C’era una volta a Milano l’Armenia Films

Martedì scorso, tre palazzine dei mitici Pickfair Studios, Santa Monica Boulevard angolo Formosa Avenue, sono state demolite senza pietà in mezzo alle lacrime e le proteste di molti cinefili… Se volete leggere di più su questa storia, ecco a voi il link: Save the Pickfair Studios

Riflettendo su questa notizia mi è ritornata in mente una fotografia pubblicata su Flickr qualche tempo fa: questa: Una magica Porta dei Leoni nascosta nella Bovisa. Quasi un miracolo perché dei vecchi teatri di posa italiani ai tempi del muto è rimasto in piedi poco o niente… Per raccontarvi dell’Armenia Film, andiamo indietro nel tempo…

Milano 1910. Poiché lo stabilimento ereditato dalla S.A.F.F.I. Comerio non è più in grado di far fronte allo sviluppo dell’azienda, la Milano Films acquista un terreno di diecimila ettari nei pressi della Bovisa, a Via Baldinucci, sul quale cominciano i lavori per un teatro di posa. L’edificio misura circa 650 mq. e può garantire la lavorazione giornaliera di 15.000-20.000 metri di pellicola. Il teatro entra in funzione nel maggio 1911. Accanto al teatro di posa il laboratorio per la stampa.

Teatro di posa e laboratorio stampa della Milano Films 1911

Teatro di posa e laboratorio stampa della Milano Films 1911

Maggio 1917. Nasce l’Armenia Films, nuova Ditta di produzione-noleggio-acquisto-vendita di films cinematografiche, del sig. Johannes H. Zilelian. La Ditta occupa una parte dei terreni appartenenti alla Milano Films, e costruisce a sua volta due nuovi teatri. Johannes H. Zilenian aveva finanziato e distribuito la Serie Armenia della Milano Films, prodotta nel 1916.

Milano 1933. «Ho voluto ripercorrere in tram la via delle Bovisa per rendermi conto delle trasformazioni sopravvenute in tanti anni, e per aver tutto il tempo di convincermi che davvero tornavo alla Milano Film, oggi Elios, ad assistere di nuovo, dopo tanto, a una ripresa cinematografica fatta a Milano, e fatta con serietà di propositi.

Il tram non è più quello, anche se porta lo stesso numero 9, quel numero così noto e caro a tanta gente d’allora, celebrità in boccio e celebrità in fiore, umili comparse, direttori artistici d’ogni calibro, operatori, macchinisti, lavoranti del film: molti scomparsi dai teatri di posa, pochi sopravvissuti, qualcuno scomparso addirittura dal teatro della vita. Questo d’ora è un tram nuovo, comodo, ben molleggiato, con sedili di velluto rosso, come tutti gli altri della città. Lungo il percorso, altri cambiamenti: strada asfaltata o lastricata, case dalle facciate ripulite, edifizi nuovi, aspetto generale fiorente e ridente. Al capolinea del tram, una piazza rotonda, illeggiadrita al centro di una fontana che, se anche non ha nulla di monumentale, è tuttavia un segno di questo rinnovamento edilizio di Milano, che per le fontane non aveva avuto mai spiccata simpatia.

Quante cose sono mutate! e, ciononostante, io sento correre ancora su una strada amica, nota anche nelle cose che ignoravo, salutato da una facciata, là da un riquadro di giardino, altrove da un fumaiolo, dall’insegna di una bottega, da una siepe, da un ciuffo d’alberi bassi, con lo stesso saluto di tanti anni fa.» effeemme (Kinema, novembre 1933)

Milano 1934. Sull’ampio terreno adiacente a gli stabilimenti della Milano Film, e precisamente su quello dove un tempo sorgevano i due teatri di posa dell’America Films (sic. Armenia Films) e i vari fabbricati adibiti a gli uffici ed ai servizi accessori – teatri che erano stati adibiti  ad alloggi provvisori per gli sfrattati – stanno sorgendo ora i nuovi e modernissimi teatri di posa sonori di una Editrice di recentissima costituzione, la Nazional Fono Film. Saranno ancora due capacissimi teatri, attrezzati, come s’è detto, per le esigenze del film sonoro. (Kinema, gennaio 1934)

Nei vecchi teatri della Milano Films, diventata Elios nel 1933, Luchino Visconti girò il suo primo film: Il mistero del film (scomparso) di Luchino Visconti.

Pubblicato in Cronologia 1910, Cronologia 1917, Produzione | Contrassegnato , , , , , | 6 commenti

Prominent english actors in pictures

Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Bain News Service Wikimedia Commons

Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Bain News Service Wikimedia Commons

English actors of rank have not yet figured upon the cinematograph films so well and so frequently as have those of other countries. This is being gradually changed, however, and there is no reason why such distinguished members of the British stage as Arthur Bouchier, Sir George Alexander, Martin Harvey, Forbes Robertson, Fred Terry, Robt. Loraine, Violet Vanburgh, Ellen Terry, Lena Ashwell and Julia Neilson should not become as popular with cinematograph audiences as they are with those who visit the ordinary theaters.

