Le Cinematographe d'Ernest Wighton (août 1897)

Jean-Claude SEGUIN

Depuis le mois d'août 1896, David Devant, le célèbre magicien, a organisé une entreprise afin de distribuer et présenter des films en Grande-Bretagne. Il peut compter, à partir du milieu de l'année 1897 sur plusieurs collaborateurs dont son propre frère, Ernest Wighton. Ce dernier est accompagné d'un second opérateur, J. W. Seers. Ils viennent de Battle où a été organisée une soirée de projections de vues animées. A Bexhill-on-sea, la séance a lieu le lundi 30 août 1897, dans le Victoria Hall de la ville. Le journaliste, ce qui n'est pas toujours le cas, s'est intéressé surtout au contenu de la séance :

On Monday evening last the Victoria Hall was well filled with people desirous of witnessing exhibition by Mr. David Devant of the wonderful Cinematographe, which reproduces before the eye scenes with the most minute details of action. The exhibition was very interesting and varied, and did credit to the promoter’s enterprise. Something like 40 scenes were reproduced on the screen, including some events in the recent Jubilee celebrations. These later pictures were specially taken by Mr. Maskelyne, of the Egyptian Hall, London, and are now being shown by Mr. Devant up and down the provinces. The exhibition opened with a very interesting scene, showing the departure of work people from a factory, which was followed by lively representations of Mr. Maskelyne spinning plates and Mr. David Devant conjuring. A very good piece was that depicting two children playing on some sands, making a little mound of sand, and throwing up the sand and water with their little spades. Another playing scene showed two evidently spoiled children riding a donkey and St. Bernard dog respectively under the watchful care their guardians. A representation of fire brigade “turn-out" from a London Fire Station evoked much appreciation. Although taken early in the morning, when there was not much light, the engines, tenders, and fire escapes emerging from the station at full gallop could be seen distinctly. A fire scene showed how calmly the fireman performs his hazardous work amid stifling smoke, and in blazing buildings. The rescue of the horses from the burning stables was worth seeing. The Boulevarde des Italiens, Paris, was the best street scene shown during the evening, and this was followed by the arrival of the Paris express at Calais and the "twins' tea party,” the latter faithfully reproducing children’s playfulness. A garden comedy, wherein the small boy repaid for teasing the gardener the latter turning the hose on him, and administering a sound thrashing, was very amusing, and the first portion of the programme concluded with the finish of the Prince’s Derby, 1896. During an interval Mr. Griffith Humphrey entertained the audience with a musical sketch, entitle “Concert curiosities,” creating much laughter. The cinematographe exhibition was resumed a representation of a Spanish bull fight, which was one of the clearest pictures shown, as was also a French wedding scene. The Vanishing Lady and the lightning cartoonist drawing portrait of the Queen were much admired, being withal very amusing. The droll “White-eyed Kaffir” (Chirgwin) was also brought to view, and scenes from Brighton beach and Paris were very interesting. A charge of cavalry aroused the martial instincts of a portion of the audience, who did not take much notice of the American express, “Black Diamond,” running at a speed of 70 miles an hour, although they swallowed the joke that that was a speed seldom exceeded even on our South Coast railways. A scene from the recent Graeco-Turkish War was reproduced. This was the taking of a fort by the Turks, and was much admired. Another musical sketch Mr. Griffith Humphrey preceded the Jubilee pictures, which were, of course, the great attraction of the evening. The arrival of the Queen at St. Paul's called forth as much cheering from the audience as if they had been actually present on the great occasion, and certainly those assembled at the Victoria Hall saw much those who paid their guineas for seats around St. Paul’s Churchyard.

Bexhill-on-Sea Observer, Bexhill-on-Sea, 4 September 1897, 5.

Au programme, sont représentés différents catalogues d'éditeurs de films, Paul, bien entendu, mais également Edison et Méliès. Il ne semble pas que d'autres séances aient été alors organisées. Les opérateurs continuent sans doute leur voyage...