D.W. Griffiths assured a place in the sun
New York 14 April 1910. David Wark Griffiths and his famous team of actors and technicians have returned today from filming in sun-drenched California to the studios of American Mutoscope and Biograph Company in New York. During this four month working vacation, Griffith’s ensemble shot 25 films in a list of locations that gives rise to dreams:
Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Pasadena, Glendale and the Sierra Madre, to name but few. The group traveled in train coaches marked “Biograph special”, and they each had $3 a day to spend in the dining car. The original backgrounds inspired the actors who were invited on the trip, Mary Pickford and her brother Jack, Marion Leonard Linda Arvidson (Griffith;s wife), Blanche Sweet and Mack Sennett, to mention only the most famous. It was a happy company en route and a happy company once all had settled down in Los Angeles. There they rented a studio at the corner of Grand Avenue and Washington Street which contained two small dressing rooms for the men and similar for the women.
Pathe’s Life of Christ enhanced by colour
Paris 28 August 1910 The company has been astonishing. From its first ventures into production, the company has expanded its film activities worldwide. Not only is it involved in production, distribution and exhibition, with major investments in the manufacture of raw film stock and technical equipment, it is the largest motion picture corporation in the world, and still growing..
Earlier this year Pathe released its first picture made in America and filmed at its newly-completed and extremely well-equipped studio at Bound Brook, New Jersey.
Thus it is no surprise to learn that it is in the forefront of introducing colour into films. In the years prior to 1908, Pathe experimented with hand-tinting colouring of its films but thereafter concentrated in developing its own newly improved Pathecolor process. As carried out at the factory at Vincennes, where over 100 young women are employed as colourists, the technique involves the use of positive prints, one for each colour. The area to be tinted is then cut from each, forming a series of stencils for every frame in the film.
Leading actor Maurice Costello
Loses his head
New York 15 February,1911. Vitagraph has just released “A Tale of Two Cities” in three parts. According to the “Motion Picture World” it seems safe to say that this production of one of the most famous stories will go down in motion picture history as one of the most notable photoplay productions. Maurice Costello takes the role of “Sidney Carton” , Charles Dickens’ hero who goes to the guillotine in his friends place. “The Dimpled Darling” as the matinee idol Costello is known, gives one of his finest performances in what must be his greatest triumph on screen.
Newly liberated Film Art Ventures into production with Rejane
Paris 10 November 1911
The General Cinematic Agency, which distributes Film d’Art productions, has just released Madame Sans-Gene, an excellent 940 metre comedy in colour, directed by Andre Calmetes and inspired by the famous play by Victorien Sardou
and Emile Moreau. The celebrated actress Gabrielle Rejane plays the title role with Edmond Duquesne as Napoleon, and Georges Dorival as Lefebvre. Since 30th December 1909, Film d’Art has been freed from Pathe’s stifling surveillance. Paul Gavault succeeded Paul Lafitte, but the account books continued to look extremely unhealthy.
The 1908-1909 financial trading ended in failure with a deficit of 283,000 francs. Le Bargy was also dismissed, to be replaced by Andre Calmettes and the former actor Henri Pouctal, who arrived at the Neuilly studios in 1910. In spite of the release of Madame Sans-Gene, the year ended badly for Film d’Art, and Paul Gavault was forced to withdraw, Charles Delac now presides over the new administrative council.
From Mutual to Universal, turmoil reigns in the American Cinema
Los Angeles 17 May 1912 It appears to be the case that a total reorganisation of the American film industry has been taking place during the past few months .Most important of all, the leading independents have regrouped themselves into two powerful consortia. The rivalry between them seems likely to set the pace for future developments within the industry, with Edison’s
monolithic trust the Motion Picture Patents Company, left behind. First of the key developments was the formation of the Mutual Film Corporation in March, headed by Harry Aitken (president) and John R. Freuler (vice president) and backed by a number of leading financiers. As an independent film exchange, it now handles pictures from a large number of companies that include Thanhouser
Reliance, American, Majestic, Great Northern, Eclair, Lux and Comet. But at this very moment, Carl Laemmie is putting the final touches to his own new and formidable company, set to rival Mutual in the independent sector. Known as the Universal Film Manufacturing Company, it will merge Laemmie’s IMP with Pat Powers Picture Plays, Bison Life and Rex, along with Nestor and Champion. The independents are obviously flourishing, and Edison's domination has been broken.
