Magic Lantern

Source: Ingmar Bergman (trans. Joan Tate), Magic Lantern: An Autobiography by Ingmar Bergman (London: Penguin Books, 1988 – orig. pub. Laterna Magica, Norstedts Förlag, Sweden, 1987), pp. 14-16

Text: More than anything else, I longed for a cinematograph. The year before, I had been to the cinema for the first time, and seen a film about a horse. I think it was called Black Beauty and was based on a famous book. The film was on at the Sture cinema and we sat in the front row of the circle. To me, it was the beginning. I was overcome by a fever that has never left me. The silent shadows turned their pale faces towards me, and spoke in inaudible voices to my most secret feelings. Sixty years have gone by and nothing has changed; the fever is the same.

[…]

After breakfast, everyone went to bed for a few hours. The internal domestic routine must have gone on working, for at two o’clock, just as dusk was falling, afternoon coffee was served. We had open house for anyone who cared to come and wish the parsonage a happy Christmas. Several friends were practising musicians and part of the afternoon festivities was usually an improvised concert. Then the sumptuous culmination of Christmas Day approached: the evening meal. This was held in our spacious kitchen, where the social hierarchy was temporarily set aside. All the food was laid out on a serving table and covered working surfaces, and the distribution of Christmas gifts took place at the dining-room table. The baskets were carried in, Father officiated with a cigar and glass of sweet liqueur, the presents were handed out, verses were read aloud, applauded and commented on; no presents without verses.

That was when the cinematograph affair occurred. My brother was the one who got it.

At once I began to howl. I was ticked off and disappeared under the table, where I raged on and was told to be quiet immediately. I rushed off to the nursery, swearing and cursing, considered running away, then finally fell asleep exhausted by grief.

The party went on.

Later in the evening I woke up. Gertrud was singing a folk song downstairs and the nightlight was glowing. A transparency of the Nativity scene and the shepherds at prayer was glimmering faintly on the, tall chest-of-drawers.

Among my brother’s other Christmas presents on the white gate-legged table was the cinematograph, with its crooked chimney, its beautifully shaped brass lens and its rack for the film loops.

I made a swift decision. I woke my brother and proposed a deal. I offered him my hundred tin soldiers in exchange for the cinematograph. As Dag possessed a huge army and was always involved in war games with his friends, an agreement was made to the satisfaction of both parties.

The cinematograph was mine.

It was not a complicated machine. The source of light was a paraffin lamp and the crank was attached with a cogwheel and a Maltese cross. At the back of the metal box was a simple reflecting mirror, behind the lens a slot for coloured lantern slides. The apparatus also included a square purple box which contained some glass slides and a sepia-coloured film strip (35mm). This was about three metres long and glued into a loop. Information statd on the lid that the film was called Mrs Holle. Who this Mrs Holle was no one knew, but later it turned out that she was a popular equivalent of the Goddess of Love in Mediterranean countries.

The next morning I retreated into the spacious wardrobe in the nursery, placed the cinematograph on a sugar crate, lit the paraffin lamp and directed the beam of light on to the whitewashed wall. Then I loaded the film.

A picture of a meadow appeared on the wall. Asleep in the meadow was a young woman apparently wearing national costume. Then I turned the handle! It is impossible to describe this. I can’t find words to describe my excitement. But at any time I can recall the smell of the hot metal, the scent of mothballs and dust in the wardrobe, the feel of the crank against my hand. I can see the trembling rectangle on the wall.

I turned the handle and the girl woke up, sat up, slowly got up, stretched her arms out, swung round and disappeared to the right. If I went on turning, she would again lie there, then make exactly the same movements all over again.

She was moving.

Comments: Ingmar Bergman (1918-1927) was a Swedish film and theatre director, whose films include The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries and Persona. He was the son of a Lutherna Pastor, and his childhood was spent in Uppsala, Sweden. Toy cinematographs that could show a mixture of slides and short film strips were quite common. Black Beauty is the American feature film of 1921, based on the novel by Anna Sewell. Mrs Holle may be connected with the fairy tale of Frau Holle, or Mother Holle, collected by the Grimm brothers.

