Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Dog Factory (1904)

This movie is a reversal on a common theme that started out with the Lumière brothers in the earliest days of cinema. Here, it is done by director Edwin S. Porter for the Edison Film Company in the year following his dramatic success with “The Great Train Robbery.”

Dog FactoryThe stage is hung with loops of sausage, each of which is labeled with the name of a dog (“spaniel,” “setter,” “pointer,” etc). At the center is a large box which is labeled “Patent DOG Transformator.” Two men attend the machine. Various characters come in with dogs, and have them reduced to sausages, to make sure we understand how it works (this is typical from the Lumière, Guy, and other versions). Next, a series of funny characters come in without dogs, and the men at the machine select a loop of sausage to add to the machine, and – voila! – a dog of the type chosen appears. The dogs are matched to the personality of their owners, ie a very proper lady receives a neatly groomed terrier, while a foppish gent takes a spaniel. At the end, a ruffian comes in and gets a bulldog, but he’s not tough enough, so the men create a “fighting bull” and the scene devolves into chaos between the dogs and the humans fighting each other.

Dog Factory1A couple of interesting points, here. Several of the previous movies suggested that sausages were made out of dogs and other unsavory items, but this is the first to suggest that they can be turned back into dogs if not eaten first. It seems like a better movie for dog-lovers, for sure! The original catalog entry says that the men running the machine are “Germans,” which may represent a prejudice of the time about Germans’ eating habits (like jokes today about Koreans ostensibly eating dogs), or it just may be because Germans eat sausage and are associated with mechanical inventiveness.

Animals in Film blogathonThis has been my contribution to the “Animals in Film” Blogathon hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Dog lovers, and animal lovers of all sorts should head over and check out the other posts!

Director: Edwin S. Porter

Camera: Edwin S. Porter

Starring: Unknown

Run Time: 4 Min, 15 secs

You can watch it for free: here (no music) or here (with music).

Félix Mayol Performs “White Lilacs” (1905)

Alternate Title: Félix Mayol, lilas-blanc

My final Félix Mayol phonoscène by Alice Guy portrays one of his most popular songs. He sings and dances a bit, working in lip-synch with a prerecorded gramophone record.

Felix Mayol White Lilacs

Once again, Mayol enters the stage in long-shot and the camera remains stationary for the length of his song. We get no color or close-ups this time. The curtain is the same: especially sharp-eyed viewers may have noticed that it is adorned with white lilacs, and that Mayol has one in his buttonhole as well. This time, I can spot the Gaumont symbol way down in the lower-right corner. Presumably, it was there for the other movies as well, but the cinematographer failed to get it in the frame.

White Lilacs” is a love song, told more or less from the woman’s perspective, with a tragic ending (the woman chooses a man who doesn’t love her over one who does). Apparently Mayol suggested the idea to the songwriter, Théodore Botrel, because they were his favorite flower and he wanted it to be his signature song. Apart from phonoscènes, Mayol didn’t have many screen appearances until the advent of “Talkies,” but he did a number of French talking pictures in the 1930s. He would die in October, 1941, in what was then Vichy France, the collaborationist regime with the Nazi occupation force.

Director: Alice Guy

Camera: Unknown, possibly Alice Guy or Anatole Thiberville

Starring: Félix Mayol

Run  Time: 3 Min

You can watch it for free: here.