Movie Monday: The Princess In The Vase 1908
One-hundred, fifteen years ago, today, the short, silent black & white comedy The Princess In The Vase was released. Directed by Wallace McCutcheon, Sr., it starred only three actors…D.W. Griffith, Edward Dillon and Linda Arvidson, Griffith’s then-wife. Griffith is the Lover, Arvidson is the Lady-in-Waiting and Dillon is the Waiter. C. W. “Billy” Bitzer was the cinematographer.
The opening scenes of this production are laid in Egypt, five hundred years before Herodotus, the Father of History, visited that country. Three thousand years ago, there dwelt in Egyptian Memphis, the ancient capital of the Pharaohs, a wealthy prince, whose wife in beauty was likened to [Hathor], the Egyptian Venus, with [a] heart as cold as Egyptian marble. The prince, worried and suspicious, seeks the royal seer, who tells him the princess has a lover and, in a vision, shows him the princess in the arms of that lover, a Theban warrior. Instant death is the punishment meted out to the guilty pair. The princess is placed on a bier and carried out in front of the Temple, under the very shadow of the Pyramids of Gizah. Here, the High Priest, with a flambeau, sets fire to the pyre and her body is burned as an offering, with prayers, to mighty Osiris, beseeching that he overcome Typhon, who seems to hold sway. Alongside the pyre is placed a vase, decorated with hieroglyphics, which is to be the sarcophagus, of that ethereal, of the unfortunate princess. The smoke and vapor, as it arises from the body, enters the vase in a most mysterious manner. The vase is then sealed and the cavalcade proceeds with it to the tomb, where it is deposited and the door of the tomb closed, it was thought forever. Three thousand years later, there came to the “Land of Ruins” a Boston professor, student of the illustrious Jean Francois Chainpollion, discoverer of the key to Egyptian hieroglyphics, who unearthed the vase and took it to his home in Boston. Vague, indeed, was the story he learned about the treasure and, while sitting in his study, cudgeling his brain to lift the veil of mystery from it, falls to sleep. [In] this psychological condition, [he] imagines the maid, while dusting, knocks the vase from the tabouret on which it stands. Bursting into bits, it emits a dense vapor, from which the reincarnated princess appears. Here is trouble. Our friend, the professor, is a married man, whose better-half is a buxom, unethereal person, who doesn’t believe in the “Soul Sister” tommyrot. She, of course, wants an explanation, which the nervous professor is unable to give, so he bolts and runs hatless out of the house, followed by the princess, both followed by Mrs. Professor. Into a restaurant he rushes, with the princess at his heels. At the restaurant, as they sit enjoying a repast, the reincarnated Theban lover appears and claims the princess. This, the old professor resents and is run through by the Egyptian just as the wife enters. Mortally wounded, he falls to the floor, from the sofa, [as] the scene changes and we find the professor awakening from a horrible dream, the pain of the sword thrust being induced by a severe attack of indigestion.
There are no videos of this or any pictures. Since the movie was about a Princess, I grabbed a photo of Linda Arvidson from her IMDb profile. She also has a nice picture on Wikipedia, linked, above. The film is listed for 1908 releases and there is a note/citation referencing a mention of this short in Horror In Silent Films: A Filmography 1896-1929, though IMDb does not tag this as a horror. The production company was American Mutoscope & Biograph Company, the first company in the US devoted entirely to film production and exhibition. There is a survival status of some print in the Library of Congress. I wish I had more. ~Vic
Throwback Thursday: Eclipse of Thales 585 BC
Two thousand, six hundred and five years ago, today (roughly speaking)…
The eclipse of Thales was a solar eclipse that was, according to The Histories of Herodotus, accurately predicted by the Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus. If Herodotus‘s account is accurate, this eclipse is the earliest recorded (per Isaac Asimov) as being known in advance of its occurrence. How, exactly, Thales predicted the eclipse remains uncertain […].
According to Herodotus, the appearance of the eclipse was interpreted as an omen and, interrupted a battle in a long-standing war between the Medes and the Lydians. The fighting immediately stopped and they agreed to a truce. Because astronomers can calculate the dates of historical eclipses, Isaac Asimov described this battle as the earliest historical event whose date is known with precision to the day and described the prediction as the birth of science.
The Mechanics of a Monumentally Difficult Prediction
The reason this astronomical event is thought of as being so important is that predicting a solar eclipse, compared with a lunar eclipse, is exceptionally difficult. The astronomer must not only calculate when it will occur but, where on Earth’s surface it will be visible […]. [In] a lunar eclipse, the moon passes through the Earth’s sun shadow and the phenomena is visible on the whole side of the Earth that is in night-time […]. [They] often last longer than an hour. In solar eclipses, however, the moon’s shadow falls across the Earth in a comparatively narrow path, with a maximum duration, at any given location, of about 7 1/2 minutes.
[What] makes Thales’ prediction [an] historical mystery is that historians know early Greeks, at large, didn’t have this essential lunar data and there are no other records of Greek astronomers in this period accurately predicting any other eclipses. Thus, it is thought by historians that the only place Thales’ advanced astronomical knowledge could have come from was Egypt. [It’s] known [that] Thales studied Egyptian techniques for measuring sections of land with rope […].
Returning [to] the war (mentioned above), after 15 years of fighting, on May 28, 585 BC, the armies of King Aylattes of Lydia were in battle with the forces of King Cyaxares of Medes (or, possibly, Astyages, his son), near the River Halys in what is, today, central Turkey. Chroniclers noted the heavens darkening and soldiers on both sides laying down their weapons in awe of the spectacle […]. [The] event ended both the battle and the war.
[A] Wired article says this famous astronomical event has been debated by hundreds of scholars for nearly two millennia and that some authorities believe Thales’ eclipse may have occurred 25 years earlier in 610 BC. But, the reason most agree with the 585 BC date is the record of the famous battle in Asia Minor ending when the day was suddenly turned to night.
Additional Reading & Sources:
The Battle of the Solar Eclipse (Ancient Origins)
Total Solar Eclipse of May 28, 0585 BC (Moon Blink)
Happy Birthday to Science (Web Archive)
Battle of the Eclipse (Wikipedia)
Eclipse of Thales (Wikipedia)
Predicted Solar Eclipse Stops Battle (Wired)
National Postal Worker Day & U.S. Postage Stamp Day
The 1st of July is a very busy day of celebration for the nation, leading up to Independence Day. It’s National Postal Worker Day, established in 1997 by a Seattle area carrier. I have two high school classmates that are postmen. They both really enjoy it. It can be a tough job, though.
If you are thinking “Neither rain nor sleet nor snow…” or something along those lines, the U.S. Post Office doesn’t have an “official” motto, really. There seems to be a bit of confusion from a modified translation of Herodotus’ quote regarding the courier service of the Persian Empire:
There is nothing in the world which travels faster than the Persian couriers. The whole idea is a Persian invention, and works like this: riders are stationed along the road, equal in number to the number of days the journey takes – a man and a horse for each day. Nothing stops these couriers from covering their allotted stage in the quickest possible time – neither snow, rain, heat, nor darkness. The first, at the end of his stage, passes the dispatch to the second, the second to the third, and so on along the line, as in the Greek torch-race which is held in honour of Hephaestus.
It’s also U.S. Postage Stamp Day…naturally. The very first postage stamp was issued on July 1, 1847 but, no one seems to know who created the National Day for it. Lost to history, I suppose.
Also celebrated today:
National Creative Ice Cream Flavors Day
National Gingersnap Day
Cheers and enjoy!