Jacques, Albert BERST

(Paris, 1875->1929)


Jean-Claude SEGUIN


Jean, Jacques Berst (1804-[Toulouse], >1910) et Caroline, Geneviève, Anne Langlois (1822-). Descendance:

  • Charles, Albert Berst (Strasbourg, 20/09/1850-) épouse (Paris 11e, 08/06/1876) Clémentine, Pauline Dieudonné (Paris 11e, 22/03/1854-). Descendance:
    • Jacques, Albert Berst (Paris 7e, 30/09/1875-)
      • épouse Maria [Berst] (Hérisson, [1880]->1918)
      • épouse (New York, 12/08/1927) Marguerita Leduc (Montreal, [1896]-). 


Fils d'un commis voyageur et d'une coloriste, Jacques, Albert Berst va suivre des études avant de compléter sa formation de photographe :

He attended school until he was seventeen years old, finishing at the National College at Lemans. He then went to Driesen, Germany, where he studied photography for a year, after which he returned to France and applied himself to mechanics.

Motography, June 26, 1915, p. 1045.

Ajourné à deux reprises (1896 et 1897) au conseil de révision, est classé dans les services auxiliaire en 1898 ("faiblesse"). Il figure alors comme employé de commerce. Selon la même revue, Motography, Jacques, Albert Berst aurait commencé à travailler chez Pathé dès 1894:

His earlier training was with Pathe Freres at Paris and included all the years between 1894 and 1904. He entered the sales department of Pathe Freres when he was nineteen and inaugurated a sales system that was entirely new to that vast organization.

Motography, June 26, 1915, p. 1045.

Il confie ses débuts dans le monde du cinématographe à la revue Photoplay:

"In those days one did everything connected with the business" says Mr. Berst. "I was primarily a salesman, but I worked in the office, delivered films, and collected the money. We sold only for cash. We had to have the money or we would not deliver the film. We treated it as if it were the most precious stuff in the world. We sold out-right, getting about 16 cents a foot for our pictures. Among our customers were some of they could get credit for a carload of diamonds, they had to pay cash for our films.
"Those films were far from being the moving picture dramas of today. At first they were ten to fifteen feet in length. they showed such scenes as chickens feeding, a man running, cattle grazing. The mere novelty of seeing things move in a picture was sufficient for our public then. From this, of course, it was only a step to the producing of plays.
"Max Linder, an obscure actor, was engaged at $4 a day to make the first picture play ever projected. With the success of these Linder comedies, the increase of income and resources, came the creating of longer films, and better stories.
"And this is most important development in the history of motion pictures-the constant increase in footage of pictures until now one film will serve for an entire evening's entertainement. The longer picture was what made not only possible, but absolutely necessary, the better story. The better story called for better actors, better directors, better scenery. And in no other direction has the moving picture improved. The photography is no better today than it was twenty years ago, and with the improved projection machines will run as steady on the screen. Many camera tricks and improvements have been developed, but only as decorations. 

Paul Grant, "The Daddy of Them All", Photoplay Magazine, nº 5, avril 1918, p. 62.

Ses activités liées au cinématographe semble, toutefois, le conduire à collaborer également avec d'autres. Ainsi, en 1901, il travaille à l'Olympia, où il présente avec Félix Mesguich, le Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre:

À notre retour à Paris, au début de 1901, c'est à l'Olympia, sous la direction des frères Isola, que nous présentons désormais le programme du Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre.
Cela ne va pas toujours sans difficulté. je me souviens notamment, qu'un soir. j'étais enfermé dans ma cabine, au premier étage, tandis que M. Berst était placé avec son phono à l'orchestre. La salle se trouvait plongée dans l'obscurité, lorsqu'une main malveillante coupa le fil de transmission acoustique qui me permettait de suivre à distance, au moyen d'un récepteur, la marche du cylindre. Sans interrompre la séance, je réussis néanmoins à terminer ma projection dans un synchronisme parfait, et personne ne s'aperçut que l'opérateur avait été subitement frappé de surdité.

Felix Mesguich, Tours de manivelle, Paris, Grasset, 1933, p. 33-34.

Toujours selon la même revue américaine, il va participer directement à la restructuration du département du cinématographe:

When he had been with Pathe Freres three years, a large conflagration virtually wiped out of existence the motion picture department. At the time Mr. Berst was given full charge of the reconstruction. During this period every detail came under his personal supervision. It will be observed that all these factors lend emphasis to the contention of his friends that non excel in equipment to produce and manufacture films.

Motography, June 26, 1915, p. 1045.

