Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Month: May, 2023

Every Man His Own Cigar Lighter (1904)

An incomplete fragment which shows Georges Méliès using advanced camera techniques years before others would claim to have invented them. There isn’t enough here to draw much of a review from, but it still demonstrates a bit of Méliès’s style and whimsy.

We see a man, almost certainly Méliès himself in disguise, in closeup, puffing on a cigar with a wild look in his eyes. He has a wild disheveled beard and hair, and he draws a puff and blows it out with evident satisfaction. The entire clip lasts only about eight seconds, just long enough to see that character and form an impression of him.

Every Man His Own Cigar Lighter

This is not the first use of the closeup that I’ve seen in this project. Méliès had used it, in connection with “zooming” the camera (by moving it closer to the subject, for example in “The Man with the Rubber Head” (1901). Even earlier, the actors in the famous/infamous movie “The Kiss” (1896) are in a close-in two-shot in order to make their kissing more visible. Still, such shots were still very unusual in the early twentieth century, and most of Méliès’s movies framed an entire stage, from floor to ceiling, with room for actors to move about without the camera have to move to track them or miss anything they were doing, from their head to their feet. This movie fragment confirms that it wasn’t that no one had ever thought of doing this, it simply wasn’t desired most of the time. The opportunity to see Méliès acting with his face in close-up gives us a better sense of his presence as an actor. In these few seconds he comes across as the sort of whimsical, silly, but dedicated performer that his body of work describes. The short description in the Star Films Catalog suggests that most of this film was just a standard trick film, centered around a man unable to find a match, but conjuring a doppelganger of himself to provide one, so this may have been a concluding shot, similar to the famous ending shot of “The Great Train Robbery” (1903).

Director: Georges Méliès

Camera: Unknown

Starring: Georges Méliès

Run Time: 8 secs (extant)

You can watch it for free: here.

A Lover’s Lost Control (1915)

Syd Chaplin, in the year after his more famous brother’s departure from Keystone, attempted to build a slapstick career of his own at the studio with his character of “Gussle.” Running through similar situations to those faced by the Little Tramp, how does Syd fair as an early comedian? This short is one example.

Lovers Lost Control2

The movie begins by showing us Gussle and his wife, played by Phyllis Allen, arriving by auto in front of a department store. The exterior shot gives us a look at Los Angeles of the day, with Syd’s car looking a bit antiquated compared to the sedan across the street – which is parked behind a horse & buggy, reminding us of the transitional nature of technology in the teens. He and Phyllis indulge a few pratfalls before moving on to the main center of action. Gussle, like Charlie, wears ill-fitting clothes and carries a cane. His mustache is small, but it does have small handlebars that cover more of his lip. His wife approaches the counter in what seems to be the ladies’ underthings area of the store while he tries to hit on shopgirls and customers. In the process, he gets a rather suggestive item caught on his cane and tries to conceal the mannequin’s less-dressed state. Phyllis becomes annoyed with him and boxes his ear before dragging him back to the counter by it. Read the rest of this entry »