Friday, October 7, 2011

The Birth of an Art Form

While most studios were forced into one reels by the MPPC and believing film would never be more than churned out cheap entertainment,  some studios – especially those abroad - started to make longer films, feature films.

Defined by length, the first dramatic feature film was the Australian 70-minute film The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906).

The first European feature was the 90-minute film L'Enfant prodigue (France, 1907), although that was an unmodified record of a stage play; Europe's first feature adapted directly for the screen, Les Misérables, came from France in 1909.

The first Russian feature was Defence of Sevastopol in 1911.  This was also the first film shot with two cameras. No sound on this clip so crank up the tunes.

Watch more on Film Annex

The first UK features were the documentary With Our King and Queen Through India  and Oliver Twist (1912). The first Asian feature was Japan's The Life Story of Tasuke Shiobara (1912), the first Indian feature was Raja Harishchandra (1913),  the first South American feature was Brazil's O Crime dos Banhados (1913), and the first African feature was South Africa's Die Voortrekkers (1916). 1913 also saw China's first feature film, Zhang Shichuan's Nan Fu Nan Qi.

The first US features were imports.  The first import was from France it was the story of Queen Elizabeth staring Sarah Bernhardt a  French stage and early film actress. She has been referred to as "the most famous actress the world has ever known"

The first American produced features were a production of Oliver Twist (1912), From the Manger to the Cross (1912), and Richard III (1912), the latter starring actor Frederick Warde.

Manger to the Cross was renamed Jesus of Nazareth (1916) or so I believe.  Biblical stories were very popular in the US.


Despite some moral messages and some general thematic statements most films were still only meant as entertainment.  It took D.W. Griffith, his epic civil war film and his deep south upbringing to make film an artistic statement.  And, in the spirit of artists everywhere, he was going to piss a lot of people off doing it.

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First article Before Film

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