UC Berkeley Library

1900-1909

Bert Williams Films

Contents: Introduction (2 min.) -- A Natural born gambler (1916, si. with English intertitles, 18 min.) -- Fish (si.,1916, 9min.) -- Nobody (audio recording, 1906, 3 min.) Egbert Austin "Bert" Williams was one of the preeminent entertainers of theVaudeville era and one of the most popular comedians for all audiences of his time. A key figure in the development of African-American entertainment, he was by far the best-selling black recording artist before 1920.

Cohen's Advertising Scheme (1904, silent)

Directed by Edwin S. Porter. Cohen's advertising scheme: This is perhaps the earliest cinematic example of the Jewish stereotype known as the "scheming merchant," a familiar caricature from theater and literature. In this typical one-shot gag film Cohen, a Jewish shop owner, hits upon a new advertising scheme: tricking a passerby into buying a coat on which he hangs a large sign advertising his store on the back. 14 min. ;

Cohen's Fire Sale (1907)

Directed by Edwin S. Porter. "A very early silent short from film pioneer Edwin S. Porter. Based on popular vaudeville routines of the day, the title character is a made up in a rather grotesque, broadly stereotyped manner and the sketch itself could definitely be viewed as an offensive piece. A Jewish store owner sees his new shipment of hats picked up by the trash wagon and chases the vehicle down to recapture his merchandise. When the hats don't sell anyway, he sets his business on fire to collect the insurance money." [from FACETS catalog] 10 min.

Egyptian Fakier with Dancing Monkey (Edison, 1903)

The fakir with his trick monkey is seated on the pavement in a street in Cairo. He plays a tom-tom, while the monkey dances the couchee-couchee. The movements of the monkey are very comical. (Taken on the winter cruise of the S. S. "Auguste Victoria" of the Hamburg-American Line, leaving New York on 03 Feb 1903.) Disc 1

Levi and Cohen, the Irish Comedians(Biograph, 1903)

Clips from this early short feature are included in What Do Those Old Films Mean? ; Pt. 2

Old Isaac, the Pawnbroker (1908)

Directed by Wallace McCutcheon; script: D. W. Griffith. This is the story of a little girl living in an urban slum who tries to sell her doll to get money for her sick and starving mother. Isaac, the pawnbroker, takes pity on the girl, goes to her apartment, stops the men who are trying to evict the sick woman, pays the rent, provides food and medical care, and even gives the girl a new doll. 14 min. Credits and other information from the Internet Movie Database

Palace of the Arabian Nights (Le palais des mille et une nuits)(France, 1905)

Directed by Georges Melies. A poor but honest young man wins the hand of a beautiful Princess after facing a series of exciting adventures involving apparitions, cartwheeling skeletons, a dragon, and plump dancing girls from the Folies Bergere. 21:05 min.

Romance of a Jewess (1908)

Directed by D. W. Griffith. Cast: Florence Lawrence, John R. Cumpson, Gladys Egan, George Gebhardt, Guy Hedlund, Charles Inslee, Alfred Paget, Mack Sennett. In this early silent melodrama, Ruth tries to survive amidst tragedy and toil on New York's Lower East Side. her husband dies in an accident and she and her child are left destitute. When she falls ill, her little daughter wanders into a pawn shop owned by her estranged grandfather, whom she's never met. He has a change of heart and runs to help his daughter, but he is too late and decides to raise his granddaughter himself. 15 min.

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