Friday Facts: Hollywood’s Adoloescence

Quotation from Woodrow Wilson's History of the...

Quotation from Woodrow Wilson’s History of the American People as reproduced in the film The Birth of a Nation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Welcome back to Friday Facts and to the article Hollywood’s Adolescence by Richard E. Hubler. Last week I reproduced the first half of this article and we left it where the author was referring to how filming began to be brought indoors, with an orchestra playing at each shoot, while sets were built practically on top of each other. So here’s the concluding part of this wonderful article:

Cameraman“Even cameramen had temperament. Their stock excuse for quitting was: “The light is getting yellow.” Only cameramen could detect this quality in the sunlight so it always worked. Yellow light invariably spoiled negatives, but more than one director noticed that it set in just in time for his cameraman to get to the races.”

“Since a rival company had just completed a three-reel picture, Universal decided to do the stupendous thing. They issued orders to make a four-reeler, but on the safe subject of the Spanish-American War. The director shot it in eight days – a long schedule. Universal, then in  financial straits, tucked away the negative which represented its rehabilitation.”

D. W. Griffith“That night the studio was razed by a huge fire – and the negative was burned. The director summoned his cast and cameraman and shot the whole affair on a single day – from eight in the morning to five at night.”

“A not uncommon bonus for meritorious actions was a white enamel Simplex car, capable of 120 miles an hour. It was the custom to surround this monster with a solid bumper of railroad iron. A pastime acceptable to the motion picture colony, but looked upon with disfavor by the police and citizenry, was driving this creation into streetcars.”

“The motion picture writer began to come into his own – as the ‘titler’. Griffith invented his famous Came The Dawn“. Ralph Spence was possibly the most famous of these terse word artists. He was able to change the whole meaning of a picture, insert comedy or tragedy, simply by adroit one-line titles.”

The Birth of a Nation

The Birth of a Nation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“In 1915, D. W. Griffith issued his epochal The Birth of a Nation. It marked the end of motion picture puberty. It introduced the screen as an art. It demonstrated that long pictures were feasible, high box-office prices obtainable, and that the camera was a medium that owed nothing to any other source. In a word, ‘class’ had come to Hollywood. The motion picture industry was never to be the carefree jerry-producing business it had been.” -END

Well that completes another wonderful article filled with plenty of facts from the glorious early days of Hollywood. I hope you’ve enjoyed this and will join me again next week, when I’ll come up with another fact-filled article based around the great silent-era.

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

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Friday Facts: Hollywood’s Adolescence

Silent Movies Music

Well I’m back again with another edition of Friday Facts. This week I’m going to reproduce an article that was printed in a publication called: “47 the Magazine of the Year.” The title of the article is Hollywood’s Adolescence and it was published in May 1947. The article, which was written by Richard G. Hubler, takes a look at the forming years of Hollywood and looks at life during the silent era – hope you enjoy the first part of this article, with he second part to be reproduced next week:

English: Vitagraph Studios, early Hollywood fi...

English: Vitagraph Studios, early Hollywood film studio, photo by Robert Monroe, shown in center of photograph wearing knickers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Los Angeles and its environs were crowded with new motion picture companies. The American Film Company, the Vitagraph Company, the Universal Company, Christie Comedies, and Selig found competitors springing up like weeds after rain: the demand for ‘flickers’ was enjoying its first boom.”

Hollywood Studios 1922

Hollywood Studios 1922 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The 2000 theaters that showed motion pictures charged nickels and dimes. Most of them were converted grocery stores. Musical accompaniment was supplied by a lone pianist. Dialogue was offered in subtitles or in monologues by the theater manager. Insurance was hard to come by because of the inflammable film and the rickety theaters.”

Beauty and the Bandit.

Beauty and the Bandit. (Photo credit: Beinecke Library)

“Two-reelers about the Civil and Spanish-American Wars commenced to be the fashion. To save time and wear and tear on the meager wardrobe stocks, the big battle scenes were shot all-Union one day and all-Confederate the next. The scenes were intercut with each other. In the Civil War, to preserve the market in both the South and North, the retreats nd advances of both sides were mathematically divided.”

Universal's stampede of thrills "The Ghos...

Universal’s stampede of thrills “The Ghost City” … (Photo credit: Beinecke Library)

“Censorship raised its ugly head for the first time. In Chicago, the police demanded that the guns in the hands of the villain’s henchmen on the billboards be deleted. The problem was solved by pasting flowers over the six-shooters. Instead of holding up the stage-driver, the grim masked men extended bouquets to him.”

Universal Life Insurance Company

Universal Life Insurance Company (Photo credit: Thomas Hawk)

“Naturalism was in demand. In one Western a live rattlesnake was used. The director picked it up to look at it; the snake sank its fangs into his bulbous nose. Nobody was sure whether the poison sacs of the reptile had been removed. So the director got roaring drunk. The next day he had a formidable hangover. The snake died.”

English: Union Brigadier General Ulysses S. Gr...

