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Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Cinematograph or Motion-Pictures

"CINEMATOGRAPH OR MOTION-PICTURES ( see 6.374). - The word" cinematograph,"frequently shortened to" cinema,"designates primarily the mechanism by which motion-pictures are projected on to the screen, but the term has come to be used generically to refer not only to the entertainment but to various phases of its production. In the United States, the designation motion-picture" or "moving-picture" (colloquially, "the movies") is much more frequently used, though "photoplay," referring specifically to dramatic compositions, is commonly employed.

Price of

Per cent

seat

No. occupied

of total

d.

78,250,000

7.4

2d.

5 8, 8 44, 000

5.6

3d.

400,640,000

38.0

4d.

186,235,000

17.6

6d.

195,468,500

18.5

9d.

97,812,500

9.2

I s.

39,125,000

3.7

Total .

. 1,056,375,000

100.0

In 1910 the cinematograph as a means of entertainment was making its first bid for public favour; it was still a novelty, and many persons, including experienced showmen, thought its appeal would decline as soon as the novelty had been thoroughly exploited. Before 1920, however, it had become by far the most popular form of commercialized amusement throughout the world. The production of motion-pictures on a large scale was in 1920 confined to a few countries, chiefly the United States, Great Britain, Italy, Germany, and France, but their exploitation was world-wide. Their appeal was apparently limited by no ordinary conditions of age, race, or degree of civilization, and it was asserted, a little grandiloquently perhaps, that they constituted the one universal language. In 1920 it was estimated there were throughout the world at least 40,000 cinema theatres, of which perhaps 17,000 were in the United States, 5,000 in the British Isles, 3,200 in Germany, 2,700 in France, I,000 or more in Italy, I,000 in Spain, Boo in Australasia, 700 in Sweden, 600 in Japan, and so on. There was hardly a country too remote not to have at least a few motion-picture theatres, and occidental films had penetrated where occidental ideas were still regarded with prejudice and disfavour. Constantinople, for example, had II cinema theatres, Canton Io, Bangkok 9, Rangoon 8, and Tientsin 6. Such theatres, of course, exhibit American, English or European films almost exclusively. It is perhaps interesting to note that in Constantinople only religious pictures were subject to censorship. In South America the cinema was as popular as elsewhere; Buenos Aires, for example, had 131 theatres, and nearly every Argentine town of more than I,000 population had its moving-picture palace. In the United States the daily attendance at motion-pictures in 1920 was estimated at a little less than ro,000,000, while a British estimate in 1919-20 was that a number equal to half the population of the British Isles attended the cinematograph twice a week - which would be equivalent to a daily attendance of more than 6,000,000. If this estimate is correct it indicates that the cinema attendance in the United Kingdom practically doubled after 1916-7, when a careful estimate placed the daily attendance at 3,375,000 (see The Cinema, 1917). The same report gave the following analysis of seats occupied in the course of a year (week-days): - (This tabulation is based on an estimate of 4,500 theatres with an average daily attendance per theatre of 750. In 1917 the price of seats had begun to go above is.; in 1920 in London it was frequently 2s., 3s., and higher in the best houses.) From the business point of view remarkable progress was made during the decade 1910-20. In the United States, where the industry had reached its highest commercial development, the gross receipts of all exhibitors in 1920 were placed at $800,000,000 (as against $675,000,000 in 1918 and $65,000,000 in 1907). The price of admission was usually from 25 to 50 cents; in small towns or poorer neighbourhoods it was sometimes less, while the best houses in New York frequently charged from $I to $2.50.

1919

1918

Gross income

$ 2 7, 16 5,3 2 7

$18,090,500

Cost of film production .

16,815,636

12,647,320

Cost of selling and distribution

5,822,860

3,904,918

Other expenses. .

1 ,393, 8 4 6

257,087

Operating profit

3, 1 3 2 ,9 8 5

1,281,175.

U.S. Exports of Exposed Films.

Linear Ft.

Value

United Kingdom .

45,53 8 ,55 1

$2,348,256

France .

22,250,847

943,781

Canada .

Australia

Argentina

17,952,511

1 4, 2 3 8 ,5 8 7

9,9 20 ,49 1

I,226,514

653,047

330,104

Brazil

Cuba

8,416,158

6,761,701

363,544

248,226

Japan

6,302,468

233,028

Spain .

Denmark

6, 0 7 1 ,5 60

5, 816 ,537

242,569

233,646

Norway

Newfoundland and Labrador

Italy .

Other countries .

3,4 10, 2 3 2

1 ,95 0 ,337

677,120

39,220,065

330,770

79,541

30,273

1,625,236

Total .

188,527,165

$8,888,535

U.S. Government statistics show that the total gross income of American motion-picture producers (manufacturers) was about $90,000,000 annually. Capital invested in the producing business was estimated at $Ioo,000,000, while the amount of positive film "consumed" each week was said to be Io,000,000 ft., as compared with 3,000,000 ft. before the World War. The following table shows the operations of one of the leading American film companies (Famous Players-Lasky): - The outbreak of the World War favoured the growth of the industry in the United States to such an extent that it became by far the leading producing country in the world. In most European countries, as well as elsewhere, the majority of films displayed after 1915 were of American origin. About 75% of the films shown in Great Britain in 1920 were of American manufacture. The extent of American exports in that year is indicated by the following table: European production, however, was beginning to regain lost ground; artistically the best European work was not infrequently superior to that produced in America. Germany's recovery seemed particularly rapid; this was due in part to legislation prohibiting the importation of foreign films until May 1920, and even after that date the introduction of foreign films was to be strictly limited. In England producers were making great efforts to meet American competition, though without the aid of legislation. The manufacture of motion-pictures in Great Britain, however, suffered from the handicap of a climate which, being often dull and lacking in sunlight, was not well adapted to photography. This handicap was partly overcome by improved methods of artificial lighting. Gross receipts from all cinema theatres in the British Isles were estimated in 1920 to be about £35,000,000 annually. Data for other countries were lacking; in France, however, the official statistics for Paris show that in 1919 the receipts of cinema theatres in that city were 49,664,661 francs as compared with 26,388,292 francs in 1918 and 17,377,000 in 1917. Admission prices ranged from 1.50 francs to 2.50 francs.

