History

HISTORY

 

Immediately below is the history; click for related material on Novascope, Pathescope Monthly and Cina Chez Soi. And I couldn't think of a better place for these pix of the Pathé factory.

history history

A BRIEF HISTORY OF 9.5

Before his untimely death in 1981, Paul van Someren, a leading supporter of 9.5 and half of the Novascope duo, had been writing a history of 9.5. It was envisaged that it might form the introduction to a catalogue or other work. Paul having sadly left the history incomplete, Pat Moules has edited and completed it, and it now appears here for the first time. Copyright rests with Pat Moules. The story is not, of course, up to date; a history of the last 25 years is needed.

CHAPTER ONE: MONSIEUR PATHE'S HOME CINEMA

Movies in the home are almost as old as the cinema itself. Within a few years of Lumie's first public performance in 1895, modestly priced hand-cranked projectors designed for showing standard 35mm cinema films in the home were on the market, vying with the magic lantern and the talking machine as instruments for providing domestic entertainment. These early projectors left much to be desired - not only in terms of performance, but as regards convenience and safety as well. The employment of a naked flame as a light source in conjunction with the highly inflammable nitrate film was extremely dangerous and had in the home, just as in the cinema halls, occasionally lethal consequences.

The first attempts at producing a smaller, more convenient, size of film for home use were largely unsuccessful. They centred mainly, like the short-lived Biokam camera/projector of 1898, on 17.5mm (i.e. half 35mm) film - still with an inflammable nitrate base. Edison's Home Kinetoscope of 1912, using a non-flam film 22mm wide carrying three sets of pictures side-by-side, was an improvement but seems to have lacked effective marketing and a well chosen repertoire of inexpensive films. The keen home showman of Edwardian days could buy used 35mm cinema prints very cheaply and a large variety of subjects was available to the collector with good contacts in the business and a few pounds to spare. The relatively expensive Edison machine, with its library of films restricted to Edison productions, had apparently little appeal to the American public. The Home Kinetoscope system was not a commercial success and when a fire destroyed the film manufacturing machinery, it was abandoned.

During the years before the First World War, the most powerful force in the film industry was the

Path/font> organisation. Charles Pathand his brothers (Emile, Jacques and Theophile), former Parisian bistro proprietors, first started in the entertainment business by manufacturing and selling a carbon copy of Edison's cylinder phonograph. The PathFres' inexpensive "Coq" machine was a great success and the Path/font> factory in the Parisian suburb of Chatou was soon hard pressed turning out sufficient cylinder records to meet the demand from owners of Path/font> phonographs.

Charles Pathsoon became enthused with the new wonder of the age, the moving picture. In 1897 he set up a small studio at Vincennes, just outside Paris. The films, very short comedies and dramas, were an instant success and enabled Path to expand his organisation at a prodigious rate. In the years preceding the First World War, before the rise of Hollywood,

Path/font> films were highly regarded for their superior production values. By 1908 the PathCompany was an international empire, selling twice as many films in the United States as all the American companies combined. In these palmy days, Path/font> Fres were paying 90 per cent dividends to shareholders, despite ploughing much of their profit back into expansion.

In 1912, the same year in which Edison introduced his ill-fated Home Kinetoscope,

PathFres launched their 28mm "KOK" home projector - the name echoing that of their earlier success, the "Coq" cylinder phonograph. The "KOK", vaguely resembling a sewing machine in appearance and incorporating a dynamo to provide illumination, was well engineered, many examples having survived in good condition to the present day. At the same time, film libraries were established throughout Europe, consisting of reduced versions of Path films which had already been shown theatrically. A subsidiary company, Pathcope Ltd, was formed to market the projector and films in England, with showrooms in London at 64, Regent Street. A glance at a copy of the Pathcope library catalogue illustrates the emphasis that PathFres placed on the KOK as an educational medium: over half the films listed are of a documentary or educational nature. Gathering Lemons in Sicily, Ice Breaking In Finland and Prayer Time at the Great Mosque, Delhi are titles representative of this section of the catalogue. The entertainment films listed included many short "moral" dramas of the type popular in the early years of the century (In The Grip of Alcohol, The Lust of Gold) and comedies featuring the best known Continental comedians of the day - Max Linder, Charles Prince and "Little Moritz".

The First World War dealt a body blow to the French-centred

Path organisation. Charles Pathhimself went to the United States at the end of 1914 to try to build up his American branch, PathExchange. If the blow was damaging to PathFres, it was decisive to the growth of 28mm, which had been modestly encouraging. The KOK projector had been selling quite well to clubs and institutions, though the equipment and films were too costly to make much headway as home entertainment. Any further developments planned had now to be mothballed for the duration. In America, as yet unaffected by the war, things were different. There a former civil engineer, Willard Beach Cook, had registered the Pathcope name in 1913, at first importing KOK projectors and films from PathFres in Paris. Before long, however, he had designed and produced a more sophisticated machine (motor driven, mains operated) and had installed his own reduction printing apparatus.

Willard Cook set himself the task of building up a large library of 28mm films for hire to his customers and he did not restrict it to

Path productions. He negotiated the rights to a good number of films produced by American companies such as Biograph, Kalem and Mutual; today some of these films survive only in 28mm. An added attraction of these American prints for present day collectors is that they retain the original titles, whereas the English and French prints have standardised (often bilingual) plain replacements. At the end of the war, production of 28mm films in Europe was resumed, but the gauge does not appear to have been much further promoted by PathFres. The company (still very strong in France but severely weakened internationally by the growth of Hollywood production) was by now engaged in developing a new and more economical format for home movies. The Pathcope 28mm film catalogue, which had contained some reasonably up-to-date movies in 1912, must have looked positively antediluvian to 1919 film enthusiasts, who by now were accustomed to Hollywood's roistering Chaplin farces, Fairbanks adventures and William S Hart westerns. The 28mm library member continued to be offered such enticing gems of the 1900's as The Pork-Butcher's Nightmare, Dolly Does Not Wish Her Father to Marry Again and Mr Smith's Small Feet.

The

PathCina laboratories at Vincennes housed in 1920 a team of engineers hard at work developing the new amateur format. Their primary target for the project was economy in use - the lessons of the expensive KOK and Home Kinetoscope had been learned. The picture frame size selected was the smallest that Louis Didi and his fellow researchers considered could give adequate screen definition and illumination on the equipment of the day. Attention then turned on an economical format in which the chosen frame size could be encompassed, while at the same time enabling copies to be mass-produced cheaply. By 1922 the solution had been found: copies would be printed on safely film stock of normal 35mm width, but which would be provided with special perforations. This film after processing would be split into three strips, each 9.5mm wide (the narrow strips at the sides bearing the perforations for guiding the virgin film through the printing machines being discarded).

It was in many ways a brilliant solution. The central perforation of the 9.5mm film enabled the maximum use to be made of the emulsion area, the three-at-a-time format greatly reduced printing costs and the 35mm width meant that standard processing equipment could be readily adapted for the new system. An inexpensive projector and a selection of short films were prepared for the launch of the new 9.5mm film gauge in the autumn of 1922

. "PathBaby" was the name chosen for the product, with a jaunty little trademark of a chick emerging from its shell, and a slogan - "Le cinema chez soi". Charles Paths dream of a safe and inexpensive home cinema medium was about to be realised.

CHAPTER TWO: PATHBABY THE EARLY YEARS

The

PathBaby projector, unveiled to the public at an exhibition in October 1922, proved to be revolutionary in its field. Small, compact and easy to use, it was solidly constructed (by Etablissements Continsouza, a Path/font> subsidiary) and showed films contained in enclosed ten metre cassettes. After the leader had been placed in the gate channel, the film was threaded automatically on to the bobbin in the take-up chamber. The operator turned a well-balanced crank handle (two turns per second) and at the end of the film, a highly geared little handle enabled him to rewind the film speedily into the cassette. The running time of each film was cunningly extended by the incorporation of "notched" titles: a notch cut in the edge of the film triggered a mechanism which withdrew the transport claw just long enough to enable the audience to read the title, which was printed on a single frame. Static scenes were treated in the same way so that some of the early documentary ten metre reels run for as long as three or four minutes. A resistance was built into the base of the projector to enable the 6 volt 6 watt bulb to be powered from a 110 volt mains supply. A quite reasonably illuminated picture about two feet wide, with good definition, could be obtained at a short distance or "throw" - ideal for using the outfit in a room of modest size.

Once again (as with 28mm), Charles Pathlaid emphasis on the educational possibilities of his company's new development. He appointed his old friend Ferdinand Zecca as "artistic director" of

PathBaby, to supervise the establishment of the 9.5mm film catalogue. Zecca (1864-1947) had been one of Paths earliest colleagues back in the first days at the primitive Vincennes studio in the Avenue des Minimes. A former cafe entertainer, he began as an actor in early Path/font> productions (the first film in which he played the principal role being L'Amant de la Lune in 1902), but before long he was directing films for the company. In 1913 Pathsent him to New York to supervise Path Exchange, the company's US subsidiary, where he remained until his call back to take over PathBaby. Although listed as artistic director, Zecca appears to have had overall control of the SociFranise du PathBaby. Following the KOK precedent, educational subjects loomed large in Zecca's first catalogue selection which he divided into such categories as "Travel", "Agriculture", "Natural History", "Popularised Science", "Sports and Physical Culture" and "Religious and Biblical Films". In this last category came La Vie de Jesus, the 1906 Henri Andrni film edited into thirty-two ten metre chapters. Number one in the catalogue series, which was to run well into four figures before it came to an end in the late 1930's, was a little novelty item entitled Les Chiens Acrobates, featuring performing dogs. However, films of more popular domestic appeal were not forgotten in the initial release lists. Heavily abridged comedies featuring Harold Lloyd, Max Linder, Rigadin (Wiffles in the UK) and AndrDeed appeared, these being heavily laced with unnecessary and annoying subtitles, to spin out the projection time. For drama, Zecca favoured the productions of his old colleague Andrni, for by 1923 Le Jugement de Salomon (in three ten metre parts), Rebecca (four parts), Le Sacrifice d'Abraham, (two parts) and La Fille de Jephte (three parts) had all been issued. Before long these were joined by productions of the pre-World War 1 Path/font> subsidiary Films d'Art, notably L'Assassinat du Duc de Guise. This was released on 9.5mm in eight parts, the greater length allowing PathBaby's chief editor, Monsieur de Falticeni, to produce a more satisfying edition than had been the case with the first, very short, drama releases.

Some of the first releases were even in colour. For some years

Path/font> had been colouring 35mm films by means of a stencil process called Patholor. Difficult enough to apply to 35mm frames, it is surprising that the system could produce results on 9.5mm at all. However, the Patholor films which the author has seen -Miss Flutter, Kalidja - La Danseuse Tunisienne and travel items such as Trouville - are very pleasant to look at, having a 'hand-tinted postcard" effect.

The

PathBaby films were printed and processed at the PathCinema laboratories at Joinville-le-Pont, an industrial suburb of Paris. This plant had been much enlarged since its establishment by Charles Pathin 1903; now one wing was entirely devoted to 9.5mm film production. Contemporary pictures show large numbers of women at work on lines of perforating, notching, slitting and spooling machines. Smart showrooms and offices were sited in central Paris at 22 Rue Lafayette.

The little Baby projector was within a short time a commercial success, its value in the home being enhanced by the introduction in 1923 of a companion camera. Like the projector, it was hand turned and used reversal film housed in daylight-loading chargers; processing could be undertaken by the user with a

Path/font> developing outfit or alternatively entrusted to the company's own plant. Path Cina naturally wanted their new baby to be adopted universally as the medium for home movies and through their overseas affiliates began setting up a world-wide network of distributors. Nowhere outside France however, was 9.5mm to be as effectively marketed as in Britain. Zecca appointed a bilingual Frenchman, Christian Cabirol, as manager of the new enterprise Pathof France Ltd, with offices in Lisle Street, off Leicester Square. The old Pathcope 28mm library was wound up, and from the start Cabirol, threw himself enthusiastically into the promotion of the Baby camera and projector, which were to be seen in the advertising pages of practically every British photographic publication. To cater for English projector owners, PathBaby in Paris prepared and printed English-titled versions of a large proportion of their first releases.