English: Union Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant photographed at Cairo, Illinois (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“One large film company had only one really convincing false beard. Moreover, they had only one actor who looked genuine in it. In their war features they used him for both General Robert E. Lee and General Ulysses S. Grant.”

Motion picture actors and actresses (1916)

Motion picture actors and actresses (1916) (Photo credit: State Library and Archives of Florida)

“Motion picture making was assuming its own dignity. More reels were shot on interior stages with the new mercury arc banks of lights. No scene was shot without an orchestra playing, “to get the actors in the mood.” But space at such studios as Universal was so cramped that sets were built less than six inches apart. A director doing a tear-jerker drama might be playing Hearts and Flowers, while on one side of him Al Christie would be doing a comedy and playing ragtime, and on the other Robert Z. Leonard would be having his orchestra play a schottische for a foreign portrayal. It was bedlam confounded, but the results were effective on the screen.”

 

English: The intersection of Hollywood and Hig...

English: The intersection of Hollywood and Highland, 1907. This would become the location of the current Hollywood and Highland complex and a center of Hollywood tourism today. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And so that’s Friday Facts for this week. Interesting stuff, but if you hunger for more of this article, I’ll be reproducing it even further next week with the second half of Hollywood’s Adolescence. Bye for now!

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

Friday Facts

The Squaw ManThe Squaw Man Poster

I’ve come across another article from way back in the 1930’s and this one is by Mr. Robert E. Sherwood. This one was published in a publication called America As Americans See It back in 1932 and the title of the article was Hollywood: The Blessed and the Cursed! Over the next couple of weeks or so I’m going to reproduce this article and at the same time learn some more about life during the pioneering days of the Silent Film Era! This is another edition of Friday Facts:

HollywoodEarly Hollywood

“The Discovery of Hollywood, like most epoch-making discoveries, was accidental. It happened that, in 1912, Jesse L. Lasky, a vaudeville magnate, joined with his brother-in-law, Samuel Goldfisch, a glove salesman, in the formation of a motion picture producing company. Their first offering (and, they assured themselves, probably their last) was to be “The Squaw Man“. They engaged Cecil B. DeMille as director and Dustin Farnum as star, and sent them to Flagstaff, Arizona, to make the picture. Flagstaff was selected because it sounded as though it would provide suitable backgrounds for the enactment of a vigorous Western melodrama, but when DeMille and Farnum arrived there, and took one look at the prospect from the station platform, they stepped back on the train and continued on to the Pacific Coast. A chance acquaintance happened to mention to them a hamlet called Hollywood, a sleepy suburb of Los Angeles, which is itself the largest suburb on Earth, and they made that their objective. They rented a barn on Vine Street, and there produced “The Squaw Man“, the first feature picture to be born beneath the California sun.”

Early HollywoodProgressing Hollywood

“(I do not know whether there was actually any holly in Hollywood when the first adventurers arrived there, or whether that Christmassy, Dickensian name emerged from the imagination of some pioneer realtor. There is no holly in Hollywood now, nor any green thing that grows by the will of God as opposed to the artifice of man. The water which irrigates the gaudy gardens about the villas of the stars is imported from far distant sources, just as is the supply of talent, ingenuity and sex appeal which animates the cameras.)”

Mary PickfordMary Pickford in ‘Tess of the Storm Country’

“After “The Squaw Man“, came the first of the immortal Keystone comedies, produced by Mack Sennett, with Ford Sterling, Chester Conklin, Mabel Normand, Fatty Arbuckle, Marie Dressler and eventually, Charlie Chaplin; then Adolph Zukor moved his Famous Players organization to Los Angeles to make “Tess of the Storm Country“, starring little Mary Pickford, and David Wark Griffith arrived with his company of Biograph players to produce the first of the epics, “The Birth of a Nation“. In the year 1915, the second gold rush to California assumed colossal proportions.”

CleopatraCleopatra

“As vast prosperity came to Hollywood, so did scandal, and with it, fame unbounded. The sensational stories, printed in the less scrupulous newspapers and magazines, of Byzantine orgies in the film colony – stories of immorality on the grand scale – conveyed to the avid public the assurance that life in Hollywood was a veritable bed of orchids to be shared with the most desirable, the most god-like representatives of the opposite sex. As a direct result of this misconception, Hollywood became the goal toward which traveled the hopes and dreams of all the frustrated morons: it was recognized as the fountainhead of romance, wherein the frailest, pimpliest ribbon clerk could be converted into a devastating Don Juan and the sorriest slavey into a voluptuous Cleopatra.”

Flagstaff 1882Flagstaff Picture from Back in the Day (1882)

Well that’s that for this week. I hope you have enjoyed this week’s article and sure I’ll have the second part of it for you next week. It’s amazing though how fate led the film industry to Hollywood, but now you know how it happened and why, and I’m sure you’ll agree that Flagstaff doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it.

