Oh Joe! I Want To Go To the Picture Show

Source: Worton David and Ralph Penso, ‘Oh Joe! I Want To Go To the Picture Show’, c.1910, sung by Harry Bluff, lyrics via http://monologues.co.uk/musichall/Songs-O/Oh-Joe-Picture-Show.htm

Text:
Mooning and spooning was Flo’s delight
So to her sweetheart she said one night
‘I wish you’d take me the pictures to see
At the bioscope show,’ but he
Said, ‘I fail to see where the fun comes in, dear.’
Then Flo with a sigh to her sweetheart drew near
And whispered these words in his ear:

‘Oh Joe, I want to go to the Picture Show
The fun you’re sure to see
If you squeeze close up to me
Oh Joe, don’t say ‘No’
For it’s sure to make you grin
And you’ll see no doubt, when the lights go out
Where the fun comes in.’

Off to the pictures Joe went that night
But the first picture gave him a fright
There on the screen was a picture of Joe
With a girl, and that girl wasn’t Flo
Flo cried, ‘You old Bluebeard! that picture explain.’
Then fainting away with excitement and strain
She murmured these words once again:

‘Oh Joe, I want to go to the Picture Show
The fun you’re sure to see
If you squeeze close up to me
Oh Joe, don’t say ‘No’
For it’s sure to make you grin
And you’ll see no doubt, when the lights go out
Where the fun comes in.’

Joe tried his best to explain away
That ‘girl in the picture’ to Flo next day
‘I’ve never flirted,’ said he, ‘On my life
For that girl, dear, was only – my wife.’
‘Your w-w-w-wife? are you married?’ Flo cried
Said he, ‘Well, I was dear, but as my wife died
I’m a widower.’ then Flo replied:

‘Oh Joe, I want to go to the Picture Show
The fun you’re sure to see
If you squeeze close up to me
Oh Joe, don’t say ‘No’
For it’s sure to make you grin
And you’ll see no doubt, when the lights go out
Where the fun comes in.’

Comments: Hubert Worton David was a prolific British writer of musical songs and monologues, some of them written by Ralph Penso. ‘Oh Joe! I Want To Go To the Picture Show’ is most closely associated with the performer Arthur Reece, but in the above recording is sung by Harry Bluff (real name Léonce Charles Bluff). My thanks to Nick Hiley for bringing this song to my attention.

Links: Lyrics at monologues.co.uk

Cocks and Bulls in Caracas

Source: Olga Briceño, Cocks and Bulls in Caracas; how we live in Venezuela (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1945), pp. 126-130

Text: Everyone is curious to know how we amuse ourselves in South America. What, they wonder, do those strange people do for fun? It’s simple enough. We amuse ourselves like anybody else, admitting the while, parenthetically, that the whole world is short on pastime, with popular imagination in this respect the victim of a pernicious anemia.

Our amusements are those of any other country, but with one peculiarity. Others find their fun outside; we find ours mostly within.

First of all, we have the movies. We are devotees of adjectives, superlatives, and dithyrambs. In certain individuals the harmless mania is particularly marked — in mothers speaking of their children, naturally, and in lovers proclaiming their devotion. Impresarios of public entertainment also suffer from it. This surprises no one. ‘You must blow your own horn’ has come to be, with us, a basic premise. As a result, any statement that is highly flavored with adjectives is automatically reduced by half in the mind of the listener. In the case of impresarios, especially of moving pictures, this drastic reduction falls far short of being enough. One should credit no more than half of half of what is claimed, or better, only half of that! The imagination of these good gentlemen is ultra-supercolossal.

No film is ever advertised in terms consistent with its quality. God forbid! If it were, no one would dream of going to it. After the customary discounting, it would appear an abstract minus quantity.

The time-honored grading of films that is regularly employed in the United States is practically unknown to us. It has been taken up to some slight extent in Caracas recently, but no one has bothered to explain the significance of it, and hence it conveys little or nothing. Venezuela is not grade-conscious like the United States. The only grades we know are the grades a student needs for his degree, the grades of fever shown by a thermometer, and the grades of — say, fervor, which no thermometer can show. The business of grading eggs or milk, for example, is not for us. Not yet.

Never is a film advertised merely by name, dates, and actors. Rather:

‘The most stupendous achievement of the Eighth Art. An unforgettable spectacle that will set you quivering with horror, joy, and anger. A veritable gem of modern moving pictures.’

‘The Downhill Donkey,’ let us say, is one such gay production which might be advertised, in fine print and parentheses, as ‘Grade F’ in North America. The announcement of it will fill a whole page in the daily papers, for in Venezuela, as everywhere else, fame is won by advertising, and impresarios spend real fortunes on publicity. Each strives to outdo the others, and their lives are spent in lawless rivalry, with magazines and papers the major beneficiaries. If all exhibitors were to agree to use a stipulated space, less money would be spent, and the result would be the same. But then the periodicals would be the losers, with sad results for us poor journalists.

When the public buys tickets to a movie, it is torn between the exhibitors’ publicity and its own skepticism. There is no telling what to expect. Hence any film is a surprise. Going to the movies is like roulette — you never know just where the ball will drop. Anyone who has been promised a sensation is bound to be surprised when he finds himself bored; if a sensation is not only promised but delivered, that is the biggest surprise of all.

