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The San Francisco call. [volume] (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, April 30, 1911, Image 30

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VOLUME (IX— NO. 151.
♦■ — _ ; — ♦
THE capture has been accomplished
so quietly that nobody except
theatrical managers—who have
had unhappy reason to realize—
has been; aware of the roping of the
public. ' The "film." which la a thin
band of celluloid with pictures .on It.
has the people firmly tied. The silent
drama is become one of the greatest
potentialities in the amusement world. <
It has been developed quietly but sure- j
ly, and has become, with its miles and i
miles of films, the lilliputian of the
tlirater, which has bound the Gulliver
cf legitimate theatricals.
I dimly realized some.of the truth .'of
.this, but 1 didn't grasp the extent of
°t ho * combined nickelodeons!' strength
until the. other day, when I dropped
curiously" Into the Garrick' theater and
mot its manager. Art Hickman. who
undertook to "show me." *o
f, Hicknran sJbould know the power of
-the "nickelodeon, for he used to be a
r^jtilar "fhowraan," with live, folk to
n >nlanage, "until tiif> moving picture game
ted his patrons away, and so he
Uia^s followed ..them where they went —
•ijito the drama of the screen and film.
°eJISre" than 6,000 persons passed
'tiiroligh the Garriok's doors last Sun
day between the hours of 11 In the
.mfcrning and 11 ar- night, and the Gar
r|ck I*, though tier largest in San
''Francisco—Hickman says it's the larg
fsit west of the Mississippi—-but one of,.
ljiindr^ds t nickelodeons in this city. 1
,', k rTjHERE was a time," Hicknfan ex-
I phiined. "when th« public, partlc
niariy 'the cultured, regarded the
moving picture show as low as well
aS-a cheap form of entertainment. ■No
one ran.co ragard it now. The pro
duction of plays, the selection' of .the
players, the betterment of • the build
ings, the improved .mechanical means
of projecting pictures and the enor
mous expenditure of artistic energy
I in* the setting of the-plays makes the
moving picture business one of dignity
atW Importance.
"Take the players, for instance, to
name but a few. There's Miss Florence j
Turner. She was a Veil known actress
in the legitimate theater a few years
ago. At the age of- 3- she was playing
-.- child roles with Julia Marlowe and grew
up In her company as well as that of
Henry Irving and, later, Grace George.
She became a vaudeville star and did
Impersonations of great actresses, but
left varieties four years ago and has
a . been a vitograph star ever since. '
"All moving picture * lovers know
Costello. In a very Important
» sens? Re« Is the most popular leading
man in the country. .."When his pic
ture appears on the screen the matinee
girl sighs. I receive" many a letter
' asking for information as to the where
abouts* of the handsome hero. He was
on^e leading man for jtlie Spooners In
Brooklyn'; later he played in greater
Hew, York in Jeadlng stock houses and
then played "leads" in other stock com
panies throughout the east, becoming
as well known as our Bertram Lytell.
Two yea^rs *ago he was ' lured by the
silent call of the -moving, pictures.
"It is interesting to watch a nickel
odeon audience when John . Bunny*, the
corpulent comedian, looms up in a pic
ture. A titter runs over the audience
tas when a live comedian makes his
entrance. Bunnj* is one of the most ac
complished comedians I have ever seen.
lllckman told me who he was. and I
was as surprised as you will be. Bunny
s,was here with: Maude Adams when she
lagt caijie, and he Bottom in
9 Shakespeare's 'Midsummer Night's
Dream' at the Van Ness theater.. His
first starring*tour. was in the original
production of 'Way Down East.' He
was "lead^ in Roland Reed's ■ support
when that unctuous and lamented come-,
dian played 'The Woman Hater,' and he
supported JJol Smith Russell In 'A Poor
Relation.' " ° . ,
That's a sample of the class of flay
ers who have been enticed from the
etagre to appear in shadow only before
; the multitude. ■'
• • »
Your moving picture „enthusiast
kno^is these actors and goes on the
days when his favorite appears. Casts
of characters are published in advance
that the patron may pick his play
era as well as his play of which synop
ses are - published, telling about" the
"Foririerly persons, dropped Into'a
f*i.Rickelodeon," says Hickman,:"torwhile"
ikelodeon," says Hickman, "to while
ay an hour. Now they go de,liber
ately, "knowing in advance"* what they
are coins ct& see. The announcement,
The GROWTH of the Silent DRAMA
for instance, of an unusual, or new
picture, will increase the attendance
materially, and nickelodeon managers
have, to select their pictures with the
same kind of care that legitimate man
agers employ in the selection and ex
ploitation of their attractions."
