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American Cinema of the 1910s

American Cinema of the 1910s: Themes and Variations

Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    American Cinema of the 1910s
    Book Description:

    It was during the teens that filmmaking truly came into its own. Notably, the migration of studios to the West Coast established a connection between moviemaking and the exoticism of Hollywood.

    The essays inAmerican Cinema of the 1910sexplore the rapid developments of the decade that began with D. W. Griffith's unrivaled one-reelers. By mid-decade, multi-reel feature films were profoundly reshaping the industry and deluxe theaters were built to attract the broadest possible audience. Stars like Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks became vitally important and companies began writing high-profile contracts to secure them. With the outbreak of World War I, the political, economic, and industrial groundwork was laid for American cinema's global dominance. By the end of the decade, filmmaking had become a true industry, complete with vertical integration, efficient specialization and standardization of practices, and self-regulatory agencies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4654-4
    Subjects: Performing Arts, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Charlie Keil and Ben Singer
  4. TIMELINE: The 1910s
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Movies and the 1910s
    (pp. 1-25)

    The 1910s represents a turning point for American society, a period that saw many of the key transformations that helped shape the United States into a modern nation. By the decade’s close, America’s global supremacy as a supplier of commercial goods was secured, in part due to the disruptions caused by World War I. Progressivism, the dominant political movement of the era, guided social policy and legislation with the goal of taming the mayhem of unchecked modernization. An enhanced sense of American identity was promoted by the spread of national distribution and communication networks that disseminated everything from mass circulation...

  6. 1910 Movies, Reform, and New Women
    (pp. 26-47)

    At the start of the decade, it was still possible to call “moving pictures a “passing” fad that “have had their day” and to classify them alongside the roller skating craze, as did the feminist reformer Rheta Childe Dorr (228). But others saw the movies growing into the new century’s defining mode of entertainment, and perhaps destined for something more. Typical, in both its awe over the phenomenon and its worry over unruly audiences and under-regulated films, was a magazine piece titled “A Theatre with a 5,000,000 Audience”:

    Squads of police are necessary in many places to keep in line...

  7. 1911 Movies and the Stability of the Institution
    (pp. 48-68)

    Fifty years after the Civil War, popular culture explored the deep scars in the national body from that divisive conflict that left a nation still in a search for reconciliation. Monuments to war heroes were dedicated, commemorations were held on the old battlefields, and historic battles were reenacted on the original sites. Such memorializing events established cultural traditions and enshrined tourist attractions that continue to flourish up to present times. Perhaps most impressive of all these endeavors was Francis Trevelyan Miller’s ten-volumePhotographic History of the Civil War, an epic work replete with over one thousand Mathew Brady photographs. While...

  8. 1912 Movies, Innovative Nostalgia, and Real-Life Threats
    (pp. 69-91)

    “FEDERAL SUIT TO DISSOLVE THE PICTURE ‘TRUST’”: so read the headline story in “Motion Pictures and Photo Plays,” theNew York Morning Telegraph’s Sunday supplement of 18 August. Two days earlier, the U.S. attorney general had filed a suit against the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC) and two dozen “Allies” for violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. The suit charged that “the defendants determined to destroy competition between them, to monopolize commerce relating to the motion picture art, to exclude all others and carry on commerce according to the terms of the unlawful combination which they were to create.” Other events,...

  9. 1913 Movies and the Beginning of a New Era
    (pp. 92-114)

    At what point did the United States become a modern nation? When did the American cinema make the transition from small-scale industry to mass entertainment, from novelty to an accomplished storytelling medium? Such changes are gradual ones and can’t be attributed to the events of a single year. Even so, this year assumes particular significance in the development of American society and cinema, because it witnesses a series of transformative moments whose cumulative effect confers upon the year a special status. A new president, propelled by a belief system tied to social improvement and government activism, comes into office; the...

  10. 1914 Movies and Cultural Hierarchy
    (pp. 115-138)

    The words are Oswald Spengler’s, from his monumental historyThe Decline of the West, and they suggest clearly the degree to which this year marks a critical moment in the global entry into modernity. Few years define so keenly the divergent historical experiences of Europe and the New World. The assassination on 28 June of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, triggers a flurry of diplomatic ultimatums in which the rapidity of modern communications precipitates war across Europe within weeks. In America, meanwhile, the ever-accelerating pace of industry points instead toward the maturing capitalism of a new economic...

  11. 1915 Movies and the State of the Union
    (pp. 139-159)

    The United States marks the completion of the Panama Canal with two international expositions in California, celebrating the remarkable technological achievement of the creation of a passage across the continent between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The expositions seek to fashion a national self-identity marked by technological advancement and a new position of hemispheric and international leadership. The canal radically reduces the time it takes to transport trade across the United States (shortening the route from coast to coast by as much as 8,000 miles and thirty days). Business and government forces use the canal to conquer South...

  12. 1916 Movies and the Ambiguities of Progressivism
    (pp. 160-182)

    American involvement in the European war is debated throughout the year, as the rising death toll overseas causes great consternation. One million casualties are reported at Verdun, over a million more on the Somme, including 30,000 dead in the first half-hour of battle. Millions more die on other fronts. President Woodrow Wilson is reelected by a narrow margin in a campaign based largely on his vow to keep the country out of war. Wilson makes repeated but unsuccessful attempts to mediate the war in Europe. Heralding what would come the following year, the National Defense Act enlarges the standing army...

  13. 1917 Movies and Practical Patriotism
    (pp. 183-203)

    As the year begins, Americans have reason to worry that their country may become involved in the three-year-old European war. Still, there is no national consensus about the proper role for the United States to take in this conflict. Some advocate preparedness and increased aid to Britain and the Allies; others, especially in the Midwest and the West, are isolationists. On 1 February, Germany renews and expands its strategy of submarine warfare against the ships of neutral as well as combatant countries, leading President Woodrow Wilson to break diplomatic relations. He also asks Congress for permission to arm American merchant...

  14. 1918 Movies, Propaganda, and Entertainment
    (pp. 204-224)

    The war remains far and away the most prominent and important news story. In some ways, however, this year in American life is as ordinary as any other. Most people and organizations go about their daily business as usual, with little fanfare, while some receive public attention. Edwin Armstrong, for example, is credited with developing an electronic circuit that dramatically improves radio reception. Emma Banister becomes the first female sheriff in Texas, and probably in the whole country. Newsworthy events range in interest from the international to the local, with obscure places sometimes gaining widespread attention, as when the small...

  15. 1919 Movies and Righteous Americanism
    (pp. 225-248)

    The decade ended with a turbulent year marked by both triumphalism and tribulation. World War I was finally over and Americans were full of jubilation, self-confidence, and hope. The country gloried in the recognition that American forces were a decisive factor in winning the war and, more generally, in the United States’ new geopolitical status as the richest and most powerful nation in the world. The economy continued to thrive as America supplied the world with food, manufactured products, and raw materials, while European industry and agriculture lay in shambles. America’s sense of ascendancy was not just material but moral...

    (pp. 249-252)
    (pp. 253-260)
    (pp. 261-262)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 263-282)