Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: Kenean Buel

The Darling of the CSA (1912)

It turns out that not just D.W. Griffith was making movies about the Civil War during the early teens. The Kalem company produced a series of them between 1911 and 1915, which includes this tautly-edited short.

Anna Q. Nilsson

Anna Q. Nilsson

Anna Q. Nilsson, who appeared as Marie Deering in “Regeneration” three years later, is the title character, Agnes Lane, a daring spy for the South during the Civil War. She delivers an important message regarding an attack on a Yankee fort, then infiltrates the fort and turns herself in, only to change into a Union soldier’s clothes and escape with more confidential information. The Confederate soldiers love her, and treat her with respect, despite her un-ladylike profession. During the attack, morale appears to flag, but she sneaks out a message that she has been captured by the Yankees and is due to be executed, urging the boys to greater heroism. As they capture the fort, she again infiltrates and pretends to be grateful to her “rescuers.”

DarlingoftheCSAThe simple story is told with cross-cutting and fairly rapid editing for the time, although I didn’t find the action scenes as compelling as their Biograph counterparts. Several times, corpses on the battlefield move or react to being stepped on, showing that no one thought to substitute dummies for actors between the shots. I was interested in the camera angles chosen, which were often 45 degrees to walls or tent sides, suggesting that the cinematographer was thinking outside of the usual box. Nilsson, in addition to her cross-dressing scene, undergoes several wardrobe changes: at first we see her in a lady’s riding outfit, but during the battle she wears the white of a nurse. Care seems to have been taken to get the period costumes right, nothing looks like the early twentieth century in this movie. Although Kalem had a Hollywood studio at this time for shooting Westerns, I suspect that this movie was made closer to the New York headquarters, based on the appearance of backgrounds and foliage.

Although the movie fits into the general trend of nostalgia for the “lost cause” of the South, there is no explicit political or racial message in the film, The Yankees are not shown as “bad,” they are simply enemy soldiers, to be overcome at any cost. This also means that Nilsson’s heroism is not countered by any compelling villainy, which probably only works because the movie is so short.

This review has been another movie I was able to see in the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood thanks to Cinecon.

Directed by: Sidney Olcott and Kenean Buel

Camera: Unknown

Starring: Anna Q. Nilsson, Henry Hallam

Run Time: 10 Min

I have not been able to find this movie for free on the Internet. If you do, please tell me about it in the comments.

Mexican Filibusters (1911)

Mexican Filibusters

Prior to seeing this rare American film about the Mexican Revolution, I hadn’t known that “filibuster” could mean anything except for a lengthy congressional speech, made deliberately to stall for time (ala “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”). Apparently, however, it could also mean “arms smuggler,” as in this movie, although our smugglers here are actually Mexican Americans smuggling arms into Mexico, not Mexicans themselves. It is a kind of early “heist” picture, in which the audience is far more invested in the criminals and whether they will pull off the crime than in the pursuing forces of law. It owes a great deal, in fact, to “The Great Train Robbery,” both visually and in terms of narrative, which makes it seem a bit dated for 1911. It was one of the first films in which Kenean Buel directed Alice Joyce (which also include “By the Aid of a Lariat” and “The Mexican Joan of Arc”) for the Kamen Company, which would itself make further movies about the complicated border relations during the time of the Revolution. Despite the fact that much of the film centers around a thrilling chase, the editing is fairly straightforward, with little inter-cutting or use of multiple angles to communicate the story, and the forward-facing intertitles telegraph a great deal of the action before it happens.

Director: Kenean Buel

Starring: Alice Joyce, Carlyle Blackwell

Run Time: 16 Min

You can watch it for free: here.