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The Translation of Films, 1900-1950$

Carol O'Sullivan and Jean-François Cornu

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266434

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266434.001.0001

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Early titling on films and Pathé’s innovative and multilingual strategies in 1903

Early titling on films and Pathé’s innovative and multilingual strategies in 1903

(p.41) 3 Early titling on films and Pathé’s innovative and multilingual strategies in 1903
The Translation of Films, 1900-1950

Claire Dupré La Tour

British Academy

Abstract and Keywords

The shift from titles on lantern slides to the practice of titling on the film itself dates to the turn of the 20th century. Early examples of preserved filmed titles are rare, but occasional advertisements can be found in the UK in catalogues of James Williamson (1899) and Robert William Paul (1901), and in France in a catalogue of the Parnaland film company (1901). Although evidence shows that Pathé was using this technique in 1901, catalogues from its British branch reveal that it advertised it from May 1903. The advertisements highlighted positive outcomes for producers and exhibitors, and promoted titles in a variety of languages. This early titling strategy allowed Pathé to get ahead of its competitors in terms of industrialisation, control over its product, and domestic and foreign market share. This chapter focuses on early filmed titling and intertitling practices, Pathé’s innovative offer in 1903, and its evolution until 1908.

Keywords:   early cinema, early film distribution, film history, film titling, intertitles, Pathé, silent film, subtitles

THE EVOLUTION OF TITLING PROCEDURES and policies was crucial for the development of many different aspects of cinema, including fiction film production and international distribution. This chapter brings together a body of evidence which allows us to identify titling practices at the turn of the 20th century, and to put in context the innovations in titling and multilingual titling introduced by the French company Pathé from 1903.

Cinema comes into being in the context of previous media such as photography and the magic lantern. The intermedial approach to film and media studies which emerged at the turn of the 21st century facilitates a contextual approach to film history.1 As André Gaudreault and Philippe Marion have theorised, a new technology establishes itself initially in existing media, then evolves, and finally detaches to become a medium in its own right.2 Animated views were often projected on the model of the 19th century (p.42) magic lantern show. The titles of the views, at that time written on glass plates, were projected with a magic lantern just before the projection of each view.

Little by little, the projection of opening titles was simplified. The key innovation was the titre sur bande, or title on film. The title was no longer written on a slide but on one or more frames edited into the beginning of the film so that it was projected before the animated view. It is difficult to date the beginning of titles on film; the oldest preserved copies of films are usually without titles. This may be because they never existed or because they have been removed. A few British and French films which have been preserved with their original title, and the sales catalogues of production and distribution houses, allow us to situate the beginnings of this practice between 1898 and 1904. These films and documents also point to the emergence of intertitling in 1901–2; in the United States the Edison company picked up this practice briefly in 1903–5.

The Pathé company’s catalogues show that Pathé decided systematically to use titles on film, and to offer them in several languages, from 1903. These strategies were closely linked to the industrialisation of Pathé production and to the company’s focus on growing exports to foreign markets, which was to make it the most important production company in the world until 1914.

The title slide

The practice of using title slides for moving pictures existed before the cinematograph. At the Musée Grévin in Paris from 1892 to 1900, Émile Reynaud used his Théâtre optique (Optical Theatre) to project his Pantomimes lumineuses (Illuminated Pantomimes), hand-drawn animated scenes whose titles were projected from glass slides.3 In Germany, Max Skladanowsky was inspired by lantern technology to build his Bioskop projector, patented on 1 November 1895, the same day that he and his brother Emil launched a series of projections to a paying public at the Wintergarten theatre in Berlin. The programme was composed of nine animated views whose titles were projected using a magic lantern.4

By contrast, there do not seem to have been any titles projected at the celebrated showing of 28 December 1895 in the ‘Salon indien’ of Paris’s (p.43) Grand Café, where the Lumière brothers exhibited their Cinématographe for the first time to a paying public.5 This focus on the visual at the expense of titles may be accounted for by the fact that the Lumières’ background was in photography, while Reynaud and the Skladanowsky brothers came from the world of magic lantern projection and were therefore familiar with projection of both image and text.

Later practices varied. This is characteristic of this kind of intermedial context: there were as yet no norms for the projection of moving images. Usually, exhibitors followed the practices of the magic lantern showmen, projecting titles on slides, with or without an accompanying oral lecture.

It was a tricky job for moving image projectionists, who had to project both moving image sequences, which were about a minute long at this time, and a lantern for slides. In his memoirs, Billy Bitzer, who started out as a cameraman and projectionist at Biograph, then known as the American Mutoscope Company, wryly describes his first public projection (New York, 12 October 1896) in which he acrobatically sought to alternate operation of the projector, which was still at the experimental stage, dangerous and difficult to work, and operation of a magic lantern for the titles. This projection involved eight or ten films on a single reel, separated by a piece of ‘leader’ (blank film). The operator started by projecting a slide with the company’s eagle trademark, then a slide with the title of the first animated view, then the view. At the end of the first view, he stopped the projector on the leader in order to project the title slide of the following film using the lantern, and so on:

Running the projector was like running a trolley car, in that it made a terrible racket. The projector was also hand-turned, like the camera. I used every resource I had, including my nose, to control the film so that it would not buckle on me. I was scared stiff and almost desperate when I realized that I would have so many different things to do — flashing titles onto the screen with a separate lantern-slide projector; watching the heat from the lamp so there would be no danger of fire; looking at the screen to keep the action smooth; and so on. I would have to use both hands, one foot, my fore-head, and my nose, and I was afraid that two eyes would not be enough.6

Alternating projection of slides and moving images was very common, and the need to simplify the process quickly became evident. Dual-purpose lanterns were available from 1897 both in the UK (John Wrench’s ‘bi-unial Cinematograph’), and shortly after in the United States (William B. Moore’s (p.44) ‘Stereoptigraph’), which allowed slides and film to be projected by turns using a single projector.7 In France, dual-purpose lanterns were offered by Gaumont from October 1900,8 and by Pathé from March 1901.9

The introduction of the title on film was a decisive step for projection. Now the projectionist needed only to deal with a single film, composed of the moving footage spliced together with its title.

The title on film: early evidence, 1898–1901

The projection of titles using magic lantern slides drew on familiar technical expertise. We do not know exactly when the idea first occurred of putting titles on film for their projection. The aim, in any case, was to preserve the trademark and the rights of early film producers, and to simplify the mechanics of projection.10 The known technique of the magic lantern slide was perhaps an advantage in the early days of film, sparing producers the necessity of developing titles on film. It certainly contributed to the configuration of the film screening, with the title appearing before the film and not, for example, at the same time on another screen or another part of the screen.

As mentioned above, it is difficult to pin down the date of the first use of titles on film. In the early days of cinema, practices varied widely. Some early films were perhaps sold with their title on a piece of leader, in the manner of a label. When we find such an original title on film, it does not therefore mean that it was meant to be projected. If it was, this was not necessarily mentioned in the catalogues. In any case, exhibitors could use the leaders or cut them out. As a general rule, extant prints must be treated with caution. They may have been shortened, re-edited, or modified by exhibitors at the time or later by (p.45)

Early titling on films and Pathé’s innovative and multilingual strategies in 1903

Figure 3.1. The opening title of Santa Claus (George Albert Smith, 1898).

