100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago


In 1908 in order to to bring stability to the patent wars and litigation the Edison Film Manufacturing Company, the Biograph company, and the 7 other east coast motion picture studios ended their competitive feuding in favor of a cooperative system that provided industry domination and formed the Motion Picture Patents Company known as The Film Trust.  By pooling their interests, the member companies legally monopolized the business, and demanded licensing fees from all film producers, distributors, and exhibitors for cameras and projectors, which were all made by Edison. Either you did what the Film Trust wanted or you could build your own cameras, developers, and projectors.

Unlicensed outlaws and “independents” carried on business without submitting to the Edison monopoly using illegal equipment and importing film stock to create their own underground market. The Motion Picture Patents Company would file suit to confiscated unlicensed equipment, discontinued product supply to theaters which showed unlicensed films, and effectively monopolized distribution with the acquisition of all US film exchanges. The rebel film studios started looking elsewhere to avoid the Film Trust and have moved all the way across the country to California (where the nice weather allows a longer filming season) and opened studios is small southern California towns like Edendale and Hollywood.Thomas Ince was born in Newport, Rhode Island in November 1882 to performing parents. He first went on stage at age 6. Chronically underemployed as an actor, Ince got a job with Biograph film company in New York making $5 per day. In 1910 he met Independent Film Company’s Carl Laemmle who wanted to avoid Edison’s monopoly. He hired Ince to direct films in Cuba giving him experience with outdoor locations and Westerns. In 1911 Ince dressed up in a borrowed suit and convinced the head of the New York Motion Picture Company which had recently decided to establish a West Coast studio to make westerns. Ince was offered $100 a week to go to California.

There are 7 film production companies in Southern California. In November 1911 Ince arrived and proceeded to revolutionize the film industry. He was the first to use a “shooting script” the blueprint to map out the entire movie-making process. He created the first modern movie studio in the Santa Monica mountains at Bison Ranch called Inceville. The Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Show provided cowboys, horses, oxen, Indians, wagons, everything needed to make the greatest Westerns ever for $25,000 per week. Ince didn’t take total control as director but managed teams of film-makers on several projects.

On October 4, 1912 CUSTER’S LAST FIGHT announced initially for June 1912 was finally released. It stars Francis Ford as George Armstrong Custer and William Eagle Shirt as Sitting Bull. It is considered by some that Ford also actually directed this film.

scene from “Custer’s Last Fight”


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