôtel de Ville (FR 1900)
Lord Kitchener's Arrival at Southampton (GB 1902)
Niagara Falls Station (US 1899)
The Crookedest Railroad Yard in the World (US 1897)
In the Canadian Rockies, Near Banff (US [1899])
Victoria Jubilee Bridge, St. Lawrence River (US 1900)


Production companies:
– American Mutoscope Company (US)
– American Mutoscope and Biograph Company (US)
– British Mutoscope and Biograph Company (GB)
– Nederlandsche Biograaf- en Mutoscope Maatschappij (NL)
– Deutsche Mutoskop und Biograph Gesellschaft (DE)
– Biograph and Mutoscope Company for France (FR)



"The Giornate of the year 2000 is fortunate in being able to offer an appropriate and remarkable millennial presentation – literally hundreds of films made a century ago, and unseen by anyone since their first appearance. Some 240 films shot by the European branches of the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company and preserved in the National Film and Television Archive in London and the Nederlands Filmmuseum in Amsterdam have been transferred from their original 68 mm format to 35 mm. (...). "



"The word 'Biograph' is most strongly associated with D. W. Griffith, who joined American Biograph in 1908. But amid the welter of projectors with extravagant names that competed for the public's attention in the very first years of the cinema, the Biograph had established itself as a product above the others, with a sharper, steadier, and far larger screen image than any of its competitors, a true source of wonder in all who saw it."

"The key to this success was the unperforated film of approximately 70 mm width that the Biograph used, coupled with its choice of international subjects, and a policy of select and classy presentations, with the company controlling all exhibitions that used this unique system."

"There were, in fact, a number of Biograph companies, beginning in 1896 with the American Mutoscope Company (the Mutoscope being the flip-card viewer that employed the same images, and inspired the invention of the Biograph), but in 1897 they expanded into Europe, and it is the product of the British, Dutch, French, and German Biograph companies in particular that is the subject of the series of programmes featuring in this year's Giornate."

"The films come from two major collections of Biograph films in the National Film and Television Archive (London) and the Nederlands Filmmuseum (Amsterdam), though the final restorations were produced by the Filmmuseum alone."

"'70 mm' is a misleading term, as the film was originally described in inches – 2 and 23/32nds of an inch, to be precise – and the image was squarer than modern-day 70 mm, and is closer in fact to the IMAX format. The restorations, however, are on projectable 35 mm, with little or no image loss."

"The programmes have been compiled from the approximately 300 originals dating 1896–1903 held by the two archives, and have been arranged by the Filmmuseum in broadly thematic or stylistic themes, though they can be enjoyed just as easily taken as a varied and random selection of the kinds of films that first made the name Biograph famous."

"Low comedy (The Amorous Guardsman) mixes with classical drama (King John); ordinary folk ('The Lane' on Sunday Morning) with the high and mighty (Pope Leo XII); there is the salacious (Phillis Was Not Dressed to Receive Callers), the awe-inspiring (Battleship 'Odin' with All Her Guns in Action), the commercial (The Spirit of His Forefathers), and the simply beautiful (Pelicans at the Zoo)."

"There are important news reports on the Dreyfus trial and the Anglo-Boer War. There are many journeys by train. Even in their reduced, 35 mm form, these films show why journalist R. H. Mere called his article in Pearson's Magazine of February 1899 'The Wonders of the Biograph'". Such films, in their size, clarity and super-reality, were the wonders of their age. They are no less wondrous now".

"For this occasion, the Nederlands Filmmuseum has compiled the films into eleven programmes, in a way that does justice to the variety of the material, but which also presents several aspects of early film-making to the viewer. The programmes come in new 35 mm projection prints with English intertitles, to guarantee that these films will also have a life in cinematheques after the Giornate."

"The compilations were made by Nico de Klerk, with the help of Mark van den Tempel and others at the Filmmuseum. This presentation was supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands (HGIS). Special thanks go out to Barry Anthony, who contributed to the identification of a large number of films, and to the Giornate del Cinema Muto, whose wish to present this collection was the starting point to make these programmes."

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