 

Posted by Michael “Charlie” McGee

Friday Facts

Gillian GishLillian Gish

In 1937, Lillian Gish wrote an account in the Stage Magazine about her experiences when filming The Birth of a Nation, and her time under D. W. Griffith. These are some of the extracts from that article:

Birth of a NationScene from The Birth of a Nation

As I look back upon the making of the picture, the chief difficulty seems to have been finding the money to go with the ideas Mr. Griffith had in his head – or perhaps I should say in his heart, as he was from Kentucky, the son of Roaring Jake Griffith, a colonel in the Confederate Army. He firmly believed that the truth of the Civil War had never been told, and he was quite willing to dip into his heart’s blood to tell, through this new medium of the silent screen (in many ways his own invention), the story he believed in above all else in the world. I am sure it seemed more real to him than the World War, which was then taking place.”

The Birth of a Nation 2Ku Klux Klan Racist Scene from The Birth of a Nation

As nothing like a twelve-reel film had ever been attempted before, he naturally met with opposition on all sides. When the so-called business men of the picture industry, believing him to be an impractical dreamer, refused him financial aid, he went begging to the merchants of Los Angeles for a thousand dollars here, five thousand dollars there, another two thousand from someone else.”

The Birth of a Nation 3Abe Lincoln Scene in The Birth of a Nation

I remember my mother, having saved three hundred dollars, implored Mr. Griffith to use the money for the picture, but as it was all we had in the world he refused to take it. As we had been working without salaries for weeks, he couldn’t say when pay-checks would start coming in again. The picture actually took nine weeks to make, but there were many days during this time when work stopped and Mr. Griffith would be out trying to raise the money to continue.

The Birth of a Nation 4Battle Scene from The Birth of a Nation

At first we were told that we were going to do a moving-picture version of the play and novel by Thomas Dixon called The Clansman, but anyone who has ever read either of these and has seen the picture, The Birth of a Nation, will know how far afield from the originals we went.

The Birth of a Nation 5 The Birth of a Nation Scene

As actors, our picture schooling had been similar to that which Mr. Stanislavsky so graphically describes in Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood’s fine translation of An Actor Prepares. There was never anything written for us and no scenario (any more than there were designs for sets; Mr. Griffith would explain to the head carpenter what he wanted and he would build them).

 Lillian Gish with another extraLillian Gish with an Unknown Extra

That’s all for this weeks version of Friday Facts, but if you enjoyed today’s post, please tune in next week where, I’ll re-produce more extracts from the article The Birth of a Nation by Lillian Gish from the Stage Magazine.

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

Why Nenagh – Sporting Heroes

Nenagh_Olympic

Three Nenagh Olympians (See Below)

Nenagh is blessed with sporting heroes and heroines, so for this weeks Why Nenagh post I am going to look at a few of them. We have three Olympic gold medallists, Irish Rugby Internationals, snooker champions, hurling all-stars, numerous all-Ireland and world champions in handball, plus much more.

BobTisdall

Bob Tisdall

Bob Tisdall was born in 1907 in Sri Lanka, but he was raised in Nenagh town. He went on to become one of Ireland’s first Olympic Gold medalists when he won Gold in the 400 metro hurdles in the 1932 in Los Angeles. After his victory, Tisdall was invited to a dinner in Los Angeles where he was seated next to Amelia Earhart on one side and Douglas Fairbanks.jr  on the other.

Matt_McGrath

Matt McGrath

Matt McGrath was born in Nenagh town in 1875, before he moved to America as a young man. During the 1912 Olympics he competed in the Hammer for the US team and won Gold. He had won silver at the previous Olympics in 1908 and repeated the trick in 1924.

Johnny Hayes

Johnny Hayes

Johnny Hayes was the son of an immigrant couple to the United States from Nenagh town. In 1908 he competed and won the Olympic marathon. He was the first athlete  to win the Olympic marathon at the modern marathon distance of 26 miles, 385 yards.

donnacha ryan

Donnacha Ryan

Donnacha Ryan was born and reared in Nenagh town. He originally played rugby for Nenagh Ormond RFC, and eventually represented Munster and Irish Youths before moving to St. Munchins College in Limerick, where he was a key member of the side that won the Munster Schools Rugby Senior Cup in 2002. He has gone on to play for Munster and he is ever present on the Irish Rugby team.

Trevor Hogan

Trevor Hogan

Trevor was also also born and reared in Nenagh town. He has played rugby for Nenagh Ormond RFC, Dublin University, Blackrock College and Shannon RFC. He has played for both Munster and Leinster and he was also an Irish International.

Tipperary team

Tipperary Hurling team 1910

There are numerous other sporting stars who have their roots in Nenagh town. These include three national snooker champions: Jack Ayers, Tom Gleeson & Brendan O’Donohue; hurling legends: Michael Cleary & Mick Burns; horse trainer Tom Hogan, and also a unique record of Nenagh producing 14 All-Ireland Champions who between them have won a vast number of titles. Nenagh has produced its fair share of sporting heroes and I am sure there are so many more, so if anyone out there knows of any others who I have failed to mention, please let us know at nenaghsilentfilmfestival@gmail.com.