Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood (2010) s01e02 Episode Script

The Birth of Hollywood: 1907-1920

NARRATOR: The rise of the movies was astonishing.
In America, with a generation of unlikely founders many of them immigrants who began catering to lower-class audiences the business of making movies was expanding fast and on the lookout for fresh opportunities.
By 1912, film exhibiter Adolph Zukor was convinced there was a future in more than the short 10-20 minute movies of the day.
My grandfather was a visionary and he thought you know, you have Broadway where you have excellent plays, you have excellent actors and limited numbers of people will see these fine productions.
Wouldn't it be great if you could capture the quality that you have on Broadway in a media where millions of people can see it at low cost.
NARRATOR: Zukor bought a French film starring the legendary actress Sarah Bernhardt reprising her stage performance as 16th century England's Queen Elizabeth.
At 45 minutes, it was three times longer than the typical movie but Zukor capitalized on Bernhardt's name and marketed the film brilliantly.
Soon afterwards, Zukor formed a production company, Famous Players.
He planned to release six full-length features a year despite the fact that pioneering filmmaker Edwin S.
Porter was convinced "there wasn't that much talent in the world.
" Advertising "Famous players in famous plays" Zukor drew heavily on the New York stage.
But movie production was migrating west to Los Angeles.
As early as 1898 a Thomas Edison camera crew had captured the city on film.
They photographed orange groves symbols of Southern California's agricultural abundance and healthy environment.
And the creation of the city's new man-made port soon to be the most important on the West Coast.
In 1907, moviemakers began filming scenes in Southern California.
One of the first complete films was shot behind a Chinese laundry.
Colonel William Selig, a former magician and minstrel show impresario from Chicago set up the first full-fledged studio on the east side of the city.
Other production companies settled in Santa Barbara and Northern California.
But Los Angeles was the hub attracting adventurous entertainment entrepreneurs including one who'd already made a name for himself in vaudeville.
BIRCHARD: Jesse Lasky was a cornetist on-stage with his sister.
He probably wasn't the greatest musician in the world but he was also a producer of vaudeville acts all over the country.
NARRATOR: Lasky's sister, Blanche, married Samuel Goldfish whose original name was Schmuel Gelbfisz.
He was born into poverty in Warsaw, Poland.
After crossing the Atlantic Goldfish walked across the Canadian border to America and became a successful glove salesman.
BERG: This was a man who was gonna reinvent himself.
And he went into a movie theater in Herald Square and he walked in and the place stank of perspiration and peanuts.
And he looked up on the screen and saw, for the first time, a motion picture.
And by the time he had reached his apartment, he realized: "That's what I now wanna get into, movies.
" NARRATOR: Goldfish's brother-in-law, Jesse Lasky like many theater people, sneered at the new fad but Goldfish wore him down.
GOLDWYN: He was not an easy man.
He was quick to temper.
When he believed in something, he would become passionate about it and in many things, it was "my way.
" NARRATOR: Jesse Lasky had a friend, Cecil B.
DeMille a struggling playwright and actor who was also ready for a change.
BIRCHARD: In 1913, he sat down with Jesse Lasky and Jesse Lasky's brother-in-law, Sam Goldfish and said that he was fed up.
He was thinking of leaving the country and going to Mexico and acting as a war correspondent.
Uh, the revolution was going on in Mexico at the time.
And Lasky and DeMille had become good friends and Lasky said: "Well, if you're looking for adventure, why don't we make movies?" When they finally got to the nuts and bolts of creating the company they were in a restaurant where they lunched every day in a hotel and they scribbled their positions on the backs of menus.
NARRATOR: Lasky, Goldfish and DeMille had a new business the Jesse L.
Lasky Feature Play Company, but they'd never made a movie.
BIRCHARD: So DeMille went up to the Edison Studio in the Bronx to see how films were made.
He came back after the first day and said, "If this is how they do it then I'll be the king of this business in a week because I can do this.
" NARRATOR: The new partners acquired the rights to a successful play, The Squaw Man and headed west to turn it into a movie.
BIRCHARD: The original idea was to shoot The Squaw Man in Flagstaff, Arizona.
They wanted to go to the real west because they thought that would add some box office appeal.
When they got to Flagstaff, legend has it that it was raining or snowing but the truth was that Flagstaff is in mountainous territory with a lot of trees and what DeMille wanted was wide-open spaces.
NARRATOR: They kept on to the end of the line, Los Angeles where other movie companies were already at work including one that established a studio in a former saloon in the sleepy residential suburb of Hollywood.
Griffith had been coming to Los Angeles since 1910.
He shot this scene with a sparsely populated little village in the background.
The first, uh, clipping in Moving Picture World that covered my father's being there he said, "This is God's country.
