1890: a mysterious year for the cinema

To my friends Ralph Schiller and Virginie Pronovost…

Claude Leroy and the Lumière brothers

Those who know me well can definitely tell old cinema is my whole life. Today, I’d like to present you some fact that happened to me recently and left me speechless. I usually tell those stories only to specific people, but right here and now, I am bringing this one to light. A fact which I find fascinating and disrespectful all at once. Enjoy!

Facebook profile of the so-called Claude Leroy once he had blocked me

My passion regularly leads me to exchange with other fanatics in Facebook groups, and one day, I fell upon a comment that intrigued me. About a post honoring the Lumière brothers in the group Français fiers de leur Histoire cinématographique (French people proud of their cinematographic History), a so-called Claude Leroy (a French native naturally) had written the following comment: « Êtes-vous sûrs qu’ils méritent le titre d’inventeurs… ? » (“Are you sure they deserve recognition as inventors…?”) Ordinarily, I would probably have laughed at this comment while sending it to Virginie, but this time, for no reason, it did push me to get in touch with this sixty-five-year-old man, which reflects the average age of the people whom I have the most pleasure talking to about old cinema. I did not mention the comment to him right away as I was getting in touch with him on Facebook. I simply told him I was a passionate who was looking for further intellectual exchanges about cinema with active members of these types of groups, and Claude seemed to be the exact image of this type of members. He would often comment in this group as well as other groups, but none of his other comments had alerted me as much as this last one. Claude accepted the Facebook friendship with delight and enthusiasm. I am including down below three parts of our conversations translated from French.

MAR 26, 2020, 6:59PM

Claude (C): Agree, haha! Do you honestly find contemporary American films as good as old ones? I think I can guess your answer already, hehe…

Margaux (M): In fact I would say it depends. There are good and bad aspects in both time periods. You are again going to say I sound too moderate, haha?

C: No but do not be afraid to speak your mind if you think they’re not worth much nowadays! Seriously, I have intense reactions whenever I take the courage to watch one once in a while……… My wife doesn’t like old films, so if I do not sacrifice myself for her sometimes… She is becoming a real pain in the neck I’m telling you! But I don’t want to shock you!

M : No, but your personality reminds me of that of several people whom I have also exchanged with.

C: Who, hehe? If you don’t mind telling me.

M: Two guys in particular. First, there was this Australian man who was claiming to be one of the Judy Garland Museum’s directors in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. He ended up being such a disgusting jerk with me (virtually speaking)! And second, there was this old French actor who was apparently a close friend of Pier Angeli in the 1960s… Probably more than just a friend… Pretty weird…! But it would take too long to tell you everything…

APR 3, 2020, 7:16PM

M: Hi Claude! I just found comments that may interest you. I wanted to get some information about Thomas Edison and his role in the invention of cinema.

C: A real bastard! He stole from everyone’s pockets and used patent laws to get credit for products he never invented himself!

M: Yes, that is exactly what many people claim but how can you be so sure?

C: Come on Margaux! By the way, there is a story running in my family that I would like to tell you, but if you have any suspicious thoughts about me like the other day, it will not work.

M: I do not. Please go on.

C: Well. In 1890, my great grandfather was twenty, and one day, he boarded a train from Dijon to Paris to visit some family members. It does sound common, but if he told that story to my grandfather, and to my father afterwards is because he recalls a man who was behaving quite strangely not so far from him in the train. I do not remember all the details, and I cannot ask my father who’s dead already, but the man looked like he couldn’t get his … together. My great grandfather could not say more about him because he recalls falling asleep and waking up once the train has reached Paris and the man has gone.

C: So sorry Margaux, I have to go! My wife keeps complaining when I use the computer at night……… I will tell you the rest as soon as possible!

APR 3, 2020, 2:04AM

C: Happy birthday dear Margaux! Enjoy all these great years ahead of you to continue enhancing this noble passion that you have, and be careful not to believe every word you see! Even in History books!

M: Thank you very much Claude! By the way, do you remember if your great grandfather boarded that train in the month of September? Is it really what I think it is? That would be such a crazy coincidence…!

APR 11, 2020, 7:19PM

M: Claude?


Claude’s last message.
PS: If by any chance, the video above is brought to disappear in the future, don’t hesitate, and contact me directly! The proof has been saved!

It has become impossible to get in touch with Claude ever since. He blocked me. I don’t know if the reason for that is the fact that I was curious, or that I told him his personality reminded me of that of weird people I had once talked to.

“Another Frenchman came close to inventing the cinema as early as 1888 – six years before the first commercial showings of moving photographs. That year, Augustin Le Prince, working in England, was able to make some brief films, shot at about sixteen frames per second, using Kodak’s recently introduced paper roll film. To be projected, however, the frames needed to be printed on a transparent strip; lacking flexible celluloid, Le Prince apparently was unable to devise a satisfactory projector. In 1890, while traveling in France, he disappeared, along with his valise of patent applications, creating a mystery that has never been solved. Thus his camera was never exploited commercially and had virtually no influence on the subsequent invention of the cinema.”

– Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell in Film History: An Introduction

I do believe in chance, except for when I write.


Head image

Momentmal on Pixabay

Screenshot / QR code

Margaux Soumoy with Snagit and QR Code Generator