British Film Institute Collection.

collectors or archivists. As for preserved negatives, these have no titles, because the titles would have been added to the print last of all.

So examples of preserved copies of pre-1900 films with their original title on film are few and far between.11 George Albert Smith’s 1898 film Santa Claus may be the oldest film for which we possess a print of the time beginning with an original title on film (Figure 3.1).12

The British or French producers’ and distributors’ catalogues I have been able to consult allow us accurately to date the titles advertised, and offer an insight into practices concerning title slides and titles on film. The earliest advertisement for a title on film that I have found to date is from the September 1899 catalogue Williamson’s Kinetograph Films: ‘Titles… All films are neatly titled, and may be used for projecting where a water trough is used.’13 Not all (p.46) projectors of the time were equipped with a water trough. This innovation, introduced by the Lumière brothers, acted as a condenser (magnifying glass) and cooler. The patent, dated 10 May 1897, stipulates that this translucent glass container placed between the light source and the film served to protect the film from the heat of the light source and that it allowed ‘the film to be halted without interrupting the lighting’.14 The trough therefore allowed the film to be paused in order to project a title. This suggests that the titles of films in this catalogue were not projected over several frames, but probably only one, on a piece of leader; and that the projection started with the film stationary, for the time required to read the opening title. This ‘manual’ system, where the projectionist decides how long a single frame should be projected for, is very reminiscent of magic lantern slide projection.

The Williamson catalogue specifies that the films are ‘neatly titled’, which suggests that not all films of the period were, or at least not neatly (a term which also suggests easy readability). And the catalogue does not say that these titles must be projected, but that they ‘may’. The catalogue goes on to advertise ‘Title-slides. A new series of attractive slides has been prepared showing titles in ornament design. Price 1s. each plain. 9d. each coloured. Any other titles specially written at the same price.’

These more ornate titles differ in their description from the plain titles on film advertised above. The attractiveness of the title slide is emphasised. It is noteworthy that titles could also be written to order. The implication of the advertisement is that the title on film could be cut out, or simply used as a leader.

Two years later, in 1901, advertisements give more details about title slides and titles on film, as in this description in a catalogue of the Warwick film company: ‘It will be found convenient to have slides containing the announcements (furnished by us) with a brief description of next film to be shown and to throw such announcement upon the screen while next film is being placed for exhibition.’15 These slides are clearly more substantial than simple titles. The film’s title or announcement inscribed on a slide is projected from a magic lantern while the reel of the film projector is being changed. The spectator then sees a succession of moving pictures and titles. This allows for uninterrupted (p.47) projection of a series title–film–title–film, etc., making it evident that the title slide was an important editing tool.

A 1901, R. W. Paul catalogue advertises quality artistic title slides, even reproducing an example (see Figure 3.2):

Artistic Title Slides. Nothing detracts from the effectiveness of an Animated Photograph Exhibition, more than plain, crude or badly lettered title announcements. I have therefore, made a speciality of supplying exhibitors with good title slides and have designed a special series of announcements for my new films, an example of which is shown above. These are supplied with clear letters on a black back ground, and tinted in suitable colours. They are found to be much appreciated by the public as a relief to the moving pictures. Plain title slides can also be supplied for any of my films, at a nominal charge, in white letters on black ground. Special title slides, with any wording, are made to order at the shortest notice.16

We can surmise that some ‘announcements’ were reproduced at this time on poor-quality slides. Paul distinguishes himself from such practices as this by underlining his ‘speciality’: good-quality title slides, and the creation of custom announcements for his new films; he also emphasises the importance of contrast for legibility. He can make titles to order, and advertises title slides

Early titling on films and Pathé’s innovative and multilingual strategies in 1903

Figure 3.2. Artistic opening title slide for The Magic Sword (1901) from R. W. Paul 1901 catalogue.

(p.48) reproduced on film: ‘Titling Films. When it is required to give the title of the film on the screen without the use of lantern slides, I supply short lengths of film containing photographs of any of my title slides, at the rate of 1/-per foot with a minimum charge of 5/-.’17

So titles on film can also be ‘artistic’. The good-quality title on film is here explicitly linked to the title slide via a photographic process. Paul also mentions the length of the title on film: the film is no longer paused to project the title; instead, the title stretches over a number of consecutive frames. This is a decisive step: titles on film adopt the moving image format.18

Again in 1901 we find an advertisement for titles on film in a catalogue from the French company Parnaland: ‘A Parnaland Creation. Cinematographic announcement for each of the views in the present catalogue … 3 francs. Same announcement made to order, per 30 letters or part thereof … 5 francs.’19 Again, we see the term annonce (announcement) as with Warwick and Paul. The term cinématographique means that it is on film; and as with Williamson and Paul we see the offer of titles written to order, with a useful detail: a maximum of 30 letters per announcement. Given that it is announced as a Création de la Maison can we assume it is an innovation of Parnaland’s in the French market? In any case, this is the oldest example of an advertisement for titles on film that I have found in a French catalogue. I note that this catalogue does not mention title slides.

Even if it was not routinely announced in the catalogues, some titles were projected on film by this time in France. An example is Un drame au fond de la mer (1901), the oldest Pathé film whose original title is present at the beginning of a copy of the period preserved today.20 The film is advertised in the Pathé catalogue for the last quarter of 1901,21 but there is no mention of titles (p.49) or announcements, whether on slides or on film. However, this particular title would have been well worth advertising because it is spectacular. It is a trilingual title in black on a grey background,22 with the initials PF (Pathé Frères) at the top of the frame (Plate 1).23 The title is written at the top of a painted canvas. It stays a few seconds on screen before the canvas scrolls upwards to reveal a painted submarine landscape. Great care has clearly been taken in the production of this creative, illustrated, moving title, designed for projection. Its elaborate artistry may indeed be the reason why it has been preserved. To my knowledge, it is the oldest extant multilingual title.24 The fact that the title is trilingual (in French, German, and English) suggests that Pathé had already realised the commercial usefulness of multilingual titling for the distribution of its films outside French-speaking countries.

Early titling on films and Pathé’s innovative and multilingual strategies in 1903

Plate 1 The opening title of Un drame au fond de la mer (Pathé, 1901).

Collection Fondation Jérôme Seydoux Pathé

As we have just seen, production catalogues, most of them British, sporadically advertise their titles on slides and sometimes also offer titles on film. Titles on film gradually became more common between 1903 and 1906, but the title slide continued to be used for another few years. Another kind of titling emerges around 1901–2: the sub-titling on film of multiple-shot films sold as a single product.25

The beginnings of the sub-title around 1901–2

In the silent period, the term ‘sub-title’ designates a shot presenting written words, inserted between shots of moving footage. Unlike the text insert such as the letter, visiting card, newspaper advertisement, etc., the writing in the sub-title is non-diegetic, i.e. it does not exist per se in the fictional world being represented.

