Here, in one of the very few articulations of the threat star name companies must have represented to the hierarchization of the studio, we glean insight into the perception of women. Finally, in a reversal of their earlier support for the star system, new studio heads Carl Laemmle Universal and Adolph Zukor began to identify star actors as a problem. Cecil B. Under centralized control in Burbank, California, in , those actresses who had signed with First National lost the advantages of independence.
A case study in these changes is Corinne Griffith Productions, whose First National contract spelled out the new terms. She left the weakening Vitagraph Company at a high point in her career, expecting to make all of the creative decisions for the new Corinne Griffith Productions. Her contract, the prototype of the seven-year contract of the studio system, gave her no control over budget, casting, or script, and no profit-sharing. In , First National was bought by Warner Brothers.
Griffith was not an isolated example, considering, for one, Tiffany Productions and Mae Murray , who lost control of her company to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer between and Features — — Bessie Barriscale with Howard Hickman. Blaney producer. Selznick producer. Florence Turner Productions, Ltd.
owimejokev.ga: The Last Silent Picture Show: Silent Films on American Screens in the s (): William M. Drew: Books. Editorial Reviews. Review. Best Film Book of The received wisdom is this: with the The Last Silent Picture Show: Silent Films on American Screens in the s - Kindle edition by William M. Drew. Download it once and read it on your .
Taylor writer-director. Stanner E. Kennedy producer. Smallwood director , Arthur Smallwood brother. Smallwood director. McGowan producer. Serial Corporation — Helen Holmes with J. Russell] writer. Russell actress with Oscar Micheaux director. Becker director. Griffith, Douglas Fairbanks. Leonard director — Touissant Welcome — E.
Touissant Welcome co-producers. Independent companies were formed when economic factors favored their chances of securing commercial distribution. The fortunes of women who worked as producers and directors were tied to the corporate struggles to control the domestic motion picture market, the wars to line up production with exhibition and distribution.
One approach to the industry battles is thus to see two uncertain periods as windows of opportunity for independent autonomous production companies.
In the — period, the MPPC monopoly was breaking up and new production and distribution companies challenged their dominance. He tried to sew up distribution then consolidated production, insuring exhibition outlets for his films by buying up motion picture theatres as the new entity Paramount Pictures.
Indicative of the close connection between the two companies, the extant short Gaumont comedy Le Matelas alcolique was recut and distributed by Solax as The Drunken Mattress.
After the break-up of the MPPC, exhibitors formed consortiums that, through merger or transformation into new entities, came and went. The one- and two-reel short films these women wrote and performed in were distributed through a tightly controlled system of exchanges and licensed theatres.
Whether her films were made as Rex, Bosworth, or Lois Weber Productions, they were released through Universal, which, in , had ambitions to distribute worldwide in India, Mexico, Australia, and Japan, where the Bluebird brand proved to be popular Thompson , First National, which grew to control perhaps as many as half of the theatres in the country by , was an outlet that made independent companies financially viable for a few years.
As Richard Koszarski explains the situation, Zukor threatened exhibitors because he controlled box-office draw stars, the most important of whom was Mary Pickford. A few independent backers left standing outside First National and Paramount in sometimes helped to fund a single independent feature film. For her first scenario Just Like a Woman, which she was to direct, Haskins received financial backing from the W. Hodkinson Corporation. Anthony Slide tells us that with his new distribution company, Hodkinson handled the features of Bessie Barriscale. Hodkinson, however, went out of business in Slide , For a female producer outside Hollywood, the distribution options were limited, but at least they were not directly affected by the upheavals of the great motion picture profit centers.
The history of the distribution company or consortium correlates with the existence of silent era 35mm film prints. If a producing company was ensured wide, even international distribution, more total prints were originally struck, and they were scattered throughout the world, sometimes ending up with foreign language intertitles. Within the next two years, however, the MPPC, of which Edison was the controlling member, put in place a system of film print rental as opposed to purchase, an attempt to control the 35mm print duplication considered a copyright violation.
Thus we understand the — years of the MPPC as the period of rented shorts and the all-shorts mixed-genre exhibition program. The one- or two-reel short film represented creative opportunity, and if there is a Golden Era of writing, producing, and directing for women in the US industry, it corresponded with the vogue in shorts. While it can be said that the MPPC actively sabotaged the independent producers and distributors, MPPC policy extended the heyday of the short film program even after it was clear that features were the future of the industry.
On this point, Eileen Bowser makes the case that it was not the MPPC producer-members but the exhibitors that resisted changing the variety program over which they had more programming control. Although features were exhibited in , they would have been distributed outside the exhibition system sewn up by the MPPC , The bonus for women in the extended life span of the one-reel short is evident in the sheer number of credits for those who started at Vitagraph as an actress or a writer Florence Turner , Marguerite Bertsch , Biograph Mary Pickford , or Kalem Gene Gauntier.