" When they arrived in Los Angeles, legend has it they found this barn and it makes a nice story, has a biblical feel to it of the birth of the industry coming out of a barn.
In fact, the barn they went to was already well established as the Burns and Revier Studio.
It was known as the best equipped rental lot in town at the time.
NARRATOR: While Lasky and Goldfish remained in New York DeMille got busy.
The Squaw Man wasn't the first movie made in Hollywood but it was perhaps the first feature-length movie.
Film by film, moviemaking pioneers began building the framework for the art and business of making motion pictures.
As the demand for movies in America increased distinct types of storytelling styles emerged.
One of the earliest was animation.
The first great artist of animation, Winsor McCay was a success in the comic section of early 1900s newspapers.
The whimsical adventures of McCay's character, Little Nemo were charming and beautifully drawn.
In 1911, McCay made his motion-picture debut.
A film records his response to a bet.
He produced thousands of hand-drawn images to bring Little Nemo to life.
It wouldn't be the last time that a comic strip character became a success on the movie screen.
As another hint of things to come in 1914, McCay created a playful Jurassic-age heroine: Gertie the Dinosaur.
Gertie and McCay toured vaudeville houses, awing audiences as the animator introduced his hand-drawn star and even interacted with her, telling her what to do.
Early animated cartoons provided audiences with laughs but human actors created the most popular antic adventures.
The first king of movie comedy was Canadian-born Mack Sennett.
Like many others, he began his career with D.
ROBERTS: What Sennett did as a disciple of D.
Griffith was take Griffith's concept of editing and editing for speed, and apply it to comedy.
NARRATOR: In 1912, Sennett started his own production company, Keystone and joined the exodus to Hollywood.
Hollywood in 1912, 1913, was a time when movies were an idea one week in front of the camera the next, and in theaters within a month.
NARRATOR: Taking inspiration from French farce the Keystone comedies were known and loved around the world.
Working with a comic crew of actors Sennett turned the streets of Los Angeles into a backlot with a cast that featured manic cops and prancing bathing beauties.
ROBERTS: Sennett had a real knack for spotting talent.
He was the training-ground place for comedians.
NARRATOR: But not all Keystone comics were like zany Ford Sterling.
There was beautiful Mabel Normand.
When Mabel was teamed with Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle they made an unlikely couple.
Fatty is big, not only in height, but weight, and Mabel is little.
And so you have 5'10" to 5 feet, you have 266 pounds to 100 pounds and they're already funny just as soon as you see them.
They had this wonderful, free-wheeling comedy spirit together.
NARRATOR: Arbuckle had been an agile knock-about vaudeville performer.
His baby-faced on-screen personality and mischievous pranks made movie audiences laugh.
And Mabel Normand was more than a diminutive eyeful.
BASINGER: She was a tiny little woman with a big bosom she had real sex appeal, but she could do comedy like nobody's business.
NARRATOR: Audiences were charmed by Mabel Normand, so was Mack Sennett.
Sennett was definitely in love with Mabel Normand and because of that, promoted her to stardom.
NARRATOR: Mabel Normand was the first great female comedy star but also one of the first free-spirited but vulnerable women to experience the dark side of motion-picture fame.
Mabel Normand, uh, lived life at the edge.
The impulse to do stunts, to drive fast, go fast, do-it-all fast that you see her doing in her movies, also applied in her personal life.
It just seemed like whatever happened, it went wrong with Mabel.
If there was trouble, Mabel was drawn to it.
Mack and Mabel never got together in getting married.
Perhaps it would have made a difference in her life but she was a little too over-the-edge, over-the-top, for him evidently, as a wife figure.
NARRATOR: Mabel's comic partner, Fatty Arbuckle too would be caught in scandal and the glare of publicity.
But for now, an age of innocence and opportunity permeated American movies and talented Mabel Normand was not only acting but directing Sennett comedies and dreaming of a studio of her own.
One of the newcomers Mabel was assigned to direct was a young English musical-hall performer.
I think there's the great American story to Charlie Chaplin's rise as a movie star because he was one of the great rags-to-riches stories ever told.
His mother lost her reason, his father died an alcoholic very early so unlike other children of that period that might have just succumbed and just faded away Chaplin was this little super achiever.
And he was a professional in the music halls at 10.
And he graduated to the greatest impresario of the comedy sketch in Britain, Fred Karno.
And it was with Karno that he really honed his skills.
NARRATOR: Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand first caught 24-year-old Chaplin's act on-stage.
He had seen Chaplin perform with the Karno troupe in Los Angeles in the fall of 1913.
He immediately realized this was someone who was gonna be great for pictures.
NARRATOR: In this early Sennett film Chaplin appears in drag with Sennett as his nemesis.
The Keystone boss was searching for a way to fit his find into his style of comedy.
Chaplin resisted.
