Magic Shadows: The Story of the Origin of Motion Pictures

By Martin Quigley Jr. | Go to book overview

IV
PORTA, FIRST SCREEN SHOWMAN

Porta, a Neapolitan, blends fancy and showmanship for magic shadow entertainments in the 16th century-- Barbaro and Benedetti put a lens in the "pin-hole" camera or camera obscura.

THE FIRST CONTACT of the new dramatic art, then being developed in Europe and especially in England, with the magic shadow medium was made by a remarkable Neapolitan, Giovanni Battista della Porta.

Porta, a boy wonder, who would have felt at home in the modern Hollywood, put the room camera to theatrical uses. In a way Porta was both the last of the necromancers, who used lens and mirror devices to deceive, and the first legitimate screen writer and producer of light and shadow plays with true entertainment values.

Porta was born in Naples about the year 1538. He and his brother, Vincenzo, were educated by their uncle Adriano Spatafore, a learned man. The uncle had considerable wealth, which enabled young Porta to travel extensively and have the best available instructors. From boyhood Porta's chief interests were the stage and magic.

At an early age he started writing for the theatre and his comedies are rated with the best produced in Italy in the 16th century. But even before he began his professional writing for the stage, he had developed an interest in magic and anything approaching the magical. This avocation was developed during the rest of his life.

-36-

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Magic Shadows: The Story of the Origin of Motion Pictures
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Illustrations 6
  • Foreword 7
  • Introduction 9
  • I It Started with "A" 13
  • II Friar Bacon's Magic 24
  • III Da Vinci's Camera 29
  • IV Porta, First Screen Showman 36
  • V Kepler and the Stars 43
  • VI Kircher's 100th Art 48
  • VII Popularizing Kircher's Projector 62
  • VIII Musschenbroek and Motion 70
  • IX Phantasmagoria 75
  • X Dr. Paris' Toy 80
  • XI Plateau Creates Motion Pictures 85
  • XII The Baron's Projector 98
  • XIII The Langenheims of Philadelphia 106
  • XIV Marey and Movement 115
  • XV Edison's Peep-Show 130
  • XVI First Steps 139
  • XVII World Premieres 149
  • Appendix I MAGIC SHADOWS A Descriptive Chronology 163
  • Appendix II BIBLIOGRAPHY and Acknowledgements 177
  • Index 185
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