Les Animated Photographs de David Devant (octobre 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. La séance du 11 octobre, qui est prévue au Public Hall de la ville, est annoncée quelques jours au préalable :

Animated Photographs at Hastings.—The greatest number of these wonderful pictures ever seen in one entertainment will be shown at the Public Hall next Monday and during the remainder the week, by Mr. David Devant, the Egyptian Hall, London. The series include the procession and ceremony of the Diamond Jubilee. The scenes will be interspersed by the musical sketches of Mr. Mel B. Spurr. The entertainment will under the management of the well-known character impersonator, Mr. Horace Chester.

Hastings and St Leonards Observer, 9 October 1897, 5.

Les seules vues animées dont on connaisse le titre est celle du Jubilé de la Reine Victoria. Il faut dire que plusieurs cinématographistes ont tourné l'événement et que les films rencontrent partout un grand succès. On retrouve David Devant, ou l'un de ses collaborateurs, quelques jours plus tard à Redditch.

Les Animated Photographs de la Maskelyne & Cooke's Provincial Company (août 1899)

C'est la nouvelle structure voulue par David Devant qui va organiser plusieurs soirée, dans le Public Hall, d'Hasting, à partir du 14 août, semble-t-il. La formule reste la même que celle mise au point pour Eastbourne, quelques semaines plus tôt. La presse, dans le cas présent, va consacrer un très long article, pour l'essentiel consacré aux différents numéros de magie et prestidigitation et en particulier le "Gnome's Grot".

Maskelyne and Cooke’s is at Hastings. Maskelyne is not, and Cooke is not, but the great “Magical Entertainment of the Egyptian Hall, in all its completeness and its reason-defying mysteriousness,” has been given all this week at the Public Hall, where it remains until next Saturday, and being the greatest thing of its kind on earth, should not be missed by anyone who has not seen it. It is a highly unsatisfactory show for the people who insist that they know how it is done, for their chance is a very small one, but to those who are content to wonder and admire I is a never-ceasing source of delight. The illusions are entirely successful, and are all carried out under conditions which seem to defy the most searching criticism, and in addition to these there is the finest and most artistic sleight-of-band performance ever seen on a local stage.
The programme opens with a fantasy, entitled “The Gnome’s Grot,” a sort of dramatic interlude, the dialogue of which, considering it is a mere setting for a number of illusive tricks, is extremely amusing and well carried out. The scene is a cave near Killarney, and Mr Howard Crispen, as a German tourist, and Mr. Bert, as an Irish guide, manage to work in a good deal of quaint humour between the mysteries. Tables fly about in the air, golden bowls, goblins, and Miss Marie Curtis as the Sphinx, evolve apparently out of nothing, and finally Miss Curtis, now become the German’s love Gretchen, turns into Mr. Mackenzie the Gnome, and vice versa at a moment’s notice, under a loose cloth thrown over her figure. It is highly mysterious, but less effective than what follows, because the back of the stage is dark, and in front one is dazzled by two brilliant lamps. Then come the “Experiments in Pure Sleight-of-Hand,” by Herr Valadon, who has brought this science to such a fine point that can palm forty coins of different sizes in one hand at the same time. After he has caused a silk handkerchief to disappear out of glass lamp chimney before very eyes, without removing, or apparently without removing, his palms from either end of the chimney, and done many marvellous things with a most appealingly confidential air, though he was striving to make you understand how it was done, and you would not —after all this he brings forth Madame Valadon, and the two give an exhibition of “thought-reading,” which is much more wonderful than any of the so-called supernatural or spiritualist performances one so often meets with. Madame Valadon is seated on a wooden platform on four legs, which seems to preclude any electrical communication; she is blindfolded, and not a word passes Herr Valadon’s lips from the moment he has received the article to be described till the lady describes it. Besides this she plays a game of nap between two of the audience, telling them what cards are in their hands and how to play them, executes a “knight’s tour" on a numbered board from any square chosen by the audience, and (still blindfolded) adds columns of figures written on a blackboard total stranger.
The last and most striking item on the programme is the satire on Spiritualism called “Mrs. Daffodil Downey’s Seance,” in which occurs the great and unrivalled cabinet trick, which has lately been the subject of much litigation and discussion. Everyone knows the nature of this illusion, but no one who has not seen it can realise the bewildering openness and freedom from every sign of trickery with which it is done. The lights are full on, the cabinet apparently three feet from the nearest scenery, and one can see between it and the ground, and, moreover, it is put together before one’s very eyes. A walking-stick put into it while it is most obviously empty is immediately afterwards waved out of the top, and then handed out of one of the curtained openings. It is true this does not prove the presence of anyone in the cabinet, for the same stick proceeds to walk about the stage with no one near it, but this is followed by violin playing, arms and faces in the curtained aperture, and finally the doors open and a substantial and obviously earthly representation of the Spirit the late Lady Staid is men within.
The animated photographs are excellent, the sea cave in Galicia, and the scenes on Castle liner. The entertainment remains at the Public Hall next week, and there are matinees on Wednesday and Saturday at three; evenings at eight.

