An Adventurous Automobile Trip (French: Le Raid Paris–Monte-Carlo en automobile or Le Raid Paris–Monte-Carlo en deux heures)[a] is a 1905 French short silent comedy film directed by Georges Méliès. The film, a spoof of the devil-may-care motoring exploits of King Leopold II of Belgium, features the King engaging in a manic, implausibly fast automobile ride from Paris to Monte Carlo. The singer-comedian Harry Fragson stars as the King, supported by a large cast of stage performers from the Folies Bergère cabaret and other venues, with two cameo appearances from Méliès himself. Méliès, working in collaboration with the stage director Victor de Cottens, designed An Adventurous Automobile Trip as an innovative Folies Bergère act combining stage performance and film, with a live prologue and epilogue used to frame the filmed sequence. After this version premiered on 31 December 1904, Méliès adapted the film to be a standalone release for general distribution in 1905. The lavish film, available in both black-and-white and hand-colored versions, was a popular and critical success both in France and in America. However, the film's high production values made it too expensive for many exhibitors, one of several factors that sent Méliès's career into decline.
1 Plot 2 Production 3 Release and reception 4 Footnotes 5 References 6 External links
Plot King Leopold, on holiday in Paris, wants to visit Monte Carlo, but does not have time for the seventeen-hour express train ride between the two cities. He happens upon an automobile maker who claims his car can make the distance in just two hours. The King agrees and sets off in the car, with the auto maker acting as chauffeur. A large crowd sees them off from outside the Paris Opera House, including many celebrities from the Paris theatre world. After stopping to fill the car with gas, the King starts it and, from inexperience, accidentally runs it backward over a policeman, who is squashed flat as a pancake. The King starts inflating him with a pump, and then, to save time, lets other onlookers finish the job while he drives off. The onlookers set to the work with gusto, so much so that the overinflated policeman ends up exploding. The car speeds over the French countryside and into the Alps, leaping between mountains and knocking over a postman as it goes. At the gates of Dijon, town officials try to stop the car to enforce the octroi tax, but the car keeps its course and runs headlong into one of the officials, who explodes in his turn. The car wends its way across the Mediterranean coast, overturning a fruit stand, crashing through a greenhouse, colliding with a tar wagon (with another explosion ensuing), and, finally, arriving at the grandstand of spectators awaiting them at Monte Carlo. The car is now going at such speed that, rather than stopping in front of the grandstand, it somersaults up the stairs and crashes to earth. The King and chauffeur, unharmed by their adventurous race, are greeted warmly.[b] Production
Frame from a hand-colored print of the film
For the 1904 Folies Bergère cabaret revue, the director Victor de Cottens approached Méliès—then at the height of his fame as a filmmaker—with the idea of combining theatre and cinema by presenting a short film as one of the fourteen segments of the stage production. The two directors worked out a scenario that would parody the motoring adventures of King Leopold II of Belgium, who was famous for driving, and often crashing, fast cars. In the stage-screen amalgamation devised by Méliès and de Cottens, the segment began as a sketch with live performers before continuing as a film; at the end of the film, the actor playing the King, as well as other actors playing cheering spectators, returned to the stage to finish the sketch live. Méliès drew the cast of the film from various sources. Harry Fragson, a London-born singer and comedian who was one of the stars of the Folies Bergère at the time, played the lead role of King Leopold. Louis Maurel, a Paris singer and comedian who had worked with Fragson in the 1903 Folies Bergère revue, was the chauffeur. In the scene in front of the Paris Opera, the celebrities assembled include Jean Noté, a singer at the opera house; the short actor Little Pich, whose persona was a close imitation of the better-known British comedian Little Tich, and who also acted in films by Pathé Frères and the Gaumont Film Company; the tall actor Antonich, known as the "Giant Swede;" Félix Galipaux, who had been a popular music hall monologuist in Paris since the 1880s and who acted in several Méliès films; Jane Yvon, a Folies Bergère entertainer; Séverin Cafferra, a popular mime; and de Cottens himself. Fernande Albany, who also appeared in Méliès's films The Impossible Voyage, Tunnelling the English Channel, and The Conquest of the Pole, played the plump lady in the Dijon scene, and the Folies Bergère entertainers Blondet and Raiter also made