ROBERTS: The problem Sennett had was once he spotted a talent he didn't necessarily know what to do with it.
You know, his attitude was his style was what sold the pictures.
The star at Keystone was Keystone.
NARRATOR: Charlie Chaplin would change that.
Starting at a salary of a $150 a week within a year, he was Sennett's most famous performer with his own on-camera identity.
VANCE: The character Chaplin created was the Little Tramp.
And he described the character as a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow always hopeful for romance or adventure.
It was a study of contradictions.
The boots were too big the trousers baggy, the coat too tight the bowler hat was too small.
Had a walking stick, a bamboo cane, to suggest a gentleman.
And the extraordinary thing about Chaplin is that we can see the first audience reacting to Chaplin in that costume.
In his second film release, Kid Auto Races at Venice we see the audience at a real child soapbox race, reacting to him.
At first, they don't know what to think of him.
Who is this bum that's just walking about making a mess of this kid race? But slowly, they start to snicker, and by the end, they're laughing and it's just the most extraordinary footage.
NARRATOR: Chaplin's fame soared and with it, his salary.
VANCE: By the time he went to sign with the Mutual Film Corporation he was making more money than any entertainer in history.
Six hundred and seventy thousand dollars plus a 100,000 signing bonus and that's for just one year's worth of work.
I think the best of the Chaplin Mutuals is The Immigrant and that was Chaplin's personal favorite of all his short comedies.
He felt it had a poetic quality.
There was comedy, really strong comedy but there was also that wistful element, that pathos that he adored.
NARRATOR: Chaplin's wistful but resilient Tramp had wide appeal from children to adults, from the wealthy to immigrants struggling to survive.
Chaplin comedies offered easily accessible, low-cost entertainment but the special power of the movies was an ability to create visions of the real world that stage plays couldn't match.
Some of the most popular early movies were Westerns and the outdoor action of Cecil B.
DeMille's The Virginian was an early example of decades of movies to come.
Hefty G.
"Broncho Billy" Anderson is widely considered the first great Western movie hero.
Born Max Aronson in Arkansas he became an actor, writer and director in New York.
Although he wasn't immediately comfortable in the saddle or at home on the range, Anderson played multiple parts in Edwin S.
Porter's The Great Train Robbery before specializing in Westerns.
In 1907, he co-founded his own studio in Chicago but moved to the town of Niles, south of San Francisco cranking out comedies and shoot-'em-ups that were nickelodeon favorites.
It was a Broncho Billy film that first inspired Sam Goldfish to turn his attention to the movie business.
In 1915, as the co-owner of Essanay Film Manufacturing Company Anderson lured Charlie Chaplin away from Mack Sennett and he gave other silent stars their early start.
But over time, Broncho Billy's career as a cowboy hero was eclipsed by William S.
Hart another Easterner with a taste for the wild frontier.
His Westerns were what we would now call neorealist.
There was real dust, real rough clapboard houses.
They looked like you were out somewhere in the plains of Nebraska.
NARRATOR: Starting as an action hero when he was 49 in films such as Hell's Hinges Hart's sometimes grim reality contrasted with a growing movie audience that preferred uncomplicated action.
And most of all, entertainment and glamour.
The answer to their dreams was the son of a poor Pennsylvania lumberman who'd dropped out of school before the fifth grade ending up as a performer in a traveling rodeo and Wild West show.
Tom Mix was the opposite of William S.
He was your rhinestone cowboy glitz with the dude-ranch look although he was a real cowboy.
He was a rodeo champion.
He could do phenomenal stunts.
NARRATOR: A veteran of more than a hundred one- and two-reelers many of which he directed and produced Mix joined William Fox's Fox Films in 1917, and for the next 10 years his movies became one of the studio's biggest box office draws.
Modest about his acting ability, he once asked a director: "Which expression do you want? One, two or three?" Audiences flocked to see Broncho Billy, William S.
Hart and Tom Mix but behind the scenes, Thomas Ince had a major influence on how Hollywood movies were made.
Like so many others, Ince began his film career at Biograph and Carl Laemmle's upstart IMP company.
By 1911, he was writing and directing Westerns in Los Angeles.
He hired the cast and livestock of a traveling Wild West show and put them on camera at a 20,000-acre spread along the California coast.
KOSZARSKI: Thomas Ince established a studio for himself in Santa Monica where Sunset Boulevard hits the ocean, called Inceville.
It was a very isolated spot.
As late as 1915, there are reports of Ince and some of his executives being held up on the street by highwaymen, stagecoach style.
EYMAN: His Westerns were rough-hewn.
They were quite accurate.
He had plenty of riders.
He had plenty of Indians, real Indians, not Hollywood Indians, real Indians.
And he mass-produced Westerns.
