100 Years Ago Today

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

Archive for the category “Movies”

Released January 13, 1915

Tom Mix

Tom Mix

Thomas Hezikiah Mix was born in January 1880 in Mix Run, Pennsylvania, His father was a stable master for a wealthy lumber merchant and taught his son to ride and love horses. Mix enlisted during the Spanish-American War and later marched in Teddy Roosevelt’s 1905 inaugural parade led by Seth Bullock (of Deadwood fame) with a group of 50 horsemen. The Miller Brothers 101 Ranch, one of the largest ranching businesses in the United States, covering 101,000 acres hence its name had its own touring Wild West show. Mix appeared with the show in 1909-1910.

William Selig worked as a magician and minstrel show operator on the west coast of California. Later on in Chicago, Illinois he attempted to enter the film business using his own photographic equipment, free from patent restrictions imposed through companies controlled by Thomas Edison. In 1896 he shot his first film, Tramp and the Dog. In 1909, Selig started a independent film company called Selig Polyscope. The company’s early existence was fraught with legal turmoil over disputes with lawyers representing Thomas Edison’s interests. Effectively a cartel, Motion Picture Patents Company dominated the industry. Independent 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.

Selig Polyscope studios - Edendale, California

Selig Polyscope studios – Edendale, California

In 1909 Selig and several other studio heads settled with Edison by creating an alliance with the inventor. Selig Polyscope moved to Edendale. They were the first to film a version of The Wizard of Oz. In 1909, Tom Mix started his film career with Selig Polyscope in a short film titled The Cowboy Millionaire. In 1910 he appeared as himself in a short documentary film titled Ranch Life in the Great Southwest in which he displayed his skills as a cattle wrangler. The film was a success and Mix became an early motion picture star. Mix has gone on to perform in dozens of films for Selig, many of which were filmed in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

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On January 13, 1915 HEART’S DESIRE a one-reeler was released by Selig with Tom Mix. The plot involves the son of a wealthy society matron who falls for his mother’s secretary. His mother, disdainful that her son should be carrying on with someone of a lesser social position, fires the young lady and determines to keep her son away from the girl he loves.

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New Western Released

The Motion Picture Patents Company is an entity created by Thomas Edison and established film producers on the east coast to file suit to confiscate unlicensed equipment, discontinue product supply to theaters which showed unlicensed films and effectively monopolized distribution and acquisition of all US film exchanges. Unlicensed and independent film production companies carried on business without submitting to the Edison monopoly by using illegal equipment and importing film stock to create their own underground market. 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.

There are 7 film production companies in Southern California and in November 1911 Thomas Ince, a Rhode Island native who has worked for Biograph, 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 with who he shared credit whether he actually directed or not.

Francis X Feeney was born in Portland, Maine in 1881. After serving in the Spanish-American War he drifted into the budding film industry in New York. He adopted the surname “Ford” from the automobile. He started working in San Antonio, Texas for Star Film Company. From there Francis Ford began his Hollywood career working for Thomas Ince at Ince’s Bison studio, directing and appearing in westerns. He recently appeared in CUSTER’S LAST FIGHT as Custer.

https://100yearsagotoday.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/custers-last-fight-released/

On November 29, 1912 THE INVADERS was released, produced by Thomas Ince, directed by Ince and Ford and starring Francis Ford. The US Army and the Indians sign a peace treaty. However, a group of surveyors trespass on the Indians’ land and violate the treaty. The army refuses to listen to the Indians’ complaints, and the surveyors are killed by the Indians. A vicious Indian war ensues, culminating in an Indian attack on an army fort.

Scene from THE INVADERS
Francis Ford is the seated officer with the mustache

First Film Produced By A Performer Released

Helen Gardner was born in September 1884. She studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and was successful stage actress.

Helen Gardner

Gardner became a Vitagraph Studios player in 1911 and earned critical acclaim for Becky Sharp in VANITY FAIR. In 1912 she became the first film-actor to form her own production company the Helen Gardner Picture Players in Tappan, New York with capital provided by her mother.

