Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: Georgette Melies

Between Calais and Dover (1897)

This short comedy from Georges Méliès demonstrates his developing ability to use the camera to create illusionary settings. In this case, a ship in bad weather is recreated through set design and use of the camera.

Between Calais and DoverWe see a set made to suggest the upper deck of a small craft. It rocks back and forth, and the passengers tumble about. Some retreat to the interior, a woman to the left side of the stage gets sick into a basket or bowl, and the captain steadfastly clings to the railing as he rides it out. One man in center stage is still trying to get the steward to bring drinks and a meal. His table topples over before the food arrives, but he rights it and the steward unsteadily delivers the order. The man begins to eat and drink when an especially strong wave bowls him into the table. Finally, everyone on deck decides it’s time to go below.

The big question, that I was unable to answer for certain after repeated viewings, is: Did Méliès rock the set back and forth or simply the camera? It would be more innovative and clever to realize that you could achieve the same effect by rocking the camera, but Wikipedia simply says he used “a special articulated platform,” which sounds more like the set was on a platform, but I’m not certain. If you pay attention, you’ll see that the table falling over, the motions of the open door, etc appear to be managed by the actors themselves – nothing seems to fall over by itself, so it could be the camera, but I can’t be sure without more research. The “First Wizard of Cinema” DVD describes this as “actuality/reenactment,” but to my mind it is neither. It is clearly a scene created in a false environment for entertainment purposes, which is why I’m calling it a comedy. It is conceivable that it was intended to reenact a recent news-worthy storm, but without the original narration, we’ll never know. The fellow who grabs our attention is again played by Méliès himself, once again showing off his great screen presence: his checked suit is padded to make him look fatter and he wears a deerstalker cap, apparently not an homage to Sherlock Holmes but perhaps intended to make him look more English. Note that the ship has a prominent label reading “Robert-Houdin/Star Lines.” Star Films was the name of the company Méliès created to distribute his movies, and the Robert-Houdin was the theater in Paris where he exhibited them.

Alternate Titles: Entre Calais et Douvres, Between Dover and Calais

Director: Georges Méliès

Camera: Unknown

Starring: Georges Méliès, Georgette Méliès, Joseph Grapinet

Run Time: 1 Min, 7 secs

You can watch it for free: here.

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Card Party (1896)

Alternate Titles: Une partie de cartes, Playing Cards

This early remake by Georges Méliès is interesting in both showing the degree to which early film makers were influenced by one another, but also how distinctive Méliès’s movies were even before he had developed his signature style. His vision is clear, even as he was uncertainly beginning to experiment with the camera.

Partie_de_cartes_(Star_Film_1,_1896)In an intentional re-enactment of “Playing Cards” by the Lumière brothers, Méliès and two male companions sit at a table outdoors with playing cards and a woman serves them wine. The other two men seem to want to focus on their game, but Méliès is the center of attention, toasting the other men, gesturing with his newspaper and telling them something that makes everyone laugh. In an age well before the concept of the “movie star” had been born, Méliès shows a powerful presence in front of the camera. Whereas a person watching the original will simply remember that it was a clear image of people at play, the viewer here takes away the performance and persona of Méliès as a character.

As with Lumière, Méliès called in members of his family for this early film. The girl who runs out at the beginning is his daughter Georgette and one of the card players is his brother Gaston, who would later prove to be a terrible business manager, helping to end Georges’s career.

Director: Georges Méliès

Camera: Unknown

Starring: Georges Méliès, Georgette Méliès, Gaston Méliès

Run Time: 1 Min, 7 secs

You can watch it for free: here.