NARRATOR: Thanks to automobile magnate, Henry Ford mass production was creating a new model for American business.
Starting in 1908, Ford's Model was produced on a moving assembly line each component of the car added in sequence according to a carefully structured master plan.
Making movies may not have been exactly like assembling automobiles but to match production to increasing demand the process required a coordinated, centralized system.
Thomas Ince was one of the first to manage what would become the modern movie studio.
Some called them dream factories.
EYMAN: Given the specificity of Ince's scripts almost anybody could direct one of the scripts.
He would hand a script out to a director and the script would be stamped: "Shoot exactly as written.
" And the script would be broken down in terms of medium shots, close-ups, long shots.
It was all very, very specific.
The movie was made on the page, not on the stage.
NARRATOR: Once in the studio various departments would assemble the final product until Ince gave his approval.
[INAUDIBLE DIALOGUE] Thomas Ince wasn't alone in seeing the value in film factories.
While he was fighting Edison's Motion Picture Trust in New York and making his first films in Fort Lee, New Jersey Carl Laemmle had a grand vision for the ultimate movie studio.
When they were deciding what to name the studio it happened that my uncle was looking out the window and he saw this truck go by.
Universal, uh, Advertising something Plumbing, or whatever it was, you know.
And he said, "I've got it.
I've got it.
" He said, "It'll be called Universal.
" NARRATOR: By 1915, Laemmle didn't need to be convinced that the future of filmmaking was in Los Angeles.
He acquired 230 acres in the sparsely populated San Fernando Valley and started making plans.
LAEMMLE: His dream was to build a city for the sole purpose of making movies and that's what he really did.
And he built Universal City.
He had everything that a city has.
Had a mayor, a fire chief a hospital, a police department, of course and a school.
And that was the way they did it and, uh, it was wonderful.
NARRATOR: With typical Hollywood hoopla Universal City had a gala opening on March 15, 1915.
KOSZARSKI: This was a big deal.
There was a sort of circus atmosphere around it where trains came from all over the country and these trains would have large banners on them saying: "We are heading for the opening of Universal City, California the biggest film-producing mecca in the world.
" They invited Thomas Edison, Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, William Jennings Bryan.
NARRATOR: Now 48, Carl Laemmle had come a long way from his humble German childhood.
He was the master of his own moving-making domain but never lost his immigrant's ties to family.
LAEMMLE: He would give almost every relative some kind of job there.
That's how he eventually was called Uncle Carl.
Everybody called him Uncle Carl, whether they were a relative or not.
He knew he was their uncle.
NARRATOR: Eager to maximize his profits Laemmle opened his new studio to tourists and sold 25-cent boxed lunches as visitors watched the action on the sets.
Laemmle also took the factory model to heart.
Early Universal movies were manufactured to reach a large audience as quickly and cheaply as possible.
All this speed and economy meant that the studio could be a great training ground.
One fledging director who learned under Laemmle's demanding schedules and family-oriented hiring practices, was the son of Irish immigrants.
He was chosen to be a director, it was said, because he could shout loud.
His name was John Ford.
EYMAN: They were going to look at a picture Ford had just completed.
Carl Laemmle, Jr.
At this point is 11, 12 years old and he brings in his pet monkey with him into the screening room and Ford objects.
He says, "I don't mind if the kid stays but I'm not gonna run my picture for a monkey.
" So Carl Laemmle says, "All right, junior, get rid of the monkey.
" And the kid goes and gets rid of the monkey then comes back and they start the movie.
When the movie is over and the lights come up Carl Laemmle turns to his son and says, "What did you think of the movie?" And Carl Laemmle, Jr.
Said, "I thought it stunk.
" And Ford stood up and said, "Get rid of the kid, bring back the monkey.
" [CHUCKLES] NARRATOR: Ford's career was just beginning.
At the same time, a new kind of movie storytelling was becoming popular.
A staple of Universal and other enterprising low-budget studios these films were first called chapter plays then serials.
Many featured action-oriented female protagonists like Pearl White.
She was faced at the end of each episode with, often literally, a cliffhanger filmed at the edge of the New Jersey Palisades.
Like serialized magazine stories and novels before them cliffhangers encouraged moviegoers to come back for next week's installment a major goal of profit-minded picture makers.
Movies, especially serials that featured female stars had a major influence on a changing America.
MOLLIE: In terms of changing women's lives, movies and automobiles the advent of being able to control your locomotion your movement and the vote they all happened together in about 10 years.
The vote coming last in 1920.
Those three events changed women's lives.
Revolutionized them forever.
NARRATOR: During the period of 1910 to 1920 a majority of early movie audiences were women and children.
And many of the early moviemakers realized that women were often best at appealing to these audiences as writers and even directors.
BEAUCHAMP: Hollywood was built by women, immigrants and Jews.
