Discussion Topic #4: Acting - Your Major Obstacle in Acting
(Go to Communication/Discuss)
Film titles are linked to their entry in the The Internet Movie Database.
The Birth of a Nation. Directed by D. W. Griffith. 1915.
Gone With The Wind. Directed by Victor Fleming. 1939.
Citizen Kane. Directed by Orson Welles. 1941.
Vertigo. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. 1958
WideScreen Museum. From Cinerama to Super Panavision.
Internet Movie Database. A database of more than 130,000 movies.
The Palace: Classic Films Engaging and informative articles on movies and filmmaking.
Some Enchanted Evenings: American Picture Palaces. A visit to the great movie palaces...
Cinema Treasurers: The ultimate guide to Classic Movie Theatres...
Objectives of Unit II, Lecture 4: Film History
1. What American inventor is credited with the development of the motion picture camera?
Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) demonstrated the Kinetoscope (a primitive film viewer) at his West Orange, New Jersey lab in 1889, and applied for a patent for both the Kinetograph (Edison's earliest movie camera) and the Kinetoscope in 1891. The Black Maria (pronunced "Black ma-RYE-uh"), built in 1892 was Edison's first studio. In a little over eight years, December 1892 to January 1901, Edison's company shot between 200 and 300 short films including performances by such well-known vaudeville stars as strongman Eugene Sandow, Spanish dancer Carmencita, and sharp shooter Annie Oakley. Links are to the Library of Congress web site where these short films can be viewed. (Follow the link on the right side of the Library of Congress screen.)
2. When did the first commercial Kinetoscope parlor open in New York City?
1894. Ten machines were placed in a penny arcade at 1155 Broadway. A customer could view a short 20 seconds to a minute film for only a nickel. Kinetoscope Parlors soon began to open through out the United States.
3. When were films first projected in a New York theatre?
Vitascope April 1896. Koster & Bial's Music Hall included "Edison's greatest marvel: The Vitascope" (a film projector), as the final act of its vaudeville program. According to the New York Times...,an unusually bright light fell upon the screen. Then came into view two precious blond young persons of the variety stage, in pink and blue dresses, doing the umbrella dance with commendable celerity. Their motions were all clearly defined. When they vanished, a view of an angry surf breaking on a sandy beach near a stone pier amazed the spectators. The waves tumbled in furiously and the foam of the breakers flew high in the air. So enthusiastic was the appreciation of the crowd long before this extraordinary exhibition was finished that vociferous cheering was heard.
4. What was a Nickelodeon?
Nickelodeon, Pittsburgh, PA A small (usually under 200 seat), family owned and operated, movie house. The first Nickelodeon opened in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in June 1905. They tended to have continuous daily showings of a few (three or four) short "feature" films. These theatres attracted a wide clientele which included women and children. According to Eileen Bower's The Transformation of Cinema (University of California Press, 1994), there were 8,000 American Nickelodeons by 1908. The film industry as we know it today, evolved from the demands of these small store front theatres.
5. What was the name of Aberdeen's first movie house?
When did it open?
October 1906. The opening show included four short films -- The Hen Pecked Husband, A Childish Match, Russian Justice, and On A Holiday -- and an "illustrated song" which were shown continuously from 3 to 5 and 7:30 to 11pm. Management changed the show twice a week: on Monday and again on Thursday. Admission was ten cents. The least expensive ticket to Hello Bill, which was presented at the Gottschalk Opera House the week the Bijou opened, was twenty five cents, two and half times the cost to see a "flicker."
Where was it located?
In what is now the 500 block of south Main Street The Bijou lasted about three months at that location. It reopened, as the Bijou Family Theatre, in August 1907 at 15 S. Main. When the theatre reopened, management added live vaudeville to its bill of short films, changed its continous show policy to two evening performance a night (except Sunday) and raised the ticket price from 10¢ to 15¢. In 1909 the theatre moved again, this time to 19 South Main (now the parking lot north of the Dakota Praire Museum), where it remained active, under a variety of names (Strand, New Garrick, State, Ritz, Pix, World) until April 1957. In 1960, after nearly 50 years as a movie theatre, the store-front at 19 S. Main became the Sportsman Bar. The building burned to the ground on July 1, 1973.
