PRE-WAR FILMS: SIGNIFICANT TRENDS
HAVING refined their story-telling technique and lengthened their films, American producers during the years 1908-1914 probed deeper into contemporary life and into various kinds of literature for their themes. Literature had been raided previously for subject matter, but it now became more inviting for at least two reasons: it was likely to be safe from the increasing threats of censorship, and it was likely to be known and popular with movie audiences. From popular magazines, famous novels, and successful stage plays, plots were taken in part or as wholes; locales were changed; names of characters were altered; ideas were shaped down to fit the movie mold. Excerpts from novels by Jack London and Frank Norris, William Thackeray and Charles Dickens, Rex Beach and Anthony Hope; from plays by Dion Boucicault, David Belasco, and Clyde Fitch; from short stories published in Collier's, McClure's, and Cosmopolitan; from poems by Robert Browning, William Shakespeare, and Alfred Tennyson--all these were remolded into film tales (the original sources seldom, by the way, being credited).
At first the novel, short story, play, and poem were utilized at intervals to reinforce material from the newspaper, anecdote, and popular joke. But fiction came to be relied upon more and more, and real life less and less. This was true particularly toward the close of the period, owing to the influence of Griffith's film adaptations of famous literary works, Zukor's picture versions of famous plays, and the foreign films of historical dramas. The movement was facilitated by the establishment of scenario departments staffed by professional writers. The final effect was to make screen stories