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Bells (1st Version) [1946]

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Film Identifier: F.2011-05-0031
Run Time
0h 8m 43s
Date Produced
(The) Bells is a ballet in 5 episodes, choreographed by Ruth Page and based on the poem of the same name by Edgar Allen Poe. It was premiered on April 26, 1946 at the Chicago University Composers Series; it was originally performed by Page, J. Andrews, and R. Josias. It was then produced by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (in August at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Lee, Massachusetts and September 6 at the City Center, New York). This film version seems to cover only two or three of these episodes: included are a central couple, four dancing bells, six cloaked dancers apparently representing evil/lust/temptation, and six veiled dancers perhaps presaging the failure of the couple's marriage.
The film opens on a ballet already underway. The set is minimalist, with a basic skeleton of a chapel (including three bells) constructed against the back curtain. In front of it is a couple, who are accompanied onstage by four female dancers costumed as bells. After circling the couple and dancing alongside them, the bells exit a couple minutes into the film. Almost immediately, ominous figures cloaked in black and wearing red wigs join the couple, circling them menacingly and then falling to the ground several times. The man seems to attempt to hold them off, but even once they exit, they return quickly with three more cloaked figures dressed in red. After watching the couple dance, the cloaked individuals threaten and then surround the couple, appearing to tear them apart and rush them off opposite sides of the stage. The final several minutes of the film then capture an ensemble of six dancers in white leotards but black veils, tights, and pointe shoes. When they close their funerary variation by sliding into the splits along the back curtain, the film ends.
00:05-00:10 - The logo "Ansco" appears onscreen, right side up and then flipped upside down 00:13 - Film cuts to a view of stage, with a minimalist chapel structure with three bells in the background and dancers already moving before it. This includes one couple at upstage left and four female dancers dressed as bells coming from stage right and dancing around the couple, who does a ballet-modified waltz. 00:40-01:55 - The couple continues to dance downstage as the four bells accompany to the sides and behind them 02:00-2:20 - The bells exit, two off each side of the stage, and the couple continue to dance together. There is a an obvious splice in the film, as several figures in black cloaks and red wigs/head wraps suddenly appear at stage left. The couple continues dancing together, oblivious, as the ominous figures circle the couple as if circling prey. 02:20-03:00 - After some swaying behind the couple, the three cloaked figures manage to momentarily separate the couple, then collapsing in a row at downstage left. 03:00-03:30 - Raising their heads every now and then to spy on the couple's romance, the cloaked figures squirm on the ground while the couple dances 03:31-04:10 - The cloaked figures circle back around and try to interfere again, but the man pushes them away with one hand while continuing to dance with his partner; the cloaked figures once again fall to the ground at stage left, where they continue to move. 04:11-04:22 - The couple separates and the woman joins the cloaked cluster briefly, until they disperse behind the church and she rejoins her partner. 04:24-04:47 - The cloaked figures slowly return, joined by three additional members in red cloaks. They position themselves with three on each side of the stage, watching the couple perform a pas de deux. 04:48-05:10 - The cloaked figures all circle around the couple and line up downstage, dancing with their backs to the audience as if to cage in the couple and then jumping through a circle and standing with the black-clad cluster upstage and the red-clad cluster on stage left. 05:10-05:50 - In unison, all cloaked figures perform staccato port de bras movements, followed by further circling and changes in formation, eventually filing down center stage under an arch created by the couple's joined arms. 05:50-06:08 - After freezing in this line briefly, the cloaked figures make their final move and engulf the couple, appearing to split them up and usher one off each side of the stage 06:09-08:40 - A diagonal row of six female dancers in black veils, black tights, white leotards, and black pointe shoes enters from the upstage left corner and performs an ensemble dance. They end in a row across the back of the stage, all sliding into the splits. 08:43 - Film ends
Additional Credit
Milhaud, Darius (is composer)
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)