Pushing Boundaries

Silence of the Films


Once moving pictures could be recorded on film the industry grew quite rapidly. From the first motion picture c. 1890 to the 1920s, these films went from run times measured in seconds to ones measured in hours. The art went from filming guys walking out of a factory at the end of their work day to actual scripted and acted stories. The initial celluloid film, which was quite flammable and led to many movie house fires, was soon replaced with plastic-based film that was less prone to catching fire from the heat of the projector lamp or a movie operator’s cigar. At first, the only soundtrack was the clicking of the projector wheels. Soon, theaters hired pianists, organists or, in large urban areas, an entire orchestra to provide mood music. Soon, the producers were drafting sheet music to go with the movie so that moviegoers in Iowa City had the same movie experience as moviegoers in NYC. The industry as a whole really came alive. Even though Europe’s movie industry, which was the crown jewel of the industry, suffered a major setback due to a little world war during the 1910s, it came roaring back and was made stronger by a burgeoning film industry in an upstart town called Hollywood.

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