Georges Méliès and the Movie 'Hugo'


A while back I became aware of a movie, 'Hugo'. It was advertised to me as a "children's" movie. Since, as my wife Cyndy says, I am at best, on a good day, only 2 years old, I figured I might enjoy it. By the way, the movie is an adaptation of the book, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" by Brian Selznick.

If you haven't seen the movie it is a definite "SEE IT NOW!" - especially in 3D if you can. I became enthralled with the story, the acting, the direction, filmography, the whole works, as it were. It is far, far more than just a "children's movie".

Without giving too much away, the basic plot is a child's quest of sorts. The child, Hugo Cabret, is an orphan with an automaton (what we would call a robot today) left to him by his father. He seeks to "fix" the automaton. Hugo comes into contact with a man, Georges Méliès, who is the key to the satisfaction of Hugo's quest.

As I learned Méliès, in fact, was a real person; a person instrumental in the early days of cinema.

Text in BLUE from Wikipedia:

Georges Méliès (8 December 1861 – 21 January 1938), full name Marie-Georges-Jean Méliès, was a French illusionist and filmmaker famous for leading many technical and narrative developments in the earliest days of cinema.

A program from his theater show featuring his "magic".

Méliès, a prolific innovator in the use of special effects, accidentally discovered the substitution stop trick in 1896, and was one of the first filmmakers to use multiple exposures, time-lapse photography, dissolves, and hand-painted color in his work.

Because of his ability to seemingly manipulate and transform reality through cinematography, Méliès is sometimes referred to as the first "Cinemagician". Two of his best-known films are 'A Trip to the Moon' (1902) and 'The Impossible Voyage' (1904). Both stories involve strange, surreal voyages, somewhat in the style of Jules Verne, and are considered among the most important early science fiction films, though their approach is closer to fantasy. Méliès was also an early pioneer of horror cinema, which can be traced back to his 'Le Manoir du diable' (1896).

I have always loved movies and technical innovations from the past. The automaton depicted in the movie fascinated me. Clearly this was beyond someone of the early 1900s. WRONG! I was aware that there were automatons dating back to the Greeks of old. But these were powered mainly by wind or water. It turns out that such automatons as depicted in the movie were prolific in the early 1900s and much before that - and capable of astonishing feats of engineering.

The automaton in the movie could draw and write. Click Here for just some of the automatons from the past.

The movie, "Hugo", was exceedinly close to reality as far as the history of Méliès. Just some of the things the movie faithfully captured from Méliès life:

- His shop in the Paris train station:

- The characterization done by Kingsley of Méliès:

- The contrast between Méliès real movie studio and that depicted in the film:

- Méliès actually built an automaton; then took parts from it to build his first "moving picture" camera - as described in the movie.

- After years of being reclusive (the world was passing his movies by), Méliès was rediscovered and presented to the word with the recognition he deserved.

- The movie, "Hugo", offers that Méliès became fascinated with the possibilities of movies in 1895. This, per the movie, presented itself during a show featuring a train coming into a station. Click Here for that movie by the Lumiere Brothers.

All of this was truly fascinating to me.

So then I started looking into the history of "moving pictures". The very first "moving picture" was done in 1889. Click Here to see a short history of the first movie.

Only one year after he saw the "train" movie Méliès had produced 2 movies, 'The Vanishing Lady" and "The Haunted Castle" a.k.a. "The House Of The Devil" a.k.a. "The Devil s Castle".

He went on to produce, direct, and star in some 500 movies. WWI ended his career. After the war Méliès hid from the public eye for over a decade. Most of his films have been lost. Only a few remain. I have included some of them below. For a more substantial offering of his remaining films, Click Here.


A few films by Georges Méliès in order of their creation:


The Vanishing Lady (1896) - 1 minute, 11 seconds.


The House Of The Devil (1896) - 3 minutes, 18 seconds.


The Astronomer's Dream (1898) - 3 minutes, 22 seconds.


The One Man Band (1900) - 1 minute, 41 seconds.


The Man With The Rubber Head (1901) 2 minutes, 30 seconds.


A Trip To The Moon [In the original Black & White] (1902) - 10 minutes, 29 seconds.


The most famous of the films of Méliès:

Note: This is the same film as above, just with the "tinting" of the scenes on the Moon.

A Trip To The Moon [In the partial hand-tinted version] (1902) - 7 minutes, 29 seconds.

He and his wife (with some help, I'm sure) hand "painted" each frame of the movie.


The Impossible Voyage (1904) - 24 minutes, 32 seconds.


The Conquest Of the Pole (1912) - 15 minutes, 3 seconds.

This was the last film Méliès made.