Movies in Venezuela are not shown continuously. The admission fee buys a view of one film, regardless of grade; there is also a newsreel, but then — good night. This is not quite fair; I was forgetting that there is a fifteen-minute intermission too. At possibly its most exciting moment the film is stopped, the lights come on, gradually or with a flash, according to the impresario’s caprice, and boys come down the aisles to sell chocolate.

For many people the intermission is the high moment of the show. Think of it! Fifteen whole minutes in which to talk with friends, to see who has come with whom, to smoke a cigarette — but that must be done outside — to look at the women’s costumes and see how the men are looking. Fifteen minutes in which to emerge from the anonymity of darkness into the realm of light!

The showings at different hours are not equally important. The first is for children. The vespertina, at five o’clock, is for the formally engaged, who come accompanied by mother, aunt, sister, or little brother; that is also the time for well-bred girls of the old school, white, charming, distant, cool of manner. Altagracia prefers the vespertina. The intermediate showing, which begins at seven, is attended by people in mourning who do not wish to be conspicuous, by couples who may be shady or perhaps just not officially engaged as yet, and by families in good standing but reduced circumstances who have neither new clothes to show nor the five bolivares which are the price of the fashionable performances.

The last, at nine o’clock, is for family parties, the world of fashion, marriageable daughters who are not bespoken, night owls, and the generally emancipated, as well as for the wealthy and those supposed to be wealthy, since it is the most expensive. That is the time to display the new gown, the darling hat just received from Paris, the sweetheart, and financial affluence.

Different films are presented at any one day’s performances. The one shown at nine rates a whole page of publicity; from that peak a film descends to the vespertina, with a quarter page, and finally, in complete decadence, to the common grave which is the intermediate or the matinee performance and warrants only a stingy little epitaph of an advertisement that gives nothing but title and time. Vanitas vanitatum! as the disillusioned Preacher said.

In the smaller towns movies are far more enjoyable than in Caracas. Performances are usually presented out-of-doors, and the weather is always mild. Surrounded by low walls, the movie houses have the finest roof imaginable — a tropical sky of magic beauty, with moon, stars, Southern Cross, and all. One night Altagracia and I watched a raging Arctic blizzard with polar bears, ice-bound ships, seals, Eskimos, and all the frozen seasonings, while the heavens above seemed about to drop from the weight of stars, crickets chirped, and the intoxicating odor of magnolias filled the air. Grown blasé by travel, books, and fashion, we savored the incongruity and smiled in superiority, but the general public, farmers, muleteers, cowboys, travelers, Venezuelans all, exposed the virgin purity of their responsive souls to their emotions, and some even suffered a chill. A few dogs which had sneaked in among the seats barked at the polar bears. Several poor children who were watching, on horseback, outside, were excited by the snowstorm and produced a red one of their own with petals from the roses blooming on the wall; their perfumed shower caressed our faces. Suddenly, beside me, a thick but pleasant voice spoke with a countrified accent:

‘Will the young lady please shove over just a little?’

A farmer who had arrived late was looking for a seat. Frequently, in small-town theaters, the seats are only benches. The fellow must have hesitated a long time before venturing to bother us, but weariness at last had overcome timidity. Hat in hand, he waited for us to shove over and then sat down on the very end of the bench. When finally he had forgotten we were there, he gave free rein to his emotions. We watched him suffer, rejoice, worry, and laugh with the various episodes of the film. For him shouting children, barking dogs, the cries of vendors, stars, scents, had all ceased to exist.

Meanwhile, squeezed into her seat, Altagracia was grumbling about democracy and the absurd idea of rubbing elbows with anyone who came along. But all at once she stopped complaining and began to smile quietly. Her eyes had fallen on a pair of lovers, a half-breed muleteer and a dark-eyed country girl. They were holding hands in silence, and in their faces were reflected the beauty of the starlit night and all the fondness in the world. Southern Cross, rose petals, and magnolias seemed quite in keeping with that idyll unfolding on the bench of a country movie.

Comments: Olga Briceño (1925-1977) was a Venezuelan journalist, travel writer, novelist, lecturer and diplomat, who mostly wrote in Spanish. She was cultural attaché for her country in Cuba and the USA, and co-owner with her husband, Dr. Francis Threadgill, of the Washington modern art Gres Gallery, 1958-62. Her charming book Cocks and Bulls in Caracas, describing family life in her native land, was published in English in America.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

Prospero's Cell

Source: Lawrence Durrell, Prospero’s Cell: A Guide to the Landscape and Manners of the Island of Corfu (London: Faber, 2000 [orig. pub. 1945). pp. 44-52

Text: It is towards the hour of seven that, mellowed by the excellent wine of “The Partridge’, we cross the little cobbled square by the Church of the Saint, and seek our way through the alleys and fents of the Venetian town (the women touching hands as they talk on the balconies over our heads) to where the shadow-play is to be shown. In a little sunken garden by the Italian school the lights and the grumble of a crowd had already marked the place. A prodigious trade in ginger-beer and sweets is being carried on with the schoolchildren and the peasants who sit crammed into the small arena before the dazzling white screen upon which our hero is to appear. Two violins and a drum keep up a squalling sort of overture, punctuated by the giggles of the children and the pop of ginger beer bottles. (Important note. Ginger beer, first pop of ginger beer bottles. (Important note. Ginger beer, first imported by the British during their occupation of the Ionian Islands, has never lost its hold over the Corcyrean public. In places such as the Canoni tavern it may even be bought in those small stone bottles which we remember from our childhood, and which are quite as aesthetically beautiful as the ancient Greek lamp-bowls with which the museum is crammed.)

