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The Mystery of St. George and the Dragon

August 12, 2010

St. George and the Dragon (1912)
St. George and the Dragon (1912)

I came across title St. George and the Dragon while searching the list of slides in the George Eastman House collection.  This film immediately caught my eye because I know of only two silent era releases with this title:  a 1910 release from the Edison Manufacturing Company, and a 1912 film by Milano Film originally released in Italy under the title San Giorgio cavaliere.

My research up to this point has indicated that 1913 was earliest that lantern slides were used to advertise motion picture coming attractions.  If this slide were for either of these two films then perhaps the practice started earlier than I had thought.  Furthermore, if it was for the Italian film, itwould be my first example of a silent era slide from continental Europe.

My excitement was heightened (and confounded) when Nancy Kauffman, Archivist of the Paper and Photographic Collections in Motion Picture Department at Eastman House, kindly emailed to me scans of the slide image and a photograph of the slide frame.

Slide with Frame St. George and the Dragon (1912)
Slide with Frame St. George and the Dragon (1912)

Two things immediately caught my eye.  The handwritten section of the slide, which read "To-morrow - Domoni" bilingually announcing in English and Italian that the film would be showing "tomorrow."  This seemed to confirm that the slide might apply to the 1912  release from Milano Film.

The odd thing was that the slide was manufactured by Standard Slide Company in New York.  From what I have been able to determine, Standard Slide produced coming attraction slides during the years 1915 through 1924.  Obviously the slide itself was not Italian, nor was it likely to have been manufactured in 1912.

While I scratched my head and pondered the mystery of these disjointed circumstances, Nancy dug in and found the answer.  She related (and I paraphrase from her emails):

Handbill for Ruggieri exhibition of St. George and the Dragon
Handbill for Ruggieri exhibition of St. George and the Dragon

The slide for St. George and the Dragon – is from, the Ruggieri Collection, which includes a lot of paper promotional materials for this film.  Ruggieri was an Italian immigrant exhibitor, who exhibited Italian films to Italian immigrants in NYC in around 1929-1940, and possibly earlier and later as well.  It was not unusual for him to show older films, even silent films.  He also showed Italian language films, American films dubbed in Italian, and American films produced in Italian for Italian immigrant audiences.  Subject matter was typically religion, the home country, and mother.  A lot of the prints Ruggieri showed were ones that he owned, so as long as St. George kept running through the projector, it was still fair game.  Based on this, the slide of St. George and the Dragon probably dates from much later in the future than when the film was produced.

 Nancy also attached:

Poster from Ruggieri exhibition of St. George and the Dragon
Poster from Ruggieri exhibition of St. George and the Dragon

"...images of a poster (clearly home made) and programs for St. George and the Dragon.  As you can see, these were not typical theatrical exhibitions – one program is from showing(s) at a church.  Note the Milano Film logo on the other confirms it as the 1912 Italian production."

Program for Ruggieri exhibition of St. George and the Dragon
Program for Ruggieri exhibition of St. George and the Dragon

Thanks to Nancy's wonderful research, the mystery was solved - and in the end it only confirmed the status quo:   1913 remains the earliest coming attraction slide I've found, and the search for a silent era example from continental Europe continues...

All images in the article courtesy of the George Eastman House, Motion Picture Department.