Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Cinderella (1911)

I’ve been meaning for some time to get around to looking at the movies thanhouser.org has made available from the original films of the Thanhouser Film Company, especially those starring Florence La Badie, one of America’s first major movie stars, but, with one thing and another, it hasn’t happened until now. Here, I’ll take a look at one of the most beloved of her films – a version of the famous fairy tale of a girl magically saved from a life of hardship by a simple wish for one of romance and fantasy.

Not just no, HELL NO!

Not just no, HELL NO!

The movie manages to tell the story pretty effectively in a short time and with only three Intertitles. In the first sequence, Florence, as Cinderella, is made to help her sisters get ready for the Prince’s ball, only to be told summarily that she cannot go. Then, alone in the kitchen, she makes her wish and a Fairy Godmother appears, who turns various ordinary items into her coach and liveried servants, and then transforms her into a beautiful princess before sending her to the ball. The next sequence shows the ball, including her glamorous arrival, her meeting and dancing with the Prince, and her losing track of time until the last moment before midnight, when she rushes down the stairs, losing a slipper along the way. Finally, we see the search and trying-on of the shoe by Cinderella’s sisters, and their failure to make the grade, followed by Cinderella putting on the slipper, and even producing its mate from her pocket to verify that it really was her. The Fairy Godmother reappears and turns her back into a princess, whereupon she is taken to the castle and marries the Prince. The End.

Cinderella1 1911The version available on Vimeo can be viewed both with and without historical commentary, which is a nice touch, and it has a simple but appropriate organ score as well. I found the character of the father interesting; while he’s usually left out of this story, here he is a kind-hearted weakling, dominated by Cinderella’s step-mother and step-sisters. It’s also interesting that, even after all of the other magic has turned back to normal, both of the glass slippers remain in their “magical” state, although that’s basically necessary for the narrative. LaBadie is very good as the innocent, hard working Cinderella, but the evil step-sisters also deserve praise for communicating their meanness so effectively without words or sound. Unlike the 1914 Mary Pickford version, there are no added scenes or sub-plots, just the basic fairy tale that continues to be told in much the same way today. There are the expected camera-stop effects, with objects transformed before our eyes, and Cinderella’s dress appearing by magic, and the story is told by editing various scenes in chronological order, but there is minimal cross-cutting and no camera movement.

Director: George Nichols

Camera: Unknown

Starring: Florence La Badie, Harry Benham, Anna Rosemond, Frank H. Crane, Alphonse Ethier, Isabelle Daintry

Run Time: 14 Min, 30 secs

You can watch it for free: here.

The Malagueña and the Bullfighter (1905)

Alternate Title: La Malagueña et le torero

Another short dance movie from Alice Guy demonstrates the ongoing popularity of dance and exoticism into the Nickelodeon era. Indeed, one cold think of movies like these as the precursors to the musical extravaganzas of MGM and other big studios in a later period.

Malaguena and the BullfighterThis movie stars the same dance troupe we saw last night in “Tango.” This time one of the men who stood and clapped is dancing with one of the women, and both of their outfits receive the benefit of hand-tinted color, making them stand out against the background. The man is decidedly in a Matador’s outfit, while the woman’s dress is similar to the “Tango” one. Their dance involves little touching, but does have the sudden movements and snapping that we saw in the previous solo dance. There is also much coordinated kicking and turning. At the beginning of the movie, the man has a cape on, and the woman is holding a fan and wearing a veil, but by the end these have been discarded, allowing for a kind of voyeuristic “revealing” of the dancers, although very little skin is visible through their costumes.

Malaguena and the Bullfighter1I would guess that these two movies were offered together with “Spain” and some kind of narrative about travel Spanish culture. It might also have suggested appropriate musical themes for theater owners to provide, or even a score for their pianist to follow. “Malagueña is apparently the name of this dance, but may also refer to the female character (it simply means “of Malaga”).

Director: Alice Guy

Camera: Unknown, possibly Alice Guy or Anatole Thiberville

Starring: Unknown dance troupe

Run Time: 2 Min

You can watch it for free: here.