Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

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Century Awards Final Nominations

With just a week left before the Century Awards, I’ve gone ahead and finalized the nominations. I wound up seeing more 1914 movies in the past weeks than I’d anticipated, and some of them were quite good. The new nominations reflect my newfound love for Evgeni Bauer, although I must confess that “Silent Witnesses” was not my favorite of his movies, so it may not do as well this year as “After Death” might do next year. “Salomy Jane” deserved a few nods as well, and to my surprise, the short film “Last of the Line” made a couple of appearances, while “The Wishing Ring” got one notice and I decided to add a nomination for “Judith of Bethulia.” The new noms are all listed below, or you can see the whole updated list here.

Last of the Line” for best makeup/hairstyling.

Judith of Bethulia” for best costume design.

Evegeni Bauer on “Silent Witnesses” for production design.

Jack Holt from “Salomy Jane” for best stunts.

“Last of the Line” for editing.

“Silent Witnesses” for best cinematography.

“Silent Witnesses” for best visual effects.

Aleksander Vosnesenski, “Silent Witnesses” for best screenplay.

Elsa Krueger for “Silent Witnesses” for best supporting actress.

Alec B. Francis for “The Wishing Ring” for best supporting actor.

Joe Goodboy for “Last of the Line” for best actor.

Beatriz Michelena for “Salomy Jane” for best actress.

Evgeni Bauer for “Silent Witnesses” for best director.

“Silent Witnesses” and “Salomy Jane” for best picture.

Good luck next week to all the nominees!

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Upcoming Events

I’ve started reaching out (a bit) to other classic film bloggers. The first notable result is that I’ll be participating in this:

russia-blogathon-flicker-alley-man-with-movie-camera

I’ll be writing about Evgeni Bauer, who is the only Russian filmmaker of more than 100 years ago that I’ve discovered so far. I hope this event will introduce me to some new ones!

Fred Ott’s Sneeze (1894)

Fred Ott

This early Kinetoscope experiment takes us back to a time when motion pictures were imagined to be just that – still pictures with a bit of movement added – and can be seen as an example of what Edison’s team imagined a portrait might be like in the future. In just a few seconds a man, dressed in 19th-century garb, takes a pinch of snuff, sniffs it, and either sneezes or fakes a sneeze. It’s never looked all that convincing to me. Be that as it may, this film also began Edison Studios’ long-standing tradition of printing out paper images of each frame of a movie and then copyrighting them. There was no law permitting the copyrighting of moving pictures, but still images could be, so this was how the company protected itself in the early days, and the surviving paper stills have proved useful in historical reconstruction of lost nitrate films. Apparently, in this case, the company also allowed Harper’s magazine to print the stills, in order to give some idea what the future of photography would bring, so in addition to being the first copyrighted film, this was the first to be “seen” by a mass audience, albeit not in the motion format.

Also Known as: Edison Kinetoscope Record of a Sneeze.

Director: W.K.L. Dickson

Camera: William Heise

Starring: Fred Ott

Run Time: 5 seconds

You are watching the whole thing free above. If you’d like to see it larger, go: here.

One is Business, the Other Crime (1912)

One is Business

In classic Griffith fashion, this short film uses cross-cutting to contrast the lives of two newlywed couples, one rich, one poor, in order to make a social comment about the way we treat dishonesty at different ends of the income spectrum. When the poor man (Charles West, who we’ve seen in “The Unchanging Sea” and “The Burglar’s Dilemma”) cannot find a job, he finally breaks and tries to steal from the rich man’s (Edwin August, also in “The Eternal Mother” and later appeared in “The Magnificent Ambersons”) home. Said rich man has just accepted an offer of a bribe for his “vote” (I assume on a committee of some kind, since surely his vote on a ballot measure wouldn’t count for more than anyone else’s) in favor of a new railroad. Rich wife Blanche Sweet (from “The Painted Lady” and “Judith of Bethulia”) catches the would-be robber and holds him at gun-point, but, finding out about her husband’s illicit dealings, lets him go and upbraids her spouse. Chastised, the rich husband returns the money and offers poor Charles a job, apparently in a brickyard he owns. The happy ending probably pleased both working class viewers, who enjoyed seeing the rich man shamed, and the more middle class of film audiences, who wanted to believe that honesty pays off.

Director: D.W. Griffith

Camera: Billy Bitzer

Starring: Charles West, Dorothy Bernard, Edwin August, Blanche Sweet.

Run Time: 15 Min, 22 seconds.

You can watch it for free: here.

Century Porn

Censored

Update 4/2/2014: APRIL FOOLS!

Since the invention of the motion picture camera, someone has been using it for naughty purposes. It seems that people with dirty minds just can’t resist the temptation of the moving image.

In my efforts to find as many 100+ year-old titles as are out there, I have encountered quite a few that got my imagination racing. So for this special April 1st edition of Century Films, here is a partial list, broken down by year. Since these are silents, you’ll have to provide the “bow-chicka-bow-bow” yourself:

1894
As early as this, we get “Cockfight No. 2.” Note that porn titles have always like sequels.

1896
This year, we get “Game of Balls,” as well as the classic “Interrupted Lovers.”

1897
Things start taking off with “Sutro Baths, No. 1 & 2,” and the very naughty “Seminary Girls,” along with our first S&M title, “The Lover in the Bag.”

