Month: September 2013

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Women Film Pioneers Project Launched at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City!

Last month, WFPP publicly launched its site and research with two film programs in MoMA’s “To Save and Project” film festival.

Saturday, October 19, 2013:

2:00pm: Women Daredevils of the Silent Era: More than Pearl White

Pearl White was a wildly popular daredevil serial queen of the silent era, but she wasn’t the first. Gene Gauntier preceded her in 1909 with her Girl Spy series. Not only did White, Gauntier, and the other pioneering women in this program—Ruth Roland, Helen Holmes, and Grace Cunard—perform their own dangerous stunts, they also wrote, directed, and produced. Today we see in these “sensational melodrama” heroines the most liberated aspects of the New Woman, whose physical daring and intellectual prowess can still thrill audiences. Jane Gaines, a professor of film at Columbia University School of the Arts, and B. Ruby Rich, a critic and scholar, present two programs celebrating groundbreaking, multitalented women of silent cinema. These screenings mark the launch of the Women Film Pioneers Project, a collaborative compendium of essays, images, and archival material that will be published this year by Columbia University Libraries as an experiment in digital publishing.

The Girl Spy (An Incident of the Civil War). 1909. USA. Directed by Sidney Olcott. Screenplay by Gene Gauntier. With Gauntier. Preserved print courtesy the Library and Archives of Canada. Approx. 15 min.

Ruth Roland, Kalem Girl. 1912. USA. Produced by the Kalem Company. Preserved print courtesy the BFI. Approx. 6 min.

The Brink of Eternity [chapter 6 of the serial The Haunted Valley]. 1922–23. USA. Directed by George Marshall. Screenplay by Frank Leon Smith. With Ruth Roland, Jack Daugherty. Preserved print courtesy the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Approx. 20 min.

Escape on a Fast Freight [chapter 13 of the serial The Hazards of Helen]. 1915. USA. Directed by Helen Holmes, Leo Maloney. Screenplay by J. P. McGowan, Holmes. With Holmes, Maloney. Preserved print courtesy The Library of Congress. Approx. 13 min.

The Ablaze in Mid-Air (aka Demon of the Sky) [chapter 5 of the serial Purple Mask]. 1917. USA. Written and directed by Grace Cunard, Francis Ford. With Cunard, Ford, Jean Hathway. Preserved print courtesy The Library of Congress. Approx. 13 min.

Plunder [trailer]. 1923. USA. Directed by George B. Seitz. With Pearl White, Harry Semele, Karen Kreen. Preserved print courtesy The Library of Congress. Approx. 4 min.

Silent, with piano accompaniment by Donald Sosin. Program approx. 86 min.

Introduced by Jane Gaines, B. Ruby Rich

4:30pm: Girl Spies and Irish Colleens: Gene Gauntier, Actress, Screenwriter, Producer, Stuntwoman.

 Actress Gene Gauntier, popularly known as “the Kalem Girl,” often performed her own risky stunts and gleefully took on socially provocative roles like the cross-dressing Confederate Girl Spy. She made her brash debut in the Biograph short The Paymaster, which opens this program, and for the next 10 years wrote, produced, and directed or codirected hundreds of movies around the world. Together with Sidney Olcott she formed one of the first traveling stock companies (if not the first), shooting outdoors on location in New York and Florida, then in Ireland, and even in the Middle East for their hugely successful Biblical epic From the Manger to the Cross, the first American feature-length story of the life of Christ to be shot on location. Gauntier went her own way, producing films under the banner of the short-lived Gene Gauntier Feature Players (1912–14), and after retiring from the movie business wrote a delightful memoir, Blazing the Trail, which was serialized in Woman’s Home Companion in 1928; the original typescript can now be found in The Museum of Modern Art’s special collections. This program, introduced by Jane Gaines, a professor of film at Columbia University School of the Arts, and B. Ruby Rich, a critic and scholar, is a celebration of Gauntier’s many talents, and marks the launch of the Women Film Pioneers Project, an exciting new initiative of the Columbia University Libraries.

