The Black Countess (La comtesse noire), a Colorful Look at Cinema History!

785-small250La cometesse noire 6

The Black Countess, (the original French title was La comtesse noire), was produced by Pathé Frères, in 1913, and was three reels in length. The film had its French premier at the Omnia Pathé Theater, in Paris, June 20-26, 1913.

The Black Countess offers us a unique peek at film history. As to release date; Paris, we have a problem! June 20, 1913 is the French premier of a French production, yet, on Monday, May 19, 1913, The Black Countess played in Newcastle and Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.[1] What? Now we know the print was not flown there, so it had to be shipped from France to Australia. We may assume that the film had to be ready as early as February or March for it to be in Australia by May. We know for sure this is not mistaken identity for Gabrielle Robinne (as the Black Countess) is mentioned as the star of the film in the advertising.[2] In June of 1913, Black Countess was playing second bill at the Picture Palace in south Dublin, Ireland.[3]

Next of all, in contradiction to the Internet Movie Data Base and other online celluloid resources, The Black Countess was not a black and white film (which is obvious by the frames seen below). In fact, of its 2,854 feet (a running time of nearly 32 minutes), 2395 (close to 27 minutes)[4] were in color;[5] quite the rage in 1913. The Black Countess was also involved in a legal battle between Pathé Frères and Lowe’s Theatrical Enterprise. Lowe’s brought in a one reel version from France, and renamed it The Captivating Countess, and began exhibition in the United States.[6] Pathé Frères claimed that the only company with those rights to release The Black Countess was the local office of Pathé Frères, located in New Jersey. Pathé Frères sought no damages just an injunction against exhibition of The Captivating Countess and the seizure of all copies.[7] Pathé had sufficient reason to be so very concerned… for when The Motion Picture News printed its review of the film, they questioned ownership.[8] But according the Library of Congress the copyright holder was Pathé and it had been granted on May 22, 1913.

La comtesse noire 2La comtesse noire 1

La comtesse noire 3La comtesse noire 4

La comtesse noire 5


The plot of our remarkable subject went as such…

Professor Mable, a scientist and his daughter Germain, attend grand ball, while they meet up with Dr. Raymond, Professor Mable’s assistant, who just happens to be engaged to Germain. During the events of the evening, Dr. Raymond is spotted by Countess Reinler; she is impressed by his good looks and determines to pursue the young doctor. When Raymond and the Countess are discovered the engagement between Germain and Dr. Raymond is called off.

Yet, our story has just begun! The daughter of the Countess is found seriously ill and the Countess asks Professor Mable for his help. An operation is successfully performed by Mable and Raymond. Meanwhile, Raymond discovers that Countess Reinler is a notorious adventuress known as the Black Countess. Softened by the selfless work of the doctors, Reinler’s heart is touched by the circumstance of Germain and Dr. Raymond; she confesses her evil deeds… and the young lovers are reunited.[9]


Newspaper Ads:

Corsicana_Daily_Sun_ Corsicana, Texas Mon__Dec_15__1913_

Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas, December 15, 1913

The_Oregon_Daily_Journal_ Portland, Oregon Wed__Dec_10__1913_

Oregon Daily Journal, Portland, Oregon, December 10, 1913

Alton_Evening_Telegraph_ Alton, Illinois Tue__Dec_9__1913_

Alton Evening Telegraph, Alton, Illinois, December 9, 1913




Our cast and crew (biographies not included)


Black Countess Rene Alexandre

René Alexandre (Le docteur Raymond Martyl)


Black Countess Gabriel Signoret

Gabriel Signoret (Le professeur Monbel)


Black Countess Jean Dax

Jean Dax (Le duc de Mora)


Black Countess Gabrielle Robinne

Gabrielle Robinne (Madame Reinher dite La comtesse noir)


Marie-Louise Roger (Germaine Monbel)


Maria Fromet (Lili)


Black Countess Mado Minty

Mado Minty (La danseuse de la Fête Persane)


René Leprince (co-director)

Ferdinand Zecca (co-director)

Edmond Bureau-Guéroult (writer)


By C. S. Williams



[1] Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia) May 17, 1913

The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia) May 17, 1913

[2] The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia) May 17, 1913

[3] RTÉ Boston College Century Ireland Project 1913-1923

[4] Catalogue des films projetés ἀ Saint-Étienne avant la première guerre mondiale, edited by

Centre d’études foréziennes  Publications de l’Université Saint-Étienne, 2000, page 363

[5] Kalgoorlie Miner (Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, Australia) July 4, 1913

[6] New York Clipper (New York, New York) September 20, 1913

[7] New York Times (New York, New York) September 28, 1913

[8] The Motion Picture News, December 13, 1913

[9] The Mail (Adelaide, South Australia, Australia) June14, 1913 (the original source for our synopsis)


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