In

1919-20 some of the larger American companies sought and obtained financial assistance from leading banking houses, which had hitherto held aloof from the industry. As a condition of this assistance the banking interests indicated they would insist upon greater attention to economy and conservative business practice than had characterized the industry in the past. The sudden prosperity of the film producers had naturally led to lavish expenditures; this is well illustrated by the amount of the salaries paid to motionpicture actors and actresses. Towards the close of the period 1910-20 capable actors of the legitimate stage were able to obtain from $100 to $400, and in relatively few cases as high as $1,000 a week; cinema salaries, however, were in most cases at least twice as large, while favourite "stars" were frequently able to command a weekly salary ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. Even these figures were surpassed in the case of a few of the best-known popular favourites; the combined annual income of three leading stars, for example, was said to be $1,500,000 (1920). After 1920 the influence of conservative investors was beginning to make itself felt, and there was a tendency to reduce salaries and to introduce other economies. It was seen that this new influence would make for greater stability in the industry and probably for better pictures.

1 Mechanical Progress

2 Colour Pictures

3 Vocal Pictures

4 Technique of Production

5 Educational Use

6 Censorship and Regulation

7 Film Actors

Mechanical Progress

The popularity of the moving-picture led to much research to determine its inventor, and the difficulties were not altogether removed by the assertion of Thomas A. Edison (see his letter to the New York Times, June 9 1921) that the honour belonged to him. It is true that the modern cinematograph was evolved out of Mr. Edison's kinetoscope, or kinetograph, though these devices likewise owed a great deal to earlier experiments. But the prototypes of the modern projecting machine seem to have been produced by others - apparently by three men: Louis Lumiere in Paris, R. W. Paul in London and C. F. Jenkins in Washington, D.C., each of whom was engaged virtually at the same time (1894-5) on the new invention. Their efforts all contributed to the final result, and the cinematograph of 1920 had not changed greatly from what it was 25 years before, when, relying on the well-known psychological principle of persistence of vision, it was first made a practical device for reproducing "animated pictures" on the screen. In matters of detail, however, great improvement had been made.

An important advance was the adoption of a standard film, 1 e in. in width, with 16 pictures, sometimes called "frames," each I by 4 in., to every foot of film. Near the margins of the film. on either side of the pictures, are sprocket holes by means of which the strip of miniature photographs is run through the projector at the rate of approximately one ft. a second, about the lowest practicable speed to give a satisfactory illusion of motion. On the reels used in the projectors about I,000 ft. of film could be wound; the term "reel" thus came into use as a unit of measure. The elimination of "flicker," which caused much annoyance in early cinematograph exhibitions, was brought about partly by improving the mechanism which draws each succeeding picture momentarily into place and partly by increasing the number of revolving shutter blades from one to three, of which one serves to cut off the light while the change of picture is effected and the other two merely increase the frequency of the alternations of light and darkness, thus rendering them less noticeable.

Other valuable improvements were made in the nature of the screen on which the image is thrown, in the quality of the lenses, and in the electric lamp used to illuminate the film pictures. In the early days of cinematograph projection the danger arising from the inflammable nature of the celluloid film was very great. An effort to reduce this danger was made by interposing a trough of circulating water between the electric arc and the optical condenser to absorb the greater part of the heat rays. A safety shutter was also devised to cut off the light from the film when the motion of the latter was halted for any reason. Strict enforcement of regulations requiring that machines be enclosed in fire-proof "booths" while being operated greatly reduced the danger of serious fire losses when film did become ignited. After 1913 a non-inflammable film, made of acetate of cellulose, was put on the market; unfortunately films of this material were found to be less durable than those of celluloid, and were not widely adopted.

The cinematograph camera, being in a sense merely the reverse of the projecting mechanism, was developed along similar lines; and the best models were adapted to record almost any moving scene with great fidelity. Although somewhat cumbersome they were still easily portable, making it possible to use them in remote explorations as well as in picturing current events. In commercial practice, the films, after exposure. were mounted on frames (holding from 150 to 300 ft.), developed often by means of machines, fixed and washed in large tanks, and then wound on drums, 5-10 ft. in diameter, and dried by being rapidly revolved in warm, dry air. From the resulting negative it was possible to print as many positives as might be desired. This was ordinarily accomplished by means of a printing machine in which the strip of negative, superimposed on a strip of unexposed positive film, moved past an illuminated opening with an intermittent motion, somewhat as in a projecting machine. As long as the negative is preserved it is possible to obtain fresh reproductions of the original picture.