Our seats are right in front, where the orchestra can scrape away under our noses, and the sales of ginger beer increase noticeably owing to Ivan Zarian who persuades his father to buy us a bottle each. N. prefers nougat while Nimiec has found a paper-bag full of pea-nuts. Thus equipped we are prepared for the spectacle of Karaghiosis, whose Greek is sure to baffle us however much his antics amuse.

Presently the acetylene lamps on the hedge are extinguished, and the rows of eager faces are lit only by the light of the brilliant screen with its scarlet dado. The actors are taking up their dispositions, for now and then a shadow crosses the light, and the little peasant children cry out excitedly, hoping that it heralds the appearance of their hero. But the orchestra is still driving on with the awkward monotony of a squeaking shoe. I catch a glimpse of Father Nicholas at the end of a row, and seeing us smiling at him he feels called noon to make some little gesture which will put him, as it were, on the same plane as ourselves. He pushes aside the ginger-beer hawker, blows his nose loudly in a red handkerchief, and bawls to the tavern-keeper across the road in superior accents: ‘Hey there, Niko – a submarine for my grandson if you please.’ ‘A submarine’ is a charming fantasy; Nicholas’ little grandson would much rather have a ginger beer but he is too experienced and tactful a child to interrupt the old boy. He sits vaguely smiling while the waiter darts across to them from the tavern with the ‘submarine’ – which consists of a spoonful of white mastic in a glass of water. Nothing more or less. The procedure is simple. You eat the mastic and drink the water to take the sweetness out of your mouth. While the child is doing this, and while Father Nicholas is looking around him, pleased at having caused a little extra trouble, and at having been original, the orchestra gives a final squeal and dies out. Now expectancy reaches its maximum intensity, for the familiar noise of sticks being rattled together sounds from behind the screen. This is a sign for the play to begin.

The crowd draws a sharp breath of familiarity and pleasure as the crapulous figure of Hadjiavatis lurches on to the screen, cocking an enormous eyebrow and muttering a few introductory remarks. ‘It is Hadjiavatis,’ cry the small children in the front row with piercing excitement, while Father Nicholas remarks audibly to the row behind him: ‘It is the rogue Hadjiavatis.’ But even his gruffness cannot disguise the affection in his tones, for Hadjiavatis is beloved for his utter imbecility. He is to Karaghiosis what Watson is to Sherlock Holmes – his butt and ‘feed’ at the same time. At the appearance of Hadjiavatis the orchestra strikes up a little jig – his signature tune – completely drowning his monologue, whereupon he gives an indignant shake of his whole body, commands it to be silent, and recommences his groans and exclamations. Apparently everything is rather gloomy. Nothing is right with him. He is poor, he thickening of his speech indicates that he is now full of a sense of warmth and well-being.

From now on the play becomes a surrealist fantasia. Their rise to fame is meteoric and is accomplished by the unblushing cunning of the hero, with Hadjiavatis suffering here and there for his errors of judgement. Almost nothing is too fantastic to present, and I can see from the glowing face of Father Nicholas that what our surrealist friends might call ‘the triumph over causality’ is considerably older than Breton – and indeed is an integral part of all peasant art. The succession of figures on the dazzling screen glow with a kind of brittle life of their own; the voices (whose volume and pitch betray their human origin) crackle and spark with a kind of suppressed hysteria. All Greece is in this scene; the market-place, the row of Turkish figures, the wonderful power and elasticity of thought and verbal felicity; the tenderness and vulgarity of Karaghiosis; and all indicated with so little of the landscape to which I had hoped to be a guide. Karaghiosis, whose humour is cast in a townsman’s mould, is still surrounded by memories of the day when he and his kind were mad, violent clansmen in the hills around Olympus: or scattered colonies across the Black Sea, still tenaciously holding to an optative mood and a pronunciation which Piraeus has forgotten or only remembers as a joke. On this little dazzling screen you have the whole laic mystery of Greece which has been so long dormant in the mountains and islands – in the groves and valleys of the archipelago. You have the spirit and the unconquerable adaptability of the Greek who has penetrated with the leaven of his mercuric irony and humour into every quarter of the globe.

By now we have met a number of characters who are to become familiar in the immortal Karaghiosis cycle of plays. There is Gnio-Gnio, a lunatic figure in a top hat and cutaway coat, whose singing Zante accent is a joy to listen to. There are the Salonika Jews, each tiny and clad in a shapeless sack-like robe, out of which they speak shrill and clever, hands firmly folded in front of them. There is even an unusual figure called ‘The Lord’ who is dressed in what Father Nicholas must imagine to be the conventional English fashion – in a tail-coat, buttonhole, spats, and a topper. There is also the appalling Stavrakas of Piraeus whose vanity and vulgarity make him justly the object of little children’s derision. There is the Grand Vizier, a most sympathetic figure, and of imposing size – not to mention the Cadi, who orders beatings with a cool impersonal air of detachment.

The drama reaches its peak with a faked election, in which Karaghiosis, in order to win, manages to resurrect all the corpses in the local cemeteries, who pass in a grisly single-file across the stage to the polling booth to vote for the hero.