American audiences pay homage to Queen Sarah
New York 12 July 1912
There was a gala evening last night at the Lyceum Theatre here in New York. The new organisation called the Famous Players Film Company and founded last April by Danial Frohman, Adolph Zukor and Edwin Porter, presented to a select public Queen Elizabeth, Sarah Bernhardt’s latest film, a year after La Dame aux Camelias. The four-reel spectacle, produced by the Franco-German firm Eclipse and directed by Louis Mercanton in London, is the longest cinematographic work presented in the United States to date. The scenario based on a play by Emile Moreau, retraces the last moments in the life of Elizabeth, Queen of England and Ireland from 1558 to 1603. The recreation is brilliantly done, with the tints and colour evoking the tonalities of certain paintings by Rembrandt. The film has helped give artistic dignity to the cinema.
Magical mirth from Mack and Mabel
Hollywood 23 September 1912 The newly formed Keystone Pictures Corporation has released its first two films, Cohen Collects a Debt and The Water Nymph. The driving force behind this newcomer, which will specialise in comedies is
a refugee from Biograph, Mack Sennett born Michael Sinnot in Canada in 1880. As a youth Sennett had ambitions to be an opera singer, but his search for fame and fortune in New York brought him only modest work as a chorus boy in Broadway musicals and a performer in burlesque. But his luck changed in the summer of 1908 when he began working at the Biopgraph studios in Manhattan. He was soon taking lead roles in one-reelers directed by D.W. Griffith, contributing scripts and eagerly absorbing all technical aspects of the new media of cinema from men like cameraman Billy Blitzer. By the winter of 1910 Sennett was directing as well as acting in Biograph films.
Parisians tremble before Fantomas
Paris 9 May 1913
The whole capital is fascinated by the new posters which have just appeared on the boulevards. They portray an elegantly dressed Fantomas, the Master of Crime,
from the novels of Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain. All round Paris his sinister masked face can be seen. These posters are not marked with the name of the books publishers, Artheme Fayard, but with the Gaumont symbol. The film company acquired the rights to the first successful for the sum of 6,000 francs, and got Louis Feuillarde to direct the adventures of this dark mysterious character. Fantomas, a drama in three episodes containing over 30 scenes, was released today, and it has already captivated the public. Contained in its 1,146 metres are murders, robberies, blackmail and kidnapping.
Universal depicts horrors of white slave traffic
New York 24 November 1913
This afternoon a huge crowd laid siege to Weber’s Theatre on Broadway in the frantic rush to se Traffic in Souls, a sensational release from the recently formed Universal Film Manufacturing Co. Ticket prices for the show have been raised to an exorbitant 25 cents.
This film’s theme, the sinister menace to American womanhood from gangs of white slavers, is currently the subject of what the , has called “popular hysteria”. Lurid stage plays like The Lure, have dealt with the subject, and public debate has further been inflamed by the June publication of the long-
awaited Rockefeller Report on Commercialised Prostitution in New York City. The talented director in Traffic in Souls, George Loane Tucker, has drawn on this report and a similar probe launched by New York district attorney, Charles S. Whitman. The result is a powerful six reel drama in which plucky Jane Gail and her policeman fiancee Matt Moore save her sister form the clutches of a white slave trader masquerading as a moral reformer.
Britain warmly embraces her native son.
