with a Story
with a Story
Studios were having a hard time producing enough movies to keep audiences
happy. The shortage of new films was a threat to the entire industry.
Then a man named Thomas Ince changed the way movies were made. He introduced
production methods that allowed studios to produce more movies at a lower
cost. During his first years in the business, Ince directed all of the
movies produced by his studio, Thomas Ince Pictures. But he soon realized
that he could not keep pace with the demand. He decided to pass some of
the work to a group of employees he called "producers." The
job of the producer was to supervise the production of a film from start
Ince planned each movie with the producer before shooting began. He assigned
the producer a "budget," which limited the film to a certain
number of days of production. At any given time, 10 or more pictures were
being produced by the Ince Pictures staff. This was called the "factory
system." It was soon used by most studios, all the way up to the
As movie making entered its third decade, a number of studios became leaders
in the industry. This group included Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Fox, Columbia,
Universal, and Warner Brothers. As these studios grew, the business end
of the movies became more complex. The leaders of these studios were businessmen
first. To them, art was sometimes less important than money. As a result,
the 1920's saw few improvements in filmmaking in America. Instead, attention
was shifted to building vast chains of theaters and selling American films
to foreign countries.
During this standstill in America, foreign filmmakers reached their peak
of influence. The most lavish films of the 1920's came form Germany. They
were produced in huge studios in Berlin. Directors were given almost complete
control over the cost of their films--in contrast to the situation in
the United states.
German directors used the camera as a means to express emotion, rather
than just record it. By using a tight close-up, or unusual angles, the
camera became "subjective." For example, a camera shot from
below an actor's face or body gave the impression of the character's strength.
Director F.W. Murnau uses usch camera effects in "The Last Laugh."
In on thouching scene, a doorman has just been demoted to washroom attendant.
The shamed doorman is shown drunk. He is collapesed in a chari. The camera
is spun around on its base to show the dizziness of the poor man.
Russian directors such as Lev Kuleshov and Sergei Eisenstein, were known
for their special editing techniques. On of them was the "montage"
technique, in which different movie were shown in quick succession. Audieces
would emotionally link the movie together.
Sergi Eisenstein used the montage technique in his classic film "Potemkin."
The story focused on a mutiny among the crew of a Russian battleship.
IN one scene, the viewer sees soldiers firing their rifles. In the next,
a woman is in agony, holding her stomach. Although it was never actually
shown on scree, audiences reactedin horror to the "shooting"
of the woman.
The first sound movies appeared before 1900. Music and other effects were
recorded on a phonograph record, which was played as the movie appeared
on the screen. But it was a chore for the operator to match the sound
to the action. And when the sound didn't fit the action, the effect was
almost worse than no sound at all.
For years, little progress was made on talking pictures. Then, in 1927,
Bell Laboratories developed an electrical system called the Vitaphone.
The Vitaphone pass its first major test in the film "Don Juan."
The Vitaphone was used to add musical effects to the film, but no voices
were included in the soundtrack.
That barrier was broken later in the year with the release of "The
Jazz Singre." This film, starring Al Jolson, was mostly silent, but
a few songs and some lines of dialogue were added to the film. It was
the first to use voices in a soundtrack. The movie marked the end of silent
pictures and turned the film industry on end. ONce again audiences packed
into theaters to see and hear the "talkies." Within two eyars,
movie attendance almost doubled.
Sadly, many actors lost their jobs when the "talkies" took over.
SOme actors had high-pitched voices or thick foreign accents. Audiences
were appalled to hear the voices of some of their favorite stars. Stage
actors rushed to Hollywood to fill the gap.
The 1930's were a golden time for the movies. Audiences flocked to see
new musicals and comedies. Hollywood produced them as fast as possible
to meet the demand. The invention of soundtracks made hits out of fiilms
such as "42nd Street", "Animal Crackers", and "The
Actors like Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, Katherine Hepburn and
Mae West were enormous box-office draws during the 1930's. The major directors
of the period included Frank Capra, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, and Victor
Fleming. Their work is still considered some of the best filmmaking ever.