Colour Pictures

The first colour pictures were made by colouring each small picture or frame by hand. This was laborious and expensive, therefore not well adapted for wide exploitation. The most successful of the early efforts to reproduce natural colour by mechanical means was that of Charles Urban and George A. Smith of London, whose "Kinemacolor" pictures were for a time very popular; the Kinemacolor representations of the Coronation of King George V. (1911) and the Durbar at Delhi were displayed all over the world. Although never entirely satisfactory, the essential features of Kinemacolor had an important bearing on later experiments, and for that reason may be briefly noted. The pictures in this process are taken through a revolving screen or light filter which exposes alternate spaces on the sensitized film to the green and the red rays, respectively, so that each pair of frames represents all the colour values that may be derived from these two primary colours. The resulting negative is black and white. In projection a revolving filter corresponding to that employed in the camera is used, with the result that alternating green and red pictures are displayed; but because of the rapidity with which this is done the eye fails to distinguish between the two and a colour combination is effected. The process involved additional expense for the exhibitor for the reason that special equipment designed to project the pictures at twice the normal speed was required. This objection might not have proved material if the representation were free from certain obvious faults such as false colour values, arising from the use of only two primary colours, and "fringing," due to the fact that a certain time elapses between the exposure of each negative, the result being that a moving object will often occupy a slightly different position in the "red" frame, for example, from that which it occupied in the preceding "green" frame. Thus when the two frames are combined there is an imperfect "register" of colours.

Later experimenters endeavoured to overcome these difficulties by various means; in the process exhibited by Leon Gaumont in Paris in 1912 three lenses were used to produce three-colour images simultaneously; in reproduction, of course, the process was reversed. Another device, displayed at the American Museum of Natural History (New York) in 1917, elaborated the Kinemacolor process by exposing the negative through a four-colour - red-orange, bluegreen, yellow and blue-violet - revolving filter; the filter used in projection, however, contained only two-colour divisions. A promising development in 1921 was the process invented by W. H. Peck of New York. This is a two-colour method, but it differs from Kinemacolor in that each pair of negatives is obtained simultaneously by means of a prism which splits the light so that part of the rays are directed to one frame and the remainder to the other. After development the "green" negative frames are printed on one side of the positive film, and the corresponding "red" frames on the other; the positive is then developed and passes through a series of vats and tanks, coming out coloured, dried and ready for exhibition through the ordinary projection machine. The production of the positive is a complicated process, and it remained to be seen whether it could be successfully employed commercially. The result nevertheless seemed to approximate the requirements of an ideal colour film, which should consist of a series of pictures, each a complete colour-rendering of the subject in itself, so that the film could be exhibited on any machine at a normal speed. Despite the progress made in colour photography the majority of films displayed in 1920 - I were still in black and white, or in some monochrome tint which could be obtained either by dyeing the film itself or by placing a colour screen in front of the projection lens. Some colour films were made by an adaptation of the hand process in which the colouring is done with the aid of stencils.

Vocal Pictures

The invention of the phonograph had preceded the moving-picture by about 18 years; it was natural, therefore, that efforts should be made to synchronize the two in order to produce talking pictures. Encouraging results were obtained by Leon Gaumont in Paris as early as 1910 and two years later by TI omas A.

Edison in America. The usual method was to make the phonographic record first, the actors merely speaking their lines into the gramophone without attempting to pose before the camera. Rehearsals were then necessary to enable the actors to fit their actions to the dialogue as repeated by the record already obtained; and the only remaining problem was to ensure a synchronization in the theatre of the phonograph and the picture. This was accomplished by means of electrical devices to control the speed of the phonograph. For various reasons, most of which will be obvious to any one familiar with the phonograph, this sort of talking picture never became popular; instead of enhancing the representation, the phonograph seemed merely to emphasize its artificiality. Later in the decade other methods, seemingly more adequate to give the necessary illusion, were devised and exhibited. The later experimenters abandoned the gramophone altogether; in the scheme elaborated by Eugene Lauste of New York the sound waves are transferred, by means of microphones, to a circuit containing a sensitive string galvanometer, and the fluctuations of the string or wire of the galvanometer are recorded photographically on the side of the film. When developed one side of the film shows a series of peaks resembling the profile map of a mountain range. Reproduction is accomplished by the use of a selenium cell placed in front of the moving film; the sound waves are then conveyed electrically to the rear of the screen and disseminated through loud-speaking telephones. The cinema industry showed comparatively little interest in vocal pictures and their future was uncertain. Another problem which engaged the attention of inventors concerned the discovery of some method of obtaining stereoscopic effects on the screen. One solution of the problem failed of success because, in order to complete the illusion, every spectator was required to wear a pair of specially devised spectacles; most audiences, it was found, were not only reluctant about putting them on but took little pleasure in the result, even though the effect was superior to that of a flat picture.

Recreational Aspects. - Improvements in apparatus, while important, were overshadowed during the decade 1910-20 by the truly remarkable achievements in developing the artistic, educational and recreational possibilities of the cinema. It is true that in 1910 the cinema had begun to outgrow that early period when its repertory consisted largely of express trains, automobile races, military parades and like subjects. The first step had been taken, and the pictures began to be connected by a story; the express train, for example, suggested the pictorial possibilities of a train robbery, and a story was invented to give the scenes continuity and culmination. Then the story became the chief thing. But the development in the cinema of the story-telling art was hindered by the circumstances of its early exploitation. The pictures of that period were exhibited either as part of vaudeville entertainments, where they took the place of the usual feats of legerdemain, or in cheap halls that had been converted from other purposes; the latter were usually dark, ill-ventilated and far from clean. Every circumstance of their presentation tended to discourage attendance by the better classes of the community. Yet their cheapness - the admission price was usually five cents in the United States and fourpence, or less, in England - attracted thousands of people for whom no amusement of so absorbing a character had ever been provided at so small a cost. Wherever the moving picture was introduced similar conditions prevailed; the initial appeal was almost uniformly to the illiterate, the half educated, and even, as it seemed, to the mentally incompetent. Probably no art ever developed under so great a handicap; the result, still obvious in the crudity and vulgarity of later films, was too often attributed to some inherent coarseness of the medium rather than to the unhappy conditions of its origin. But it was not only the character of those early audiences which left its impress on the cinema art; it was also the character of the men who engaged in this new industry. They were for the most part showmen of the itinerant, hand-to-mouth type, promoters and managers of the cheapest forms of vaudeville entertainment. Some of them remained exhibitors only; others began to assemble companies and produce motion-pictures. While many persons of intelligence and ability had been attracted to the industry by the end of the decade, not a few of the most influential men in the business were those who had been carried to success by the sheer momentum of the new art; they were survivals of that early group of showmen whose hope of profit lay in exploiting the crudest instincts in the most obvious fashion.