People who never would've been accepted in any other profession.
MOLLIE: Most people, when they think of powerful women in the silent movie days, they think of actresses.
But actually, the most powerful women in many silent-movie years were producers, directors, writers.
NARRATOR: Pioneers such as Alice Guy Blaché had been directing as early as 1896.
And by 1913, behind-the-scenes power was still available to women such as former concert pianist and actress, Lois Weber.
Lois Weber is important in the history of the American silent screen.
I think Carl Laemmle's attitude at Universal was that she was a woman he could trust as a director.
She always came in on budget, she was never going to let him down and her films actually sold.
They made money for him, that was most important.
I don't think Laemmle cared if you were a man or woman.
If you could make a film, and make him some money, then he was happy.
By the 1910s, she was the most prominent director at Universal and the highest paid director on the lot.
BEAUCHAMP: Lois Weber was one hell of a storyteller she could know what was going to work on the screen.
She edited while she was filming she appreciated the nuances before others did.
She appreciated the importance of background of the texture of the film.
SLIDE: She would make films dealing with anti-Semitism with opposing the death penalty.
She made films about the dangers of scandal and gossip on hypocrisy in religion, and business and politics.
She made films advocating birth control, and she made films opposing abortion.
NARRATOR: Another female movie pioneer was Frances Marion.
She had been an artist and model before turning to the movies in 1914.
For the next 25 years, Marion was one of Hollywood's most successful screenwriters.
Frances joined as a writer because Lois Weber, the director realized she was starting to get letters from people complaining that the actors had no script to follow.
So they were just talking about last night's date and people in the audiences could read lips.
So Frances started writing words for the actors to say.
One of the amazing things when you look at Frances Marion's filmography is you see she had over 250 produced films.
When she met Mary Pickford in 1914 she originally went to see Mary to draw her portrait.
The two of them very quickly found a close friendship and the two of them really created a genre of films Pickford as a little girl.
Frances Marion's greatest gift to Mary Pickford was probably adapting The Poor Little Rich Girl for her because in that film, unlike any other Pickford film before that the essence of Mary Pickford was distilled.
NARRATOR: The partnership of Francis Marion and Mary Pickford America's cute and spunky sweetheart, was powerful.
Together they were transforming an actress into a Hollywood star.
HASKELL: The star system emerged from the audience.
The audience began to recognize actors and actresses who appeared over again to love them, to write fan letters, and they therefore became stars.
It tends to be overlooked at how much power audiences did have.
BEAUCHAMP: In 1912, Photoplay began as a magazine that told the stories.
There were very few pictures of the actors and actresses in the magazines.
That quickly changed.
The audience wanted to know who these people were.
They wanted to know what their lives were like.
Were they married? Did they have children? And very quickly, the story took a back seat to the story of these actors' lives.
NARRATOR: At first, they were known as picture personalities, then simply stars.
Mary Pickford capitalized on her growing fame by signing a contract with Adolph Zukor in 1913 for $500 a week.
By 1916, it was $10,000.
MAIETTA: As contentious as Mary Pickford's relationship with D.
Griffith was, it was almost the polar opposite with Adolph Zukor which was surprising because Adolph Zukor was known as a very, very, very difficult individual.
But he adored Mary Pickford.
He called her sweetheart honey.
She called him Daddy.
They had a very father-daughter, paternal relationship.
NARRATOR: Star power was growing quickly.
By 1917, Pickford's friend Charlie Chaplin was his own producer and making a $125,000 a film.
An average American schoolteacher earned only a thousand dollars a year.
MAIETTA: Mary Pickford was the actress for whom the term "movie star" was really created.
She was the most famous woman in the world before anyone even knew her name.
She was the girl with the golden curls, known worldwide.
The first true worldwide celebrity.
Mary Pickford was a great proponent of positive thinking, of visualization.
She envisioned herself with money.
She envisioned herself with power.
NARRATOR: Adolph Zukor knew a little something about money and power.
He'd outbid his competitors for Mary Pickford.
In 1916, he consolidated his ambitions with a merger with Jesse Lasky creating Famous Players-Lasky drawing upon proven stage successes and the appeal of popular stars.
The former furrier was an empire builder.
He was smarter than many of them.
So he was not looking so much for present profits as future profits which distinguished him, to some degree, from the people he was negotiating with.
NARRATOR: The creation of Famous Players-Lasky put two strong personalities on a collision course.
BERG: We have Samuel Goldfish now thrown in the same room as Adolph Zukor.
And it was very hard for anybody to be in the same room with Samuel Goldfish whether he was selling gloves or whether he was making movies.
This was not a man who played nicely with others.
And Goldfish was kicked out of the company largely because a decisive vote was cast by Jesse Lasky Goldfish's own brother-in-law.
Zukor left it up to my father to pay off Mr.
