Sunday, April 24, 2022

Georges Melies: the First Motion Picture Special Effects, the First Horror Movie, and the First Science Fiction Movie

The term "Special Effects" did not exist when French brothers Auguste and Louis Lumiere created their "Cinematographe" and on March 22, 1895 projected their first motion picture. "Special Effects" did not exist in the United States, also in 1895, when Charles Francis Jenkins and Thomas Armat projected their first motion picture on their "Vitascope". Which would be sold under Thomas Edison's name, as his invention, not theirs, starting in April 1896.  

"Special Effects" would be created by a French magician and illusionist named George Melies and his early life is where this article begins.



Marie-Georges-Jean Melies was born on December 8, 1861 in Paris, of the then, French Empire. The father of "Special Effects" was the son of French bootmaker Jean-Louis Melies and Johnannah-Catherine Schuering Melies, the daughter of the official bootmaker to the Dutch court who had moved to Paris. Georges had two older brothers, Henri who remained with the boot making company his parents founded, and Gaston. Gaston would become a film maker and would come to the United States, more for Georges.

When Georges was ready for secondary school, he was sent to "Lycée Michelet", located in Vanves, Hauts-de-Seine, on the border of Paris.

The school was bombed during the Franco-Prussian war and nine-years-old Georges was moved to the prestigious "Lycée Louis-le-Grand", located in central Paris, to continue his formal classical education.

In a collected work from 1987, entitled: "World Film Directors: Volume 1 1890-1945", edited by John Wakeman, is an article by Miriam Rosen entitled: "Melies, Georges". In her article, Ms. Rosen writes that Georges Melies artistic talents outweighed his intellectual and his:

artistic passion was too strong for him, and while he would ponder a French composition or Latin verse, his pen mechanically sketched portraits or caricatures of his professors or classmates, if not some fantasy palace or an original landscape that already had the look of a theatre set.

Georges was also building marionettes and putting on shows. After completing his formal education, Georges joined Henri and Gaston in the family business of making shoes and learning to sew, but three-years of mandatory military service ended that direction in his life. After his service and to improve his son's speaking of English, his father sent him to London, England, to clerk for a family friend, but fate has a way of entering one's life.

In London, Georges Melies started to visit "Egyptian Hall", which was run by illusionist John Nevil Maskelyne. Initially the hall had exhibitions of painting and Napoleonic era relics. However, later, when Melies repeatedly visited it, the hall was the site for magic and spiritualism programs, becoming known as "England's Home of Mystery".

Above, John Nevil Maskelyne, and below a newspaper ad for the hall.

It was during this period of Georges Melies life that he developed a love for "stage magic". Although, he returned to Paris in 1885, with a desire to study painting at the "École des Beaux-Arts", but his father refused to finance an art school education and George found himself supervising the machinery at the shoe factory. Also, in 1885, his parents wanted him to marry his brother's sister-in-law, but instead Georges Melies married Eugenie Genin, the daughter of a family friend, whose guardians had left her a very sizeable dowery.

A family photo, Georges Melies is standing on the far right with the cane and his wife, Eugenie is sitting to his left with her hat on. The others are not identified!

While working at the shoe factory, Georges still had time to watch and study stage magic. This was at the "Theatre Robert-Houdin" aka: the "Theatre des Soirees Fantastiques de Robert-Houdin (Theater of Fantastic Evenings by Robert-Houdin)". The manager of the theatre, magician Emile Voisin, gave Georges lessons in magic that led to Melies performing on stage at both the "Musee Grevin", a wax museum---

---and the "Galerie Vivienne".

In 1888, Georges Melies father retired and George sold his share of the family shoe business to his brothers. With the money he received for his share of the business and funds from his wife's dowery, Georges Melies became the new owner of the "The Theatre of Robert-Houdin".


For the next nine years Georges Melies created over thirty new illusions for the theatre, which he performed, and increased the size of the theater's audience. When he purchased the "The Theatre of Robert-Houdin"several people came with it and the two most notable for Melies' future were, the chief mechanic Eugene Calmels, and actress Jehanne d'Alcy. Who was his assistant on stage, became his mistress, the main actress in his films, and his second wife.


Additionally, during these years, Georges Melies became a political cartoonist for the liberal newspaper, "Le Griffe", that was edited by his cousin Adolph Melies.

I started this article by mentioning Auguste Marie Louis Nicolas Lumiere and his brother Louis Jean Lumiere and their invention of the "Cinematographe.

Above, are Auguste and Louis Lumiere and below the Cinematographe camera and projector.

On December 28, 1895, George Melies attended a special private screening by the Lumiere brothers to owners of possible venues for showing their films. At the end of the showing, Melies offered to buy one of the brother's projectors for the "The Theatre of Robert-Houdin", but like others in attendance was turned down. The brothers wanted to solely control their invention and their films. 

Acting on a possible tip from Jehanne d'Acy, Georges met with British motion picture inventor Robert E. Paul and purchased one of his "Animatograph Projectors". Paul would go on to make the "Cinematograph Camera #1" in 1896, the first camera that had reverse cranking, permitting footage to be exposed several times.

Along with the purchase of Paul's projector, Georges Melies also purchased from him several of Paul's films and some from the "Edison Manufacturing Company". The end result was that by April 1896, the "Theatres Robert-Houdin" was regularly showing short films between acts.

In September 1896, George Melies, Lucien Korsten, and Lucien Reulos, patented the "Kinetographe Robert-Houdin", a cast iron motion picture projector.

Because of the noise made by the projector, George Melies referred to it as his "Coffee Grinder", or "Machine Gun". In 1897 the improved motion picture technology made Melies "Coffee Grinder" obsolete and he began to purchase better equipment from the "Gaumont Film Company", the "Lumiere brothers", and "Pathe Freres".

By the end of 1897, Melies, Korsten, and Reulos formed "Manufacture de films pours cinematographes (Manufacture of films for cinematographers)", but better known as the "Star Film Company". The three would be joined by Georges brother Gaston Melies in 1902 and he would be sent to New York City, when several American Film Companies, can you say Thomas Edison, started to infringe on Georges copyrights. Gaston, became the distributor of his brother films and in 1903, Gaston started making his own documentary films. 

While, Georges was making motion pictures in France, Gaston moved his family and the American branch of the "Star Film Company" to San Antonio, Texas, and in 1910 began making Westerns starring John Ford's older brother Francis Ford with titles such as "Cyclone Peter's Matrimony" and 1911's "The Immortal Alamo". Which is considered the earliesr motion picture about "The Battle of the Alamo" and includes Santa Anna's surrender to a common soldier. 

Above, Gaston Melies looking more Texan than Frenchman. 

I will end my look at George and Gaston Melies in "Part Four" of this article.


Even with "Selected Titles" of the 532 films directed by Georges Melies, one should start at his first one.

All release dates are for France:

Melies started by filming a two-part documentary with each part running approximately one minute. "Sauvetage en riviere (River Rescue)" United States title: "The Rescue on the River", Part One and Part Two, were released in May 1896. Some film historians and websites, state that Georges Melies just imitated Robert W. Paul's "Up the River". The only problem I have with that statement is Paul's film wasn't released until two-months later in July 1896.


George Melies next film short was a story entitled:

"Escamotage d'Lune Dame Su Theatre Robert Houdin (The Conjuring of a Woman at the Robert Houdin Theatre)" The United States title: "The Vanishing Lady", released in October 1896

The short starred Georges Melies and Jehanne d'Alcy and was a illusion they had performed many times on stage. The illusion was based upon a magic act by French magician Buatier de Kolta. However, there was more to it, because according to movie historians this was the first true "Special Effects" movie, even at a running time just under one-minute.

Returning to the article by Miriam Rosen, Melies spoke of a camera "accident", that occurred in the middle of a take, when the camera jammed. The resulting picture had:
a Madeleine-Bastille Bus change into a hearse and a woman change into a man. The substitution trick, called a stop trick, had been discovered.

Thomas Edison used a crude and rudimentary form of editing for his August 27, 1895, 18-second film, "The Execution of Mary Stuart", to show her beheading. However, George Melies perfected the technique for "Escamotage d'Lune Dame Su Theatre Robert Houdin".

When Melies and d'Alcy at the "Robert-Houdin Theatre" performed de Kolta's illusion. Like him, they used a trap door covered by a rubber mat, but the audience only sees the magician place a newspaper on the floor, unknowingly covering the mat and trap door.

For "Escamotage d'Lune Dame Su Theatre Robert Houdin", George Melies used what became known in film editing as "The Substitution Splice". By using the splice, Melies added the transformation to and from the skeleton, Special Effects had been created according to film historians.

Le Manoir du diable (The House of the Devil) released on December 24, 1896. 

Quoting from the website: "The History of Horror":
Because of its themes and characters, the film has been considered to technically be the first horror film. Such a classification can also be attributed to the film’s depiction of a human transforming into a bat, a plot element which has led some observers to label the work the first vampire film. The film is also innovative in length; its running time of over three minutes was ambitious for its era.

The picture opens with a giant bat flying in a medieval castle. The bat circles the room, before suddenly changing into Mephistopheles. Who produces a cauldron and an assistant, that helps him conjure a women from the empty cauldron!


There is some confusion over what the complete 1896's "Le Manior du diable" looks like. This is because, in 1897, Melies remade the short as "Le Chateau haunt (The Haunted Castle)", with a slightly different story line. The following are stills from the colorized version of "The Haunted Castle".

In 1896, alone, Georges Melies would direct 86 short films, of which 38 came under the heading of "Documentary" and consisted of titles such as, "Tide Rising Over the Breakwater", and, "French Regiment Going to the Parade". Like the Lumiere brothers, also during that year, Georges made porno films, such as 1896's "The Peeping Toms".

Back in September 1896, Georges Melies built his motion picture studio outside of Paris on his property in Montreuil, Seine-Saint-Denis. The main stage was made entirely out of glass to allow light to come in to expose the film. There were dressing and costume rooms in a shed next to the stage and another building for set construction. 

All of Georges Melies movie sets were built like the legitimate theatre sets used at the "Theatre Robert-Houdin". They were painted in grey tones, because of how the film stock used in silent movies picked-up color. An interesting example comes from the early career of African American actor Noble Johnson, who was able to play white roles because of that film stock. My article on Johnson, known more as the native chief in 1933's "King Kong" than his other major film work, entitled, "Noble Johnson African-American Pioneer Actor", can be read at:

I want to move forward to 1899 and what is considered the first use of the motion picture industry on public opinion, but I must go back five-years to October 15, 1894 for background

On that date, French Artillery Officer Alfred Dreyfus was arrested for treason. He was accused of passing information on new French artillery parts to German Spy, Maximillian von Schwartzkoppen. Dreyfus protested his innocence, but the French counter-intelligence section of the army led by Lieutenant Colonel Jean Sanderr felt otherwise and besides, Dreyfus was Jewish. 

On January 5, 1895, in a secret court martial, Dreyfus was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil's Island in French Guiana. In August 1896, the new chief of French military intelligence Lieutenant Colonel Georges Picquart announced he had evidence that Dreyfus was innocent and the real traitor was Major Ferndinand Walsin Esterhazy. The French army high command transferred Picquart to Sousse, Tunisia, to silence him, because of the anti-Semitism within the army and they didn't want Dreyfus freed. At the same time, French army officer, Hubert-Joseph Henry was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel for forging the documents used to convict Alfred Dreyfus, but Henry would commit suicide later over his role in "The Dreyfus Affair"

In 1899, Georges Melies believed Alfred Dreyfus to be innocent and decided to make what became a series of eleven short films with a pro-Dreyfus slant. The titles will give my reader an idea of the power of Melies work, known as the first motion picture serial.

The United States titles are:

1) Dreyfus Court Martial--The Arrest of Dreyfus

2) The Degradation of Dreyfus
3) Devil's Island--Within the palisade

4) Dreyfus put in irons

5) Suicide of Colonel Henry
6) Landing of Dreyfus at Quiberon
7) Dreyfus Meets His Wife at Rennes
8) Attempt on the Life of Maitre Labori
9) The Fight of the Journalists at Lycee
10) The Court Martial at Rennes
11) Dreyfus Leaving the Lycee for Jail

All eleven shorts were combined into one film for the United States, released on November 4, 1899 in New York City, as "The Dreyfus Affair".

Many members of the French, American, and British public, that watched Melies serial unfold, believed they were not seeing his recreations, but actual footage taken of "Alfred Dreyfus" and his French military accusers.

In 2000, biographer Elizabeth Ezra wrote her biography, "Georges Melies", for the University of Manchester England Press. In her work, she relates that French film critic and historian Georges Sadoul considered "The Dreyfus Affair Film Series" as the first "politically engaged film". Which at the time of its release, the French government had censored!

Two interesting shorts from 1899 are:

"La colonne de feu (The Pillar of Fire)", that for the United Kingdom and the United States, would have its title lengthened to reflect popular British writer H. Rider Haggard's novel "SHE". The English language title was, "Haggard's She: The Pillar of Fire". While, Melies short had nothing to do with the H. Rider Haggard's novel about "Ayesha: SHE Who Must Be Obeyed" and the blue flame that extended her life for 2,000 years

It is simply one of Melies conjure films about a devil with bat wings dancing around a pot and, next, a woman appears. Then the devil disappears and the woman dances around a "Pillar of Fire" in the pot.

"Cleopatre (Cleopatra)" U.S. title: "Cleopatra's Tomb", has Georges Melies as an archeologist digging in a tomb whose shovel splits the body of the buried "Cleopatra". The Queen's ghost, played by Jehanne d'Alcy, seen below, materializes and goes after the archeologist.


1900 started off with "Joan of Arc" in hand tinted color by the "Star Film Company". This, originally thirteen-minute short, full length copies haven't been located, attempts to tell her entire story and was one of the pictures that brought Melies serious consideration outside of France as a film maker.

The website, "Century Film Project", describes the picture much better than I could:

---the Cecil B. DeMille version of Joan of Arc’s story, but he was not the first master film maker to take it on. In fact, Joan’s countryman Georges Méliès beat him to the punch by over fifteen years, and did in in (hand-tinted) color, too!

The movie (as we have it today) begins with the visitation of young Joan by angels who tell her of her mission to save France from occupation by the English. We see different angels appear before her and she falls prostrate before them. She then goes to tell her parents, who seem quite distressed by the news. The next scene shows the gate at Vaucouleurs, where the guard at first seems disinclined to admit her, but he is convinced when she demonstrates her faith in God and France, and he summons other guards to escort her to the master of the house. The tableau for this scene shows a raucous party going on inside the castle, with Robert de Baudricourt leading the festivities, while a fat curate toasts and drinks from a flagon. When Joan comes in, Baudricourt mocks her and invites her to sit on his knee, but her faith overcomes him and he agrees to give her soldiers to support her cause. 

Melies productivity in 1900 would include 40 more shorts of varying lengths and on several subjects, but it was his "Feerie (Fairy)" stories that most people preferred. His 1901, "Le Petit Chaperon rouge (Little Red Riding Hood)", is presumed to be lost, but we do have some of Melies production drawings.

Even in 1901, Georges Melies was still naïve about the distribution of his films outside of France. He gave his permission for the British, "Warwick Trading Company" to show "Little Red Riding Hood" in the United Kingdom, but Thomas Edison copied the film, without permission, for showing and increasing his own profits in the United States. This was one of several such acts by the "Edison Manufacturing Company" that led Georges to send his brother Gaston to oversee release of his French films in the United States.

 Another major production from Melies in 1901 was "Barbe-bleue (Bluebeard)", running 12-minutes.
This is a French folk-tale about a man who married different women and then murders them. There already had been five literary versions of the tale going back to 1779, four plays going back to 1798, and two operas going back to 1789, but Georges' short was the first film version. In 1944, actor John Carradine portrayed the role on film, and in 1948, director Fritz Lang made the definitive film version starring Sir Michael Redgrave and Joan Bennett.

Melies portrayed the title character and Jehanne d'Alcy portrayed the "Le nouveelle espouse de Barbe-bleue (Bluebeard's new wife)".

"Bluebeard" is a very wealthy sinister aristocrat whose previous seven wives have just vanished. A young lady now becomes his latest wife in this horror tale. She will discover a room full of blood and her husband's seven previous wives bodies hanging on butcher hooks. The plot asks will she survive, or will she become Bluebeard's eighth vanished wife?

Below, the eighth wife dreams of keys to a secret room.

Below Inside the secret room.

On October 17, 1956, the first motion picture in Todd-AO, producer Michael Todd's version of Jules Verne's "Around the World in 80 Days", opened in both the United States and Canada. The opening prologue had popular American broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow speaking to Verne's life and writings. In the prologue is a showing of a 13-minute silent short from Georges Melies that Morrow stated was based completely upon the novel, "From the Earth to the Moon".  

"Le Voyage dans la Lune (The Voyage to the Moon)" United States title: "A Trip to the Moon", was released on September 1, 1902.

Murrow's prologue had it wrong, Georges Melies most famous motion picture short was taken from three science fiction novels, and become the first science fiction motion picture. Two of the three were by French writer Jules Verne, 1865's "From the Earth to the Moon" and its sequel, 1870's "Around the Moon", but Melies also used characters from British author Herbert George "H.G." Wells' 1901 "First Men in the Moon".

Melies characters are not taken from either author's novels, but consist of six French astronomers that make the trip in the bullet shaped space craft. They are named, "Nostradamus", "Alcofrisbas", "Micromegas", "Parafaragaramus", "Omega", and "Professor Barbenfouillis" portrayed by Georges Melies.

The following are colorized pictures of the original black and white short.

The six astronomers will be shot to the moon in a giant cannon, right out of Verne, and loaded into the cannon by several French ladies.

The canon fires the bullet space craft toward the moon.

The above face of the moon is George Melies. The astronomers walk on the moon without space suits and fall asleep.

When they wake up, the astronomers are captured by the insect-like moon people, the "Selenite's", H.G. Wells' moon creatures, and taken to their leader.

The astronomers escape imprisonment, are pursued by "Selenite's", and make it back to their space craft. Five get inside as it slides off a ledge with the sixth, George Melies, holding onto a rope and a "Selenite" holding on to the end of the rope. The space craft falls back to the Earth and crashes into the ocean.

The usually seen ending is of the astronomers and the "Selenite" being rescued by a ship and towed ashore. However, the actual ending has a parade to celebrate their trip, but it is missing from many surviving prints. 

Back in 1898, Georges Melies filmed a 3-minute short entitled "Le lune a un metre (The Moon is one meter)" United States title: "The Astronomer's Dream". 

The plot has an "Astronomer", played by Melies, falling sleep and dreaming of a woman, played by Jehanne d'Alcy, chasing Satan away from him at the start of his dream. Satan reappears at the short's ending, as does d'Alcy, as the same woman, but between the two Satan appearances. Jehanne d'Alcy also appears as the mythological Greek Moon Goddess "Selene" coming through the astronomer's window riding a crescent moon.

Some film reviewers bring this picture up as the real first "science fiction picture" predating "Le Voyage dans la Lune" by 4-years.

They are looking at this wrong and reaching to make it science fiction. The short is only another rendering of one of the stage acts performed by Melies and d'Alcy at the "Robert Houdin Theatre" transferred to film. 

Above and below, George Melies as the "Astronomer". 

The only possible connection to a science fiction story would be the moon and "Selene". Who also appeared in the dream sequence of "Le Voyage dans la Lune" sitting on the moon. In this earlier film, the moon doesn't look real and is an obvious set piece for the filmed illusion and the introduction of "Selene" standing on the crescent moon. Which also looks like a set piece used in the original staged illusion.

Two years after "Le Voyage dans la Lune", George Melies returned to Jules Verne with "Le Voyage a travers l'impossible (The Impossible Voyage)  United States title: "Whirling the Worlds". His plot was based upon Verne's 1882 "Journey Through the Impossible" and released in 1904.

In 24 minutes, Melies takes a group of people, from the "Institute of Incoherent Geography", in a automobile to a train station at the bottom of the Alps. There they board a train that will fly them to the sun and return them to the Earth as a submarine. 

The train is launched into outer space using the mountain as a ramp to build-up lift-off speed. 

The train is swallowed by the sun causing it to get angry.

The train changes it shape as the group explore the insides of the sun and seek a cold place from the heat.

The group now heads back to the Earth in the submarine shaped craft.

Below, an invoice for the "Star Film Company" dated February 6, 1906. It shows that the company's physical address was 13 Passage de l' Opera, Paris.

In 1907, George Melies made a 10-minute parody of Jules Verne's 1869 classic novel "Vingt Mille Lieues sous les mers (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea)". The shorts title was "20000 lieues sous les mer", a different French spelling of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea".
A fisherman named "Yves" falls asleep and dreams of traveling under the sea in a submarine and meets both real and fanciful creatures. Some of the cut-out sea creatures are copies of Alphonse de Neuville's drawing for the novel's first edition. Dancers from the still operating "Chatelet Theatre", below, in Paris,appeared in the short that had no special effects.

Things for Georges Melies seemed to still to be going very well in 1907, but that began to change in 1908 with a series of events.


The year began with the most ambitious production George Melies had ever made, "La Civilisation a travers les ages (Civilization through the ages)" United States title: "Humanity Through the Ages". The date of the film's French release is unknown, but the United States copyright was registered with the Library of Congress on February 7, 1908.

Melies's narrative looked at civilization from the Biblical "Cain and Abel" through the "Hague Convention of 1907". The film is considered lost and no information on its length is known. Among George Melies episodes were the aforementioned "Cain and Abel", the "Druids", the "Persecution of the Christians by the Romans", the use of pillories in the "Middle Ages", and "Louis XIII". The film also contains scenes of the aforementioned "1907 Hague Convention", but it ends with an "Angel of Destruction" the hovers over a battlefield of dead soldier

For Georges Melies future, his epic was a worldwide box office failure, but he would always consider the picture his masterpiece.

During 1908, George Melies would release 52-short-films in France, while in the United States, Thomas Edison founded, in December, the "Motion Pictures Patents Company (MPPC)" aka: "The Edison Trust". This was another of Edison's moves to control the use of his sometime illegally acquired motion picture equipment patents. When, back in 1902, the "Edison Manufacturing Company", had begun to sue his United States motion picture competitors rather than looking for a compromise with them. The result of his lawsuits crippled the American film industry and gave the European companies the major control of the worldwide motion picture industry.

The "MPPC" finally brought the U.S. film makers togethers, ended the domination of European film makers upon American movie screens, standardized the manner in which movies were distributed and exhibited within the United States and improved the quality of  American films by internal competition.

Many European film makers wanted in, they held a "Congress of European Film Companies", and voted to approach Thomas Edison. After talks, several, including the "Star Film Company", joined the "MPPC", but their membership turned out to be a way for Edison to control European film production and markets.

Realizing what Edison was doing, a second "Congress of European Film Companies" was held in 1909. Among the decisions they made was about film leasing, a film could only be leased for a four-month period and only to members of their "Congress" and not to American film makers. There was the adoption of a different type of film stock, one with a single perforation, a move designed to stop Thomas Edison and his "MPPC" monopoly in Europe. As they would need American made projectors to show their product. However, this would also force small French fairgrounds and music hall owners to purchase new projection equipment to be able to show the new film stock. This was something that they could not afford and fairgrounds and music halls were Georges Melies main source of income from his shorts. 

1910 brought changes to the "Star Film Company", Georges decided to take time away from making films and return to the stage. He created a touring show, "Les Fantomes du Nil (The Ghosts of the Nile)" and would make an extensive tour of Europe and North Africa. In the United States, as I previously mentioned, Gaston, established in San Antonio, Texas, first, the "Star Film Ranch", and the following year renamed it, "Star Films American Wildwest Productions" and in 1912, Gaston moved his family to the "Wild West" of Hollywood, California, to continue making Western movies.

However, before Georges left for Europe, he made the mistake that would eventually take down his motion picture business. Georges Melies was in need of a large amount of funds and went to Charles Pathe of the large "Pathe Freres Corporation" for a loan. Georges agreed to conditions that still showed his naivete in business dealings. Charles Pathe would give Georges Melies the money he wanted, but "Pathe Freres" would distribute Melies future motion pictures, would reserve the right to edit them as they saw fit, and as collateral for the loan. George Melies signed over to Charles Pathe the deeds to both his home and motion picture studio.

In 1910, Melies made only eleven shorts before starting his European magic tour, and upon his return in 1911. George Melies would make only film, the very expensive "Les Adventures du baron de Munchhausen (The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen)" United States title: "The Hallucinations of Baron Munchhausen". The film was a major financial loss for the film maker and in 1912 he suffered another major box office failure. 



In 1912, George Melies made only three shorts, and one had a running time of 33-minutes, "A la conquete du pole (Conquest of the Pole)" had been another very expensive production failure. 

For 1913, Georges Melies produced only one 15-minute short and he broke his contract with "Pathe Freres", and had nothing to cover his indebtedness as a result of the two motion pictures. The film maker was bankrupt and unable to make films.

While, in the United States, Gaston Melies added to Georges troubles by his poor decisions and the financial losses of the "Star Films American Wildwest Productions". 

Sadly, in 1913, his wife Eugenie passed away, leaving her husband to raise a 12-years old son, Andre. Their 25-years-old daughter, Georgette Eugenie Jeanne Melies had married Amand Pierre Fontaine. 

With the outbreak of the First World War George Melies troubles were compounded and in 1917 his studio was turned into a hospital for French soldiers. In 1923, "Pathe Freres" was finally able to take over the film studio, but in a rage, Georges burned all the negatives to his films and this is the chief reason most are considered lost.

On January 21, 1938, at the age of 76-years, George Melies died of cancer.

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