who called it “photoplay” ?
September 3, 2007 § 2 Comments
“[ in 1910] The term “photoplay’ had just been suggested by Mr. Edgar Strakosch as a result of an effort on the part of the Essanay Film Company of Chicago to obtain an appropriate classification for its releases then gradually assuming a plane higher than in previous years.”
(Robert Grau, The theatre of science: a volume of progress and achievement in the motion picture industry (1914) — thank you, yet again, Bioscope)
And indeed Terry Ramsaye in 1926 is of the same opinion (maybe he was using Grau as his source of information) in his essay “Movie Jargon” (published in 1926 in American Speech), but adds a lot more to the verbal history of the movies (a term, he insists, that Hollywood producers disliked as being much too slangy and undignified, even into the 1920s):
“Pictureplay first appeared in an effort of Alexander Black to describe his invention of an art form comprising steropticon slide photographs of phases of dramatic action, which, assisted by his spoken obligato, conveyed an illusion of motion. Black’s pictureplay appeared October 9, 1894, a few months after the Edison peepshow went to the public and nearly a half a year before the birth of the projected film picture on the screen. Black’s play in pictures evolved from his experiences as a writer and lecturer on the then new art of making snapshots in the early ’90’s. It had no conscious relation to the film of the motion picture. Black followed the language of the word and became a novelist, while the motion picture film followed a career of novelty which had to be exhausted before it turned to narration. Pictureplay did not come into the motion picturre language until nearly ten years later, springing up then, not from the Black concept, but independently as a synonym for Photoplay.
The motion picture was at considerable pains to arrive at Photoplay. At the birth of the screen in 1895-6 there was some confusion with “living pictures,” a term used to describe the then common stage tableaux or “living statuary” presentations ranging from “Napoleon at Lodi” to “Pygmalion and Galatea” with the limelight accent on Galatea. “Pictures in Life Motion” appeared on the blacktent film theatres of the carnival circuits. “The Great Train Robbery,” the classic parent screen drama, and its immediate successors were discussed as “story pictures” to differentiate them from the mere record and novelty pictures. When Sigmund Lubin of Philadelphia advertised “The Bold Bank Robbery” in 1904, he declared that it was in “30 Motion Tableaux.” When in 1908, Kessel and Baumann, able ex-bookmakers from Sheepshead Bay race tracks, engaged in film production they announced “Bison Life Motion Pictures. Vitagraph boasted contemporaneously of “Life Portrayals.” In 1912 the Essanay concern in Chicago, formed five years earlier by Max Aronson, now G. M. Anderson, star of “The Great Train Robbery” and George K. Spoor, grew militant against the word movie. They offered the wide world a prize of $25 for a new name for the art. Edgar Strakosch, a California musician, coined Photoplay and got the money. Then within a few months Photoplay Magazine was founded in Chicago and spread the word to the industry and the public.” (p. 358-359)