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Clicky Fountain Pen (?) In 1922 Film

silentfilm germany clicky retractable identification

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17 replies to this topic

#1 polm23

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Posted 10 November 2015 - 04:11

Hello; I'm looking for help identifying a pen (or maybe pencil) that would have been available in Germany in 1922. To explain the setup:

 

The other day I was watching Dr Mabuse, der Spieler, a 1922 silent film, when I noticed something very odd - in order to write down his address, a character pulls a pen out of his pocket and clicks it to start writing. Before putting it away he clicks it again, maybe pushing the point against the table. You can see the scene here.

 

Based on the way he pushes the pen against the table before he puts it away, it looks like it's a mechanical pencil and he's pushing the lead back in, but right after the scene they show the note, which definitely looks like it was written by a fountain pen:

 

l52Wyji.jpg

 

 

Of course since it's a movie they probably don't show the actual note he wrote during the scene, but it also seems strange they'd use a different kind of writing tool altogether.

 

Now I'm no expert on the history of pens and pencils, but I think some people here are, which is why I want to ask - what sort of pen or pencil could he be using?

 

So far as I've been able to find out,

 

1. Clicky ballpoints weren't invented until ~1950, so that's out

 

2. Mechanical pencils had been around, but I haven't found a clicky model earlier than the 1936 Eversharp Repeater. I'm not sure how to tell from descriptions which pencils would include the ability to return the lead as he seems to do at the end of the video.

 

3. For retracting fountain pens, excluding safeties, the oldest models I can find would be the Pilot (1964), the Asterope (1934), the Meteore Pullman (1932), and the mysterious "Capless" Japanese fountain pens from the 1920s (see here). All except for possibly the "Capless" are too late, and it's not clear those have the right action anyway.

 

4. I've never handled a "safety" fountain pen, but it looks like most of them need their cap to be removed and then twisted to use, which doesn't line up with the video at all.

 

Based on the above my best guess is it's some kind of mechanical pencil I haven't been able to find a record of, but I'm really not sure. If anyone has any information or theories they could provide, the assistance would be greatly appreciated.


Edited by polm23, 10 November 2015 - 04:15.


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#2 ac12

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Posted 10 November 2015 - 04:28

It could also be the prop guy just got a pen the did not match the time period.

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#3 polm23

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Posted 10 November 2015 - 04:38

Dr Mabuse is not a recent movie set in historical 1922, it's an actual silent film released in 1922, so even as a prop they'd only have access to things available in that time period...



#4 NinthSphere

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Posted 10 November 2015 - 07:58

It could also be the prop guy just got a pen the did not match the time period.

 

So you're suggesting time machine?



#5 NinthSphere

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Posted 10 November 2015 - 08:08

My money would be on a pencil too, but I'm at a loss for one that early that would match the scene action.



#6 Bo Bo Olson

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Posted 10 November 2015 - 09:24

There were self propelling pencils from at least the 1870's....not a clicker..I would bet.

 

My @ 1900 + - 10-15 years are all twist. some 3-4, only.

It is not that I have a collection, but sometimes MP are in a auction lot.

 

The safety fountain pens like an MB had a nib that twisted in and out....could be it was showing the man didn't have enough money to repair his fountain pen so it twisted in?

That still don't help the click in or out.


German vintage '50-70 semi-flex stubs and those in oblique give the real thing in On Demand line variation. Modern Oblique is a waste of money for a shadow of line variation. Being too lazy to Hunt for affordable vintage oblique pens, lets you 'hunt' for line variation instead of having it.

www.nibs.com/blog/nibster-writes/nibs-germany & https://www.peter-bo...cts/nib-systems,

 

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#7 Ergative

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Posted 10 November 2015 - 13:30

How interesting! What do you make of that shake right before he clicks it the first time? Here are my hypotheses:

 

1. It's a fountain pen, and he's just making sure there's ink in the feed. This is how I get my CC-pens starting when I put in a cartridge for the first time. In that case I can't make sense of the second tap.

 

2. It's a pencil, and the flick extends the lead. The click is in fact securing the lead in place so that it won't move. This is then consistent with the click and tap at the end: the second click unsecures the lead, and the tap pushes it back in the pencil. In that case it doesn't match the writing.

 

I go for option 2. I think in those days it was quite easy for these types of continuity errors to proliferate, since it was harder to check the filming that had already been done. I can easily imagine filming that scene, making a note that they needed an address to film close up, filming the rest of the scenes while the actors and lighting was available, and adding the address later. By that time, they'd forgotten what implement the actor used.



#8 mike.jane

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Posted 10 November 2015 - 14:24

Well, it's a pretty famous movie, so maybe some movie buffs somewhere else have already worked out this problem in the past. Did you check on that, OP?



#9 inkstainedruth

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Posted 11 November 2015 - 01:14

Wow.  I think I saw that movie a few months ago -- or at least *one* of the Dr. Mabuse movies -- when it was on TCM (every now and then their "Sunday Night Silents" have some really interesting movies).  And I never even noticed the pen....  