The term ‘intertitle’ (intertitre in French) seems to have come into use after the transition to sound as a way of referring to the silent film sub-title; this term is now widely used.26 At the time, terminology was more varied. The term ‘title’ (titre in French) is the only term to have been used from the beginnings of cinema until the end of the silent period and beyond. The term (p.50) ‘sub-title’ or ‘subtitle’ (sous-titre in French), inherited from print publishing in the sense of a secondary or intermediary title, gradually gained ground and became very widely used. The two terms ‘title’ and ‘subtitle’ even persisted as the nature of the title changed, from titling a segment of the film to giving a variety of different information, including direct speech. In French the silent sub-title is also referred to as a carton (title card), but English has a much more varied vocabulary: in the trade press and manuals we find ‘leader’ and ‘caption’ or, less often, ‘sub-head’, ‘heading’, and ‘interscript’. Terminology in English was a subject of debate throughout the silent period, as we can see in the US context, where efforts were made to develop more nuanced terms to describe the different aspects of titling.27

The oldest sub-titles found in original copies extend over a number of frames. It seems unlikely that subtitled product sold as a single unit could have been marketed with titles on a single frame, among other reasons because it is almost impossible for a projectionist to stop a film on a specific frame. We may wonder whether the necessity of extending the sub-title over multiple frames may also have inspired producers to provide the main title extending over multiple frames as Paul did in 1901.

A few multiple-shot early British films which have come down to us and which were marketed at the time as a single unit, rather than having shots sold separately, contain one or more sub-titles on film. For example, we have the film by Walter Booth produced by Paul in 1901, Scrooge, or, Marley’s Ghost, from Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (1843).28 The copy preserved at the British Film Institute is incomplete; notably, the beginning of the film is missing, and therefore the main title and probably the first sub-title. But in the preserved section, we can see four ‘scenes’, each of which is introduced by a title on film. Within the scenes are multiple shots linked by dissolves. For instance, the title of the second scene is written in white on a black background traversed by a ghost wearing white. The word ‘scene’ evokes the theatre. I have unfortunately been unable to access the catalogue which presents this film, but I think it possible that it was sold as a single unit (perhaps with subtitles on film as an option). There is no doubt that if these subtitles are the original ones, they are an extremely early manifestation of sub-titles on film — perhaps the very earliest.

(p.51) There is also a sub-title in James Williamson’s 1902 film A Reservist Before and After the War. This film is in two parts, separated by a sub-title which reads: ‘After the War.’ Martin Sopocy observes that this film is the only one by Williamson to include an integrated sub-title, and that although this sub-title is to be found in the British Film Institute copy, it is not mentioned in the catalogue which lists the film.29

This is also the case with the two-part trick film The House That Jack Built (George Albert Smith, 1900), of which a copy is preserved at the British Film Institute.30 This film has two shots. In the first, we see a boy destroying a house of wooden blocks built by his sister. The second presents the same scene in reverse, which creates the illusion that the boy rebuilt the house as quickly as he had demolished it. The two shots are separated by a sub-title which reads: ‘Reversed.’ This film is described in the catalogue of the Charles Urban Trading Co. Ltd (November 1903), but there is no mention of this integrated title.31 The same Urban catalogue advertises another film by Smith, of which unfortunately no copy seems to have survived, The Nursery Rhymes (1902). The catalogue specifies that ‘each story is introduced by a title’:

This is a long film depicting all the incidents of the nursery rhymes in the manner beloved of children who readily recognise the favourites of their nursery teaching. The old favourites are: (1) ‘Jack and Jill’ (2) ‘Old Woman who lived in a Shoe’ (3) ‘Sing a Song o’ Sixpence’ (4) ‘Old Mother Hubbard’ (5) ‘Goosey Goosey’ (6) ‘Cat and the Fiddle’, &c. Each story introduced by a title. Exhibited with great success at the children’s entertainments at the Shaftesbury Theatre and elsewhere. Length 600 feet.32

This is indeed a long film for 1902, running about 10 minutes at 16 frames per second. The sub-title here is rooted in the magic lantern tradition of programmes of songs, whose titles, lyrics, and illustrations were presented in the form of ‘illustrated song slides’, a common tradition in the UK and USA.33 This in turn is linked to the tradition of the illustrated anthology of nursery rhymes for children.

(p.52) These hybrid developments can be considered exceptional, in a context where producers generally recommended that announcements should be projected from slides. Indeed, this same Urban catalogue mentions title slides as well, emphasising how their use and quality add value to the ‘exhibition’ of the film:

Note. — The use of these slides for announcing each subject on the screen before the animated scene is projected certainly enhances the value of an exhibit. The letters only appear on the screen, and give a sharp, clear and pleasing effect. The colouring is done by a new process, so that it is impossible to detect any irregularities or streakiness in the tints, all of which are brilliant.34

In France, we can also find pioneering use of sub-titles on film from Pathé. The company began to produce dramas in 1902. In the still-extant film Les Victimes de l’alcoolisme (1902) each tableau is preceded by a title on film.35 The innovation is not mentioned in the special catalogue of May 1902 where the film is announced.36

This catalogue gives the title of each successive tableau, each consisting of one shot. The same written texts can be found in the form of sub-titles in the copies examined in the analytic filmography Pathé 1900.37 The tableau titles are simply integrated into the film strip. As Richard Abel, who identifies this as the earliest evidence of this innovation by Pathé, makes clear:

Each tableau is separated from the others by a straight cut and an intertitle whose text is printed out in black letters on white strips, like labels roughly pasted on a dark surface. Here then, is the earliest extant evidence of Pathé’s intertitle ‘innovation’, which, within another year — in Don Quichotte, Le Chat botté, Épopée napoléonienne, and La Vie et la Passion de Jésus Christ — would take the form of a Pathé trademark: terse phrases in large red block letters on a black background.38

These titles still have a rather rudimentary aspect, as we can see in Figure 3.3.

By the following year, sub-titles for Pathé’s films had taken the widely-known form described by Abel, as in this example from the extant film Ali Baba et les quarante voleurs (Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves), catalogue of (p.53)

Early titling on films and Pathé’s innovative and multilingual strategies in 1903

Figure 3.3. Sub-title from Les Victimes de l’alcoolisme (Pathé, 1902).

Collection Fondation Jérôme Seydoux Pathé.

August 1902 (Plate 2).39 The main title has two Pathé cockerels, but the sub-titles do not. It may be that this style of titling was merely being tested in the second half of 1902 on Ali Baba, or that those titles were redone later, and it is the redone ones which survive in the preserved copy. As we will see below, Pathé catalogues announce from 1903 that all Pathé films will have titles like this on the film itself.

Early titling on films and Pathé’s innovative and multilingual strategies in 1903

Plate 2 The opening title of Ali Baba et les quarante voleurs (Pathé, 1902).

Collection Fondation Jérôme Seydoux Pathé

Early titling on films and Pathé’s innovative and multilingual strategies in 1903

A sub-title from Ali Baba et les quarante voleurs (Pathé, 1902).

