The 1920s• By the mid-1920s, film was BIG business• Around $2 billion of capital investment• 20 Hollywood Studios by the mid-1920s• Biggest output in the history of America’s film industry• Average of 800 a year! (Compared with 500 a year today…)• Productions becoming more polished, longer and costlier• Films were being manufactured, assembly-line style, in Hollywoods entertainment factories, in which production was broken down and organized into its various components (writing, costuming, makeup, directing, etc.)
Genres• Films were beginning to be placed into genres according to:• Storylines• Settings• Costumes• Characters• Gangster, comedy, melodrama, biblical epics were all established by this point• The first non-fictional narrative film also emerged in the 1920s
The Studio System THE BIG 5 & little 3• The studio system was essentially born with long-term contracts for stars, lavish production values, and increasingly rigid control of directors and stars by the studios production chief and in-house publicity departments• After World War I and into the early 1920s, America was the leading producer of films in the world - using Thomas Inces "factory system" of production, although the system did limit the creativity of many directors• Production was in the hands of the major studios (that really flourished after 1927 for almost 20 years), and the star system was burgeoning• By the 1920s, THE BIG 5were established: Warner Bros, RKO, 20th Century Fox, Paramount and MGM• As were the little 3: Columbia, United Artists and Universal
Poverty Row Cinema• Small, poorer, less professional studios also existed• These were called poverty row films• They where cheap, independent pictures, made with low budgets, stock footage, and second-tier actors• Notable ‘poverty row’ studios: Tiffany Studios, Larry Darmour Productions, Grand National Films, Mascot Pictures, Republic Pictures... Tiffany Studios
British Cinema• By the mid-1920s, British film production has ground to a halt (only 33 British films were made in 1925)• In 1926, over 600 American films were shown in Britain• In 1927 Parliament brought in an important piece of legislation the Cinematographers Trade Bill, designed to ensure there was a guaranteed home market for British made films• This meant that 5% of the total number of movies shown in theatres had to be from Britain (this figure rose to 20% by 1936)• American companies simply came over to the UK and started making films• These were terrible and known as ‘Quota Quickies’
The End Of The Nickelodeons• The major film studios built luxurious picture palaces that were designed for orchestras to play music to accompany projected films• The 3,300-seat Strand Theater opened in 1914 in New York City, marking the end of the nickelodeon era and the beginning of an age of the luxurious movie palaces.• By 1920, there were more than 20,000 movie houses operating in the US. The largest theatre in the world (with over 6,000 seats), the Roxy Theater (dubbed "The Cathedral of the Motion Picture"), opened in New York City in 1927, with a 6,200 seat capacity.• It was opened by impresario Samuel Lionel "Roxy" Rothafel at a cost of $10 million.
Mary Pickford • America flocked to the movies to see the Queen of Hollywood, dubbed "Americas Sweetheart" and the most popular star of the generation - "Our Mary" Mary Pickford. • She had been a child star, and had worked at Biograph as a bit actress in 1909, and only ten years later was one of the most influential figures in Hollywood at Paramount. • In 1916, she was the first star to become a millionaire.Mary Pickford
Douglas Fairbanks • Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. also became an American legend after switching from light comedies and starring in a series of exciting, costumed swashbuckler and adventure/fantasy films, starting with The Mark of Zorro (1920), soon followed with his expensively- financed, lavish adventure film Robin Hood (1922) with gigantic sets (famous for the scene in which he eluded death from sword- wielding attackers by jumping off a castle balcony and sliding down a 50 ftDouglas Fairbanks
Pickford marries Fairbanks• Pickford was married, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.• Their wedding in late March, 1920 was a major cultural event, although it was highly controversial since both of them had to divorce their spouses so they could marry each other.• She was presented with a wedding gift - "Pickfair” - a twenty-two room palatial mansion (former hunting lodge) in the agricultural area of Beverly Hills - marking the start of the movement of stars to lavish homes in the suburbs of W. Hollywood and the making of Pickford & Fairbanks Hollywood royalty.
Comedy!• It was a great era for light-hearted silent comedy, with the triumvirate of humorists: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd, and the early popularity of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle until a scandal destroyed his career in 1921• "Fatty" Arbuckle was one of the earliest silent film comedians (as well as director and screenwriter).• He started out with the Selig Polyscope Company in 1909• his first film was Bens Kid (1909), and then went onto Universal Pictures in 1913 where he appeared in several of Mack Sennetts Keystone Comedies films, noted for fast-paced chase sequences and pie-in-the-face segments
Comedy!• In 1917, Arbuckle formed his own production company (Comique Film Corporation) with producer Joseph Schenck which afforded more creative control, hiring Buster Keaton to star in his first film The Butcher Boy (1917)• By 1919, he had secured at $3 million/3-year contract with Paramount Pictures - the first multi- year, multi-million dollar deal for a Hollywood studio. It is little mentioned that Arbuckle mentored and aided Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin as they entered the film business, before his own downfall in the early 1920s
Comedy!• The popularity of Charlie Chaplin as the Tramp soared in movies after his initial films with Keystone, Essanay, and Mutual.• As already stated, he co-founded United Artists studios in 1919 with Mary Pickford, D. W. Griffith, and Douglas Fairbanks.• His first silent feature film was First Nationals 6-reel The Kid (1921) (with child star Jackie Coogan), in which he portrayed the Tramp in an attempt to save an abandoned and orphaned child. (35 year old Chaplin married his underage, 16 year-old The Kid co- star Lita Grey in 1924)
The Birth Of The Talkies • By the late 1920s, the art of silent film had become remarkably mature. • Although called silents, they were never really silent but accompanied by sound organs, gramophone discs, musicians, sound effects specialists, live actors who delivered dialogue, and even full-scale orchestras. • There would be two competing sound or recording systems developed during the early talkie period: sound-on-disc, and sound-on-film
The Birth Of The Talkies• In 1925-26, America technologically revolutionized the entire industry, with the formation of the Vitaphone Company (a subsidiary created by Warner Bros. and Western Electric).• Warner Bros. launched sound and talking pictures, with Bell Telephone Laboratory researchers, by developing a revolutionary synchronized sound system called Vitaphone (a short-lived sound-on- disc process developed in 1925 that quickly became obsolete by 1931).
