Actuality films by Georges Méliès

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Georges Méliès

Georges Méliès (1861–1938), a French filmmaker and magician, made a variety of short actuality films between 1896 and 1900. Méliès was established as a magician with his own theater-of-illusions, the Théâtre Robert-Houdin in Paris, when he attended the celebrated first public demonstration of the Lumière Brothers' Kinetoscope in December 1895. Unable to purchase a camera from the Lumières, who insisted that the venture had no future, he bought a film projector and some films from the British film experimenter Robert W. Paul and began projecting them at the Théâtre Robert-Houdin.[1] Meanwhile, Méliès studied the principles on which Paul's projector ran, and in 1896 was able to modify the machine so that it could be used as a makeshift camera.[2] At first, Méliès followed the custom of the time, and the example memorably set by the pioneering Lumières, by producing actuality films—brief "slice of life" incidents made by preparing naturalistic scenes for the camera or by filming events of the day.[3] These "cityscapes, scenic views, and domestic vignettes" closely followed the model already set by the Lumières and their salaried operators, who had already been sent to various points abroad to publicize the Lumière camera and bring home actualites filmed in foreign climes.[4] All told, Méliès filmed 93 films, or 18% of his entire output, outdoors as actuality footage.[5]

However, Méliès was also interested in expanding his line of films to include less common genres. His second film, Conjuring, captured a theatrical magic act on film;[6] his sixth, Watering the Flowers, moved into comedy, remaking the Lumière's influential L'Arroseur Arrosé.[4] Following his discovery of the stop trick in 1896, Méliès moved further into fiction and trick films, building his own studio on his property in Montreuil, Seine-Saint-Denis[6] to allow for the filming of his theatrically inspired, storytelling-based scènes composées—"artificially arranged scenes."[3] His last nonfiction work was the seventeen-part Paris Exposition, 1900 film series.[7] Because of his move away from actualities into fiction, he is generally regarded as the first person to recognize the potential of narrative film.[8] In an advertisement, Méliès proudly described the difference between his innovative theatrical films and the actualities still being made by his contemporaries: "these fantastic and artistic films reproduce stage scenes and create a new genre entirely different from the ordinary cinematographic views of real people and real streets."[9]

Films[edit]

For a full filmography, including fiction films by Méliès, see Georges Méliès filmography.

The following guide to Méliès's actuality films lists the numbers assigned in the catalogues of Méliès's studio, the Star Film Company; the original French and English titles; the date of release; and whether the film survives or is presumed lost. Unless otherwise referenced, this data comes from Jacques Malthête's 2008 filmography of the films of Georges Méliès.[10] Wherever possible, brief summaries of the films are given; unless otherwise cited, these are extrapolated from the available French and English titles.

