Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: Dranem

Dranem Performs “Five O’ Clock Tea” (1905)

Alternate Title: Dranem, Five OClock Tea

This short sound-on-disc movie from Alice Guy is very similar to the Dranem film I discussed yesterday, even the backdrop is the same. The slight changes, however, may tell us something about ourselves in the modern world, as well as offering insights into the past.

Ministry of Silly Walks, anyone?

Ministry of Silly Walks, anyone?

As with “The True Jiu Jitsu,” Dranem walks out onto the small stage and performs a song. He has changed wardrobe slightly: his ponytail is gone, his hat is in a British fashion and he carries a walking-stick. Given the title and the getup, I immediately knew that this song was about the British, and would be making fun of middle-class propriety and the persistence of Victorian values into the Twentieth Century. His body language and movements reflect the change in stereotype – where before his motions were jerky and short, often tending towards bowing or withdrawal, here there are haughty and broad, displaying the concept of British arrogance.

DranemOne wonders whether Dranem made his career on lampooning other nationalities, or is it just that these are the examples that happen to have survived. Anyway, my own feelings about a Frenchman mocking the British are rather different to when he mocked the Chinese. Partly, from my familiarity with the culture, I know that he’s making fun of a lot of the same things that British comics would in later years (think “Monty Python”). But, there’s always that question of power as well – while the French were a colonial power and the Chinese were at this time colonized, the British were if anything leaders in the colonial game. Still, it’s a reminder of the very human nature of making fun of what is unfamiliar to us, the question of what kinds of humor are or are not acceptable in different times and places, and the difficulty humans have in accepting one another without judging.

Director: Alice Guy

Camera: Unknown (possibly Alice Guy or Anatole Thiberville)

Starring: Armand Dranem

Run Time: 3 Min

You can watch it for free: here.

Dranem Performs “The True Jiu-Jitsu” (1905)

Alternate Title: Dranem, Le Vrais Jiu-Jitsu

This is another short sound-disc movie from Alice Guy which features a singer. In this case, the singer is Armand Dranem, often just called by the stage name “Dranem” (which is a reversal of his birth last name, Menard), who was a rising star in France at the time.

Dranem Jiu Jitsu

What we see is quite familiar by now: a small stage with a backdrop and the singer walks out and begins his song. In this case, the backdrop is sort of abstract – it reminded me at first of the sea floor, but after a while I decided that the floating shapes were not actually fish. Dranem himself is somewhat non-descript and closely resembles Polin, in fact. The song he performs, and his attire, however, would be more acceptable in 1900’s comedy than today. He wears a long ponytail and is dressed up to resemble an Asian, specifically a Chinese man. I did not look up the lyrics this time, because I got the idea without them: he is making fun of Chinese accents and people. Probably a big hit at the time, it doesn’t seem that funny to me now.

Dranem was a music hall singer whose comedy songs were very popular in France, and he went on to do a number of movies, the best-known of which may be “Monsieur Albert” (1932), in which he has a small part. He didn’t do much during the silent period, apart from these phonoscènes, but made money from stage and audio performances before becoming in-demand at sound studios.

Keen-eyed observers will note the “Gaumont” logo on the lower right, again much smaller than its counterparts in American films of the time.

Director: Alice Guy

Camera: Unknown (possibly Alice Guy or Anatole Thiberville)

Cast: Dranem

Run Time: 2 Min, 30 secs

You can watch it for free: here.