The Birth Of The Talkies• This process allowed sound to be recorded on a phonograph record that was electronically linked and synchronized with the film projector - but it was destined to be faulty due to inherent synchronization problems.• Originally, Warner Bros. intended to use the system to record only music and sound effects - not dialogue.• The process was first used for short one- and two-reel films, mostly comedies and vaudeville acts• The first feature-length film with synchronized Vitaphone sound effects and musical soundtrack (canned music and sound effects recorded on large wax discs), but without spoken dialogue, was Warner Bros. romantic swashbuckler adventure Don Juan (1926)
Investment In Sound• Most of the studios started to convert from silent to sound film production - a tremendous capital investment• Thousands of existing theaters had to be rewired for sound at great expense• In the mid 1920s, Warners Bros invested over $3 million in outfitting its picture palaces to show Vitaphone films, and went into debt because of it
Investment In Sound• In 1926, William Fox of the Fox Film Corporation responded to Warners success with its own similar and competing, advanced Movietone system - the first commercially successful sound-on- film process developed in conjunction with General Electric• It added a soundtrack directly onto the strip of film and would eventually become the predominant sound technology• The first feature film released using the new Fox Movietone system was Sunrise (1927)
The First Talkie• In April, 1927, Warners built the first sound studio to produce a feature film with sound• It was the first feature-length talkie (and first musical), The Jazz Singer (1927) adapted from Samson Raphaelsons successful 1925-26 musical stage play (that starred George Jessel in the Broadway role)• It was also the most expensive film in the studios history, at a budget of about $500,000• Here was a revolutionary film that was mostly silent - with only about 350 spontaneously spoken words, but with six songs (in the films partly-synchronized musical soundtrack)• The film was about an aspiring Jewish cantors son who wanted to become a jazz singer rather than a cantor in the synagogue• Producer Sam Warner died one day before the films premiere at Warners Theatre in New York City
The Problems With Sound• As anticipated, the arrival of sound created great upheaval in the history of the motion picture industry• Film studios were confronted with many problems related to the coming of sound, including restricted markets for English-language talkies• Many Hollywood actors/actresses lacked good voices and stage experience, and their marketability decreased
The Problems With Sound• Technically, camera movements were restricted, and noisy, bulky movie cameras had to be housed in clumsy, huge sound-insulated booths with blimps (sound-proof covers), to avoid picking up camera noise on the soundtrack• Artistically, acting suffered as studios attempted to record live dialogue, because stationary or hidden microphones (in either their costumes or other stage props) impeded the movement of actors
The Death Of The Silent Film• Silent film studios became obsolescent, and new investments had to be made for expensive new equipment, technological innovations, and sound-proofed stages.• Cameras were mounted on moveable, squeak-proofed dollies, and microphones were hung from booms that could be held above the action (outside of the cameras view)
Surviving the Transition• Films that began production as silents were quickly transformed into sound films• All of the studios were forced to follow suit. By 1930, the silent movie had practically disappeared, and by the mid 1930s, film industry studios had become sound-film factories• In 1927, only 400 US theatres were wired for sound, but by the end of the decade, over 40% of the countrys movie theatres had sound systems installed
Surviving the Transition• Many stars of the silent era with heavy accents and disagreeable voices saw their careers shattered• Others like Joan Crawford, Paul Muni, Greta Garbo, Ronald Colman, Lon Chaney, Sr., Richard Barthelmess and Gloria Swanson survived the transition - but elocution lessons from diction coaches became a necessity for some• Other silent stars, such as Mary Pickford, failed to make the transition to talkies and retired in the 30s. Many new film stars and directors that had to be imported from Broadway, would become familiar Hollywood names in the 1930s.
Colour• Colour had been applied to films in various different forms• The Great Train Robbery (1903) hand-painted some of the slides, turning explosions and gun shots ornage in colour• These methods however, were largely impractical, laborious, and unrealistic looking• Another process called Kinemacolor used a movie camera and projector that both exposed and projected black and white film through alternating red and green filters
Colour• In 1915, the Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation developed a more advanced system to colorize motion pictures• The companys first color process was a two color (red and green) additive system that used two color negatives pasted or printed together• The first two-color Technicolor production was The Gulf Between (1917)• The first commercial, two-color Technicolor feature film made was the six-reel The Toll of the Sea (1922), also noted as the first to use a subtractive two-color process• The first feature-length blockbuster color picture using this same innovative process was The Black Pirate (1926) with Douglas Fairbanks, Sr
Self Regulation• In 1922, the Hollywood studios formed the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) - a trade organization to lobby politicians, self-regulate the industry, and to counter negative publicity from a rash of scandals• This perhaps was a reaction to the infamous Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle rape/murder case in September 1921 • Producers appointed conservative Will H. Hays, the former Postmaster General of the US, to be the head of the MPPDA, to begin efforts to clean up the motion picture industry before the publics anger at declining morality depicted in films hurt the movie business