• • •
AT the beginning the motion pic
ture was devoted to scenes in
foreign lands. Strange places
were visited and shown to the moving
picture patrons. Then came views
taken from trains. Alfred Onken, now
in this city, claims to have been the
first to photograph a landscape from
th* cowcatcher of a locomotive. He
says it was taken,' beginning at John
Brown's monument, Harper's Ferry,
Va., and that It was first shown at
E. H. Amet's little theater somewhere
in Illinois. At that time the films were
short Now a reel containing 1,000
feet of pictures is only an average size.
After the panoramic picture, which is
still popular and educational, came the
."chase picture" and the magic ones.
The two varieties were developed In
all sorts of ways until the public wear
ied of seeing wonderful races across
the screen. Then came the first efforts
at sketches. They were very crude
at first. The points were obvious and
the plots were luridly melodramatic.
But few scenes were, disclosed and
these were in painted rooms or against
artificial backgrounds. They were
taken on the tops of New York sky
scrapers, and when the wind blew, the
draperies In rooms supposed to be
inclosed were stirred, and sheets of
musi<- on the piano were whisked off
though all the doors and windows were
apparently closed. Now, the big mov
ing picture organizations lease estates
in which to place their plots; hire real
drus stores, go forth into real country
and rent lakes for purposes of pictur
ing. The acting at first was very ob
vious, and the Black Prince of Raven
Rock was as likely as not a Thespian
whose talents were so mean as to keep
him off the stage save as a super. Now
the moving picture magnates hire the
best actors they can get, and pay sala
rlts whUn tempt sue.i players as I
haVe named. The public laughs at
painted scenery and Jeers poor actors
just as they do before a real perform
ance in a real theater.
• * •
THE "writers" of moving picture
plots are going into literature for
their stories. An effective film has
been made of Browning's "Pippa
Passes," and to Jump somewhat, O.
Henry's masterpieces of ihort stories
have served as plot foundations for
moving picture delineation; Richard
S Davis' tales and Rex Beach's
THE San Francisco CALL
adventurous yarns have also bpen em
ployed. Indeed, th<^ latter writer has
but recently supplied a film maker
with a story which he has been glad
to sign. "The Unchanging Sea." as the
picture la known, i.s from Ffinga ley's
poem, "Three Fishers;" Mark Twain lias
been, levied upon: a presentation of
"Uncle Tom's Cabin' lias been Ml
fully made; and as for biblical plays,
they are rji!>r° convincing on a fi-r»i>n
than the;,- are on the stag*, perhaps for
the reason that the fearful lines which
are put into the mouths of Christians
in Rome are shocking to a nervous
temperament. ' Elektra" has hee- n
done, without Strauss' ra^ophony, and
♦■ —■ .
one of the most popular pictures made
is from ."The Tale " : of Two Cities,"- In
which the action is more organic and
cohesive than in , Miller's adaptation,
"The Only "Way."
Indeed, that opens a subject in
dramatics' which* has big possibilities
and which the' legitimate drama can
not borrow. I mean' the frequent
changes of scenes. A comedy picture
will show you a glimpse of the aristo
crats upstairs having their formal din
ner; then, in an instant, you are taken
downstairs where the servants are
making merry. You see the butler
gradually succumbing' to the wine par
taken "of^ downstairs.and-then • you: see
' him upstairs trying? • to-maintain ,v his"
equilibrium in the face of the watch
ful,"apprehensive mistress of "the house,
A scene will show the boy leaving on
the steamer, and another the develop
ment of the plot in the home'he. has
left. ■ There is no leap too great.for
a -picture maker to accomplish with
safety, and you are not worried las
when the. novelist exasperates you by
saying, "We, will now, leave the hero
and return to London, .where we • shall
pick #ip the thread of our complica
tions." * ' ,
--; The moving picture has '.developed
, —♦
something n<»w in the. drama wWcl
•will bfcpm*l, no doubt, a real art forrr.