Evidence of hasty preparation appears in these documentaries and comedies whose titles are peppered with awkward literal translations and not a few downright mistakes. In Britain, just as in France

, it is the little documentaries that often still turn up in junk shops, indicating that these subjects must have been printed in considerable quantities. These copies were presumably originally purchased for educational use, for one cannot imagine that the titles can have been particularly attractive to the prospective buyer seeking domestic entertainment: The Germination of a Broad Bean, The Earthen Pot and the Iron Pot, Building a Ship Of Ferro Concrete and Salt In Vend are representative. But the travelogues that turn up are of interest to the present day collector. Most were filmed in the first decade of the century and picture a long vanished world. As Gerald McKee has said in his authoritative work "Film Collecting":

"For some reason there are film collectors who fight shy of them, believing them to be naive and too full of titles. But they are worthy of attention, their picture quality is always good, sometimes outstanding, and despite their age most of them were printed well over forty years ago - they are still surprisingly reasonable in price".

Home 9.5 16 Multi-gauge 17.5 28 Pix Miscellany

Elsewhere in Europe subsidiaries were being established to handle the 9.5mm products,

Pathex GmbH in Dusseldorf, PathAmateur SA in Lucerne, PathItalia in Rome, PathBaby Ltda in Lisbon and PathSA in Madrid. Leading photographic wholesalers were appointed in Copenhagen and Vienna as distributors. For all these markets, the burgeoning 9.5mm division of the Joinville laboratory was busy printing versions of the little 10 metre films in their own languages. It is surprising indeed to discover just how extensive was this enterprise, whose scope has never been equalled in the "printed" home movie field. By the mid-Twenties, the Paris and London concerns were exporting considerable quantities of films and equipment to their dealer networks in the French overseas possessions and the British Empire respectively, while the Iberian affiliates had established thriving outlets in South America. In addition to the language versions already mentioned, films titled in Arabic and Japanese have been unearthed by collectors in recent years, indicating less successful forays by PathBaby into other world markets.

Meanwhile in America,

Pathex Inc., a subsidiary of the New York company PathExchange, was finding the going tough against Kodak's 16mm gauge, introduced at more or less the same time as 9.5mm. At first Pathex imported the same English-titled releases as were supplied from Joinville to the London company, but by 1925 a PathExchange editor was preparing films specifically for the domestic 9.5mm market, which were printed in their own New York laboratory. Naturally, these were in the main abridged versions of films distributed theatrically by PathExchange, particularly Hal Roach comedies and extracts from the weekly "PathReview" film magazine. Although the films were attractively priced in comparison with 16mm, Pathex films were never very popular in the USA. Lacking effective marketing, 9.5mm did not provide serious competition to Kodak's gauge and after the PathExchange organisation was wound up in 1931, little was ever heard again of our pioneer format.

Only a few years after the introduction of the Baby projector, the limitations imposed by the ten metre reel size had become irritating to users and

PathBaby editors alike. A minor modification enabled the projector to be adapted for the projection of double length twenty metre reels - known as "G" ("Grand") films in France but merely catalogued as "60ft" films in England. This development coincided with a change in Zecca's film releasing policy: a new series of films (with catalogue numbers in the "10,000" range), was introduced principally for export (i.e. non-French) markets. Many of these films derived from dramas and comedies produced by companies outside the Path/font> organisation, the 9.5mm reproduction rights of which had been purchased by PathBaby. Some of the most interesting multi-60ft releases in the English catalogue come from this series - above all the films produced by the early (1915-17) Hollywood studio, Triangle: The Gunfighter with William S Hart (released as The Outlaw, 3 x 60ft), Sister of Six with Bessie Love (Little Mother, 2 x 60ft), Station Content with Gloria Swanson (The Tempest, 3 x 60ft) and American Aristocracy with Douglas Fairbanks (The First Man, 3 x 60ft) are among them. Fragmentary they may be, but the skill of the PathBaby editors has retained some of the flavour of the originals in these short editions, which in some instances preserve all that exists today of these interesting productions.

From the foregoing, one of the English company's most annoying practices will have become apparent: the wholesale changing of original titles. The reason for this habit, for which Christian Cabirol must take prime responsibility, is mystifying and has never been satisfactorily explained. One suggestion has been that the British rights in some of the films were held by other theatrical distributors, so heavy disguise was thought prudent for the Pathcope versions. But this explanation cannot apply to the Hal Roach comedies; many of these appeared on 9.5mm under changed titles, yet the worldwide distribution rights to these films were held by the

Path/font> organisation. Nor were Pathcope's titles invariably translations of those of the French 9.5mm versions (except for the very earliest releases) as some collectors have suggested. In fact, the titles of other European 9.5 versions are sometimes far closer in translation to the original American titles than those of the English editions. Whatever the reason, Pathcope title changes have provided fertile ground for amateur researchers over many years.

In 1927,

PathBaby bowed to the inevitable demand for longer films. Ets. Continsouza designed an attachment which could be easily fitted to existing Baby projectors and enabled the user to project 100 metre films. Designated "Super Reels", these were roughly equivalent in projection time to a standard 35mm reel: with their "notched" titles they ran for between fifteen and twenty minutes and freed the operator from the irksome necessity of rewinding every few minutes. The growing length of 9.5mm films made this development essential: pity the poor projectionist who had to crank through 47 "G" cassettes to show Gances Napoln, or even 60 to run Le Bouif Errant.

The "Baby" was now out of its infant stage. The

Path/font> user, his projector equipped with a "Super Attachment" and the recently introduced electric motor, could look forward to purchasing and hiring an increasing number of first class films in editions of satisfying length. The 9.5mm gauge was about to enter the decade of its greatest glories.

Home 9.5 16 Multi-gauge 17.5 28 Pix Miscellany

CHAPTER THREE: THE VINTAGE YEARS

In 1929 Charles Pathretired from the film business to a villa in Monte Carlo, where he was to spend the rest of his life. Effective control of

PathCina, still a major force in the European industry, passed into the hands of a French financier, Bernard Natan (nTanenzapf). In later years, Charles Pathwas to write bitterly of Natan, whose illegal financial manipulations were to drive the company (renamed PathNatan) into insolvency by the mid-Thirties. Natan was later placed on trial for these malpractices during the Occupation, a prosecution largely staged for anti-semitic motives. (Newsreel shots of this event were included in Marcel Ophuls' Le Chagrin et la Pitie (1971)).

It is ironic that

PathBaby's golden years coincided with a period of disaster for its parent company. Golden they certainly were: throughout Europe it appeared that 9.5mm was indeed, in the words of Paths British advertisements, "sweeping the board for home movies". The introduction of the super reel encouraged Ferdinand Zecca to initiate an extensive new programme of film releases. In France the new releases were grouped into "chapters", each consisting of five 20 metre reels, which PathBaby would mount on super reels at the customer's request. The films included the work of the most celebrated French directors of the Twenties: Julien Duvivier (Le Tourbillon de Paris, Maman Colibri, Au Bonheur des Dames), Marcel l'Herbier, (LArgent, Le Diable au Coeur), Henri Fescourt (Les Miserables, La Glu, L'Occident), Jacques Feyder (Carmen, Visages dEnfants) and Abel Gance (La Roue, La Dixie Symphonie, Napoln). For countries outside France, a series of super reel films was launched commencing with number S/525, RenLeprince's Etre Ou Ne Pas Etre. At first, this series consisted principally of one or two reel versions of French films which had already appeared on 9.5mm in France. Examples listed in the early leaflets issued by Pathof France Ltd in London (entitled "Baby Cin Chats") included films featuring Nicholas Rimsky - Ce Cochin de Morin (The Misfortunes of Maurice). Paris en Cinq Jours (Paris in Five Days) - and two fine dramas, Baroncelli's Pecheurs dIslande (Fishers of the Isle, 2 reels) and the aforementioned Visages dEnfants (mystifyingly re-titled Mists of Error, 2 reels). These were supplemented with comedies featuring Chaplin and Harold Lloyd.

By the beginning of 1929, Zecca could look with pride at his company's achievement.

Path/font> 9.5mm's position in the European home movie market was unassailable: its major competitor, Kodak's 16mm, limped well behind in volume of sales. The Baby projector had been steadily improved over the years - it had now a double claw and a slightly brighter lamp. For the enthusiast, all manner of exotic accessories were available: quality lenses by Krauss and Hermagis, "super-light" and "anti-thermal" condensers, a projector tilting device, an "amplifier" (really a supplementary lens to give a bigger picture at a given throw), a colour wheel and so on. A much-improved cincamera (the Motocamera), available with a wide range of excellent lenses, had appeared - though its designers had produced for it a new type of film-loading cassette or "charger" incompatible with the earlier hand-turned Baby camera: the first example of the infuriating lack of standardisation which was so to bedevil 9.5mm. However, film emulsions had improved with the merger of Paths film manufacturing with that of Kodak's French interests.

On the catalogue front, interesting developments were afoot. Zecca was fully aware that the selection of films was deficient in one most important respect: the American cinema was poorly represented. One can assume that overtures to the major Hollywood companies of the day MGM, Paramount and United Artists - were rebuffed, those organisations guarding the rights in their films as jealously as they do today. The up-and-coming Warner Brothers, however, proved more open to persuasion and a deal was signed in late 1929 giving

PathBaby 9.5mm reproduction rights for a number of Vitagraph features for a limited period. Vitagraph had been one of the pioneer American companies and had produced some excellent films in the years up to 1925, when it was taken over by the Warners. Captain Blood was the most spectacular Vitagraph film in the Path/font> package, a production featuring some finely-staged sea battles with full-size galleons. This was the only film in this series which did not suffer a title change for its British 9.5mm release. The rest were all disguised under a variety of inept titles and in some cases, oddly, the names of the characters were changed. A sub-title on most of the films misleadingly told the audience that they were about to see "a Warner Production".

Pampered Youth (Two To One, 2 reels), The Ninety and Nine (Through Fire, 4 x 60ft reels - with Warner Baxter and Colleen Moore), and Pioneer Trails (Out West, 2 reels) are other Vitagraph films popular with collectors today. Surprisingly quite a number of the Vitagraph productions were not issued in France. Perhaps they were squeezed out of

PathBaby's heavy release schedules by the number of French productions - but to confuse present day researchers, a number of these "missing" Vitagraphs were printed with French titles for Francophone export markets! Conversely several actual Warner productions - like The Lighthouse by the Sea, with Rin Tin Tin - appeared only in France, as did items purchased from American minors like FBO and Principal Pictures. Two other Poverty Row outfits provided items which swelled the British catalogue - Gotham and Preferred Pictures. Exclusive Rights (The Bickel Affair, 2 reels) is probably the best of those from the latter, an interesting gangster-type picture with an anti-capital punishment theme.

As well as advertising widely in the press, both the French and English companies produced magazines to promote their wares.

"Le Cinema Chez Soi," a little monthly journal printed in blue - the house colour- first appeared in 1926, under the editorship of AndrBreton. The early issues contain, in addition to short illustrated synopses of new film releases, rather pompous articles on "The Film in Education" and suchlike topics. These were often written by members of the "Comitde Patronage", a body established by PathBaby to help further the use of 9.5mm in education, comprised of the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, senior civil servants and professors as well as Monsieur de Falticeni, PathBaby's chief editor. Reports of the Comits meetings appear in the 1926 and 1927 issues of "Le Cinema Chez Soi", but thereafter silence reigns over the deliberations, if any there were, of this august body. By 1929, however, the magazine had brightened up and the film synopses had become considerably more informative. In 1934, under the lively editorship of Lucien Pierron, the journal became more popular in tone and even included a column of gossip from the film world.

