Gaston Méliès

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Gaston Méliès (French: [meljɛs]; February 12, 1852 – April 9, 1915) was a French film director who worked primarily in the United States. He was the brother of the famous film director Georges Méliès.

Biography[edit]

Gaston and the third and elder Méliès brother, Henri, ran the family shoe factory in Paris. They landed a contract with the French War Ministry that looked to make them both wealthy. Unfortunately, the price of leather increased sharply, and they were unable to meet their costs. The factory shut down and the Méliès lost their business.[1]

Georges Méliès had produced films in France, which had become popular around the world. Some distributors began pirating Méliès work, especially in the United States. Georges Méliès asked his brother Gaston to go the United States and guard Georges's copyrights.

Gaston Méliès arrived in New York City in 1902, formed the American branch of the Star Film Company, and began distributing his brother's films. By 1903, Gaston began making films himself, mostly documentaries. The films were not successful. In the summer of 1907, Gaston Méliès returned to France take care of some business with Georges. On September 11, 1907, he married Hortense-Louise de Mirmont, an elder sister of Lucien Reulos' wife, who was one of Georges Méliès' first collaborators.[2] The new couple left Paris a few days after their marriage and travelled from Le Havre to New York on the ship La Savoie, where they arrived September 28, 1907.

In need of warmer winters to allow for year round film production, Méliès moved the Star Film Company to San Antonio, Texas, and leased twenty acres including a two-story house and large barn that became the "Star Film Ranch" movie studio.[1] He acted in two of his movies playing a priest in The Immortal Alamo (1911) and The Kiss of Mary Jane (1911).

In April, 1911, Gaston moved the company to Santa Paula, California, following the trend of other movie studios to relocate in California.

In 1912 and 1913 Méliès travelled with his family and a film crew of over 20 people in the South Pacific, New Zealand, Australia, Tahiti, Southeast Asia and Japan in search of exotic subjects for his films.[3] For the summer of 1912 and well into 1913 Gaston sent footage back to his son in New York, but it was often damaged or unusable. Gaston was no longer able to fulfill Star Film's obligation to Thomas Edison's company. Gaston lost $50,000 and had to cease production. He went to California, sold the American branch of Star Films to Vitagraph Studios, and then returned to Europe. He and his brother Georges (who blamed Gaston for his own financial difficulties) never spoke to one another again.

Méliès and his wife moved to Corsica in the winter of 1913. He died in Corsica on April 9, 1915 of "shellfish poisoning." He was buried on April 14, 1915 in Saint-Vincent Cemetery in Montmartre, Paris, in a tomb belonging to his second wife's family, De Mirmont.[2]

Filmography[edit]

Unless otherwise referenced, the following information is adapted from the research of Paul Hammond.[4] All films were released by the Star Film Company.

1903–1909[edit]

In the table below, "SFC" refers to the numbers used for film listings in the Star Film Company catalogues; Hammond's research identifies the catalogue numbers for the first three of Gaston Méliès's films. Film length is given in meters and feet.

SFC Release date Title Length Notes
482A August 1903 The Yacht Race (Reliance–Shamrock III) 43m/140 ft French title: Une Course de yachts
668A February 1905 Inauguration Subjects: President-Elect Roosevelt, Vice-President-Elect Fairbanks and Escort Going to the Capitol 45m/146 ft Listed as notable by the American Film Institute[5]
1114–1115 May 1908 The Catholic Centennial Celebration 292m/950 ft
June 1908 Pageant, Dedication, Festival Unknown UK release title: Boston Normal School Pageant
October 1909 The Stolen Wireless 289m/915 ft
November 1909 The Red Star Inn 307m/1000 ft
December 1909 The Fatal Ball 307m/1000 ft

1910–1912[edit]

The following films, all one-reelers, were made between 7 April 1910 and 25 July 1912 in Texas and California.

