THESE CARDS ARE NO COPIES - THE REAL THING FROM 1912 !!
The Ambrosio film company was founded in 1906 in Turin by Arturo Ambrosio and Alfredo Gandolfi, first as “Società Ambrosio & C.” and then, in 1907, as a public corporation “Società Anonima Ambrosio, Torino.” From 1908, when it opened its new studio complex, until 1912, it flooded the world with its short films and, from 1911 on, with its multiple-reel/feature films, beginning with L’ultimo dei Frontignac [The Last of the Frontignacs] (1911). In 1912 and 1913, Ambrosio managed to release around 200 films per year and shared with Cines the role of leading Italian manufacturer on the international market. Ambrosio first established its worldwide reputation, and that of Italian cinema, with the historical dramas, Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei [The Last Days of Pompei] (1908) and Nerone [Nero] (1909), both directed by Luigi Maggi. Ambrosio’s historical films, released from 1909 on as “serie d’oro” [Golden Series], were the firm’s business card. Among them were the first in the “serie d’oro”, Spergiura! [Swear!] (1909), Il granatiere Roland [Grenadier Roland] (1911), and the second version of Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei in 1913, released in competition with that of Pasquali. In 1911 the company received the prize for the best artistic film and best documentary at the International Exposition in Turin with the Risorgimento drama Nozze d’oro [The Golden Wedding] (1911), featuring the leading Ambrosio actors Alberto Capozzi and Mary Cléo Tarlarini, and the documentary La vita delle farfalle [Life of the Butterflies] (1911), based on a text by Guido Gozzano.
Considering other genres, Ambrosio promoted itself mainly through comic series with the tall and anarchic Marcel Fabre, alias Robinet, and the corpulent but swift Ernesto Vaser, alias Fricot. It also became well known for its boulevard-style comedies with Gigetta Morano, Eleuterio Rodolfi and Camillo de Riso.
The company also was famous for its actualités and travelogues from all over Europe, sometimes including remarkable split-screen effects such as in Tripoli (1912), and its scientific films such as La nevropatologia [The Neuropathology] (1908) on hysteria. Ambrosio’s distribution reached as far as Russia. In 1909–1910, Ambrosio cameraman Giovanni Vitrotti shot films there and contributed to the beginnings of Russian film production. In 1912 Ambrosio hired lion tamer Alfred Schneider and his lions for a series of sensational melodramas such as La nave dei leoni [The Ship with the Lions] (1912). Ambrosio never really was a production company for diva films, notwithstanding the sole production with stage star Eleonora Duse: Cenere [Ashes] (1916).
After 1911, Ambrosio’s international market share began to decline in favor of that of Cines. The most serious problems, however, arose with the outbreak of the World War I and Italy’s decision to join the Allied forces. The government requisitioned the studio complex for the construction of airplane propellers, and production dropped to just nine films in 1917. After the war Ambrosio tried to revive itself through expensive productions such as La Nave [The Ship] (1921) and Teodora [Theodora] (1922), but they were economic failures. When Arturo Ambrosio left the company, production halted in 1923; one year later the company was dissolved.
In the two decades of its productivity, Ambrosio released 1400 films, of which a little more than ten per cent survives, mainly in the film archives of Turin, Amsterdam, London, Gemona, Bologna, and Rome.