Volume 2: Filmography

 

THE TERRORS OF THE DEEP

 

 

a.k.a. AT THE BOTTOM OF THE OCEAN

(Submarine Film Corporation-Thanhouser)

July 22, 1914 (Wednesday)

Length: 5 reels

Character: Documentary

Director: Carl Louis Gregory

Scenario: Carl Louis Gregory

Cameraman: Carl Louis Gregory

Cast: George M. Williamson (opening scenes and fighting shark), various undersea fauna

Location: Nassau Harbor, Nassau, Bahama Islands

Notes: 1. Although The Moving Picture World announced that this film had been shown at the Broadway Rose Gardens, New York City, on Saturday, June 27, 1914, apparently this report was premature, and the scheduled showing did not take place at that time. Subsequently, the picture was shown privately at the Smithsonian Institution and the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The first public showing is believed to have been at the North Avenue Theatre, New Rochelle, New York, on July 22, 1914. On August 6, 1914 approximately 300 guests invited by Charles J. Hite came to a special viewing of the film. 2. The picture was edited from 20,000 feet of film taken by Carl Louis Gregory, Thanhouser's senior cameraman, who employed the Williamson Submarine Tube, an air-filled iron tube with a viewing chamber at the end, which was dropped down into the sea from a barge. The device was the invention of Captain C. Williamson and his sons, J. Ernest Williamson and George M. Williamson. Gregory spent two months with the Williamson brothers, returning to New Rochelle on June 10, 1914. 3. The undersea film was produced by a separate entity known as the Submarine Film Corporation. Distribution was by Thanhouser. 4. When the Broadway Rose Gardens opened in September 1914, the film was shown there for several weeks. Later, the film, or a revised or edited version of it, was distributed by Universal. Still later, in December 1916, the Williamson brothers set up their own distribution company. In April 1919, The White Heather, produced by Paramount and directed by Maurice Tourneur, was made using the Williamson undersea apparatus. 5. Also see Thirty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, entered under September 14, 1914 in the present filmography.

 

ARTICLE, The New York Dramatic Mirror, July 12, 1913:

"Moving pictures of submarine life have been made possible through the invention by Captain J.H. Williamson of a flexible tube with a windowed chamber, in which three men can work. A son of the inventor has successfully developed a series of pictures he took in the tube last week. He descended to a depth of 35 feet at night and with the aid of four powerful electric lights took pictures of fish at the bottom of Hampton Roads. Another picture was made of his brother, who dived down in front of the window in the tube."

Note: The preceding article appeared nearly a year before Thanhouser became involved with the Williamson project.

 

ARTICLE, The Moving Picture World, April 18, 1914:

"Carl Gregory, of the Thanhouser forces, sailed April 4 aboard the Ward liner Vigilanta for the Bahamas, to make an underwater scene, which will be one of the thrills in The Million Dollar Mystery.... it is expected that this underwater scene will prove one of the most sensational ever put into a motion picture play. Mr. Gregory is equipped with the most improved apparatus, and by means of a well in the center of a barge will be enabled to lower himself in an especially constructed steel chamber, to a great depth."

 

ARTICLE, The Moving Picture World, April 25, 1914:

A detailed article stated that Carl Louis Gregory went to Nassau, New Providence, Bahama Islands, arriving there on April 7 on the Ward line steamship Vigilanta from New York, "to be the first man in the world to take motion pictures under water, in the interest of the Submarine Film Company, with J. Ernest Williamson, Norfolk, Virginia, president, son of the inventor of a steel operating chamber and flexible steel tube.... It is the plan of the company to take under sea life for educational purposes, releasing their output through the Thanhouser Film Corporation at New Rochelle, and the result will soon be thrown upon the screens in theatres throughout the world taking the Mutual service. Watling Island, where, it is believed, Columbus first set foot in the new world in 1492 is the final destination...but the Bahamas will come in for general survey before filmization is complete...these islands were picked because of shoal water and the wonderful coral formation..."

 

ARTICLE, The Moving Picture World, June 13, 1914:

"Carl Louis Gregory...the first man to take motion pictures of undersea life at Nassau, Bahama Islands, will leave New Providence June 9, having completed an eight weeks trip of having taken several thousand feet of the most wonderful motion pictures for the Williamson Submarine Company."