Star Theatre This photo of the Star Theatre from 1907 gives an idea of what the exterior of the Bijou Theatre might have looked like when it opened in the old Dakota Farmer building (513 S. Main) in October 1906. Both movie houses, as well as Pittsburgh's famous Nickelodeon, were carved out of an existing store front. Note there is no marquee advertising the films being shown or a canopy to protect the arriving guests in-case-of bad weather.
6. What is considered the first American movie with a plot?
The Great Train Robbery (1903). It was directed for the Edison company by Edwin S. Porter (1869-1941), America's first notable film director.
In 14 scenes, bandits break into the railway office, tie up the telegraph operator, rob a train, and disappear into the woods. The operator's daughter shows up at the office and unties her father. He organizes a possee which chases after and over takes the bandits. There is a gun fight. All of the robbers are killed.
What was revolutionary about Porter's technique was the way he shifted scenes between the bound telegraph operator in the train station and the escaping bandits so that parallel stories developed simultaneously. Other directors had presented multiple scenes sequentially before, but their films played like condensed versions of a stage play, The Great Train Robbery played like a movie. The plot was "ripped from the headlines." On August 29, 1900, four members of Butch Cassidy's Hole in the Wall gang stopped Union Pacific Train #3 outside Table Rock, Wyoming. The bandits forced the conductor to uncouple the passenger cars, blew up the safe in the mail car and escaped with nearly $5,000 in cash. You can watch the film and read Edison's original description at the Library of Congress' Great Train Robbery Page.
The Great Train Robbery (1903)
When this film was first screened at the Nickelodean,
the musical score probably came from an out-of-tune piano.
7. What type of film was it?
Where was it shot?
In the wild's of New Jersey, the home of the Edison Labs.
How long did it run?
About 11 minutes at 18 frames/second.
8. What is the importance of the New York showing of Quo Vadis?
It proved to the Edison Manufacturing Company, which controlled the American film industry, that an audience would watch a film which ran longer than 32 minutes (2 reels or 2000' of film). Quo Vadis? (1913), the Italian Biblical epic, based on Henryk Sienkiewicz's (winner of the 1905 Nobel Prize for Literature) 1895 novel, had a running time of two hours. This spectacular film, which included chariot races, persecuted Christians battling lions, Nero's extravagant lifestyle and Rome going up in flames was imported in April 1913 by a commercial producer and shown at New York's Astor Theatre for 22 consecutive weeks. Admission price: $ 1.50. (A $1.50 ticket in 1912 would cost approximately $36 in 2016)
9. When did the film industry move from the east coast to California?
Because there are more "bright and sunny days" in California than there are in New Jersey. Remember, at this time, all films were shot out doors. Some have also suggested that production moved to the west coast to escape the "goons" the Edison company used to enforce its rules.
10. What film is considered the first American screen masterpiece?
Birth of a Nation
The Birth of a Nation (1915). The three hour ten minute film, based on The Clansman (1905) by Thomas Dixon, deals with the American Civil War and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan during the Reconstruction.
11. Who directed it?David Wark (D.W.) Griffith (1875-1948). This innovative pioneer has been called the "father of film technique" and the "Shakespeare of the screen."
When?1915. The film opened a one week, two performance a day, run at Aberdeen's Orphum Theatre on February 14, 1916. Ticket prices ranged from $ .50 to $ 1.50 ($12 to $36 in 2016). A movie at the Lyric or Princess cost a dime, fifteen cents at the Bijou.
12. Where "silent films" really silent?
No. Music has always been a part of a film's presentation. During the early days of the Nickelodeon a local musician would typically attempt to improvise a suitable score, usually on an old upright piano, as the film was being shown. As the theatres became larger and more impressive, the piano was replaced with a pipe organ or a small orchestra. The organ provided not only music (including a full range of percussion: drums, cymbals, tambourines, xylophones, orchestra bells), but also sound effects: bird, boat and train whistles, fire gongs, sirens, wind, horse hooves, etc. When Birth of a Nation played Aberdeen's Orphum Theatre in 1916, the musical score was provided by a 25 piece orchestra which traveled with the film.
