Professional / Visual Arts & Film Studies Essay


History of the American Film

The American film industry, also referred to as Hollywood (named after its birthplace), is the world leader in the context of the creation of artistic expression. Even though the Lumiere Brothers are widely associated with the birth of modern filmmaking, it is undeniably American films that rapidly became the industry's dominant force.

Before the twentieth century, the spoken, then published and eventually printed word controlled the storytelling styles. A new visual community was created by films. The medium's immediacy created a star system with the dominant ability to control culture generally. Films produce dynamic worlds at its finest that motivate and educate while they entertain. Cultural interests and values do not have finer barometer. That's why it was also an area of a continuing struggle between creative freedom and artistic duty.

Local film history in the U.S. can be categorized into four major periods: The Silent Age, Classical Hollywood Films, Modern Hollywood, and the Contemporary Age (after 1980).

Early development

The U.S. played an important role in film creation. The first documented case of images recording and reproducing motions was a series of photographs of a moving horse shot by Eadweard Muybridge taken in Palo Alto, California. He achieved this by using a collection of still cameras in a row. The achievement of Muybridge inspired inventors all over the world to try to form systems that would similarly catch such a phenomenon. Thomas Edison became one of the first in the US to create such a device, the kinetoscope, although its heavy-handed compliance of patents led earlier filmmakers to seek alternatives.

Historically, the first film shows for large audiences in the United States preceded the intermissions of vaudeville plays. Entrepreneurs also started to fly to screen their films, taking the first forays into exciting film making to the planet. The Great Train Robbery, a film directed by Edwin S. Porter, was the first major success in American filmmaking, as well as the greatest artistic accomplishment to its level.

Emergence of Hollywood

In 1910, Director DW Griffith, alongside stars Blanche Sweet, Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, and Lionel Barrymore, were sent to the west coast by the American Mutoscope and Biograph Corporation. They began filming in a vacant house in Los Angeles, off Georgia Avenue. While they were there, the group began exploring new territories, moving many miles towards north to a small village that was welcoming and loved shooting in the film company. This location was the later name “Hollywood”. Griffith then made Hollywood's first-ever feature, shot in California (1910), a drama about California throughout the 1800s, while still part of Mexico. Biograph stayed back for a couple of months before moving to New York to produce some films. Upon learning about such a wonderful place, several filmmakers went west in 1913 to escape the payments levied by the inventor, Thomas Edison, because he held the film-making method patents. (Pederson, Charles E, September 2007)

Studios and Celebrities have flourished in Los Angeles, California. Films were produced in several US cities until World War I when the industry grew, producers migrated towards southern California. The mild climate and abundant sunshine, which enabled them to shoot movies outdoors all through the year, and the diverse landscapes available there, attracted them. It is possible to distinguish many takeoff points for U.S. films, but The Birth of a Nation by Griffith was what invented the cinematic language that still defines celluloid until this day.

Several refugees, notably Jews, found jobs in the U.S. film industry in the 1900s, when the venture was fresh. Being left out because of religious prejudice from other professions, they became known for a new business: showcasing brief films in retail theaters dubbed "nickelodeons," named for their admission fee which was a nickel. Ambitious people such as Louis B. Mayer, Samuel Goldwyn, Adolph Zukor, Carl Laemmle, and the Warner Bros. (Albert, Henry, Jack, and Samuel) later moved fully into producing films after a few years. Eventually, they became the leaders of a different type of business: movie studios. (It should be remembered that in these formative years, the U.S. had as a minimum a female director, manager and studio boss, Alice Guy Blaché.) They charted the course for the internationalism of the business; the industry was often criticized for American-centric regionalism, but at the same time hired a vast number of international talents: from Australian star Nicole Kidman to Swedish actress Greta.

Following the First World War, other writers arrived from Europe: directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Ernst Lubitsch, and performers such as Rudolph Valentino, and Charles Boyer. They joined a domestic pool of actors— enticed west from New York City after sound films were introduced— to create one most impressive development industry of the twentieth century. At the height of the success of motion pictures in the 1940s, studios were releasing a record of around 400 films a year, watched by around millions of Americans every week. (History of the motion picture: David A. CookRobert Sklar)

The Golden Era in Hollywood

Studios produced films in rising numbers during this time in Hollywood, which ended at the end of the silent era in the 1920s to the end of the 1940s. A bunch of different styles originated: Western, Drama, Musical Animation (cartoons), Biographical films, and even documentary footage, as the same writers and artists were often collaborating on the same studio's films. Each studio had its look and signature touches that allowed the public to identify their films. Since early on, US films have been capable of attracting talented artists.

Nevertheless, filmmaking was always a venture, and by operating with the studio system, film companies made money. The major studios maintained wages for people in the industry — actors, executives, directors, editors, stuntmen, craftsmen, and technicians. And they operated lots of theaters throughout the country in towns and cities — theaters that played their films and always needed new content.

From this era, several great films emerged. One positive factor was that not every movie produced had to be a big hit, with several movies being released. Any studio having a good storyline and fairly unknown actors could perform on a medium-budget option. In 1939, the release among many others of such classics as The Wizard of Oz, King Kong, Snow White, and the Seven Dwarfs was recorded. (Belton, John November 10, 2008)

The film industry in the United States is now over 120 years old. It is the world's largest, oldest, and most lucrative movie industry. The U.S. film industry generated around $10.24 billion in 2017, making it the world's most lucrative industry. Hollywood contributed $10 billion of the total revenue generated. Major players in the film industry in the United States and Canada include Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 20th Century Fox, Paramount PicturesHistory of the American Film, and AMC.

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