London 30 June 1914. Charlie Chaplin’s first films for Mack Sennett’s Keystone company have defiantly been a hit with the British public. There is no bitterness that he has yielded to the temptations of the new World. In the United States Chaplin has already become a star, although his film career is barely six months old. Within a month of his screen debut in Making a Living, Chaplin developed a distinctive screen character - the engaging little outcast in baggy pants, oversize boots and battered derby hat whose jaunty cane signals his pretension to the status of a swell. The effect is completed by a small black moustache which, like his cane, seems to have a life of its own. The original little personality has already captured American hearts and looks certain to conquer Europe in turn.
Feelings run high over “The Birth of a Nation “
Boston 10 April 1915. D.W. Griffith’s controversial film The Birth of a Nation, has just been released at the Tremont Theatre. Thousands of black activists opposed to the film marched on the capital, where clashes occurred because of a counter-demonstration by white supporters of the film. The police proceeded to make numerous arrests. This hullabaloo came as the result of a decision by the mayor to allow the film to be shown, whatever the cost, and despite a petition of some 6000 signatures gathered by the Boston section of the
National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People. Since 3 March, the date of the New York premiere of the film at Liberty Theatre, the dispute continues to rage on. Oswald Garrison Villard, the grandson of the famous abolitionist and New York Post editor, even accused the film of being “ deliberate attempt to humiliate millions of American citizens by portraying them as complete animals”. The “Birth of a Nation “, was shown at the White House to President Woodrow Wilson, who stated, “It is like writing history with lightning”.
Mack Sennett’s “Bathing Beauties” revive the art of burlesque
Los Angeles 31 July 1915. Keystone’s Mack Sennett has created a curious corps de ballet, Christened “his Bathing Beauties”, they are pretty young women dressed in an increasingly extravagant range of swimsuits. Always pictured in a group, they will from now on grace Keystone comedies, popping up in the most unlikely situations something like the hilariously incompetent Keystone Cops, of whom Ford Sterling and Chester Conkin are the most most famous. With the advent of the “Bathing Beauties”, cinema goers are promised a treat for the eyes. The flood of Keystone films on the market has left both audiences and the studio somewhat breathless of late.
“Intolerance” is a monument to love
New York 5 September 1916. The title of D.W. Griffith’s new film Intolerance, resounds as a response to the arguments aroused a year and a half ago by the release of The Birth of a Nation . Curiously, this work mixes four historical periods : The Mother and the Law, set in the present: The Nazarene, which recounts the crucifixion of Christ; The Medieval Story, which tells of the massacre of protestants on St. Bartholomew's Day, 1572,; and The Fall of Babylon about the betrayal of Prince Balshazzar to the Persians. Punctuating the film is the symbolic image of a woman (Lillian Gish) rocking a cradle; the intention here is to help unite the various episodes . Those dissimilar events have only one point in common - love! The film cost about $400,000 to make.
King of the Cowboys joins Queen of the Vamps
Hollywood 17 October. 1917
The Fox Film Corporation , headed by the former penny arcade owner, exhibitor and distributor, William Fox, continues to grow and prosper. Its latest feature Cleopatra, has just opened, the newest vehicle for the studio’s most famous and glamorous female star Theda Bara, following on her success in such roles as Carmen, The Eternal Sappho, The Vixen and The Tiger Woman.
The titles say it all! In addition, the company has just signed up the popular Western star Tom Mix, formerly at Selig and now added to the Fox roster of stars headed by William Farnum, Valeska Suratt and George Walsh.
Fox has succeeded in consistently increasing the number of his feature releases every year since he first ventured into production late in 1914. Having produced almost 40 features during his first year, Fox has continued to sign up new stars and directors.
Newly powerful Paramount has raised the Stakes
Hollywood 30 November 1917
Whether the company is now referred to as Famous Players-Lasky or Paramount Pictures, it is clear that this large and growing film corporation is setting the pace for the rest of the movie industry. It is the new company president , the small and quiet spoken but shrewd Adolph Zukor, who masterminded it all. It was only 16 months ago that Zukor first arranged the key merger between his famous Players Co. and Lasky, then organised Artcraft Pictures for the release of the prestigious Mary Pickford features, and finally succeeding in integrating the production and distribution sides of the business under the brand-new Paramount logo. With the departure of W.W. Hodgkinson and Chairman Sam Goldwyn not long after, Zukor’s consolidation of power was complete.