Posted in 1920s, Memoirs, Sweden | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Everything to Lose

Source: Frances Partridge, Everything to Lose: Diaries 1945-1960 (London: Victor Gollancz, 1985), pp. 332-333

Text: July 13th. [1959] Ralph came with me to London for the night, Burgo driving up with Robert. Ralph was reading Burgo’s translation in the train, I Robert’s new novel.

Visiting Robert’s flat, we admired his new carpet, chair, and moving Irish gramophone records. then came the television set, but ah! there we were unable to follow him. He showed us Tonight, said to be one of the best programmes. It certainly riveted one’s attention in a horrid, compulsive sort of way, yet I was bored and rather disgusted, and longed to be able to unhook my gaze from this little fussy square of confusion and noise on the other side of the room. It’s so old-fashioned and amateurish! ‘Ah, here’s one of the great television personalities – the best-known face in England!’ said Robert, and a charmless countenance with the manner of a Hoover-salesman dominated the screen. lt’s contemptible, it has nowhere near caught up with any of the other modes of expression; it’s the LCM of the common man, one’s mind has to shrink to get inside it. It’s as lightweight as a feather duster, yet vast numbers of people are daily and hourly beaten on the head with it.

Comments: Frances Partridge (1900-2004) was a writer, translator, diarist and member of the Bloomsbury Group. Robert is the broadcaster Robert Kee; Ralph is her husband; Burgo their son. Tonight was a popular BBC current affairs series, broadcast 1957-1965. The main presenter was Cliff Michelmore. LCM stands for ‘least common multiple’.

Posted in 1950s, Diaries, United Kingdom | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

These are the British

Source: Drew Middleton, These are the British (New York: Knopf, 1957), pp. 244-245

Text: Television is the greatest new influence on the British masses since the education acts of the last century produced a proletariat capable of reading the popular press, a situation capitalized by Lord Northcliffe and others. And the mass attention to “what’s on television,” like every other change in Britain, has social connotations. Among many in the middle class and the upper middle class it is close to class treason to admit regular watching of television. “We have one for Nanny and the children,” a London hostess said, “but we never watch it. Fearfully tedious, most of it.”

Significantly, the middle class, when defending its right to send its sons to public schools, emphasizes that the working class could send its sons to the same schools if it were willing to abandon its payments for television. This may reveal one reason for the middle-class dislike for this form of entertainment. Television sets are expensive, and possibly the cost cannot be squeezed into a budget built around the necessity of sending the boy to school. The spread of television-viewing in Britain has had far-reaching economic and social effects. A sharp blow has been dealt the corner pub, by tradition the workingman’s club. Since the rise of modern Britain, it is to the pub that the worker has taken his sorrows, his ambitions, and his occasional joys. There over a pint of bitters he could think dark thoughts about his boss, voice his opinions on statesmen from Peel to Churchill, and argue about racing with his friends. “These days,” a barmaid told me, “they come in right after supper, buy some bottled ale — nasty gassy stuff it is, too — and rush home to the telly. In the old days they came in around seven, regular as clockwork it was, and didn’t leave until I said ‘Time, gentlemen, please.'”

Television also has affected attendance at movies and at sports events. The British have never been a nation of night people, and nowadays they seem to be turning within themselves, a nation whose physical surroundings are bounded by the hearth, the television screen, and quick trips to the kitchen to open another bottle of beer. My friends on the BBC tell me this is not so; television, they say, has opened new horizons for millions and is the great national educator of the future. It is easy to forgive their enthusiasm. But how can a people learn the realities of life if what it really wants on television is sugary romances or the second-hand jokes and antics of comedians rather than the admirable news and news-interpretation programs produced by both the BBC and the Independent Television Authority? The new working class seems to be irritated by attempts to bring it face to face with the great problems of their country and of the world. Having attained what it wants — steady employment, high wages, decent housing — it hopes to hide before its television screens while this terrible, strident century hammers on.

Comments: Drew Middleton (1913-1990) was an American journalist, who worked for the New York Times for which he served as its chief London correspondent 1953-1963. These are the British is a portrait of the British way of life.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

Posted in 1950s, Travel writing, United Kingdom | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Im Kino

Source: ‘Im Kino’ series of chocolate cards, dated c.1916, from the Nicholas Hiley collection

gartmann

gartmann2

Comments: Gartmann was, and still is, a German chocolate manufacturer, based in Hamburg. These cards were given out with chocolate from vending machines. The series depicts various scenes in a typical cinema of the period: the barker, the ticket office, the musicians, the manager, a drink-seller, and the audience. Each is described in verse on the back of the cards.