And they met at a hotel in Hollywood and he gave him almost a million dollars in cash.
BERG: Thereafter, Goldfish hooked up with a pair of Broadway actor-writer-director-producers.
They were called the Selwyn brothers, Edgar and Archibald Selwyn.
And Goldfish went into business with them and they formed a company combining a syllable from each of their names.
That is "Gold" from Goldfish and "wyn" from Selwyn.
So it was either that or "Selfish" Productions um, which some say was more apt.
NARRATOR: Samuel Goldfish liked the elegant sound of the Goldwyn name and soon adopted it as his own.
GOLDWYN: My father was always very sensitive about the Goldfish thing.
If he saw a goldfish bowl, it made him nervous.
[LAUGHING] NARRATOR: The movies have always been a mix of artistry and business sense.
While Adolph Zukor, Carl Laemmle, Jesse Lasky William Fox and Samuel Goldwyn were building entertainment empires D.
Griffith was establishing himself as the industry's creative leader.
With the 50th anniversary of the end of the Civil War approaching in 1915 movies about the bloody battles between North and South were increasing.
Griffith began developing plans for the most ambitious and innovative of them all The Birth of a Nation.
Based on The Clansman a novel and play by ardent Southerner Thomas Dixon, Jr.
SELZNICK: Griffith was clearly a man with a big future.
I look back now and I realize that although this seemed like a golden opportunity it was also a recipe for disaster.
Anyone who put up front money for this picture without really knowing how an audience would take to it.
Would they line up? Would they buy reserved seats? Would they pay in advance? Would they sit still for two hours? It was a big question mark, Birth of a Nation.
A big question mark.
BIRCHARD: I don't think there's anything you can say today to give people a sense of what a lightning bolt The Birth of a Nation was, uh, for audiences at the time.
It took the country by storm.
There were people lined up for months to see the film.
It was playing in major theaters at a $2 top admission this when most movie theaters had a 25-cent top admission.
NARRATOR: Griffith boasted about his concern for historical accuracy but not every American cheered as the Ku Klux Klan rode to the rescue in the film's stirring climax.
Griffith was from Kentucky, and so you had the viewpoint of people who had come out of the defeated South who had hear stories of the old South of its grandeur, its power and its beauty And so Griffith felt that he was really presenting history.
NARRATOR: The Birth of a Nation was less history and more a distorted lament for a lost cause.
BOGLE: The NAACP was formed in 1909.
This organization now was really gonna fight for the rights of African Americans and it was gonna speak out against injustices and inequities.
White liberals were disturbed and spoke out about this film.
Jane Addams, the great social reformer at Hull House in Chicago spoke out and wrote about this film.
Rabbi Stephen Wise spoke out against the film.
NARRATOR: There were violent confrontations in Boston.
And calls to censor the film in cities such as Pittsburgh and Chicago protesting the glorification of the Klan and degrading images of African Americans.
I mean, these images are absolutely shocking but they fit into this story and the case that Griffith was building that these black men had to be controlled.
They had to be put back into their place.
All they could bring would be disorder and chaos.
NARRATOR: At the time, most white Americans, including Griffith remained blind or supportive of the racist imagery even at the highest levels of American society.
SLIDE: Thomas Dixon knew exactly how to promote this film.
He persuaded, uh, Woodrow Wilson to screen the film at the White House.
So here we have, the first time, a motion picture being shown at the White House.
BOGLE: Wilson was very excited about it.
Other members of his staff who saw it there in the White House were excited by this film.
And Wilson said, "It's like writing history with lightning.
" Dixon then approached the U.
Supreme Court.
He knew the head of the Supreme Court had been a member of the Klan.
NARRATOR: Dixon proudly reported the chief justice's admiration for Griffith's visually innovative representation of the war.
But The Birth of a Nation was a success even without such claims of high-level support.
When it toured the country, the movie traveled with a full orchestra playing an original score with a team of sound-effect specialists to enhance the battle scenes.
It was a movie phenomenon unlike anything seen before.
The fact that it was such a commercial success many people felt that it really led to the creation of Hollywood itself because Hollywood was not really Hollywood at that point.
I think that in looking at Birth of a Nation today we have to see its importance in the history of American movies and also, uh, Griffith's position as this major American filmmaker who took movies in a new direction, technically and in the art of telling a story, and telling it for a large audience.
It's a masterpiece, but a racist masterpiece.
NARRATOR: The success of The Birth of a Nation made D.
Griffith world-famous.
It also changed the life of enterprising New England theater and film exchange owner, Louis B.
Using the enormous profits from exhibiting Griffith's film Mayer was able to move from showing movies to making them.
In 1918, he established his own low-budget production facility in Los Angeles located on the grounds of the old Selig Studio and Zoo.
