'Princess Nicotine; Or, the Smoke Fairy'



Daily from Feb. 23-24
7 p.m.
Feb. 25
5 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.

As the movie industry has come under increased scrutiny for the dearth of substantive roles for actresses, appreciation has been shown to those early filmmakers who dared to depict women as more than mere foils for leading men. Three such works will take the weekend spotlight at the Trylon Cinema, screened on rare 35mm prints courtesy of the Library of Congress. Accompanied by the music of Dreamland Faces, these silent classics present female figures in ways far removed from shrinking-violet stereotypes. The five-minute short Princess Nicotine; or, The Smoke Fairy (1909) is an oddity, employing an array of trick photography to depict the fever dream of a smoker bedeviled by mischievous sprites. A fantasy of another sort is offered by Her First Flame (1920) when a newly elected female fire chief (inhabiting a subverted world where women do the outside labor and men are expected to be homemakers) must battle a raging blaze to rescue her imperiled sweetheart. Lastly, feature film Phil-For-Short follows orphaned tomboy Damophilia (or Phil) Illington as she flees from a lecherous suitor, disguises herself as a man, and sets out to win the heart of an embittered professor. These films remain pioneering examples of the creative vivacity that arises when diverse representation is embraced as a standard of storytelling.