And now, with abrupt suddenness Karaghiosis appears to recite a short epilogue and while the applause is still deafening us, the screen goes out and we are in darkness. The orchestra has long since packed up, and we stumble yawning from the garden in the darkness, pressed all about by the eager bodies of the children …

Comments: Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990) was a British novelist and travel writer. He lived with his family on the Greek island of Corfu between 1934 and 1941, when the island fell to Nazi Germany and he fled to Egypt. Prospero’s Cell is an artfully composed memoir of his time on Corfu. Karaghiosis, or Karagiozis, is a figure from Greek folk-lore who features in both Turkish and Greek shadow-puppet theatre. My thanks to Artemis Willis for bringing this account to my attention.

Dream Pictures and Real

Source: Marion P. Bartlett, ‘Dream Pictures and Real’, The Motion Picture Story Magazine, March 1912, p. 58

Text:
I sat by the fireside dreaming of days of long ago,
And pictures seemed to form in the midst of the embers’ glow;
But faded e’er I could catch them, the coals to ashes died,
E’en as my hopes had perished and the heart within me sighed.

I left the dying firelight and the lonely, cheerless room,
And wandered down the avenue, seeking to lift, the gloom;
When I heard the sound of music, saw countless lights agleam,
And, suiting an idle fancy, I entered as in a dream.

I entered into darkness, but sudden, before my eyes,
On a curtain of white came pictures, and I stared in mute surprise;
Pictures that moved! In wonderment I quite forgot my pain;
Pictures that lived! And with them I lived my youth again.

The North, the South, the East, the West were all at my command;
The whole world came before me, at touch of an unseen hand.
Ah! the pictures by the fireside may fade and die away,
But those on the magic canvas live anew for me every day.

Comments: This poem appears in an American journal that reproduced film stories for fans. I have not been able to find out more about its author. The anthology Red Velvet Seat: Women’s Writing on the First Fifty Years of Cinema (2006 ed. Antonia Lant with Ingrid Periz) credits the poem to Hattie M. Loble, but it is merely cited at the end of an article by Loble, entitled ‘A Western Woman’s Opinion of Pictures’, in Moving Picture World, June 1912 p. 820.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust
Copy of Moving Picture World article at Internet Archive

Triumphant March into Port Arthur

Source: Hyakken Uchida (trans. Rachel DiNitto), ‘Triumphant March into Port Arthur’, in Realm of the Dead (Dalkey Archive Press, 2006 – orig. pub. in Ryojun Nyujōshiki, 1934)

Text: I went to a film festival of old moving pictures at Hosei University on Sunday, May 10, the day of the Imperial Silver Wedding Anniversary Celebration.

The windows in the lecture hall were covered with black cloth, throwing the room into darkness. Thin shafts of afternoon light snuck in with an eerie blue glow.

Random, confusing landscapes and faces flashed before me. The shootouts from the Ministry of War advanced with an exciting and relentless pace. Thick smoke enveloped the picture, obscuring clarity. I thought I could see the screen growing brighter through the dissipating smoke, but the images disappeared and the lecture hall suddenly lit up.

American comedies and newsreels alternately lit up the screen, and next up was the surrender of Port Arthur. An officer from the Ministry of War got up to introduce the feature. The film was originally shot by a German military observer and had only recently come into the hands of the Japanese Ministry. There were scenes not only of the famous meeting at the naval base of General Nogi and General Stessel, but also of the bombing of the fort at Niryuzan. A cinematic treasure, the officer explained, then he disappeared into blackness as the room went dark. But before his khaki-uniformed image faded from my eye, another was projected in its place – a soldier leading a parade of men headed for the front. Troops marched through Yokohama’s Isezakicho behind their bearded platoon leader. The dress braids of his uniform stretched like ribs across his chest, and he swaggered with his sword held high. The soldiers wore solemn expressions. That scene alone was enough to remind me of a twenty-year old military tune I’d long since forgotten.

I couldn’t understand why I was so moved by the bluish images of the mountains surrounding Port Arthur, but it was like seeing my own memories up on the screen. What a terribly somber mountain it was. A dim glow emanated from behind the hills, but the sky blanketing the peaks was devoid of light. I knew that the port lay under the darkest spot in the sky.

Soldiers hauled a cannon up the mountainside. The outline of the group blurred as they panted up the dark path. An older enlisted man, standing to the side, waved his hands back and forth, calling out orders. He howled like a beast.

I turned to the person next to me. “Poor bastards,” I said.

“Yeah,” someone responded.

Heads hanging, eyes fixed on the dark landscape, they advanced slowly against the weight of the heavy rope. The headless soldiers moved as an undifferentiated mass. Then one unexpectedly lifted his face. The sky was as black as the road. Cutting through the darkness like a dog with its head hung low. I saw a towering peak jut up before us as I too climbed the mountain.

“What mountain is that?” I asked.

“Beats me,” answered a nearby student.

Cannons shot into the mountainside. In a hollow under the cliff, a group of five or six soldiers furiously fired and reloaded artillery, the machinery rolling back and forth with the force of the recoil. White smoke rose and soon disappeared from the mouth of the cannon. The sound, too, was sucked into the belly of the dark mountain, the echo dying there as well. I felt uneasy not knowing where the shells were landing. Yet there was no choice but to fire. Not firing I would be more terrifying. Facing each other across the dark mountain, both sides let loose a deafening barrage of firepower day and night. The fighting changed the shape of the mountain itself. Those soldiers in the hollow acted out of fear. When smoke cleared from the cannon, I grew nervous. If only they’d fire again. Who cares where it landed!