Collection Fondation Jérôme Seydoux Pathé

According to my findings, therefore, subtitles on film can already be found in multiple-shot films from 1901–2 made in both the UK and France. In the United States, historians agree that Edison was the first production company to use sub-titles, in Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Edwin Porter, 1903).40 The Edison Films catalogue of October 1903 presents the film (14 shots and 14 sub-titles), as follows:

(p.54) We offer this film as one of our best creations and one that will prove a great headline attraction. The popularity of the book and play of the same title is a positive guarantee of its success. The story has been carefully studied and every scene posed in accordance with the famous author’s version. In this film we have made a departure from the old method of dissolving one scene into another by inserting announcements with brief descriptions as they appear in succession. Sold in one length only.41

The Edison catalogue presents the subtitle on film as a departure from two typical magic lantern techniques: the dissolve and the title slide (‘inserting announcements’). The titles are included in the footage sold. This technique seems to have been introduced by Edison after his importing of two European films from 1902, which are presented in his February 1903 catalogue as Edison productions.42 One of these is Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, which is none other than the 1902 Pathé Ali Baba et les quarante voleurs. The Edison catalogue description gives only the titles of the ‘scenes’, without further details: ‘A beautiful picture illustrating the wonderful fairy tale. The titles of the various scenes are as follows. Complete synopsis will be sent on application [a list of 12 titles of tableaux follows, and the code for ordering via telegraph]. Length 575 feet. Class B. $69.00.’43

The Edison catalogue also lists the film Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes, which is undoubtedly George Albert Smith’s 1902 The Nursery Rhymes discussed above. This time, the description explicitly mentions the subtitle on film:

A charming series of pictures that will especially please the young folks. The following well-known nursery stories have been acted and reproduced in motion pictures, with most pleasing results. Sing a Song of Sixpence; Four and Twenty Blackbirds; Old Mother Hubbard; Little Miss Muffit [sic]; Goosey, Goosey Gander; Jack and Jill; Old Woman Lived in a Shoe [sic]; Hi-Diddle-Diddle [‘Cat and the Fiddle’]. N. B. — The title of each of the above subjects is included in the film and same can therefore be run without any announcements slides. … Length 550 feet. Class B. $66.00.44

(p.55) I argued above that the integration of the sub-title on film into multiple-shot films is linked to the traditions of the magic lantern and the nursery rhyme. More generally, the title on film can be linked to the adaptation for the screen of familiar print fictions. This could include the traditional tale of marvels (Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves), or successful novels which had already been adapted for the stage: the fantastic tale in the form of a Christmas story (Scrooge, or, Marley’s Ghost, from Dickens’s A Christmas Carol); the realist novel (Les Victimes de l’alcoolisme was probably inspired by Émile Zola’s L’Assommoir);45 and the popular novel (Uncle Tom’s Cabin from the novel of the same name by Harriet Beecher Stowe). These films show key moments from stories which were already known to the public; inasmuch as they illustrate pre-existing and well-known stories, they are not narratively autonomous. The sub-titles briefly announce the scenes to be represented.

On the same model, the June 1904 supplement to the British Hepworth company catalogue advertises a sub-titled film adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, explaining the need for sub-titles as follows: ‘The film is composed of sixteen scenes, dissolving very beautifully from one to another, but preceded, where necessary for the elucidation of the story, by short descriptive titles.46 The sub-title is therefore needed to follow the story.

But the sub-title was also becoming a tool which could allow filmmakers to extend their range beyond adaptations. We see this in the advertisement for the Gaumont film The Story of a Colliery Disaster (Harold Hough, 1904)47 in the May 1904 catalogue of the London branch of Gaumont.48 ‘A Novel in a Nutshell’ says the catalogue; ‘The Sadly too Familiar Newspaper Placard Terrible Explosion in a Coal Mine, Many Killed and Injured,’ it adds, before going on to describe its subject matter, which mixed the perils of a miner’s life with a love story. The catalogue describes the film using four chapter headings: CHAPTER I.; CHAPTER II. — THE QUARREL.; CHAPTER III. — THE EXPLOSION.; CHAPTER IV. AND FINIS. — THE HERO’S WEDDING. The plot can be summarised as follows: Maggie, a young worker, is courted by two miners. She watches helplessly as they come to blows over her, and are separated by a mine foreman. The two men continue to fight down the mine, knocking over a lamp. The fire spreads while help is organised above ground to save the miners. One of the men dies; the other, favoured by Maggie, is injured but survives. Maggie and (p.56) her mother, then the foreman, visit him in hospital, where the two young people are married.

The chapter-by-chapter description recalls the printed book. So here we have a presentation of the film which links it to the print novel and the press. But the most noteworthy point in the catalogue entry is the indication which follows the description of the chapters: ‘Length, including brief titles and sub-titles to explain story. Complete 460 ft., Price £11 10s.’

This is the oldest occurrence of the term ‘sub-title’ that I have found. The film advertised is neither an adaptation nor a known tale, but an original story (though the part about the mining catastrophe is a common trope) described in literary terms. The ‘sub-titles’ allow the filmmaker to tell a story with which the audience is unfamiliar. This major advantage of the sub-title will become standard usage for fiction film construction in the silent period.

The process was still only sporadically used in the UK in 1904; and the Edison company, although the first in the USA to use sub-titles continued to do so only until 1905.49 It returned to this method in 1908.50 But, in France, Pathé’s subtitling innovation of 1902 was important inasmuch as the company continued the practice. We have seen above how the design of the title and the subtitle changed in 1903, when Pathé adopted what was to become its standard subtitle layout. It also offered subtitles in a number of languages. These strategies would prove to be very profitable.

Pathé’s innovations of 1903: titles on film and multilingual titles become standard

In this period of tough competition between production houses, and of fast-changing technical practices, Pathé took key decisions regarding titles on film. Although the company had not invented the process, it systematised it and made it a commercial weapon in its conquest of foreign markets. It also quickly established a specific layout which would last for years and become its trademark.

From May 1903,51 the company highlighted in its catalogues that its title design constituted a mark of authenticity, as we can see in this catalogue from Pathé’s London branch:

VERY IMPORTANT NOTICE. All our films are supplied with a title in red, bearing our trade mark ‘the Cock’. Everybody who wants our films and who wishes to make sure in buying them through dealers, shipping agents or others, (p.57) that they are of our make and not worthless copies or duplicates, must insist in getting them with the title and our trade mark.52

It is not clearly stated that these titles were intended to be projected, which does not mean that they were not. In any case, the title on film is explicitly linked here with the authentication of the film.

The ‘signing’ of the animated view in this way was very important in a context where cinematographers freely borrowed subjects and ideas from each other, and when piracy was common.53 Pathé’s decision to provide titles on film and in red was a strategy to counter illegal copying of its products, notably in the USA, by the Edison company in late 1902 and early 1903.54 It seems that the red tint was specifically chosen to prevent duping: the orthochromatic emulsion used in this period was not very sensitive to red shades, so the lettering on the pirated internegative would become white on a white background and the resulting positive print would be completely black.55

Things become clearer a few months later, when we can read, in the English-language supplement of September–October 1903 produced by the main Pathé office in Paris:

VERY IMPORTANT NOTICE. With all our films, we supply a length of about 1.5m which is attached, and bearing the title of the subject and our trade-mark; this protects us against imitators, and affords our client the advantage of economising their expenditure as the use of a second lantern for fixed titles is not required. We supply these titles in French, English, German, Spanish or Italian, as our clients wish them. Consequently, all those who procure our films through dealers, agents or others, should insist on having the title in red with our trademark, the Coq, to the right and left, which is the only guarantee that they are our manufacture and not merely copies.56

This makes it clear that the title was intended for projection, that it was integrated into the print (the footage is even specified) and that it saved the client money by dispensing with the need for a separate lantern for slides. (p.58)

We note as well the offer of titles in several languages for international distribution.

