Greta Garbo

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Scott Lord Silent Film: The New York Hat (D.W. Griffith, Biograph)

Directed by D.W. Griffith, the film features the first photoplay written by Anita Loos. Subsequently, Loos was to write the scenarios and screenplays to films which starred Douglas Fairbanks. The New Movie Magazine during 1930 nostalgically related that the film had also introduced Lionel Barrymore to the screen and that Loos, who had only been sixteen years old at the time of its release, had received “the large sum of $15” for writing the film. Author Iris Barry explains that it was not only Anita Loos that was behind the scenes, “At this period, ideas for films were commonly bought from outsiders and members of the company alike. Mary Pickford, Mack Sennett and others contributed many of the plots Griffith used.” This in part can be taken into consideration when apply Autuer theory to the abrupt difference between the scriptwriting methods of D.W Griffith and Thomas Ince and when reconsidering autuer theory when comparing the directorial efforts of D.W. Griffith and Ingmar Bergman in the mileau of a theatrical acting company.
In the volume D.W. Griffith, American Filmaker, Iris Barry writes that 1912 was a year that D.W. Griffith was an innovator not only in the depiction of social themes and social problems but also in film technique and the uses of the camera as well as the legnthening of the onscreen running time of the two reeler. Barry describes the filmmaking involved in “The New York Hat”, The film uses cut-backs, close-shots and sharply edited scenes with ease and mastery: close-ups made acting a matter of expresssion and minute guestures instead of the stereotyped guestures of the popular theater.”
In the short scenes of Griffith’s film, Mary Pickford is shown to the right of the screen in medium close shot, trying on a hat, her hands and elbows shown in the frame. Griffith cuts on the action of her leaving the frame to exterior shots. In a later scene, Griffith positions her to the left of the screen, and, his already having shown time having elapsed between the two scenes, then brings the action back to the right of the screen frame. As an early reversal of screen direction, or screen positioning, there is the use of screen editing in between the complimentary positions of showing her in the same interior. During the film the actress is, almost referentially, often kept in profile, facing to the right of the screen's frame. Although Griffith may have been still developing editing techniques, it has been noted that the acting style in the film can be seen as an example of a more naturalistic and less histrionic acting style than that of other contemporary films.

Silent Film D.W. Griffith Biograph Film Company

Scott Lord Silent Film: Lillian and Dorothy Gish in Hearts of the World (D.W. Griffith 1918)

In "Hearts of the World" (twelve reels, 1918) D.W. Griffith during a scene in which soldiers are marching, used reversed direction cutting, which he had briefly used in "A Girl and Hard Trust (1912). Matching the screen direction when the camera cut had often preserved continuity in early silent cinema. The volume Motion Picture Directing, written in 1922 by Peter Milne, after having described D. W. Griffith's method of working without a script or continuity, then suprisingly adds that Griffith was not only interested with putting spectacle on the screen, but was attentive to the drama surrounding the characters, drama that might deepen or change the characters being developed, "He brought before the eye all the horrible realities of the battlefield, used them to dramatic prupose time and time again. And yet in the midst of all this spectacular action he never for once lost sight of the personal element of the story, this element represented on the battlefield by Robert Harron, who played the part of the young soldier."

After filming “Hearts of the World”, D.W. Griffith featured actress Lillian Gish in another drama set during World War I, “The Great Love” (1918). The film is lost with no copies surviving. Photographed by G.W. Bitzer, it was produced by Famous Players Lasky. There are also thought to be no surviving copies of the film "The Greatest Thing in Life", also directed during 1918 by Griffith, photographed by G.W. Bitzer and also starring Lillian Gish.

Lillian and Dorothy Gish D. W. Griffith D. W. Griffith

Scott Lord Scandinavian Silent Film: The Gardner (Tradgardsmastanen, Vic...

Banned in Sweden during 1912, "The Gardner", written by Mauritz Stiller and directed by Victor Sjostrom was thought to be lost untill a surviving copy was found sixty eight years later in the Library of Congress. The film stars Victor Sjostrom with Lilly Bech, Muaritz Stiller, Gosta Ekman and John Ekman. It was the directorial debut of Victor Sjostrom, unscreened during his lifetime. Actress Karin Alexandersson who appears in the film that year also appeared in the film "Froken Julie", directed by Anna Hofman Uddgren. Was the film Scandinavian sensationalism made in response to Asta Neilsen starring in the film "The Abyss"? The film did successfully premiere in Denmark and Norway, during 1912 and 1913 respectively.
Also that year Victor Sjostrom directed the film "A Ruined Life" (Ett hemligt giftermal) co-scipted with Charles Magnusson and starring Hilda Bjorgstrom, Einar Froberg, Anna Norrie, and Greta Almroth in the first film in which she was to appear.