Méliès (third from left) and friends in film 1
Page from the flipbook hypothesized to be film 8 or 35
Edison panoramic film of the Place de l'Opéra in 1900, shortly after it was featured in films 10, 17, and 139
Postcard of the Boulevard des Italiens, the location for films 18 and 85
A Van Gogh view of the Bois de Boulogne, where films 20, 21, and 50 were made
The beach at Trouville-sur-Mer, around the time of films 30 through 33
Alexandra Feodorovna and Nicholas II of Russia, shortly before their visit to France documented in films 48 and 50
A steam-powered threshing machine; Méliès showed one in film 65
Drawings of the 1897 Mid-Lent parade shown in film 97–98
Students at the École de Joinville, around the time Méliès made films 136 and 148 there
Frame from film 151
Grave of Félix Faure: Méliès showed the funeral procession in film 173–174
The Exposition Universelle, featured in films 232–233 and 245–261
No. French title English title Date Status
1 Une partie de cartes Playing Cards May 1896[11] Survives
Méliès's first film, filmed in his garden in Montreuil, Seine-Saint-Denis. See the main article for more information.
3 Plus fort que le maître (leçon de bicyclette) Smarter Than the Teacher (1st bicycle lesson) 1896 Lost
No further information available.
4 Jardinier brûlant des herbes Gardener Burning Weeds 1896 Lost
Presumably shows a gardener.
5 Les Chevaux de bois A Merry-go-Round 1896 Lost
Presumably shows a merry-go-round.
7 Les Blanchisseuses The Washerwomen 1896 Lost
Presumably shows women cleaning clothes.
8 Arrivée d'un train (gare de Vincennes) Arrival of a Train at Vincennes Station 1896 Unknown
Probably inspired by the Lumière Brothers' film L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat.[4] This film may survive in the form of a flipbook published by Léon Beaulieu;[12] see the main article for more information. See also film 35.
10 Place de l'Opéra (1er aspect) Place de l'Opéra, 1st view (Paris) 1896 Lost
Presumably shows the Place de l'Opéra in Paris. See also films 17 and 139.
11 Place du Théâtre-Français Place du Théâtre-Français (Paris) 1896 Lost
Presumably shows the Place du Théâtre-Français (present-day Place André-Malraux, home of the Comédie-Française) in Paris.
13 Couronnement de la rosière Coronation of a Village Maiden (French customs) 1896 Lost
No further information available.
14 Bébé et Fillettes Baby and Young Girls 1896 Lost
No further information available.
16 Bateaux-Mouches sur la Seine Steamboats on River Seine 1896 Lost
Filmed in Paris.[13] Presumably shows the River Seine.
17 Place de l'Opéra (2e aspect) Place de l'Opéra, 2d view (Paris) 1896 Lost
Presumably shows the Place de l'Opéra in Paris. See also films 10 and 139.
18 Boulevard des Italiens Boulevard des Italiens (Paris) 1896 Lost
Presumably shows the Boulevard des Italiens in Paris.
19 Un lycée de jeunes filles Academy for Young Ladies 1896 Lost
Probably filmed in Paris.[13]
20 Bois de Boulogne (Touring Club) Bois de Boulogne (Touring Club, Paris) 1896 Lost
Presumably filmed in the Bois de Boulogne.
21 Bois de Boulogne (Porte de Madrid) Bois de Boulogne (Porte de Madrid, Paris) 1896 Lost
Presumably filmed in the Bois de Boulogne.
24 Le Régiment French Regiment Going to the Parade 1896 Lost
No further information available.
25 Campement de bohémiens Gipsies at Home 1896 Lost
No further information available.
27 Déchargement de bateaux (Le Havre) Unloading the Boat (Havre) July 1896[11] Lost
Méliès closed his Théâtre Robert-Houdin once a year for summer vacation; in 1896, the closing was from 14 July to 31 July, and the Méliès family took their vacation on the coast of Normandy.[11] Méliès made fifteen films on the trip: 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 40, 41, 43, 47, 49, 59, and 63.[14] This one was presumably filmed in Le Havre.
28 Plage de Villers par gros temps The Beach at Villers in a Gale (France) July 1896[11] Lost
Presumably filmed in Villers. For more information, see film 27.
29 Les Quais à Marseille The Docks at Marseilles (France) July 1896[11] Lost
Advertised as if filmed in Marseilles, but almost certainly filmed on the coast of Normandy.[11] For more information, see film 27.
30 Jetée et plage de Trouville (1re partie) Beach and Pier at Trouville (France) July 1896[11] Lost
Probably inspired by an 1895 Lumière Brothers film featuring a boat in the harbor of La Ciotat.[4] Presumably filmed in Trouville-sur-Mer. For more information, see film 27.
31 Barque sortant du port de Trouville Boat Leaving the Harbor of Trouville July 1896[11] Lost