The French-language catalogue Films, Supplément d’Août 1904 presents an almost identical text. It emphasises the advantages of simplifying the projection process, but does not mention the financial aspect; and it adds Russian to the list of languages.57 The later French-language catalogues that I have been able to consult (April 1905 to July 1907) use the same text, enhanced, notably, by the addition of yet further languages. Swedish and Dutch were added from July 1905, and Hungarian from February–March 1907, making a total of nine languages at that point.

The supplement of May 1907 introduces the option of an orange tint in response to customer demand.58 Orange titles were more legible than red ones. The lettering was in large, chunky capital letters, clearly and regularly spaced. The titles were carefully laid out and centred in the frame. This highly readable design was used by Pathé for many years,59 but with amendments: around 1907–8, Pathé tested, and finally opted for, a style which was still very easily read but with thinner letters, still with the cockerel emblem but now accompanied by the signature ‘Pathé frères’ as well as art nouveau decorations characteristic of the turn of the twentieth century.60 (See Figure 3.4.)

Perhaps in imitation of Pathé, the French company Gaumont began to advertise titles on film from the second half of 1903: (p.59)

Early titling on films and Pathé’s innovative and multilingual strategies in 1903Early titling on films and Pathé’s innovative and multilingual strategies in 1903

Figure 3.4. Reproduction in negative of the opening title and a sub-title from Does She Love Me? (Suis-je aimé ?) (Pathé, 1910).

Private collection.

  • We are able to offer our clientele all films in our Collection with the title on the film itself.
  • PRICE. Title on film for current films in our collection, approximate length 1.5m.
  • In French — 3 francs net.
  • In a foreign language — 4 francs 50 net.
  • Title on film to order
  • In French — 3 francs net per metre.
  • In a foreign language — 4 francs 50 per metre.61

Here, the appearance of the titles is not described in detail, and their usefulness is not explained. They are an optional extra. Titles in a foreign language cost more. Titles can be made to order, which seems to have been quite common, as we have seen in the case of Williamson, Paul, and Parnaland. It is not made clear whether the title is sold spliced to the rest of the print. A little later on, the April 1904 equipment catalogue underlines the attractiveness of the slides showing local scenes or film titles.62 Gaumont was still encouraging slide projection; its title slides were less expensive than its titles on film.

In the very early 1900s exhibitors were capable of making their own titles, on slides or on film. They bought the views separately, and set up the projection as they pleased.63 While Gaumont was still operating in this rather more laissez-faire way, Pathé clients were obliged to accept titles on film, and there was no option to commission the titles to order. From 1903 at least, all its films were sold with the title on film, trademarked and tinted.

The Pathé titles functioned as a label whose style and colour would be recognised as a mark of quality by national and international audiences.64 They were conceived by Pathé not only to make projection easier but as a full-scale international marketing strategy. The fact that the earliest advertisement we know of to date is in the London branch catalogue of May 1903 may be due to the greater risk of film counterfeiting abroad, as we saw above in regard (p.61) to the United States. The availability of multilingual titles also saved exhibitors from the many countries involved from having to produce their own title translation.

With the adoption of this multilingual titling process, the company took a huge step forward in the standardisation and industrialisation of its production for domestic and international markets. Furthermore, between 1904 and 1906, Pathé began to experiment with film rental in many of its foreign branches and in France. The company ceased selling films in 1907.65 The move from sales to rental constituted another important advance for Pathé towards standardisation. Exhibitors could no longer, in theory, cut out the titles because they would need to return the film to the renter afterwards. This distribution model was gradually adopted by Pathé’s most direct competitors between 1910 and 1912. A few manufacturers in France and abroad continued to sell films, feeding an unregulated market (in France at least), and in some cases up until the First World War. This meant that fairground methods of film exhibition persisted, with their practices of re-editing and removing titles.66

The systematisation of the title on film led to projections of films with subtitles as well. An exhibitor using a projector with sufficient capacity could decide to join several views together. Since all the Pathé views were segments consisting of a title and a view, the sequencing of multiple segments produced a string of alternating titles and views. If a client bought several views on a similar theme, or illustrating moments from the same story, such as La Vie et la Passion de Jésus Christ (Pathé, 1902–5), adding these views together produced a multiple-shot film in which, under a main title, the titles of the individual views became sub-titles. In the same period, we find this alternating scheme of titles and views in subtitled films which were designed to be sold as a whole. This became a classic format for the narrative multiple-shot film, before declining around 1910.67

The use of sub-titles in multiple-shot films increased at the moment when narrative fiction films began to develop in length and quantity (1903–4), and (p.62) was one of the prime movers of narrative films. Sub-titles allowed such films to tell longer stories, not based on pre-existing material, and to be shown without the accompaniment of a bonimenteur or film explainer, in various projection contexts. They also allowed the production company to sell finished products, and to keep a handle on its own industrial output.

Existing research by a number of scholars68 on the société Pathé has shown that in this period, the company was pursuing a strong policy of industrialisation of its production and conquest of markets abroad. Charles Pathé clearly understood that multilingual titles were a key tool for accessing these markets. From 1905 to 1908, the Pathé company faced growing demand for films, particularly from abroad, which caused it to adopt a mass production approach.69 The increasing length of its films70 was linked to the increase in the number of sub-titles, which made it possible to construct longer stories, including adaptations, which would need to be understood by spectators71 from many countries. In the case of Pathé films, in September 1907, ‘the length of the title frames represents 10% of the total film length’.72 Its engineers were tasked with creating titles and sub-titles of outstanding quality, in large quantities, for a lower cost, and in many languages.73

Concluding remarks and subsequent developments

Examination of early British and French film catalogues and of the few surviving prints shows that titling on film was introduced before 1900 in the UK, and then in 1901 in France, and that it gradually became more sophisticated in parallel with magic lantern title slide projection. The procedure, even after some technical refinement, did not immediately appeal to all cinematographers and their clients. Pathé’s choice to sell all its films with titles on film in many languages was thus a marked choice, and a decisive step in the company’s expansion.

(p.63) The emerging practice of sub-titling in multiple-shot films is observed as early as 1901 in the UK, then in 1902 in France with Pathé committing itself to it on a long-term basis. Edison presented this innovation in the USA in 1903, but was less enthusiastic between 1905 and 1908, despite the fact that this was a commercially promising avenue. Pathé’s titling strategy allowed the company to steal a march on its competitors in terms of industrialisation, control over its product, and domestic and foreign market share.