I hear in this connection that Sir Herbert Tree’s production of  “Macbeth” is about to be  filmed for the cinematograph and that the fee to be paid is $20,000. Sir Herbert’s “Henry VIII” has been on the cinematograph for some time. The fee seems enormous, but it must be remembered that all the scenery and fittings have to be transported to a daylight theater specially’built for this business.
(The Moving Picture World, 6 April 1912)

Pubblicato in Cronologia 1912, Personaggi | Contrassegnato

The European Market

New York, April 1912. While theatrical magnates in this country are becoming converts to the moving picture, there is at present a fierce and relentless war being waged against the moving picture, on the continent of Europe. The aggressors are owners, directors and managers of theaters.In order to understand the situation abroad it must be borne in mind that many of the larger theaters are either supported or largely subsidized by the government. The government, therefore, has a direct and tangible interest in promoting the prosperity of the theater and in antagonizing every influence which threatens that prosperity. The resources of these governments are practically boundless and their power to suppress any particular institution which harms or displeases them cannot be challenged on any constitutional ground. Fully aware of this condition of affairs, the theater owners of Austria, banded together in a powerful organization, have petitioned the government for the suppression of the moving picture houses within the empire. The government has begun its warfare by intolerant and intolerable censorship and by drastic regulations affecting the seating capacity, safety requirements, etc., of all moving picture houses. Storms and hard times are ahead for exhibitors in that part of the world. Scores of moving picture houses will be wiped out of existence and many more will be severely crippled.

A similar campaign has started in Germany, and the entire industry in Central Europe will be seriously affected.

All these facts are of great importance to the American manufacturer who exports his product into the European market. It is well known that the European market has so far been a profitable one. In some instances American manufacturers have made more money on their European than on their American sales. The question occurs as to what they may be able to do to stem this tide of official disfavor. One way to do this will be the support of exhibitors’ associations in the countries named. These associations are but of recent origin and their growth has been slow.

Nevertheless they are a valuable nucleus of opposition to the arbitrary methods of the government. Unless a vigorous fight is made in the courts the damage to the European trade will be enormous.
(The Moving Picture World, 6 April 1912)

Pubblicato in Cronologia 1912, Produzione | Contrassegnato

Movies and American Censorship

April 1912. There is a lot of shallow talk about our superiority to censorship. As a matter of fact an artistic censorship, com petently exercised, would benefit the industry. It would keep certain manufacturers, both domestic and foreign, away from big subjects, which they cannot handle. A dozen or more socalled features, pretendedly classic in character, are now on the market, when they would be much better in the limbo of forgotten films. These would-be classics harm not only the exhibitor, but work great injury to the competent and conscientious manufacturer, who is deprived of a subject, which he could have treated creditably. There are many great classic subjects still left for filming. If a company like the Milano undertake the cinematographic reproduction of them the result will be an honor to the industry and a profit to exhibitors. If on the other hand a cheap manufacturer with limited resources abd scant knowledge essays the task, the outcome will be a more or less laughable burlesque or parody. If we had a board of competent censors on artistic capability it would be easy to squelch the cockroach element.
(The Moving Picture World, 6 april 1912)

Pubblicato in Cronologia 1912, Produzione | Contrassegnato ,

Maurice Costello, of the Vitagraph Company

New York 1912. It’s rather easy to get about Brooklyn (so the inhabitants said), and I made three little journeys to the home of Maurice Costello, with the same result: “Not in.” The druggist on the corner seemed to be full of misinformation about him, but it was not until I was warming up in a nearby garage that  I got a direct clue. His hobby is automobiling. I was told, and he keeps his machine looking like an instalment piano.

As I neared his house, now grown quite familiar, from its outer side, the humgrounds, and as I entered it, I found the auto, with hood off, and engine complacently running. But Look where I could, no owner could I find.

“Can it be, I thought, “that he’s such a bug that the chatter of his engine puts him to sleep? – I’ve known such extreme cases.”

I was about to walk out when a pair of woodman’s shoes slid out from the rear axle, and wiggled violently. These were followed by a length of overalls. “That’s it! I knew it. He does sleep under it, ” my thoughts went on, and then an arm with a spanner wrench and a tousled head of hair followed, making for the open.

“Beg pardon, ” I shouted, as he sat staring at me. “Can you tell me where Mr. Costello is?”

The woolen undershirt and shock of hair came up slowly even with mine.

“He was under there some time ago.” the mechanic said, pointing to the car; “must have got lost something.”

Then his identity slowly dawned upon me.

When he had shut off the nerve.racking noise, and I had made my business plain to him, he smiled like a schoolboy. “Have a chair,” he said. “No? Oh, there aren’t any, I see. Well, climb up in the car, and let’s have our little say.”

