Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Winter Straw Ride - 1906

Country: United States
"A Winter Straw Ride" by Thomas Edison Motion Pictures
a.k.a. The Edison Manufacturing Co. and Thomas A. Edison, Inc.
"I am experimenting upon an instrument which does for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear, which is the recording and reproduction of things in motion..." --Thomas A. Edison, 1888
This simple short feature, pleasant and fun to watch, includes great outdoor photography by Edwin S. Porter. With plenty of energy, and the actors clearly had a good time being part of the film. Two groups of young women going on a 'straw ride' in the snow, with things gradually becoming increasingly boisterous as numerous other persons join in. Except perhaps for the clothing styles and the horse-drawn vehicles, it could have been filmed today, since these kinds of antics in the snow are common in pretty much any time and place that has a cold winter.
Edison's laboratory was responsible for the invention of the Kinetograph (a motion picture camera) and the Kinetoscope (a peep-hole motion picture viewer). Most of this work was performed by Edison's assistant, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, beginning in 1888. Motion pictures became a successful entertainment industry in less than a decade, with single-viewer Kinetoscopes giving way to films projected for mass audiences. The Edison Manufacturing Co. (later known as Thomas A. Edison, Inc.) not only built the apparatus for filming and projecting motion pictures, but also produced films for public consumption. Most early examples were actualities showing famous people, news events, disasters, people at work, new modes of travel and technology, scenic views, expositions, and other leisure activities. As actualities declined in popularity, the company's production emphasis shifted to comedies and dramas.
Edison Studios was an American motion picture production company owned by the Edison Company of inventor Thomas Edison. The studio made close to 1,200 films as the Edison Manufacturing Company (1894--1911) and Thomas A. Edison, Inc. (1911--1918) until the studio's closing in 1918. Of that number, 54 were feature length, the remainder were shorts.
Its first production facility, Edison's Black Maria studios in West Orange, New Jersey, was built in the winter of 1892--93. The second facility, a glass-enclosed rooftop studio built at 41 East 21st Street in Manhattan's entertainment district, opened in 1901. In 1907, Edison had new facilities built on Decatur Avenue and Oliver Place in the Bronx.
Edison himself played no direct part in the making of his studio's films beyond being the owner, and appointing William Gilmore as vice-president and general manager. Edison's assistant William Kennedy Dickson, who supervised the development of Edison's motion picture system, produced the first Edison films intended for public exhibition, 1893--95. After Dickson's departure for Biograph in 1895, he was replaced as director of production by cameraman William Heise, then from 1896 to 1903 by James H. White. When White left to supervise Edison's European interests in 1903, he was replaced by William Markgraf (1903--1904), then Alex T. Moore (1904--1909), and Horace G. Plimpton (1909--1915).
The first commercially exhibited motion pictures in the United States were from Edison, and premiered at a Kinetoscope parlor in New York City on April 14, 1894. The program consisted of ten short films, each less than a minute long, of athletes, dancers, and other performers. After competitors began exhibiting films on screens, Edison introduced its own Projecting Kinetoscope in late 1896.
The earliest productions were brief "actualities" showing everything from acrobats to parades to fire calls. But competition from French and British story films in the early 1900s rapidly changed the market. By 1904, 85% of Edison's sales were from story films.
In December 1908, Edison led the formation of the Motion Picture Patents Company in an attempt to control the industry and shut out smaller producers. The "Edison Trust," as it was nicknamed, was made up of Edison, Biograph, Essanay Studios, Kalem Company, George Kleine Productions, Lubin Studios, Georges Méliès, Pathé, Selig Studios, and Vitagraph Studios, and dominated distribution through the General Film Company.

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