Rome, June 1800. Floria Tosca is a celebrated opera singer, better known as La Tosca. Her lover is Mario Cavaradossi, a young artist and Bomapartist sympathizer. When the latter helps ... See full summary »

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Cécile Sorel ...
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Charles Le Bargy ...
Le baron Scarpia
Charles Mosnier ...
Cesare Angelotti
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Rome, June 1800. Floria Tosca is a celebrated opera singer, better known as La Tosca. Her lover is Mario Cavaradossi, a young artist and Bomapartist sympathizer. When the latter helps Angelotti, the leader of the opposition, to escape from prison and hides him in La Tosca's home, he antagonizes Baron Scarpia, the ruthless chief of police, all the more as his love for Tosca is unrequited. Scarpia has Mario arrested and condemned to death. Upset, Floria begs the Baron for her lover's life. He accepts to have the bullets of the firing squad replaced by blanks if... she sleeps with him. She agrees nominally but when she finds herself with Scarpia, she stabs him to death. She then goes to see Mario in his cell and lets him know about his phony execution. But Scarpia had had time to get the order reversed and in the early hours of the morning, Mario is executed in the proper manner. In despair, Tosca throws herself into the void... Written by Guy Bellinger

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Short | Drama

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9 June 1909 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Sarah bernhadt and Cécile Sorel
28 October 2015 | by (France) – See all my reviews

Calmettes originally made this film in 1908 with Sarah Bernhardt in the title-role. The Sardou play had been written specially for Bernhardt in 1887 and was one of her most celebrated parts.

There is a famous poster for Maurice-Clément's Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre, a show of several one-minute shorts (mainly extracts from plays and operas) originally with both colour and sound (on record) which was put on at the Paris Exposition of 1900 and the poster shows Bernhardt as Tosca with her cane pointing downwards to a phonograph. She did not play Tosca at this time but performed as Hamlet in the duel scene from that play, one of the P-C-T films that survives although without the recording (only Coquelin performing Cyrano de Bergerac survives with both colour and sound-recording).

Alas Tosca was also, in part at least,the cause of Bernhardt's painful knee-injury that would eventually become gangrenous and lead to the amputation of her leg in 1915. The final scene involved throwing herself from a parapet and she would land rather heavily on her knees. The 1908 film was not to her liking, was never released and the negative was in all probability destroyed.

The probable reason is not hard to find. There is a brief British Pathé clip on youtube, apparently dating from 1905, of Bernhardt quite evidently in a scene from Tosca (the appeal to Scarpia). This is, however, not the Calmettes film; it is just a snap of a stage-production. 1905 was the year of Bernhardt's grand tour of Britain and the Americas and it was in fact in Rio that year that she fell most painfully during a performance of La Tosca. In the Pathé clip, she can already quite clearly seen, already in 1905, to be walking with something of a limp.

Although the Bernhardt film was abandoned, Charles Le Bargy - there is no evidence of any involvement of Calmettes - went on to release this version in 1909 with the actress Cécile Sorel playing La Tosca. Actress and socialite (she was Comtesse de Ségur by marriage), Sorel made rather a point of playing parts associated with Bernhardt (including Célimène in Molière's Le Misanthrope and Marguerite in La Dame aux Camélias) so undoubtedly jumped at the chance to play La Tosca on film after Bernhardt's abortive effort. This version seemingly survives (Cinémathèque française?) but a short clip (the final scenes) can be found on youtube (a Huntley Archives clip Tosca, 1900s, 12013).


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