Theatre to Cinema: Stage Pictorialism and the Early Feature Film

By Ben Brewster; Lea Jacobs | Go to book overview

2
THE TABLEAU

Introduce as many tableaus as possible into your story. For instance, you might have thought out a scene wherein a guilty wife, listening through a keyhole, overhears another woman denounce her to her husband. It would be a much finer picture were your husband and the slanderer to meet in a drawing room with a great flight of stairs leading up to a curtained door--the guilty wife suddenly throws aside the curtains and steps out to say 'It's all true'--the husband and the other woman look aghast as the wife stands motionless in this moment of confession.

John Emerson and Anita Loos, How to Write Photoplays ( 1920)

EMERSON and Loos own film of 1916, The Social Secretaty, contains the following scene: Mayme, secretary to Mrs de Puyster and in love with her son Jimmie, is embroiled in an attempt to save her employer's family from scandal. A gossip columnist, the 'Buzzard', warns Mrs de Puyster that he has seen her daughter, Elsie, going into the apartment of a foreign count. The film establishes an alternation between Mrs de Puyster and Jimmie, who climb the front stairs to confront the Count in his sitting-room, and Mayme, who sneaks up a fire escape to the Count's back bedroom where Elsie is hiding. In the front room, as the Buzzard looks on, Jimmie argues with the Count and demands to be allowed to search the flat. Meanwhile, Mayme tries to persuade a reluctant Elsie to descend the fire escape. Mayme finally gets Elsie out of the window, but does not have time to escape herself before Jimmie breaks down the door. As Mayme hides her face with her coat, Jimmie drags her into the front room. Mayme's entrance, like that of the guilty wife described in How to Write a Photoplay, significantly alters the dramatic situation and provokes a strong reaction from all of the characters present. This revelation is not organized as a tableau,

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Theatre to Cinema: Stage Pictorialism and the Early Feature Film
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Molly's Book v
  • Preface vi
  • Contents ix
  • Technical Note xi
  • 1: Introductory 1
  • Chapter 1: Pictures 3
  • Chapter 2: Situations 18
  • 2: The Tableau 33
  • Chapter 3 the Stage Tableau in Uncle Tom's Cabin 37
  • Chapter 4: The Fate of the Tableau in the Cinema 48
  • 3: Acting 79
  • Chapter 5: Pictorial Acting in the Theatre 85
  • Chapter 6: Pictorial Styles and Film Acting 99
  • Chapter 7 the Pictorial Style in European Cinema 111
  • 4: Staging 139
  • Chapter 8: Pictorial Staging in the Theatre 145
  • Chapter 9: The Cinematic Stage 164
  • Chapter 10: Staging and Editing 188
  • Conclusion 212
  • Appendix: Plot Summary of Uncle Tom's Cabin 217
  • Bibliography 219
  • Filmography 229
  • Index 233
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