Reminiscences of an Early Motion-Picture Operator

Source: Francis Doublier, ‘Reminiscences of an Early Motion-Picture Operator’ in Marhsall Deutelbaum (ed.), ‘Image’ on the Art and Evolution of Film (New York: Dover Publications, 1979), p. 23 (text of 1949 lecture originally reproduced in Image magazine, vol. 5 issue 6, 1956)

Text: The Dreyfus affair was still a source of great interest in those days, and out of it I worked up a little film-story which made me quite a bit of money. Piecing together a shot of some soldiers, one of a battleship, one of the Palais de Justice, and one of a tall gray-haired man, I called it L’affaire Dreyfus. People actually believed that this was a filming of the famous case, but one time after a showing a little old man came backstage and inquired of me whether it was an authentic filming of the case. I assured him that it was. The little old man then pointed out that the case had taken place in 1894, just one year before cameras were available. I then confessed my deception, and told him I had shown the pictures because business had been poor and we needed the money. Suffice to say, I never showed L’affaire Dreyfus again.

Comments: Francis Doublier (1878-1948) was a camera operator and projectionist for the Lumière company, and toured Russia with their films 1896-1898. This incident, which took place in southern Russia, refers to exhibiting films that supposedly represented the original trial of French artillery captain and victim of anti-Semitism, Alfred Dreyfus. Dreyfus’s second trial took place in 1899, and was filmed in actuality (exterior shots) and dramatised on film.