Les Animated Photographs d'Ernest Wighton (janvier 1898)

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 compte, à partir du milieu de l'année 1897 sur plusieurs collaborateurs dont son propre frère, Ernest Wighton, parfois accompagné de J. W. Seers. C'est d'ailleurs lui qui est chargé de la présentation des vues animées au Town Hall d'Eastbourne, les 21 et 22 janvier 1898 :

TOWN HALL Manager, Mr. W. J. Kennard).- On Friday and Saturday evenings and Saturday afternoon last, Mr. David Devant's Animated Photographs were exhibited here for the third time. Incidental music was played by Mr. Griffith Humphreys, who also contributed a musical sketch, “The Booking Office” while the cinematograph was operated by Mr. Ernest Wighton. A special matinée was given on Monday, under the patronage of the Mayor and Deputy-Mayor, in aid of the “Terris” Lifeboat Memorial Fund, with which it is proposed to erect a now lifeboat-house for Eastbourne on the Wish-Tower grounds.

The Stage, Thursday 27 January 1898, 7.

Mais rien d'autre pour connaître les conditions de projections et les films projetés, même si l'on imagine aisément qu'Ernest Wighton puise dans son répertoire qu'il a présenté ailleurs.

Les Animated Photographs de David Devant (juillet 1898)

Quelques mois plus tard David Devant organise de nouveau des soirées à Eastbourne, toujours à la Town Hall, à la fin du mois de juillet. Quelques jours au préalable Walter Robert Booth a filmé la pose de la première pierre de la Terriss Lifeboat House. Dans le programme qui est proposé, outre les vues locales, on trouve des films provenant du catalogue Paul et bien entendu des numéros de variété dont le célèbre Der Zauberwunder exécuté par Devant en personne :

Including all the latest and most interesting moving panoramic pictures, amongst which will be found
Omitting the painful details of the disaster which unfortunately attended the ceremony.
A special picture of the laying the
Will be exhibited at each performance, taken our own Cinematographer.
First production of the most wonderful illusion of the present age,
Containing startling metamorphoses never before seen on any stage.
Will appear at every performance, a specially selected programme of legerdemain.
MR. EDWARD KENT, in Musical Sketches.
MR WALTER R. BOOTH, in High-class Ventriloquism.
Mesdames MELVILLE and GREY, in items various and entertaining.
The performance under the personal supervision and management of Mr. HORACE CHESTER.

Eastbourne Gazette, Eastbourne, 20 July 1898, 5.

Le programme de films fait la part belle aux images d'actualité (reportages) et offre aux habitants de la ville d'Eastbourne, probablement, les premières images de leur cité. L'annonce permet aussi de connaître l'équipe des collaborateurs de David Devant. Ce dernier est, ce qui n'est pas toujours la cas, bien présent pour la série de représentation. Une semaine plus tard, alors que les séances touchent à leur fin, la presse offre un long article où les différents films présentés sont décrits avec pas mal de détails :

Pleasant and enjoyable, interesting and entertaining, is the entertainment given by Mr. David Devant, at the Town Hall this week. Moreover, it has the additional claim of being well-varied, since it comprises a series of the best animated photographs yet exhibited in Eastbourne, startling illusions, conjuring of the highest order, musical and ventriloquial sketches, lightning cartooning, skirt dances, and vocal and instrumental Items. The animated photographs have been greatly improved. Although the unpleasant flickering sensation has not quite gone, the pictures are more distinct and clear. In the views depicting the laying of the foundation stone of the Terriss Lifeboat House, one easily recognises the faces of the Duchess, the Deputy-Mayor, the Vicar, the Town Clerk, and other local celebrities. Later, we see the senior rowing crew partaking of the contents of their championship cup. Most impressive are the views of Gladstone's funeral procession. Additional realism is imparted to some of the pictures by the introduction of various effects. We hear the shouts of the crowd and the bells of the horses in the fire scenes, the boom of the cannon in the dramatic representation of the death of Nelson, and the rattle and roar of an express train as it dashes past at the rate of 60 miles an hour. A curious effect is Introduced the panoramic views taken from the front of a train during a journey. A long line of people watch us we steam out of the station, and we are soon flying past hills and dales. Presently a whistle is heard we enter a tunnel. Darkness prevails for some moments, until a light is seen, which gradually Increases until we are out again and slowing up at our destination. The Zauberwunder is masterpiece of Illusion. Tables are seen floating in the air. A lady's head rises out of a basket of flowers and remains transfixed in mid-air. One of the performers is veiled. After few moments the veil is withdrawn and reveals an empty stage, but at the same moment the performer appears at the back of the ball. Doubtless a confederate takes his place behind the veil, whilst be disappears. Magical illusions are also displayed by Mr. David Devant, who is remarkably clever conjurer. Whilst he is perplexing his audience by his tricks, Mr. Devant succeeds in putting them into a good humour by his genial pleasantry. Being recalled on Monday, he gave an amusing and ingenious series of hand shadows. Miscellaneous contributions are given by Mr. Walter R. Booth, a lightning cartoonist and ventriloquist; Mr. Edward Ken, a society entertainer; by Miss Mabel Melville, a graceful dancer; and by Miss Violet Grey, a tasteful mandolinist and ballad vocalist. The audience on Monday was a good one in point of numbers, and applause of a most enthusiastic description was lavished upon the animated photographs, as well as other items of the programme.