  • Cyclone Pete in Matrimony
  • Making Sherry Wine at Xeres
  • Branding the Thief
  • The Seal of the Church
  • The First Born
  • The Lover's Oracle
  • Trawlers Fishing in a Hurricane
  • The Story of Old Mexico
  • Volcanic Eruptions
  • The Rival Miners
  • The Debt Repaid
  • Indian Drama
  • Speed Versus Death
  • A Thrilling Race Against Time
  • A Race for a Bride
  • A Rough Night on the Bridge
  • The Palefaced Princess'
  • The Padre's Secret
  • Love's C. Q. D.
  • A Texas Joke
  • White Doe's Lovers
  • The Stranded Actor
  • The Ruling Passion
  • The Little Preacher
  • The Golden Secret
  • A Postal Substitute
  • The Woman in the Case
  • Mrs. Bargainday's Baby
  • The Return to To-Wa-Wa
  • The Winning Way
  • The Romance of Circle Ranch
  • Won in the Fifth
  • In the Mission Shadows
  • The Salt on the Bird's Tail
  • A Plucky American Girl
  • Bill's Sister
  • Baseball That's All
  • Out of Mischief
  • Uncle Jim
  • Under the Stars and Bars
  • Birthday Cigars
  • Generous Customers
  • A Mountain Wife
  • His Sergeant's Stripes
  • The Cowboy and the Bachelor Girl
  • Pals
  • What Great Bear Learned
  • Old Norris' Gal
  • A Western Welcome
  • In the Tall Grass Country
  • The Crimson Scars
  • The Owner of the "LL" Ranch
  • Changing Cooks
  • How Mary Met the Cowpunchers
  • Only a Sister
  • Tony the Greaser
  • Billy and his Pal
  • My Prairie Flower
  • In the Hot Lands
  • The Snake in the Grass
  • The Schoolmarm of Coyote Country
  • Sir Percy and the Punchers
  • The Warrant for Red Rube
  • Her Faithful Heart
  • Jack Wilson's Last Deal
  • An Unwilling Cowboy
  • The Reformation of Jack Robins
  • Mary's Stratagem
  • The Spring Round-Up
  • The Redemption of Rawhide
  • The Immortal Alamo
  • In Time for Press
  • Her Spoiled Boy
  • When the Tables Turned
  • The Kiss of Mary Jane
  • The Honor of the Flag
  • Right of Way
  • The Great Heart of the West
  • The Strike at the Gringo
  • Bessie's Ride
  • At the Gringo Mine
  • Red Cloud's Secret
  • His Terrible Lesson
  • The Local Bully
  • Two Foolies and their Follies
  • A Spanish Love Song
  • The Call of the Wilderness
  • A Shattered Dream
  • $200.00
  • The Mission Waif
  • The Hobo Cowboy
  • The Stolen Grey
  • Tommy's Rocking Horse
  • The Cross of Pearls
  • The Gypsy Bride
  • Right or Wrong
  • Mexican As It Is Spoken
  • The Spur of Necessity
  • The Miser Miner
  • An Oil County Romance
  • The Reason Why
  • A Western Girl
  • The Better Man
  • The Mission Father
  • The Ranch Man's Debt of Honor
  • A Woman's Gratitude
  • Roped In
  • Alice's Choice
  • The Outlaw and the Baby
  • The Mortgage
  • Cowboy Vs Tenderfoot
  • Dodging the Sheriff
  • Smiling Bob
  • Melita's Ruse
  • The Swastika
  • All Is Fair
  • The Rustler's Daughter
  • Oil
  • The Sheriff's Daughter
  • Troubles of the XL Outfit
  • The Remittance Man
  • A Man Worth While
  • Wanted—A Wife
  • The Ghost of Sulphur Mountain
  • True Till Death
  • A Cowboy's Proposal
  • Finding the "Last Chance" Mine
  • Widowers Three
  • Making Good
  • Ghosts at Circle X Camp
  • Two Loves
  • A Woman's Way
  • The Cowboy Kid
  • The Man Inside
  • A String of Beads

1912–1913[edit]

The following are the films made between July 1912 and May 1913 on Méliès's Pacific travels.

  • The Misfortunes of Mr. and Mrs. Mott on Their Trip to Tahiti
  • A Tale of Old Tahiti
  • Unmasked by a Kanaka
  • A Ballad of the South Seas
  • The Upa Upa Dance
  • The River Wanganui
  • A Tahitian Fish Drive
  • Hinemoa[6]
  • How Chief Te Ponga Won His Bride
  • Loved by a Maori Chieftess[6]
  • Captured by Boomerang Throwers
  • The Golden Gullen
  • The Black Trackers
  • The Foster Brothers
  • Gold and the Gilded Way
  • The Stolen Claim
  • The Lure of the Sacred Pearl
  • It Happened in Java
  • Javanese Dancers
  • Snapshots of Java
  • Views of Samarang
  • Native Industries of Java
  • The Robber of Angkor
  • A Cambodian Idyll
  • Lost in Cambodia
  • The Poisoned Darts
  • His Chinese Friend
  • A Chinese Funeral
  • The Yellow Slave
  • The Rice Industry in Japan
  • Temples of Japan
  • A Japanese Wedding
  • Japanese Judo Commonly Known as Jiu Jitsu

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Thompson, Frank (2002). Texas Hollywood: Filmmaking in San Antonio Since 1910. San Antonio: Maverick Publishing Company. pp. 3–8. 
  2. ^ a b Thompson, Frank (1996). The Star Film Ranch: Texas' First Picture Show. Plano, TX: Republic of Texas Press. p. 7. 
  3. ^ Barr, Mary; Barr, Jim; Pivac, Diane (2004). "Tracking Shots: Close Ups on NZ Film History: A New Zealand Romance". New Zealand Film Archive. Retrieved 22 July 2013. 
  4. ^ Hammond, Paul (1974). Marvellous Méliès. London: Gordon Fraser. pp. 149–151. ISBN 0900406380. 
  5. ^ Corey, Melinda; Ochoa, George (2002). The American Film Institute Desk Reference. London: Dorling Kindersley. p. 23. ISBN 0751349895. 
  6. ^ a b "Film Industry History". Film New Zealand. Retrieved 3 March 2014. 

External links[edit]