Wednesday, September 28, 2016

FILMBAY 2000 Greatest Films of All-Time (1888-2014) by Year # 0023 - STORM AT SEA, A (James H. White, 1900, USA, 1m, BW)



STORM AT SEA, A 

(James H. White, 1900, USA, 1m, BW)



Introduction

A STORM AT SEA (1900)

Created / Published
    United States : Edison Manufacturing Co., 1900.

Subject Headings
    -  Storms--Atlantic Ocean
    -  Steamboats--Atlantic Ocean
    -  Ocean travel
    -  Ocean waves--Atlantic Ocean
    -  Atlantic Ocean

Genre
    Short films
    Nonfiction films
    Actualities (Motion pictures)

Notes
    -  Camera, Alfred C. Abadie
    -  Duration: 1:17 at 16 fps.
    -  A storm at sea.
    -  Filmed ca. June 19-27, 1900, on the Atlantic Ocean.


Plot Summary

While our photographers were crossing the Atlantic Ocean a most wonderful and sensational picture was secured, showing a storm at sea. The picture was secured by lashing the camera to the after bridge of the Kaiserine Maria Theresa, of the North German Lloyd Line, during one of its roughest voyages. The most wonderful storm picture ever photographed. Taken at great risk. Written by Edison Films (1901).




Review

This short from Edison illustrates the ongoing challenge of finding new and dramatic subjects for early movies. In this instance, a sea-crossing, probably with the intention of shooting movies for American audiences in Europe, was interrupted by bad weather and the Edison team decided to shoot that, with minimal preparation. We see the railing of a ship, at an angle that suggests the camera is at middle of the deck A rope cuts through the image horizontally, directly in front of the camera. The horizon bobs up and down slowly, but to a considerable degree. We see swollen waves cresting, at least when the ship is low enough to permit it: at other times we see only sky off the deck. Two men stand casually at the railing, occasionally gesturing at the ocean. At one point, one of them reacts as if he had been splashed by a wave, but the water drops are invisible to the camera. At the end of the movie, an image of the rolling sea without the ship or the men in the foreground has been edited on.

The major problem with this film, from a modern perspective, is the two guys standing in front of the camera. They just lean on the railing as if they were watching a flock of seagulls fly by. They don’t hold on, or lean with the rocking ship, or give any sense of peril or drama. I assume they were told to get into the shot to give the scene some perspective and human interest, but their effect is to make the whole thing seem very off-hand. This is contradicted by the claims of the Edison catalog: “While our photographers were crossing the Atlantic Ocean a most wonderful and sensational picture was secured, showing a storm at sea. The picture was secured by lashing the camera to the after bridge of the Kaiserine Maria Theresa, of the North German Lloyd Line, during one of its roughest voyages. The most wonderful storm picture ever photographed. Taken at great risk.” While the “risk” seems dubious, the rigging of the camera may have been somewhat innovative, as very few pictures had been shot in heavy seas at this time. It may also explain the rope we see passing in front of the lens, which may have been part of the arrangement to keep the camera from sliding all over the deck.




James H. White

American manager, filmmaker, cameraman

In August 1894 James White, previously a Phonograph salesman, was taken on by the Holland brothers to work at their Boston Kinetoscope parlour, later visiting several American cities with the Kinetoscope in the company of Charles Webster. As the Kinetoscope business began to wane White returned to Phonographs, but when Webster was sent by Raff & Gammon to Europe with the Vitascope, White filled his post at Edison and rapidly came to play an important part in the Vitascope enterprise. In effect producer for Edison Vitascope titles made under Raff & Gammon's auspices, White was responsible for such noted titles of 1896 as the May Irwin Kiss, J. Stuart Blackton's film debut in Edison Drawn by World Artist, and films of Li Hung Chang's arrival in New York, as well as undertaking some projection duties.

When the business relationship between Edison and Raff & Gammon began to crumble in late 1896, White returned to Edison and was put in charge of the Kinetograph department, overseeing a busy production schedule with cameraman William Heise. In mid-1897 White embarked on an extensive filming trip abroad with English cameraman Frederick Blechynden. First journeying across America (taking advantage of the railroad companies's desire for publicity to film many 'phantom rides' with all expenses paid), the pair travelled to Japan and China in early 1898, returning via Hawaii in May, by which time White had fallen gravely ill.

On his recovery White resumed his post (having unfortunately been absent during the flaring up of the Spanish-American War), enthusiastically involving himself in every stage of production, even on occasion acting, though he always had a greater interest in actuality, for instance the scenes he took of the Paris Exposition in the summer of 1900. In November 1900 he hired Edwin S. Porter, who soon took responsibility for fiction films while White concentrated on actuality and news films. He was thus in charge when the Edison camera team, out in force to film William McKinley's arrival at the Pan-American Exposition on 5 September 1901, recorded the unfolding events surrounding the president's assassination.

In February 1903 White left to become manager of Edison's European business, supervising both film and phonograph interests, with his headquarters in London. In 1904 he became managing director of the National Phonograph Company, official Edison phonograph agents in Britain, and thereafter devoted most of his energies to the tumultuous phonograph business. In 1906 he retired, 'for personal reasons', only to emerge shortly afterwards as managing director of the General Phonograph Company. A zestful and enthusiastic character who thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of film production, he inspired much that was creative about early Edison films and left a gap in 1903 that was not to be filled.

Tags: silent film: 1900 : Actualities : Age of Attractions : American Cinema : Edison Studios : James H White : Sea : USA



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