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Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Dawn of Movies

The really good movie-related piece in the Times today is one that unearths some of the earliest reactions to radio, film, and television when those technologies first arrived.

From 1896:

"The projectionist of the first Lumière screening in New York.

You had to have lived these moments of collective exaltation, have attended these thrilling screenings in order to understand just how far the excitement of the crowd could go. With the flick of a switch, I plunge several thousand spectators into darkness. Each scene passes, accompanied by tempestuous applause; after the sixth scene, I return the hall to light. The audience is shaking. Cries ring out."

"Maxim Gorky, on seeing the Lumière Cinématographe in Nizhny Novgorod.

A life is born before you, a life deprived of sound and the specter of color - a gray and noiseless life - a wan and cut-rate life."

From 1915:

"The New York Times, from an interview with D. W. Griffith.

The time will come, and in less than 10 years, when the children in the public schools will be taught practically everything by moving pictures. Certainly they will never be obliged to read history again."

From 1921:

"James Quirk, Photoplay magazine

We talk of the worth, the service, the entertaining power, the community value, the recreative force, the educational influence, the civilizing and commercial possibilities of the motion picture.
And everyone has, singularly enough, neglected to mention its rarest and subtlest beauty: `Silence.'"