Yet in estimating the social influence of the moving-picture, even in that early period, it would be a mistake to overlook the fact that in many localities the cinema afforded the only effective competition with the allurements of the saloon and publichouse. However bad the pictures were, and they were usually aesthetically rather than morally reprehensible, nevertheless they were a positive benefit in comparison with many types of amusement that were open to the poorer classes. When the workingman's family began to insist that he take them to the moving-picture palace of an evening he found it more difficult to offer an excuse for going to the bar. With the advent of Prohibition in the United States the motion-picture interests profited greatly; the cinema then became one of the most effective substitutes for the liquor saloon.

It is not surprising that for an appreciable interval many actors who had achieved fame on the stage refused to act for the "movies." Cultivated opinion was inclined to scorn if not to denounce the photoplay. For a time it seemed improbable that the moving-picture could ever be lifted above the vulgarity of its origins. The cinema seemed to be held in a vicious circle; exhibitors were afraid to raise the admission price, yet the fee was too small to pay for a better theatre or to justify spending more money for better pictures. Between 1910 and 1912 attendance actually began to fall off; even the public whose attention the "nickelodeon," as it was called in the United States, sought to challenge, appeared to grow tired of what, after all, was only an attempt to compete with the old-fashioned "dime novel" and "penny dreadful." A few far-sighted producers perceived that radical measures must be taken if the commercial possibilities of the motion-picture were to be advanced beyond those of a third-rate vaudeville attraction. The first step was to break down the prejudice of recognized artists, for as long as the cinema was held to be an object of ridicule, beneath the dignity of persons of artistic or cultural pretensions, it was hopeless to try to interest the public at large in the new art. An American producer accordingly set about to persuade Mme. Sarah Bernhardt to appear in moving-pictures, his theory being that if the best-known living actress should in this way give her sanction to the cinema the rest would be easy. Mme. Bernhardt, it is said, was won over on the plea that she ought to leave future generations some permanent record of her great art. The result marked something like an epoch in the history of the motion-picture; the old-time prejudice began gradually to give way, and the cinema, now certain of its ability to pay high rewards to popular actors, was soon attracting some of the best theatrical talent. Money was lavishly spent on huge productions that required six months or a year to complete; and a finished picture was likely to cost from $10o,000 to $200,000 instead of from $10,000 to $20,000 as formerly. The Bernhardt films - Camille and Queen Elizabeth - were followed by such productions as Quo Vadis, Les Miserables, Tess of the D' Ubervilles (with Mrs. Fiske), the Italian film Cabiria, written especially for the cinema by Gabriele D'Annunzio, and The Birth of a Nation, produced by D. W. Griffith. Cabiria and The Birth of a Nation deserve especial notice aside from their excellence as dramatic spectacles, because it was with these films particularly that the first effort was made to compete directly with the legitimate theatre; not only were they presented with full orchestra accompaniment in theatres hitherto given over to the spoken drama, but admission prices were raised to the highest scale for Broadway or West End productions. The success of these ventures had the effect of raising the standards of the cinema theatre in every direction; better theatres adapted solely for motion-pictures were built, permanent orchestras installed, prices increased, undesirable patrons barred; and exhibitors who had formerly looked for support from the riff-raff of the town discovered it was more profitable to appeal to the less impecunious and more selfrespecting classes of the community.

There followed a period of keen competition with the legitimate drama. In many communities the motion-picture entirely usurped the place once held by the older art. Many stock companies were forced out of existence, while the prospect of making a profitable tour with a metropolitan success was rendered more and more precarious.

An American dramatic critic has cited the case of his home town, Pittsfield, Mass., a city of 40,000 pop., and the situation that developed there may be taken as typical of what was happening all over the United States and elsewhere as well. Before the advent of the motion-picture Pittsfield had one theatre devoted to the legitimate drama; here were presented at intervals many of the plays that had attained success on Broadway. But the cinema changed all that; the one legitimate theatre was transformed into a motionpicture "palace," and four new "movie" theatres were opened. Friends of the cinema urged that the casualties brought about by the onward sweep of the new art were on the whole richly merited.

Certainly the grave apprehensions once entertained for the future of the dramatic art were ill-founded; it was natural that the new form of amusement should menace the existence of the cheaper and usually inferior grades of theatrical production, but it became equally evident that each form of dramatic story-telling had its place, and neither one, if properly conducted, need fear the other. It might even be urged that in some respects the competition produced a beneficial effect on the stage. The alleged menace of the cinema came into prominence in a new form in 1919 when an American film company (Famous Players-Lasky) purchased the theatrical business of Charles Frohman, Inc., which included control of the Empire theatre in New York City. It was assumed that this invasion of the legitimate stage might result in making the latter a mere appendage of the cinema theatre, but less than a year after the purchase of the Empire Jesse L. Lasky confessed that "the experiment has not been a great success; we have found that the screen can borrow very little from the stage" (North American Review, Aug. 1920).

