David Francis operates the bi-unnial lantern.

Multi-Media Victorian: The Magic Lantern, the Metropolis, and the Extraordinary Ballads of George R. Sims

Thursday, April 7, 2011 - 7:00pm

The magic lantern was the single most important visual entertainment and means of enlightenment during the 250 years before cinema. Using original lantern slides and a mahogany-and-brass bi-unnial lantern of c. 1890, David Francis and Joss Marsh, with live piano accompaniment, present six ballads by George R. Sims in a show that will also tour Sims’ world, and the world of the magic lantern itself.

George R. Sims (1847-1922) was the quintessential multi-media celebrity of Victorian London: the hit playwright whose Lights o’ London ran for 40 years; the pioneer of film production who founded his own studio and milked the screen potential of his dramatic properties; the writer of fanciful and topical pantomimes; the crusading journalist whose reports on “Horrible London” changed the lives of tens of thousands of children and helped lay the foundations of the Welfare State; the columnist whose weekly chats in The Referee hooked a generation of “Refereaders”; the bon vivant whose love affairs and spectacular gambling were the talk of the town. But Sims was also the author of a remarkable series of heart-rending, hard-hitting, and intermittently scandalous ballads. Illuminated by the best artists of the magic lantern world, they became, and remain, extraordinary presentments of cinematic art.

The program includes The Magic Wand, The Level Crossing, Land of Gold, In the Harbour, The Muslin Frock, and the classic Victorian recitation Billy’s Rose, followed by the early Sims film In the Workhouse, Christmas Day, 1914.

David Francis O.B.E. is the former Curator of the British National Film Archive, and Emeritus Chief of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division of the Library of Congress. His many publications include the groundbreaking study Chaplin: Genesis of a Clown (co-authored, 1977), and Museums, Curatorship and the Moving Image Experience (co-authored, 2008).

Joss Marsh is Associate Professor of Victorian Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. She is the author of Word Crimes: Blasphemy, Culture, and Literature in 19th-Century England (1998), the forthcoming Starring Charles Dickens (2011) and numerous essays on Chaplin, the 19th-century novel and film, and Victorian visual culture.

Live piano accompaniment by David Drazin.

Coordinated by Artemis Willis, Ph.D candidate, Department of Cinema & Media Studies, in conjunction with Professor Tom Gunning's Seminar in the Moving and Projected Image.

Sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the New Frontiers Fellowship from Indiana University, Bloomington.