Princess Nicotine; or, the Smoke Fairy (J. Stuart Blackton, 1909, USA)

Princess Nicotine; or, the Smoke Fairy is an early trick film directed by J. Stuart Blackton. The British-born Blackton was one of the founders of the American film industry. He founded Vitagraph Studios in 1897 and pioneered many techniques surrounding animation. Vitagraph, based in Brooklyn, was one of the first film studios in the United States, and one of the studios that Thomas Edison had invited to corner the market with him. Vitagraph warded off Edison's lawsuits by selling their films to him.

One of the stars of Princess Nicotine is Paul Panzer, the German-born American actor who grew to fame as Raymond Owen in the Hearst-produced serial The Perils of Pauline. The film opens with Panzer reading a paper and smoking. He lays his pipe down, drifting off to sleep when we see two fairies emerge from his cigarette box and hop onto his pipe. The younger fairy hides in his pipe. On display is an early example of the kind of trick films that were pioneered by the great Georges Melies.

Panzer lights his pipe and soon sees the fairy emerge from it through his magnifying glass. We cut to the fairy in a close-up, who emerges from the pipe and does a little dance before crawling back into the box with her fellow fairy. At this point, it seems that there was not only nicotine in our protagonist's pipe and perhaps something else. The hallucinatory aspect of the film gives it its charm. We also see stop motion on display as the cigarette implements come to life and a cigar lights itself on its own. Princess Nicotine is one of the first examples of product placement, as the film was intended as a promotion for Sweet Corporal cigarettes. For those seeking an example of early American stop motion, take a look.



Popular Posts