In order to have a more complete picture, and to improve our understanding of the passage from title slides to titles on film, we would need to do an exhaustive study of the extant catalogues of the period, as well as examining other source documents such as lanternists’ catalogues, manuals of cinematography, and production company archives. The history of title-making is fascinating, as witness the recent discovery of 138 notebooks and a manufacturing manual collecting the reports of the Pathé engineers (1906– 27), which documents the installation in July 1906 of a big rostrum to shoot titles, as well as technical improvements and further research on the making of titles.74

The history of the titling of early films is still scanty, but it opens up the prospect of rich discoveries shedding light on the transformations and developments of early cinematography. The title on film, and then the sub-title on film, play a major role in the configuration of the fiction film. Sub-titles spread between 1903 and 1907, and are ultimately the victors in the competition with the film explainers. Sub-titles of this period generally take the form of chapter titles as in books, although they are often extended to the point of being summaries. Their functions gradually diversify: they can be a simple indication of time or place, a note that a new section of the film is beginning or, rarely, a direct word or thought on the part of a character. The dialogue sub-title is sometimes found before 1910, but it is not until about 1913 that ‘cut-in dialogue’ emerges, which allows image and speech to be ‘synchronised’, with the dialogue in inverted commas being cut into the body of the shot, at the moment when the character speaks. This technique will be a hallmark of fiction features until the end of the 1920s.75

Around 1907, the sub-titles become gradually integrated into a filmic narration. This is no longer compatible with the role of the film explainers, who gradually lose their function, except when audiences have limited reading (p.64) ability.76 The translator-film explainer would last a little longer, as an important figure who made the film comprehensible for audiences who did not speak the language — immigrants to the USA, for example — or for audiences abroad.77 Pathé’s international success may even be in part due to the fact that its multilingual titles made the translator-film explainer redundant, which was financially advantageous for exhibitors.

The gradual spread of titles and subtitles finally detached cinema from magic lantern projection practices, allowing it to become an independent medium. It also led to the development of the narrative fiction feature film, and facilitated international distribution.

Note. Translated from the French by Carol O’Sullivan. The author wishes to add special thanks to Ian Christie, Sarah Dellmann, Frank Gray, Frank Kessler, Sabine Lenk, Laurent Mannoni, and Stéphanie Salmon.


(1) Jürgen E. Müller, ‘Intermedialität und Medienwissenschaft: Thesen zum State of the Art’, Montage, 3.2 (1994), 119–38; Jay David Bolter and Richard A. Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media (Cambridge, MA, and London, MIT Press, 1999); Jürgen E. Müller, ‘L’Intermédialité, une nouvelle approche interdisciplinaire : perspectives théoriques et pratiques à l’exemple de la vision et de la télévision’, Intermédialité et cinéma, CiNéMAS, 10.2–3 (2000), 105–34; Rick Altman, ‘Technologie et textualité de l’intermédialité’, in André Gaudreault and François Jost (eds), La Croisée des médias, Sociétés et représentations, 9 (Paris, Publications de la Sorbonne CREDHESS, 2000), pp. 11–20; Richard Abel and Rick Altman (eds), The Sounds of Early Cinema (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2001), ‘Part One: A Context of Intermediality’, pp. 3–65; André Gaudreault, Cinéma et attraction : pour une nouvelle histoire du cinématographe (Paris, CNRS Éditions, 2008), esp. ch. 4, ‘L’Intermédialité du cinématographe’, pp. 111–44, published in English as Film and Attraction: From Kinematography to Cinema, trans. Timothy Barnard, with ‘Foreword’ by Rick Altman (Champaign, University of Illinois Press, 2011), ch. 4, ‘Intermediality and the Kinematograph’, pp. 62–82.

(2) André Gaudreault and Philippe Marion, ‘Un média naît toujours deux fois …’, in Gaudreault and Jost (eds), La Croisée des médias, pp. 21–36; published in English as André Gaudreault and Philippe Marion, ‘A Medium Is Always Born Twice …’, Early Popular Visual Culture, 3.1 (May 2005), 3–15.

(3) Laurent Mannoni, Le Grand Art de la lumière et de l’ombre : archéologie du cinéma (Paris, Nathan, 1994), p. 354.

(4) See Janelle Blankenship, ‘1 November 1895: Premiere of Wintergarten Program Highlights Transitional Nature of Early Film Technology’, in Jennifer M. Kapczynski and Michael D. Richardson (eds), A New History of German Cinema (Rochester, Camden House, 2012), pp. 23–30. See also Mannoni, Le Grand Art de la lumière et de l’ombre, pp. 422–3.

(6) Gottfried Wilhelm Bitzer, Billy Bitzer: His Story (New York, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1973), p. 14; for a full description of this projection, see pp. 13–17. See also Charles Musser, The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907 (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, University of California Press, 1990), pp. 180–1.

(7) Laurent Mannoni and Donata Pesenti Campagnoni, Lanterne magique et film peint : 400 ans de cinéma (Paris, Cinémathèque française and Éditions de la Martinière, 2009), p. 254; Musser, The Emergence of Cinema, p. 258.

(8) Comptoir général de la cinématographie — Léon Gaumont et Cie, Catalogue no. 190 (October 1900). See Thierry Lefebvre, ‘Le “Paratexte” du film dans le cinéma des premiers temps : définitions et hypothèses’, in Jean A. Gili et al., Les Vingt Premières Années du cinéma français (Paris, Presses de la Sorbonne nouvelle and AFRHC, 1995), pp. 209–10, esp. p. 210, n. 23; and Laurent Mannoni, ‘Plaque de verre ou celluloïd ? Lanterne magique et cinéma : la guerre d’indépendance’, 1895, 7 (1990), 3–27.

(9) Compagnie Générale de Phonographes, Cinématographes et Appareils de Précision, Anciens établissements Pathé Frères, Prix courant des Cinématographes et des vues animées, Paris (March 1901), pp. 13–14.

(10) See Claire Dupré la Tour, ‘Intertitre et film narratif de fiction : genèses, développements, et logiques d’un procédé filmographique, 1895–1916. L’exemple de la production aux États-Unis et le cas d’Intolerance (D. W. Griffith, 1916)’, doctoral thesis (Utrecht University, 2016), pp. 129–40, available at https://dspace.library.uu.nl/handle/1874/331185.

(12) Luke McKernan, email of 14 December 2012, on the listserv ‘H-NET List for Scholarly Studies and Uses of Media’; with thanks to Sarah Dellmann for letting me have this. Luke McKernan is the Lead Curator of the British Library’s News and Moving Image collections.

(13) Williamson’s Kinetograph Films. Revised to Sept., 1899. One-Minute Comedy Series. Sports and Pastimes Series. Country Series. Dances. Miscellaneous (Works, Western Road, Hove; Telegraph Address: ‘Films, Brighton.’), p. 1.

(14) Patent in the name of Auguste and Louis Lumière, BF no. 266,870, 10 May 1897, ‘Brevet d’invention de 15 ans pour: “Perfectionnements aux appareils de projection pour cinématographes”’ (‘permet de laisser stationner la pellicule sans interrompre l’éclairage’). I am grateful to Laurent Mannoni for information and references on this topic.