Presumably filmed in Trouville-sur-Mer. For more information, see film 27.
32 Jetée et plage de Trouville (2e partie) Beach and Pier at Trouville (2d part) July 1896[11] Lost
Presumably filmed in Trouville-sur-Mer. For more information, see film 27.
33 Jour de marché à Trouville Market Day (Trouville) July 1896[11] Lost
Presumably filmed in Trouville-sur-Mer. For more information, see film 27.
34 Panorama du Havre (pris d'un bateau) Panorama of Havre Taken From a Boat July 1896[11] Lost
Presumably shows Le Havre. For more information, see film 27.
35 Arrivée d'un train (gare de Joinville) Arrival of a Train (Joinville Station) 1896 Lost
The Méliès family suggested in 2013 that the flipbook previously identified as film 8 may be this film instead;[15] see the main article Arrival of a Train at Vincennes Station. Presumably filmed in Joinville-le-Pont. For more information, see film 27.
38 Les Forgerons (vue d'atelier) Blacksmith in His Workshop 1896 Lost
Probably inspired by a Lumière Brothers film with the same title and subject.[4] No further information available.
40 Baignade en mer Sea Bathing July 1896[11] Lost
No further information available. For more information, see film 27.
41 Enfants jouant sur la plage Children Playing on the Beach July 1896[11] Lost
No further information available. For more information, see film 27.
43 Effet de mer sur les rochers Sea Breaking on the Rocks July 1896[11] Lost
Also known as Effets de mer sur les rochers.[16] For more information, see film 27.
46 Départ des automobiles Automobiles Starting on a Race 1896 Lost
No further information available.
47 Revue navale à Cherbourg A Naval Review at Cherbourg July 1896[11] Lost
Presumably filmed in Cherbourg. For more information, see film 27.[11] Since a naval review was held in Cherbourg on 5 October 1896 to celebrate the visit of Nicholas II of Russia (see film 48), it is possible the film was made then; however, since Méliès appears to have been making actualities in Paris at that time, and only appears to have possessed one camera, it is more likely that the film dates back to his summer vacation in July.[13]
48 Cortège du Tzar allant à Versailles The Czar and His Cortège Going to Versailles October 1896[13] Lost
Nicholas II of Russia and Empress Consort Alexandra Feodorovna visited France from 5 October to 9 October 1896, debarking in Cherbourg and traveling to Paris, where Méliès was making actualities. The two films he made of the visit, 48 and 50, were first shown on 12 October 1896 in the Théâtre Robert-Houdin.[13] This film presumably shows the imperial couple and their retinue on their way to Versailles.
49 Les Haleurs de bateaux Towing a Boat on the River July 1896[11] Lost
Probably filmed on the coast of Normandy.[11] For more information, see film 27.
50 Cortège du Tzar au Bois de Boulogne The Czar's Cortège in the Bois de Boulogne October 1896[13] Lost
Presumably shows Nicholas II of Russia and his retinue in the Bois de Boulogne. For more information, see film 48.
51 Sortie des ateliers Vibert Closing Hours at Vibert's Perfume Factory (Paris) 1896 Lost
Probably inspired by the 1895 Lumière Brothers film Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory.[4] No further information available.
52 La Voiture du potier The Potter's Cart 1896 Lost
Probably filmed in Paris.[13]
54 Place de la Concorde Place de la Concorde (Paris) 1896 Lost
Presumably shows the Place de la Concorde.
55 La Gare Saint-Lazare St. Lazare Railroad Station (Paris) 1896 Lost
Presumably shows the Gare Saint-Lazare.
56 Grandes Manœuvres Manoeuvres of the French Army 1896 Lost
One of a series of military scenes (films 56, 60, 62, 64, 66, 67, and 68).[17] Presumably shows members of the French Army.
58 Place de la Bastille Place de la Bastille (Paris) 1896 Lost
Presumably shows the Place de la Bastille in Paris.
59 Marée montante sur brise-lames Tide Rising Over the Breakwater July 1896[13] Lost
No further information available. For more information, see film 27.
60 Retour au cantonnement Return to the Barracks 1896 Lost
Part of the military series (see film 56). No further information available.
62 Réunion d'officiers French Officers' Meeting 1896 Lost
Part of the military series (see film 56). Presumably shows officers of the French Army.
63 Tempête sur la jetée du Tréport The Pier at Tréport During a Storm (France) July 1896[13] Lost
Presumably filmed in Le Tréport. For more information, see film 27.
64 Le Bivouac The Bivouac 1896 Lost