Also in 1929,

Pathof France Ltd adopted the style of its 28mm predecessor and became Pathcope Ltd. From September of that year their small newsletter "Baby CinChats" was expanded into the "Pathcope Monthly", made available free to customers through photographic dealers. The first issue was profusely illustrated and the editor expressed the hope that "the photographs - taken from the films themselves - will be a great help to readers in making their choice of films". Before this, indeed, their customers had had little more to guide them than a numerical list, giving titles and categories of films. The editor continued

bullet "We would specially recommend the "big" film this month: "Good Dog". The photography of this film is excellent: see all the tones of light and shade on the fine dog's silky coat, the graceful agility of his movements which, at the same time, are full of almost human expression. Rin Tin Tin is certainly the "hero", but the girl and man of the piece are no less attractive and their story is a romantic one which cannot fall to appeal to old and young alike."

This was a flagrant piece of misrepresentation: Good Dog was In fact extracted from a 1927 Gotham film The Silent Avenger featuring a dog called "Thunder ". The Rin Tin Tin label was later misapplied to two other canine melodramas - Avenging Dick (from Baree, Son of Kazan, with "Wolf") and Furax (from King of the Pack, with "Peter the Great").

The early issues of the

"Pathcope Monthly" do show, however, the Super Reel release programme getting into its stride. The Chaplin Mutuals (abridged to one reel, generally very expertly) headed the comedy lists - films which were to remain a staple of the catalogue right up to the company's demise- followed by Hal Roach comedies featuring Snub Pollard, Our Gang and Glenn Tryon. By 1930, the "Monthly" had advertised the release of most of the French silent dramas which are so treasured by collectors today: La Terre Promise (The Promised Land), the fascinating Le Joueur dEchecs (The Chess Player), Koenigsmark and the RenClair classic Le Chapeau de Paille dItalie (The Leghorn Hat) - all two reels in length - among them.

Home 9.5 16 Multi-gauge 17.5 28 Pix Miscellany

At this time the print quality of films emanating from the Joinville plant was at its peak. Some of the earlier multi-reel 10 and 20 metre films had suffered from variation in contrast and density from reel to reel, but now the

Path/font> technicians were achieving quality that can still astound present day enthusiasts. Working from special low-contrast duplicating positives struck from the original camera negatives, the laboratory staff were closely supervised in their grading and printing operations, while the developing baths were stringently controlled. The definition, gradation and sheer sparkle of prints from this period - Captain Blood for example - are a lasting testimonial to the success of their efforts.

Even at this comparatively early point in

Pathcope's history, customers were grumbling about the company's policy of cutting films. In January 1930 a "Monthly" reader wrote

bullet "I would certainly pay a higher price for films of Jackie Coogan, etc., provided the films were not cut up too much, which makes them very hard to follow ... My only grudge against 9.5mm at present is library films and until more recent films made up of say 5 super reels are released, I am not going to renew my subscription. Instead of releasing bits of films each month why not release one complete film a month or even one every two months ... Let's have quality and not quantity!"

The editor riposted that indeed quality not quantity was the company's aim in cutting down "the long (very often over-long) standard productions to one or two Super Reels. In most cases films are considerably improved by being so cut".

Until 1930 the

Pathcope user had no choice of projector. The venerable "Baby" (or "Home Movie" as it was called latterly in Britain) was still to remain in production for a few years, notching up a production run of nearly 400,000 before being discontinued. But Pathcope in that year made a determined bid for the mass market with the "Kid" projector ("Made in England, at Manchester" according to the advertisements), priced at only 55 shillings, half the price of the original machine. Although simpler in design, the little Kid gave results hardly inferior to the larger projector on the screen. But it had one major drawback: the film channel or "gate" was not accessible for cleaning. The Kid was to be responsible for much heavy film scratching, becoming the be noire of those dealers who ran film libraries. PathBaby in France, on the other hand, saw a demand for a more elaborate machine than the Baby. The "Lux" projector introduced in 1931 and again built by Ets. Continsouza was their answer. Much more expensive than its predecessor, it was designed from the start as a motor-driven machine taking super reels. It boasted complete freedom from "flicker" and more powerful lighting, with fan cooling. An even brighter lamp rated at 100 watts was available as an optional extra - a development which was to hasten the end of notched titles, as we shall see.

1930 brought two major developments in the 9.5mm catalogue. In England, Christian Cabirol had for long been keen to build up a selection of British films for his customers. A few minor productions had appeared on 9.5mm during the late Twenties (mainly from a dull series called "The Romance of History" -The Story of Nell Gwynne, The Flight of King Charles II, The Last Crusade, etc.) but now a deal with John Maxwell of British International Pictures enabled Cabirol to bring some of the best British films of the

silent era, produced at the famous Elstree studios, to the 9.5mm screen. The first fruit of this contract was actually the Anglo-German co-production Song (Show Life, 4 reels), with Anna May Wong, released in October 1930. But in 1932, with a full reduction printing and processing plant installed at Pathcope's newly built Cricklewood works at 970, North Circular Road, a fine series was inaugurated with Dupont's Moulin Rouge. To follow were Piccadilly (again directed by Dupont) and three Hitchcock films, The Ring, The Manxman and Blackmail, among many others. The films printed from negatives prepared at Cricklewood were allocated catalogue numbers in a "30,000" series. With the establishment of this London laboratory, PathBaby's Joinville plant began sending English-titled negatives of their "international" super reel and other series to Pathcope for the 9.5mm prints to be struck. The traffic was not all one way, however, for the British company's original film release schedules (which have survived and are in Garth Pedler's possession), show that between 1930 and 1934, French titled versions of Pathcope releases, particularly the BIP films, were prepared at Cricklewood under Cabirols supervision for issue in PathBaby's "International" catalogue series.

 

The second event of 1930 was even more momentous for the development of 9.5mm.

PathBaby negotiated the rights ("at great expense", emphasised the "Monthly") for the release on 9.5mm of the classics of the German cinema produced by the great UFA company and its affiliates. This purchase was a commendably far-sighted move on Zecca's part, since, for all their popularity with collectors today, the films could scarcely have been regarded as popular entertainment at the time. In June 1931, the first of the package appeared - Dupont's Variete (Vaudeville, 4 reels) with Emil Jannings and Lya de Putti. One of the most highly regarded of the UFA productions, Variete, is today much sought after in its beautifully edited Pathcope edition - a model of its kind. In fact, the whole series of UFA films fared well at the hands of the Patheditors, who for the first time produced versions of uniform length for the French, English and other markets. Following Variete came Das Cabinet Des Dr Caligari, Lang's Die Nibelungen and Metropolis, and others, released month by month throughout 1931 and 1932.

Although the first UFA features were issued in Britain with notched titles, that unique

Path/font> feature was on the way out. The introduction of the 100 watt lamp for the "Lux" projector had resulted in a chorus of complaints from the trade, particularly in France. The heat from this lamp, they complained, was literally frying the titles on their library prints. Furthermore, the resultant distortion to the film perforations was causing damage from projector claws on subsequent viewings. Path/font> bowed to the pressure, and from December 1931 films with running titles began appearing in the release lists, without any prior announcement. It was not until some time had gone by that the "Pathcope Monthly" belatedly advised readers that "the two letters SB before the reference number denote that the film has un-notched titles" and further that the 100 watt lamp "must only be used with un-notched films".

New releases with notched titles continued to be announced up to 1936 in ever decreasing numbers, their ultimate fate having been sealed in early 1933 with the appearance of the "200B", a projector of British design, made, like the Kid, by Salford Electrical Instruments Ltd., which did not incorporate any device for stopping at notched titles. The 200B, which was exported to France and sold there as the "B", was the first

Path/font> 9.5mm machine of more-or-less conventional design, with a 200 watt lamp and sprocket feed. Priced at 15 (considerably less than the Lux) it sold consistently well in the years up to World War II and it remains - in Britain anyway - the projector that usually first comes to the minds of older home movie enthusiasts when they think of 9.5mm. For owners of the 200B, Pathcope offered sets of running titles which could be spliced into many of the earlier super reel releases to replace the notched frames.

 

Running title "SB" ("Super Bobine") reels did not arrive in France until 1933, when a new series of films called

"Pathe-Selection" was announced, the title being an umbrella one to cover features which the company considered outstanding. Der Heilige Berg (La Montagne Sacr 3 reels) and Metropolis (5 reels) were the first to appear. Some French collectors, however, expressed disappointment that PathBaby had not taken the opportunity to introduce reels of greater length (120 metres, or 400 feet) to compensate for the shorter running time brought about by the abandonment of notched titles. Some the best films in the "PathSelection" were not issued in England, notably Jacques Feyders Crainquebille (4).

Discontent concerning

Path s policy of cutting films rumbled on throughout the Thirties. In 1934 the editor of the "Pathcope Monthly" was stung into print on this subject by the appearance of a letter in the contemporary periodical, "Home Movies and Home Talkies". The writer, a Cambridge student, had complained particularly of Pathcope's treatment of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and of "its almost unrecognisable form on 9.5mm stock". "Does Cutting Spoil Classical Films?" was the question posed in the "Monthly". Unsurprisingly there was no doubt in the editor's mind:

Now why should you be subjected to viewing films as "straight" reductions from 35mm to 9.5mm size just because the production was originally cut to a prescribed length to conform to a given time of showing in the standard size cinema? There will be lack of variety in your Home Movie programme of the evening with one film, as cut by the film‑editor having one eye on the clock to cheek the duration of the film's exhibition, taking up the whole time, as compared with the showing of several films consisting of condensed versions of the original productions. With straight reduction the whole of a Super Reel might be devoted to the displaying of a series of remote incidents connected with the story of the film. Consequently the story will lag and the interest of your audience fade for a time ‑and all because the 35mm film had to have a definite screen time! Therefore, as entertainment, the 9.5mm film version seems the better of the two presentations for the home. The theme of the film has been adhered to closely, but some of the "shots" in the 35mm film have been reduced in length and others deleted because they have an insignificant relation to the principal interest. Departing from the consideration of condensed versions of classical films as offered by Pathcope for home showing, what of the demand for "straight" reduction prints for those who would preserve in their entirety and for all time examples of the master‑craftsmanship of the film world? Will they purchase outright a reduction print from a 35mm reel that has little bearing on the film story, or alternatively, do they intend to hire such a reel because the film‑editor thought fit to include the material? It hardly seems worth while doing so. Finally, in support of additional film‑editing, is the view of a leading screen player who saw a condensed version of a well-known film in which he appeared. His observations were a decided reference of praise, telling of pleasant surprise at the improvement evinced in the 9.5mm print as compared with the original 35mm version.

A forceful rejoinder came a few months later from a dissatisfied reader:

May I say that I think your article ... the most absurd I have ever read. May I also at the same time state prior to this article I had already decided to discontinue my subscription to your library for this very reason. When I see a film like the "White Hell of Pitz Palu", I do not want your version but the original masterpiece I saw in the cinemas: how can you be expected to appreciate the director's finer points when your tracks are smeared all over them? You might as well say any of Dickens is too long and ought to be cut. I think you would quail before such a suggestion, yet you calmly suggest cutting these films for the amateur as though he was some form of imbecile animal not fitted to think for himself. Even if there is such a being in existence, why not issue the versions you are now issuing and let the more thinking and reasoning amateurs have films that interest them, not bore them as they do at present. Granted your version does contain a semblance to the original, but this is so remote that it is almost invisible, the producer's idea and inspiration being obliterated by your so‑called editing, which In reality is nothing more than mutilation and distortion. If you care to issue films that have not been cut, even if it meant hiring 10 reels, I would do so. As it is, I decline to waste my money.