Short serials, which continued after the dramatic feature film, became the norm, providing work for Pearl White , Helen Holmes , Kathlyn Williams , and Grace Cunard. While it may be impossible to determine exactly how many female as opposed to male actors wrote, as we will see, what we can say is that many actresses also wrote stories.
But the sheer number of creative opportunities was eventually reversed when the more expensive multireel feature film became the standard, and it became more difficult to secure financing for larger production budgets.
As Karen Mahar has pointed out, although feature films originally provided opportunity for independent companies outside the MPPC distribution and exhibition system, as the multireel feature presentation became the standard, the competitive strategy behind the feature film business involved eliminating small companies by raising the capital investment required In two other cases former actresses resumed work writing and producing. The best example is Dorothy Davenport Reid — but Leah Baird also did more writing than acting for Leah Baird Productions — , started as part of a husband-wife team with producer Arthur Beck.
Action movies can be silent, or at least, so unreliant on dialogue as to function like a silent film. Roach and Lloyd created "Lonesome Luke", similar to and playing off the success of Charlie Chaplin films. Barbara La Marr Actress The Three Musketeers Reatha Watson Barbara La Marr is possibly most famous as supposedly being one of the first drug-related deaths in Hollywood, but while she had a serious drinking problem she in fact died of tuberculosis with complications of nephritis. Males assumed female and females, male names. Between to , she says, one hundred and nine manuals were published in English. These aren't all the lost films that interest me, but are among the ones that seem to be the most significant.
The first scenarios, if they existed at all, were as Gene Gauntier describes the process she observed when she arrived at the Kalem Company, six scenes sketched out on the back of a used business envelope Gauntier Oct. Writers, she says, were even for a few years paid twice as much as directors, evidence of the value of the story during this early shortage. Filling this opening, they helped to define scenario writing which, for some, turned into a position of influence in the earliest companies , 86, More than one author has stated that fifty percent of the writers in the silent era were women, but this figure would have to be an estimate.
Trade press advertisements and reviews we have access to today may be incorrect, and company records, when they exist, are incomplete. But first, what is meant by a scenario? At first, the scenario was nothing more than a short synopsis, and gradually it came to resemble what we would today call a script or screenplay with scenes listed in sequence. The to period is characterized by the professionalization and institutionalization of writing for the screen, although in the first half of this period, when the demand for stories was so high, many actresses also wrote their own scenarios.
Epes W. Sargent even reported in Moving Picture World that at the Edison Company everyone on the set was writing scenarios. Women as well as men supervised scenario departments, taking the highly responsible position of scenario editor, some for relatively long tenures, like Marguerite Bertsch at Vitagraph — , Bradley King at Ince — , Gertrude Thanhouser at Thanhouser — , and Lillian Spellman Stone at the Lubin Company. Thomas A. As a company job, the scenario writer was sometimes also responsible for titling, or intertitle writing, and within this labor of writing there might have been another breakdown: continuity writer, film editor, and scenario editor McGilligan , 2.
Some women established themselves as both film editor and scenario editor, the latter of which required more writing, as, for example, Beta Breuil and Hettie Gray Baker , who emerged from the editing department to head up departments as scenario editors. First it is delivered to the Scenario Department, where it is duly opened and catalogued by an under clerk. Carr was among the group of women who saw scenario writing as a profession and wrote manuals published in the silent as well as in the sound era.
Beranger, Clara. Dubuque: WM. Brown, Bertsch, Marguerite. How to Write for Moving Pictures. New York: George H. Doran, Google Books version. Corbaley, Kate. Selling Manuscripts in the Photoplay Market. Los Angeles: Palmer Photoplay, Emerson, John, and Anita Loos. How to Write Photoplays. New York: McCann, Macpherson, Jeanie.
The Necessity and Value of Theme in the Photoplay. Parsons, Louella O. Chicago: A. McClurg, Patterson, Frances Taylor. Cinema Craftsmanship. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Howe, Radinoff, Florence. Russell, Lillian Case. New York: M. Publishing, The Photo-playwrights Primer. Johns, Adela Rogers. How to Write a Story and Sell It. Garden City: Doubleday, Screenwriting drew from a bottomless labor pool, indicated by the number of submissions the scenario editor had to manage. Although trade papers and fan magazines encouraged audience members to send stories, only Lenore Coffee , Anita Loos , and Agnes Christine Johnson began significant careers by mailing stories to studios.
But for the career writers featured here, the telltale news item mentioning that she left a company to freelance is more than likely an indication that she was out of a job. June Mathis began as a scenario writer and then at Metro Pictures advanced to scenario editor and producer, where she is often credited with discovering Rudolph Valentino and writing the script for The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from the popular novel. After the institution of the scenario department in the major production companies, around , another job evolved, that of preparing a detailed shooting script from story submissions or literary properties Holliday , — Title writing became more specialized and might have been given a separate credit, as was the case with the team Katharine Hilliker and H.
