Sunday, October 18, 2009

Special Lectures on Notable Films (II)

W. Stephen Bush published a lecture on Pathé's The Birth of Christ (1909) in the same issue of Moving Picture World as he did La grande bretéche. Because the biblical story would have been extremely well known, this lecture did not need to supply the same type of information with respect to plot and motivation. Bush therefore offered an extended quotation from the first chapter of Luke for the first scene, and suggested using Christmas hymns to fill out portions of scenes III and V.

Bush, like other regular contributors to Moving Picture World, advertised his services regularly in the pages of the trade paper. This particular ad dates from the 15 January 1910 issue.

The Birth of Jesus.
Released by Pathe Freres December 24th.

Scene I.

When in the fullness of time God had decreed to redeem mankind, He chose as the instrument of salvation a spotless Virgin, Mary, dwelling in the little village of Nazareth in Galilee. There at eventide Mary returns from the fountain, where she has drawn water, and seeking the seclusion of her chamber, she bends her knees in prayer to the Lord, when presently there appears unto her a messenger from the throne of the Almighty and addresses her in these words of sweet and tender promise: “Hail thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women, though shalt conceive and bear a child, which shall be called Jesus. He shall be a King in Israel and of His Kingdom there shall be no end.” The archangel having delivered his message, Mary arose and exclaimed: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to Thy word.”

Scene II.

Bethlehem! A name of magic sound. The city is thronged with people and soldiers, for a decree has gone forth from Rome, then the mistress of the civilized world, that all the people of Palestine shall be counted and taxed. Mary and Joseph belonging to the tribe of David, have left their home in Nazareth and after passing through Galilee, and Samaria at last arrive in the city of their royal ancestor David. The journey has been long and hard as Mary feels that her hour is drawing nigh, Joseph looks about for a shelter in the night. He applies to one of the inns, but alas, every inn in Bethlehem is crowded and overflowing and they are turned away, when in their distress a little child comes to their rescue and directs them to a stable, now forever famous, just beyond the walls of Bethlehem.

Scene III.

Hallowed and gracious were the days the heralded the coming of our Lord. Signs and wonders were seen in many parts of the world and in the eastern sky, near Bethlehem, shone forth a wonderful star. (Here interrupt the lecture and render a suitable song, such as “While the Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night,” until the title for

Scene IV

appears on the screen, when you resume the lecture as follows:)

Close in the wake of the shepherds, now on their way to the stable, likewise following the star, came the magi, wise men from the East. They, too, in their far distant lands have seen this great, strange star, telling them of the birth of a new King of Israel. They are now on their way toward Jerusalem to ask Herod and his scribes and priests, where, according to ancient prophecy, the new King of Israel was most likely to be born. And they bear in their train many precious gifts to lay at the feet of the new king—gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Scene V.

Every door in Bethlehem is being barred against them, Joseph and Mary at last find refuge in this most humble of abodes, and here, in poverty, in a manger, even on a bundle of straw, there is born into the world the new King of Israel, Jesus Christ. (Sing here one verse from the hymn, “Come All Ye Faithful” and then resume lecture as follows:) And as you see the golden glitter of the star shines again above the crib, so likewise does the star shine again unto wise men from the East. They have been to Jerusalem and there they have learnt from Herod and his priests and scribes that the new King of Israel was most likely to be born in Bethlehem in Judaea, as foretold by the Prophet Micah. And the star has again appeared before them and they are now on their way to the stable. (Here end the lecture and bring the picture to a close with one or two more verses, sung or played, from the hymn, “Come All Ye Faithful.”)

Source: W. Stephen Bush, “Special Lectures on Notable Films,” Moving Picture World 8 January 1910, 19.
Image Source: Moving Picture World 15 January 1910, 60.