Figure 7.3

A Variety of Motion Pictures

Panorama of Orphans’ Home, Galveston, Texas

Albert E. Smith, Edison Manufacturing Co., USA, 1900

Star Theater

Frederick S. Armitage, American Mutoscope and Biograph Co., USA, 1902

Love and War

James H. White, Edison Manufacturing Co., USA, 1899

Admiral Cigarette

William Heise, Edison Manufacturing Co., USA, 1897

See the moving picture

See the moving picture

See the moving picture

See the moving picture

The variety structure of the vaudeville program naturally encouraged the impulse of early film producers to supply theaters with a variety of motion-picture subjects.

When a devastating hurricane struck Galveston, Texas, in September 1900, Vitagraph’s Albert E. Smith, operating as an Edison licensee, traveled to the scene to film the aftermath in a series of sweeping panoramic shots, including Panorama of Orphans’ Home, Galveston, Texas. Lubin and Biograph also dispatched cameramen to Galveston, and the interest aroused by the resulting footage confirmed the role of the vaudeville-based motion picture as a visual newspaper. Such views, admitted one Eastern paper, “afford an idea of [the] devastation which columns of newspaper reports have not conveyed.”

Star Theater is an unusual “trick” film made “on location” by Biograph in 1902: using an early time-lapse technique, the film records the demolition, in “slow motion,” of a famous New York theater.

In March 1900, Edison released Love and War, the story of a man who goes off to the Civil War, performs bravely, wins the hand of a lovely nurse, and returns home safely (indeed, triumphantly). The film consists of six shots, each of which, according to the Edison catalogue, “has a separate song, making the entire series a complete and effective novelty.” Edison also supplied words and music so that audiences could sing along, but such intrusions on the vaudeville manager’s prerogative in arranging scenes were rare.

Edison’s earliest advertising films typically promoted rail travel or his own inventions but soon included a wider variety of brand-name endorsements. Admiral Cigarette was directed by William Heise and released in 1897.

Back to CHAPTER 7/Part 1