The Mighty Wurlitzer
As the industry shifted from a series of two to four, short, 6 to 10 minute films to one, full length feature, the local musician was generally no longer required to make-it-up as he went along. Starting around 1910 the studios began distributing, not only the film, but also a 3 to 4 page Music Cue Sheet indicating what musical selections to play (by title, composer and publisher), when to begin (the cue), and roughly how long the music should last. It was still the musician's job to improvise the bridge which would connect the various cues. Link to page one (cues 1 to 5) of the Thematic Music Cue Sheet for Napoleon (1927)
Typically the score included selections drawn from the classics, popular standards and what was known as Photoplay Music: short pieces of mood music with titles like---Oriental Veil Dance, Funeral March, War Scene, Hurry Music #1 (for struggles), and Storm Scene ---written specifically to accompany silent films.
Link to a more in-depth study of Photoplay Music including a PDF file of Sam Fox Moving Picture Music, Volume 1 (J.S. Zamecnik, 1913) and midi files of 24 selections. Listen to Zamecnik's Funeral March (a midi file).
13. What was the name of the first sound movie?
Warner Brother's The Jazz Singer (1927), the first "talking film," had only a few patches of synchronized dialogue and a couple of songs. Most of the film was silent.
The Jazz Singer
Who did it star?Al Jolson (1886-1950), was a major Broadway attraction when he starred in this first talking picture.
When was it made?It opened at New York's Warner Theatre in October 1927. The first "all talking movie," Lights of New York, a backstage gangster musical/drama, opened four months later in February 1928. Both films were recorded using the Vitaphone process which cut the sound track onto a long playing, 33 1/3 rpm, 16 inch phonograph record. Warner Brothers continued to use the sound-on-disc process up until March of 1930 when they joined the rest of Hollywood by recording the sound directly on the film (Fox's Movietone sound system). Because of the movie theatre's cost of switching from sound-on-disc to sound-on-film, a number of films in the late '20s and early 30's were released using both techniques.
14. What was the Roxy Theatre?
The Roxy The Roxy Theatre was considered "The Cathedral of the Motion Picture." It had a seating capacity of 5,920 (making it, at the time, the world's largest), an orchestra pit which could hold a 110 piece symphony, a fully equipped stage with a 70 foot wide proscenium arch and a 5 manual (keyboard), 34 rank Kimball pipe organ. Construction cost-- over twelve million dollars. (A little over 167 million in 2016 dollars).
Where was it located?
At the corner of 50th Street and 7th Avenue in New York City.
When did it open?
Gloria Swanson at the Roxy March 11, 1927.
The Roxy, New York's grandest movie palace closed in March 1960, and was torn down that summer. Life Magazine photographer Eliot Elisofon photographed Gloria Swanson, the star of the first film screened at the Roxy: The Love of Sunya (1927), standing in the ruins of the demolished theatre. According to legend, it is this photograph that inspired Stephen Sondheim to write the Broadway musical: Follies (1971). An office building, part of the Time-Life complex, now sits on the site.
Because Sam Rothafel, aka Roxy, wanted a corner entrance to his theatre (which was actually located in the middle of the block at 153 W 50th Street), the lobby, or Grand Foyer, was actually under the adjoining Manger Hotel (now The Michelangelo). The theatre was demolished, but the lobby remains. It is now a T.G.I.Friday's.
T.G.I.Friday's at the Roxy
Most large communities had at least one major "movie palace," like the Fox in Atlanta, Detroit and St. Louis, the Chicago and Oriental in Chicago, Grauman's Chinese in Hollywood, and the Paramount in Brooklyn. Many of these theatres, like New Yorks' Roxy, have been torn down. A few have become performing arts centers (such as the St. Louis Theatre, now known as Powell Hall, the home of the St. Louis Symphony) or the home of a local community theatre.