Mission Road was a really lower-class neighborhood.
So you could get something pretty cheap there.
And Selig Zoo actually was a zoo with a lot of animals.
NARRATOR: In business as Louis B.
Mayer Productions the former scrap-metal dealer knew little about making motion pictures.
EYMAN: He had a fifth-grade education.
The only way he could learn was by observing and asking: "Why is the camera there? Why is the lighting over here? Why aren't you going to a close-up? How come you're going to that close-up?" He was a nudge, and he drove everybody nuts.
NARRATOR: Mayer learned fast, he had to.
The movies grow faster than probably any commercial form of recreation that I can think of in American history.
Imagine when you're showing the first actualities at the turn of the century, you have a few hundred people viewing it.
By 1910, you have 26 million people going a year roughly a quarter of the population.
By 1914, virtually every city in America that has a population of more than 4000 people has a movie theater.
America goes movie crazy.
NARRATOR: By 1916 there were approximately 21,000 movie theaters in the United States with an average seating capacity of 500.
Theater owners such as Marcus Loew, a former furrier had an essential piece of the action.
In Chicago, the Balaban and Katz chain was emerging as a dominant force in the Midwest.
They courted moviegoers with something new.
They were concerned because the movie business was a seasonal business.
You didn't go to the movies Or the nickelodeon.
You couldn't go in the summer because in order to see you had to darken everything.
You couldn't keep doors open, you couldn't keep windows open.
It was stiflingly hot.
So it came June, July, August, and into September, you couldn't have the business.
There was nothing you could do with the space.
Uncle Barney had ice.
This was a big thing.
So my uncle started the first air-cooled indoor movie theater.
They had blocks of ice and they would blow fans over it.
In the beginning, it was a real issue because the fans worked well but they were very noisy.
And also, occasionally, the ice would start to melt, the fan would get out of control and the patrons would be splashed with icy cold water, which was also a problem.
But they worked it out, and eventually they were basically responsible for the first air-conditioned theaters.
NARRATOR: As they appealed to more upscale audiences theater owners began building lavish moving picture palaces.
The Strand on Broadway in New York City cost $1 million.
At the time, it was most lavish movie theater ever built.
It sat nearly 3000 people.
In Los Angeles, Sid Grauman, son of a San Francisco theater owner failed as a prospector during the 1890s Alaska gold rush but he struck it rich with grand movie palaces such as the Million Dollar and in the '20s, the Egyptian and the Chinese on Hollywood Boulevard.
Theater magnate Marcus Loew declared: "We're selling tickets to theaters, not to movies.
Without theaters, movies were just cans of film.
" Treated like royalty in the first picture palaces audiences could be demanding.
They wanted bigger, better and more.
But that didn't necessary mean an end to a taste for old-fashioned entertainment.
Ambitious and innovative D.
Griffith found this out with Intolerance a production that dwarfed The Birth of a Nation in both aspiration and budget.
Interweaving stories from four periods of history Intolerance was complex and sophisticated.
Griffith was reaching to position movies beside the grandest novels, plays and operas.
The film's massive set for ancient Babylon erected on a Hollywood street corner was a towering symbol of his ambition.
Intolerance didn't really do that well and it didn't really do much for Griffith's career.
It may seem naive to us today because we understand these four stories we understand what's going on, but back then, audiences didn't expect to have multiple story lines in the same film.
And they really just didn't get it.
NARRATOR: Once again, Griffith was ahead of his time.
By 1916, paying for the contracts of popular stars like Chaplin and Pickford made movie production increasingly expensive.
To cost-conscious William Fox the answer was to manufacture his own stars from scratch.
His most successful creation was mysterious Theda Bara.
Theda Bara was one of those people who was developed inside the movies with a personality and a persona that was manufactured.
The Vamp.
NARRATOR: In 1915, Fox ballyhooed his new star as the love child of a French artist and his Egyptian mistress.
Her name was an anagram for "Arab Death.
" The fact that she was really Theodosia Goodman the daughter of a tailor from Cincinnati, was the real mystery of her past.
Even if some in the audience were in on the charade they relished Theda Bara as one of the first movie sex symbols.
"Kiss me, my fool!" she hissed in her first hit, A Fool There Was.
And audiences were thrilled.
A less exotic and more hometown American image was provided by dashing Douglas Fairbanks.
On-stage since 1900, Fairbanks was an established movie star by 1916 specializing in contemporary entertainments.
BASINGER: He was sunny and funny and active.
He was American.
He was everything that the era was about.
He was about getting ahead, about going forward about climbing the ladder, changing yourself becoming a success.
NARRATOR: With movies from stars like Douglas Fairbanks, Theda Bara Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin Hollywood moviemakers offered audiences amusing diversions.
But not all was sweetness and light in early 20th century America.