Today we are entitled to take a more balanced view of Paths cutting. Whilst we collectors may sigh for unabridged prints of certain films, or point to the dolorous excision of important sequences in some instances, it behoves us to remember that it was the reasonable price of the 9.5mm abridgements that enabled sufficient copies to be sold to make them at all affordable or accessible today. Had Path/font> taken a purist view, 9.5mm films might be as rare (and as expensive) as Kodak's 16mm ex-library prints. Furthermore it is undeniable that many of the "potboilers" which formed a not inconsiderable part of the Path/font> silent catalogue were markedly improved as home entertainment by cutting.

Home 9.5 16 Multi-gauge 17.5 28 Pix Miscellany

Although the

Path/font> organisation had a virtual monopoly in the 9.5mm printed film field - no other company in the 1930's appears to have produced prints in bulk - the growing importance of the gauge encouraged other Continental and British manufacturers into the production of equipment. On the Continent, the most prestigious of these was the old-established Swiss company, Paillard. Their camera (the spool-loading H9) and projectors (the Paillard-Bolex PA and dual 9.5mm/16mm DA) were built to a standard of precision not achieved by Pathat that time. The Paillard Bolex projectors command high prices today and are the best choice for the showing of notched-title films. Eumig, an Austrian company which today is the largest projector manufacturer in the world, was in the Thirties another important manufacturer of 9.5mm apparatus. PathBaby, obviously impressed by the Eumig camera - the first to incorporate a coupled exposure meter, imported a quantity which they sold in France as the Path/font> "CinRex". The "Rex" label was also applied in France to Eumig's projector, an advanced design with illumination which was very efficient for its day,

British manufacturers aimed at a wider market than that sought by the Europeans, with their quality equipment. Much ingenuity was displayed in the development of two combined camera/projector instruments, the Campro and the Midas. Both were, as one might expect, hopelessly inefficient as projectors and neither was to remain on the market for long. Projectors appeared with names like Coronet, Bingoscope, Alef and Dekko; these were low- priced and sometimes little more than toys. Despite the modest cost of these machines, none provided serious competition to the

Pathcope machines: only with the arrival of the Specto in the late Thirties did a worthy British rival appear. Specto Ltd of Windsor kept their classic design, modified over the years, in production as a 9.5mm projector until the 1960's.

Although the production of silent films had virtually ceased by the end of 1929,

PathBaby did not intend to see its catalogue made up entirely of ageing material. The answer was to prepare mute versions of sound films made at PathNatan's Cinomans studios. Since most of the features made by the Socides Cinomans were commercial and artistic flops, being exceedingly static and talky, it is not surprising that these films issued on 9.5mm from 1931 onwards - were not popular with projector owners. Despite consistent demands from collectors throughout the Thirties for the release of more silents from the 1920's, very few feature films from the silent era were issued on either side of the Channel after 1935. Had Path/font> been able to release mute clips from popular Hollywood hits of the moment, as was done by Super 8 distributors 35 years later, all might have been well. As it was, few of the features chosen for mute presentation were of any interest, apart from Leni Riefenstahl's Das Blaue Licht.

Newsreel items were, however, a different proposition and surviving company records show that short news documentaries achieved very good sales. French users could subscribe to the

"PathGazette", a 10 metre (later 20 metre) reel issued fortnightly, the contents of which were culled from the "PathJournal" cinema newsreels. And in Britain, Pathcope instituted in April 1934 the "Super Gazette", released monthly as a Super reel from PathGazette" and "Pathone News" material. Sponsored films were also popular: by 1935 sixteen titles were available on free loan from such well-known manufacturers as Gibbs Toothpaste, Cadbury's Chocolates, Ovaltine, Shell/BP and the Cooperative Wholesale Society.

Two developments in 1935 strengthened the British company's premier position in the home movie field. In August of that year, the first 9.5mm Mickey Mouse cartoons appeared, the first fruits of a long-term deal struck by Cabirol after much negotiation with the Disney organisation. Right from the start these cartoons sold in phenomenal quantities, particularly in their 30ft and 60ft editions. The bulk of these, naturally, went to young enthusiasts who owned the cheaper 9.5mm projectors. This was a market much courted by

Pathcope, particularly after the introduction of their cheapest-ever machine in November 1935, designed to replace the "Imp" (a more expensive version of the old "Kid"), introduced the previous year without great success. A big advertising campaign in children's publications such as the "Boy's Own Paper" promoted this new British machine - the "Ace" which was priced at only 37/6d. The original model was hand-cranked and took 30ft and 60ft reels in their enclosed cassettes, youngsters being lured by the prospect of projecting "genuine Mickey Mouse and Charlie Chaplin films costing from only 3/6d each". For many a lad of the time, the gift or purchase of the little Ace was to be the start of a lifetime fascination with the movies, including not a few who are prominent in the industry today.

By 1937, the 9.5mm gauge reigned supreme at the lower end of the market - in Britain and the Empire as well as Europe. Serious amateur film-makers, however, were turning increasingly to 16mm, for which gauge an ever-widening range of precision equipment was becoming available. Denigrators of 9.5mm, in the correspondence columns of "Home Movies and Home Talkies" and "Amateur Cine World", pointed to the gauge's alleged susceptibility to film-scratch and perforation damage (really only a problem with toy or badly adjusted machines) and complained of the inconsistent results of

Pathcope's processing service. And to complicate matters, another competitor had appeared: Kodak's 8mm. It had first been introduced in the USA in 1932 in an attempt to bring down the cost of amateur filming and was marketed in Europe shortly thereafter. By the late Thirties, 8mm had much to commend it to home moviemakers: well-constructed equipment, an inexpensive and efficient colour film (four minutes of Kodachrome for only 17/-) and Kodak's matchless processing service. Pathcope could only offer the technically primitive Dufaycolor process which was expensive at 10/6d for little more than a minute of screen time. Nevertheless, for low-priced apparatus and the selection of printed films to buy, 8mm lagged far behind 9.5mm. Many years were to elapse before the smaller gauge could offer a wide enough range of package movies to interest would-be collectors. 9.5mm's appeal to home projectionists was to be markedly enhanced by a new project on which Path/font> engineers were working throughout 1936, one which they hoped would counter the growth of 16mm.

Home 9.5 16 Multi-gauge 17.5 28 Pix Miscellany

CHAPTER FOUR: HOME TALKIES

After the success of Warner Brothers' The Jazz Singer had sounded the death knell of the silent cinema, it was inevitable that the home showman, ever eager to emulate his professional counterpart, would demand talking pictures. The first attempt within the

Path/font> organisation to introduce home talkies came, surprisingly, from the struggling Pathex company of New York. In 1930 they marketed a motor-driven Baby projector coupled to an electrically-amplified disc player, the whole outfit being lavishly housed in a walnut cabinet. A selection of short and feature films with accompanying sound-discs was offered for hire by the Pathex Library, which included early Universal talkie features such as The Night Ride with Edward G Robinson. The depth of the Depression, with banks foundering on all sides, did not prove the apposite time to launch such an expensive new product and the Pathex talkie system disappeared with the company's liquidation in 1931. Sound-on-disc experiments on similar lines were conducted by PathBaby in France but no equipment or films were ever officially marketed there - possibly because its parent company had other ideas up its sleeve. Although the Pathex system was demonstrated in Selfridges, the London department store, the only 9.5mm, synchronised disc equipment advertised to the British public was the "Talkiefone", a Baby projector coupled to an acoustic gramophone allegedly invented by a Mrs Sheldon-Wilkinson. This however was designed for amateur movie-makers and no printed films were offered for the equipment.

By 1930, sound-on-disc systems were being rapidly superseded in cinemas by the far more convenient RCA and Western Electric photographic sound-on-film processes.

PathNatan, who had obtained a licence for the RCA system, decided to apply it to their 17,5mm film gauge. 17.5mm - the width used in the 1898 Biokam - had been re-introduced by Path in 1926 for their "Rural" projector. The idea had been to develop a system which cut costs for the operators of small country cinemas. By designing a film with little square perforations and a frame with heavily rounded corners, Path/font> could boast of a usable picture area considerably bigger than that of 16mm.

 

Although designed for professional use, the silent 17.5mm machine was offered by

Paths Rural division (an operation separate from PathBaby) to the public together with a library service. Some years later, in 1932, a 17.5mm silent projector (the "Rex") and a camera were offered by Pathcope. The small selection of films offered was notable for the inclusion of much longer versions of films already available on 9.5mm, such as Raymond Bernard's Le Joueur d'Echecs and a seventeen-reel version of Gance's Napoln. Many of the prints were tinted and all had remarkably fine print quality. Pathcope cannot have been very enthusiastic about the Rex, for after a single advertisement in the "Monthly" and a reference in their annual equipment catalogue, no further promotion was given to either the projector or film library.

In 1931, 16mm sound-on-film was developed and, not to be outdone,

PathNatan countered with 17.5mm sound. The layout adopted for the film paralleled that of the 16mm European (DIN) system: the sound track, on the left of the projected picture, replacing one set of perforations. Paths publicity emphasised that the 17.5mm track was the same width as that on standard 35mm film, whereas 16mm could only provide room for a narrower track, thus necessitating optical "squeezing" in reduction or costly re-recording. The 17.5mm projector was, true to Path/font> tradition, unconventional in design, involving a tortuous film path, a non-standard lamp which doubled as an exciter for reading the track and control of volume achieved by varying the amount of light falling on the photo-electric cell.

In 1933,

PathNatan asked its affiliate Path Pictures Ltd, theatrical distributors and producers, to handle 17.5mm in Britain. The firm imported the projector, rather reluctantly it would appear, and set up a library in their Wardour Street premises consisting of complete reduction prints of films for which they possessed the distribution rights. 17.5mm did not make much headway under their lethargic control, so at the French company's direction, Pathcope assumed responsibility for the gauge in the autumn of 1934. Christian Cabirol promoted the new product with his customary vigour, arranging for the projector to be constructed in England (by Standard Telephones & Cables Ltd, in Kent) and taking over the PathPictures 17.5mm library lock stock and barrel. Although PathPictures continued to make their own films available to Pathcope for 17,5mm release, Cabirol became a well-known figure in Wardour Street (London's film business centre then as now), negotiating with other independent distributors for film rights.

From December 1935, the

"Pathcope Monthly" added synopses of new 17.5mm releases to its pages; many of these also appeared in mute form on 9.5mm throughout 1936 and 1937. 17.5mm sound proved to have grave defects. The small single perforation seemed inadequate for the strain imposed by film transport and this, coupled with poor design of the projector, resulted in severe film damage. Today a large proportion of such prints that come to light are unprojectable due to torn perforations. Just how widespread the gauge's use was in the mid-Thirties is difficult to determine. Path/font> publicity claimed that half the cinemas in France used 17.5mm exclusively, but enquiries have suggested that this was a gross overestimate. (See "Path/font> Rural" in the 17.5 section for more on this). Certainly, most of the 35mm films distributed by the French concern were available in 17.5mm reductions, but the gauge's position was not strong enough to enable it to survive the war. In Britain, it fought a losing battle against 16mm sound, despite the cachet of being used in the first "Train Cinema" by the London and North Eastern Railway; by 1939 when the final 17.5mm releases appeared there were a number of excellent 16mm projectors on the market and most trade laboratories were equipped to produce 16mm reduction prints. In contrast, no company other than Pathcope ever interested itself in 17.5mm.