15. When did Aberdeen's Capitol Theatre open?
Capitol Theatre, 1927
January 12, 1927. When the 900 seat theatre opened, the Aberdeen American News proclaimed it to be "one of the best appointed and most beautiful theatres in the northwest." The Capitol opened as a movie/vaudeville house. There was a small stage- 13 feet deep with a 27' wide proscenium opening, an orchestra pit, dressing rooms in the basement under the stage and a Kimball 2/8 organ (2 manuals or keyboards and 8 ranks of pipes). There was even a "state of the art" lighting system with foot lights, border lights, and a light board recessed into the stage right proscenium wall. The original Kimball 2/8 organ console, which disappeared from Aberdeen in the 1950s, was returned to the Capitol Theatre in August 2012. Unfortunately, the pipes and organ chambers are long gone.
What was its first presentation?
The first film: Kid Boots A live performance of a touring production of Michael Arlen's The Green Hat. The play, considered extremely shocking in its day, tells the story of a bride whose husband commits suicide on their honeymoon. The audience discovers in the last act that the husband killed himself because he had a venereal disease. The first film shown on the Capitol Theatre's silver screen was Kid Boots (1926) starring Eddie Cantor and Clara Bow. The theatre screened its last film: Robocop 2 in 1990 and became the home of the Aberdeen Community Theatre in 1993.
16. How many other downtown movie houses were in operation when it opened?
Five. Four theatres (Princess, Rialto, Lyric, and State) were located on south Main street, the fifth, the Orpheum Theatre, was one block east on south Lincoln. The four Main Street theatres were small, store front houses, the Orpheum, which opened in 1913 as the New Aberdeen, was built as a legitimate theatre with an adequate stage. Of these six theatres the structure of only two, the Capitol and the Lyric remain. The Capitol is now the home of the Aberdeen Community Theatre and current resident of the Lyric is an indoor flee-market. The remaining four sites are either office buildings or parking lots.
17. What movie do many in the industry consider America's greatest film?
After 50 years at the top of the list, Citizen Kane has moved from number one to number two. In 2012, the 846 international film critics polled by the British Film Institute awarded first place to Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, a 1958 thriller. The film stars James Stewart as John "Scottie" Ferguson, a retired police detective who is afflicted with acrophobia (a fear of heights), who is hired by a friend, Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), to follow his wife, Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak), who is behaving "peculiarly," as though she was possessed by a spirit, the spirit of Carlotta Valdes, a woman who had tragically committed suicide. The film received mixed reviews in 1958, but is now considered a classic, one of the Hitchcock's defining works. Watch the original 1958 trailer (or preview) for Vertigo on YouTube.
Five of the BFI's top ten films were produced in the United States.
British film director Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) was born in London, England and began his film career as a title card designer in 1920. His first commercial success, as well as his first thriller, was The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog released in Britain in 1927. He soon received the reputation as one of England's greatest directors. He moved from London to Hollywood in 1939 and released his first American film, Rebecca, in 1940. He became a US citizen in 1955. Hitchcock directed more than fifty films in a career which spanned six decades. Often regarded as Britain's greatest filmmaker, he was chosen number one in a 2007 poll of film critics conducted by Britain's Daily Telegraph. They proclaimed: "Unquestionably the greatest filmmaker to emerge from these islands, Hitchcock did more than any director to shape modern cinema...His flair was for narrative, cruelly withholding crucial information (from his characters and from us) and engaging the emotions of the audience like no one else." (Richard Avedon, The Daily Telegraph, April 14, 2007) He became Sir Alfred Hitchcock in 1980. Watch part 1 (of 5) of The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927) on YouTube.
Many still consider America's greatest film to be Citizen Kane, a movie which parallels the life of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.
Who was the director of Citizen Kane?
Orson Welles (1915-1985). Welles arrived in New York in 1934 as a member of Katherine Cornell's road company. He and John Housman (1902-1988) joined the Federal Theatre Project in 1935, and in 1937 they organized the Mercury Theatre. On Sunday nights, when the theatre was dark, Welles and his company of actors broadcast radio adaptions of "classical" literature on the CBS Mercury Theatre on the Air. In October of 1938, Welles and his company created a panic with their broadcast of H. G. Welles' War of the Worlds. Now famous, RKO contracted with the group to produce two films. Citizen Kane, was the first to be released. The film was a commercial failure which lost $ 150,000. Watch Orson Welles in the "How to run a newspaper" scene from Citizen Kane on YouTube.
