The state of cinema – 1917

July 29, 2008 § 1 Comment

The July 21, 1917 issue of The Moving Picture World published the opinions of leading figures of Hollywood about the state of cinema then. DeMille, Buckland, Fairbanks, Henry King, Maurice Tourneur…All believed cinema wasn’t completely matured — but their ideas of how it ought to develop take them in different directions. There’s an array of options: Buckland believes in a non-realistic, all-suggestive future when Fairbanks calls for “page of life” stuff (yes, this is Fairbanks way before Thief of Bagdad). Henry King makes ’em “heart high”, what’s become a cliché of Hollywood filmmaking (the love angle), but Edward Sloman takes on that other cliché of Hollywood filmmaking, the blue-tinted day-for-night shooting that my friend Shaye also hates so much. Tourneur is going for the artistic, calls actors “human pigments” and declares his preference for studio shooting (control, control), while British actress-turned-producer Peggy Hyland (brought to the US by Vitagraph in 1916–her studio, “Mayfair Film Corporation”, produced the Charles Brabin directed Persuasive Peggy) defines the artistic as realism…”wholesome” realism, that is.

Look beyond the slightly pompous style and you’ll find quite a variety of opinions. What’s Hollywood cinema in 1917 ? You tell me:


P.S.: For a bit of context on the pivotal 1917 year, you could worse than start with David Bordwell’s introductory post on 1917. A more recent post on Hart’s early films revisits 1917 with more examples of the domination of continuity principles — fast cutting, multiplication of set-ups, etc.


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