lOXL.T. notlr«d an Inconsistency in the
pictures" I had the pleasure of "re
... viewing.'.' ■; That was the handwriting
of the letter*. A message 1 is received
from the" hero. - The heroine hastily
tears open the envelope, and. the' bur
den of .the epistle is flashed on the
screen in precisely the same variety
of chirogrraphy as that in which the
reply will be written. That should be
corrected. And the letters are usually
poorly constructed. Perhaps the rea
son is that many of the "writers". of
moving picture stories are still not so
much' literary men as stage craftsmen
whose Instinct for letters is not: as
keen as their instinct for dramatic and
comedy situations. >;,." '
Opposing sit'-h minor faults, however,
Is one great advantage. The players
on the screen never, look at you. They
do not do as the live comedian and
smirk at a gaily of wit, nor as a trage
dian who shouts his ivoe In your face.
The moving picture actor never sees
you. He sees only his fellow players.
He dare not look at the camera, and
that is why he never neems to look at
you. for the "auditor" of a moving pic
ture play occupies the position of the
camera. This inattention to the "audi
ence" and attention to his stage busi
ness make for greater realism and
conviction. The legitimate actor might
well go to the nickelodeon and learn
how to ignore his audience.
PAGES 29 TO 36.
I* :. MATINEE audience at a nickel
/A is Interesting. ; I noticed at
odeon is interesting. I noticed at
. the . Garrlck five, baby ' buggies.
three of them occupied.> by ' pretty
youngsters sound asleep, and over In" a
• dark corner the mother of another was
rendering such substantial : consolation
as Infants cry.for. -An invalid chair
was at the end of the aisle set so that
the wan occupant, while not In the way
of the passerby,-could still see' the pic
tures. . Hiekman said "he comes every
other day." ' The "audience" was quiet
and well behaved. It applauded Its fa«
' vorites, laughed at John -Bunny, was
' curious : at.' the exhibition of a picture
showing what a drop of water contains
—mightily magnified bugs of night
mare forms. ■ It traveled. to India <v for
15 minutes and watched a tragedy de
velop to ;a. conclusion. "Strangely
1 enough," said Hlckman, "a nickelodeon
audience . J doesn't necessarily want a
■ play to end happily. It wants It to end
', logically, and it* doesn't "especially" care
I for. spectacles Involving • hundreds ' of
j supers, but -; is content with ~a; quick
■ story told plainly and with a point ;to
' it. well worked out. Travel scenes are
popular;; outdoor * cowboy pictures 1, go
, well, but ; mostly.; the - people', seem to,
want \ stories,"and' so '; the nickelodeon
! j has given a new lease of. life to popu
i lar 'plays *of '1 ■ years ago. like 'Uncle
Tom's Cabin' and .'The Octoroon." which
1 are put on In tabloid form and ex
plained, here . and there, with a flash
paragraph which ' puts the ! observer,' in
touch'with, the ' action." ■ ;'_.
THE moving: picture stage has; it*
George M. Cohan. . H» 1« G. M. An*
derson, whose residence and, pro*
ducing center are near Log Gatos. He is
the maker of the cowboy pictures. ' H^
writes- the sketches himself, produces)
them and ,: plays ■in : them. Everything
about them he does ; himself, and f he*
rides ' Into San ■ Francisco in ■ his '. big*
motor car to see himself act; and that
is more than'Cohan can do.
: I• watched the audience during : one,
of his 'thrilling; rides, and I believe that
had Roosevelt himself walked into the*
theater nobody would have observed*
him. - The;Semidarkness;of the a.udito
rium assists in concentrating: the vision
on the picture, arid the silence is fas-*
cinating. During- a climax scene you"'
will be hissed into quietude If you whis
per-to your neighbor. The "audience".
seems to want to "hear" every word.
"When the hero is rescued by the girl
with' the pardon, which comes just as"
-'■ .i i —^ £

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