appearances. Méliès himself plays two roles in the film: a mailman who gets knocked over by the car, and the octroi official who explodes. Méliès also cast more extras in the film than was usual for him, sometimes staging them in layered arrangements for visual clarity, and sometimes letting them move at whim to create more disorganized, naturalistic groupings. In addition to the parody of King Leopold II, Méliès's scenario for the film features another topical element: the scene with the tar wagon is based on the experiments of Ernest Guglielminetti, who spread tar over a small part of the gravel road to Monaco. This experiment, widely reported by the press, successfully eliminated the dust clouds kicked up by cars on gravel and sand roads. The film's special effects were created using stage machinery, miniature models, pyrotechnics, and the editing technique known as the substitution splice. Long shots showing the car were filmed with a miniature car and a landscape rolling past it, creating a multiplane effect. Most scenes, including the detailed and faithful recreation of the Place de l'Opéra outside the Opera House, were painted studio sets, as was Méliès's custom. However, the last scene, showing the arrival at Monte Carlo, was filmed not in the studio but outdoors in Méliès's garden. Release and reception
The New Amsterdam Theater in 1905, the year An Adventurous Automobile Trip was shown there
An Adventurous Automobile Trip premiered at the gala opening night of the Folies Bergère revue on 31 December 1904. It ran for six months at the Folies Bergère, lasting more than 300 performances. Méliès also intended for the film to be shown by exhibitors elsewhere, outside the context of the revue. Thus, after its Folies Bergère run, it was released as a standalone item by Méliès's Star Film Company and numbered 740–749 in its catalogues, where it is advertised as a grande course fantastique funambulesque. As with at least four percent of Méliès's output, the film was available both in black-and-white and in individually hand-colored prints sold at a higher price. The film was also released in the United States, by the New York branch of Méliès's company. During the summer of 1905, Klaw & Erlanger showed it at the Aerial Gardens, on the rooftop of the New Amsterdam Theatre. In the American release, the scenes were slightly rearranged: the first and second scenes were switched in order, as were the sixth and seventh. In addition, because of a renumbering, ten tableaux were advertised instead of the French catalogue's twelve, although no scenes were removed. (The two prints of the film surviving in the Méliès family's archive, the Cinémathèque Méliès, use the French ordering of the scenes.) Another discrepancy between the French and American catalogues occurs for political reasons: the American catalog specifies that the protagonist is King Leopold, but the French one keeps the identity anonymous, so as not to offend Belgian audiences. Similarly, the Alps in the film are named as such in the American catalog but are unnamed in the French one.
An Adventurous Automobile Trip was one of Méliès's most successful films, and ran to acclaim at the Folies Bergère for six months. A notice in The New York Clipper said that the film "is very clever, and keeps the audience in continuous good humor." The Morning Telegraph concurred, reporting that the film "scored an instant success. Nothing funnier has been seen here in many a day. ... The thing is a scream." However, the venture was not as profitable as Méliès had expected; the high costs of the lavish hand-colored film put it out of the reach of many fairground exhibitors. These financial difficulties, which continued with Méliès's similarly spectacular film The Merry Frolics of Satan the following year, helped hasten the decline of Méliès's career. Portions of at least three prints of the film survive: a complete nitrate print with the car sometimes painted red, given to Méliès's granddaughter Madeleine Malthête-Méliès by an American collector; an incomplete hand-colored nitrate print, bought by Malthête-Méliès from a Belgian collector; and some fragments at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In his book-length study of Méliès, the film historian John Frazer spoke highly of the film, noting its careful use of continuity of direction and comparing it to Mack Sennett's slapstick comedies and to the 1968 automobile film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Méliès made another film in a similar vein, Le Raid New York–Paris en automobile, in 1908; it was also received with success. Footnotes
^ The film is called Le Raid Paris–Monte-Carlo en automobile in Méliès's 1905 catalogue, and Le Raid Paris–Monte-Carlo en deux heures in the 1906 edition. ^ Since the film is silent and has no intertitles, some details for this plot summary are based on the synopsis offered in Méliès's American catalogue.