PathCinema

itself must have seen the writing on the wall for 17.5mm by 1936, for during that year, the Joinville engineers began the development of 9.5mm sound. Only a few years before, this had been considered an impossibility: the size of the film, it was said, precluded the addition of an optical sound track. One British engineer had even suggested recording the track on a separate 9.5mm film, to be shown together with the picture record on a double-band projector. However, the improvement in photographic emulsions, particularly in grain structure, had made 9.5mm sound a feasible proposition by 1936. The PathCinema engineers decided on a reduction of the 35mm track proportional to that of the picture, giving a track width of 0.71 from the 1.8mm scanned width of 35mm. (Later this was increased to 1mm by reducing the entire 35mm track width of 2.54mm). The width of the picture on 9.5mm sound film was of course reduced as compared with silent, the squarer shape corresponding more or less to the 35mm format used in Europe (though not in Britain or America) at that time.

On the 18th of February 1937, visitors to an exhibition in the hall of the Parc des Expositions at Porte de Versailles saw the first public demonstration of 9.5mm sound. A short film entitled Les Deux Couverts was projected on the

Path/font> "Vox", an entirely new design developed by PathBaby in conjunction with LMT (Le Materiel Thonique SA), a leading electrical manufacturer. Issue number 100 of "Le Cinema Chez Soi" for February had given readers a preview of the new projector which was unmistakeably Path/font>: quite dissimilar to contemporary 16mm machines, with a low voltage lamp doubling as exciter and a mechanical volume control, just like its 17.5mm forerunner. A small selection of sound films was offered in March, the main feature being a comedy made in 1930, Le Roi De Resquilleurs, with Georges Milton. Documentaries were well to the fore in the list of short subjects and inevitably, PathBaby expressed the hope that the Vox would prove of value in Education. The first sound releases were prefaced with a catchy jingle, in which a tenor with accordion accompaniment sang of this exciting new Path development - "Tra-la-la-la-la... le cina ... le cina sonore, ici - PathBaby!' "Le Cinema Chez Soi" was as irritatingly erratic in providing readers with information on sound releases as on silent. For Guillaume Tell (one of the 1937 feature releases), for instance, a full-page synopsis of the plot was provided, followed by stills - but not a word about the identity of the cast or director. The release programme for the years 1937 to 1939 was a mixture of French Path/font> films from the early Thirties - notably Ramond Bernard's Les Croix De Bois ( a moving film set in World War 1), Marc Allegret's Sans Famille with Robert Lynen and the celebrated operatic bass Vanni-Marcoux, and Maurice Tourneur's Accus Levez-Vous - and dubbed foreign films which had been distributed in France by the parent company. The best known title among the latter was a Columbia picture - Capra's Mr Deeds Goes To Town under its French release title L'Initable M. Deeds. Most of the feature films were cut, but the editing was less drastic than that accorded to the firm's silents. The two basic reel sizes introduced were the "SS" ("Super Sonore"), running for 11 minutes, and the "GS" ("Grande Sonore"), running for 22 minutes. Many of the pre-war feature releases were three or four GS reels in length and one - Bernard's Les Miserables - ran to seven.

The Vox projector did not prove to be the runaway success in France that

PathBaby had expected. The projector was heavy and cumbersome, and 9.5mm enthusiasts expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of the recording on many films. Recent examination of the films concerned shows that this criticism was fully justified. It is clear that PathBaby resorted to an incredible penny-pinching measure in the printing process: instead of using a negative sound track in the printer, they ran their positive master print, thus giving a track in the negative state on the 9.5mm prints. Consequently the films suffered from an intolerable level of background noise (examples being Duvuvier's Maria Chapdelaine and the aforementioned Guillaume Tell), with the noise reduction processes employed in the original 35mm recordings working, in effect, in reverse!

The disturbed political conditions in Germany, Italy and Spain precluded any investment by

Path/font> affiliates in sound-film programmes for those markets, but it was a foregone conclusion that the firm's most successful subsidiary would want the new development as soon as possible. Thus during much of 1937, a PathCinema engineer was at work in Pathcope's Cricklewood works, installing a sound-film printer identical to that in operation at Joinville. The alert reader of the "Pathcope Monthly" might have gleaned that something was in the wind from the announcement in 1937 of a new projector - the "S" - which featured fixed speeds of 16 and 24 frames per second (the latter being the standard projection speed for sound films). The "S" was in fact the PathVox shorn of its soundhead and amplifier.

"9.5mm Sound Is Here" trumpeted the

"Monthly" for April/May 1938, a development which they termed "The Greatest Achievement in the History of Cinematography". The anonymous editor continued:

With the introduction this month of the Pathcope "VOX" Sound on‑Film Talkie, 9.5mm becomes more so than ever "the all purpose film size". You can make and show your own films in 9.5mm size in monochrome and in colour, while Sound films of the same size can now be hired at rates that are really reasonable ... A most important point in connection with the 9.5mm sound films is that they are made be direct reduction from standard size. There is no squeezing of the sound track either vertically or horizontally, thus ensuring absolutely undistorted sound.

Sixteen short subjects comprised the initial 9.5mm sound programme, all films which had previously been issued on 17.5mm, including some Popeye and Betty Boop cartoons. These were from a package purchased by Christian Cabirol from Paramount the previous year, Walt Disney Productions having refused to allow the release of sound versions of their cartoons. Over the following year an average of eleven films, including two features, was released each month. Most of these were released in tandem with 17.5mm versions, for Pathcope appeared to be persevering with this doomed gauge. Indeed, the same issue of the "Monthly" which announced 9.5mm sound advertised two new 17.5mm projectors, one a modified version of the original machine, the other the all-new "Super Rural", a more orthodox design comparable with contemporary 16mm machines - at the high price of 130. Few were sold and one year later the final 17.5mm release appeared (The Green Pack with John Stuart and Aileen Marson) and Pathcope ceased their attempts to flog this dying horse.

The Vox, competitively priced at 60, proved to be a greater success in Britain than in France. This must have been due partly to the films available: Pathcope offered a range of appealing short films - cartoons (Popeye and Betty Boop), musicals (principally British Lion variety reels) and travelogues, whereas PathBaby concentrated on features and documentary shorts. The sound recording on the British prints was better too, often rivalling that on 16mm prints of the day, Pathcope ensuring (unlike its French parent) that a proper track negative was struck from their 35mm master before editing. Picture negatives for the British releases were made at Joinville from the masters supplied by Pathcope, the finished triple-9.5mm negatives being returned to Cricklewood for printing. In general the quality maintained the high standard set for the silent releases.

Pathcope's

sound feature films came from three main sources, small independent companies whose productions had met with little success on the cinema circuits. These were British Lion (based at Beaconsfield Studios), Julius Hagen's Twickenham Studios and Max Schach's Capitol group of companies. Few of the films could be regarded as great, but collectors today prize the musicals, some of which, like She Shall Have Music (Jack Hylton and his Band), Calling All Stars and Soft Lights And Sweet Music (both with Ambrose and his Orchestra) are otherwise unavailable for viewing nowadays. Anthony Asquith's Moscow Nights (London Films) and Michael Powell's The Edge of the World were the two most interesting drama productions released, the latter being a sincere and moving work shot on location in the Shetland Isles, which in recent years has been successfully revived by its director.

The Edge Of The World was one film which suffered particularly from

Pathcope's cutting. Cabirol imposed a limit of two 90Oft reels* for the sound releases, giving a maximum running time of 50 minutes. Whereas many of the "quota quickies" way have benefited from this treatment, its rigid application to every film regardless of content or original length led to some unsatisfactory hack-ups. "Treating films like rolls of lino" was the comment of one disappointed user in the magazine "Amateur CinWorld". Three of the song numbers by that popular comedian George Formby were cut from Pathcope's version of No Limit, thus removing a great deal of the film's entertainment value. It was small comfort to hirers or purchasers to be told that two of the missing numbers could be obtained in "PathVox Review" compilation musical reels. Odd sentences excised from dialogue within scenes, short remade titles and credits, and verses removed crudely from musical numbers were other infelicities resulting from the imposition of the six-reel limit. Pathcope had fixed a length of 300 feet (90 metres) as their unit of sound film, as against PathBaby's 125 metres. Thus they could (just) fit three "reels" comprising 900 feet on the Path/font> 250-metre spools, giving approximately three minutes more running time than a PathBaby "GS" film.

The Vox, with its 200 watt, low-voltage lamp and 2 watt amplifier, gave very acceptable picture and sound quality in the home. There was, however, a demand for more light and volume, so in 1939 a larger (and even heavier) version with 400 watt lighting and a more powerful amplifier - known as the "Super Vox" in Britain - was offered at 85. All in all, 9.5mm's position in the summer of 1939 was at a peak: the compact and inexpensive

Pathcope H camera was selling well, as were the company's sound and British-made silent projectors - the latter including the Ace, the 200B Plus (dual 9.5mm/16mm) and the H, a low-priced (10 guineas) motor-driven machine which had been launched in 1937. The "Pathcope Monthly" for August/September 1939 advertised three entertaining new sound features and an interesting selection of sound and silent shorts. Nine sponsored sound films had joined the many silents on free loan. On the other side of the Channel, the corresponding issue of "Le Cina Chez Soi" announced a release more grimly appropriate, considering the events that lay only days ahead - Pabst's Westfront 1918.

Home 9.5 16 Multi-gauge 17.5 28 Pix Miscellany

CHAPTER FIVE: STANDSTILL - THE WAR YEARS

bullet Once again the call to arms has come and finds the Empire by its own free vote united in civilisation's battle against a policy of brutal aggression which must be stopped for all time lest ruin and dishonour shower not only upon ourselves and our Allies but also over the world at large.
bullet Happily we fight for all that is good and right, we fight for a return of decency, we fight for freedom, we fight till victory is won. All the resources of the country are joined for the common good of mankind. Just as our Fighting Services have been mobilised, so have many industries and, for the rest, the key words are "Carry On".

With these stirring words the editor opened the October 1939 issue of the "Pathcope Monthly". Then turning to more mundane matters, he pointed out that the firm's full range of services would continue and looked for a silver lining:

On the Home Front trade must continue, for without commerce the struggle would be dark and dreary. It was in the days of the last War that composer Ivor Novello gave us "Keep The Home Fires Burning" and it is this spirit, in up‑to‑date form, that must help us now. And nothing could be more in keeping than a Cinema to bring brightness into the home, especially where there are kiddies ... Now is the time to get together, solve your entertainment problem with your own Pathcope Cinema. In the comfort and safety of your lounge there is no better relief from troubled times.

During the remainder of the year and early 1940 - the period referred to as the "phony war" - things did indeed continue much as before. The film release programme continued little abated, the "Monthly" continued to appear and the only noteworthy event was the closure of the company's West End showrooms in Great Marlborough Street; the 9.5mm film libraries were moved to Cricklewood and the 17.5mm films sold off to a London dealer. Ironically, many of the best of Pathcope's sound comedy features were issued during the first months of the war: Jack Buchanan and Fay Wray in When Knights Were Bold, The Man in the Mirror with Edward Everett Horton and Genevieve Tobin, Southern Roses with George Robey and Chili Bouchier, and Walter Forde's Land Without Music with Richard Tauber, Diana Napier and Jimmy Durante - which was to become the best-selling 9.5mm sound feature, a pleasant screen operetta favoured by enthusiasts for its excellent print quality and sound recording.

