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Zecca, Ferdinand

Entry updated 18 April 2022. Tagged: Film, People.

(1864-1947) Pioneering French filmmaker (see Cinema) who directed over 160 films between 1899 and 1915 (plus one in 1919), virtually all for Pathé Frères. Subject matter included Religion, history, Fantasy, melodrama and moral tales, as well as one about a hotel employee who peeps through keyholes.

Only a few of his films are sf. One is Le Voleur Invisible (1909; vt The Invisible Thief) co-directed with Segundo de Chomón and discussed in his entry. Two others are lost, but contemporary reviews convey their plots. Les Glaces Merveilleuses (1907; vt The Magic Mirror), concerns a young inventor who creates a chemical that, spread on a mirror, brings a person's image to life (see Doppelgangers), though disappearing when the mirror is cleaned; eventually this turns out to be a dream (see Clichés). The other is Nouveau Farman (1908; vt Latest Style Airship), about a delivery boy on a bike "with a load of paper boxes on his back": after an accident some of the boxes are emptied and the wind fills them, lifting him into the air and carrying him some distance (see Flying).

However, most important is À la Conquête de l'Air (1901; vt The Conquest of the Air; vt Conquering the Skies; vt The Flying Machine). Zecca himself pilots a one-man flying machine (see Invention, Transportation) over Paris, proudly waving his hat to the camera as he does so. The ship looks like a model submarine with a bicycle's rear wheel and pedals attached, plus a ship's wheel, rudder and fins. Only about half the film seems to survive (23 seconds), but the appearance of flying over the city is surprisingly convincing, with only a misty effect giving the game away; compare with the Edison company's similar but unremarkable The Twentieth Century Tramp; or, Happy Hooligan and his Airship (1902). [SP]

Ferdinand Louis Zecca

born Paris: 19 February 1864

died Saint-Mandé, France: 23 March 1947

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