Sidney Olcott, le premier oeil

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October 21, 2015





Anthony Slide writes a new chapter on the O'Kalems

Film historian, author of dozens of books and films, archivist for the American Film Institute and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences... Anthony Slide was one of the first to write on O'Kalems adventure. His first article on the subject dates back to 1967, published in Cinema Studies magazine. Working at the time in London, Slide had made the trip to Beaufort to interview Annie O'Sullivan, who in 1911 witnessed the arrival of Sidney Olcott and American film makers who sejourned there each summer for four years.
Later, Tony slide fleshed out his purpose by devoting an entire chapter in his book The Cinema and Ireland, published by McFarland in London in 1988.
He returned with A Special Relationship , Britain Comes to Hollywood and Hollywood Comes to Britain, published in summer 2015.
In this new book, I did not find any revelations or questioned what I wrote on the subject in Sidney Olcott, le premier oeil. But rather confirmations. It has the merit of calling into light this episode founder of the history of cinema in Ireland.

What I note about the book
Slide back on the episode imaged choosing Ireland for the first Kalem getaway outside the United States. He doubts the scene of Marion Frank, head of Kalem, asking Olcott to show him on a world map the country where he would shoot his next film. Olcott pointing Ireland "the country of [his]ancestors." Anecdote told her Annie O'Sullivan in 1967.
In fact Gauntier had submitted to Marion the idea to make a film in Ireland "a country that excited [his] imagination". The showed no interest in the idea. But changed his mind. “(...) In May 1910, Gauntier's mother arrived in New York, with passage booked to visit her daughter [Marguerite, opera singer] in Germany and anxious to have her other daughter journey with her. Perhaps Kalem was concerned that it might again lose its primary screenwriter and leading actress (…)”, writes Slide. Marion accepts provided that Olcott and Hollister travel too and bring back movies.
Thus The Lad From Old Ireland, first American film shot on two continents was born and The Irish Honeymoon and The Little Spreewald Maiden, the first American film shot in Germany.

For the rest, I found some errors. Slide raises John Sidney Alcott January 20, 1872. I think I have proved qu'Olcott was born September 20, 1872. According to him, if he chooses Olcott stage name is a tribute to the American tenor Chauncey Olcott (1860-1932) who popularized many Irish tunes, still sung today. Sid Olcott began life as a newspaper vendor in the street, attracted by the theater. Unfortunately it does not give its sources.

Slide combines elements of his previous articles in particular on the relationship between Olcott and Gauntier. The Beaufort people told him he was in love with her but devout Catholic, he could not marry a divorcee. Just as the Irish were shocked to learn that a divorced had interpreted the role of the Virgin Mary in From the Manger to Cross.
Catholic Olcott nothing is less certain. The few biographical elements about Mary Allcott present her as a member of the Church of England or Episcopalian, that is to say Anglican. Olcott was he converted? In all the documentation I could see, I did not find mention of his religion. When the Beaufort priest denounces tramps photographers whose aim is to degrade the image of the Irish, Olcott does not attend Mass. Unlike Catholics among the O'Kalems, Alice Hollister, Jack Clark and his mother, Bob Vignola. At his funeral in Los Angeles, the ceremony described by Vignola is not Catholic.
As for the fact that Gene Gauntier was divorced. Why Olcott has not married her before she married Jack J. Clark in Jerusalem in 1912? The couple divorced 31 January 1918, well after having taken on the role of Mary.

Slide says George Melford is part of the troupe that travels to Ireland in 1911. I think it confused with Robert Vignola he does not speak at all.

Anthony Slide finally speaks of a Kalem movie, probably directed by Sidney Olcott, The Belle of North Wales, released in the US

on February 12, 1913. Olcott would have shot summer 1912. Wales is on the way between Beaufort and London. In fact, this is an English film The Belle of Bettys-y-Coed, produced in 1912 by British & Colonial Kinematograph Company, directed by Sidney Northcote Webber and distributed in the US by Kalem. I have no more details but the info is given by The New York Dramatic Mirror, 19 February 1913, p 28.

Two regrets
I will conclude with regrets. Tony slide evokes nowhere Blazing the Trail, The O'Kalems in Ireland, the film by Peter Flynn and Tony Tracy nor the fact that eight films about twenty eight qu'Olcott devoted to Ireland are still visible. He does not speak either of my book Sidney Olcott, le premier oeil. It is true that it has the major disadvantage of being available only in French.


Sorry for my English

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"Egypt as it Was in the Time of Moses" on YouTube

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Finally, Sidney Olcott's grave is in Toronto ! I saw its still

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©2009 Michel Derrien