1898
Brings us a sailor fantasy, “Collecting the Ship’s Laundry.”

1899
Things get really racy now with “The Devil in a Convent.” Perhaps an inspiration for Ken Russell?

1900
The nineteenth century rolls out with the fantasy “The Wizard, the Prince, and the Good Fairy” and the unusual “Going to Bed with Difficulties,” and an early lesbian fantasy “Eight Girls in a Barrel.”

1901
The new century begins with “Trapeze Disrobing Act” and the first reflexive porn, “Photographing a Country Couple.”

1902
In this year, there’s the rather depressing “Burlesque Suicide No. 2” as well as “Interrupted Bathers” and the truly raunchy “The Colonel’s Shower Bath.”

1903
Here we have the infamous “Too Ardent Lover” as well as “The Gay Shoe Clerk,” which combines foot fetishes and homosexuality.

1904
In this year, we get the post-apocalyptic porn “The Widow and the Only Man” and a milder piece, “Seashore Baby.”

1905
This year brings us an early example of a “roughie,” “Athletic Girl and Burglar.”

1906
Has two of the more outre titles, “The Tramp and the Mattress Makers” and “Mr. Butt-in.”

1907
Has the lonely-hearts fantasy “Wife Wanted” and also the very naughty “Mrs Smithers’ Boarding School.”

1908
The “Planter’s Wife” turns out to be busier than most would imagine, and “Why That Actor Was Late” is downright kinky, but perhaps the most extreme for this year is “Calamitous Elopement.”

1909
Brings an explosion of smut, such as “The Welcome Burglar,” “Lucky Jim,” and “Two Women and a Man.” Marriage-fantasies had a big run, including “They Would Elope,” “His Wife’s Visitor,” and “Choosing a Husband.” Innocence lost is portrayed in “Sweet and Twenty” and “The Salvation Army Lass.” The fetishes are explored in “Leather Stocking,” while incest is exploited in “Eloping with Auntie” and my favorite title of the year, “Oh, Uncle!”
1910
As the 10’s get started, we see another big year for risque flicks, including “Willful Peggy,” “Love among the Roses,” and “The Arcadian Maid.” Marriage is again a theme in “Taming a Husband” and “His Sister-in-Law.” And the theme of youthful innocence comes up in “Serious Sixteen” and “The Englishman and the Girl.”

1911
We get two examples of girl-next-door fantasies this year with “Love in the Hills” and “Her Awakening,” and also how-to’s like “Winning Back His Love” and “Teaching Dad to Like Her.”

1912
We come back to lesbian themes with “Two Daughters of Eve.” Two explorations of innocence occur in “The Schoolteacher and the Waif” and “The Girl and Her Trust.”

1913
Sees a return to gay themes with “The Woman Haters” and “Two Men of the Desert.” The women aren’t left out either, in “The Telephone Girl and the Lady.” A very naughty title for the year is “A Ride for a Bride.” More fetishes in “Peeping Pete.” More straight themes are shown in “Love in an Apartment Hotel” and “The Little Tease.”
1914
This may be the crowning year for dirty pictures, as we get the following:
Twenty Minutes of Love
Tillie’s Punctured Romance (ouch!)
Those Love Pangs
The Sea Nymph
A Robust Romeo
My Official Wife
Mabel’s Busy Day
Lover’s Luck
His Trysting Place
A Flirt’s Mistake
Fatty’s Magic Pants
A Bath House Beauty
What a dirty year! I think I’ll need a shower…

Some Reflections on Race

I’ve been writing this blog now for about a week, and I’m enjoying watching it grow into something interesting. I have big plans! But there are some things I haven’t yet addressed, which seem important. One of these is what century films tell us about the past in terms of racial history. Especially in American films of the period, one is sometimes brought up short by attitudes and images that would simply not be acceptable in polite society today. Seeing these movies reminds us that there was a time when the words and images we used to describe other people were rather more blunt than they are now.

In one sense, it can be good to be reminded how things have changed. Seeing a white man in blackface actually shocks us today; it didn’t then. It seems to me as if this is more true of race than, for example, gender relations, which often seem quaintly familiar to us in century films (but that’s a subject for a future blog post). We’re less likely to be shocked where less progress has happened. But, it isn’t enough to look down on our ancestors for having such primitive attitudes; part of the point of this blog is to remind us that these movies are a part of our common heritage, and the disturbing truth is that racism is a part of that heritage.

But, it isn’t the intention of this blog to simply ignore that, either. Earlier today I posted a review of Griffith’s “The Avenging Conscience,” which didn’t address the racialized character of “The Italian,” who was added to the story with no precedent from Poe. Every mention of Griffith alludes to his famous 1915 celebration of the Ku Klux Klan, “Birth of a Nation,” which, due to its release date, I get to wait a year before addressing. But we all know it’s there. What do we do with it?

I’m still looking for answers. I’ve found some of the historical reflections on DVDs about standards then and now to be informative, and I’ll try to include that as I write the reviews. It’s all too easy to let something like this become invisible, to let discussions of heritage be simplistic celebrations, devoid of analysis of the harder issues. For now, this post represents a humble attempt to open the discussion. You’re invited to comment, and I’ll see if I can think of more to say as I proceed.