26 August 2010


by Sarah Scaparone

Grugliasco (Torino): a photographic aerial view of the film compound Photo Drama Producing Company of Italy, owned by George Kleine, Alfredo Gandolfi and Alberto Stevani, one of the most advanced in Europe in the year of its setting-up, 1913.


Above: a poster displayed in the collateral Exhibition at the Convention that took place in Villa Ghirlanda Silva in Cinisello Balsamo in 2005, entitled Gardens, context, landscape - systems of gardens and vegetable architectures in the landscape. Study methods. Valuation, safeguard. It shows the film experience of Grugliasco (Turin), of Photo Drama Producing Company of Italy, and the results of the recovery program of its historycal buildings, dated back to 1913, and of the preexisting Villa Boriglione, inside the new cultural park Le Serre, intended to reuse them as sites of culture, show, didactic and free time (graphics by Roberto Petruzzelli).

During the first years of the twentieth century, Grugliasco hosted the film studio Photo Drama, solid and qualified reality of Turins panorama.
In Film Life ( a particular magazine of that time ), it was defined as : the widest, the most magnficent establishment existing in Italy: it has a wonderful backgrounds, furniture and tools equipment: it is built following criteria of the most demanding modernity. You could, with little expense, given the complete material of any kind that its theatre has, quickly create many and very good movies”.
Fragmentary and little precise are the news about the activity of the Photodrama founded by George Kleine.

Above and below: Two images of Villa Boriglione after the repairs and the functional change (recovery project by Architect Jacopo Chiara and Technical municipal Office of Grugliasco. Pictures taken by Enrico Mercatali).
Grugliasco: an aerial picture of the film studio Photo Drama Producing Company of Italy, completed in 1913, and realized following George Kleines project on an area between Turin and Rivoli. The area, after the first World War, has become site of Turins Greenhouses, then a School for Gardeners, and afterwards, in 2000, Cultural Park Le Serre, as a site of cultural, music, film, theatre and explanatory-museum activities, following a project by Mercatali & Partners in Milano.

Kleine started creating opportunities and making plans for joining, in his movies, the best european and american talents; for this purpose, he bought a villa surrounded by a beautiful garden near Turin: Villa Boriglione (in Grugliasco Torino), bought in 1913 with Alfredo Gandolfi and Alberto Stevani. Inside the park and around the Villa, sets and laboratories were built, together with furnishings, warehouses for costumes, scenographies, equipments for developing films. A big set made out of metal and glass, a Swiss chalet (for alpine scenes), another German-style chalet and the winter garden were realized.
In 1927 the City of Turin bought the villa, the park and some of the structures left of Photodrama installing in it the School for Gardeners G. Ratti and the municipal Greenhouses. In 1985 the entire compound was yielded bt the City of Turin to the Municipality of Grugliasco and and since 2000 Le Serre has become site of a cultural disciplinary park, intended to host exhibitions, events, festivals and laboratories dedicated to figurative arts, cinema, theatre and music.
The place, when it was bought by Kleine, was suitable for being used as a production studio of Photodrama Producing Company Italia. Here the american producer built also big premises for the realization of costumes, carpentry and painting laboratories, scenography internal bottoms and natural external sceneries, creating a production establishment completely self-sufficient. Unfortunately the studios were completed only sixty days before the First World War, and Kleines dream of shooting in this small film compound never came true. The war forced Kleine to interrupt his activity in Europe in 1914 and to confine his productions towards american speculations.

On the right: an image of the north side of the building Chalet Allemand, realized by Photo Drama Producing Company of Italy in 1913 in alpine architecture forms, aimed at the particular film shot needs. The building has been restored, entirely restructured and functionally changed as a production and theatre performance center, as well as a site for conferences and debates, by Mercatali & Partners for Architecture-Milano (Architect Enrico Mercatali, Engineer Sergio Tattoni and Giacomo Della Volta, Eng. Alberto Zambelli).

Grugliascos film reality, despite the uncertain and fragmentary news, appears in numerous research texts, as you can easily gather from the following quotations:

Since 1914 weve discovered the unique film The sublime suicide ( subject V. E. Bravetta, direction R. Tolentino, camera operator N. Chiusano, interpreter I. Gramatica, U. Mozzato). About this movie, we can see how strange appears the triple quotation contained in History of Italian Silent Cinema by M. A. Prolo. The first one attributes the production to Photodrama, the second one to Italian Art Films in Rome (devoid of any information regarding the producers) and lastly the third one to Leonardo Film in Turin (in 1915, with the presence of the same workers and actors cited above). You could think about a competition between the first two production studios and perhaps a re-release in the third instance. We cand find again the same workers of Photodrama (Tolentino, Bravetta and Chiusano) in Latina Ars in Turin, with the following films: The deaths ship; The bronzes revolt; Doctor Antonio by G. Ruffini; On the Country altar.

Grugliasco (Torino): the pavilion is made out of metal and glass, internal to the area already belonged to Photo Drama Producing Company of Italy, site of film shots, today no more existing. On the background you can catch a glimpse of Chalet Allemand, built by Photo Drama in German alpine style expressly for shots of an already planned movie. Photo Dramas activities were stopped at the beginning of the first World War, which deleted any productive initiative already taken, right at the end of the works for realizing the center, at that time one of the most innovative ones in Europe.

