The passer

The Pass-By (The Passing) is a filmAmerican directedbyOscar Apfel, released in1912.


Five young people, apparently all good families, have lunch in a large living room, served by two servants. Above the fireplace is a portrait of a woman whom the host designates as that of her mother. The table having been prepared for six people, he explains to his friends that he has imagined, to entertain them, to invite the first passerby who will agree to come and share their meal with them. Laughter of acquiescence. One of the young people disappears a few seconds then returns, pulling by the arm a poor old man who protests and wants to leave. But all of them get into it and the old man sits forcibly, gets rid of his hat, and finally agrees to drink with them. An intertitle(black card) serves as a time ellipse and indicates that after the meal, the time has come for good stories. One of the young people finishes a joke that makes the whole table laugh. We press the surprise guest to tell a story of his own. A card indicates that he announces the story of his life.

At this point, the camera, which was filming until now all the guests, approaches the old man in tracking shot. A fade-out shows the character he was a few years ago. A back tracking then discovers that he is in a similar scene, feasting with friends who are talking and smoking all smugly long pipes of foam, served at the table by a servant. It was then that a word was brought to her: Lucille announced to her, sorry in advance for the sorrow she was going to cause him, her marriage to a certain Hamilton Crawford. Stunned by this news, the hero retires. A cardboard indicates that, to forget, he embarks on financial speculation by creating a pool with five other young people. “I won,” he says in cardboard. A scene taken at theNew York stock market, shows it in a delicate phase where we discover the famous Lucille, specifying by a cardboard that the main opponent of his speculative operation is Hamilton Crawford who has the preference of the young woman. We see the hero collapse while creditors surround him: he is ruined. A cardboard explains that he has now become a mere salesman of a speculative pharmacy. There he reads in a newspaper the marriage relationship of the woman he loves with Hamilton Crawford. Upset, he made a mistake by ordering an operation that he had just been warned was dangerous. He is immediately dismissed and becomes a simple clerk in writing to a commercial. The latter charges him with an urgent mission to another pharmacy. But the character meets in the street a vehicle from which Lucille leaves.

He embarked on small, unfortunate operations that made him “persona non grata” and designated him in contempt of the financial circles who still gave him some credit. He understands his decay; the camera approaches him in the distance; chained fusions and back tracking; in the living room, the young people are sorry and silent after this calamitous story. The host hands him his card, we understand that he can help him not to fall lower. The old man greets the five young men and will retire. It is then that he notices the portrait of the young woman (to whom he turned his back to the table) and he has an upper body: he has just recognized the portrait of Lucille. He then looks at the business card: his host is none other than the son of Lucille and Hamilton Crawford.”The fallen man can only laugh bitterly at this new twist of fate and return, without further explanation, to the anonymity of the street” 1

Technical sheet

  • Original title: The Passer-By
  • French title: Le Passant
  • Director: Oscar C. Apfel
  • Scenario: Marion Brooks
  • Production: Edison Manufacturing Company
  • Format: 35 mm format , black and white , mute
  • Country: United States
  • Genre: Short film
  • Duration: 17 minutes
  • Date: 1912


  • Jim (the passer-by): Marc McDermott
  • Hamilton Crawford Jr: George Lessey
  • Lucille: Miriam Nesbitt


This film uses for the first time in the cinema travellings front and back to “enter the head of a character, a” psychological traveling “, as will be said later” 2 , including to introduce a flashback .


  1. ↑ Marie-France Briselance and Jean-Claude Morin , film grammar , Paris, New World ,, 588  p. ( ISBN  978-2-84736-458-3 ) , p.  398
  2. ↑ Briselance and Morin 2010 , p.  397-398

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