Part of the military series (see film 56). Presumably shows the use of a bivouac sack.
65 Batteuse à vapeur Threshing-Machine Worked by Power 1896 Lost
Presumably shows one or more steam-powered threshing machines. Also known as Threshing Machines Worked by Power.[18]
66 Sac au dos! Sacks Up! 1896 Lost
Part of the military series (see film 56). No further information available.
67 Libération des territoriaux Breaking up of the Territorial Army (France) 1896 Lost
Part of the military series (see film 56). Presumably shows members of the French Army.
68 Départ des officiers Officers of French Army Leaving Service 1896 Lost
Part of the military series (see film 56). Presumably shows officers of the French Army.
69 Place Saint-Augustin Place Saint-Augustin (Paris) 1896 Lost
Presumably shows the Place Saint-Augustin.
83–84 Le Cortège du Bœuf gras passant place de la Concorde The Mardi Gras Procession (Paris, 1897) 2 March 1897[17] Lost
Presumably shows the Place de la Concorde in Paris on Mardi Gras.
85 Cortège du Bœuf gras, boulevard des Italiens The Mardi Gras Procession (Paris, 1898) [sic] 2 March 1897[17] Lost
Presumably shows the Boulevard des Italiens in Paris on Mardi Gras. Note that the English-language catalogue entry for the film erroneously dated it to the following year, 1898.
86 Une cour de ferme A Farm Yard 1897 Lost
Presumably shows a farmyard.
87 Les Apprentis militaires Military Apprentices 1897 Lost
No further information available.
91 Défilé des pompiers Firemen on Parade 1897 Lost
Presumably shows members of a fire department.
92 Danseuses au Jardin de Paris Dancing Girls (Jardin de Paris) 1897 Lost
No further information available.
97–98 Cortège de la Mi-Carême Mid-Lent Procession in Paris 25 March 1897[17] Lost
Filmed in Paris on Laetare Sunday (in French, Mi-Carême).[17]
99 Bataille de confettis Battle With Confetti 25 March 1897[17] Lost
Filmed in Paris on Laetare Sunday (in French, Mi-Carême).[17]
115 Tourneur en poterie A Potterymaker 1897 Lost
Presumably shows an artisan using a potter's wheel.
136 Match de boxe (professeurs de l'École de Joinville) Boxing Match 1897 Lost
Presumably filmed at the military school in Joinville-le-Pont.
139 Carrefour de l'Opéra Place de l'Opéra, 3d view (Paris) 1897–1898 Lost
Claimed to be the first film to use time-lapse photography.[19] Presumably shows the Place de l'Opéra in Paris. See also films 10 and 17.
148 Assaut d'escrime (École de Joinville) Fencing at the Joinville School 1898 Lost
Presumably filmed at the military school in Joinville-le-Pont.
151 Panorama pris d'un train en marche (ponts et tunnels) Panorama from Top of Moving Train 1898 Survives
Also known as Panorama from Top of a Moving Train.[20][21]
157 Montagnes russes nautiques Shooting the Chutes 1898 Lost
Presumably shows a roller coaster (in French, montagnes russes).
173–174 Funérailles de Félix Faure (1—char; 2—les troupes) Funeral of Felix Faure 23 February 1899[22] Lost
Filmed in Paris.[22] Presumably shows the hearse and attending troops at the funeral of Félix Faure, President of France.
193 Combat de coqs A Lively Cock-Fight (US), A Lively Cock Fight (UK) 1899 Lost
Presumably shows a cockfight.
201 Panorama du port de Saint-Hélier (île de Jersey) Bird's-Eye View of St. Helier (Jersey) Summer 1899[22] Lost
In 1899 the Méliès family again took their summer vacation on the coast of Normandy. During the trip Méliès filmed three actualities (201, 202, and 203), as well as footage of the open sea, which he used in special effects in his fiction films Neptune and Amphitrite and Christ Walking on the Water the same year.[22] This film presumably shows the port of Saint Helier.
202 Entrée du paquebot Victoria dans le port de Jersey Steamer Entering the Harbor of Jersey Summer 1899[22] Lost
Presumably filmed in Jersey. For more information, see film 201.
203 Débarquement des voyageurs, port de Granville Passengers Landing at Harbor of Granville Summer 1899 Lost
Presumably filmed in Granville, Manche. For more information, see film 201.
232–233 Panorama de la Seine Panorama of River Seine 1899 Lost
Two short actualities filmed on the Seine, showing construction of buildings for the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris.[23] See Paris Exposition, 1900 (film series): Related films for more information.
245–261 Vues spéciales de l'Exposition de 1900 Paris Exhibition, 1900 1900 Unknown
A series of seventeen actualities, serving as a documentary record of the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris.[24] See the main article for more information.