The Paymaster. 1906. USA. Directed by M. R. Harrington. With Gauntier, Jim Slevin, Gordon Burby. Preserved print courtesy The Library of Congress. Approx. 10 min.

Rory O’More. 1911. USA. Directed by Sidney Olcott. Screenplay by Gauntier. With Gauntier, Jack Clark, Robert G. Vignola. Preserved print courtesy the Irish Film Archive. Approx. 11 min.

Further Adventures of the Girl Spy. 1910. USA. Directed by Olcott. With Gauntier. Preserved print courtesy The Library of Congress. Approx. 15 min.

Come Back to Erin. 1914. USA. Directed by Olcott. With Gauntier. Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation and the Irish Film Institute. Approx. 12 min.

Thompson’s Night Out. 1908. USA. Directed by Wallace McCutcheon. With Gauntier, Anthony O’Sullivan, Edward Dillon. Preserved print courtesy The Library of Congress. Approx. 7 min.

The Lad From Old Ireland. 1910. USA. Directed by Olcott. Screenplay by Gauntier. With Gauntier, Jane Wolf. Preserved print courtesy the BFI. Approx. 12 min.

Silent, with piano accompaniment by Donald Sosin. Program approx. 67 min.

Introduced by Jane Gaines, B. Ruby Rich


Monday, October 21

4:00pm- Women Daredevils of the Silent Era: More than Pearl White

6:45pm- Girl Spies and Irish Colleens: Gene GauntierActress, Screenwriter, Producer, Stuntwoman 

(no introductions)


For more information: 

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Their First Misunderstanding (1911)-Recent Mary Pickford film find!

In 2006, a cache of film was discovered in a barn and donated to the Keene State College Film Society, headed by KSC professor Larry Benaquist….The… film reels [have] produced yet another lost cinematic gem—Their First Misunderstanding (1911), Mary Pickford’s film debut for Independent Moving Picture Company (IMP)…The Library of Congress has been working with Colorlab in Rockville, Maryland to preserve and restore the short for an October 11 [2013] premiere. Their First Misunderstanding was screened with two other Pickford films, Sparrows (1926) and The Dream (1911) at Alumni Recital Hall, in Keene State College’s Redfern Arts Center, and Christel Schmidt hosted the screening.

…Their First Misunderstanding, Pickford’s debut film for IMP, was released on January 9, 1911. It is notable not only as her premiere picture for her new studio, but also as the first movie in which she was credited and promoted by name. We cannot know if Pickford received an onscreen credit since the only surviving copy of this film is missing the opening title cards, but her image, name, and even her nickname “Little Mary,” were used to promote the one-reel picture in publicity materials, including advertisements and posters, and that this had never happened during her initial run at Biograph.

Pickford’s first for IMP is also noteworthy because she wrote the scenario. It is one of two stories she authored for the company. Their First Misunderstanding, a tale of a newly married couple’s first fight, may reflect something of Pickford’s personal life. She had just wed actor Owen Moore, who also plays her husband in the film. The couple were frequent co-stars at Biograph, where they met, and became a popular onscreen pairing for IMP. Also appearing on screen is acclaimed producer/director Thomas Ince, who is believed to have directed the picture. “This appears to be the first film in which Pickford and Ince are both on screen in a film which he also co-directed,” says Brian Taves, author of Thomas Ince: Hollywood’s Independent Pioneer. “They were beginning a close collaboration, Ince directing the entire Pickford family in several dozen films shot in Cuba in 1911.”

Pickford appeared in an estimated thirty-five one-reel IMP shorts and authored two scenarios during the nine months she worked for company. Only thirteen of thirty-five titles are known to survive. Nine complete films, including Their First Misunderstanding and The Dream, and fragments of two others are held by the Library of Congress.

From University Press of Kentucky blog.

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