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Emile Cohl, Caricature, and Film

Emile Cohl, Caricature, and Film

Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 430
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  • Book Info
    Emile Cohl, Caricature, and Film
    Book Description:

    This is the definitive biography of Emile Cohl (1857-1938), one of the most important pioneers of the art of the animated cartoon and an innovative contributor to popular graphic humor at a critical moment when it changed from traditional caricature to the modern comic strip. This profusely illustrated book provides not only a wealth of information on Cohl's life but also an analysis of his contribution to the development of the animation film in both France and the United States and an interpretation of how the new genre fit into the historical shift from a "primitive" to a "classical" cinema. "Beautiful in look and design, with stunning reproductions from films and newspapers, Emile Cohl, Caricature, and Film offers a biography of a figure who virtually created the European art of animation.. In its theory and history, the book is one of the most important contributions to [the field of animated film]. But [it] is central for film study per se, offering a fresh, exciting look at the complicated world of early cinema."--Dana Polan, Film Quarterly

    Originally published in 1992.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6071-5
    Subjects: Film Studies, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    (pp. xix-xx)
    (pp. xxi-xxvi)
  7. Part One: The “Caricaturiste”

    • CHAPTER ONE A Caricaturist’s Life
      (pp. 3-42)

      Emile Cohl claimed to be the oldest Parisian. That impulse by itself indicates something about the person, his perception of his place in a particular culture, and his desire to let others know of it. To substantiate his claim he produced a meticulously researched genealogy showing that, since 1292, his family had been living in the vicinity of what eventually became the Bourse neighborhood.¹ There were some lacunae in the older branches of the family, but the post-revolutionary descendants were easily traced as far back as his paternal grandfather, Jean Eustache François Courtet (1795–1875), and his grandmother, Rosalie Elisabèthe...

    • CHAPTER TWO Art for Two Sous
      (pp. 43-88)

      Emile Cohl had served as official photographer for the 1885 Incoherents Ball. It was his newest interest, and his seriousness about pursuing it had been affirmed by renting a space in which to install a portrait studio. Among the few remaining examples of the work he did there are the tipped-in glyptographs that illustrate a very strange book calledTêtes de pipesby “L.-G. Mostrailles,” the pseudonym of Georges Rall and Léo Trézenick, the editor and publisher ofLutèce.¹ The title means “thumbnail sketches,” and the album offered prose portraits of the leaders of various literary movements. Each personality was...

  8. Part Two: The “Cinématographiste”

    • CHAPTER THREE The Moving Image
      (pp. 91-114)

      As cohl’s curiosity led him to more diversified—and more rarefied—interests, his income decreased commensurately. Although his comic strips, games, and puzzles may have been intellectually satisfying, they did not pay enough to allow him to support his family. By 1904 his fortunes had fallen so low that for three months he had to share the apartment of his employer, the stamp seller Lemaire. The situation deteriorated further two years later when Lemaire’sLa Côte Réelle, which Cohl helped edit, was acquired by another publisher. Once again he found himself unemployed and completely dependent upon his work in the...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Cinema chez Gaumont
      (pp. 115-152)

      When he came to the Gaumont studios, Emile Cohl exchanged his past independence for a disciplined work environment. In 1908 the company was releasing about six short films each week, entirely conceived, photographed, processed, and edited within the La Villette studios or their immediate environs.

      Léon Ernest Gaumont’s personality dominated the company’s productions, although he himself did not make films. Born in 1864, he had worked his way up in the photographic-supply business until, in 1895, he was able to borrow sufficient funds to buy out his employer and start his own company. As a sideline, Gaumont began exploiting a...

    • CHAPTER FIVE “Hollywood” in France and New Jersey
      (pp. 153-197)

      Cohl left Gaumont on November 30, 1910, probably lured to Pathé by the offer of a better salary. The parsimonious Gaumont had also just lost Bosetti to Pathé’s Comica branch, and Arnaud would join Eclair in 1911. After a brief vacation in the south of France, Cohl returned to his new apartment in Montmartre to begin working on his first two Pathé films:Le Retapeur de cervelles(Brains Repaired, cat. 80) andLes Aventures extraordinaires d’un bout de papier(Extraordinary Adventures of a Piece of Paper, cat. 81).

      It was not long before he began to realize that signing with...

    • CHAPTER SIX The Father of the Animated Film
      (pp. 198-218)

      Emile Cohl’s reputation was known to those in the French film business. Thus when the first detailed account of the American mass-production animation system appeared in French translation, the editor ofCiné-Journal, Georges Dureau, and the editor ofCiné-Tribune, Edmond Benoit-Lévy, both asked Cohl for his reactions. The article in question was written by Bert Green, one of the animators working for Pathé News in New York.¹ Green described the assembly-line organization, the use of “cels,” and Barré’s system. Several animators were discussed, including Winsor McCay, whom Green credited with the invention of the cartoon.

      Needless to say, Cohl was...

  9. Part Three Toward an “Incoherent Cinema”

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Graphic Humor and Early Cinema
      (pp. 221-256)

      Emile Cohl left behind a massive corpus of art executed in many different media. The questions we wish to examine in this section are: to what extent were those different media interrelated, and by what processes did Cohl’s nineteenth-century graphic art affect his twentieth-century cinematic art?

      The significance of these questions extends beyond their applicability solely to the work of Emile Cohl. The early cinema was an intertextual system par excellence, and very much a hybrid of various technologies and disparate aesthetic models derived from other popular arts. Conventional wisdom has it that comic strips were in some vague way...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT “Incoherent Cinema”
      (pp. 257-312)

      When Emile Cohl’s films are viewed, one is struck not only by their technical ingenuity but also by their bizarre humor. Even in comparison with the slapstick comedies of Zecca, Feuillade, Bosetti, and other contemporaries, Cohl’s films are extraordinary in their outrageousness, their outlandishness, and, frequently, their incomprehensibility. They do not imitate the physical knockabout gags of the vaudeville stage or the domestic farces of the type that Cohl himself had once written. They rely instead on a peculiar dry, cerebral wittiness that makes his films stand out alone in pre-World War I cinema. This quality is so pervasive that...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 313-340)
    (pp. 341-376)
    (pp. 377-396)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 397-404)