 

ARTICLE, The Moving Picture World, June 20, 1914:

"George M. Williamson, treasurer of the Williamson Submarine Film Company, Norfolk, Virginia, has been in New Rochelle at the Thanhouser plant, which is to produce the undersea prints for the Williamson company, awaiting the return of Carl Louis Gregory, the first man in the world to take motion pictures under water. About 20,000 feet of undersea stuff was taken, and the first release will be a five-reel feature. This five-reel production, by the way, will be the culmination of 30 years' experimentation with the Williamson submersible tube. The Moving Picture World had a story on this remarkable expedition on April 25. Mr. Gregory has been absent for two months at Nassau, Bahama Islands, and returned on Wednesday, June 10."

 

ARTICLE, Reel Life, July 4, 1914:

"Many magnates of the moving picture business recently bid for the market rights of the new photographed-under-the-ocean films made by the Williamson brothers of Norfolk, Virginia. Charles J. Hite, president of the Thanhouser Film Company, bought the rights. The pictures were taken by means of a remarkable invention, lately perfected by the Williamsons. Mr. Hite will show them at his Broadway Rose Gardens, where New Yorkers may see movies, and then dine and dance if they choose. After this, the films will be shown to leading scientific societies and institutions, and then go on tour of the big theatres all over the country."

Note: A similar notice appeared in The Moving Picture World, July 4, 1914, and added that "Special representative Bert Adler is in charge of the bookings."

 

ARTICLE, The New Rochelle Paragraph, July 10, 1914:

"The unique work of Carl Gregory at the Thanhouser Company in making movies under the ocean is the subject of a report of the U.S. Consul at Nassau in the Bahamas. The New York Evening Sun is thus led to comment editorially on the feat: Mr. William F. Doty, our Consul at Nassau, has just reported the successful operation of a submarine motion picture camera recently invented by an American photographer. No machine previously invented has been efficient at a submersion of more than two or three feet, but with this apparatus submarine pictures have been taken in Nassau harbor showing with great clearness the marine gardens, fish of many varieties, old wrecks with divers working among them, anchors at a depth of a hundred feet, and the movements of sharks and other submarine dangers. A picture was made by the inventor of the mechanism of a fight between his son, armed with a knife and without protective clothing, and a shark, at a depth of about 12 feet. This is noted as an example of the detailed knowledge which can be got of the methods of attack by sharks.

"The apparatus consists of 'a flexible metallic tube, twenty inches in diameter composed of a series of units or sections of overlapping hinges set in a vertical position, though the tube may be suspended at any desired angle. The pressure of the water bends the joints inward and causes the hinges to fall downward; thus the weight is increased, the different sections are easily lowered and the tube becomes automatically poised, even when the float or barge above is being rocked by waves. A strong rubber covering renders the tube impervious to water.' The pictures are taken from a spherical terminal chamber at the lower end of the tube, ordinary atmospheric conditions being maintained by keeping the upper end open. A funnel six feet long (to assure the proper focus for work) in the shape of a truncated cone is attached to the terminal chamber, with a glass port one and one-half inches thick at the larger (outer) end. During ordinary daylight artificial light has not been found necessary to get good pictures, and at night a small battery of Cooper-Hewitt lamps and reflectors is found effective. The operator can sit in the terminal chamber and work for hours at a time.

"Consul Doty reports that an American physicist of high reputation has expressed opinion that the tube may be lengthened perhaps to 1,000 feet, which would make it of importance in many lines of scientific work in oceanography. It may prove very useful in salvage operations and in the inspection and repairs of hulls at sea. In the pearl and sponge fishery the tube is expected to work a revolution, since many of the best specimens lie too deep for exploration in the diving helmet. These films have been shipped to New York, where they are to be placed on exhibition at once. No more interesting development of the cinematograph has yet been offered."

 

ARTICLE, The Evening Standard (New Rochelle), July 23, 1914:

"The first public presentation of the first moving pictures ever taken underwater revealing the secrets of the sea etc. will be shown at the North Avenue Theatre on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of this week afternoon and evening. The name of the picture is At The Bottom Of The Ocean. And they were taken in the Williamson submarine tube by the Thanhouser Film Corporation. The pictures come direct from the advanced showing at Smithsonian Institute [sic], Washington D.C., and a complete set of films will be presented to the Institute. The invention has amazed the scientists and diplomats, and the New York newspapers have devoted pages to a description of how the pictures were made, etc."

The same edition of The Evening Standard carried this advertisement:

"First public presentation direct from the advance showing at Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C., the invention that amazed and dazed the scientists and diplomats! The film to which the New York World, Herald, Sun, and Scientific American and Collier's Weekly devoted pages! At the Bottom of the Ocean moving pictures, first ever taken revealing the secrets of the sea. First public presentation Thursday, Friday, Saturday, July 23rd, 24th, 25th. Matinee every day North Avenue Theatre. Evening 25 cents and 50 cents."