Bexhill-on-Sea Observer, Saturday 19 August 1899, p. 2. 

S'il est vrai que les images animées font partie du programme, il semble que leur place ne soit plus aussi prépondérante et seuls deux titres, déjà anciens, sont évoqués dans l'article du Bexhill-on-Sea Observer. Il semble que l'équipe reste une quizaine de jours environ à Hastings avant de quitter les lieux vers le 26 août 1899. 

Le Royal Bioscope d'H. Spencer Clarke (juin 1900)

C'est de la cadre de la tournée de la troupe des Mohawk Ministrels qu'H. Spencer Clarke présente ses vues animées. La séance a lieu au Hastings Pier, à partir du lundi 11 juin 1900 :

A large audience welcomed the Mohawk Minstrels on Monday night. the annual visit of this superb troupe is quite an event in local amusements, and is eagerly looked forward to by large numbers of entertainment-goers. The Mohawks continue to delight all hearers by the exouisite blending of voices in the choruses, the pathos of the sentimental songs, and the skill and beauty of the orchestration. Clever dancing and inimitable humour go to make up a show which should satisfay everybody, no matter how exacting in taste [...] Spencer Clark's Royal Bioscope, with its excellent war pictures, aroused great enthusiasm. Altogether the programme was one of very high merit, and most entertaining from start to finish.
There is a matinee to-day.

Hastings and St Leonards Observer, Saturday 16 June 1900, p. 3.

Dans le cadre de la représentation, des vues de la guerre des Boers, connue aussi comme guerre du Transvaal, sont présentées au public. La troupe semble se produire pendant une semaine environ.

Les Animated Photographs de la Maskelyne & Cooke's Provincial Company (septembre 1901)

À nouveau, David Devant présente le spectacle de le Maskelyne and Cooke's Provincial Company au Public Hall. L'équipe a organisé plusieurs soirées à Douvres, quelques jours plus tôt. À Hastings, la première a lieu le 16 septembre :

THE PUBLIC HALL.—A big attraction commences for a week on the 16th inst., at the Public Hall. Messrs. and Cooke have sent out a Company, under the leadership of Mr. David Devant, their managing partner, equal in every way to their London Company, in order that the people in the provinces may have the opportunity of witnessing the illusions and mysteries developed at the Egyptian Hall during the past 26 years. Beyond a novel repertoire of conjuring feats, the programme is enriched by several well-selected features. See advt.

Hastings and St Leonards Observer, Saturday 7 September 1901, p. 1.

Mème si l'annonce ne parle pas de vues animées, il va de soi qu'elles font partie du spectacle comme tout au long de la tournée, ce que d'ailleurs confirme le même journal quelques jours plus tard : "The animated photographs, which conclude the programme, are exceptionally fine." (Hastings and St Leonards Observer, 21 septembre 1901, p. 3).

Les Animated Photographs de la Maskelyne & Cooke's Provincial Company (août 1903)

David Devant revient à Hastings, à l'été 1903, pour présenter le nouveau spectacle de sa troupe. Il vient d'offrir quelques séances à Portsmouth. À Hastings, les séances ont lieu, à partir du 10 août 1903, pour une seule semaine, au Public Hall.

hastings 1903 devant

Hastings and St Leonards Observer , 1er août 1903, p. 1.

Il est rare que la presse fasse état des films qui sont proposés, mais une brève information nous indique malgré tout le contenu de l'une des vues proposées : "A short series of animated photographs were shown, including an amusing daylight burglary." (Hastings and St Leonards Observer15 août 1903, p . 3). Cela reste pourtant trop imprécis pour savoir exactement de quel film il s'agit. La troupe part, ensuite, pour Folkestone.

Les Animated Photographs de la Maskelyne and Cooke's Provincial Company (septembre 1904)

David Devant est de retour à Hastings, au début de l'automne 1904. La troupe vient de donner quelques séances à Tunbridge Wells. À Hastings, les séances ont lieu à partir du 19 septembre, dans le Public Hall, et pour une durée d'une semaine :

Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke open their entertainment at the Public Hall, Hastings, on Monday next, September 19th, for one week only. Afternoon performances wille be given on Wednesday and Saturday at three p.m. Plan, tickets, and programmes may be obtained at Messrs. Slade's Musice Stores, 7, Wellington-place, and Grand-parade, St. Leonards.

Hastings and St Leonards Observer, Saturday 17 September 1904, p. 5.

Aucune autre information relative aux vues animées, ce qui indique, en tout état de cause, que les films n'occupent qu'une place secondaire dans les spectacles. La troupe prend ensuite la direction de Reading.