Sean Joseph Moylan
Research Mentor(s): Vincent Longo
Authors: Sean Moylan, Vincent Longo, PhD, Frank Kessler, PhD, Sabine Lenk, PhD
Théophile Pathé was the youngest brother of Charles and Émile Pathe, the preeminent Pathé Frères of early French cinema and a leading foreign moving picture manufacturer in the United States in the earliest years of the 20th century. Théophile was himself a fledgling filmmaker with his own eponymous company, and for several years in the 1900s exported his films to the United States. But there are gaps in the economic and biographical history of his and his company’s life. Working in conjunction with media historians Frank Kessler and Sabine Lenk of Utrecht University, I began researching the American footprint of Théophile Pathé in contemporary American trade periodicals Variety, The Billboard, The New York Dramatic Mirror, The Show World, Moving Picture World and Views and Film Index hoping to glean insight into the prevalence and distribution of Théophile’s films in this country and uncover any relevant journalistic information pertaining to Théophile himself. Pouring through volume after volume of these periodicals from 1906-1913 reveals an industry undergoing seismic change. In 1908, George Kleine, an early pioneer in American cinema and once the country’s largest importer of foreign films, Théophile’s included, essentially abandoned the import enterprise to solidify the formation of the Moving Pictures Patent Company. Pathé Frères were charter members of the Patents Company which sought to dominate the industry through strict patent violation litigation and limit competition from unlicensed and foreign manufacturers. For a time, it was successful. In the case of Théophile Pathé, from this point onwards his company would export no further films to the United States. The exact reasons for this are less clear. As is the trouble with ongoing and incomplete research, the extent to which familial strife between the brothers Pathé played a role is murky. We are left with mounting questions concerning the economic realities of Théophile Pathé the company and Théophile Pathé the man, and until such a time as our research informs a larger cross-continental picture of both spheres, we continue to search.