Sidney Olcott, le premier oeil

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November 17, 2018





"The Paymaster" the first role of Gene Gauntier at the movies

There are treasures on the Internet. By exemple "The Paymaster", a film Biograph 1906. The first film ever played by Gene Gauntier. Shot in Connecticut with Billy Bitzer on camera. The film was released on June 23, 1906.

In her autobiography, Blazing the Trail, the actress who will become the Kalem Girl, told at length about her film debut, which also corresponds to the beginnings of an emerging art. An essential document.
Born Genevieve Liggett, near Kansas City, Missouri, she became Gene Gauntier on stage. Actress, she is in New York in 1906. In June, her funds are seriously down. To the point that she resolves to look at the side of cinema that has yet not good press with theater people. « I knew only one person who did work in them regulary, Sidney Olcott... »
The Canadian is an actor for the American Biograph and Mutoscope Company and offers her to play in a film. Gauntier hesitates. « It'll put three berries in your pocket. »

The next morning, Gauntier and Olcott take the train to Sound Beach, Connecticut. They have an appointment on a farm. There is a mill nearby and a large pond. « A wonderful place for a plunge», said Frank J. Marion, producer at Biograph talking to Gauntier : « You swin of course ! »
« Never was in water in my life except a bathtub », answers the young woman.
« I told you we must have someone whon could swin», railed Marion to Olcott.
« You didn't swin, replies Olcott, you said someone to go in the water. »
« ... The next time you do as I say. All right, folks, take off your make-up and we'll go home and come back again tomorrow. »
« ... Mentally I makes calculation - ten people at three dollars a day, railroad fare and so forth. I spoke up : « What do you want me to do ? »
« The girl must be thrown into the mill dam. »
« All right, I'll do it if you make sure someone will save me. »
« It's impossible. The water if thirty feet deep. I won't risk it. »
« Well, I will. Just have rescuers near and I'll take the chance. »

Marion lets himself bend. Let's go. The film is a police story. We repeat once and we turn. Except the scene where the villain, Jim Slevin, throws Gene Gauntier into the water telling her : « Hold your breath. »
Gene Gauntier describes the scene : « Just outside the camera lines, in boats, waited the other members of the cast, tense and ready to plunge in should it be necessary. Slevin frightened at what he had done, stared with mouth open and arms handing. »
« Get out, you fool », roared Marion, holding back Gordon Burke, the hero, who strained to run into the scene and make the rescue. It was too good ! Marion gripped him until my body disappeared again. In the meantime I felt as if I were plumbing the bottom of the river. Ten feet down I went, with the strength of Slevin's arm. I thought I would never stop going and start up again. My lungs were bursting. It seemed impossible to hold my breath another second. I felt the air on my face and wondered why I wasn't rescued; then down I went again. I was panic-stricken. Something had gone wrong. I was going to drown! Just then I felt firm arms under me and remembered not to struggle. A few strong strokes and I was laid on the damhead… »

To the great relief of everyone. The team surrounds and congratulates Gene Gauntier. Olcott laughs and cries. Marion grabs the actress's hands and kisses them. « The plunge was my open sesame yo the film world, for Mr Marion who was so grateful that for several years he would not even consider another leadinf woman. Moreover I was presentend with five dollars for my day's work instead of the customary three. »

Sorry for my English

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©2009 Michel Derrien