Alhambra Theatre , London
‘At a “private exhibition” yesterday afternoon, Messers. Pathe Freres, in conjunction with the management, showed on the cinematograph three wordless plays from Paris.’
‘On the cinematograph we saw not only the murder …but glimpses of the life of cafes , grand and humble …and all sorts of thrilling things, including a danse d’Apache by Mlle. Mistenguette and a man.’
‘All these, of course, not in the flesh, but on the films , while the orchestra played….next came a version of L’Arlesienne… and finally the Murder of the Duke of Guise, a play specially composed for this kind of performance , by M. Lavenden, and acted by no lesser people than M. le Bargey, M. Albert Lambert, and Mlle. Gabrielle Robbinne.’ The Times, Saturday, Nov 21, 1908; pg. 13; Issue 38810; col
Camille Saint-Saens wrote in 1908 the first modern film score for the cinema, for the silent film Murder of the Duke of Guise [sometimes refered to as L’Assassinat du duc de Guise]. The film only ran for about 18 minutes, but has become of great historical importance in the development of silent films, film scores, and sound of the ‘talkies’. Silent films were still popular in France up to the 1930s.
It is interesting to note that as the film achieved critical acclaim, going some way of launching the fledgeling film industry into popular culture, Saint-Saëns did not himself seek the notariety associated with later film-stars and film score composers. Saint-Saëns wrote to the German journalist M. Levin in 1901 “I take very little notice of either praise or censure, not because I have an exalted idea of my own merits (which would be foolish), but because in doing my work, and fulfilling the function of my nature, as an apple-tree grows apples, I have no need to trouble myself with other people’s views.”
The Union of Film Music Composers [UFMC] is celebrating the centenary of film music, in association with the Federation of Film and Audiovisual Composers of Europe [FFACE]. UFMC writes that ‘Le film marque un tournant dans l’histoire du cinéma en édifiant d’une première pierre l’histoire de la musique originale : la composition de Saint-Saëns suit très précisément chaque scène, n’autorisant au chef aucune désynchronisation avec l’image. D’autres extraits de musiques de films ainsi qu’une masterclass suivront la projection.’
If you would like to lean more about Saint-Saëns and early film music, please see the links below….
Musical memories by Camille Saint-Saëns
French cinema : from its beginnings to the present by Rémi Fournier Lanzoni shelved on L evel 2 at 791.430944/LAN
The sounds of early cinema /edited by Richard Abel and Rick Altman shelved on Level 2 at 791.4309/SOU
Spellbound in darkness :a history of the silent film by George C. Pratt shelved on Level 2 at 791.4309/PRA
The ciné goes to town :French cinema, 1896-1914 /Richard Abel shelved on Level 2 at 791.430944/ABE
Musicians of To-Day, by Romain Rolland 
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