In France, however, regular film releases came to an abrupt end with the issue of

"Le Cinema Chez Soi" number 114 for June to September 1939; the magazine ceased publication, though existing films and equipment continued to be available for the time being. Then in June 1940 came the fall of France. The PathBaby plant at Joinville continued to operate during the Occupation, but on a very much reduced scale. Raw film stock became extremely scarce and the production of equipment ground to a halt. Some evidence of contemporary events is provided by the existence of a few German propaganda films printed at this time, such as items from the French version of the Nazi "Weltspiegel" newsreel. A former employee at the works has also stated that the occupying forces ordered the destruction of the triple-negatives of the Chaplin comedies, obviously from anti-semitic motives. Machine tools for the Vox projector were lost with the destruction of the LMT factory; for the remainder of the war, the only 9.5mm sound machines available were a number of former 17.5mm Home Talkies which were converted by the Joinville works. However, the many dealers' 9.5mm film libraries all over France continued to operate, providing much needed home entertainment. In the Auvergne, one young 9.5mm enthusiast named Andre Ligonie put every sound film in his local library through his Vox projector: he will be featuring importantly in our story later.

The fall of France did of course put

Pathcope in a difficult position. No further negatives could come from Joinville and supplies of both camera film and film-printing stock were cut off. Christian Cabirol turned for help to Britain's largest film manufacturer, Kodak Ltd; to its credit, the company converted perforating machinery to 9.5mm and, quite unknown to the gauge's users, such camera films and film-stock for prints as were available for the rest of the war were manufactured at Kodak's Harrow plant. By October 1940 the "Pathcope Monthly" had shrunk to a single page, though the November issue did announce the release of ten sound and four silent films - all now at a higher price due to the imposition of wartime Purchase Tax. Then two more developments severely arrested Pathcope's 9.5mm interests: a large part of the Cricklewood works was directed into war production (the manufacture of torpedo parts) and the Board of Trade announced a ban on substandard film printing in order to concentrate scarce resources on war requirements. After representations from the trade this was relaxed somewhat: while the production of new negatives (other than newsreels) remained banned, printing in restricted quantities from existing negatives was permitted. After a gap of four months, another issue of the "Monthly" appeared in March 1941, announcing seventeen new sound and seven new silent films - all, apart from some news items, printed negatives held over from the previous year. The editor explained:

Due to circumstances precipitated by the exigencies of War, production of our 9.5mm Films has, of late, been severely retarded ... Now, by dint of great endeavour, the issue of new films can be resumed; not on the former scale but in sufficient number and of variety to receive your approval in the light of prevailing conditions. Other pictures are in course of preparation and will be announced as and when printed. In the meanwhile this publication, in its war‑time form, will not appear each month, but only as occasion demands.

In fact the "Monthly" did not appear again for the remainder of the war. The laboratories at Cricklewood were not however entirely idle: customers' films continued to be processed and Thomas Thorn, the laboratory manager who had been with the firm since the Lisle Street days, supervised the preparation of 9.5mm prints of war newsreels and documentaries. The handwritten Pathcope film release register for this period shows that film after film, chronicling the progress of the conflict, was faithfully prepared for release throughout the war years, mainly from 35mm material supplied by PathGazette.

Those enthusiasts who continued to use their 9.5mm cameras and projectors faced certain difficulties. The standard of film processing slipped badly - perhaps understandably in view of the problems faced by the laboratory with its skeleton staff, and 9.5mm sound had virtually to be shelved for the duration when in 1941 the stock of lamps for the Vox machines ran out, demonstrating clearly the dangers of using a non-standard illuminant, imported from abroad and adopted by no other manufacturer. Further, it need scarcely be added, new equipment was hard to find, even by such few prospective purchasers as there were.

Throughout this period 16mm was making great strides, being used by all the Allied forces for both training and entertainment purposes. The requirements of the Services forced equipment manufacturers and film laboratories alike to strive for higher standards; development in the 16mm field was rapid. With the cessation of hostilities in 1945, Pathexecutives on the other hand could only pick up the pieces of 9.5mm's fortunes and start again, virtually from scratch.

CHAPTER SIX: DECLINE AND FALL

Soon after the liberation, the Joinville factory resumed production and several now film releases were issued, including three topical filets La Prise de Colmar, La Prise de Strasbourg and Les Gars de Leclerc, all celebrating victories against the enemy and released in sound and silent editions.

The great need for the company was a modern range of equipment. The task of designing new cameras and projectors on which would rest the company's future fell to M. Weisbro, a brilliant cinematographic engineer. In 1949, with raw materials in reasonable supply, the new range went into production - named

Path/font>-Webo, "Webo" being a contraction of the designer's name. It consisted of the M "Special", a camera of very advanced design with reflex viewfinder, a triple-lens turret, a variable shutter and film loading by means of 30 metre (100ft) spools, the Webo A, a simple and straightforward camera designed around a 15 metre "instant loading" magazine which contained the claw mechanism; and the Joinville projector, available in silent and sound versions. The "Joinville" was, at last a Path/font> projector of orthodox design, employing a straightforward film path, a standard pre-focus lamp, standard lens mount, semi-optical framing and a simple, efficient shutter/intermittent mechanism. So sound did the design prove that the machine remained in production in various basically similar versions for nearly twenty years. Added to this range was another camera, the "National", similar in design to the British-built "H". These developments, however, meant that the Path/font> dealer who wished to meet the film requirements of all his 9.5mm customers needed to stock five different film loadings; Baby chargers for the old hand-turned camera, the "P" charger for the pre-war Motocameras, the "H" charger, the Webo 15 metre magazine and 30 metre spools. Not surprisingly, this increasing lack of standardisation alienated many dealers who were looking with approval at the growing popularity of 8mm products, which offered cheap colour filming and a single loading - the 25-foot double-run spool. Several Continental manufacturers were by this time offering excellent 8mm apparatus, Including Paillard-Bolex and Eumig. Not until 1951 did 9.5mm Kodachrome become available (marketed by Path/font> but processed by Kodak-Path/font> at their huge Sevran plant) and when it did arrive, it was extremely expensive compared to the 8m product.

A major policy decision taken by the

PathBaby management was to market the Webo M Special camera and Joinville projectors in 16mm as well as 9.5mm versions. The 16mm machines were sold at a higher price, the 9.5mm products being wholesaled at or near factory price in order to encourage use of the smaller gauge. The name of the company - SociFranise du PathBaby - now seemed anachronistic for an organization offering such sophisticated modern apparatus in 16mm as well as 9.5mm (the Webo "M" camera becoming particularly popular with serious 16mm movie-makers in many parts of the world). In 1949, the name of the company was changed to SociCommercials et Industrielle Path/font>. It remained, of course, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SociNouvelle du PathCina which remained throughout the Forties and Fifties an important domestic film producer and distributor.

Path

9.5mm film releases in the post-war period gathered momentum In the late Forties, although few if any of the films issued before the war remained available In 1949. With the Introduction of the Joinville sound projector, considerable effort was put into building up a wide range of features - now with decently recorded sound tracks. Wartime and immediate post-war PathCin/font> films such as Jacques Becke'rs Dernier Atout, Louis Daquinzs Nous Les Gosses, Jean Delannoy's Aux Yeux de Souvenir (with Jean Gabin and Michelle Morgan) and Abel Gancs rollicking costume melodrama Le Capitaine Fracasse (with Fernand Gravey) were joined by dubbed foreign films which included the famous King Kong, dubbed "B" westerns and the Italian historical epic La Coronna Di Ferro. The two Sacha Guitry comedies from the Thirties - Ils Etaient Neuf Celibataires and the medium length Le Not De Cambronne - are much sought after today by French collectors, as are the UFA Franco-German productions from earlier in that decade ; Le Capitaine Craddock, La Guerre des Valses, Le Re Blond (the French version of Bin Blonder Traum) and LOr.

Many of these features wore issued In slightly abridged versions but all, like the

Path/font> pre-war Sound releases, of reasonable length, generally three or four GS reels. This ambitious programme did not meet with much success however; most sales of feature film were to libraries, the prints being too expensive to attract any private buyers. Enthusiasts also complained of Paths censoring some features, the company being anxious not to offend in the slightest way the educational authorities who it hoped would use the films. Furthermore, Path/font> still failed to release a range of good short sound films which would have attracted the average buyer - documentaries and a few third-rate cartoons were all that appeared in their catalogue.

The silent catalogue had also to be rebuilt from scratch. Once again, mute versions of sound films proved more popular with the company than the public. Those were either from films also issued on 9.5mm Sound or from other

Path/font>-distributed features like the black comedy Les Disparus De Saint Agil, or Marcel Carns enchanting classic Les Enfants du Paradis, which Path unaccountably failed to issue in sound versions. Hidden amongst these often dismal 'mutes' there were some MGM silent features from the Twenties, although their origin could not have been apparent to prospective purchasers; the films were all issued under heavily disguised titles with no credits whatsoever - not even a mention of the leading players. The assumption must be made that these were films distributed theatrically by PathCina in the Twenties (the picture quality betrays the projection-print origins of the master material), which SCI Path/font> "pirated"; it is extremely unlikely that MGM would have licensed the sale of sub-standard gauge copies of the films. The most interesting of those titles were the three starring Lon Chaney: The Unholy Three (Les Trois "X", 4 reels), The Road to Mandalay (Joe-Le-Borgne, 4 reels) and The Unknown (Tragedie Au Cirqu, 5 reels.) The others were After Midnight with Norma Talmadge (Cette Nuit-La, 4 reels), Twelve Miles Out with John Gilbert and Joan Crawford (Une Femme A Bord, 4 reels) and All At Sea with Karl Dane and George K. Arthur (Matelot Malgre Lui, 4 reels).

Whilst the print quality of these MGM films was only fair to good, the re-issues from newly-made triple negatives of some Hal Roach silent comedies, first released In the notched title days, showed that the Joinville laboratory had lost none of its skill In making prints of superb definition and gradation. Here they had first-class master material, being the nitrate duplicating positives, still In pristine condition, which had been used for the original notched-title issues. Comedians represented in this batch were Snub Pollard ("Beaucitron" in France), Glen Tryon ("Doggy" In French

Path releases, "Billy' in Pathcope releases) and Paul Parrot. The real name of the last mentioned comedian was James Parrott, whose brother Charles appeared in Roach as Charlie Chase. Both the French and English companies continually mixed the two up, titling Chase comedies as featuring Paul Parrott (or "Adrien" in the case of French prints). From 1951 onwards, SCI Paths film releases were announced in the pages of "PathCinevue", a house magazine introduced to replace the pre-war "Le Cinema Chez Soi".

In Britain, film stock remained in short supply in the immediate post-war period. A few releases trickled from the laboratory during 1946; newsreel items like The Victory Parade and The Atom Bomb and three mute films printed from negatives prepared in Paris but held over since 1940 - Courrier Sud (Southern Mail, 2 reels), Les Filles du Rhone (Daughters of the Rhone, 2 reels) and the Jacques Tati short Soigne Ton Gauche (Watch Your Left).

Pathcope suffered a grievous loss in the early post-war years with the death of Christian Cabirol. A reserved, courteous and cultivated man, for all his commercial flair and drive, he had succeeded in the previous decade in building up the company into the largest single force in the home movie industry apart from Kodak. Cabirol's place as managing director was taken by an English member of the board, Charles Dowers, to whom fell the task of formulating the company's policy for the post-war era. Dowers was keen to build up 9.5mm as a moviemaker's format. Since its inception, it had remained primarily a medium for home entertainment with Its extensive range of films to buy and hire. There were two major constraints to this declared intention; the firm's lack of working capital, since the profits which had been held during the occupation of France were now assumed by the French Parent Company, and the lack of a colour film, the unsatisfactory 9.5mm Dufaycolor of pre-war days being no longer available. When manufacture of 9.5mm Kodachrome commenced In France, Pathcope's managing director tried hard to persuade Kodak Ltd. to process the film In England. Unfortunately, these negotiations failed, and when 9.5mm Kodachrome appeared on the British market in 1952, customers had to return their exposed chargers to Pathcope, who in turn sent the films In bulk packages to Kodak-Path/font> at Sevran for processing. This procedure contributed to the high price (28/4d per "H" charger) and a quoted ten week handling period.