An ominous cloud of smoke rose from a distant ridge. Tens, maybe hundreds of sparkling objects formed lines in the smoke. This was soon followed by another dark cloud. My eyes welled with tears when I learned this was the bombing of the mountain fort of Niruyzan. I cried for the men on both sides.

Next came the long-awaited encounter at the naval base. Amidst the bleak scenery I could make out the faint image of a cottage with stone walls. From off in the distance indistinguishable figures on horseback grew in size as they approached, but the blurry image never came into focus. It just faded away.

A formation of Russian soldiers on horseback rode unsteadily past a row of storehouses. The ceremony at the base was over. Nogi’s and Stessel’s expressionless faces passed quickly before my eyes like a bank of fog.

The title of the film, The Long-Fought 200-Day Battle, faded from the screen. Troops with neither packs nor guns marched by wearing long overcoats with sleeves hanging down over their hands. Houses lined the roadside, but it was hard to get any perspective on them – how far away they were, whether they had windows or roofs. There was something eerie about these lifeless men. Weren’t they in fact the war dead risen from their graves on the shadowy mountain for one final march? No one averted his gaze. They marched with their eyes on the men in front of them.

“The Triumphant March into Port Arthur!” boomed the voice of the officer on the stage.

The audience, crammed into that dark room, broke out in loud applause.

Tears streamed down my face. The row of soldiers marched on and on. My eyes clouded with tears, obscuring the people in front of me. I lost my bearings and was set adrift in an unfamiliar place.

“Quit crying,” said a man walking next to me.

Someone behind us was weeping.

The crowd kept clapping. My cheeks wet from crying, I fell into formation and was led out into the quiet of the city streets, out into nowhere.

Comments: Hyakken Uchida (1889-1971) was a Japanese novelist, short story writer and academic. He taught at Hosei University, which is in Tokyo. The films he describes seeing were of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5, which included the siege of Port Arthur, a Russian naval base in Manchuria, which ended in its capture by the Japanese forces. The Long-Fought 200-Day Battle, if such a film actually existed (the passage is meant to be a work of fiction), would have been a compilation of archive film of the war. The silver wedding anniversary of Emperor Taishō and Empress Teimei was in 1925. My thanks to Dawid Glownia from bringing this text to my attention.

Old Humphrey's Walks in London and its Neighbourhood

Source: [George Mogridge (‘Old Humphrey’)], Old Humphrey’s Walks in London and its Neighbourhood (New York, R. Carter & Brothers, 1851, 5th ed., orig. pub. c.1843), pp. 218-226

Text: This, then, is the Cosmorama. The little book put into my hand tells me that I have eight different views to gaze on. The Rope Bridge of Penipe, in South America; the Palace of Zenobia, at Palmyra; Constantinople during the conflagration in 1839; the Palace of Versailles; General View of Rome; the Park of Versailles; the Lake of Thun, in Switzerland; and the Village of Baden.

Often and often have I reflected on the varied and almost endless gratifications which await us, both in the natural and artificial creation! Truly, if our harps are not on the willows, if our hearts are in tune, a song of thanksgiving should be ever in our mouths.

The crowded city and the rural scene,
Alike are teeming with almighty lore!
Here the great Maker of this wondrous world
Sets forth his power and goodness infinite,
In mountain, vale, and wood; and there displays
The gifted properties on man bestow’d.

Though supplied with a book, giving some account of the different paintings, and furnished with paper on which to note down any suggestion that may occur to me, this passage is so dark, that I can neither read nor write legibly, without approaching the little windows, through which I must look to see the views.

THE ROPE BRIDGE OF PENIPE is the first painting. and a striking one it is. The bridge of twisted rushes, with sticks laid across, covered with branches of trees for a flooring, is represented as stretching over the river Chambo, near the village of Penipe, from rock to rock, a distance of one hundred and twenty feet. To cross such a bridge, a strong head, a bold heart, and a steady foot must be necessary. I can fancy a timid person, following his Indian guide, while the violent oscillation of the bridge hanging in air blanches his cheek, and makes his limbs tremble. Some say, and many things are more improbable, that the notion of suspension bridges arose from the rope bridges of South America. We need not, however, have travelled so far to make the discovery, as any spider would have furnished us with a model both scientific and secure.

THE PALACE OF ZENOBIA is one of the principal remains of the city of Palmyra. The Corinthian style of architecture, with the vastness that characterized the Egyptian buildings, are both sufficiently apparent. Palmyra was the Tadmor of king Solomon, a magnificent city of Syria, the stupendous ruins of which are situated in the midst of a sandy and sterile desert, around which, on three sides, mountains rise of considerable eminence. Zenobia was queen of Palmyra. Beautiful in person, and of extraordinary intellect, she united the refinement of the Grecian with the hardihood of the Roman character: this was her palace. In the pride of her power, she thought lightly of Rome; but Aurelian came as a conqueror, and her city was swept with the besom of destruction. Palmyra was a splendid city, afterwards a towm of little note; at a still later date it was an unimportant fortress, and now it is a mere miserable village. The costly ruins of its former greatness form a strange contrast to its present humiliation; for mud cottages now stand in the spacious court of the once splendid temple.

The owlet builds her nest in princely halls;
The lizard’s slime bestreaks the palace walls;
No trace of man, save that the embers spent,
Show where the wandering Arab pitch’d his tent,
The ruin tells us that the despot’s hand
Spreads desolation o’er the wretched land;
And tombs o’erthrown, and plunder’d fanes declare
Too plain — the royal robber has been there.