L to r Zukor,
Goldfish, de Mille, Kaufman
D.W. Griffith plunges America into the heart of Europe’s conflict.
Los Angeles 12 March 1918. “Do you want to go to France?” That is the slogan of D.W. Griffith’s new film Hearts of the World, which has just been shown at Clune’s. This anti-German propaganda film, shot in England, France and California, has bowled the public over and has aroused great waves of sympathy for the Allies. The action unfolds in a small French village, before and during the war. Douglas and Marie, played respectively by Robert Harrison and Lillian Gish, are separated by war. The couple are reunited after a long period, and are saved in extremis by the intervention of the Allied troops. Griffith has had no qualms about presenting the Germans as cynical and brutal, almost to the point of caricature. Erich von Stroheim has found a dream role as a Horrible Hun. Poor Lillian Gish has to suffer from bombardments throughout, as she tries to guide her poor grandfather to safety, and then later wanders dazed through the landscape carrying her wedding dress carefully in her arms.
Her sister Dorothy Gish , has a comic role as the Little Disturber, a street-singer, which she makes truly amusing with her elastic face and jaunty movements.
For a director of his calibre, it was a golden opportunity to film history as it was being made. In October 1917, Griffith brought his company back to the US, to finish the film in California. Hearts of the World, is Grifffith’s first film for Adolph Zukor’s Artcraft Company, but he continues to retain artistic control of his own work.
Buster Keaton to act with Fatty Arbuckle
Long Beach 15 September 1918. Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle’s newest film, distributed by Paramount, is entitled The Cook. In the swirl of slapstick around the Fat Man is a curious little newcomer to films, Buster Keaton. The latest addition to the Arbuckle stock company began performing as a toddler in his parents ‘vaudeville’ act. Billed as the “Human Mop”, he spent much of the time being tossed around the stage , acquiring in the process a remarkable physical elasticity. As befits a trouper and exponent of daredevil falls, he was given the name Buster by no less a person as Harry Houdini. In March last year, the 21 year-old Keaton, was introduced to Arbuckle while the latter was filming his first Comique Film comedy, the two-reeler The Butchers Boy. Arbuckle co-opted him onto the film and any rehearsal Keaton appeared as a kind of village idiot.
With United Artists, four great reputations are put on the line
Hollywood 17 April 1919. A new cinematograph company has been established in the USA. The United Artists Corporation, whose management has been entrusted to Hiram Abrams, a former member of the board at Paramount.
The firm originated with four of the great names of Hollywood who are active partners - Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charles Chaplin and D.W. Griffith. They knew it was their personalities that had made the major film companies rich. Although they had retained considerable control over their
productions , they were still subject to the will of distributors, who also took a large slice of the profits. Therefore, toward the end of 1918, the four decided to found their own company. In their opinion it was the only way to oppose the all-powerful producers, who had monopolistic ambitions. At the time there were rumours of large mergers and salary reductions. Pickford, Fairbanks, Chaplin and Griffith met at Fairbank’s home in Beverly Hills in January.
First National revels in the possession of Pickford
Hollywood 18 May 1919. With the opening of Daddy Long-Legs, a delightful new feature produced by her own company, and with the creation of United Artists just a few weeks ago, it has been a good year for Mary Pickford. By far the most important female star in Hollywood, Miss Pickford has become increasingly involved in the production of her films. She has looked forward to gaining full independence and, late last year, accepted a lucrative new offer from First National that Zukor at Paramount was unable (or unwilling) to match. Thus she started off in 1919 starring in a characteristically charming, real “Little Mary” role as the orphan who finds happiness with her benefactor in , from Jean Webster’s novel Marshall Neilan directed, with Charles Rosher as cameraman in this first film for the Mary Pickford Corporation. At the same time, Mary has been one of the prime movers in the formation of UA a new style of distribution company for the independents
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