Posted in 1910s, Chocolate cards, Germany | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Magic Lantern Kinetoscope

panoptikon

Illustration accompanying New York Sun article on the debut of the Panoptikon

Source: ‘Magic Lantern Kinetoscope’, The Sun [New York], 22 April 1895, p. 2

Text: MAGIC LANTERN KINETOSCOPE

Edison Says Latham’s Device is Old and Promises to Beat It

An exhibition of what Edison considers a Kinetoscope so arranged as to throw pictures, enlarged, upon a screen was given yesterday afternoon at 35 Frankfort street by Woodville Latham. He calls his arrangement the Pantoptikon. The illustration gives a very good idea of what it looks like. The continuous film of photographic pictures with slots cut in the edges to catch the teeth of a sprocket that keep it from slipping is reeled in front of the electric light of a sort of magic lantern and so the pictures are thrown successively on the screen with sufficient rapidity to produce the well-known kinetoscope or zoetrope effect of animated pictures.

The pictures shown yesterday portrayed the antics of some boys at play in a park. They wrestled, jumped, fought and tumbled over one another. Near where the boys were romping a man sat reading a paper and smoking a pipe. Even the puffs of smoke could be plainly seen, as could also the man’s movements when he took a handkerchief from his pocket. The whole picture on the screen yesterday was about the size of a standard window sash but the size is a matter of expense and adjustment. Mr. Latham’s camera will take forty pictures a second and it can be set up anywhere in the street or on the top of a house.

Mr. Latham says that he will try to obtain a patent on his apparatus which thus enables the exhibitor to show kinetoscope effects to a large audience at one time.

A Sun reporter saw Mr Edison last evening and described the Latham machine to him. Hearing the description, Mr. Edison said:

“That is the kinetoscope. This strip of film with the pictures, which you have here, is made exactly as the film I use. The holes in it are for the spokes of the sprocket, which I devised.

“The throwing of the pictures on a screen was the very first thing I did with the kinetoscope. I didn’t think much of that, because the pictures were crude and there seemed to me to be no commercial value in that feature of the machine.

“In two or three months, however, we will have the kinetophone perfected, and then we will show you screen pictures. The figures will be life size and the sound of the voice can be heard as the movements of the figures are seen.

“If Mr Latham can produce life-size pictures now as we will do with the kinetophone that’s a different matter.

“When Latham says he can set up his kinetograph anywhere and take the pictures for his machine, he means that he has simply a portable kinetograph.

“We have had one of those for six months. The reasons that our pictures all had to be taken here at first was that our kinetograph was unwieldy.

“If they exhibit this machine, improve on what I have done, and call it a kinetoscope, that’s all right. I will be glad of whatever improvements Mr. Latham may make.

“If they carry the machine around the country, calling it by some other name, that’s a fraud, and I shall prosecute whoever does it. I’ve applied for patents long ago.”

Comments: Major Woodville Latham and his sons Grey and Otway exhibited the first public demonstration of motion pictures projected on a screen in the United States on 21 April 1895. Their machine, billed as the Panoptikon, took place at their company offices at 35 Frankfort Street, New York. The film they exhibited had been taken on the roof of the shop (not in a park as this account states), with Woodville Latham portraying the man with a newspaper and pipe. Thomas Edison’s chief engineer on his own motion picture work with the Kinetoscope peepshow, William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson, had been secretly aiding the Lathams. Edison was only able achieve film projection on 23 April 1896, with his Vitascope projector (devised by Thomas Armat and Charles Jenkins). The Lathams began commercial exhibition of what was renamed the Eidoloscope on 20 May 1895, but the projection quality was poor and it was not a success.