Eastbourne Gazette - Wednesday 27 July 1898, 8.

Sans doute l'équipe est-elle restée à peine une semaine, mais la nouveauté de voir sur l'écran des vues tournées Eastbourne a eu un effet incontestable sur la population.

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

La toute nouvelle Maskelyne & Cooke's Provincial Company, dont David Devant est désormais le responsable, présente son tout nouveau spectacle, pour la première fois, à Eastbourne. Pour l'occasion, John Nevil Maskelyne s'est déplacé en personne, avec toute l'équipe. La presse locale donne une description précise de la soirée :

"How many genders are there" asked Mr. Verne at the Town Hall on Monday night, when Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke's Company commenced a series of performances which include matinees on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons at three.
"Two," replied the little lay figure in the Ventriloquist's lap.
"You are wrong this time. There are three." "No; there are only two good ones—Maskelyne (masculine) and Cooke!”
An entertainment that has drawn large audiences to the Egyptian Hall for over twenty years must have sterling merit; and on Monday night we found it even more brisk, lively, and amusing than we had anticipated. In the Fairy Fantasy "The Gnome's Grot," the marvellous manner in which the gnome Gobo (Mr. Mackenzie) takes the place of Gretchen Miss Cassie Bruce) astounds and perplexes everybody. Mr. J. N. Maskelyne figures with conspicuous success as the Hermit; Mr. Nevill Maskelyne is natural and diverting as Hans Goffman (a German tourist); Mr. J. B. Hansard represents Danny Doyle (a mountain Guide, who is a humourist in his way.)
Robust and youthful in appearance, Mr. David Devant is a most urbane and genial conjuror; his tricks were singularly clever; and he received assistance from two obliging gentlemen in the audience—Mr. J. Niedermayer and Dr. Cameron. After heating his hand with a match Mr. Devant produces silk handkerchiefs one after the other from between his here bare palms. His electric hand shadows are simply wonderful, and evoked genuine enthusiasm.
Foremost among the animated photographs, we may mention those representing the launch of Sir Thomas Lipton's yacht, the Shamrock. The pictures illustrating the death of Nelson aroused the patriotic ardour of the audience. Mr. Verne's musical and ventriloquial sketch was extremely clever end pleasing. Last came Mr. Maskelyne's famous spiritualistic sketch entitled " Mrs. Daffodil Downey's Seance.' Mr. J. R. Hansard appeared as Sir Everard Staid, Mr. Nevill Maskelyne as Dr. Blade, Mr. Mackenzie as Morsel, Mr. A. Bert as Mrs. Daffodil Downey, and Miss Marie Curtis as the Spirit. The acting was remarkably good; and the spiritualistic effects were more surprising and far more entertaining than the manifestations recorded to have taken place at "real" séances.
Excellent music is discoursed by the orchestra; and altogether the entertainment is one which we can cordially recommend to young and old alike—particularly to parents who wish to enjoy themselves while giving pleasure to the little folks.

Eastbourne Gazette - Wednesday 02 August 1899, p. 8. 

Il s'agit pour l'équipe de réussir cette soirée inaugurale. Parmi les nombreux numéros qui sont proposés, nous trouvons bien entendu quelques vues cinématographiques, même si certaines ne sont pas réellement des nouveautés. On ignore cependant le nombre de séances de ce bref séjour.

Les Animated Photographs de de la Maskelyne and Cooke's Provincial Company (mars/avril 1900)

Une nouvelle fois à Eastbourne, il est question de David Devant. Les photographies animées sont annoncées pour le mardi 13 mars, à la Town Hall, et le répertoire comporte les vues de guerre du Transvaal :

Two exhibitions of Mr. David Devant's splendid animated photographs (from Maskelyne and Cooke's, the London Egyptian Hall) will be given at the Town Hall on Tuesday next, at three and eight. The exhibitions will be up-to-date, in the respect that it will include the latest war pictures. Mr. and Mrs. Wakeling Dry will contribute musical sketches.

Eastbourne Gazette, Wednesday 7 March 1900, p. 8.

Le succès est suffisamment significatif pour que de nouvelles projections soient prévues pour les premiers jours d'avril.

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

Une nouvelle fois, David Devant se retrouve, après avoir passé une semaine à Hastings, à Eastbourne avec son équipe pour organiser des soirées au Town Hall. La première a lieu le 23 septembre 1901.

eastbourne 1901 devant

Eastbourne Gazette, 18 septembre 1901, p. 5

À la fin du programme comme d'habitude des vues animées sont offertes : "The entertainment concludes with a fine display of animated photographs, includintg the latest pictures and realistic effects." (Eastbourne Gazette, 25 septembre 1901, p. 8). Concernant les films, le seul titre qui nous est parvenu est celui de The Funeral Cortege of the Late Empress Frederick, of Germany. Après quelques jours de spectacle, la troupe file à Tunbridge Wells.

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

Comme il le fait depuis plusieurs années, David Devant revient à Eastbourne. La troupe vient de donner plusieurs représentations à Folkestone. À Eastbourne, les séances commencent le 1er septembre, pour trois jours seulement.

eastbourne 1904 devant

Eastbourne Gazette, 24 août 1904, p. 5.

Pa d'annonce de vues animées, mais elles font toujours partie du spectacle. Il est clair, en revanche, qu'elles n'ont qu'un rôle assez modeste dans ces représentations. La troupe poursuit sa route vers Tunbridge Wells.