Posts Tagged ‘George Méliès’


Photo: Des Moines Register
Michael Zahs, a retired history teacher, saved rare films that date to 1895 and became the subject of the 2017 documentary “Saving Brinton.” 

Did you ever read Hitty, Her First Hundred Years as a child? It’s about a doll who, through various adventures, ends up in the hands of a series of families in the course of a century. It suggests that old treasures bring joy again and again in new circumstances.

It would be lovely to find some rare, lost thing and give it new life. I know that readers like KerryCan and Deb do that all the time. In fact, Deb recently blogged about rescuing smelly old fabrics from oblivion to make a quilt. She likes to think about the former life of each piece as she works.

Suzanne, meanwhile, has been having enormous fun finding and cleaning up vintage lockets, offering resizing and placement of the customer’s family photos to give the lockets meaning for another generation.

Here’s a story about finding old silent film footage in an Iowa barn by Pamela Hutchinson at the Guardian. “Michael Zahs thinks of himself as a saver. ‘I like to save things,’ he says, ‘especially if it looks like they’re too far gone.’ This retired history teacher from Iowa, now in his 70s, has amassed quite a collection over the years: stray animals, farm implements, even a church steeple. …

“Nothing he has saved, however, has been quite as remarkable as the Brinton Collection – a mammoth set of films, lantern slides, posters and projection equipment from the first years of cinema, and even earlier. There are two exciting things about these artifacts. One is that during the more than three decades after Zahs took delivery of the collection and stored it on his property, he has been showing its treasures to local people and keeping the tradition of the travelling showman alive. The second is the discovery that the collection contains very rare material – films by the French cinema pioneer, George Méliès [remember the 2011 movie about his work, Hugo?] that were once thought to be lost.

Saving Brinton, an absorbing new documentary by Andrew Sherburne and Tommy Haines, tells the story of Zahs and the collection he saved. Between 1895 and 1909,one Frank Brinton crossed the Midwest with his wife Indiana and his travelling show, welcoming locals for a ticket price of just a few cents.

“At first he showed magic lantern slides, some of which ‘dissolved’ between two static images to create an illusion of movement. When moving pictures arrived, Brinton jumped aboard, ordering many films from distributors in France, one of the most prolific and creative producers in the early period. …

“Brinton’s programme included trick films such as those by Méliès, which used in-camera special effects to create fantastical spectacles, and many hand-coloured movies where the dye is applied directly to each frame. Projected in the dark, these vivid, bizarre images have lost none of their original impact.

“Everything the Brintons used was passed down through the family until 1981, when it arrived at Zahs’ front door. He packed all the ephemera away into what he calls his ‘Brinton room,’ while the films themselves were sent to the Library of Congress, which duplicated about two-thirds of them, quickly and simply, and sent the 16mm copies back to Zahs. The remaining third they apparently sent back to Zahs through the US mail, in a box labelled ‘explosive.’ Those original nitrate films, which are highly flammable, were stored alongside the 16mm films in a shed. It’s amazing that they survived.

“The 16mm copies were safe to project, and so Zahs did. He started the Brinton film festival in Ainsworth, Iowa (population: about 600), where he would show the slides and the films to audiences that might never otherwise have dreamed of watching a silent film projection.

“It is typical of Zahs’ commitment to not just preserving but sharing history, says Sherburne. ‘That’s how he engages people, by giving them the genuine article, putting it in their hands, or putting it in front of their eyes. It’s his way of transporting them to a different time.’ ”

Read more at the Guardian, here. And do tell me a vintage story of your own.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: