Vicomte Henry de Grandsaignes d'Hauterives and Comtesse Marie-Anne

Cinémathèque québécoiseExhibitors

French citizens from Brittany, Henry and his mother Marie-Anne came to Quebec in October 1897 to give film exhibitions, as part of an attempt, it seems, to rebuild the family fortune that he had squandered. They baptised their show the 'Historiographe', because they concentrated on showing historical subjects: the life of Jesus Christ, of Napoleon, the history of Great Britain, and so on. The couple made some ten trips to Canada, presenting their films every day in schools and churches, both in urban and rural areas, and often being the first to introduce the cinema in the localities they visited. They also toured their show extensively in the United States, appearing for example at the 1904 World's Fair. In their early days most of the films shown were Lumière subjects, but their programme soon started to include Georges Méliès trick films and, later, Pathé melodramas. Their biggest success was reserved for various versions of the Crucifixion, presented with a rousing commentary by Henry (but which earned the ire of certain clergymen). They ceased their Quebec tours in 1906, partly due to competition from the Ouimetoscope shows mounted by Ernest Ouimet in Montreal and elsewhere, and thereafter the pair continued their film exhibition in various locations in the USA as 'Parisian Mimodramas'. They visited Bermuda at this time, but on the eve of the First World War, unable to compete with the mushrooming of permanent cinemas in America, Marie-Anne returned penniless to France, and was reduced to renting out rooms and selling Breton lace to tourists.

Stephen Bottomore