(15) The Warwick Trading Co.; Film Catalogue (1901), p. 10. Quoted in André Gaudreault, ‘Des cris du bonimenteur aux chuchotements des intertitres …’, in Francesco Pitassio and Leonardo Quaresima (eds), Scrittura e immagine: La didascalia nel cinema muto / Writing and Image: Titles in Silent Cinema (Udine, Forum, 1998), p. 55.

(16) Robert William Paul, Catalogue of Paul’s Animatographs and Films (London, R. W. Paul, 1901), no page numbers. I am grateful to Ian Christie for providing further materials on this topic, for example the catalogue page reproduced in his article ‘Comparing Catalogues’, in Frank Kessler and Nanna Verhoeff (eds), Networks of Entertainment: Early Film Distribution 1895– 1915 (New Barnet, John Libbey, 2007), pp. 209–17 at 212.

(18) We might ask, in passing, why Paul’s very detailed catalogue, ‘See Also 1903 Supplement’, no longer advertises this kind of titling. Was this innovative 1901 offer not successful with clients? See The Latest and Best in Animated Photography. Animatograph Films, Cameras, Projectors & Accessories Manufactured by Robt. W. Paul, ‘See Also 1903 Supplement’, Animatograph Depot, London (1903).

(19) A. F. Parnaland, Photographie animée : liste des sujets, A. F. Parnaland, 30, Rue Le Brun, Paris XIII (1901), p. 12. In April 1907, the Parnaland company became the Société Française des Films et Cinématographes ‘Éclair’ (‘Création de la Maison. Annonce cinématographique pour chacune des vues du présent catalogue … 3 fr. Même annonce faite spécialement sur commande par 30 lettres ou fraction … 5 fr.’).

(20) See André Gaudreault (dir.), Pathé 1900 : fragments d’une filmographie analytique du cinéma des premiers temps (Sainte-Foy et Paris, Presses de l’Université Laval et Presses de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, 1993), p. 137. This book describes original prints of 42 Pathé films, from 1900 to 1906. Of the 24 which have original titles on film, the oldest is Un drame au fond de la mer (1901).

(21) Compagnie Générale de Phonographes, Cinématographes et Appareils de Précision, Anciens établissements Pathé Frères, Vues cinématographiques : clichés des mois d’octobre à décembre (1901), p. 1.

(22) A blue-tinted copy of the film is held by the Collection Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, Paris.

(23) Gaudreault, Pathé 1900, p. 137. See also Stéphanie Salmon, Pathé : à la conquête du cinéma 1896–1929 (Paris, Tallandier, 2014), p. 107.

(24) See Richard Abel, ‘The Cinema of Attractions in France, 1896–1904’, in Lee Grieveson and Peter Krämer (eds), The Silent Cinema Reader (London and New York, Routledge, 2004), p. 71.

(25) On the beginnings of titling and then of subtitling, see Dupré la Tour, ‘Intertitre et film narratif de fiction’, pp. 115–21 and 129–58.

(26) For more on this terminology, see Claire Dupré la Tour, ‘Intertitles and Titles’, in Richard Abel (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Early Cinema (Abingdon and New York, Routledge, 2005), pp. 326–31.

(28) See the British Film Institute website, http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/698299/; see also, for example, Kamilla Elliott, ‘Cinematic Dickens and Uncinematic Words’, in John Glavin (ed.), Dickens on Screen (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 117–18; and the booklet accompanying the DVD where this film appears, Dickens Before Sound (London, British Film Institute, 2006), pp. 12–14.

(29) Martin Sopocy, ‘The Role of the Intertitle in Film Exhibition 1904–1910’, in Christopher Williams (ed.), Cinema: The Beginnings and the Future. Essays marking the centenary of the first film show projected to a paying audience in Britain (London, University of Westminster Press, 1996), pp. 123–34.

(30) Frank Gray believes that ‘the only films by Smith with titles which have survived are: 1. Santa Claus (1898) — opening title. 2. The House That Jack Built (1900) — an intertitle that introduces the second shot, “Reversed.”’ Email correspondence, 22 February 2012. Frank Gray is the director of Screen Archive South East (SASE), and an expert on the Hove-based cinema pioneers, including Smith.

(31) The Charles Urban Trading Co. Ltd, Film Subjects (London, November 1903), p. 106.

(32) The Charles Urban Trading Co. Ltd, Film Subjects, p. 110 (emphasis added).

(33) See, for example, Rick Altman, Silent Film Sound (New York, Columbia University Press, 2004), index entry on ‘Illustrated songs and song slides’, p. 454.

(34) The Charles Urban Trading Co. Ltd, Film Subjects, p. 201.

(36) Compagnie Générale de Phonographes, Cinématographes et Appareils de Précision, Anciens

établissements Pathé Frères, Les Victimes de l’Alcoolisme, Supplément spécial (Mai 1902) (Paris, 1902).

(38) Abel, ‘The Cinema of Attractions in France’, p. 72. This film is kept in the Collection Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, Paris.

(39) Gaudreault, ‘Des cris du bonimenteur aux chuchotements des intertitres …’, p. 58, and n. 7, p. 63. For a description of this film, see Gaudreault, Pathé 1900, pp. 76–82. Collection Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, Paris.

(40) See, for example, Kemp R. Niver, Early Motion Pictures: The Paper Print Collection in the Library of Congress (Washington, Library of Congress, 1985), p. 344; David Bordwell, Janet Staiger, and Kristin Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960 (New York, Columbia University Press, 1985), p. 183.

(41) Edison Manufacturing Company, Edison Films, Supplement 185 (October 1903), at the beginning of the catalogue, page number illegible. The page is reproduced in Gaudreault, ‘Des cris du bonimenteur aux chuchotements des intertitres …’, p. 66 (emphasis added).

(42) In The Emergence of Cinema (p. 349) and in Before the Nickelodeon: Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company (Berkeley, LA, and Oxford, University of California Press, 1991), pp. 243–4 and p. 523, n. 31, Charles Musser mentions that Edison borrowed this technique from the George Albert Smith film Dorothy’s Dream (1903). The technique seems in fact to have been borrowed from two films of 1902, a Pathé film and another George Albert Smith film. For more details, see Dupré la Tour, ‘Intertitre et film narratif de fiction’, pp. 152–4.

(43) Edison Manufacturing Company, Edison Films, Supplement 168 (February 1903), p. 5 (emphasis added).

(44) Edison Manufacturing Company, Edison Films, Supplement 168 (February 1903), pp. 5–6 (emphasis added).

(46) Hepworth Manufacturing Co. Ltd, Cinematographers, Third Supplementary Catalogue of the Latest Hepwix Films (London, June 1904), p. 5 (emphasis added).

(47) For this film, see the British Film Institute website, http://explore.bfi.org.uk/52953e8a6ccae.

(48) L. Gaumont & Co., The ‘ELGE’ LIST of Original Subjects, no. 55 (London & Paris, May 1904), pp. 6–8. I am grateful to Sabine Lenk who made this particularly interesting example known to me.