As I gaze on the painting, it wonderfully improves in appearance: what was a mere picture is now a real ruin, and in fancy I am standing in the midst of its mouldering magnificence. Mark the square blocks of stone through the principal portal, and the beautiful pillars, in the distance to the left, contrasted with the strength of the foreground.

Palmyra tells a tale of other times,
War and the whirlwind have alike despoil’d her.

CONSTANTINOPLE, DURING THE CONFLAGRATION OF 1839, must have been an awful spectacle. The little device of introducing an apparent flame that bursts forth, flinging a frightful red glare on the city, and then as suddenly subsides, involving the place in portentious gloom, is very effective. It gives a reality to the representation.

What a dreadful calamity is an extensive fire! Three thousand seven hundred houses were destroyed. Despairing fathers, frantic mothers, shrieking children, bedridden and helpless old age, all at their wit’s end. Alarm visited every house! Terror strided through the streets, and destruction in all directions raged abroad.

The shout of fire! a dreadful cry,
Inpress’d each heart with deep dismay,
While the fierce blaze and redd’ning sky,
Made midnight wear the face of day.

The building at the entrance of the Bosphorous there, is the seraglio, or palace of the sultan. To the right is the dome of Santa Sophia, the most celebrated mosque of the Moslems; and yonder is Pera, where the foreign ambassadors, the dragomans, and Frank merchants reside. Visit Constantinople as you will, by the Dardanelles and sea of Marmora, by the Black Sea and the Bosphorus, by the plains of Thrace or the hills of Asia, she will always be seen to advantage.

At present, the inhabitants of Constantinople follow the false Prophet; but the Christian humbly believes that the Mohammedan crescent will yet wane before the Star of Bethlehem. In vain shall the enemies of the cross contend against almighty power; at the appointed time, “the Lamb shall overcome them; for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful,” Rev. xvii. 14.

THE PALACE OF VERSAILLES is an admirable view. The building, trees, gardens, flowers, hedges, grass, and water, are all excellent. Years have passed since I looked on the real palace; but this representation of it brings it back to my gaze, as though it were just before me. The façade of one thousand nine hundred feet, the projections, Ionic columns, and statues of marble and bronze, are truly magnificent.

The centre statue, in the distance, represents Marcus Curtius leaping into the abyss, as a sacrifice for the good of his country; and the fountain on the left is the Fontaine de Pyramide, formed of four basins, one rising above another. Every spectator will be interested by this view of the palace of Versailles. Such as have seen the original will admire it for its correctness; and those who have not will be spell-bound by its beauty and magnificence.

A group of children has entered the place, to witness the wonders of the Cosmorama. They are peeping through the little windows at the different views, full of joyous exclamation. With children, pictures are always perfect.

In happy ignorance of art, they see
Beauty in every plant and spreading tree ;
Gaze on the woods and waves, with glad surprise,
And speak their pleasure with their sparkling eyes.

Let there be red, and blue, and green, and yellow enough in his brush, and a painter may calculate on the youthful world for his admirers.

This GENERAL VIEW OF ROME takes not my fancy, though it will be full of interest to those who never saw a better. St. Peter’s and the Vatican, with its colonnade, and obelisk, and fountain: the Pantheon, the Colosseum, and the Antonine and Trajan pillars, are objects which associations render attractive; but on so miniature a scale, they can scarcely be expected to be very effective. The road between the trees there would be accurately traced by the eye of a Roman Catholic, for it leads to that mother of churches, St. Giovanni Laterana, the oldest in Europe, wherein the pope is consecrated. The scene before me takes back the thought

To that proud capital, where Cesars found a home,
When Rome was all the world, and all the world was Rome.

The temple of Jupiter Stator, the ruins of the palace of the emperors, and the Fontana Paolina, the finest fountain in Rome, may all be clearly distinguished by those who have a knowledge of the once imperial city. The Corso, the finest street in Rome, may also be traced, with the Quirinal Palace, the towers of St. Maria Maggiore, and the receding waters of the river Tiber.

Though the imperial city of Rome had not, like Athens, an altar inscribed “To the unknown God,” yet did its citizens ignorantly worship stocks and stones, as the people of Athens. They were wholly given up to idolatry.

THE PARK OF VERSAILLES, like the palace, is an object which at once arrests the attention; and the longer you gaze, the more are you disposed to linger on the scene before you. The foreground, fountains, with their margins of white marble, and groups of bronze figures, are very fine; and still more magnificent is the Fountain of Latona, with the white marble figures on the red marble steps, surrounded by seventy-four gigantic frogs spouting out crystal streams. The spectator, unacquainted with the fable of Jupiter, metamorphosing the peasants of Lybia into frogs, for refusing refreshments to Latona, will be at a loss to make out what is signified by the scene.

The canal there, more than four thousand feet long, crossed by one whose length is three thousand, forms a prominent feature in the representation. I could dwell on the particular points that afford me satisfaction; but ll appear beautiful. The sky is bright, and the park is delightful. The palace and park of Versailles, most certainly, form one of the most attractive scenes in the world.

THE VILLAGE OF BADEN, though presenting to the eye of the spectator a view of one of the most picturesque spots in all Syria, is to me one of the least impressive scenes in the exhibition.

