When the Earth Trembled: Scenes from Jean Desmet’s Dream Factory

Sun. Nov 22, 2015 at 1:00pm EST
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When the Earth Trembled: Scenes from Jean Desmet’s Dream Factory

A Dutch impresario who parlayed his success from carnival fairgrounds to cinemas, Jean Desmet (1875–1956) was a key figure in the movie industry of the Netherlands in the first half of the 20th century. His extensive collection of films, posters, and other artifacts, deposited at the EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam, includes many rare and unique titles, and has been inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register. This program, assembled by the EYE Filmmuseum’s Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi, is a close re-creation of an evening’s entertainment that Desmet himself presented to wide-eyed moviegoing audiences in 1915. True to his sense of showmanship, it features an eclectic array of styles and genres, from breezy domestic comedies (Pumps, starring Florence Turner, “The Vitagraph Girl”) and melodramas (The High Born Child and the Beggar) to science-and-nature films (Bee Culture), as well as long-lost newsreel footage of the SS Eastland after it capsized on the Chicago docks in 1915, leaving 800 dead. The program’s centerpiece is the early American disaster movie When the Earth Trembled (1913), a dramatic re-creation of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 that repurposes actuality footage of quake’s aftermath. Produced by the Lubin Manufacturing Company and directed, ambitiously and somewhat recklessly, by Barry O’Neil—a plummeting chandelier almost killed the film’s star, Ethel Clayton—this dramatic three-reeler has been reconstructed by EYE Filmmuseum from incomplete prints at EYE, the BFI, and The Museum of Modern Art.

1915. Approx. 5 min.

1913. France. Produced by Eclair. 4 min.

The High Born Child and the Beggar
1913. USA. Produced by Kalem. 10 min.

L’Apiculture (Bee Culture)
1913. France. Produced by Eclair Scientia. 4 min.

When the Earth Trembled
1913. USA. Directed by Barry O'Neil. Produced by the Lubin Manufacturing Co. 42 min.

1913. USA. Directed by Laurence Trimble. Produced by Vitagraph. 8 min.

Le Désespoir de Pétronille (Petronille’s Despair)
1914. France. Directed by Georges Rémond. Produced by Eclair. 7 min.

Silent, with piano accompaniment by Donald Sosin. Program approx. 100 min.

Lecture by Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi, Curator, EYE Filmmuseum

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The Museum of Modern Art Theater 2 11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019