I wonder if you posted the question to IMDB.com for that film if you'd get an answer.  It would probably be too obscure for the trivia section, though....

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#10 Sandy Fry

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Posted 11 November 2015 - 11:21

"Magic" pencil maybe???

 

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#11 polm23

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Posted 11 November 2015 - 11:55

Thanks for all your help, everyone! It does seem like a pencil is the best bet, though if I could peg it down a bit more that'd be great...

 

@mike.jane and @inkstainedtruth: Thanks for the thoughts about checking with movie people! Unfortunately what the Dr uses to write his address in that scene isn't really important to the movie as a whole - I tried a few searches about pencils in connections with the movie (without much hope) and came up empty handed. Before that I'd actually run searches over critical works about the movie trying to figure out what the card game is - I think it's basically blackjack, but again, it's not really important, so some sources called it poker and most just didn't bother trying to identify it.

 

@Ergative: When I posted this I wasn't sure there were push-button pencils at the time of the movie, but since then I learned about the Eagle Automatic and I think your #2 sounds good. I haven't found an example of a modern style click-to-advance pencil from that period yet (though I could definitely be missing something), and with something like the Eagle I figured clicking it with the point down would just make the lead fall out... But I guess if you held it at an angle and clicked quickly you could catch the lead at a usable length?

 

I've been searching for more details on pencils from the time period, but I feel like there's a vocabulary I don't understand well enough to figure out if the motions match the video.

 

@Sandy Fry: I had never heard of magic pencils before! Searching around a bit the ones I'm turning up seem to be activated by pulling the back end - is that something that could be done with a thumb with a little practice? The video makes it look like he's clicking the thing, but given how small it is he might be pulling the back with his thumb or something.



#12 Tweel

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Posted 12 November 2015 - 01:34

Given the ink used for his writing, my guess is that it's a retracting travelling dip pen with a pushbutton release -- and that he dipped it before retracting and pocketing it.


fpn_1375035941__postcard_swap.png * * * "Don't neglect to write me several times from different places when you may."
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#13 Ergative

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Posted 12 November 2015 - 12:20

Given the ink used for his writing, my guess is that it's a retracting travelling dip pen with a pushbutton release -- and that he dipped it before retracting and pocketing it.

 

I don't see him dip anywhere in the scene. Also, look at the flourish he makes at the end with his hand, which is much too big to correspond to the little underline under "112" in the photograph. It's pretty clear, I believe, that the document was created separately, and we can't deduce anything about the writing implement from it.



#14 Zinonas

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Posted 12 November 2015 - 14:12

In silent films it was usual to use a lot of big gestures in your acting, to compensate for the absence of vocal manifestation of the characters feeling. This is quite characteristic of Lang´s early movies. Therefore trying to relate the actual movements of the actors to reality is wrong. Probably the director just thought that those gestures were visually expressive of Mabuse´s sentiments.

#15 Mr.Rene

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Posted 12 November 2015 - 14:19

In silent films it was usual to use a lot of big gestures in your acting, to compensate for the absence of vocal manifestation of the characters feeling. This is quite characteristic of Lang´s early movies. Therefore trying to relate the actual movements of the actors to reality is wrong. Probably the director just thought that those gestures were visually expressive of Mabuse´s sentiments.

I agree Zinonas...



#16 carlos.q

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Posted 13 November 2015 - 01:01

The film depicts an error in continuity, which is common in many movies. See one of these errors in another film featuring a fountain pen:
http://www.fountainp...d-tv/?p=3016163

Edited by carlos.q, 13 November 2015 - 01:03.


#17 Piper 987

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Posted 14 November 2015 - 09:14

The guy on the right takes whatever he's going to use, "flicks" it down and then clicks it. He writes one short line at the bottom of the card, adds an under flourish and then clicks it again just before tapping it down on the table. I am very sure he's using a mechanical pencil.

 

The card you show was not written by him at all.


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#18 polm23

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Posted 16 November 2015 - 07:27

Hm, well at this point I'm fully prepared to believe it's a mechanical pencil rather than a pen, though that leaves some possibilities I'm not quite comfortable with yet:

 

1. Were push-button (clicky) propelling pencils around at that time? I haven't been able to find anything that early yet.

 

2. Is it possible to operate a magic pencil with one hand? My understanding is that usually you'd hold the front with one hand and pull the back out with another, but perhaps a well-oiled one could be pulled up with the thumb in what looks like a click?

 

3. Could a non-propelling click pencil such as a drop-pencil be operated in this way? This is Ergative's #2, but not having a pencil of that type at hand I still haven't been able to test the practicalityof it, and if 1 or 2 is reasonable I think they'd be more likely.

 

While looking at the video again I did find some evidence in favor of the magic pencil theory. If you go here and pause the GIF you can then advance frame-by-frame by clicking on the ">|" button. If you go to when he first clicks it there's two frames where you can see a white point - like that on a magic pencil - come out of the body of the device. It's possible that what looks like a "click" action is more of a "lift and push".

 

Unfortunately not knowing how slidy a normal magic pencil is I'm not sure if that's realistic or not.







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: silentfilm, germany, clicky, retractable, identification



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