“To begin with,” he said, “I’ve been reading your writeups in The Motion Picture Story Magazine, and cannot qualify on a lot of your pet questions; so let’s get them out of the way. I have never gone to college, haven’t any favorite flower, never did anything heroic, and know all my neighbors.”

“Thanks,” I interposed, “that’s very clear, but I’m afraid it isn’t interesting. But since you like the categorical method, suppose we commence.”

Q. Have you a nickname?

A. Yes, known everywhere as “Dimples.”

Q. It isn’t necessary to ask you how you came by this?

A. No, I was born with it.

Q. Where were you born, and when?

A. In Pittsburg, and I wasn’t old enough to remember the date, at that time.

Q. What nationality are your parents?

A. There is a good deal of misunderstanding on this point, but not on their part, for my mother is Irish, and father, Spanish-Irish.

Q. What interests you most?

A. Loving Dolores and Helen Costello.

Q. Then you are married?

At this rude question, the infernal motor started uo again, and was like to have shook me from my perch. In the interests of a lot of my young lady friends I kept the question balanced on the tip of my tongue, and when the racket subsided, put it again.

A. “I suppose I’ll save your inquiry man a lot of bother,” he said, laughingly, “if I told you, but my answer is, ‘Guess.’

I’m still guessing,

Q. Are you interested in politics?

A. Judging by my mail, I’m a leading suffragette.

Q. Do you ever personally appear before theater audiences?

A. Yes, to oblige personal friends, not otherwise.

Q. Have you ever been featured in the newspapers because of an heroic deed?

A. Certainly; I was arrested once for speeding my auto. Otherwise my heroic rôles more than satisfy me.

Q.  About how many parts have you played?

A. I should judge between four and five hundred.

Q. Can you name some Photoplays in which you think you were at your best?

A. Off-hand, I should say as Sidney Carton, in a “Tale of Two Cities,” and as St. Elmo, in the picture of that name. As Sidney Carton, the English press compared me very favorably with Martin Harvey, a creator of the rôle in regular drama.

“Tell me all about yourself, physically?” I asked.

“I am  five feet ten inches tall, and weigh one hundred and sixty pounds, tho this varies a little. In summer, we do a good deal of out-door work, and then I feel like a prince. In fact, the more I can get of life in the open, the better I like it; whether it be walking, swimming, motor-boating, or any out-door sport. Speaking of working out-of-doors, I had and experience last summer which called up all my physical fitness – and kept calling for more. We were making a picture  entitled, ‘On the Wings of Love,’ in which it was my duty to climb to the top of a thirty-foot windmill and rescue a woman supposedly in deadly peril. As a matter of fact, after I had climbed out on the frail wheel and taken her in my arms, the danger became very real, and not stage business. The iron pipe axle of the revolving wheel slowly bent, and tho I knew we were due for an ugly fall, I did not let go of her. We fell, all right – it seemed a mile. But we got off with a few nasty bruises. First time I’ve been a fallen hero.

“I am sorry to say that I am not musically gifted,” he continued; “dont sing or play, but I’m very fond of good music, and even poor music, if it’s well executed. And,” he added, “I think I like to hear the old engine singing smoothly better than anything else.

“It’s hard to give you my stage career in a few words, but I played, among others, with the Grand Opera Stock Company of Pittsburg, the Nashville, York, and Columbia Stock Companies, respectively, and here in Brooklyn with the Spooner Stock Company. Before coming to the Vitagraph Company – my only Motion Picture connection, by the way – I played in ‘Strong Heart’ with Maud Fealy.

“I would like to say that stage  art has changed very much in Motion Pictures in the past three years. Then, the principal object was to work out the plot – let the characters take care of themselves. As a result, they were all very much alike. Now that we have character parts, much more careful study is required; an ability to express the part distinctly, briefly, truly, and eloquently or with appeal. These things – and each part requires a different shading of them – I endeavor to do as well as I can; for if a man, or woman, does not take absolute and feeling interest in the work, it would show itself as poor to the most uncritical.

“I think I owe a good deal  of my success to criticism, and I feel that appreciation is hepful, too. But I want appreciation only after the sternest kind of effort – perfunctory applause does not interest me. My oldest friend, and director, Mr. Van Dyke Brooke, is, I am glad to say, my most severe critic. It was he that first showed me the possibilities of Motion Pictures, and since then we have always worked together. But I feel that his harshest criticism is his friendliest.

“What’s that? Cant use so much theory?” And here he brought the spanner down on the harmless bonnet with a thump. “Well, some day, I want to get it all down for you – an article on the Motion Picture from an actor’s standpoint. Something new, eh? I tell you, I feel a lot of things that haven’t been in print.”

(The Motion Picture Story Magazine, April 1912)

Pubblicato in Cronologia 1912, Personaggi | Contrassegnato ,