The July 23, 1914 issue of the same newspaper printed this account:

"New Rochelleans had the first public view yesterday afternoon of the first motion picture ever made at the bottom of the ocean, which are being shown at the North Avenue Theatre the rest of this week. These pictures, of which there are 5,000 feet, were made by Carl Gregory, connected with the Thanhouser forces, over and under the waters about the Bahama Islands last winter. Mr. Gregory took advantage of the invention of George and Ernest Williamson, who have evolved a steel chamber with a collapsible steel tube, capable of being operated at a depth of 8,000 [sic] feet beneath the surface of the ocean, the possibilities of which are not even comprehended. Mr. Gregory took his camera into the chamber, and in the clear water of the West Indies photographed the life of the bottom of the ocean, getting pictures of the coral formations, the topography and the fish."

"The photographs of native boys diving for coins show the black youngsters shooting down through the water and snatching the bright metal disks from the sand, some before they reached the bottom. One of the most thrilling scenes is of Ernest Williamson [sic; other accounts say George], one of the inventors, killing an eight-foot man-eating shark underwater. The pictures are highly educational, for they show in animated monotone exactly what one would see through the glass of the submarine chamber in which Mr. Gregory worked. A lecture on the pictures was delivered by Dr. F.N. Glover, a well known lecturer and geographer, who explained the pictures when they were shown privately at the Smithsonian Institute."

 

ARTICLE, The New York Dramatic Mirror, July 29, 1914:

"Charles J. Hite, of New Rochelle, has received recognition from the Smithsonian Institution and the commendation of its scientific members, for a submarine expedition sent to the Bahamas in April. The expedition obtained the only motion pictures extant of life under the sea. Mr. Hite took the pictures to Washington last week and offered to the Smithsonian Institution the first view of them. The result was that many of the scientists went also to the National Press Club, where Mr. Hite, accompanied by J.E. and George Williamson, and Carl Gregory, expert cameramen, explained to the Washington correspondence the dangers of robbing the sea of its long-held secrets. Mr. Hite, in commenting on the expedition to the Smithsonian scientists, said: 'No man, until the Williamson invention was made practicable, could tell of the life below the sea. The wonders of the Yosemite or Glacier Park could not be estimated by weighing a handful of gravel, taken from those beauty places, nor could man picture the wonders of the deep by gazing upon a bit of sand, drawn up on a lead line. The new invention brings to science the sea's actualities of life, the long lost ships, the imperators of other days, the hidden reefs, the variegated corals, the moving things. That is why the Smithsonian Institution has applauded our efforts, and I, who offered support to this wonderful invention, feel proud it has spelled success and proved a real step in scientific progress.' A complete log of the expedition is to be presented to the Smithsonian Institution, to remain in its archives."

 

ARTICLE, The Moving Picture World, August 22, 1914:

"The submarine pictures taken by the Williamson brothers in the waters adjacent to the Bahama Islands...were put on exhibition Tuesday, August 12, at the Museum of Natural History in New York. J.W. Kellette directed the exhibition, which was a second public showing of these unusual subjects, the first having been before the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.... The display began with many scenes of Bahama life and landscapes on the New Providence and Watling Islands. Then followed scenes from the bottom of the ocean, where the coral formations and plant life found there, and a number of varieties of fish, which, it is said, had never been photographed before. The film showed the entire processes of the sponge fishery, which is one of the leading industries of the Bahamas. More interesting than this, however, was an excellent display of the diving skill of the Negro boys, who surround liners in their skiffs and dive for pennies thrown from the decks. Another feature was an illustration of the methods used in catching sharks. The submarine cinematograph caught the sharks fighting each other for food, the letting down of the bait, the struggle on the hook, and finally the killing of the man-eater as they were brought to the surface. At the climax of the show was shown a film of J.E. Williamson diving with a knife in his teeth, fighting and killing a shark under water in front of the camera, and returning safely to the outer air, the doer of this deed being present in the audience to receive congratulations at the close of the show.

"The Submarine Film Corporation has been formed to put these pictures on the market. The company is organized under the laws of Virginia and has a capitalization of $100,000. Among the incorporators are T.S. Southgate, Nathaniel Beaman, A.S. Cathey, C.R. Capps, G.M. Williamson (who will be secretary-treasurer), and J.E. Williamson, who will be general manager. C.J. Hite, president of the Thanhouser Film Corporation, is one of the stockholders and will have charge of the distribution of all the company's subjects. Frank C. Payne, a well-known theatrical man, will have charge of booking and publicity."