This movie, drawn from the diary of a chaplain priest dead in the first World War, caused numerous controversies, and the urban newspapers gave prominence to them. The facts: Father Semeria denied yielding the rights to Kt. R. Tolentino Director of Latina Ars, who replied having previously informed his interlocutor about his project. The movie was a sensational success and Father Semeria never appared in public anymore. This event can maybe be considered one of the first examples of succes enhanced by an urban scandal. At that time Latina Ars was considered one of the best production companies existent (2nd semester 1915).
From the researches performed, the production company itself seems to be founded on Photodramas fate. Moreover, it looks strange that Kt. R. Tolentino, V. E. Bravetta and N. Chiusano could work also for Leonardo Film. The only acceptable explanation is that there was another production company managed and controlled by Tolentino. Hypothesis, this one, that cannot be confirmed because Italian Silent Cinema's history ended in 1915, and so it's hard to reconstruct Tolentino and his production companies' fate, as well as the movie's finding".

In the picture, an image of what the Chalet Allemand building's inside looks like today, after the repairs ended in 2005 follwing a project by Mercatali & Partners for Architecture-Milano (Architect Enrico Mercatali, Engineers Sergio Tattoni and Giacomo Della Volta, Eng. Alberto Zambelli). The building has been transformed in its functions, going from a film shots center at the time of silent, to Study Theatre, as a production and theatre representation center.

Source: Grugliasco Cinema - Le Serre Gallery - Pavilion Fert materials Display and silent cinema's films - June 23rd - July 19th 1987

"During those years, other production companies were born in Turin: Carlo Rossi & C., later Sciamengo e Pastrone, become Italia Film in September of 1908; Ottolenghi firm (which became Aquila Film in 1907); Pasquali e Tempo (Pasquali & C. since August of 1910) in Giacinto Collegno street 46 and Brugnone street 22; Unitas in delle Scuole street 5, then in Pellerina Road 355; Navone Film in Romani street 17, Savoia Film in Asti street 20; Centauro Film; Volsca Film; Geymonat Film; Gloria Film; Corona Film; Eula Film, Fip (Italian Film Factory) in Superga street 10; Giglio Film in 1914, Leonardo Film, in Sagra di San Michele street 47, which tried to publicly sell share capitals for financing itself ( Realized with Joomla! Produced: 29 March, 2010, 12:25); Photo Drama in Grugliasco; Vidali Film; then, in 1915, Benzi Film; Bonnard Film; Caserini Film; Comoedia Drama Film in Cavour street 2; Etoile Film in Saluzzo street 17; Fotocelere Film (which pointed out Navone Film); Gladiator Film; Latina Ars in Roma Street 29; Niagara Film; Padus Film in Canova sreet 52; Re Film; Victor Film in Cavour street 14; Scalera Film; Ardita Film (films manufacture) in Asti street 6; Victoria Film in XX Settembre street 37; Vitè Film; at last, between the last ones that were born, Pittaluga and Fert (joined by secondary firms' forces ) close this list that includes only the Companies that had an official and always regular production during their existence, and not other ones immediately disappeared with the mirage of easy profits, sometimes during the first few months.

Cinema had become for Torino and Piedmonte a primary importance industry and, in that period of golden adventure to the conquest of a new Eldorado, the subalpine city was Italy's film capital".

Source: Giuseppe Valabrega silent Cinema Splendours from Culture and work in Piedmonte Eda 1984 page 159
"Dans la collection des manuscrits de la Librairie du Congrès de Washington gît le secret de ce qui aurait dû être une Hollywood européenne. Ce rêve conçu par un distributeur et producteur américain, George Kleine, mai aussi par deux industriels italiens aurait dû se concrétiser à Grugliasco, à quelques Kilomètres de Turin, en 1914. Ce rêve fut bien près de se réaliser: les capitaux avaient été réunis; les studios construit; une armée de techniciens, de réalisateurs et
d'interprètes engagée; et la machine administrative de la Photo Drama Producing Company of Italy (tel était le nom de la firme de Kleine) avait déjà mis quatre film en chantier, dont aucun toutefois ne verrait le jour. Avec la déclenchement de la premiére guerre mondiale, en effet, le rêve se transforma en cauchemar: la rupture des équilibres économiques, la position délicate de l'Italie dans le conflit, le repli imprévisible de ceux qui avaient cru, à la réussite d'une entreprise sans précédent en Europe, tout se conjugua pour déterminer la fallite de la plus ambitieuse des opérations de production jamais tentées sur le vieux continent par un industriel venu des Etats-Unis".

Fonte: Paolo Cherchi-Usai, Un Americain a la conquete de l'Italie (George Kleine à Grugliasco, 1913-1914) / Archives
Institut Jean Vigo Cinematheque de Toulouse n. 22/23 Avril/Mai 89

Sent by Sarah Scaparone

(Pictures have been collected in Grugliasco Municipality's archives and used by Enrico Mercatali, during the repairs of the area and its buildings, which he projected and directed with Mercatali & Partners for Architecture-Milano, and with the Engeneering Studies Sergio Tattoni and Giacomo Della Volta, and Alberto Zambelli - BMZ Milano General Installations Engineering)

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