When the fierce and fiery beams of the summer sun drive away the inhabitants of Scanderoon from the marshy and unhealthy situation of their dwellings, they find an agreeable retreat in the village of Baden, where excellent fruits and good water await them. The aqueduct arches, the Santon’s tomb, the minaret and dome of the mosque, the gulf of Ajazza, and the distant mountains of Lebanon, are not without interest; but so much are they eclipsed by several of the other scenes, that I will not dwell upon them.

THE LAKE OF THUN, in Switzerland, is to me by far the most attractive representation of the Cosmorama. It is enough to make the common-place spectator imaginative, and to inspire the poetic visitant with high-wrought visions of romantic beauty. To decide whether the mountains, the trees, or the skies are the most lovely, would be an arduous undertaking. If the sublime and beautiful were ever closely connected, they are so in these smiling valleys, these cultivated hills, and mighty mountains, whose cloud-capped, icy pinnacles are lost amid the skies.

Well may such scenes be valued by the Switzer peasant! Well may they afford pleasure to him by day, and mingle with his dreams by night!

Dear is that shed to which his soul conforms,
And dear that hill that lifts him to the storms;
And as a babe, when scaring sounds molest,
Clings close arid closer to his mother’s breast.
So the loud torrent, and the whirlwind’s roar,
But bind him to his native mountains more.

The lake of Thun is more than seventeen hundred feet above the level of the sea, while the Niesen, Moine, Riger, and Jungfrau mountains lift their snowy heads thirteen thousand feet and more amid the clouds. All that is picturesque and fair in Alpine scenery seems here embodied. The river Aar, which runs below the spot whence this view is taken, descending from the Finster-Aarhorn, rolls along the base of the glaciers, collecting all their tributary waters, and distributing them among the lakes of Thun and Brienta. It afterwards pursues a course somewhat circuitous to the Rhine on the German frontier. I must now bid adieu to the Cosmorama.

In perambulating from one exhibition to another, of panoramas, dioramas, and cosmoramas; of architecture, statuary, painting, science, and literature — the thought intrudes itself. Oh that all who have talent, all who excel among mankind, would bear in mind whence their powers were derived, and would humbly adore the Giver of all good for the endowments with which he has favoured them in this world, and the revelation of his mercy through the Redeemer!

It was a desire of this kind that moved the spirit of Kirke White to fling upon his paper the following beautiful, though somewhat florid thoughts:

“Oh! I would walk
A weary journey to the farthest verge
Of the big world, to kiss that good man’s hand,
Who, in the blaze of wisdom and of art,
Preserves a lowly mind, and to his God,
Feeling the sense of his own littleness,
Is as a child in meek simplicity!
What is the pomp of learning? the parade
Of letters and of tongues? Even as the mists
Of the grey morn before the rising sun,
That pass away and perish. Earthly things
Are but the transient pageants of an hour;
And earthly pride is like the passing flower
That springs to fall, and blossoms but to die

Comments: George Mogridge (1787-1854) was a British author of travel writing, children’s books and religious tracts, frequently using the pseudonym ‘Old Humphrey’. The Cosmorama was a peepshow entertainment. Visitors entered a darkened room and peered at panoramic translucent views through a series of windows (convex lenses). The first Cosmorama opened in Paris in 1808, and the Cosmorama Room in London opened in St James’s Street in 1821, moving to 207-209 Regent’s Street in 1823. Other Cosmoramas were located across London, but Old Humphrey presumably visited the Regent Street rooms (just before this passage there is a description of the Diorama in Regent’s Park).

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

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

The Missionary Film

Source: Winifred Holtby, extract from ‘The Missionary Film’, Truth is not Sober (London: W. Collins Sons & Co., 1934), pp. 108-110

Text: In the market place the cinema beckoned to him, flaring with joyous light, festooned with small electric bulbs like jewels, emerald green and ruby stars. Such stars, though Mr. Grant, set all the Sons of God shouting for joy.

He paid eightpence and went in.

The honest friendly darkness engulfed him, but against the flickering pallor of the screen he saw the clear outline of Mrs. Fitton’s Sunday hat. He liked Mrs. Fitton; he liked the rural English audience; the scent of warm humanity and muddy boots reminded him of Sunday school treats in his childhood. The orchestra, a local pianist, and a girl playing the violin, broke out into Mendelssohn’s “Spring Song.” Bending to light his pipe, Mr. Grant missed the first title of the film. Head read only “… missionary propaganda, but rather education in its broadest sense.” He felt a twinge of disappointment, for he did not want to be educated. Above all, he did not want to be reminded of a man who had once been a missionary educationalist. He wanted to see Harold Lloyd or Tom Mix.

“The first sight of land which thrills the heart of the traveller,” he read with faint distaste. What trash about travellers. The best thing about travel was the last mile on the way home. He wanted to see Charlie Chaplin; but he saw instead a line of flat-topped hills, mottled about their base with little houses, and towering starkly over a placid sea.

He sat up rigidly, frowning.

“Adderley Street,” danced the caption. “the gateway to a continent.” Tall buildings, faint against the sunlight; dark trees tossing in a dusty wind; bearded farmers in knee breeches; Indian schoolgirls with prim plaits of hair hanging down muslin dresses; a market-gardener swinging baskets of melons and yams; pretty typists in sleeveless summer frocks; here they came. Then a couple swaggered down the road, the wind flapping in their ragged coats and wide trousers. They carried canes, and wore handkerchiefs in their breast pockets. Their black faces grinned, growing larger and larger until they filled the screen, blotting out towers and trams and all the paraphernalia of the European.

