Of all the products of popular culture, none is more sharply etched in our collective imagination than the movies. Movies are key cultural artifacts that offer a window into American cultural and social history. A mixture of art, business, and popular entertainment, the movies provide a host of insights into Americans' shifting ideals, fantasies, and preoccupations. Like any cultural artifact, the movies can be approached in a variety of ways. Cultural historians have treated movies as sociological documents that record the look and mood of particular historical settings; as ideological constructs that advance particular political or moral values or myths; as psychological texts that speak to individual and social anxieties and tensions; as cultural documents that present particular images of gender, ethnicity, class romance, and violence; and as visual texts that offer complex levels of meaning and seeing. Hollywood is a district in Los Angeles, California, United States situated west-northwest of downtown Los Angeles.Due to its fame and cultural identity as the historical center of movie studios and movie stars, the word Hollywood is often used as a metonym of American cinema. Even though much of the movie industry has dispersed into surrounding areas such as West Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, significant auxiliary industries, such as editing, effects, props, post-production, and lighting companies remain in Hollywood, as does the backlot of Paramount Pictures. In spite of the area's short history, it has been filled with events driven by optimistic progress. The name Hollywood was coined by H. J. Whitley, the "Father of Hollywood". The Hollywood Sign (formerly the "Hollywoodland" sign) is a landmark and American cultural icon located in Los Angeles, California. It is situated on Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills area of the Santa Monica Mountains. The sign overlooks the Hollywood district of Los Angeles. It was originally created as an advertisement for local real estate development in 1923, but garnered increasing recognition after the sign was left up. The sign was a frequent target of pranks and vandalism but has since undergone restoration, including the installation of a security system to deter vandalism. The sign is protected and promoted by the Hollywood Sign Trust, a nonprofit organization.
Chapter I: The birth of the movies
The Pre-History of Motion Pictures
For centuries, people wrestled with the problem of realistically reproducing moving images. A discovery by Ptolemy in the second century provided the first step. He noticed that there is a slight imperfection in human perception: The retina retains an image for a fraction of a second after the image has changed or disappeared. Because of this phenomenon, known as the "persistence of vision," a person would merge a rapid succession of individual images into the illusion of continuous motion. In the 1790s, the Belgian Etienne Gaspar Robert terrified audiences with phantasmagoric exhibitions, which used magic lanterns to project images of phantoms and apparitions of the dead. By the mid-nineteenth century, illustrated lectures and dramatic readings had become common. To create the illusion of motion, magic lantern operators used multiple lanterns and mirrors to move the image. The first true moving images appeared in the 1820s, when the concept of the persistence of vision was used to create children's toys and other simple entertainments. During film's first decade from 1896 to 1905 movies were little more than a novelty, often used as a "chaser" to signal the end of a show in a vaudeville theater. These early films are utterly unlike anything seen today. They lasted just seven to ten minutes -too brief to tell anything more than the simplest story. They used a cast of anonymous actors for the simple reason that the camera was set back so far that it was impossible to clearly make out the actors' faces. As late as 1908, a...
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