Technique of Production

While aesthetic theory and practice remained in a somewhat chaotic state, the technique of production had been brought to a very high degree of perfection. In 1920 at least 80% of American films were produced in or near Los Angeles, where the brilliant sunlight makes it possible to operate the cinema camera almost continuously without the aid of expensive artificial lighting. In the early days whole film companies were transported to the supposed scene of the action, even when the scene was laid in a foreign country; after the outbreak of the World War, however, this practice was abandoned, and remote scenes came to be represented as nearly as possible by the aid of the carpenter and scene-painter.

A thousand workmen would sometimes be employed to construct a single sham village, while theatrical agencies were developed to supply almost every variety of foreign "type" that the imagination of the scenario writer or the exigencies of production could demand. Nothing better illustrates the illiteracy that still clung to certain phases of the business than the absurdities and anachronisms which these made-to-order settings not infrequently disclosed; as, for example, that widely exhibited picture in which the great pyramid appeared with certain improvements that Cheops had neglected to provide, notably a very convenient stairway rising to the top.

An early discovery was that the film would lend itself to a great variety of tricks. A typical example very common in "slapstick" comedy, was that in which a man, caught under the wheels of a steam roller, is merely flattened out by the experience, and by means of a seeming piece of legerdemain is restored to his normal shape. It is hardly necessary to explain that in taking such a picture the camera is stopped at the appropriate moment and a dummy substituted as the victim of the steam roller. Another artifice introduces at the proper juncture certain ghost-like figures which hover in uncanny fashion about the scene, or still more uncannily, perhaps, shows us an actor apparently shaking hands with himself. In each case the effect is produced by taking two pictures on the same film (or sometimes by printing two negatives on the same positive). It is an artifice which was sometimes employed by actors to play two important roles in the same scene; an actress, for example, would appear as both mother and daughter. The most successful of such pictures, however, scarcely ever rose above the level of an interesting tour de force. Other peculiar effects were produced by increasing or decreasing the speed with which the film is normally run through the camera. Increasing the speed in the camera reduces the relative rate of projection; this has the effect of separating each motion of an object into its component parts, and the result is not only interesting in itself but valuable for scientific and educational purposes. The wing movements of a bird, for instance, can be examined in a manner that would otherwise be impossible. By the reverse method, the opening of a flower can be presented continuously within a few minutes, though the separate pictures may have been taken at the rate of one an hour over a period of days or weeks. By the use of magnifying lenses minute organisms could be photographed; and similarly, by employing telephoto lenses, motionpictures showing various heavenly bodies could be obtained. In farcical or melodramatic films the ability to increase relative speed was employed to make various "stunts" involving horses, railway trains and automobiles seem more dangerous than they really were. Another illusion often used for the same purpose is that obtained by projecting the film backward. By this means a man is made to seem to jump to the top of a building or to defy the law of gravitation in some equally astonishing manner. It is a trick also employed in those pictures in which knives are apparently thrown with such skill that they almost, but do not quite, strike a person standing against a wall; the scene actually photographed is one in which the knives are being withdrawn from the wall by fine, black threads. For a few years these artifices were in great vogue, but they presently grew tiresome, especially after audiences learned that they were frequently victimized by elaborate pieces of deception. One result was to discount nearly every scene in which an actor performed a seemingly hazardous feat; audiences refused to be thrilled, and such "stunts," fortunately for the artistic advance of the moving-picture, fell somewhat into disrepute. Nevertheless there were film companies which continued to exploit devices of this kind, and a special class of performers, known as "hazard people," was employed.

The possibilities of the animated cartoon were first suggested by the well-known illusion in which chairs and other objects are made to seem to move of their own volition. This illusion was effected by stopping the camera while the position of the object was actually being shifted. The animated cartoon is achieved somewhat similarly by photographing a series of drawings, each showing a slight advance over the other. In the earliest examples as many as 8,000 separate drawings were made for each 500 ft. of film, and the process, as thus evolved, was extremely slow and laborious. Later methods were developed whereby only moving parts of the picture were redrawn, and in this way the number of drawings could be reduced to less than one thousand. Even with this simplification a staff of artists was required to complete an animated drawing or cartoon, and the artist to whom it was attributed rarely did more than furnish the outline of the story or a few preliminary sketches. The method employed in making animated cartoons was soon adapted to other subjects; it was found of particular value in illustrating new inventions, or in depicting the operation of certain kinds of mechanism too intricate to be easily photographed from original models.

Early pictures purporting to be taken under the sea were actually photographed through the side of a glass tank. In 1913, however, the so-called submarine tube, which had been devised to lower beneath a boat for observation purposes, was adapted for cinema photography, and the first actual submarine pictures were taken. By this means the under-sea scenes of Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea were filmed, and later some remarkable pictures were made of divers fighting with sharks. Interesting cinema views were also obtained of many varieties of ocean fish and submarine plant life.

Educational Use

With the development of cinema technique it came to be seen that the moving-picture might be used as a valuable aid to education. The hopes of many people that the commercialized cinema would undertake this work on a large scale were of course not realized. Nevertheless, in most cinema theatres it became customary to exhibit excellent pictures of current events, travel, or similar subjects in addition to the regular programme; and the educational value of such pictures should not be overlooked. The British Cinema Commission of Inquiry found that, other conditions being equal, the fund of general knowledge possessed by children who frequent the pictures is far wider and far richer than that possessed by those who do not. This information covered a wide range, including facts of geography, literature, natural science, industrial processes, social life, current events, etc. Moreover, the ideas formed from a moving-picture were often demonstrably more accurate than those which the children had previously acquired from an oral or printed description.