Note: A correction by John William Kellette, printed in The Moving Picture World, August 29, 1914, stated that credit for the direction should have gone to the Williamsons and to Carl Louis Gregory, not to him.

 

ARTICLE by Rev. W.H. Jackson, from "The Moving Picture Educator" column, The Moving Picture World, October 10, 1914:

"Jules Verne is vindicated at last. We are now taking a submarine voyage from Nassau to San Salvador, riding but a few feet from the bottom of the ocean, looking through the large thick glass window, and the panorama is as entrancing as it is new. Over the 'meadows,' through coral reefs, marine gardens and miniature forests; thickly populated with all kinds of fishes for which the tropical parts of the Atlantic ocean is famous. Twice we passed the sunken remains of vessels of bygone days, one supposed to be a blockade runner of Civil War times, the sight of which not only brings wondrous memories, but more wonders and anticipation of future and greater possibilities in submarine journeys when the powers of which we are now witnessing the first infant efforts shall have grown to the natural proportions which all such inventions finally reach.

"The gardens of the deep - where foliage is as richly colored as flowers; where plants seem to almost possess an animal sort of life; where coral, dwarf, giant and of shapely designs sway to and fro in stately and majestic style; where fishes, large and small, resplendent in a riot of color that is at once as beautifully blended as it is appropriately distributed. There without doubt is one of nature's triumphs. Such shall we see when these wondrous films are produced in their natural colors. Meanwhile we are pleased with this first introduction to the splendors of the marine gardens, and begin again as students to learn new lessons which kinematography has so beautifully brought to our delighted attention. The native divers of the West Indies are splendid fellows below water. On terra firma we are accustomed to seeing the ragged urchins of the street tumble and scramble for the pennies thrown to them from the passing cars. Out in Nassau they dive to the bottom of the ocean and scramble for them on the sandy bottom. Expert humanity is seen in these native divers; a triumph of man in the arts and sciences is found in the fact that they can be followed and photographed. As they dive, swim and delve for the prize they seek, little do they think of their extraordinary prowess, which thousands of more enlightened and favored fellow creatures would give much to emulate. These natives are men who can challenge the fishes in their own domain and defy them.

"The man-eating shark has no terrors for these divers. First casting in the carcass of a dead horse to attract the sharks, knife in mouth, they plunge in to do battle with the monsters, whose powerful tail and six rows of teeth threaten instant death. Man is the more expert, as with a stab he soon places his foe hors-de-combat; only to rope him and secure him above water, where he can turn parts of his body at least to some commercial advantage. It is only fair to say in this instance that the fatal conflict shown on the screen was not between a native diver and the shark; but rather between one of the Williamson brothers, who determined that such a fight should be depicted on the screen, himself undertook the task because of the failure of the native divers to allure their victim within the focus of the camera. Mr. Williamson will not know failure, and himself, as expert as a native, finally succeeded in dispatching a shark in the line of the camera so that this picture might be secured. Great credit is due him for this exploit in addition to his other triumphs.

"When traveling through the marine gardens the growing sponge was one of the attractions; now they are given special attention. The sponge diggers use a long pole with a curved fork end, much after the manner of a lower New York Bay oyster dredger.... During parts of the under-ocean journey there were times when we were surprised at the seeming lack of fishes; and other times it seemed very plentiful. Perhaps in the greater growth of coral and other plants they were not so many. Doubtless these waters are famous for the beauty of the fishes than for any other one condition. Particular care must be taken, however, to mention that this first journey was not without a valuable discovery. A fish was photographed which seemed to present unusual traits, it is since been proved as the first of its kind ever seen by experts. For the time being, it has been designated as especially American because of the coincidence that it is striped with colors much after the style of the United States flag, while its head is not unfitting to take the place of the stars above the stripes; as, however, this new fish will now be exhibited all over the United States, no doubt it will eventually receive a name by the common consent of the people...

"It now only seems necessary to enlarge the capabilities of the apparatus to meet the enlarged conditions which the unlimited field of the ocean's expanse and depth present. True, the depth presents the greatest difficulty, but it is possible that the shallow parts of the great oceans will for many ages present sufficient scope for as many generations as may yet want to benefit by these researches. Submarine life pictures are the greatest product since present-day educational kinematography."

Note: The preceding article applies to Terrors of the Deep as well as Thirty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (entered under September 14, 1914 in the present filmography).

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Copyright © 1995 Q. David Bowers. All Rights Reserved.