The Rise of the American Film: A Critical History

By Lewis Jacobs | Go to book overview

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LARGE-SCALE OPERATIONS

WHEN war broke out in Europe in 1914, American motion picture production constituted more than half of the total movie production of the world; by 1917 America was making nearly all the world's motion pictures. Owing to the strain of the World War, between 1914 and 1917 the motion picture industries in France, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Norway, and England, countries that had been America's strongest competitors, collapsed. For American producers the European disaster was a stroke of fortune, since it gave them a virtual monopoly of the world movie market. Despite mounting costs, particularly of chemicals necessary to the manufacture of film and other accessories, the American movie industry participated in the general war boom. This was the period during which the industry, becoming big business, lost its pre-war self-consciousness and acquired a new self-assurance.

Increased profits, increased costs, rapid expansion in every direction, and then chaos--these were the features of the mammoth adolescent industry which the war boom nourished. Showmen and business men now fought more bitterly and ruthlessly than ever for the control of it. One corporation after another burst on the scene, only to disintegrate because of internal dissension or to fail to meet prevailing bitter competition in the trade. Hardly a week went by without dramatic announcements of new companies, revolutionary policies, fantastic successes or failures. Movies were the latest get-rich-quick bubble. Hollywood became the destination of a gold rush in which the mad enthusiasm of the old forty-niners lived once more.

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