Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: Charles Urban Trading Company

The Coronation of Edward VII

This film from Georges Méliès is another of his recreations of events in the headlines. In this case, the ascension of a new Monarch of the United Kingdom is an opportunity for Méliès to show respect and honor his cousins across the Channel – an appropriate sentiment for a D-Day post (even if Méliès wouldn’t live to see D-Day).

Coronation of Edward VII

The set is an elaborate and realistic (by Méliès standards) depiction of a section of Westminster Abbey, with many extras representing clergy and nobles who would have attended the event. A man in especially fine looking regalia (Edward) comes forward and kneels to the Archbishop, then footmen remove some of his robes. He is seated at a lower chair in front, then some words are spoken over him and he kneels again in prayer. His sword is presented to him and this he gives to the Archbishop to bless. A new, very long robe is placed over his shoulders and he takes his seat again, to be presented with an orb and a scepter. Soon the crown is placed on his head, and suddenly everyone in the audience places their crowns or headgear on as well. Now crowned, he moves to an upper throne, and his Queen joins him at a slightly lower throne. The film we have today cuts off as other officials take their positions.

Coronation of Edward VII 1

Because of the long life of his mother, Queen Victoria I, Edward VII was over sixty by the time this coronation occurred, and his reign would only last until his death in 1910. Victoria was seen as the definition of an era and an empire, and her death and Edward’s accession dominated world news at the time. Although his reign officially began in 1901, the coronation was delayed (in part due to his health) until August 1902, presumably about the time Méliès produced this. Méliès knew his audience would read about the coronation in the papers, and he obviously went to some effort to make his reenactment look as authentic as possible. There is no trick photography, none of his whimsical set design or props, everything is made to look as real as his small set will allow. There are some moments when the crowded nature of the set forces the Archbishop of Canterbury to make some delicate maneuvers to avoid crushing set pieces, but apart from that the illusion is quite convincing, at least on the grainy print I was able to watch. This realistic, current events work aligns with “The Dreyfus Affair” series to remind us of another, more realistic Méliès tradition.

Director: Georges Méliès

Camera: George Albert Smith

Starring: Unknown

Run Time: 3 Min, 53 secs

You can watch it for free: here.

A Canine Sherlock Holmes (1912)

This short movie has relatively little to do with the Arthur Conan Doyle character, and is more intended for children and those fond of cute dogs than mystery fans. Despite an overall lighthearted tone, it has some elements in common with later crime serials, such as “Fantômas.”

canine_sherlock_holmes_1912A bank robbery is shown that involves the use of poison pins attached to coins that cause a clerk to collapse while the robbers hold the customers at bay with guns. They threaten the survivors, telling them that an object they are leaving behind is a bomb they can detonate with “wireless wave” if anyone moves. The clerk now calls in famous detective Hawkshaw, who bears a passing resemblance to Sherlock Holmes, though he seems to favor a cigar rather than a pipe. Hawkshaw swings into action by going out to the theater, but his dog Spot is able to use scent and track the robbers to their home, which he infiltrates by pretending to be hit by a car outside the door, and the woman with the robbers brings him in and cuddles him and gives him a saucer of water or milk to drink. As soon as he’s been left alone in the room, he starts to gather incriminating evidence from the wastebasket and the desktop, and finds a set of keys. He somehow gets out of the house without being let out by a person and runs back to Hawkshaw.

Spot's big moment

Spot’s big moment

Hawkshaw uses the address on a torn envelope Spot has brought him to track the robbers to their lair, although it’s not clear how he knows that they are guilty of anything. He uses the keys to get in, and sneaks up behind a robber, quickly disarming him, but he is overwhelmed when more robbers come into the room. However, during the struggle, he holds down a robber with one hand and writes a note to the police with the other! So, Spot quickly runs off to the police station, where several officers dressed like Keystone Kops read the note that Hawkshaw has written informing them to raid the place. They swoop in and pick up the robbers and recover the money. Once again, inspector Hawkshaw has saved the day! Hopefully, Spot gets a doggy treat, at least.

Hold still while I write!

Hold still while I write!

I wasn’t too impressed with this movie, overall, and in terms of “animal movies,” I would put it far behind “A Little Hero” in entertainment value. For one thing, the human actors are clearly inferior to Mabel Normand, which partly explains why their names have been lost to history. The dog is cute enough, but not really as impressive in his performance as the dog in that movie, let alone the awesome cat actor. The best “acting” he does is his pretense of injury, which he drags out for quite a while, but the humans have to be awful dumb not to notice that he lacks any bruises or breaks, especially when they pick him up and bring him inside. Also – what did Hawkshaw expect to accomplish by going to confront the robbers alone? Why did he write a note to the police while in physical conflict, but not bring them along in the first place? And why did he go to the theater when he was supposed to be investigating a serious crime? Obviously, a man who would go nowhere without canine support. But, the criminals don’t make much more sense: what possible advantage is there to knocking out a clerk with a complicated poisoned coin when you’re going to hold everyone up with guns in the first place? It’s a typically Feuillade-ian piece of surreal logic.

Director: Stuart Kinder

Camera: Unknown

Starring: Urbanora

Run Time: 15 Min

I have not found this for free on the Internet. It is included on the Flicker Alley release of Sherlock Holmes (1916) on DVD. If you find it available for free, please comment.