Aspects of American Film History Prior to 1920

By Anthony Slide | Go to book overview

6. MR. EDISON AND THE EDISON COMPANY

Thanks largely to the pioneering work of Gordon Hendricks, with his book The Edison Motion Picture Myth ( University of California Press, 1961), it is now generally agreed that Thomas Alva Edison was not the inventor of the motion picture. It is also generally agreed that--except financially-- he was in no way directly involved with the film company which bore his name. I side with the majority in both instances--it would be stupid to do otherwise--but feel it necessary to bring to light one incident which demonstrates that Edison was not entirely uninterested in the Edison Film Company--or to give it its correct title, the Edison Manufacturing Company.*

By 1905, when the Edison studio was erected at 2826 Decatur Avenue and Olive Place, in Bedford Park, New York, Thomas Edison's involvement in film-making was negligible. As proof, if proof is needed, I would like to present comments by two former Edison employees. First, cameraman Phil Tannura, in an interview with this writer on July 20, 1972: "I don't think Edison ever came there [the studio] at all. He had no interest in the picture business at all. All he was interested in was recordings and electric lights. Every year, all the company--the people in Orange, New Jersey, and the people with the Edison Company in New York--we'd hold a field day, and my job was to photograph Thomas Edison every time he came to this thing. That's the only time I ever saw the man." And Edison actress Viola Dana, said in an interview on July 25, 1972: "Only on the one occasion, I remember him coming to the studio. I had the pleasure of meeting Thomas Edison that one time. He was very hard of hearing, and I don't think he was vitally

____________________
*
It is always delightful to note that early film companies had no pretentions as to their products being works of art. Like any factory, these companies were in the business of manufacturing a commodity, in this case films.

-63-

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Aspects of American Film History Prior to 1920
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Dedication iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • 6 - Mr. Edison and the Edison Company 63
  • Introduction xi
  • 1 - The Evolution of the Film Star 1
  • 2 - Comediennes of the 'Teens 7
  • 3 - Child Stars of the 'Teens 16
  • 4 - Ethel Grandin 27
  • 5 - Forgotten Early Directors 36
  • 7 - Katherine Anne Porter and the Movies 65
  • 8 - The Thanhouser Company 68
  • 9 - The Paralta Company 79
  • 10 - The O'Kalems 87
  • 11 - Early Film Magazines: An Overview 98
  • 12 - The First Motion Picture Bibliography 105
  • 13 - Film History Can Also Be Fun 122
  • Appendices 135
  • Source Material 149
  • Index 153
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