Actor John Eckman, who appeared on screen in a score of films between 1912 and 1950 before his appearing with Victor Sjostrom in the Ingmar Bergman film "Till Joy" (Till gladje,1950), directed only one film, it also being the first film in which he was to appear. Before having appeared during 1912 in the film "Tradgardsmasteren", under the direction of Victor Sjostrom and during 1912 in the film "De Svarta Maskerna" under the direction of Mauritz Stiller, Ekman directed the film "The Shepherd Girl" (Saterjantan,1912), starring actress Greta Almroth, Carlo Weith and Stina Berg in her first onscreen appearance, the film having had been photographed by Hugo Edlund for Svenska Biographteatern.
Silent Film Victor Sjostrom

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Scott Lord Silent Film: An Unseen Enemy (Griffith, 1912)

The year 1912 was to mark the first film with Lillian and Dorothy Gish, “An Unseen Enemy”, directed by D.W. Griffith. Lillian and Dorothy Gish appeared in a dozen two reel films together during 1912 and several more during 1913. In The Man Who Invented Hollywood, the autobiography of D.W. Griffith, published in 1972, Griffith outlines his arriving at the Biograph Film Company and adding actors, including Mary Pickford,tohis ensemble. Griffith recalls, "One day in the early summer of 1909, I was going through the dingy, old hall of the Biograph studio when suddenly the gloom seemed to disappear. The change was caused by the prescence of two young girls sitting side by side and on a hall bench...They were Lillian Gish and Dorothy Gish. Of the two, Lillian shone with an extremelyfragile, ethereal beauty...As for Dorothy, she was lovely too, but in another manner- pert, saucy, the old mischief popping out of her."
Silent Film

Lillian and Dorothy Gish Biograph Film Company

Friday, February 17, 2023

Scott Lord Silent Film: The Great Train Robbery (Porter,1903)

In the autobiographical reminiscences William N. Selig printed in Photoplay Magazine during 1920, Selig, perhaps almost graciously, credits Edison with the "first single reel picture containing a story in continuity", although he adds that "The Great Train Robbery" was only 800 feet and that he was soon on Edison's coattails with films of his own of length equal to it. Interestingly, Selig recounts in the article director Frank Boggs as "the real pioneer in photographic reproduction", his during 1908 releasing a one reel film every week; Selig claims Boggs was assasinated on the Selig Studios during 1912. Vladimir Petric in A Visual/Analytical History of Silent Film (1895-1930), Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, notes Porter's "The Great Train Robbery" as a "primitive use of parralel editing to dramatize the narrative". Not only is this in sharp contrast to the earlier cinema of attractions that relegated storytelling to the act of display, but the film is significant as the first film made in the Western genre. It is uncanny that the closing shot, as a subjective shot, is an attraction, something static and something dispalyed, urging the spectatator to draw and shoot back. Patric Vonderau and Vinzenz Hedigar have written, "The visuality of the display, however, is still indispensible to its effect."- albeit their recent volume, Films That Work, is primarily concerned with international industrial films.

Whether crosscutting began with Edwin S. Porter and "The Great Train Robbery", a film which is attributed as having used croscutting in the volume The Film Idea, written by Stanley J. Solomon, or whether it was more properly developed by D.W. Griffith around 1908, as with the parallel editing in the 1907 films "The Greaser's Gauntlet" and "The Fatal Hour" (Phillipe Gauthier, Harvard University), author Stanley Solomon points out that crosscutting was intrinsiclly cinematic, rather than dramaturgical or theatrical by describing it as "a technique suitable to the form of cinema but unnatural to the form of nineteenth century stage drama, which was at that time a significant influence on the new media." A recent online film class on how to "read" a film from described the film as being comprised of "seperate shots of non-continuous, non-overlapping action" while being careful to designate the film as an early example of crosscutting.

Film historian Charles Mussur, in Before the Nickelodeon :Edwin S. Porter, writes, "Porter's film meticulously documents a process...The film's narrative structure, as Gaudreault notes, utilizes temporal repetition with an overall narrative progression." As narrative it was essentially a reenactment film. He adds that "Porter exploited procedures that heighten the realism and believabilty of the image" (David Levy).

It is apparent that "The Great Train Robbery" was filmed not only in the studio, but on actual locations, including in fact a train Porter had borrowed in New Jersey; it also apparent that "The Great Train Robbery" released during 1904 by Sigmund Lubin also combined scenes filmed both outdoors and inside the studio, the film also concluding with a close up of an outlaw. Catalougues "free upon request" featuring "Lubin's Latest Hits" list Lubin's "The Great Train Robbery" as running 600 ft, there being sixteen seperate scenes to the film. The 1903 Edison Manufacturing Company catalougue lists the running legnth of Edison's "The Great Train Robbery", a "sensational and highly tragic subject", as 740 ft, the film divided into fourteen scenes.

Silent Film Silent Film D. W. Griffith

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Scott Lord Silent Film: The Lonedale Operator (Griffith, 1912)

In her autobiography, Lillian Gish discusses D.W. Griffith's cutting between camera distances in "The Lonedale Operator". The photoplay was written by Mack Sennett and photographed by G.W. Bitzer for the Biograph Film Company. Linda Arvidson, writing as Mrs. D. W. Griffith, in her autobiography entitled "When the Movies Were Young" recounts the importance of "The Lonedale Operator" to the career of actress Blanche Sweet, "Mr. Griffith, as of yet unwilling to grant that she had any soul or feeling in her work, was using her for 'girl' parts. But he changed his opinion with 'The Lonedale Operator'. That was the picture in which he first recognized ability in Miss Sweet." Arvidson later phrases it as "screen acting that could be recognized as a portrayal of human conduct". In another account contained in the volume, Arvidson chronicles D.W. Griffith having met with Blanche Sweet "on the road" with an offer to film two reelers in Calfornia neccesitated by the departure of Mary Pickford to the IMP Studios. Silent Film D.W. Griffith Biograph Film Company