It is obvious that, wherever the intention is to impart information which is concerned primarily with visual impressions, the motion-picture is greatly superior to any other form of instruction. Words are only an inadequate substitute for pictures in giving correct ideas of landscape, natural or mechanical processes, foreign customs and the like. For this reason, ten minutes in a motion-picture theatre will often give a better grasp of such subjects than several hours devoted to text-books. Knowledge acquired in this way has a vividness and an interest that do not attach to other forms of instruction; consequently it is acquired with less mental friction and with less likelihood of its being forgotten. During the World War, the Governments engaged in that conflict produced thousands of war pictures to encourage enlistment and keep up morale; and the cinema proved itself to be one of the most potent methods of propaganda in reaching the mass of the people. Films taken on the battle-field, moreover, will acquire more and more historic interest as time goes on. Such pictures, displayed in connexion with the course of study at military colleges, have a value above mere entertainment. Practically all Governments, therefore, provided special archives for preserving motion-picture films, especially those dealing with military subjects. The taking of pictures of current events was developed as a special branch of the motion-picture industry. Certain companies perfected organizations with cameramen acting as their representatives all over the world, and facilities were provided for the rapid transportation and development of news films. These companies began to compete to get their pictures into the theatres at the first possible moment, and motionpictures of important events were frequently exhibited within an hour or two after the event had taken place. Sometimes pictures showing earlier phases of a prize fight, an inaugural ceremony or occurrence of like nature were displayed even while the event itself was still in progress.

The U.S. Government was probably the first to use the cinematograph for the purpose of disseminating agricultural information among farmers. In 1920 the Department of Agriculture had in circulation approximately ioo cinema pictures showing such subjects as How to Select a Laying Hen and The Story of Cotton. The films were produced under Government supervision and developed in Government laboratories, which then had a capacity of one reel a week. Towards the close of the decade many private institutions were also undertaking the production of moving-picture films for educational purposes, and the installation of projecting machines in schools and churches was becoming rather general. In 1920 there were in the United States 1,500 schools, universities, and similar institutions so equipped, while more than 2,000 had arrangements with local theatres for the exhibition of pictures of special value in connexion with educational work. About 2,000 churches occasionally showed moving-pictures either at the church proper or at some outside place under church supervision. In order to supply schools and churches the "film library," devoted largely to educational subjects, was developed and gave promise of serving a need analogous to that supplied by the circulating library of books. These libraries were at first instituted as commercial enterprises, but in the United States in 1920 there was at least one organization which supplied films gratis to institutions that offered to exhibit them free of charge.

Censorship and Regulation

A demand for the regulation, supervision and censorship of the cinema theatre arose very soon after the film began to be used for narrative and dramatic purposes. Regulation was first concerned with construction of the theatre, the elimination of the fire hazard, and the supervision of audiences; then it came to be felt that the chief danger lay in the pictures themselves. Social workers in nearly every country conducted an agitation for a censorship that would prevent the showing of objectionable pictures.

One of the first countries to establish a national censorship was Sweden (191 I); other countries soon followed - Spain (1912), Italy (1913-4), France (1916). Censorship was also instituted in Russia and Japan; in the latter country the prohibitions included anything that "contradicts morality and consequently the principle that good brings its own reward and evil its own punishment." In Great Britain the Cinematograph Act of 1909 provided for the licensing of cinema theatres but not for censorship. As a result, however, of the discussion incident to the importation, chiefly from France and America, of certain objectionable films, the Cinematograph Exhibitors' Assn., with the approval of the Home Secretary, established an independent Board of Film Censors. Exhibitors were not of course obliged to accept the decisions of this Board, yet before the close of the decade 1910-20 more than 97% of the films exhibited in the British Isles were first reviewed by the Board of Censors.

In 1920 the Cinematograph Exhibitors' Assn. adopted a resolution providing for the expulsion of any member who refused to submit to the censorship of the Board. It might have been expected that such censorship, in view of its close connexion with the trade itself, would prove careless and ineffective. It was, however, the opinion of the Cinema Commission of Inquiry, which conducted a very careful investigation of the whole subject in 1917, that the work of the Board was for the most part conscientious and commendable. This commission had been instituted by the National Council of Morals. its report, The Cinema, already referred to, is a valuable treatise on many aspects of the moving-picture industry. One of its conclusions was the recommendation of a State censorship, largely on the ground that the authority of the State could be exercised more effectively than that of an independent board. Testifying before the commission, T. P. O'Connor, who had been appointed president of the Board of Censors in 1916 (following the death of G. A. Redford, his predecessor), stated that films were censored with respect to a series of prohibitory regulations, 43 in number, of which the following are typical: "Indecorous, ambiguous and irreverent titles and sub-titles. Irreverent treatment of sacred subjects. The modus operandi of criminals. Cruelty to young infants and excessive cruelty and torture to adults, especially women. Nude figures; impropriety in dress or conduct. Gruesome murders, strangulation scenes, executions. References to controversial politics. Subjects dealing with the drug habit, white-slave traffic, race suicide, etc. Illicit sexual relationships; suggestive scenes of immorality; incidents suggestive of incestuous relations. Scenes tending to disparage public institutions or characters. Materialization of the conventional figure of Christ." Besides showing much good sense, these prohibitions indicate to what lengths even a moderate censorship can go; if logically applied such rules would bar many of the plays of Sophocles, Shakespeare and Ibsen.

