Frenchman Louis Lumiere invented the motion picture camera in 1895. His portable, suitcase-sized cinematograph served as a camera, film processing unit, and projector all in one, and the processing of the film takes just a day. His first film was the arrival of the express train at Lyons. His cinematographes soon took the world by storm due to its convenience, and ousted Thomas Edison's bulkier version of the camera. The motion picture industry hence is born.
For the first twenty odd years the industry was made up of short silent films, most of them only a few minutes in length. Filming was regarded as an expensive hobby, and later was regarded as an art form. In the 1910s, plots of silent films soon developed into very complex ones, and its length gradually increased. Charlie Chaplin's silent films are produced in this era.
From 1929, films were able to record sounds simultaneously with motion. The silent era died, although Chaplin decided to go against the trend and continue to make great films without sound.
Great scientist Albert Eeinstein, beside making the nuclear bomb, contributed to the motion picture industry by coming up with the theory of editing and montage. In 'Birth of a Nation' (1915), D. W. Griffith became the first to use parallel editing in a film. The 'Odessa Steps' sequence in film 'Potemkin' (1925) was the ancestor of all great effects we see in movies these days.
In the 1920s, star-powered American Studios started, like 20th-Century Fox (1935), Paramount Pictures (1912), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (1924), Columbia Pictures (1920), and Warner Brothers (1923). These studios make use of big-shots under their contracts to churn out films after films. Stars were not free to seek their own contracts during these years and very often stars would be "loaned" by one studio to another. Films produced were of mediocre standard, but the fame that came with being an actor was the driving force that kept the stars working. Soon Americans had heard of the 'Hollywood mythology' - 'You can move to Hollywood and change your life.' Many people believed this and moved from their hometown to Hollywood, hoping that they would be picked by directors on Hollywood Boulevard and earn big bucks. Of course, many went home disappointed and broke.
The introduction of television in the 1950s and the ability of stars to have their own agents soon disintegrated the big studios monopoly. They dissolved in the face of new directors, new approaches to acting, and new ideas about the depiction of the real world in films.
Movies made from 1950s - 1960s had better plots, which centered around the subtleties of character, the psychological tensions that evolved hrough complex relationships, the ambiguities of human behavior and interpersonal relationships. Many focused on the effort of Americans trying to win the World War II. They were original, and did not depend upon "star" power to make them successful. Italian Neo-Realism flourished in the post World War II years. This movement depended upon filming characters in actual locations (rather than studio sets) and often focused on the lives of common men and women in the difficult years after the end of the war.
In the 1960s, the themes
of films were mostly of melodramatic, sentimental, celebrated inspirational
religious and spiritual. Walt Disney films came into the limelight - 'My
Fair Lady' (1964), 'Mary Poppins' (1964) and 'The Sound of Music' (1965).
It was also the bloom of science fiction movies, the pioneer being '2001
- A Space Odyssey' by Stanley Kubrik in 1967.