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  • 1898

[Films for electoral meetings]

Cartoon by Henriot(?) from Le Charivari (27 February 1898): 3.

The caption states, “…making films for use in electoral meetings, to demonstrate how the candidate defends his principles in Parliament”. The cartoonist shows us, however, that the candidate defends his principles with his fists. This is one of the first ever references to the use of film for political purposes, a use which would be so richly fulfilled in years to come. The cartoon is also interesting in depicting the projected image on the screen as circular, a shape familiar from the magic lantern era; rather than rectangular, which would become the standardized format when moving pictures dominated screen entertainment. Le Charivari was one of France’s leading satirical journals.

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The Council and the Operator

Poem by Alphonse Courlander from The Photographic Dealer (December 1898): 128.

This poem is concerned with the stringent fire regulations that the London County Council had imposed for all sites where films were projected in London. The regulations included requirements that firemen should be present at any screenings, that the projector be separated by a barrier and a space of eight feet from the audience, and that wet blankets be on hand. However, in this same issue of Photographic Dealer (p. 130) it [End Page 383] was reported that the LCC was reviewing these very fire regulations. Incidentally, Courlander mentions Spring Gardens in the poem, which was where the headquarters of the LCC was located (just south of the river Thames near Vauxhall station). In terms of style, Courlander states on the original page that the poem is “after Edgar Allan Poe”, and it is evidently a parody of Poe’s famous 1845 poem, “The Raven”, including some direct quotations (e.g. “thing of evil”). Curiously, another poem by Courlander about film fire regulations was published in a British entertainment periodical in 1901 (though labelled as from 1898), so probably he felt strongly about this issue of apparently excessive regulation.7 A decade later Courlander went on to write a story, “Romantic Lucy”, about film stardom, and he also mentioned the cinema elsewhere in his fiction.8

Once, as far as I remember, it was in dull, drear December, When the rain was pouring downward and the stormy winds did roar; To Spring Gardens off I wandered – on the way I mused and pondered, Till I found that I was standing just outside the Council door. So I knocked – and nothing more.

As no answer yet receiving – (p’raps my ears were me deceiving) Anyhow, to make quite certain, timidly I knocked once more; Then, there was no doubt about it, “come in,” someone gruffly shouted, So I turned the handle slowly and I entered – through the door Slowly entered through the door.

There the Council sat debating – regulations new creating; Such a glorious sight of sage men in my life I never saw. Till they asked me “What my pleasure? – Would I explain at my leisure?” So I now resolved my troubles sorrowfully to outpour – (And my troubles are galore.)

“Tell me, Council,” said I pleading, “Answer to this I am needing, “Must we have a fireproof ceiling, must we have a fireproof door, “Must we have a fireproof grating, must we have two firemen waiting, “Must we have a pile of blankets lying on the fireproof floor?” Quoth the Council, “That and more.”

“Council,” said I, “thing of evil, Council still, if men or devil – “Will you answer me this question – Answer truly I implore – “Is this now what you prohibit? Must we never more exhibit “Till we have an eight foot space around each side – below and o’er?” Quoth the Council, “Not before.”

In a manner melancholy, not to be described as jolly, Sorrowfully then I turned and passed out through the open door. So will ever trade be spoilt, though we may have worked and toiled, Till the cloud from off the City pass unto the unknown shore To menace us – nevermore!

Till the men who, trade thus baulking, understand of what they’re talking, Till the anger of the people rises in a mighty roar, Till we...


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pp. 383-386
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