Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mayor Gaynor on the Kinetograph

In April 1913, Mayer Gaynor of New York and a number of his commissioners were the subject of Kinetophone film. Whether this was for publicity, goodwill or an attempt to find a new market for the sound film is unclear, but it received quite a lot more press attention than any previous Kinetophone subject. This first item reports on the "posing" of the film.
Mayor In Talking Pictures
With Waldo and Other Commissioners, He Talks and Poses.

Patrons of the talking picture houses will have an opportunity soon to see and hear Mayor Gaynor, Police Commissioner Waldo, Fire Commissioner Johnson, Street Cleaning Commissioner Edwards, and Robert Adamson, the Mayor’s secretary, explain the workings of the city government. Yesterday the Mayor and his Commissioners went up to the Edison studios, at Valentine and Decatur Avenues, the Bronx, and posed for a series of moving picture films. At the same time they talked into a phonograph, and every word and gesture were duly recorded. The Mayor explained that he had promised representatives of the Edison Company long ago that he would talk and “act” for them, and that he found his first opportunity yesterday.
Source: “Mayor In Talking Pictures,” New York Times 18 April 1913, 1.

This next notice is more a publicity item, which suggests that the Kinetophone might have an important role in preserving the historical record.

Films for Posterity
Edison to Present Gaynor and Others in Records for Centuries.

Thomas A. Edison, who recently perfected the kinetophone, will formally present to the Modern Historic Records Association at the City Hall this afternoon at 1 o’clock the talking-motion-picture records that were lately made of Mayor Gaynor and other department heads of the city Government. The records, including both the motion picture films and the phonographic cylinders, will be received by William George Jordan, Managing Director of the Modern Historic Records Association, in the presence of Mayor Gaynor and others of whom records were made.

Mr. Edison will also present a piece of parchment on which there will be an inscription explaining that the records are intended to be preserved for centuries, and below the inscription will be the signatures of those whose records were made, certifying their genuineness. Until the Modern Historic Records Association builds its own home the records will be deposited in the New York Public Library. At a demonstration a few days ago in the Union Square Theatre the records were approved by the Mayor and his associates. In addition to Mayor Gaynor, there are records of his secretary Waldo, Fire Commissioner Johnson, and street Cleaning Commissioner Edwards.
Source: “Films for Posterity,” New York Times 1 May 1913, 6.

This is the report of the premiere of the film. Note that as of May the Kinetophone is still installed at four Keith and Proctor vaudeville theaters.

The Mayor In the "Movies"

Mayor Gaynor, Secretary Adamson, and Commissioners Waldo, Johnson, and Edwards made their vaudeville debuts yesterday afternoon at three of the Keith theatres, the Colonial, the Union Square, and the Alhambra, and Proctor’s Fifth Avenue, the simultaneous appearance being accounted for by the fact that they were seen as stars of an Edison talking moving-picture record. The Mayor’s secretary and the three Commissioners each spoke a few sentences for the recording machine, and then Mayor Gaynor gave a three-minute talk. The scene was set to represent the Mayor’s office, and the five speakers were seated around a large table when the picture was flashed on the screen.

The Mayor began by saying that he wished it were possible to have all the heads of city departments on the screen to tell the people about their activities, but he had to content himself with having three of them there. Some of the “corrupt newspapers,” said the mayor, had been endeavoring to raise a public clamor to have some of his Commissioners dismissed, but he had stood by them. He said that he believed the public was beginning to realize he as right in standing by them. He closed with an argument in favor of the Workmen’s Compensation bills, which he said he hoped to see enacted into law.
Source: “The Mayor In the ‘Movies,” New York Times 6 May 1913, 20.

This is an excerpt from "Observations By Our Man About Town," a regular column that appeared in Moving Picture World. From this column it seems likely that Edison was exploring the possibility of increasing the market for the Kinetophone by using it to record lectures and other educational events.
Mayor Gaynor, Police Commissioner Waldo, Fire Commissioner Johnson and Street Commissioner Edwards made their debut in motion picture studio work one day last week. They figured in talking moving pictures and, while some people look upon it as a joke, the event will do much towards demonstrating the value of the pictures in the exemplification of the work attached to the various civic departments. Communities finding it impossible to secure the personal attendance for lectures of men who become prominently identified with municipal, state and national departments will find a valuable acquisition in such pictures. Chatauqua circuits and lecture platforms will be particularly interested in the development of this branch of the industry. It is to become one of the most important factors in the educational line. Each day brings forth some new development or undertaking, showing clearly that the day is not far distant when the motion picture will become as indispensable in educational circles as it has become popular in the world of entertainment. It is no longer a question as to how long the pictures will survive. Truly they are in their infancy.
“Observations By Our Man About Town,” Moving Picture World 3 May 1913, 476.