Links: Copy at Chronicling America

Posted in 1890s, Illustrations, Newspapers, USA | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Plain-towns of Italy

Source: Egerton R. Williams, Plain-towns of Italy: The Cities of Old Venetia (London: J. Murray, 1912), pp. 142-143

Text: After a dinner in company with various gentlemen who ate with their hats on (according to the peasant’s manner), consumed alarming quantities of meat and macaroni with the sole aid of their knives, and roared continuously at each other with deafening bellows, I solaced my nerves with some caffè nero at a sidewalk table in the main piazza; and then found a cinematograph exhibition, which gave a performance of five numbers for the modest sum of thirty centesimi, in the first class.

Moving pictures are now the one great amusement of the Italians. There is hardly a town so small as not to possess at least one such show; and the prices are usually twenty centesimi for the second class, thirty or forty for the first. Here the national love of tragedy is prominently manifested; the popular piece must have plenty of blood-letting, and above all a harrowing finis, that leaves most of the characters upon the ground. Especially successful this evening was the story of Parasina; when it ended with the death of herself and Ugo upon the block, a united sigh of satisfaction arose from the excited populace. The concluding number, as always, was supposed to be very funny – “comicissima,” – and consisted of the usual chase of one person by many others, at whose clearly intentional tumbles the audience roared with delight.

Footnote: In the cities there is often also a third class, costing ten centesimi; at which rate children and private soldiers are nearly everywhere admitted, the latter proving the mainstay of the business in garrison-towns. As a teacher for them of general information, it is invaluable; and one sees them, night after night, drinking in with open mouths the wonders of this world.

Comments: Egerton Ryerson Williams (?-?) was a British travel writer. The film show he attended was in the town of Bassano (now Bassano del Grappa) in the Veneto region of Northern Italy. Parasina was a poem by Lord Byron which was turned into an opera by Donizetti and based on the 15th century historical figure Parisina Malatesta. The film was probably Parasina (Italy 1909), production company SAFFI-Comerio.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

Posted in 1910s, Italy, Travel writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Life and Letters of Sir Edmund Gosse

Source: Edmund Gosse, letter to Lady Gosse, 20 September 1909, in Evan Charteris, The Life and Letters of Sir Edmund Gosse (London, W. Heinemann, 1931), p. 317

Text: My dearest,—
Here is a day of heavenly brightness at last. I do so rejoice in it for you. I should think that Beaulieu must look quite lovely. Yesterday, at 8 in the morning, before I was out of bed, Evan telegraphed to know whether I would go to the Theatre. I did not like to leave Tessa alone, but she insisted I should go, and I wanted to see Evan, who was only passing through London. He started for Russia by the Moscow express this morning. We dined at the Ritz — such a nice little dinner, cold soup, a trout, a grouse and some raspberries, nothing more — but we could not get any theatre tickets we cared about. So at 9.45 we went to the Empire music-hall, and saw a very clever and amusing ballet, Une Visite a Paris (with the famous Apache dance), and afterwards, on the bioscope, the aviation week at Rheims. You cannot think how extraordinarily interesting this last was. To see the strange aeroplanes run along, and then soar up into the sky, and wheel gracefully about like great sleepy insects — most curious! It gave me my first idea of what it is all really like.

Comments: Edmund Gosse (1848-1928) was a British author and autobiographer. The film he saw was probably Pathé’s coverage of the aviation meeting held at Rheims in France, 22-29 August 1909, which was widely for shown and which was for many people the first sight that they had had of an aeroplane.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

Posted in 1900s, Letters, United Kingdom | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Life on Mars?

Source: David Bowie, ‘Life on Mars?’, from Hunky Dory (1971), lyrics via http://www.lyricfind.com.

Text:
It’s a godawful small affair
To the girl with the mousy hair,
But her mummy is yelling, “No!”
And her daddy has told her to go,
But her friend is nowhere to be seen.
Now she walks through her sunken dream
To the seats with the clearest view
And she’s hooked to the silver screen,
But the film is sadd’ning bore
For she’s lived it ten times or more.
She could spit in the eyes of fools
As they ask her to focus on

Sailors
Fighting in the dance hall.
Oh man!
Look at those cavemen go.
It’s the freakiest show.
Take a look at the lawman
Beating up the wrong guy.
Oh man!
Wonder if he’ll ever know
He’s in the best selling show.
Is there life on Mars?