When was it produced?
18. What American film holds the distinction of generating the highest domestic box office gross?
The Force Awakens
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015: $ 937 million as of 6/2/2016), followed by Avatar (2009: $ 687 million). Most agree that America's most popular film, based on box office gross adjusted for inflation, is Gone With The Wind (1939). Statistics are from Movieweb.com.
19. Why did many small neighborhood movie theatres close in the late forties and early fifties?
Starting in 1948 a large portion of the traditional film audience began staying home and watching their movies on television. During World War II approximately 85 million people visited a movie theatre at least once a week, by the mid 50's that number had dropped to 42 million. In 1991 weekly attendance was down to a little less than 19 million.
20. How many indoor movie theatres were still in operation in Aberdeen during the summer of 1955?
Four. The Orphum, Capitol, Lyric, and World. The Orphum and the Capitol were the first run houses. The Lyric and World were open only on weekends, and showed films which had been released one or more years before. These four theatres plus the StarLight Drive-in, which opened in 1949, screened 22 films a week during July 1955.
The summer of 1959?
Two. Only the Capitol and Orphum were still open in July 1959. These two theatres plus the drive-in displayed only 9 films a week.
21. How, in the early 1950's, did the movie industry attempt to win back their audience?
The industry used four techniques to try to win back their audience.
- Most black and white production was phased out in favor of color.
- More big budget, large scale epic films were produced.
- There was an attempt to "pull the audience" into the picture.
- There was a more liberal use of sex, "adult" themes and language, and nudity.
In the 1950s, television was always black and white and usually low budget. If you wanted to see Moses (Charlton Heston) part the Red Sea (The Ten Commandments) or a good chariot race in Jerusalem (also starring Charlton Heston as Ben-Hur), you had to go out to the movies.
Watch the 1959 trailer for Ben-Hur on YouTube.
The Ten Commandments (1956)
22. What was the most successful 3-D movie?
3D Camera House of Wax (1953) staring Vincent Price. The short lived (3 year: 1952 to 1954) 3-D craze began with the release of Arch Oboler's Bwana Devil in November 1952. Over 5000 American movie houses were equipped to show the approximately 45 NaturalVision (3-D) films. Several major movies which were shot in 3-D, such as Kiss Me Kate (1953) and Alfred Hitchkock's Dial M for Murder (1954), were released "flat."
The 3-D process is based on stereoscopic sight: the fact that the left eye and the right eye see slightly different images and that the mind blends these two images to create the third dimension. A NaturalVision film, used a special two-lens camera which recorded the two images on two strips of film. In the theatre, these two images were displayed using two synchronized projectors and viewed by the audience through special Polaroid glasses. Link to a 1950s illustration showing the Secret of the Greatest Thrill in Movies!
In 2005, Walt Disney Studios released Chicken Little in a new digital 3-D format known as RealD. Following the success of the film, additional animated films including the re-issue of The Nightmare Before Christmas (2006), Monster House (2006), Meet the Robinsons (2007) and Cars 2 (2011) have been released in 3-D. Like the films shown in the early 50s, the audience must watch the movie through a pair of polarized glasses to achieve the 3D effect.
23. What was the difference between Cinerama and CinemaScope?
This is Cinerama Both Cinerama and CinemaScope attempted to "pull the audience" into the action of the film by projecting the movie on a huge screen. The deeply curved Cinerama screen at New York's Broadway Theatre was 78 feet wide by 26 feet tall -- more than 2000 square feet. The average Cinemascope screen installed in the local "movie palace" was about 42x16 feet (nearly 700 square feet), considerably larger than the 20x15 foot (300 square foot) sheet it replaced.
