A Pictorial History of the Movies

By Deems Taylor; Marcelene Peterson et al. | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Twenty years ago, people used to excuse a bad movie by remarking that "the motion picture is in its infancy." Today, whenever a particularly bad picture swims into our ken, we say the same thing sarcastically, confident that we have thereby delivered a stinging rebuke to the unfortunate movies for not developing faster. Yet consider the motion picture's immediate ancestor, the drama. Twenty-four hundred years ago, Aeschylus, Aristophanes, and Sophocles were writing dramatic masterpieces that must have been the culmination of centuries of patient trial and error by long-forgotten journeymen playwrights. Fifty-four years ago ( 1943 speaking) the very first motion picture was put upon film. Forty years ago the first motion picture to tell a story, The Great Train Robbery, was released. Its producer, Edwin S. Porter, died on April 30, 1941, at the age of seventy-one. David Wark Griffith, the great pioneer of the pictures, was sixty-three years of age in 1943. Now go back twenty-four centuries. Compare the progress of the drama since the days of Sophocles with the progress of the motion picture in the half century of its existence. Do you feel a little more charitably inclined toward the shortcomings of the younger art?

For it is an art. Within the past two decades it has produced films that rank with the best work of our contemporary playwrights and producers. Viewing the average, run-of-the-mine motion picture, you may be excused for being skeptical on that point. But remember that it is an art that has the misfortune to be likewise an industry. It serves a public that is voracious and uncritical--the public that Shakespeare was serving when he wrote the bitterly-titled As you Like It (I refer to the play, not the incidental poetry of the language). There are so many thousand movie houses, and there must be pictures to show in them. Considering the assembly-line conditions under which the average picture must be turned out, the wonder is, not that there are so few good pictures, but that there are any at all. Particularly is this to be wondered at in view of the fact that the producer of a really firstrate motion picture is generally thankful if he can get his investment back, let alone make a profit.

Furthermore, here is an art that had to change its basic technique almost overnight. Up to 1927 the motion picture was pure pantomime, and had developed that art to an astonishing degree of effectiveness. Suddenly, with the production of The Jazz Singer, producers, directors, and actors were confronted with the necessity of combining pantomime with dialogue--two elements that had hitherto been considered irreconcilable. At first they floundered. The earliest talking pictures were, most of them, little more than animated photographs of stage plays. But "all-talking" pictures didn't work. The mysterious quality of personality, which so helps an actor to hold his audience, is vastly diluted in a photograph, even though the photograph may move and speak. Scenes of uninterrupted dialogue, without action, however effective they may have been in the theater, were a bore when they were transferred literally to the screen. On the other hand, the exaggerated gestures and play of facial expression, so indispensable to the silent pictures, looked ridiculous when they were accompanied by conversation. A new technique was imperative; and in an amazingly short time the makers of films worked one out. The modern motion picture is about two-fifths dialogue, three-fifths mute action. The camera technique of the silents--close-ups, half shots, long shots, variety in lighting and camera angles--is retained; but the actors move, gesture, and "mug" much less than they do on the stage. Music and sound effects are an integral part of the picture, filling in the otherwise silent sequences and sometimes serving as a background for the dialogue.

Such is the motion picture of today. This book is an attempt to trace, in visual terms, the evolution of that picture, and to show you its pres

-ix-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
A Pictorial History of the Movies
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • 1 - Birth and Infancy 1
  • 2 - Griffith Turns a Page 45
  • 3 - The Twenties 97
  • 4 - Comes the Revolution 201
  • 5 - The Talking Picture 213
  • Appendix - Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards 339
  • Index 341
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 352

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.