Home 9.5 16 Multi-gauge 17.5 28 Pix Miscellany

Production of the "H" camera and Ace projector was resumed after the war, while

Pathcope imported the Path/font>-Webo equipment (for the British market the Joinville projector was re-named the Pax). There was a great need for a medium-priced silent machine. In 1939, Leslie Snoad, Pathcope's chief engineer, had designed a projector very different in appearance from existing 9.5mm machines. It had a streamlined shape with a single sprocket film path, and an efficient lighting system with a 12 volt 100 watt lamp and rapid claw pull-down. The project was mothballed for the duration but emerged in 1948 as the "Gem" projector, priced at 37. The Gem, which was also made in 8mm and 16mm versions for export only, proved to be a reasonable performer and fairly successful In the market-place, although insufficiently attractive to wean many established 9.5mm users from their pre-war "H" or 200B machines.

It was not until 1949 that

Pathcope was able to make real headway with new film releases. In the first few years after the war, the company had a large number of repeat orders from dealers for pre-war releases, mainly to replace worn-out library prints. The silent film catalogue In 1949 was little different from its 1941 counterpart, apart from the disappearance of all the notched-title films. Although Pathcope's rights had expired In the UFA and BIP dramas, they remained in the catalogue; in the case of the former, the company no longer existed, and Associated British Picture Corporation, successors to BIP, seemed unconcerned with these silents. In general, the 9.5mm triple negative of the feature releases remained In remarkably good condition, but not so the 1-reel comedies which had suffered from very heavy use. Rather than obtaining fresh master material from Joinville, where the duplicating positive for many of the films were held, Pathcope took the easy way out and made duplicates from the worn negatives, from which new contact negatives were prepared. The result was, predictably, severely degraded prints and quality. To make matters worse, there was inadequate control in the developing baths; soon after the war the temperature control system on the print processing plant failed and was never satisfactorily repaired. The rich blacks and crisp definition of pre-war prints gave way to greyness and veiled highlights. Where the old negatives remained in good condition, the prints were much to be preferred to those of new releases, for the standard of negative reduction printing at Cricklewood had also deteriorated. Further, there was little to interest the serious collector in the silent releases lists of the late Forties and early Fifties. A few mute dramas, many mute Disney cartoons, mute comedies with Laurel & Hardy and other Hal Roach performers and PathNews documentary items comprised the bulk of the output.

The selection of sound films offered In 1949 was rather smaller than that shown In the 1941 catalogue. Pathescope had purchased the rights to the films in the years 1937 to 1939 for periods of five or six years; consequently by the end of the war, all leases had expired. Fortunately for the company, several of the distributors who had owned the copyrights had been liquidated in the Intervening period, so such features as Land Without Music, When Knights Were Bold, Southern Roses, The Edge Of The World, Public Nuisance No.1 and The Case Of Gabriel Perry were retained in the catalogue until the negatives became unusable. A new contract negotiated with Paramount enabled the Popeye and Betty Boop cartoons to be re-issued in 1949.

In November 1949 the

"Pathcope Monthly" reappeared, the post of editor being assumed by the firms publicity manager, Edward Brunger, who was also responsible for editing the post-war sound and silent releases. The first sound features to appear were a batch of "B" pictures made by the Poverty Row outfit Producers' Releasing Corporation. Generally, PRC films represent the nadir of Hollywood output in the early Forties and the titles offered by Pathcope were no exception; perhaps The Devil Bat with Bela Lugosi is a little more viewable than most. Better screen fare arrived a year later from packages purchased from three minor British distributors - Grand National, New Realm (EJ Fancey) and Butcher's Film Service. Candlelight in Algeria with James Mason and Carla Lehman and Tomorrow We Live (John Clements and Godfrey Thale) were two above-average wartime British productions which proved popular in 9.5mm film libraries, as did three Hollywood films originally distributed by RKO Radio; Swiss Family Robinson, Tom Brown's Schooldays and Little Men. As with the silent films, the print quality of some releases compared poorly with the print quality of the best of the pro-war issues, although Pathcope made a determined attempt to improve sound quality by having the sound tracks on many films re-recorded using a variable density system. Two Laurel & Hardy features, Our Relations and Swiss Miss were also available, but one can only conjecture what other titles could have been made available if the release schedules had not been swamped with the PRC titles.

Pathcope

suffered its third savage blow with the death in 1951 of Charles Dowers, the managing director who had taken over after Christian Cabirol, the other death In the interim being that of Leslie Snoad, the chief engineer. Bertram Joslin, previously the company accountant, became the firms new head. He decided to continue his predecessors policy of providing 9.5mm , but a number of serious problems dogged the firm's attempts to pull level in the market with 8mm. The first was a new sound machine - a conversion of the Gem projector. This seemed like a good idea, since the Pax projector was expensive at 165, and two small companies had been cashing In by marketing sound bases for the Gem. The prototype of the new machine, designed by chief engineer John Fostery, was by all accounts a satisfactory projector; however, when it reached the market In March 1951 as the "Son" (ugh), a number of economies had been made to bring the selling price down to 78. The machine sold quite well at first; it was far cheaper than any 16mm machine on the market, and was attractively styled. Purchasers all too soon discovered the Son's shortcomings, however. The cheaply-built amplifier (turned out for 5 a time by a little "cottage industry" outfit) had a tendency to overheat and fail, the film path involved acute angles which were not kind to films, and the sound frequently suffered from noise and motor breakthrough. Worst of all was the under-powered motor. This was wound for 160 volts (to enable the machine to run at 24 fps from cold) and was coupled to a poorly designed make and break governor circuit. This over-volted electrical system broke down with monotonous regularity and the projectors spent much of their lives In transit to and from the service department at Cricklewood.

Pathcope's

next new product was the low-priced "PAT" camera. This "Coronation Year Achievement", as the 1953 advertisements proclaimed the under-14 camera, was designed for the compact "H" 3Oft charger. An ineffective take-up mechanism which caused film jamming and a poorly designed two-stop lens contributed to the failure of the Pat, which did not remain long on the market. The Son and the Pat began to give Pathcope an unenviable reputation in the trade for troublesome equipment. This, together with the remorseless advance in the popularity of 8mm filming, badly hit the company's fortunes; 1953 was the last year in which a dividend was declared for shareholders.

Nevertheless, 9.5mm remained a sizable business. Although by 1953 all other British manufacturers (and many Continental companion) had abandoned the gauge, with the exception of Specto projectors,

Pathcope could claim 9,000 films processed each week during the summer and over 30,0000 subscriptions to their magazine. They also found It worthwhile to produce a popular 2 reel sound version of the Coronation within six days of the event. Nine-fivers were, however, becoming a minority among movie-makers and gaining a reputation for touchiness when the merits of their gauge were challenged. Pathcope could, however, rely on a large body of enthusiastic and committed supporters if nothing else.

The company's sound film release programme was in difficulties too. Gone were the easy pre-war days when distributors seemed happy to let a five-year contract be practically open-ended, with

Pathcope still providing copies ten years after the expiry of the contract. In the new, more aggressive climate, representatives of the distributor would arrive at Cricklewood on the final day of the lease to collect the master print, negative and unsold copies. Edward Wilkes, assistant sales manager in 1951, recalls over forty copies of the feature The Glass Mountain being consigned to the incinerator by the employees of Renown Pictures. Exacerbating this problem was Pathcopes tardiness in actually releasing the films which they had bought. Often two years of a film's lease had elapsed before its appearance on 9.5mm; a number of features had a very short stay indeed In the catalogue. 9.5mm sound users, already disenchanted with the performance of the new Son projector, began to voice their dissatisfaction with the films in the pages of Amateur Cine World and other magazines. The squared-off format, causing credit titles to be cut off at the edges, was particularly disliked: Pathcope continued with this format to the end, although the French laboratory had adopted the correct 4:3 format as early as 1944. The quality of sound tracks also proved to be a hit and miss affair, giving rise to much adverse correspondence.

Just as decisive a blow to the progress of 9.5mm sound as the unsatisfactory quality of films and equipment was the growth in popularity of television. By 1955, when commercial TV came to Britain, the media was gobbling up quantities of old British movies from minor distributors, exactly the type of film to which

Pathcope had access. There appeared, to an increasing number of users, little value in buying or hiring 9.5mm copies of the sort of entertainment they could expect to see regularly on their TV screen. SCI Path/font> directors were alarmed to see the market at home and abroad for their 9.5mm products slipping rapidly away. In early 1954, two of the firms directors had a business luncheon with executives of Kodak-Path/font>, Kodak's French manufacturing business, when this concern was voiced. One of the Kodak executives light-heartedly suggested that a "double-run" system, as used in 8mm cameras, could halve 9.mm filming coats at a stroke. Amazingly, as it seems to us in retrospect, the SCI Path directors seized on this jocular suggestion and without further ado instructed their chief engineer, M. Vercelot, to design the double-run format and a suitable camera and projector.

This development, named "Duplex" when it appeared In 1955, proved to be an unmitigated disaster, both in the U.K. and in France. The film after slitting became a fragile 4.75mm in width and ran horizontally in the projector. All

Paths advertising ballyhoo about "an exciting widescreen format" (actually 1.6:1) did not conceal from either the trade or the movie-making public that Duplex was a poor Imitation of Kodak's 8mm system. The new camera for Duplex, the "Lido", was an attractively-styled design using 15 metre spools, and the projector, named the 'Monaco' ,was an elaborate machine adapted for both horizontal and normal vertical projection and featuring a twin-Iens turret.

The British directors of

Pathcope viewed the introduction of Duplex with scepticism. Relations with their parent company, so close in Cabirol's days, had sunk to a low ebb by the mid-fifties. They were further strained by SCI Path insistence that Duplex be introduced in Britain and bolstered up with an expensive advertising campaign. This was duly launched with full-page advertisements in high circulation magazines like "Readers Digest", as well as photographic journals; however, such readers as developed an interest In the Lido and Monaco found that the equipment was unavailable In Britain. Path encountered production problems with the projector and were unable to deliver more than a token number for either home or export markets. By 1957, the French directors realized that they had attempted to explode a dud, and publicity for Duplex was cut back sharply. The Lido was offered as a standard 9.5mm camera and the Webo magazine model was re-launched as the "Rio".

Coincidentally, 1955 brought changes in both companies' publications. The

"PathCinRevue" was discontinued and the old title "Le Cina Chez Soi" brought back as a magazine aimed at amateur film makers. It was supported by SCI Path/font>, but edited and produced by an outside publisher. Pathcope replaced the old "Monthly" with the "Pathcope Gazette", edited by the company's new publicity manager, Peter G Richards and widened in scope to include 8mm and 16mm. Although some interesting articles by film enthusiasts Kevin Brownlow and David Gunston were included, much of the magazine was given over to studio publicity pieces by professional columnists. In 1957, the format of the publication was changed again and the editorship given to H.W.J. Caswill, who had started as a traveller for the company in the early Thirties. For the first time the magazine became a genuine forum for 9.5mm users, with the bluff Caswill proving an enthusiastic and effective editor.

Whilst a number of manufacturers produced 9.5mm equipment, the source of printed film In the U.K. was almost exclusively

Pathcope. Companies such as Peak, Walton and Diamond had produced very limited runs of 9.5mm releases, mainly silent comedies Including a range of Chaplin shorts, interest shorts (some in colour) and some original silent films. Very few copies were issued and often they were produced by the expensive method of re-perforating 16mm prints.