But, as Karen Mahar has pointed out, the continuity script that first increased the importance of women working in the scenario department later worked to their detriment as the continuity script was employed by management to rein in production , Males assumed female and females, male names. Bertha Muzzy Sinclair was B. Bower; Eve Unsell was E. Unsell or Oliver W. Geoffreys; Clara S.
Beranger became Charles S. Alla Nazimova was either Peter M. Winters or took the name of former husband Charles Bryant. George Randolph Chester or added a married name to a string of others. Lucille McVey went by Mrs. Sidney Drew in partnership with her husband but also by the pseudonym Jane Morrow. At least once, the married partner name worked in gender reverse, as when writer John Lowell, who worked with Lillian Case Russell , was credited as John L.
With gender made ambiguous by the use of initials, there was always the risk, as was the case with Lillian Case Russell , that as L. But in , the six of these women who had started star name companies no longer had them, so not one was in a position to give others a chance. Another photograph taken at the same social event reveals that former male Vitagraphers were in attendance as well. There still is abundant evidence, however, of women working together in the silent era even before there was a term for professional connecting. It is now well known, thanks to Cari Beauchamp, that Frances Marion took professional risks to do favors for Marie Dressler and Lorna Moon , — Yet we can still look for rivalries.
Perhaps because it was considered a purely mechanical and tedious undertaking, requiring only attention to detail, keen eyesight, and nimble hands, film editing in the first decade was often carried out by anonymous, young working-class women. Their duties were considered to be no more creative than cutting and pasting hundreds of feet of negative and positive film, and, as such, cutters and joiners were not mentioned in the trade presses, which the first century of US motion picture history relied upon so exclusively.
As the moving picture became longer, however, working conditions changed. These women were able to keep their jobs into the era in which Hollywood film production had become almost entirely male. While women did maintain somewhat of a foothold in screenwriting throughout the first century of US cinema, they were never there in the numbers they had been in the silent era. If we can say one thing about all of the women profiled here, it is that they would become exceptions in a business that, although it did not begin that way, became a male-dominated industry over its first twenty years.
One of the general principles of the modern entertainment industry is that it orchestrated its own wildly enthusiastic reception. Industry publicists sent out the releases that were copied verbatim in the local press, a practice that now presents a special historiographic challenge.
In summer , several papers printed an item about Miriam Nesbitt stating that the actress would become the first woman director at the Edison Company studio and would even write the story. Scholars are still searching for evidence that the film was shot. Studio biographies were especially elastic. Entertainment personnel themselves contributed to the confusion. When writer Eve Unsell died in , her obituary gave her age as fifty, but if we were to go by the varying dates she gave the US Census taker, she would have been either forty-five or fifty-eight when she died.
Sada Cowan reduced her age by twelve years when she married a second time.
Since most sources used in US motion picture history are mass vehicles with a promotional agenda—the popular press, fan magazines, and industry trade papers—film historiography has and must continue to proceed with caution. In this worldview, success is contagious, everything bigger is better, and dreams are always achievable, even for women.
Film stories and press puff pieces are cut from the same fabric and were often written by the same women. Louella Parsons began work as a silent film scenarist and easily transitioned to gossip columnist. Literary works by Photoplay writer Adela Rogers St. There is temptation to let the upbeat journalism of the time write the story of women in the silent film industry for us.
In , E. But the article pins hopes for industry reform to a phenomenon that no longer existed by Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :.
Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. In , The Jazz Singer heralded a revolution in the moviemaking industry with the advent of synchronized sound in full-length motion pictures. While movie studios adapted their production facilities to accommodate the new technology and movie theatres converted to sound, filmmakers continued to produce silents, albeit in dwindling numbers.
And though talkies would overta In , The Jazz Singer heralded a revolution in the moviemaking industry with the advent of synchronized sound in full-length motion pictures. And though talkies would overtake the industry and the public's demand soon enough, the silent motion picture did not disappear immediately.
Drawing primarily on contemporary records, this book details the fate of an entire art form--the silent cinema--in the United States during the s and how it managed to survive the onslaught of sound. Through the most diverse venues, from tent shows to universities, political meetings to picture palaces, ghetto theaters to art houses, the silent film continued to play an important role in American culture in the Depression years, culminating in the first efforts to chronicle and preserve cinema history. Through the voices of the audiences, critics, editors, and artists, Drew relates the impact of various silent films, whether new releases, reissues, or foreign imports, on the public and culture of the 30s--how they affected both the popular and intellectual environment and how they were promoted for their audiences.
Providing an in-depth examination of the transitional period, which led to the birth of modern film studies, The Last Silent Picture Show is aimed not only at academics but also the large number of film devotees who will discover new information on a relatively neglected chapter of film history. Get A Copy. More Details Other Editions 2. Friend Reviews.
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