(51) Richard Abel, The Red Rooster Scare: Making Cinema American, 1900–1910 (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1999), p. 200, n. 34.

(52) The Pathé Cinematograph Co. Ltd, Cinematograph-Films (London, May 1903), pp. 12 and 36. Sales catalogue for views filmed since 1901. See Salmon, Pathé : à la conquête du cinéma, p. 107.

(55) See Camille Blot-Wellens, ‘Quelques aspects de la datation des éléments filmiques’, in Jacques Malthête and Stéphanie Salmon (eds), Recherches et innovations dans l’industrie du cinéma : les cahiers des ingénieurs Pathé (1906–1927) (Paris, Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, 2017), p. 180.

(56) The Cinematograph & Phonograph Co., formerly Pathé Frères, Supplement for September and October, 1903 (Paris, 1903), p. 1.

(57) Compagnie Générale de Phonographes, Cinématographes & Appareils de Précision, Anciens établissements Pathé Frères, Films, Supplément d’Août 1904 (Paris, 1904), p. 2 (emphasis in original) (‘AVIS TRÈS IMPORTANT. Toutes nos scènes sont munies, en tête, d’un bout de bande de 1m50 environ, comportant le titre du sujet et notre marque de fabrique ci-contre [the Pathé emblem of the cockerel]. Ce procédé nous met en garde, d’abord contre les falsificateurs et il a, en outre, l’avantage de permettre à nos clients de simplifier leur matériel en leur évitant une deuxième lanterne pour projeter les titres fixes. Ces titres sont livrés en Français, en Anglais, en Allemand, en Espagnol, en Italien ou en Russe, à la demande des clients. Tous ceux, par conséquent, qui désirent nos bandes et qui s’adressent à des intermédiaires, commissionnaires ou autres, doivent exiger le titre teint en rouge, avec le coq placé à droite et à gauche, seule garantie que les films sont bien de notre fabrication et non des copies.’).

(58) Compagnie Générale de Phonographes, Cinématographes & Appareils de Précision, Anciens établissements Pathé Frères, Films, Supplément de Mai 1907 (Paris, 1907), p. 2.

(60) See Claire Dupré la Tour, ‘Des titres d’excellente qualité : enjeux et développements chez Pathé, 1903–1908’, in Malthête and Salmon, Recherches et innovations dans l’industrie du cinéma, pp. 117–37.

(61) Comptoir Général de la Cinématographie, L. Gaumont & Cie, Liste des vues animées — Collection ‘ELGÉ’, Paris, no date, 83 pages, p. 3 (‘TITRES SUR BANDE. Nous sommes à la disposition de notre clientèle pour livrer toutes les bandes de notre Collection avec le titre sur bande cinématographique. PRIX. Titre sur bande pour les pellicules courantes de notre collection, longueur approximative 1m50. En français — 3. net. En langue étrangère — 4.50 net. Titre sur bande d’après une inscription donnée. En français — le mètre 3. net. En langue étrangère — le mètre 4.50.’). Collection Musée Gaumont, dated to the second half of 1903 by the Museum. In this catalogue, 20-metre views, for example, are priced at 40 francs.

(62) Comptoir Général de Cinématographie, L. Gaumont & Cie, Tarif Général des Appareils Cinématographiques et Accessoires (Paris, April 1904), p. 2.

(63) See, for example, Musser, ‘The Exhibitor Plays a Creative Role: 1897–1900’, in his The Emergence of Cinema, pp. 193–297; and Pierre Chemartin and André Gaudreault, ‘Les consignes de l’“éditeur” pour l’assemblage des vues dans les catalogues de distribution’, in Frank Kessler and Nanna Verhoeff (eds), Networks of Entertainment: Early Film Distribution 1895–1915 (London, John Libbey, 2007), pp. 193–202.

(64) For the US context, see, for example, Abel, The Red Rooster Scare, p. 64.

(65) See Jean-Jacques Meusy, ‘La Stratégie des sociétés concessionnaires Pathé et la location des films en France (1907–1908)’, in Michel Marie and Laurent Le Forestier (eds), La Firme Pathé Frères, 1896–1914 (Paris, AFRHC, 2004), pp. 21–48; Laurent Le Forestier, Aux sources de l’industrie du cinéma : le modèle Pathé. 1905–1908 (Paris, L’Harmattan, 2006), pp. 55–66; and Salmon, Pathé : à la conquête du cinéma, pp. 162–74.

(66) Key sources here include Jean-Jacques Meusy, Paris-Palaces ou le temps des cinémas (1894–1918) (Paris, CNRS, 2002; 1st edn 1995), and Jean-Jacques Meusy, Cinémas de France 1894–1918 : une histoire en images (Paris, Arcadia éditions, 2009).

(67) See Dupré la Tour, ‘Du titre au sous-titre, séries narratives et pluriponctualité’, in Intertitre et film narratif de fiction, pp. 140–4; Gaudreault, ‘Des cris du bonimenteur aux chuchotements des intertitres …’, pp. 56–9; and Chemartin and Gaudreault, ‘Les consignes de l’“éditeur” pour l’assemblage des vues dans les catalogues de distribution’.

(70) The average footage of Pathé films went from 66m in 1905 to 147m in 1908, according to Le Forestier, Aux sources de l’industrie du cinéma, p. 35.

(72) Transcript of meeting of the Conseil d’Administration (Board), 7 September 1907 (‘La longueur des images des titres représente 10% de la longueur totale des bandes.’), cited by Le Forestier, Aux sources de l’industrie du cinéma, p. 87.

(75) See Dupré la Tour, ‘Réussite du sous-titre à synchroniser la parole avec le moment de sa locution’, in ‘Intertitre et film narratif de fiction’, pp. 276–89. We do find rare sub-titles presenting direct speech in very early adaptations, for example in Ali Baba et les quarante voleurs (Pathé, 1902), ‘Sésame ouvre toi’ (Open Sesame), or in The Ex-Convict (Edison, 1904), ‘That Man Saved my Life’. We may consider the dialogue here emblematic of a key moment in a well-known story, rather than a narrative technique.

(76) See Dupré la Tour, ‘Du boniment à l’autonomie du film et du spectateur : généralisation du sous-titre’, in ‘Intertitre et film narratif de fiction’, pp. 201–19.

(77) Germain Lacasse establishes that the bonimenteur’s explanatory function ‘was still important after the advent of intertitles, because spectators couldn’t read them if they were illiterate or if the titles were in a foreign language’, one of the functions of the bonimenteur being to read, or translate, the titles out loud; Germain Lacasse, Le Bonimenteur de vues animées : le cinéma ‘muet’ entre tradition et modernité (Québec and Paris, Nota Bene and Méridiens Klincksieck, 2000), pp. 127 and 125 (‘fut encore importante après l’ajout des intertitres, puisque des spectateurs ne pouvaient les lire s’ils étaient analphabètes ou si les titres étaient rédigés dans une langue étrangère’). See also André Gaudreault and Germain Lacasse (eds), ‘Le Bonimenteur de vues animées / The Moving Picture Lecturer’, Iris, 22 (1996).