• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as current film releases with spiritual significance, and a few bits and pieces on the Bible.

    Sunday, April 17, 2016

    Silent Bible Film Mystery - #01 Gaumont's Esther (1910)

    At present I'm doing some work on a list of films from the Hebrew Bible. It's one of those tasks that you start off thinking will be a big job and then it turns out to be massive. The end is in sight but I'm left trying to figure out if certain films are the same with different title or different films, which is particularly tricky when you delve into the silent period and the period between 1907-1914 when films were short, often released together but also often sold section by section.

    Which brings me to the film/series Esther from 1910. It was made by Louis Feuillade for Gaumont and starred Renée Carl, Léonce Perret, Madeleine Roch. But according to the AFI it was released as two films on two different dates - The Marriage of Esther on the 11th June 1910 and Esther and Mordecai a week later on the 18th June 1910. Dumont (2009) lists these as two films, one simply called Esther and the other called Esther et Mordochée. The IMDb joins them together under the title The Marriage of Esther although if you view it on the iPad app the title is changed to Esther. It lists all three titles as alternatives.

    David Shepherd discusses the film briefly in "The Bible on Silent Film". He lists it as simply one film Esther and indicates that it exists in both the BFI and the Gaumont Pathé archives and describes it on pages 104-5 which you can read in Google Books. It sounds like he has seen it. One key point though is that he describes it as part of a trilogy, though I'm not sure what evidence exists for this aside from his own assertion. Campbell and Pitts mention this only in passing (as part of the easily missed section on page 5 of other Gaumont films) but mention it as two films Esther and Mordecai and The Marriage of Esther, in that order.

    So whilst my hunch is that these films were originally released as one in France, I'm going to list them as two as that appears to be how they were released in the US and that it seems to be the only way to clear up the relationship between the three titles. Unfortunately, whilst I like to call the films by their titles in their original language that would be problematic here so I will have to opt for their English titles. The more I go into this project the more I realise just how many twists and quirks there are.

    A couple more bits of information on this one. Firstly. There are some excellent frame grabs of this film at NitrateVille thanks to Bruce Calvert of the Silent Film Still Archive. These also show that the film was hand coloured rather than just black and white. Disappointingly I can't seem to find this anywhere to buy or view. Neither it, nor any Bible films are part of Kino's Gaumont Treasures Vol. 1 DVD despite the fact that two of the three discs are dedicated to this films director Louis Feuillade and star Léonce Perret. Indeed given that the other disc is given over to Alice Blanche Guy it's a little disappointing that not a single Bible film makes the cut. Opens the door for another project perhaps...

    Lastly, the IMDb also includes a couple of photos of the film and there's also a nice summary of the two parts taken from "Moving Picture World".
    PART ONE: "The Marriage of Esther" King Abasueris, who is now generally understood to have been Xerxes, and who ruled over India and its provinces about B.C. 521, is recorded to have cast aside his wife and directs that it be heralded throughout the domain that he is in search of a new spouse. He issues instructions to have brought before him for his approval the most beautiful young girls of all his lands. Accordingly, the maidens are led to the palace, and we see them being sumptuously gowned and bejeweled before being brought into the presence of his Majesty. Among the number, the king is greatly impressed by the beauty and grace of a handsome young Jewish girl. This one is Esther, who was adopted by her uncle, Mordecai, and by him brought to the palace of the king. Esther's beauty surpasses that of all the others and she is crowned Queen by Abasueris. Mordecai is appointed to sit at the king's gateway.

    PART TWO: "Esther and Mordecai" Mordecai is appointed to sit at the King's gateway. While on duty he discovers a plot to assassinate the King and discloses the facts, whereupon the King orders that this brave deed be recorded in the Annals of the Kingdom. Among the King's favorites, Haman is supreme. He soon becomes violently jealous of Mordecai and plans his destruction. As Mordecai is a Jew, Haman makes preparations to massacre the entire race and thereby complete his revenge on Mordecai. About this time the King decides to make a review of the Annals and to his amazement finds no record there of the good deed of Mordecai, whereupon Haman is ordered to give honors to Mordecai. This only serves to increase the jealousy of Haman. Through the gracious intercession of Esther, Mordecai soon has another and greater victory over Haman. As the time for the massacre of the Israelites approaches. Esther, who has been told all by her uncle, Mordecai, invites Haman to dine with her and the King at the palace. During the feast she discloses the fact that she is a Jewess and declares that all those who are enemies of the King and are not worthy of his favor, whereupon the King, who has been informed of the full facts, orders Haman delivered up to the guards and has him hanged on the very gallows Haman had designed for Mordecai. The victory of the Israelites is now the cause of great rejoicing.
    It's a shame that the BFI have taken all the details of their archive details off their website, as that might have been a potentially useful source of information. I don't understand that decision at all...

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