» » Princess Nicotine; or, The Smoke Fairy (1909)

Short summary

A smoker falls asleep, and two mischievious fairies play with his pipe. He discovers this, and imprisons them in a cigar box. He removes a flower from the box, which contains a fairy smoking a cigarette. Next, he leaves briefly while his smoking paraphenalia clears itself from the table and the flower reassembles itself into a cigar. He lights the cigar, then breaks a bottle containing the fairy, who interacts with him in various ways reeling from his cigar smoke, building a bonfire that he extinguishes, etc.

One of the 50 films in the 4-disk boxed DVD set called "Treasures from American Film Archives (2000)", compiled by the National Film Preservation Foundation from 18 American film archives. This film was preserved by the Library of Congress.

The shots of the tiny fairies alongside the smoker were not created by double exposure, but by using a mirror and a lens that could keep both the miniature fairies and the full-sized man in focus.

Released as a split reel along with For Her Sweetheart's Sake (1909).

User reviews

  • comment
    • Author: Bumand
    As a longtime fan of the early "trick films" I can heartily recommend this bizarre and ingenious exercise in nickelodeon surrealism. Although it doesn't display the boisterous showmanship of Georges Méliès' mini-epics, or rival the sheer beauty of Ferdinand Zecca's The Red Spectre (the trick film nonpareil), Princess Nicotine; or The Smoke Fairy can nonetheless hold its own as a clever, funny, and downright eerie exploration of the cinema's potential to capture fantasy on celluloid.

    Produced at Vitagraph's Brooklyn studio, the film features a mustachioed actor named Paul Panzer who would become best known playing the villain in the famous serial The Perils of Pauline. Here we see Mr. Panzer as a proper Edwardian gentleman seated, presumably in his home, at a table as well stocked as any tobacconist's shop with cigars, cigarettes, pipe, loose tobacco, and wooden matches. As the film begins, the gentleman puts aside his newspaper and yawns and stretches in a histrionic fashion, suggesting he's already half asleep and that what follows may be a dream. Certainly what follows is dreamlike, for almost immediately the lid of a cigar box swings open and two fairies about the size of hamsters emerge. One fairy is a young girl while the other looks more mature and Glinda-like. The older fairy seems to be encouraging the girl to cause mischief, which she is only too happy to do. The gentleman realizes he is not alone when he attempts to light his pipe and finds a giggling fairy in the bowl, underneath the tobacco. The rest of the film involves a battle of wills between the gentleman and the fairy, as each one strives to hassle, harass, and torment the other. In the end, the battle is essentially a draw.

    The filmmakers utilized every camera trick available at the time to achieve their desired effects, and may well have concocted new ones. Double exposure, reverse image, and stop-motion photography were all employed, as well as two old-time stage tricks: enlarged props and images reflected in mirrors. A book about motion pictures by Frederick Talbot published in 1912 devoted an entire chapter to this eight- minute film, and it's easy to see why: this movie represented state-of-the- art special effects for its day. Almost a century later, Princess Nicotine is still a delightful treat.
  • comment
    • Author: Faell
    The special visual effects and camera tricks in this short comedy are easily among the best and most resourceful of its era. Both the variety and the quality are impressive, and most of them are also amusing to watch, in addition to their technical skill. There's no telling how much trouble they had to go to in order to make them look this good, but it was worth it.

    The story is very slight, serving only to set up the camera tricks. It features a pipe smoker who comes face to face with a couple of high-spirited miniature female fairies and their antics. The tiny fairy characters are completely realistic, with the double exposures being done with care. There are also other special effects using stop-action and other such techniques.

    It's very short, only a few minutes long, but none of it is wasted. It's funny, and it's quite a display of technical skill given the limited resources of its era.
  • comment
    • Author: Vosho
    This is over a hundred years old. Its before folks had any idea of what film could really do. The imagine required is orders of magnitude what it would take today.

    We loose sight, but nicotine was considered a hallucinogenic for creative science in the 16th century, something worth fighting and dying for. Some did in the quest, which transferred to Indian Thuja before it was all over.

    This little film has a clueless man who discovers a small fairy in his tobacco. She's a vision and the source of a vision. She's impish and sexy. She's coy and controlling. She's small.

    Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
  • comment
    • Author: Xcorn
    I watched this short silent film online tonight and it was identified as a film by the genius French director Georges Méliès. However, when I looked on IMDb, it said it was by J. Stuart Blackton! Obviously SOMEONE is wrong! While watching it, I sure thought it was a Méliès film because it was so creative and the camera tricks were so masterfully done. If it IS a Méliès film, then it's pretty typical of the amazing stuff he did. If it is NOT, then obviously by 1909 other directors starting imitating his style and techniques. Regardless WHO is responsible, it is a cute and interesting little film well worth seeing--particularly by Cinephiles like myself.

    If you want to see this movie yourself, you can see it online at
  • comment
    • Author: JUST DO IT
    A smoker falls asleep, and two mischievous fairies play with his pipe. He discovers this, and imprisons them in a cigar box. He removes a flower from the box, which contains a fairy smoking a cigarette.

    Rating a film that is only five minutes long is a bit of a challenge. In this case, the title of the film is longer than the film itself. (Well, not literally.) But for 1909 it really deserves a lot of credit. The illusion of making people look small and interacting with full size people is easy today (2016), but for its time was probably not just a novelty but almost revolutionary. The Germans became the masters of trick cinema in the 1920s, but this clearly predates them...
  • comment
    • Author: Nakora
    Over 100 years old now, but this film still contains some tricks that, while obviously not looking as realistic as today's computer-generated trickery, are at least as good as the stuff the likes of Ray Harryhausen was producing as late as the 1980s.

    The film is quite unique in the way it combines long shots of the mischievous fairy capering on a table with close-ups of her standing amongst over-sized props, and it's a technique that enhances the realism of the special effects for the viewer. Today, it's easy to forget you're watching screen trickery when you see the same kind of special effects that are on display here, and too easy to be distracted by the flaws of vintage effects, but that's not the case with this one. It's likely that Vitagraph set out to make a blockbuster special effects movie with this one, and they quite obviously succeeded. Well worth seeking out.
  • comment
    • Author: Phain
    "Princess Nicotine; or, The Smoke Fairy" is a 5-minute black-and-white short film from considerably over 100 years ago, so it's obviously still a silent movie. There are only really 2 interesting aspects about this one. First of all, the inclusion of "or" in the title. I guess the maker behind this wasn't sure what title to choose, so he went with both, something we still see today in films. The second would be the inclusion of smoking in here. It was a common content in early films in terms of documentaries during which we see people smoke, but as the real core of the film it's something that stands out. Unfortunately the story does not, so I cannot really see why this short film is still semi-popular today. Maybe the reason is that director J. Stuart Blackton as well as actors Paul Panzer and Gladys Hulette had long successful careers in the industry and the film's cinematographer even won an Oscar later on. Their collaboration here made it into the National Film registry. I am not a fan though. Not recommended.
  • Complete credited cast:
    Paul Panzer Paul Panzer - The Smoker
    Gladys Hulette Gladys Hulette - The Elder Fairy
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