Au cours des années 1902-1903, il semble avoir changé, à plusieurs reprises, de résidence, à Vienne (Autriche-Hongrie) à l'hôtel Bellevue (Althamplatz) à partir du 7 février 1902, puis à Alençon (93, rue Saint-Blaise) à partir du 31 juillet 1902. Il part aux États-Unis et s'installe à New York (12 décembre 1904, 42 East 23th Street) afin de prendre la direction de la succursale Pathé. Il est rejoint un peu plus tard par Arthur Roussel pour l'organisation des studios:

In 1904 I came to America to open a branch of the business here. I brought with me a three-reel production of the 'Passion Play'. We had no distribution system then, and I tried no interest Mr. Rock of the Vitagraph in it. He wouldn't even bother looking at it. "Who wants to see a picture that long?" he asked. But finally I persuaded him to take a look, and he then decided to take a chance. The result was that eventually five hundred prints of that picture were circulated. The old exhibitors will tell you today that this picture was what saved the industry from ruin at that time. The people were getting tired of the short, trivial films, and the American producers had not properly diagnosed the difficulty. We had been in business longer in France, and knew by experience that longer pictures were the only means of making the business permanent.

Paul Grant, "The Daddy of Them All", Photoplay Magazine, nº 5, avril 1918, p. 62.

selig william 1908
Motion Picture Patents Company (18 Décembre 1908)
[devant de gauche à droite] Frank L. Dyer, Siegmund Lubin, William T. Roch, Thomas A. Edison, J. Stuart Blackton, Jeremiah J. Kennedy, George Keine et George K. Spoor.
[derrière de gauche à droite] Frank J. Marion, Samuel J. Long, William N. Selig, Albert E. Smith, Jacques A. Berst, Harry N. Marvin, William Singhi et Peter Huber.
Source: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences [rep. dans Andrew A. Erish, Col William N. Selig, the man who invented Hollywood, Austin, University of Texas Press, 2013, p. 29.

selig william 1908 02
Edison in library with motion picture manufacturers, licensees
of Motion Picture Patents Company, Building 5, December 19, 1908. Seated clockwise from Thomas A. Edison: Jeremiah J. Kennedy, Henry N. Marvin, Jacques A. Berst, George K. Spoor, William T. Rock, Peter Huber, Siegmund Lubin, Albert E. Smith, J. Stuart Blackton, William Siwghi, Samuel Long Kalem, William N. Selig, George Kleine, Frank Merion, Frank L. Dyer. Photograph by G. Kleine. Photo no. 14.820/17.

Ses activités le conduisent à voyager entre l'Amérique et l'Europe. Il se rend, ainsi, en mars 1910, sur le George Washington à New York. Il est également régulièrement en contact avec les autres sociétés américaines.

berst jacques 1911 lettre edison
J. A. Berst, À Frank L. Dyer, New York, 28 avril 1911.
Source: Rutgers. School of Arts and Sciences

Il reste aux commandes de la filiale américaine jusqu'en 1913 :

In December, 1913, Mr. Berst resigned his office and laid down his duties with the firm with which he had been identified for so many years. He became identified with the General Film Company and has been honored with its high offices, serving as president, treasurer and director where his advice and counsel offered strength to that worthy institution.

Motography, June 26, 1915, p. 1045.

En réalité, Berst reprend peu après les rênes de la Pathe Exchange Inc. :

At a meeting of the Pathe board of directors, held this week, J. A. Berst, president of the General Film Company, was elected vice president and general manager of the Pathe Exchange, Inc, to succeed L. J. Gasnier, who resigned last week. Mr. Berst, who for years has been one of the big men of the motion picture industry, thus again allies himself with the organization in which for years he held the same position to which he is now called.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, dimanche 23 janvier 1916, p. 70.

Après de nombreuses années de bons et loyaux services, Jacques A. Berst quitte finalement la société Pathé pour la Continental, puis la Selig Polyscope Co.:

While Mr. Berst is now with the same firm he was associated with twenty-two years ago, and has been in the picture business longer than any other man in America, he has not been with Pathé all the time. It is difficult to conceive of Mr. Berst apart from Pathé or Pathé apart from Berst. But it is a doubful compliment either to a man or a corporation, to say that the man is indispensable. Mr. Berst is not indispensable to Pathé. This was proved by the fast that from December, 1913, to January, 1916, they struggles along without each other. Mr. Berst left Pathé in 1913 to become vice president and general manager of Selig. A few months later he returned to General as president, but the Brothers Pathé decided that the interlocutory decree of divorce should not be made final, and persuaded him to return en 1916 as head of their American interests. He was not indispensable-but gosh, how they missed him."

Paul Grant, "The Daddy of Them All", Photoplay Magazine, nº 5, avril 1918, p. 62.

Il est soumis au registre militaire aux États-Unis au cours de la première guerre mondiale. Il devient, en 1919, president de la société United Picture Productions Corporation.

berst jacques 1919 united productions corporation
The Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, mardi 1er juillet 1919, p. 20.

Il réside par la suite à Rutherford (New Jersey) en 1923-1926.


GRANT Paul, "The Daddy of Them All", Photoplay Magazine, nº 5, avril 1918, p. 61-62.