THIS History of Motion Pictures has the merit of approaching its subject in a form which hitherto has not been available to the large public interested in the film. It very properly attempts to survey the entire history of film making in Europe and in America and to describe the exchange of influences to which the film as a whole has been subject. That it surveys the field from a European angle, even from a distinctly French angle, rather than from our own native viewpoint, makes it a useful check on other accounts of this art-industry, today so predominantly and characteristically American. France was once, if she is no longer, a major producing country, and she was as early as Germany and far quicker than we were in recognizing the intrinsic merits of the new invention.
For more than forty years films have been produced in large numbers in many countries and, after being seen by millions of people, have vanished from view. Although they were made for the purpose of entertaining the largest possible public, those films unquestionably had enormous influence in forming the taste and affecting the attitude to life of that public. At the same time these films were unconsciously reflecting the changing ideas and customs, moral and physical characteristics of the twentieth century.
Only quite recently has there been a move to preserve this unique testimony from destruction, or to re-examine the films of the past with a view to discovering what they reflect of the cultures and societies that created and enjoyed them and what, on the other hand, were the steps through which this new and pervasive art has developed. The Museum of Modern Art Film Library was founded in 1935 for this purpose. It has collected and preserved characteristic films of all periods and all countries, has made these