It’s on America’s tortured brow
That Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow.
Now the workers have struck for fame
‘Cause Lennon’s on sale again.
See the mice in their million hordes
From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads.
Rule Britannia is out of bounds
To my mother, my dog, and clowns,
But the film is a sadd’ning bore
‘Cause I wrote it ten times or more.
It’s about to be writ again
As I ask you to focus on

Sailors
Fighting in the dance hall.
Oh man!
Look at those cavemen go.
It’s the freakiest show.
Take a look at the lawman
Beating up the wrong guy.
Oh man!
Wonder if he’ll ever know
He’s in the best selling show
Is there life on Mars?

Comments: David Bowie (1947-2016) was a British rock musician, artist and actor. ‘Life on Mars?’ is a track on his 1971 album Hunky Dory. It was also released as a single, and is one of his best-known songs. Its meaning has been much debated, but it is structured around a visit (real or metaphorical) to a film show, presumably in a cinema. David Bowie died on 10 January 2016.

Posted in 1970s, Songs, United Kingdom | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Summer

Source: Edith Wharton, Summer: A Novel (New York: D. Appleton, 1917), pp. 138-139

Text: They had made no plans for the rest of the day, and when Harney asked her what she wanted to do next she was too bewildered by rich possibilities to find an answer. Finally she confessed that she longed to go to the Lake, where she had not been taken on her former visit, and when he answered, “Oh, there’s time for that — it will be pleasanter later,” she suggested seeing some pictures like the ones Mr. Miles had taken her to. She thought Harney looked a little disconcerted; but he passed his fine handkerchief over his warm brow, said gaily, “Come along, then,” and rose with a last pat for the pink-eyed dog.

Mr. Miles’s pictures had been shown in an austere Y.M.C.A. hall, with white walls and an organ; but Harney led Charity to a glittering place — everything she saw seemed to glitter — where they passed, between immense pictures of yellow-haired beauties stabbing villains in evening dress, into a velvet-curtained auditorium packed with spectators to the last limit of compression. After that, for a while, everything was merged in her brain in swimming circles of heat and blinding alternations of light and darkness. All the world has to show seemed to pass before her in a chaos of palms and minarets, charging cavalry regiments, roaring lions, comic policemen and scowling murderers; and the crowd around her, the hundreds of hot sallow candy-munching faces, young, old, middle-aged, but all kindled with the same contagious excitement, became part of the spectacle, and danced on the screen with the rest.

Comments: Edith Wharton (1862-1937) was an American novelist. Summer is a novel about small town librarian Charity Royall and her affair with architect Lucius Harney. The confusion she feels in the cinema reflects her confused state in the early stages of her relationship with Harney. Wharton was antagonistic towards the cinema, but makes numerous references to filmgoing and film culture in her work.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

Posted in 1910s, Fiction, USA | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Sir Philip Sydney

Source: ‘Sir Philip Sydney’ in Andrew Clark (ed.), ‘Brief Lives’: Chiefly of Contemporaries, Set Down by John Aubrey, Between the Years 1669 & 1696 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1898), vol. II, pp. 249-250

Text: When I was a boy 9 yeares old, I was with my father at one Mr. Singleton’s, an alderman and wollen-draper in Glocester, who had in his parlour, over the chimney, the whole description of the funerall [of Sir Philip Sidney], engraved and printed on papers pasted together, which, at length, was, I beleeve, the length of the room at least; but he had contrived it to be turned upon two pinnes, that turning one of them made the figures march all in order. It did make such a strong impression on my young phantasy, that I remember it as if it were but yesterday. I could never see it elswhere. The house is in the great long street, over against the high steeple; and ’tis likely it remaines there still. Tis pitty it is not re-donne.

Comments: John Aubrey (1626-1697) was an English antiquarian, archaeologist and writer, best known for Brief Lives, a collection of biographical sketches of people from the seventeenth century which was not published until after his death and exists in several forms. The poet Sir Philip Sidney was killed at the Battle of Zutphen and his funeral was held in London on 16 February 1587. Aubrey includes this memory of a moving screen effect from around 1635 in his biography of Sidney (spelled Sydney in his text).

Links: Copy at the Internet Archive

Posted in 1630s, Memoirs, United Kingdom | Tagged , , | 2 Comments