On November 13, 1912 the United States Film Company released her first production CLEOPATRA starring Gardner. Directed by Charles L Gaskill (rumored to be Gardner’s lover) the film features lavish sets and costumes and tinting in various hues. At just over an hour, it was considered one of Americas first feature-length film. It made Gardner one of American cinema’s first “vamps”.

CLEOPATRA 1912

Advertisement for CLEOPATRA 1912

Children’s Movie Released

Edwin Thanhouser was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1865. He traveled around the US and Canada with various acting companies companies before moving to New Rochelle, New York where he leased space in an old wooden skating to start the Thanhouser Film Corporation and produced films. Their first film was released in March 1910.

Madeline and Marion Fairbanks are twins who were born in New York in 1889 to an actress mother. The began appearing on stage and even met president Taft. The twins started making films with Biograph in 1910. They joined the Thanhouser Film Corporation in 1912, where they were billed as “The Thanhouser Twins.”On November 1, 1912 Thanhouser released “The Little Girl Next Door” directed by Lucius Henderson and written by Philip Lonergan. It involves the death of a neighbor girl and her father’s revenge complete with ghostly special effects.

THE LITTLE GIRL NEXT DOOR featuring the Thanhouser Twins, Madeline and Marion Fairbanks

New Studio Releases Film

Mack Sennett first made films for the Biograph Company of New York before forming his own Keystone Studios in California.

https://100yearsagotoday.wordpress.com/2012/08/12/keystone-studios-founded-in-california/

On October 28, 1912 Keystone released A GROCERY CLERK’S ROMANCE directed by Mack Sennett.

Cast : Ford Sterling (Grocery Clerk), James C. Morton (Brown, the Husband), Gus Pixley (Brown’s Pal), Lincoln Plumer (Constable)

Scene from A GROCERY CLERK’S ROMANCE
directed by Mack Sennett
Keystone Studios
released October 28, 1912

Shakespeare Adaptation Released in US and France

Most movies are “one-reelers”, a reel of film being 1,000ft in length and running about 10 – 17 minutes. There were early attempts at longer film including a Passion Play in France and recorded prize fights. THE STORY OF THE KELLY GANG is an Australian film made in 1906 and the first dramatic feature film based on length running 60 minutes. The first feature-length adaptation was Les Misérables which was released in 1909. In 1912 there have been two feature length films released – OLIVER TWIST and FROM THE MANGER TO THE CROSS.

https://100yearsagotoday.wordpress.com/2012/10/03/from-the-manger-to-the-cross-movie-premieres-in-great-britain/

On October 15, 1912 RICHARD III was released with a running time of 55 minutes. It is a US/French production by Film D’Art .

poster for RICHARD III
1912

CUSTER’S LAST FIGHT Released

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”
1912

poster for CUSTER’S LAST FIGHT
1912

“From The Manger To The Cross” Movie Premieres In Great Britain

The 1905 “The Life and Passion Jesus Christ” was from French film company Pathé It was largely a filmed stage pageant in the Catholic tradition done in France. Sidney Olcott was a film actor with the Biograph Studios in America. Within a short time he was directing films and became a general manager. Olcott was lured away by the Kalem Company for $10 dollars per picture, one, one-reel picture of about a thousand feet every week. After making a number of very successful films for the Kalem studio, including Ben Hur (1907) with its dramatic chariot race scene Olcott became the company’s president.

Film technique had improved greatly. Olcott had made the first American films abroad when he made some Irish films in 1910. Olcott wants to film the story of Jesus with a more Protestant slant in the Holy Land. It will cost $35,000, a large amount for a motion picture. It will film in Egypt (Cairo, the Pyramids), Palestine (Jerusalem, Nazareth, Tiberias, and Bethlehem.

