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Some contemporary advertising:
Manufacturer's film synopsis from Moving Picture News, February 17th 1912. (The collected issues for the first half of the year are available to read online HERE.)
The same issue had a shorter blurb for the film (see analysis section below), in an advert for various upcoming Solax pictures. They had been pushing Quirk's comedies throughout the year, claiming he was 'known everywhere and to every one' in addition to being the highest salaried comedian in the business.
Some analysis from people who are good at that kind of thing:
" Preceding Judith of Bethulia by one year is Algie the Miner, a one-reel Solax production, directed by the world's first woman director, Alice Guy Blaché, and with Billy Quirk in the title role. Despite Algie's being heterosexual, the performance that Blaché has Quirk deliver is totally effeminate and perpetuates a gay stereotype. Algie the Miner may or may not be a pioneering gay film, but it is one of the first in a fairly long line of Western shorts in which "dudes" from the East come out West and are perceived as effeminate by the local cowboys. "
- Slide, Anthony., 2005. Silent Topics: Essays on Undocumented Areas of Silent Film.
(Chapter 5 - The Silent Closet: Gays, Lesbians and Silent Film - p. 46)
" Algie the Miner (1912) was produced and supervised by Alice Guy-Blaché, who often seemed to zero in on provocative subject matter, even in trivial short comedies. (Leave it to the French, albeit a transplanted French woman working in New York.) Algie (Billy Quirk) is heterosexual only in that he has a girlfriend. Otherwise, he's a card-carrying flamer. Even this early, all the mannerisms are there for the filmmakers to heighten and caricature: the dandified air, fluttering hands, pursed and apparently rouged lips, sly smile, and eyes that he bats while fondling the barrel of a pistol which he examines as if it were cloisonné (or something less elegant). He is sent west for a year by his fiancee's disapproving father to prove his manhood. Even before he gets to the mining camp, his nelliness gets him in all manner of trouble, as when he asks two men for directions and they pull a gun. When they decide not to shoot him, he shows his gratitude by kissing them. Eventually he bonds with a butch character named Big Jim, strikes it rich, and returns home a tougher man without makeup to claim his bride.
Algie's queerness (or, if you like, effeminacy) shows through in everything he says, does, and is. One visual detail in particular stands out: a pair of outsized tapering Joan Crawfordish cuffs that give him the look of a debauched pilgrim. Costume and accessory cues would be the norm for such characters for many years to come, setting up an easy shorthand that something is in the air. The flower in the lapel, the little mustache, the waving handkerchief were all ways to code a gay man's presence onscreen. (If the films had been in color, there would also have been red neckties and green carnations.) For lesbians, a jacket and tie, slicked-back hair, and an occasional cigar or monocle would do the trick. The code words were important too: dearie, whoops!, lavender, fairy, and the double edged pansy. In movies, quick communication carries a far higher premium than subtlety or even accuracy. Yet Guy-Blache and her crew gave Algie and audiences an escape clause. Despite everything we see, he is capable of a quick overhaul to conventional he(te)roism, something not unlike the transformations espoused today by certain right-wing moralists. Algie thus has the distinction of being cinema's first queer tease, and possibly one of the rare examples of successful conversion therapy. "
- Barrios, Richard., 2003. Screened Out: Playing Gay in Hollywood from Edison to Stonewall. pp. 17-18
" We can, perhaps assume that Algie the Miner was intended to be read as gay. ... And yet Algie has a girlfriend, and returns to her at the end of the film despite seemingly enjoying his adventures in the West with his male companions. Rather than an inconsistency, this is arguably a reflection of the experiences of many gay Americans of the time."
- Brown, Shane., 2012. The Sissy in 1910s Cinema.
- McMahan, Alison., 2002. Alice Guy Blaché: Lost Visionary of the Cinema. pp. 222-224.
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