Van Dyke Brooke (US 1912)

The goings-on at Mrs Lirriper’s boarding house find Mrs. Lirriper and Major Jackman taking on parental roles looking after the young Mrs. Edson after her husband leaves on business. Tragic news arrives which causes Mrs. Edson to lose hope. Luckily Mrs. Lirriper steps in to comfort her in her moment of need.
This project was brought to me through a British friend, Christopher Bird, who had received the material from a fellow 78-record collector named Ian Maxted. Maxted had acquired some reels of nitrate and an old Pathé projector many years ago and stored them in his garden shed. He never got around to doing anything with them, so ultimately gave them to Bird, who has a collection here at USC. The project began just as a graduate student from Amsterdam and former Giornate Collegian, Marina Butt, was corresponding with me about doing a preservation internship. We agreed that this would be a perfect project since it was just a single reel.
The story is an old Charles Dickens tale, and the first of two “Mrs. Lirriper” films produced by Vitagraph, the other being Mrs. Lirriper’s Legacy, also 1912. One could easily interpret Mrs. Lirriper’s Lodgers through the academic eyes of Dr. Holly Furneaux of Leicester University, who has suggested that Dickens would sometimes weave indications of homosexual relationships into his stories. The interesting thing here is that the most obvious evidence in the film, which is when Mr. Edson writes to his wife stating that he cannot return because their marriage was a “sham,” was actually created by Vitagraph, as the original Dickens story never reveals what was in the letter.
Preservation was a lengthy process, as the print had extensive damage. It also raised an important revelation: many academic archiving programs do not teach students how to physically work on film. This is not a slight to any of the programs, because quite honestly there is hardly the time to train preservationists in four-hour blocks once a week. Working with film comes from repetition, so Marina spent many nights at home cutting out tiny slivers of tape and pasting them on scrap film before she was allowed to work on the real thing. In the end she became an expert; of the roughly 400 repairs throughout the reel, basically half were done solely by Ms. Butt.
The next obstacle arose because we planned to utilize restoration software that was presented at the “Reel Thing” conference in 2015 that could do remarkable things. It seemed that finally there was a solution for small archives: it was reported that one could use the software and pay by project rather than having to pay for an entire software package. We soon discovered that while it did do some things, the important ones like stabilization and dirt/scratch removal were only available if one purchased the full software, which was out of our price range. Because of this we put completion of the project off to one side, which turned out to be fortunate, because ultimately Maxted found some more footage from the first half of the film, which we have been able to re-incorporate into this presentation.

Dino Everett

regia/dir: Van Dyke Brooke.
scen: W. A. Tremayne, dal racconto di/based on the short story by  Charles Dickens (“Mrs. Lirriper’s Lodgings,” in All the Year Round, Extra Christmas Number, 12.12.1863).
cast: Mary Maurice (Mrs. Lirriper), Clara Kimball Young (Mrs. Edson), Courtenay Foote (Mr. Edson), Van Dyke Brooke (Major Jackman), Flora Finch (Mrs. Wozenham?).
prod: Vitagraph.
uscita/rel: 15.10.1912.
copia/copy: DCP, 14′ (da/from 35mm, 850 ft., 16 fps; orig. 951 ft.); did./titles: ENG.
fonte/source: Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive, University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, Los Angeles.