Cinerama, introduced in 1952 with This Is Cinerama, used a special three-lens camera which recorded three images on three strips of film and required three sets of projectors to exhibit its very wide (2.59 x 1) image on a deeply curved screen. Only eight films were produced using the three film strip process during Cinerama's ten year life. These films were shown in 100 theatres, world wide. How the West Was Won (1962), a two hour forty-five minute all star epic western, was both the last film produced in Cinerama, and the first, using the three film strip process, to have a plot. [Link to see a line drawing of the process and to compare the three images on film with the combined image on the wide screen]
CinemaScope, introduced with The Robe in 1953, used a standard 35mm projector with a special anamorphic lens to project its wide (2.55 x 1) image on a nearly flat screen. Today "Scoped" films are shot in PanaVision (2.35 x 1), the anamorphic process which replaced Fox's CinemaScope in the late 60's. [Link to compare the CinemaScope image on film with the image projected on the screen]
The aspect ratio (width x height) of a "flat" film in the 1950s was 1.33 x 1, the same as television. Presently, the aspect ratio of a "flat," wide-screen, non-scoped film is 1.85 x 1. If the screen at the Cinema9 is 16' tall, a wide-screen film would be 26 feet wide and a "Scoped" film would be be 38 feet wide. If an episode of CSI or NCIS was shown at the Cinema, the image would be only 21 feet wide.
Above is a scene from the famous roller coaster ride in This Is Cinerama with a frame from Fred Zinnemann 's High Noon (1952) superimposed over the center. (Note the vertical lines in the Cinerama image where the three film strips join) With the enormous disparity in image size and the difference between a monophonic and seven channel stereophonic sound it is not difficult to understand why Cinerama created such a sensation. Watch the original 1952 trailer (restored in 2011) for This is Cinerama on YouTube. (This short clip is best viewed full screen and up close and personal.)
24. What was the function of the Hay's Office?
The Motion Picture Producers and Distributers Association (MPPDA), headed by Will Hays, was created to head off government censorship by establishing a self-administered, industry wide, "code of decency." The Code, which ruled Hollywood production from 1934 to 1968 stated...
- Methods of crime shall not be explicitly presented.
- Illegal drug traffic must never be presented.
- The sanctity of the institution of marriage and the home shall be upheld.
- Excessive and lustful kissing, lustful embracing, suggestive postures and gestures, are not to be shown.
- Seduction or rape should be never more than suggested. They are never the proper subject for comedy.
- Sex perversion or any inference to it is forbidden.
- Venereal diseases are not subjects for motion pictures.
- Pointed profanity (this includes the words God, Lord, Jesus, Christ unless used reverently Hell, S.O.B., damn, "Gawd"), or other profane or vulgar expressions, however used, is forbidden.
- Indecent or undue exposure is forbidden.
- Ministers of religion should not be used as comic characters or as villains.
25. What was the first successful film to be released without the Production Code seal?
The Moon Is Blue
The Moon is Blue (1953). It was denied the Code's "Seal of approval" because the script included the words "virgin," "mistress," and "pregnant." The director, Otto Preminger, treated these matters as a great joke suggesting that seduction is an amusing and acceptable pastime for a single male.
26. When was the present film rating system introduced?
27. What is the meaning of G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17?
G: General audience: All ages admitted.
PG: Parental guidance suggested: Some material may not be suitable for children.
PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned: Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
R: Restricted: Under 17 requires an accompanying parent or guardian.
NC-17: No one 17 and under admitted. Patently adult. Children are not permitted.
Of the 326 MPAA rated films released in 2010...
A similar rating system, known as the TV Parental Guideline is used in television.
- 6- 1.8% were rated G;
- 43- 16.3% were rated PG;
- 96- 29.4% were rated PG-13;
- 171- 52.5% were rated R and
- 0- 0% were rated NC-17.
28. Which rating do producers most desire?
PG or PG-13. The most successful film released in 2010, Toys Story 3 [G], had a box office gross of $ 415 million. The number two film, Alice in Wonderland, with a domestic box office of $ 334.2 million was rated PG. The most successful R rated film released the same year, The King's Speech, earned $ 134.5 million.
Film producers tend to target their product to the 12 to 20 year old crowd, the demographic group which makes up 28% of the movie going audience.