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Frazer 1979, pp. 33–35
  2. ^ Malthête & Mannoni 2008, pp. 301–302
  3. ^ a b Ezra 2000, p. 13
  4. ^ a b c d e f Rosen 1987, p. 749
  5. ^ Ezra 2000, p. 62
  6. ^ a b Rosen 1987, p. 750
  7. ^ Malthête, Jacques (2002), "Les Vues spéciales de l'Exposition de 1900, tournées par Georges Méliès", 1895: Revue de l'Association française de recherche sur l'histoire du cinéma 36, retrieved 24 January 2014 
  8. ^ Cook, David A. (1981), A History of Narrative Film, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, p. 13, ISBN 0393013707 
  9. ^ Kovács, Katherine Singer (Autumn 1976), "Georges Méliès and the Féerie", Cinema Journal 16 (1): 1, doi:10.2307/1225446, JSTOR 1225446 
  10. ^ Malthête & Mannoni 2008, pp. 334–356
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Malthête & Mannoni 2008, p. 23
  12. ^ Khatchatourian, Maane (24 July 2013), "George Melies Flip Book Sets off Crowdsourcing", Variety, retrieved 30 December 2013 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i Malthête & Mannoni 2008, p. 24
  14. ^ Malthête & Mannoni 2008, pp. 23–24
  15. ^ Méliès, Pauline (2013). "Questions posées … Réponses en cours". Georges Méliès site officiel. Retrieved 28 March 2014. 
  16. ^ Frazer 1979, p. 242
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Malthête & Mannoni 2008, p. 25
  18. ^ Frazer 1979, p. 243
  19. ^ Dewdney, Christopher (2008), Soul of the World: Unlocking the Secrets of Time, Toronto: HarperCollins, p. 70, retrieved 27 March 2014 
  20. ^ Méliès, Georges (2008), Georges Méliès: First Wizard of Cinema (DVD; short film collection), Los Angeles: Flicker Alley, ISBN 1893967352 
  21. ^ Frazer 1979, p. 245
  22. ^ a b c d e Malthête & Mannoni 2008, p. 26
  23. ^ Malthête & Mannoni 2008, p. 27
  24. ^ Frazer 1979, p. 81

Citations[edit]

  • Ezra, Elizabeth (2000), Georges Méliès, Manchester: Manchester University Press, ISBN 0719053951 
  • Frazer, John (1979), Artificially Arranged Scenes: The Films of Georges Méliès, Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., ISBN 0816183686 
  • Malthête, Jacques; Mannoni, Laurent (2008), L'oeuvre de Georges Méliès, Paris: Éditions de La Martinière, ISBN 9782732437323 
  • Rosen, Miriam (1987), "Méliès, Georges", in Wakeman, John, World Film Directors: Volume I, 1890–1945, New York: The H. W. Wilson Company, pp. 747–765, ISBN 0824207572 

External links[edit]