Above: The underwater funeral procession scene from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916, dir. Stuart Paton), the first fictional undersea film.
Below: Diagram for the Williamson photosphere, which was used to shoot the film. The camera & cameraman were placed in the photosphere and lowered into the sea, remaining connected to the surface via a watertight tube.
Theda Bara in a publicity shot for A Fool There Was (1915, dir. Frank Powell) (via)
“I was held up as one who delighted in the lure of destruction and evil-doing…hardly a day passes that the postman does not bring me letters written along similar lines. Many of them attack me most unmercifully. Some intimate that no woman could portray [femme fatales] without having had the actual experience.
Here is a letter I received during the past few months:
You are a menace to the human race. Man is a mere toy in your hands or those of women like you. Your type inevitably leads to ruin and destruction. Those glittering eyes are like those of the serpent, except they are more dangerous.
Such letters hurt. It is impossible to accustom myself to them. Why do people hate me so? I try to show the world how attractive sin can be, how very beautiful, so that one must be always on the lookout and know evil even in disguise. I am a moral teacher then. But what is my reward? I am detested.
People seem to forget that I am only an actress; that an actress should never show her real self to an audience, else she ceases to be an actress.”
-Bara, quoted in The Pittsburgh Press (April 1916)
The Motorist (1906, R.W. Paul) (via), a silent comedy short about a couple who exceed the speed limit and fly off the face of the Earth into outer space whilst fleeing the police. Motoring through the solar system, their car touches down on the sun and goes for a spin around Saturn’s rings.
Bluebeard (1901, dir. Georges Méliès)
“King Bluebeard turned all the keys of the castle over to his wife, saying, ‘You may go anywhere in the castle, unlock everything, and look at anything you want to, except for one door, to which this little golden key belongs. If you value your life, you are not allowed to open it!’
‘Oh no!’ she said, adding that she surely would not open that door. But after the king had been away for a while, she could find no rest for constantly thinking about what there might be in the forbidden chamber. On the morning of the fourth day, she could no longer resist the temptation, and taking the key she secretly crept to the room, stuck the key into the lock, and opened the door.”
-Charles Perrault, Bluebeard
Drama in the Air (1904, dir. Gaston Velle) (via)
“Who are nobler than the martyrs of science?” cried the lunatic. “They are canonized by posterity!”
(May this terrible narrative, though instructing those who read it, not discourage the explorers of the air.)
-Jules Verne, Drama in the Air (1851)
Mabel Normand as “Mabel, Sweet & Lovely” and Ford Sterling as the moustache-twirling “Villainous Rival” in Barney Oldfield’s Race for a Life (1913, dir. Mack Sennett) (via)
Poster art: Universum Film AG edition
Film posters from UFA, the great German movie studio that was home to directors like Fritz Lang, F.W. Murnau, G.W. Pabst, & Ernst Lubitsch during the Weimar era (click on individual posters for hi-res/film & artist info).
Conquering the Skies (1906, dir. Ferdinand Zecca), in which the image of Zecca astride a vehicle he invented was superimposed on a view of Paris.
Living Marble (1910, dir. Johann Schwarzer), an example of the 1910’s-era Austrian erotic film genre known as “Pikanter Herrenabend Film” (i.e. “Racy Night Films for Gentlemen”)
In this one, some men play a practical joke on a friend by having a woman paint herself white and pretend to be a nude marble statue. In this scene, the pranksters decide how to best position her, which provides a convenient excuse for placing her in a variety of revealing poses.
Clara Kimball Young in Lola (1914, dir. James Young)
In the film, sweet & virtuous Lola is killed in a car accident. She is restored to life, by means of her scientist father’s electric ray machine, but too late to prevent Death from carrying off her soul. The now soulless Lola promptly turns into an amoral jezebel who enjoys anonymous beach sex and making men cry with statements like, ”When a man says to me, ‘I want the only things you have - your beauty, your youth, your love,’ haven’t I the right to say, ‘What will you give me for them?’”
Order is restored when “too much excitement” (i.e. too many adulterous orgasms) fatally weakens her heart, and her heartbroken father, having learned his lesson, lets her go.