While by 1957 film releases appeared to be in danger of drying up altogether, the year brought a startling Innovation. Against the wishes of the

Path/font> majority shareholders, Pathcope struck out independently for the first time and obtained camera film from an outside source. To bring down the cost of 9.5mm colour filming, managing director Bertram Joslin negotiated the import of colour film from Ferrania of Italy. A processing plant was constructed at Cricklewood for the new product, marketed as "Pathcope Colour Film (PCF)" in "H" chargers at under 1 each, significantly less than Kodachrome. Alas, troubles beset this enterprising development from the start. Ferraniacolor proved to have a more "slippery" emulsion surface than other 9.5mm film stocks, and this created double-imaging problems in a wide range of cameras. Thus the gauge lost yet a few more users to 8mm.

About the time of PCF's introduction,

Pathcope came under discussion at a party on a yacht moored off the South of France. Among the guests were some executives of PathCina, the French company whose wide Interests included an 80% shareholding in Pathcope Ltd., and a British businessman, owner of a small metalware factory, who expressed a desire to buy a controlling interest in the British subsidiary. Just what financial deal was struck has never been established, but effectively, the control hold by the French parent passed to new owners and the English company continued from May 1958 under the trading style of Pathcope (Great Britain) Ltd.

Home 9.5 16 Multi-gauge 17.5 28 Pix Miscellany

In France, the decline of 9.5mm was also being felt.

Path had produced the worlds first magnetic stripe projector In 1953 in the form of the Marignan silent projector (resembling the Joinville/Pax in a smaller version) with the Aurator sound attachment. Another brave idea which probably failed owing to its relatively high cost. The Mirage silent projector appeared in 1954 but the post war PathBaby directors, Messieurs Cabot, Comte and Remange, were fighting a difficult rearguard action, with 8mm making large Inroads Into the traditional 9.5mm markets.

The newly revamped

"Cina Chez Soi" under the editorship of Marcel Huret resembled a glossy magazine devoted to general amateur film topics. Unlike the pro-war issues, very little space was devoted to plugging Path/font> products. The bi-monthly magazine reappeared in mid-1955, giving news of new 9.5mm film releases on a regular basis; Issue 10 for February 1957 announced preliminary silent colour releases. The silent films were generally rather ordinary fare, consisting of mute versions of dramas such as Les Trois Corsaires and Fra Diavolo with Amodeo Nazzari. Comedy shorts and interest items were well represented in the new release listings at this time. In March 1958, a series of interesting silent Hollywood comedies were released, many featuring Billy Bevan (under his French name "Oscar"). The complete version of Sennett's Hollywood Kid also appeared as Un Gosse A Hollywood.

Releases wore becoming less frequent, particularly sound films. The final

Path/font> sound releases In France were marked by some enterprising titles such as Le Voleur de Bicyclette (De Sicas Bicycle Thieves), Les Femmes Sen Balancent, Eddie Constantine and the final release - Gendarmes Et Voleurs (Guardi et Ladri - Italy 1951). In February 1959 "Le Cinema Chez Soi" announced the release of Laurel and Hardy Cambrioleurs and Don Juan. Thereafter, there Is no further mention of 9.5mm film releases. Clearly, the level of sales In France was little better than in Britain, but the parting of Path/font> from their 9.5mm brainchild was less dramatic. In March 1960, the main company underwent certain organization changes, and Consortium Path/font> was advertised for the first time. In November 1960, Film Office announced the takeover of the Path/font> film catalogue. As in England, the company continued its Interest in equipment and camera film and during 1961 the professional standard PM sound/silent projector appeared. The magazine was renamed "Le Cina Practique Chez Soi" in May 1961 and significantly in the September 1961 issue there was no advertisement for Path/font>. A further reorganization in late 1961 in PathCinema left the 9.5mm interest under the control of Ercsam-Path/font>-Cineric. This latter firm continued in business for a number of years, successfully producing equipment. EPC are reputed to have sold over 30,000 cameras and over 50,000 projectors. Movie Sonics continued the professional Path/font>-Webo range in the late sixties and the level of demand made it worthwhile for other professional manufacturers such as Ligonie, Cinegel and Heurtier to produce 9.5mm equipment. The Involvement of the Path/font> company in 9.5mm had by this time ceased, but printed films would continue to be available through firms such an Film Office and Hefa for a further ten years. At the time of writing, new quality equipment can still be purchased in France.

In Britain, the June/July 1958

Pathcope Gazette contained an article "The Way Ahead", by an unknown contributor who revealed that, arising from the protracted negotiations and formation of Pathcope (Great Britain) Ltd., there would be news concerning policy and equipment. A new range of projectors was announced which, in spite of disclaimers, were basically a rehash of the Gem in 8m, 9.5mm and 16mm versions, known as the Mk VIII, Mk IX and M XVI respectively. Pathcope (Great Britain) Ltd also announced the policy of re-opening their own service department for the new machines. What was not so loudly advertised was the gradual withdrawal of other services such as titling, and the almost non-existent publicity given to new film releases. Presumably, under the Influence of the new owners, these had been given low priority, the last major releases being announced In January 19589, when truncated versions of Chaplin's First National films Pay Day and The Pilgrim were released.

Although it was not realised at the time, only two further sound releases would be issued; a one-reeler News Review Of 1958 and the final sound film from

Pathcope, scheduled for release in December 1959, Doomed Caravan. This was an interesting Hopalong Cassidy film which proved quite good in terms of content and print/sound quality, but it is a sad reflection on both demand and the policy of the company that, according to printing records, only three prints were ever produced of this final film. The final silent releases, issued in tandem with identical 8m prints, were generally poor stuff, made up mainly of mute Disney extracts and Path News extracts.

The

Pathcope Gazette continued to inform readers of the state of the 9.5mm art at home and abroad and provided news of film stock and equipment. The company was still importing equipment from France and cameras such as the Lido, Webo M and National II were available, while a new PathBaby and the Path/font> Europ could be purchased. Pathcope (Great Britain) Ltd. also exhibited at the 1959 Photo Fair at Olympia and In addition to the above-mentioned equipment, two home produced products were unveiled. The Prince camera in many ways was an update of the "H" Motocamera with a sturdy mechanism made by Smiths. It took normal "H" chargers and came complete with a nylon case. More unorthodox was the new projector. Reputed to have been made at the factory of the aforementioned metalware entrepreneur, it was indeed a strange device. It had a mechanism based on the earlier Ace and sat on three legs In the form of a tripod. This Princess projector could be hand cranked or operated by a motor which was attached externally to the body. It was a poor design and failed to gain popular support.

It was also significant that the enlarged Photo Fair Issue of the

Pathcope Gazette for April/May 1959, in which the new equipment and the PSM 16 professional standard 16mm machine was announced, also proved to be the last issue of the Gazette. Even before the formation of Pathcope (Great Britain) Ltd., there was a widely held belief that 9.5mm was a dying gauge. It had really never recovered from the war, when 16mm had asserted Itself as the premier professional sub-standard gauge and Kodak's bottomless resources had promoted 8mm for home use. In spite of the optimistic noises from the company, matters were clearly deteriorating badly and there was little surprise when, in February 1960, the receiver was appointed. The factory was sold and the equipment and stocks dispersed. The company was acquired by Great Universal Stores Limited and the supply of some 9.5mm camera film and equipment was maintained for a further three years before the final survival of 9.5mm In the U.K. was committed to the hands of amateur enthusiasts who were able to import French products and camera film.

Although the name of

Path/font> will always be inextricably linked with 9.5mm, this brief resumof the gauge would not be complete without a mention of three further sources of printed films.

The French company Film office had been a good alternative source of films for a number of years before they took over the

Path/font> releases in 1960. A small operation specializing in releases on the three main sub-standard gauges as well as colour slides, their 1959 catalogue makes interesting reading. There is a large range of mute Disney releases and most of the Chaplin Mutual films in complete versions along with some complete Hal Roach, Ben Turpin and Harold Lloyd comedies. Of more dubious appeal are the long mute versions of the Laurel and Hardy features such as Laurel et Hardy au Far West (Way Out West) 5 reels, Tete De Pioche (Blockheads) 5 reels and C'est Donc Ton Frere (Our Relations), 5 reels. Collectors still eagerly seek six Stan Laurel shorts, including Chez Le Blanchisseur (Collars & Cuffs 1923) and LAUREL Dans Le Jungle (Roughest Africa 1923). Longer versions of the Max Linder comedies than those provided by Path/font> are represented by Max et le Quinquina and Max et le Statue.

Rarities such as RenClair's La Tour and Mi Conquest of the Pole, as well as Lo Duca's Lumie compilation were Issued as complete one reelers, and enthusiasts have further reels of Gance's Napoln with which they can augment their

Path/font> versions. Langs epic La Mort De Siegfried in also available in a ten reel version.

Most of the Film Office releases were printed by a small Parisian laboratory at Vincennes and, while the print quality is good, the sharpness and definition is not comparable with the bent of the

Path releases. Most titles were available in 16mm, 9.5mm and 8mm versions and whilst the 9.5mm titles appeared in the Film Office catalogues well Into the 1970's, it is clear that the company had not printed new titles since the mid-sixties and were relying on existing stocks. The printing equipment used for these releases was acquired by Novascope In 1972.

A similar output came from the family firm of SociHefa in France, although the titles are of lesser interest, with the possible exception of Charlot Joue Carmen (Burlesque On Carmen - 4 reels), being generally reduced versions of silent comedies, mute cartoons and westerns and interest shorts. Following the Film Office practice, Hefa also released long mute versions of sound features: Count Of Monte Cristo (Robert Vernay 1954), and FRANCOIS 1er (Christian Jacque 1937 with Fernandel) are examples. A series of the BOMBA films, directed by Forde Beebe, with Johnny Sheffield, was also released.

The final attempt to issue films to date was made In England in 1970. Novascope was set up by amateurs to provide new printed film for 9.5mm users. The company had collected original equipment and starting with unperforated 35mm stock supplied by Kodak, perforated the raw stock, produced triple negatives and contact prints and slit the processed, completed film into three 9.5mm prints; in exactly the same process as that originated by

PathBaby. The only operation not undertaken in-house was the processing, which was undertaken by Kodak's microfilm section, which gave consistent and admirable results.

The first prints arrived in 1971, but picture quality was variable until the new printer was obtained from Paris in 1972. The releases aimed to introduce genuine new silent material not generally available previously on any substandard gauge, and releases such as Monty Banks in Belles Of Liberty (1917) one reel; Our Gang in Good Cheer (1926) one reel; Earle Foxe's zany comedy Tennis Wizard (1926) in two and one reel versions, and Helen Holmes' Kalem railroad drama Conductor's Courtship (1914) one reel, found favour with collectors. The catalogue was augmented with re-releases of some of the

Pathcope interest shorts, the original triple negatives being used, and some new 100ft items featuring Felix the Cat and other favourites. Well over thirty releases were issued.

Coinciding with the new silent prints in 1972, Novascope released two new sound films. These were contact printed by an external laboratory on single 9.5mm stock. The prints had optical tracks but as the original master material had to be 9.5mm positives, the finished prints were rather contrasty. The titles were Old Man of the Mountain (1933 - Betty Boop cartoon) and Out For A Duck (1936 "Scrappy" cartoon, originally "Dizzy Ducks").

Unfortunately, the enthusiasm, from all parts of the world, which greeted Novascope's plans, was not matched by sales; many collectors seemed to be more interested in the publicity handouts than in the films themselves. Faced in 1976 with a modest order book and a whole series of price rises in raw stock and processing, the original directors sold the company. Nothing at all appeared from the new owners and while the original equipment still exists, it is not, at present, accessible. Click for more on

Novascope.

It In now some twenty years since 9.5mm was severed from its ailing parent company, yet in that time interest In the films and equipment has, if anything, increased. The old enemy, the original 8mm format, has virtually vanished unmourned, whilst film enthusiasts and collectors eagerly seek and enjoy the often unique and beautifully produced products of Monsieur Paths home cinema.

 

 

 

HomeContents 9.5

16 Multi-gauge 17.5 28 Pix Miscellany