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Transformation by Hats, Comic View (1895)

Chapeaux à transformations (original title)
Not Rated | | Short, Comedy | 1 January 1895 (France)
The transformation of the same character in six different characters. A vision of the act of transformation.

Director:

Louis Lumière
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Cast

Uncredited cast:
Félicien Trewey ... Himself (performer of chapeaugraphy) (uncredited)
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Storyline

In commedia dell'arte style, an actor on a stool presents six distinct characters through speedy application of whiskers and a hat or, in one case, a wig followed by a few gestures. First he becomes the large-nosed squire whipping his horse as he rides in his surrey, then he's a kindly mustachioed ticket taker, next an imperious sea captain with the bearded look of Czar Nicholas. Out comes a light-colored top hat, big nose and handkerchief for the brief appearance of a lugubrious character, followed by a capitalist making a deal in black silk top hat and mustache. Last, white hair, pork-chop sideburns and large mustache capture a retired raconteur. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Short | Comedy

Certificate:

Not Rated
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Details

Country:

France

Release Date:

1 January 1895 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Transformation by Hats, Comic View See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Lumière See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Silent
See full technical specs »
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Connections

Edited into Landmarks of Early Film (1997) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Creating characters for film
8 April 2005 | by BrandtSponsellerSee all my reviews

This approximately 40-second long Lumiere Brothers short (Lumiere No. 105) features frequent Lumiere collaborator Félicien Trewey performing a variation on his famed "chapeaugraphy". Here, sitting in a chair, he dons hats, fake facial hair and even facial prosthetics in quick succession to perform characters for a few seconds before moving on to the next.

While in terms of visual composition Transformation by Hats is not much to talk about, the short is notable and very successful as a further Lumiere Brothers exploration of the fictional possibilities of film. Otherwise, the Lumieres were better known for their "actualities", or short documentary portraits.

Trewey, who was responsible for bringing the Lumieres' cinématographe to England, more often executed his chapeaugraphy with a single large piece of felt which he would shape into different kinds of hats to wear as different characters, relying also on facial expressions and contortions to effect the change--something like John Barrymore's turn at Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920). Surely the shaping of felt into different kinds of hats would take more than 40 seconds, so here, Trewey depends on his quick change abilities instead, keeping his hats and accessories on the ground, out of the camera range.

It's remarkable how quickly and "cleanly" Trewey can don each "disguise". Editing had not yet been exploited (even though edits are present in the earliest days of film at least in some Edison company shorts), or surely the Lumieres would have capitalized on that unique property of the new film medium instead.

Of course, it's debatable just how much the Lumieres intended to demonstrate the potential of the new medium rather than simply present a friend performing a part of his live act that had been adapted to suit the limitations of the medium. The truth is probably a mixture of intentions.

At any rate, the effect on the burgeoning film industry was more to give a glimpse of the possibilities of characterization, to show a relatively easy technical way to create various convincing characters on film, as would be necessary in producing the more extensive fictions soon to come.


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