COMM 546 Lecture 2 - The Birth of American Narrative Cinema

COMM 546 Lecture 2 - The Birth of American Narrative Cinema...

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COMM 546 History of American Screenwriting Spring, 2010 Dana Coen Lecture #2 THE BIRTH OF AMERICAN NARRATIVE CINEMA In the last lecture we explored the beginnings of narrative cinema by breaking the word screenplay in two. Screen and play .... To recap …. Toward the end of the 19 th century, the American theatre and photography both have reached their limits. Melodrama groans under the weight of expensive special effects. And conventional photography cannot do anything more than create single images. Eadward Muybridge develops the idea of sequential photos... Which influences Thomas Edison…. Edison hires William Laurie Dickson to create a motion picture machine suited for the arcades. Dickson builds the Kinetoscope, which features short, studio versions of existing entertainments. Meanwhile, in Europe….
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2 The notion of the well-made play spreads across the continent. And the Lumiere Brothers move their camera outside. Although Melies brings the words screen and play together with “A Trip to the Moon” .... ...what we now regard as screenwriting, won’t actually begin until the end of the next decade. Nicholas Vardac divides early American films into three categories 1) News events, sports These are essentially documentaries. a) An oil fire. b) An actual hanging… c) A restaging of the Corbett/Fitzimmons prize fight. 2) Action/tableaux form These are longer films, which mimic the structure of plays. The scenes are divided by curtains or blackouts . The stories are familiar...folk tales, religious and historical events, myths. The reason for this is ....
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3 That they work in a multi-language environment .... And are ideal for a medium in which the actors cannot be heard. The first example of this form .... Is a Hungarian stage-production of the passion play...a centuries-old theatrical depiction of the death of Jesus Christ. “Passion Play,” is written by European theatrical entrepreneur, SALMI MORSE, who, curiously is Jewish. Show photo of Salmi Morse. But the play’s New York opening is thwarted by the Mayor .... ...when the city’s Christian religious community objects to the story of Christ being presented in a commercial venue. So, producer Rich G. Hollaman steps in and produces the play as a film in 1897. “Passion Play” is shot as 26 short tableaux…. ...on the rooftop of the Grand Central Palace theatre in the middle of winter. Production people remember hauling shivering camels up elevators.
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4 The film is a hit, but Morse...badgered to distraction by opposition to his theatrical version...commits suicide. Although Melies’ 1902 production of a “Trip to the Moon” represents the first script written precisely for the camera .... .... “Passion Play”...filmed five years earlier...is, actually the first motion picture scenario . .... and the earliest example of the melding of the words screen and play.
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