Slapstick Summer Series: Ladies, Please! | Those Awful Hats (1909)

Although rudimentary and often too-easily dismissed, Those Awful Hats is a must-see for all fans of early cinema and film history. Reasons being (in no particular order):

  1. We’re treated to a live-action PSA of the famous theater slides which asked women to remove their giant hats so as to not obstruct the view of those behind. (And you thought cell phones were annoying) 
  2. It’s not just one of the oldest surviving films directed by D.W. Griffith, it’s also one of his rare comedies.
  3. That energetic man with the checkered jacket, top hat, and cane? Yeah, that’s Mack Sennett. Three years later he would found a little something known as Keystone Studios.

Besides, that giant hat-grabber is EPIC!

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The Original Music Videos of Alice Guy [part 6] – Indiscreet Questions (1906)

Felix Mayol performs Indiscreet Questions (by A. Trebitsch & G. de Nola / G. Maquis) in this phonoscene by Alice Guy. This early form of music video was created using a chronophone recording of Mayol, who was then filmed “lip singing”. Guy would film phonoscenes of all three major Belle Époque celebrities in France: Polin, Félix Mayol, and Dranem.

 

Happy Birthday, Lois Weber – America’s 1st Female Filmmaker

Born on this day in 1879, Lois Weber was a child prodigy pianist and silent film pioneer – an actress, screenwriter, producer, and director (the 1st woman as such in the United States) of over 100 known films. As a progressive activist, Weber’s movies often contained her ideals of social justice, which included support for women’s rights and birth control, as well as opposition towards censorship and the death penalty.

Her films are also known for being technically and narratively advanced for the time, groundbreaking in their usage and advancement of existing film language. One such example is the pre-Hitchcockian Suspense, directed in 1913 by Weber, below with a piano score by the lovely and talented Robbie Kaye from Beauty and Wisdom.

That Weber has been largely forgotten with the passage of time is as much a tragedy as the final years in her own life. I hope this changes and she begins to receive a more recognized and deserving place in history.

The Original Music Videos of Alice Guy [part 5] – White Lilacs (1905)

Felix Mayol performs White Lilacs (Lilas Blanc, by Theodore Botrel) in this phonoscene by Alice Guy. This early form of music video was created using a chronophone recording of Mayol, who was then filmed “lip singing”. Guy would film phonoscenes of all three major Belle Époque celebrities in France: Polin, Félix Mayol, and Dranem.

The Original Music Videos of Alice Guy [part 4] – The Trottins Polka (1905)

Felix Mayol performs The Trottins Polka (La Polka des Trottins, by A. Trebitsch and H. Christine) in this phonoscene by Alice Guy. This early form of music video was created using a chronophone recording of Mayol, who was then filmed “lip singing”. Guy would film phonoscenes of all three major Belle Époque celebrities in France: Polin, Félix Mayol, and Dranem.

The Original Music Videos of Alice Guy [part 3] – Five O’Clock Tea (1905)

Armand Dranem Performs Five O’Clock Tea (by J. Combe / D. Berniaux) in this phonoscene by Alice Guy. This early form of music video was created using a chronophone recording of Dranem, who was then filmed “lip singing”. Guy would film phonoscenes of all three major Belle Époque celebrities in France: Polin, Félix Mayol, and Dranem.

The Original Music Videos of Alice Guy [part 2] – The True Jiu-Jitsu (1905)

Armand Dranem performs The True Jiu-Jitsu (Le Vrai Jiu-Jitsu, by P. Briollet & G. Fabri / C. D’Orviet) in this phonoscene by Alice Guy. This early form of music video was created using a chronophone recording of Dranem, who was then filmed “lip singing”. Guy would film phonoscenes of all three major Belle Époque celebrities in France: Polin, Félix Mayol, and Dranem.

The Original Music Videos of Alice Guy [part 1] – The Anatomy of a Draftee (1905)

Polin performs The Anatomy of a Draftee (L’Anatomie du Conscrit, by E. Rimbault and E. Spencer) in this phonoscene by Alice Guy. This early form of music video was created using a chronophone recording of Polin, who was then filmed “lip singing”. Guy would film phonoscenes of all three major Belle Époque celebrities in France: Polin, Félix Mayol, and Dranem.

May Days of Melies – Ten Ladies in One Umbrella [La parapluie fantastique] (1903)

One possible theory about this work which makes it more than just a well-executed trick film: the 10 ladies under a single umbrella could be symbolic of the potential for peace within a unified Europe, led by their 10 most prominent nations at the time. Notice the variations in the original set of “maiden” costumes. Perhaps before the film print deteriorated over time, we could have more easily differentiated between the specific countries represented. Color would have also been beneficial.

Regardless, did Méliès foreshadow the European Union? Or are things simply as they appear on the surface – a fun movie with an arbitrary number of beautiful ladies. Note that the women’s dresses each become modernized and conformed between each other near the end, but before that happens, their garb is briefly changed to that of antiquity, eliciting a bow of praise from Melies. Then, before making his own dramatic exit, Melies conjures a sign that reads, “Galathea Theatre”. This is a reference to the Greek myth of Pygmalion, the sculptor who fell in love with his statue of Galatea, and was eventually granted a wish (thanks to the goddess, Venus): the ivory sculpture was brought to life as a woman of flesh and blood.

May Days of Melies – The Witch’s Revenge [Le sorcier] (1903)

A King is blessed to have fulfilled the fantasy of many men and women: a sorcerer to summon a beautiful mate (with accompanying handmaidens), just for him. But he blows it, of course, after being offended by one of the magician’s follow-up tricks in which the throne is temporarily occupied by someone other than himself. Psssh, men. Typical.