On October 3, 1912 Olcott releases FROM THE MANGER TO THE CROSS in London, a 5 reel behemoth coming in at 70 minutes, a unheard of length at the time. It will be released soon in New York and Paris. There had been some controversy for some religious Christians felt that Christ should not be depicted in film.

Still from FROM THE MANGER TO THE CROSS
1912

The First “Beach Movie” Is Released

Mack Sennett was born Mikall Sinnott in Danville, Quebec, Canada in 1880. When he was 17 years old his family moved to Connecticut. Sennett first got the idea to go on stage after seeing a vaudeville show. He became an actor, singer, dancer, clown, set designer. He was attracted to the early movies and started working for the New York film studio Biograph Company. 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 a monopolistic 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.

Mack Sennett

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.

In August 1912 Mack Sennett founded Keystone Studios in Edendale, California. He announced his new company by promising “A SPLIT-REEL COMEDY RELEASED EVERY MONDAY” meaning 2 7- or 8-minute comedies on one reel of film. While at Biograph Sennett met actress Mabel Normand and made successful comedies with her. They became romantically involved and he convinced her to come work at Keystone.

Mabel Normand

Venice of America was founded by tobacco millionaire Abbot Kinney in 1905 as a beach resort town near Santa Monica, California. Kinney dug several miles of canals to drain the marshes resembling Venice, Italy. He added a pleasure pier with an auditorium, ship restaurant, and dance hall,and a block-long arcaded business street with Venetian architecture. The population soon exceeded 10,000 and the town drew 50,000 to 150,000 tourists on weekends. In July 1912 the first live beauty pageant (where the contestants were judged in person in one event) in the US took place at Venice Beach as 169 female contestants participated in the “Festival of the Sea Bathing Costume Contest” parading in their one-piece swimsuits before an enthusiastic crowd of 100,000. The event inspired Sennett to make his first California film.

artist’s concept of the “Festival of the Sea Bathing Costume Contest”
Venice Beach, California
July 1912

On September 23, 1912 Mabel Normand became the first actress to put on a bathing suit on film when Sennett released his movie featuring himself with Mabel Normand called THE WATER NYMPH filmed at Venice Beach, California. The plot involves an eloping couple who gets taken to the beach by the groom’s father. When Normand changes into a sexy bathing suit, the father tries to woo her. Sennett promoted his actress by name and by face which was never done before. A large picture of Normand was shown as well as a scene from the movie of the actress wearing a risque and controversial bathing suit called a Kellerman suit. In 1907 Annette Kellerman was giving a swimming and diving exhibition before members of the English royal family. Women’s swimwear at that time forbid the showing of any bare leg and was a cumbersome dress and pantaloon combination. Kellerman bought a pair of long black stockings and sewed them onto a boy’s short racing swimsuit. This was the first one-piece swimsuit for women. Normand’s appearance in a Kellerman suit was just the promotional device this film needs to be a success.

 

Issued September 14, 1912

Edward Penfield was born in June 1866 in Brooklyn, New York. He studied at New York’s “Art Student’s League”and first worked for Harper’s Weekly then later became Harper’s art director. He developed his own unique style of simplified figures with bold outlines in settings free of extraneous detail. This dramatic style lent itself to posters and Penfield popularized the medium much like Mucha and Latrec have done in Europe. He wrote and published a book titled Holland Sketches which was published by Scribner’s in 1907.

COLLIER’S Weekly
September 14, 1912
“Good-by, Summer” by Edward Penfield

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
September 14, 1912
“Exploits in Bomb-dropping from Flying Machines”

CAVALIER
September 14, 1912
“Two Women Or One?”

MOTOGRAPHY Exploiting Motion Pictures
September 14, 1912
Published by the Electricity Magazine Corporation

Following in its continuing criticism of Theodore Roosevelt’s third party campaign for president, HARPER’S show TR as a hot air balloon which rises the more his supporters throw money and bonds at the campaign.

HARPER’S WEEKLY
September 14, 1912

 

 

 

 

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