The history of motion pictures
The purpose of this lecture:
1. to provide a brief overview of the development of motion pictures 2. with an emphasis on the economic culture that developed historically. 3. This has meant an emphasis on profits and
4. an avoidance of controversy.
I. Early moving pictures
Note the term used in the early days of the industry: Moving pictures. Pictures that movied. From the 1850s on, there had been experimentation by photographers and others in reproducing human motion. First short motion pictures arrived in the 1890s. In their first phase, motion pictures emphasized just movement. There was no sound, usually no plot and no story. Just movement. One of the earliest movie shorts was a collection of 15-30 second scenarios created by the Lumiere Brothers, in France. The first movie "shows," which lasted 5-8 minutes, were a collection of these short scenes: a train arriving at a station, a man watering his garden, men playing cards, people getting off of a ferry boat and a street vendor selling his wares. The early Lumiere presentations in Paris delighted people, drawing huge crowds. In the United States, at the same time, Thomas A. Edison was producing similar short shows (water going over Niagara Falls, waves crashing at the ocean, two trains colliding). By today’s standards, these early movies were extremely primitive. We’ve become accustomed to fairly elaborate movie effects (think of the Star War movie series, or the James Bond movies). However, for people at the start of the movie era, even these somewhat primitive films were exciting and highly realistic. For many Americans, the movies brought them their view view of a street car, or of the Pacific or Atlantic oceans. All of this seemed quite real to motion picture viewers. In one film, a train pulled into a station -- coming directly at the viewers. Some theater viewers were scared, thinking the train would come right into the theater; some in front rows panicked and ran out. This first phase of the motion pictures, in the late 1890s and into the 1900s, emphasized reproducing human motion. The second phase, telling a story, began to emerge around 1900. Film makers moved beyond the technical aspects of just showing motino and began to tell stories. Edwin Porter’s 1903 film, "The Great Train Robbery" is a good example of the story telling nature of films. It is the story of a robbery, with a chase scene and the inevitable capture of the robbers. These early films were quite short, running 5 to 8 minutes long; they were called "one reelers" (they were just one reel of film). In the U.S., these films were produced by a handful of small companies just outside of New York City (Biograph, Essenay, Lubin, Pathe Brothers, Selig, Polyscope, Vitagraph, Edison and Melies). One of the more dynamic early directors was David Wark Griffith. He worked for Biograph in New Jersey and produced literally hundreds of one-reelres in the period from 1908 to 1912. A director like Griffith might be expected to produce at least two one-reel movies a week. The names of the actors were not released, for fear they would become stars and want higher salaries. One early Griffith film was "The Lonedale Operator," in 1911. It starred Blanche Sweet; she outsmarted the desperados. This video demonstrates some of Griffith’s innovative techniques, including cross cutting (cutting from one scene to another scene, and then back and forth, to develop various parts of a story and to build suspense) and closeups. Some early movie company owners objected to closeups, arguing that paying movie viewers would want to see the ENTIRE person. Closeups, however, could bring drama. II. The Rise of Hollywood
Griffith and others in the industry wanted to move beyond the simple formula that characterized the industry in the early 1900s. But industry owners were resistant, wanting to keep to one-reelers and limited story telling. These owners monopolized the industry, thorugh...
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