The British Board of Censors exercised no control outside of the British Isles. In Canada in 1920 each province had a board of censors appointed by the lieutenant-governor in council; in general the censorship was very rigid, but the fact that a film had been approved by the authorities of Ontario, for example, was no guarantee that it would be passed by the board in Quebec, or vice versa. Elaborate regulations for censorship were adopted by New Zealand in 1916, and in 1920 State censorship of films existed in many parts of the British Empire, including India and New South Wales.

In the United States, a non-official censorship, subsequently known as the National Board of Review, was instituted in 1909 by the People's Institute of New York. Its review committee (unpaid) was in 1920 composed of 140 representative citizens, many of whom were engaged in social welfare work. The American Board, unlike its British counterpart, had no direct connexion with the cinema industry; its revenues were derived in part from contributions and in part from a flat charge of $6.25 (1920) per reel which was assessed against the producer for the review of his pictures. In 1920 nearly 6,000 reels were so reviewed, representing, it is said, more than 99% of the films exhibited in the United States. The censorship exercised by the American Board was on the whole noteworthy for its enlightened character, but while the Board won support in many communities, there were others which seemed to think its supervision was either too lenient or not suited to local needs. By 1921 six states - Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Kansas, New York and Massachusetts - had established official censorship boards, and agitation for similar laws was in progress in many other states. Certain groups were also advocating a national board of censors to be appointed by the president.

National laws to 1921 consisted only of general prohibitions against the shipment of improper films in interstate commerce, though in 1918 the Secretary of the Treasury was empowered to censor imported films.

For the most part, the cinema industry strongly opposed the extension of laws for official censorship of motion-pictures, and the objections put forward were often well founded. For people of the Anglo-Saxon tradition it is hard to justify the establishment of a bureaucratic control over any form of artistic or intellectual expression, whether the medium be the press or the stage. It should be said, moreover, that opposition to censorship by no means involves a covert desire for licentious pictures; even without censorship the exhibitor is fully responsible for the films he shows. Legalized censorship removes the opportunity to show improper films; it is preventive. Its great danger is that it may become rigid and arbitrary. Special reasons, however, were advanced why in the case of the moving-picture preventive action should be taken. One of these was that the cinema theatre makes an extraordinary appeal to children, who comprise a large percentage of the average neighbourhood audience. But it could be answered that if the cinema was ever to become a mature art, it could not forever be restricted by standards of what might and might not be good for children. The best solution here seemed to lie in providing special performances for children; no good reason appeared why children should be encouraged or even permitted indiscriminately to attend the cinema theatre.

A better plea for censorship was that the industry, having arisen in less than a quarter of a century, was still in a formative condition, without adequate artistic and moral standards. It was urged, therefore, that censorship was necessary not only to protect the public but to protect the producer against his inability to perceive his own best interests. Such an argument clearly anticipated a period when censorship would be unnecessary; unfortunately experience points to the difficulty of abolishing any kind of bureaucratic agency when once it has become established. The continued existence of the British dramatic censorship, despite very great efforts to modify its powers, affords an excellent illustration of the tenacity of Government bureaus. It should be noted also that in the United States the censorship laws seemed to be designed partly as revenue measures, which of course still further entrenched them against attack. For these reasons the voluntary censorship undertaken by the Board of Film Censors in England and the National Board of Review in the United States would on the whole seem preferable to other methods of preventive supervision. In this connexion the following excerpt from the official statement of the American Board is significant: "The National Board's standards are, of course, progressive and will change with the lapse of time. .. becoming more ideal as the motion-picture in America emerges from its present condition as a new art. Moreover, the increased experience of the producers, the development of motion-picture artists, the classification of the theatres, the influence of more cultivated audiences, and the popular adoption of motion-pictures into education, all of which is even now in progress, will in time bring about conditions so different from the present that regulation may perhaps not be necessary." Artistic Value. - The close of the decade was marked by various controversies as to whether the cinema could be classified as an art. That discussion was in itself a valuable indication of the improving status of the moving-picture; ten years earlier the cinema was either ridiculed or ignored. Later critics very naturally sought to establish their case against the cinema on the obvious fact that a majority of the films were crude and childish, mostly slapstick farce and sentimental melodrama; but an argument evolved in this fashion has little to commend it; doubtless in the England of the i 5th century it seemed equally impossible that the crude mystery and morality plays of the day should ever give rise to distinguished art. Yet these crude effc,:ts were the precursors of the drama of Marlowe, of Jonson and of Shakespeare. This is not to say that friends of the cinema are looking forward to a Shakespeare of the films; the artistic values that can be achieved in the motion-picture are not commensurable with those which pertain to the written drama. What is contended is that, considered solely as a method of telling a story, the motion-picture is capable of achieving highly artistic results. Even sentimental melodrama as produced in the cinema became a more artistic type of narrative than the old popular melodrama of the stage. But the best producers were not content to have made only this degree of progress, and their finest achievements at least foreshadowed the development of singularly beautiful and expressive art.

