Saturday, April 21, 2018

Dickson Greeting (1891) -- April 21, 2018


This post is part of the Springtime Silent Movie Challenge: In the Beginning..., hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently. "Here’s the challenge. Before June 21, 2018, you will:
"Watch 5 movies made between 1906 and 1914
"Watch 5 movies made in 1905 or before
"Share your experience on your blog, on social media or here in the comments (I will set up a special post for the purpose to publish on June 21)"

For my five 1905 or before movies, I thought I would look at some pioneering efforts.

My second film is called the "Dickson Greeting" and it may have been the first American movie shown to the public.


I picked this film because when I was in grammar school, I don't remember what grade, I bought a Scholastic book about Thomas Edison.  I have always been interested in Edison.  One chapter, illustrated with a line drawing, described a meeting of a women's group.  As a special attraction, they got to see a movie.  The book described someone, Edison I think, but I could be wrong, walking into the frame, talking to the audience with perfect synchronization, removing his hat, and bowing.  I knew enough about movies by that time to know that no one had made a synchronized sound film and that no one had demonstrated a projector by that time.  Other books I had read in the Anza branch library, books about film history, did not mention this demonstration.  I figured someone was exaggerating, which made me distrust other things in the book.

Century, June, 1894
The film may have been shot on 20-May-1891.  Some accounts say that it was shot at the Black Maria studio in West Orange, New Jersey, but other accounts say that the Black Maria was not used until 1893.

We only have three seconds of the film, which may have been longer.  One thing I always notice about early Edison films is the intense light.  This was necessary because film stock was not very sensitive.  Notice that the subject of the film has his eyes closed.

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The subject of the film turns out to be the man who invented the camera used to shoot the film, William Kennedy Laurie (WKL) Dickson, the leader of Edison's team which worked on motion pictures. Edison took credit for the invention and Dickson spent many years trying to get credit.

Dickson was a Scot but was born in France.  He came to America in 1879 and by 1883 he was working for Thomas Edison.  When Edison came up with the idea for a device that could record and show moving pictures, Dickson got the assignment to make it happen.

Century, June, 1894
A later view shows the interior of the Black Maria.  The Kinetograph camera is on the right.  There are wires between it and a phonograph, but probably not mechanism to synchronize them.

New York Sun, 28-May-1891
This article offers a more realistic view of the meeting that was described in the book:

"A little while ago there was a great convention of the women's clubs of America. Mrs. Edison is interested in women's clubs and their work and she decided to entertain the Presidents of the various clubs at the Convention. Edison entered into the plan, and when 147 club women visited his workshop he showed them the working model of his new Kinetograph, for that is the name he has given to the most wonderful of all his wonderful inventions.

New York Sun, 28-May-1891
The surprised and pleased club women saw a small pine box standing on the floor. There were some wheels and belts near the box and a workman who had them in charge. In the top of the box was a hole perhaps an inch in diameter As they looked through this hole they saw the picture of a man. It was a most marvelous picture. It bowed and smiled and waved its hands and took off its hat with the most perfect naturalness and grace. Every motion was perfect. There was not a hitch or a jerk. No wonder Edison chuckled at the effect be produced with his Kinetograph."

The device which shot the film was called a Kinetograph.  The device used for view was called a Kinetoscope.

Next Saturday:  The first comedy film.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Pathé to Push Lloyd Comedies -- April 20, 2018

Moving Picture World, 27-April-1918
Happy 125th birthday to Harold Lloyd, who was born on 20-April-1893.  

This Pathé ad features both Toto, whom Hal Roach was trying to promote as the next big Rolin comedy star, and Harold Lloyd. He is reading a book entitled How to Box.

Moving Picture World, 06-April-1918
Harold Lloyd's "Follow the Crowd" is listed with other releases, including a Pearl White serial, The House of Hate.  Harold's movie "is a smashing, laugh-producing series of startling incidents..."

Moving Picture World, 06-April-1918
"On the Jump" featured Harold as a bellhop and Snub Pollard as the house detective at the Squirrel Inn.  Bebe Daniels was the leading lady.  "There are a number of amusing knockabout situations which will bring laughter."

Moving Picture World, 13-April-1918
A review of comic actors says "Harold Lloyd is a young performer with a real comic bent.  He is a personable young fellow of the Max Linder, dress-suit type."


Moving Picture World, 13-April-1918
 Last month we saw Harold visit New York.  This month he has returned "After signing a new contract for his appearance in Pathé-Rolin comedies."  Perhaps Harold's contract status is the reason Hal Roach was looking for a new star. 

Moving Picture World, 13-April-1918
"Follow the Crowd" is "a typical number, with some good small business in it."

Moving Picture World, 20-April-1918
Pathé to Push Lloyd Comedies."

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Tarzan of the Apes is Doing Big Business -- April 19, 2018

Motion Picture World, 06-April-1918
At the same time, First National had Tarzan of the Apes and Charlie Chaplin.

Motion Picture World, 13-April-1918
"Get in on this hurricane of publicity."

Motion Picture World, 20-April-1918
"Look what Tarzan took."

Motion Picture World, 27-April-1918
"They can't resist Tarzan of the Apes."

Motion Picture World, 27-April-1918
"'Tarzan of the Apes' is Doing Big Business."

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Flame of the Barbary Coast -- April 18, 2018

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Today is the 112th anniversary of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.

John Wayne played Duke, a cowboy who came to San Francisco, visited the Barbary Coast, and fell in love with Flaxen, played by Ann Dvorak and got fleeced by gambler Tito Morelli, played by Joseph Schildkraut.  Seeking revenge, Duke went home and learned how to gamble and how to spot cheaters from his friend Wolf, played by William Frawley.  Duke returned to the Barbary Coast and won a pile of money, which he used to open a new joint on the Coast.  Duke tried to get Flaxen and Tito fought him until the earthquake and fire destroyed both of their gambling houses.   The special effects were not very impressive, which is unusual for a Republic movie.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Anne Shirley and William Holden 100 -- April 17, 2018

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Anne Shirley and William Holden were both born 100 years ago today, on 17-April-1918.  Her name was Dawn Paris.  When she became a child actress, she took the name Dawn O'Day.  When Dawn O'Day starred in an adaption of Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, she took the name of the character she played, Anne Shirley. William Beedle, Jr changed his name only once, to William Holden.

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My favorite Anne Shirley movie is Murder, My Sweet, and adaption of Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely.

William Holden had such a long career and made so many good movies that it is hard to pick a favorite.

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His first big hit was Sunset Boulevard.

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He did a good job with the comedy in Born Yesterday.

Harry Anderson, RIP -- A[pril 17, 2018

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I remember Harry Anderson from Night Court.  I also remember him as a magician.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Spike Milligan 100 -- April 16, 2018

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Spike Milligan was born 100 years ago today, on 16-April-1918.  He served in World War Two.  He was a founder of The Goon Show.

According to Dr Richard Wiseman's 2002 study, Milligan wrote The World's Funniest Joke:
"Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, 'My friend is dead! What can I do?' The operator says, 'Calm down. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead.' There is a silence; then a gun shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says, 'OK, now what?'"