^ a b c d e Malthête, Jacques; Marie, Michel (1997), Georges Méliès, l'illusionniste fin de siècle?: actes du colloque de Cerisy-la-Salle, 13-22 août 1996, Paris: Presses de la Sorbonne nouvelle, p. 35 ^ a b c d e f g Méliès, Georges (1905), Complete Catalogue of Genuine and Original "Star" Films, New York: Geo. Méliès, pp. 82–87 ^ a b Meusy, Jean-Jacques (1995), Paris palaces ou le temps des cinémas: 1894–1918, Paris: CNRS Editions, p. 107 ^ a b c Waltz, Gwendolyn (2012), "'Half Real-Half Reel': Alternation Format Stage-and-Screen Hybrids", in Gaudreault, André; Dulac, Nicolas; Hidalgo, Santiago, A Companion to Early Cinema, Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, p. 368 ^ Meusy 1995, p. 261 ^ Baker, Richard Anthony (2014), British Music Hall: An Illustrated History, Havertown: Pen and Sword, p. 129 ^ a b c d Bertrand, Aude (2010), Georges Méliès et les professionnels de son temps (PDF), Université de Lyon, pp. 41–42, retrieved 20 December 2014 ^ Dubé, Paul; Marchioro, Jacques (2013), "Louis Maurel", Du Temps des cerises aux Feuilles mortes, retrieved 22 December 2014 ^ a b c d e f g Malthête, Jacques; Mannoni, Laurent (2008), L'oeuvre de Georges Méliès, Paris: Éditions de La Martinière, p. 187, ISBN 978-2-7324-3732-3 ^ Abel, Richard (1988), French Film Theory and Criticism: A History/Anthology, 1907–1939, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, pp. 43, 47 ^ Bertrand 2010, pp. 119–120 ^ a b c d e f Essai de reconstitution du catalogue français de la Star-Film; suivi d'une analyse catalographique des films de Georges Méliès recensés en France, Bois d'Arcy: Service des archives du film du Centre national de la cinématographie, 1981, pp. 226–229, ISBN 2-903053-07-3, OCLC 10506429 ^ a b c d e Frazer, John (1979), Artificially Arranged Scenes: The Films of Georges Méliès, Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., pp. 160–2, ISBN 0-8161-8368-6 ^ Rosen, Miriam (1987), "Méliès, Georges", in Wakeman, John, World Film Directors: Volume I, 1890–1945, New York: The H. W. Wilson Company, p. 753, ISBN 0-8242-0757-2 ^ Yumibe, Joshua (2012). Moving Color: Early Film, Mass Culture, Modernism. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-8135-5296-5. ^ Kleine Optical Company (26 August 1905), "An Adventurous Automobile Trip", The New York Clipper, p. 688 ^ "At This Theater: New Amsterdam Theatre", Playbill.com, Playbill, retrieved 14 February 2015 ^ a b Frayling, Christopher (2005), Mad, Bad and Dangerous?: The Scientist and the Cinema, London: Reaktion, p. 51 ^ a b c Abel, Richard (1998), The Ciné Goes to Town: French Cinema, 1896–1914, Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 19 ^ "New York City", The New York Clipper, p. 504, 8 July 1905 ^ "Leopold's Auto Trip a Scream" (PDF), The Morning Telegraph, p. 10, 13 June 1905
An Adventurous Automobile Trip on IMDb
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Actualities (1896–1900) Playing Cards (1896) Conjuring (1896) Watering the Flowers (1896) Arrival of a Train at Vincennes Station (1896) The Rag-Picker (1896) Post No Bills (1896) The Rescue on the River (1896) A Terrible Night (1896) A Lightning Sketch (1896) Conjurer Making Ten Hats in Sixty Seconds (1896) A Serpentine Dance (1896) Miss de Vère (English Jig) (1896) The Vanishing Lady (1896) The Haunted Castle (1896) A Nightmare (1897) Comedian Paulus Singing (1897) A Funny Mahometan (1897) An Hallucinated Alchemist (1897) The Haunted Castle (1897) On the Roofs (1897) Reconstructed newsreels (1897–1902) The Last Cartridges (1897) The Surrender of Tournavos (1897) Sea Fighting in