Action and setting constitute the chief means of this art, and in both elements it has advantages over the older forms of narrative. The cinema can present action more successfully than the novel and hardly less effectively than the drama. In the ease with which it can represent and control the element of setting it has an immense superiority over both the novel and drama, though its possibilities in this direction were only beginning to be appreciated. Some writers, notably Prof. Hugo Miinsterberg in his interesting study, The Photoplay (1916), insist that the essence of the new art lies in its ability to triumph over the ordinary limitations of mundane existence. "The photoplay," says Miinsterberg, "tells us the human story by overcoming the forms of the outer world, namely, space, time and causality, and by adjusting the events to the forms of the inner world, namely attention, memory, imagination and emotion." The plasticity of the motion-picture medium, its freedom from merely conventional restrictions of time and space, undoubtedly give fresh scope to the imagination and the power to weave new patterns out of the materials of existence. Possessing these advantages, the cinema lacks the means to tell any appreciable part of its story in words. Failure to appreciate the artistic possibilities of the moving-picture often arose from a failure to perceive that it must be regarded as an art quite different in method, if not in purpose, from that of essentially literary forms, particularly the spoken drama. It is not a literary art. It cannot rely on literary methods. This explains the lack of success that attended the efforts of many literary men, novelists and dramatists, to use this new medium. Its central purpose, namely to arouse emotion, is identical with that of the spoken drama; it is perhaps more amenable to fundamental laws of dramatic composition than many producers and directors seemed to realize. But in most respects it differs more widely from the accepted dramatic form than Shakespeare differs from Sophocles or Ibsen from both. In virtually surrendering dialogue, the motion-picture surrenders a form of expression upon which the dramatist relies very largely for the presentation of character and the clash of character; it follows that a scene representing mental conflict, for example, must either be inadequately represented in the moving-picture or expressed in a different way.

For this reason, the production of a successful motion-picture play makes the very highest demand on the skill and imagination of the scenario writer, the director, and the actor. In the composition of the story every scene and every element of the scene must possess an expressiveness which is quite unnecessary where words can be used to cover defects of action or setting. The art of suggestion must be pushed far beyond the conventional limits of the legitimate stage; an attitude, a look, a gesture, a bit of pantomime must be made to tell as much as pages of dialogue. There is no reason to disparage such a method; in ordinary life we discern the nuances of character quite as much from facial expression as from what we are told by the person himself; the light in the eye often illuminates the mind better than the spoken word. Setting, also, may be made to reflect character; it may show the world as the protagonist of the drama himself sees it, sometimes twisted and distorted, sometimes fair and alluring. Here at least is an opportunity to do what the legitimate drama could never do. Setting likewise may advance the plot; as Otis Skinner points out, sometimes a glove, a pistol, an empty chair, will tell a better story than action. To a much greater extent than the drama, the successful motion-picture requires the coordination of the efforts of the author, the actor and the producer: a play may have an existence of its own without ever having been produced on the stage, but a moving-picture scenario is the barest of skeletons before it is acted in front of a camera. The photoplay is thus a composite art, almost equally dependent on its various elements. Some advance had been made in the decade igio-20 in achieving a successful coordination of these elements, but no completely adequate method or procedure for securing this result had been evolved, so that good acting was frequently wasted on ridiculous scenarios, while good stories were made childish by incompetent direction.

Film Actors

In an art so new, it is not surprising that the greatest reputations were made by actors whose appeal to the public is less a matter of circumstance than that of the scenario writer or the director. By reason of the extensive popularity of the motion-picture the names of Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Charles Chaplin had a renown that was no less than world-wide. Miss Pickford (family name Smith) was born in Toronto, Can., April 8 1893, the daughter of a character actress. She made her debut on the stage at the age of five, but her first marked success was in motion-pictures, and she afterwards appeared as leading woman in many highly successful photoplays, among them Tess of the Storm Country, Cinderella, Fanchon the Cricket, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, etc. For many she typified the charm of innocent girlhood. On March 28 1920 she married Douglas Fairbanks. She was in 1920 head of the Mary Pickford Film Company. Fairbanks, who was born May 23 1883 in Denver, Col., attended for a time the Colorado School of Mines. He appeared in a minor role on the New York stage in 1901; later he was "starred" in several comedies and musical pieces, after which he left the stage for motion-pictures, where his engaging smile and athletic prowess stood him in good stead. In 1916 Fairbanks organized his own producing company. At the age of seven Charles Spencer Chaplin (born in 1888 near London) first appeared on the London vaudeville stage. A piece called A Night in an English Music Hall brought him to the United States, and in 1914 he became a cinema actor for the Keystone Film Co., under whose auspices he quickly showed his genius for comedy, though his early roles were principally those of the inebriate clown, borrowed or imitated from the vaudeville stage. In succeeding years he performed in motion-pictures for the Essanay Co., the Mutual Film Corp., and the First National Exhibitors' Circuit; it is stated that in 1917 he received $1,000,000 from the last-named organization for making eight two-reel pictures. He afterwards constructed a motion-picture plant .at Los Angeles and undertook the direction of his own pictures.

Before the invention of the motion-picture the art of acting was p erhaps the most ephemeral of the arts. We have been told that David Garrick, for example, was a great actor, but we have no means of judging for ourselves. The motion-picture can now give to the actor's art a permanence that is to some degree analogous to that of the printed book. Up to 1921 it was, however, a more conditional permanence, for the reason that cinema film as then manufactured had much less enduring quality than the printed page; a book can be preserved for centuries, but the commercial film of the day was not expected to remain clear for more than 1.5 years. Films kept longer than that showed signs of rapid disintegration. A continual renewal of old films by making new copies was therefore the price of keeping a permanent motion-picture record. Many old films were accordingly allowed to lapse, and it is obvious that accident will play a large part in determining what films shall be preserved as the years go by. But with good fortune, some motionpictures may achieve an immortality comparable with that of the great works of arts or letters. It would be more than hazardous to say that the cinema, in the brief period of its existence, had yet produced any picture which deserved immortality. Still, every one who is interested in this new art would wish to make a few exceptions, if only for the sake of their historical importance.

(H. CR.)

Copyright Statement
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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Cinematograph or Motion-Pictures'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/bri/c/cinematograph-or-motion-pictures.html. 1910.

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