A few filmmakers sought box-office success by portraying harsher realities.
ROSS: They're looking to the headlines of the day.
They're saying, "What's going on in America right now?" And they're taking those headlines, and making movies about child labor.
They're making movies about the exploitation of women in sweatshops.
What we call social-issue films are being shown every week in movie theaters for the first decade and a half of American cinema.
NARRATOR: In 1915, producer, director, writer and actor, Lois Weber made the movie parable Hypocrites.
Audiences were shocked by her depiction of female nudity literally, the Naked Truth but she also exposed the role of sex, greed and grasping power in American life.
More entertainment-oriented moviemakers shied away from such fare.
Even with dollops of sex and sensationalism such films were considered box-office poison a sure way to lose money.
Adolph Zukor complained to socially conscious filmmakers: "You're picking my pocket.
" Despite this, Carl Laemmle agreed to distribute Traffic in Souls an exposé of the illicit practice of luring innocent immigrant girls into prostitution.
Universal's first full-length feature the film opened on Broadway in New York and was a huge success.
A mix of sensationalism and outrage, reformers applauded its message and more important, to an immigrant audience many of whom were not fluent in English it had special relevance and power.
The persuasive power of the movies was recognized early.
In 1916, faced with prospects of an expanding war in Europe Thomas Ince produced Civilization one of the first American film epics and an anti-war plea for peace.
But it was too late.
After hesitating for years, the United States entered the conflict in April of 1917.
Studio newsreels captured moving images of wartime action while moviemakers, such as D.
Griffith, enthusiastically made films to support the war effort.
The German enemy was a boon to a struggling bit player and production assistant to D.
Griffith on The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance.
His name was Erich von Stroheim, or at least that's what he said.
BEAUCHAMP: He claimed to be an Austrian aristocrat when actually, he was the son of a poor Jewish milliner.
He was pretending to be something he wasn't, all the time.
This is a man for whom he strove to be this incredible aristocrat all the while, half of him despising anybody who would be impressed by that.
NARRATOR: In The Heart of Humanity, playing a Prussian officer Stroheim rapes a young mother and throws her child out the window.
He became the man you love to hate a lurid on-screen justification for war and defeat of the German Hun.
[MARCHING BAND PLAYING UPBEAT MUSIC] NARRATOR: While Hollywood was supporting the war effort with flag-waving and virulent anti-German films movie stars like Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks proved their loyalty during massive war-bond tours.
Seventeen billion dollars was raised.
It was clear, politicians benefited from star power but the movies needed politicians too.
Beginning as early as the 1890s, filmmakers faced repeated calls for censorship from states and cities such as Chicago Boston and New York where nickelodeons had been banned for a brief time.
ROSS: There's a long history starting in 1916 when Congress held hearings whether there should be a federal board of censorship to get involved in censoring movies.
The movie industry leaders have always done everything they could to keep Washington out of their business.
And, indeed, they were funneling money into Democratic and Republican campaigns as early as 1915.
They basically announced any politician in America who would oppose censorship openly, they would give campaign funds for.
NARRATOR: The mix of Hollywood power, movies, politics and propaganda had just begun.
With the armistice of 1918 the United States and its European allies were the winners of World War I.
But victory for the American movie industry was even more decisive.
Until 1914, Europe dominated international filmmaking.
Headquartered in Paris, the Pathé Company operated the world's largest film studio.
And Italian epics set lavish production standards.
The disruption and devastation of war changed that.
By the end of the conflict, the United States was the source of more than 80 percent of the world's films and supplied 98 percent of movies shown in America.
In hardly more than 20 years the American motion-picture business had evolved from a cheap novelty to the country's fifth largest industry after agriculture, transportation, oil and steel.
And it seemed to happen in less than the flicker of a frame of film.
By 1920, the era of the first inventive engineers and peepshow entrepreneurs was over and many of those who led the way had been left behind.
George Méliès, the magical French innovator had been forced to sell his Paris studio and slipped into obscurity.
He ended up selling toys in a Paris train station.
Dickson, who had developed the first movie machine with Thomas Edison had a brief career as a producer of news films but the business passed him by.
The Lumière brothers, who had pioneered projected movies in the 1890s abandoned film production in favor of developing new motion-picture equipment.
Edwin S.
Porter, who brought stories to movie screens in the early 1900s also returned to his machinist roots and was largely forgotten.
Alice Guy made her last movie in 1920 and returned to France where she worked as a writer.
Even Thomas Edison, the man who began it all dropped out of filmmaking in 1918.
He never felt comfortable in the new world of entertainment.
The birth of the movies in America set the stage for an era of energy ambition, and sometimes disconcerting social change.
By 1920, the full flowering of the silent film and the first grand era of moguls and movie stars was about to begin.
[English - US - SDH]