Click! They had gone. The orchestra began to play Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody. A train started up from the veldt like a frightened snake and slid out of the picture. An ox-wagon lumbered between the scorching hills and twisted thorn bushes. A naked boy with a round, gleaming belly ran ahead of the beats. Mr. Grant could hear the creak of the leather and the grinding of heavy wheels on the dry red soil.

A group of women stooped beside the spruit washing sweet potatoes. Their white bead anklets clanked as they moved. Water dripped from black wrists and flat pink palms. One carried on her head a blanket in which two fowls roosted cackling.

Mr. Grant’s pipe had gone out. He sat clutching the plush arm rest of his eightpenny chair. The sweat round his lips tasted salt and cold …

Comments: Winifred Holtby (1898-1935) was a British novelist, journalist and political campaigner. This extract is from a collection of her short stories. The story is about a man who had previously served on a mission who sees a promotional film in a British cinema about South Africa, and is reminded of how he was forced to leave because of his sympathy for the black South Africans. At the end of the story he decides to return to South Africa to pursue what he believes in. Adderley Street is in Cape Town.

Silent Life and Silent Language

Source: Kate M. Farlow, Silent life and silent language, or, The inner life of a mute in an institution for the deaf and dumb (Dayton, Ohio: Christian Publishing House, 1883), pp. 108-109

Text: As time went on it was decided that the pupils ought to be enlivened by an entertainment of some sort. Accordingly arrangements were made, and one Saturday evening all the inmates were summoned to the chapel, where they found a great white sheet stretched across the platform. An instrument somewhat resembling a photographer’s camera was placed in front. After all had taken seats the lights were extinguished, and the pupils found themselves involved in darkness. Some who had never witnessed a magic-lantern exhibition were at a loss to know what all this meant. They supposed the lights must have been put out by accident. Presently there appeared in the center of the great white sheet an oval spot of brilliant light while all the rest of the room was still in darkness. By some invisible movement that little spot of light grew larger and larger until it was about twelve feet in circumference. A moment later there appeared in that oval space a beautiful picture. It was a circle of variegated colors, which, by some hidden movement, was made to revolve, thus presenting a novel as well as beautiful appearance. After that was shown a representation of our earth, with ships moving over a part of its surface and gradually disappearing from view at one point to re-appear again at another. An astronomical scene was represented, showing the moon and stars in motion. Scene followed scene in quick succession. A dog was seen, first barking at a cow, then tossed upward, apparently by the horns of the cow. There was an exhibition of a woman with a very long tongue. A prickly-pear was represented, which very unexpectedly opened, disclosing to view a man and a woman with scowling countenances. A rose was also shown, and from amid its scarlet petals emerged a dainty little fairy. A man was seen asleep, and a mouse, stealing from some hidden nook, made its way into his open mouth, a cat springing at it just as it disappeared down his throat. There were pictures of famous edifices and grand natural scenery; also, scenes illustrative of Bible stories. Finally, there appeared the picture of a queer looking little man. He held in his hand a paper roll. By some mysterious, unseen movement that was unrolled, and on it was displayed the expression, “Good-night”.

The gas-jets were again lighted, and the entertainment was at an end. It had been much enjoyed, as was evident from the happy expression on many faces as the pupils filed out of the chapel, and from the fact that it at once became the general theme of conversation.

Comments: Kate Farlow was an American writer on deaf issues who was a deaf-mute herself. The aim of her boom was to inform general reader and to overturn prejudices about deaf people. It covers all aspects of the activities of one American institution for the ‘deaf and dumb’ (the specific institution is not identified in the text).

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

The Crowd

Source: Extract from Louis Delluc, ‘The Crowd’ (originally ‘La Foule’, Paris-Midi, 24 August 1918, p. 2), reproduced and translated in Richard Abel (ed.), French Film Theory and Criticism: a History/Anthology, 1907-1939 – Volume I: 1907-1929 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1988), p. 161

Text: Another audience. At the Saturday evening screening of the only cinema palace of the town, the Tout-Aurillac, a first-run and second-run house. Convalescents, billeted soldiers, respectable families, respectable young girls, the smoke from pipes, the ritornellos of an untuned piano, all in a deep, dark, cold cinema with Le Courrier de Washington on the marquee.

They also screened La Lumière qui s’éteint, an English film previewed in Paris last winter. Despite its almost unanimous lack of culture, the audience was deeply moved by the inner adventures of Maisie, Dick, and Torp. And you know what became of the great Kipling’s work on film. An ordinary anecdote, badly decorated and photographed, with a sad, heavy actor playing Dick – when will we see Douglas Fairbanks in the part? – a fop as Torp, a fool as Maisie, and unbelievable Arab battles, let’s be blunt, a cardboard Sudanese Khartoum. There is a film to do over again.

Why was this rough peasant audience affected in front of this artless and unauthorized gaucherie? Will it understand even more when the same drama becomes a quite beautiful film?

Comments: Louis Delluc (1890-1924) was a French film director and pioneering film critic, writing on diverse aspects of film culture for French newspapers from 1917 onwards. Le Courrier de Washington was the French title for the American serial The Perils of Pauline (1914). La Lumière qui s’éteint is presumably The Light That Failed (1916), an American rather than an English film, directed by Edward José and starring Robert Edeson as Dick, Claude Fleming as Torp and Lillian Tucker as Maisie. Aurillac is in the Auvergne region of south-central France.