Early Innovations in Film Technology Kinetoscope Parlor The Zoetrope Early attempts at moving pictures were nothing more than a fad.
From Nickelodeons to Motion Picture Palaces Five cent Theaters were very popular with the immigrant population. However, as the movies became a popular mainstream mass medium, these nickelodeons gave way to ornate motion picture palaces. Many had full orchestras and were capable of seating thousands of movie goers.
The Great Train Robbery (1903) Although only ten minutes long, the Edwin S. Porter film revitalized motion pictures by telling a story about a train robbery.
The Birth of A Nation (1915) Hailed as the “Father of American Film”, D.W. Griffith realized the potential this new medium with his production of the Thomas Dixon novel The Clansman .
Hooray for Hollywood! The Independents are muscled out of the northeast and relocate in Southern California—which has many natural advantages for the fledgling producers. Hollywood is transformed from a modest orange grove community into a bustling factory town and the center of world film production.
Meanwhile in the Weimar Republic . . . The German film industry, devastated by the Great War, experiences a renaissance. Influenced by the Expressionist movement, German film makers begin to view the medium as an art form, leading to experimentation in art direction, camera technique, and visual style. Driven away by the Nazis, many of these film makers will flock to Hollywood by end of the 1920s and early 1930s.
Emergence of the Studio System The studios became virtual factories. The biggies were vertically integrated, meaning they owned all the factors of production as well as the theaters to distribute the movies they produced. Movies were produced on assembly lines. All resources were controlled by the studios. Stars were exclusive property of the studios. They were packaged and marketed as such.
The Hays Code In the wake of the Fatty Arbuckle scandal, Hollywood was forced to clean up its act. Will Hays was hired as the new “Czar of the Rushes.” With the establishment of the MPAA, Hays will implement the Code that will govern Hollywood film production for the next forty years.
Jolson Sings! Warner’s The Jazz Singer (1927) spelled the end to the end of the silent film era prompting the studios to retool for sound. Of the two rival technologies, movietone wins out over vitaphone and becomes the standard in the sound era . Movietone Vitaphone
Studio House Styles of the 1930s During the 1930s, the studios differentiated themselves by developing a “house style” that established the film genres that have influenced movie making for generations to come. The Big Five were the studios that maintained their own theater chains for distribution. The Small Three were the lesser studios or independents. At the bottom rung of the studio hierarchy stood the Poverty Row studios which made movies on a shoestring budget.
Marlene Dietrich Mae West Adolph Zukor's Famous Players (1912) and Jesse Lasky's Feature Play - merged in 1916 to form Famous Players-Lasky Corporation; it spent $1 million on United Studios' property (on Marathon Street) in 1926; the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation became Paramount studios in 1927, and was officially named Paramount Pictures in 1935; its greatest silent era stars were Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks; Golden Age stars included Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, W.C. Fields, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and director Cecil B. DeMille. Paramount
MGM liked to boast that it had “more stars than in heaven.”
Formed through a 1935 merger, Twentieth Century-Fox Picture Company prided itself by providing the Depression-weary moving going public pure Hollywood hokum and light escapist fare featuring Shirley Temple.
Rogue’s Gallery Warner Brothers perfected the gangster genre with tough guys Edward G. Robinson, George Raft, James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart.
RKO scored with King Kong (1933), but it’s specialty was elegance and sophistication with the pairing of Ginger Rogers with Fred Astaire.
One of the lesser studios, Columbia ’s reputation was established by its star director Frank Capra.
Smaller studio Universal ’s “bread and butter” during the 1930s was its creature features and a monster franchise that included Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy, and the Invisible Man.
The independents operated and produced films outside the Hollywood establishment. United Artists and David O. Selznick did own their own studios. However, like all the independents, they had to distribute their films through the major studios. Fairbanks, Pickford, Chaplin, and Griffith David O. Selznick Samuel Goldwyn
Reefer Madness (1935) West of the Divide (1934) The poverty row studios specialized in low budget B-grade western and action flicks and serials.
1939 – Hollywood’s Golden Year The studio system reached its peak in 1939 with a magical year that saw the releases of some of Hollywood’s greatest films.