Fans of film history–rejoice! For in the Year of our Lord two thousand and seventeen, the library of essential early film books like The Parade’s Gone By and Mack Sennett’s Fun Factory has been expanded by Slapstick Divas: The Women of Silent Comedy by film historian Steve Massa. It’s been my most anticipated book of the year, and as you can already tell, I was not disappointed.
[His films] had a visual style as distinctive as Douanier Rousseau or Chagall, and a sense of fantasy, fun and nonsense whose exuberance is still infectious…. —David Robinson
His full name was Marie-Georges-Jean Méliès, and he was born on December 8, 1861 in beautiful Paris. His wealthy parents, Jean-Louis-Stanislas Méliès and Johannah-Catherine Schuering, owned a successful factory for high-quality boots. Their parents imagined that Georges and his older brothers Henri and Gaston would simply take over the family business one day. But little did they know that Georges would not only take up a cutting-edge industry they had never even imagined, but that he would attain global fame as one of its greatest pioneers.
A meager two weeks or so hence I embarked upon the most important day trip of my film history fanatic life–a trip to the Margaret Herrick library at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. I’d always hoped that one day I would make it there, but lo and behold it was sooner than expected! My second (longer) visit to Hollywood was too obviously a golden opportunity.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Herrick, it’s a prestigious reference library devoted entirely to film history. For anyone dabbling in serious cinematic research, going to the Herrick is practically a rite of passage. Its book and vintage magazine collection is fabulous and its Special Collections department is nothing short of priceless. I mean, Buster Keaton’s baby pictures are there. Yes.
Since I had a research project going (sit tight, details are coming!), I had decided that yes, I would take the leap and request an appointment to see some items in Special Collections. Admittedly, this was somewhat terrifying–scrolling through newspapers and vintage magazines on the Internet from the comfort of my Victorian-style couch from Goodwill is one thing, but actually sifting through delicate original documents under the watchful, professional eyes of the Herrick librarians was most definitely another. Continue reading →
A warm welcome to all readers of the Classic Movie History Project blogathon, hosted by Movies Silently, Silver Screenings and Once Upon a Screen and sponsored by Flicker Alley! Over the next three days many talented bloggers will be covering every year of the movies, and I’m proud to be part of it. I hope you enjoy my post as well as all the other wonderful contributions this weekend!
From Magic Lanterns to “Fred Ott’s Sneeze”–Cinema Begins
The Year 1880
Imagine, if you will, a world without cars. A world without electric appliances. A world where the countryside isn’t zigzagged with electric wires. A world without computers, laptops and phones (this may be difficult if you’re reading this on a smartphone). Try hard to really picture it.
Imagine houses that were much quieter than they are today. Imagine the noise of cities, with hundreds of horseshoes striking the roads. The smell of the horses themselves is too ordinary, too everyday, to comment on.