The Photoplay eBook

Hugo Münsterberg
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 156 pages of information about The Photoplay.

As soon as the moving picture show had become a feature of the vaudeville theater, the longing of the crowd for ever new entertainments and sensations had to be satisfied if the success was to last.  The mere enjoyment of the technical wonder as such necessarily faded away and the interest could be kept up only if the scenes presented on the screen became themselves more and more enthralling.  The trivial acts played in less than a minute without any artistic setting and without any rehearsal or preparation soon became unsatisfactory.  The grandmother who washes the baby and even the street boy who plays a prank had to be replaced by quick little comedies.  Stages were set up; more and more elaborate scenes were created; the film grew and grew in length.  Competing companies in France and later in the United States, England, Germany and notably in Italy developed more and more ambitious productions.  As early as 1898 the Eden Musee in New York produced an elaborate setting of the Passion Play in nearly fifty thousand pictures, which needed almost an hour for production.  The personnel on the stage increased rapidly, huge establishments in which any scenery could be built up sprang into being.  But the inclosed scene was often not a sufficient background; the kinematographic camera was brought to mountains and seashore, and soon to the jungles of Africa or to Central Asia if the photoplay demanded exciting scenes on picturesque backgrounds.  Thousands of people entered into the battle scenes which the historical drama demanded.  We stand today in the midst of this external growth of which no one dreamed in the days of the kinetoscope.  Yet this technical progress and this tremendous increase of the mechanical devices for production have their true meaning in the inner growth which led from trite episodes to the height of tremendous action, from trivial routine to a new and most promising art.



It was indeed not an external technical advance only which led from Edison’s half a minute show of the little boy who turns on the hose to the “Daughter of Neptune,” or “Quo Vadis,” or “Cabiria,” and many another performance which fills an evening.  The advance was first of all internal; it was an esthetic idea.  Yet even this does not tell the whole story of the inner growth of the moving pictures, as it points only to the progress of the photoplay.  It leaves out of account the fact that the moving pictures appeal not merely to the imagination, but that they bring their message also to the intellect.  They aim toward instruction and information.  Just as between the two covers of a magazine artistic stories stand side by side with instructive essays, scientific articles, or discussions of the events of the day, the photoplay is accompanied by a kinematoscopic rendering of reality in all its aspects.  Whatever in nature or in social life interests the human understanding or human curiosity comes to the mind of the spectator with an incomparable intensity when not a lifeless photograph but a moving picture brings it to the screen.

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The Photoplay from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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