Greece (1897) Gugusse and the Automaton (1897) Between Calais and Dover (1897) The Laboratory of Mephistopheles (1897) The Bewitched Inn (1897) After the Ball (1897) Divers at Work on the Wreck of the "Maine" (1898) The Magician (1898) The Famous Box Trick (1898) Pygmalion and Galatea (1898) Adventures of William Tell (1898) The Astronomer's Dream (1898) The Cave of the Demons (1898) The Four Troublesome Heads (1898) The Temptation of Saint Anthony (1898) Robbing Cleopatra's Tomb (1899) The Devil in a Convent (1899) The Pillar of Fire (1899) The Clown and Automobile (1899) A Mysterious Portrait (1899) Christ Walking on the Water (1899) The Dreyfus Affair (1899) Cinderella (1899) The Mysterious Knight (1899)
Addition and Subtraction (1900) The Cook's Revenge (1900) The Misfortunes of an Explorer (1900) Paris Exposition, 1900 (1900) The One-Man Band (1900) Joan of Arc (1900) The Rajah's Dream (1900) The Two Blind Men (1900) Thanking the Audience (1900) The Christmas Dream (1900) Fat and Lean Wrestling Match (1900) A Fantastical Meal (1900) Going to Bed Under Difficulties (1900) The Doctor and the Monkey (1900) China Versus Allied Powers (1900) The Brahmin and the Butterfly (1900–01) Red Riding Hood (1900–01) The Magician's Cavern (1901) Excelsior! (1901) The Sacred Fountain (1901) Bluebeard (1901) The Man with the Rubber Head (1901) The Eruption of Mount Pelee (1902) The Catastrophe of the Balloon "Le Pax" (1902) A Trip to the Moon (1902) The Shadow-Girl (1902) The Coronation of Edward VII (1902) The Treasures of Satan (1902) Gulliver's Travels Among the Lilliputians and the Giants (1902) Robinson Crusoe (1902) The Enchanted Well (1903) The Inn Where No Man Rests (1903) The Oracle of Delphi (1903) A Spiritualistic Photographer (1903) The Melomaniac (1903) The Monster (1903) The Kingdom of the Fairies (1903) The Infernal Cauldron (1903) The Damnation of Faust (1903) A Wager Between Two Magicians, or Jealous of Myself (1904) Faust and Marguerite (1904) The Barber of Seville (1904) The Wonderful Rose-Tree (1904) The Impossible Voyage (1904) The Christmas Angel (1904) The Living Playing Cards (1905) The Palace of the Arabian Nights (1905) An Adventurous Automobile Trip (1905) Rip's Dream (1905) The Inventor Crazybrains and His Wonderful Airship (1905)
A Mix-up in the Gallery (1906) The Chimney Sweep (1906) A Desperate Crime (1906) The Merry Frolics of Satan (1906) The Mysterious Retort (1906) Robert Macaire and Bertrand (1906) Under the Seas (1907) How Bridget's Lover Escaped (1907) Tunnelling the English Channel (1907) The Eclipse, or the Courtship of the Sun and Moon (1907) Hamlet (1907) Shakespeare Writing "Julius Caesar" (1907) Satan in Prison (1907) Humanity Through the Ages (1908) Why That Actor Was Late (1908) Long Distance Wireless Photography (1908) A Fake Diamond Swindler (1908) The Miser (1908) A Love Tragedy in Spain (1908) Mishaps of the New York–Paris Race (1908) The Woes of Roller Skaters (1908) French Cops Learning English (1908) Fun With the Bridal Party (1908) Buncoed Stage Johnnie (1908) Honeymoon in a Balloon (1908) Fortune Favors the Brave (1908) Seein' Things (1908) The Diabolic Tenant (1909) Whimsical Illusions (1909) The Spider and the Butterfly (1909) Baron Munchausen's Dream (1911) Cinderella or the Glass Slipper (1912) The Conquest of the Pole (1912) The Knight of the Snows (1912) The Voyage of the Bourrichon Family (1912)
Filmography Bibliography Georges Méliès in culture Le Grand Méliès (1952 documentary) The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007 book) Hugo (2011 film) Jehanne d'Alcy (wife) Gaston