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12 Edison Lets Porter Go: 1908-1909
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Edison Lets Porter Go: 1908-1909

Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company found themselves increasingly at odds during 1908-9 until finally they parted ways. The filmmaker later explained that he had left to make more money elsewhere. The real truth, however, was that Edison fired Porter because his methods of motion picture production and of telling film narratives were thwarting the company's commercial efforts. If Noël Burch has aptly described Porter as a Janus figure facing toward both past and future, in the late 1890s and early 1900s the filmmaker was primarily looking forward. Now he was resisting a new approach and steadfastly looking the other way. While pursuing long-standing commercial strategies such as licensing and patent infringement suits, Edison and his corporate executives simultaneously sought to adapt to changing industry practices. Porter's refusal to accommodate made his departure inevitable.

Edison and Biograph Begin To Negotiate

By June 1908 it was becoming clear that Edison and his licensees would be unable to drive the Biograph association from the field. Many film people, particularly exhibitors, viewed the rivalry as desirable. "It is well that there are two competing elements in the field," Moving Picture World asserted. "It simplifies the question of providing separate programs to theaters which are in close proximity to each other and it gives the manager the opportunity of making a distinct change if he is subjected to treatment which is injurious to his business."[1] The Association of Edison Licensees had eliminated little competition. Although it had forced a few renters to abandon their aspirations to become producers, the organization had failed to exclude unlicensed European


producers from the marketplace. The warfare between Edison and Biograph had even provided a space where some new producers—for example, the Goodfellow Manufacturing Company and the New Jersey-based Centaur Film Company— could operate.[2]

The Edison-Biograph rivalry made discipline within the ranks of the Film Service Association difficult to enforce. Some theaters still rented programs through subletters and showed films by both associations—practices that had been forbidden. Exchanges undercut the rental rates with increasing frequency. In mid June, William Swanson informed Frank Dyer that two of the largest dealers in Chicago would withdraw from the association if action was not taken against violators of the agreement.[3] When Laemmle's income from his Evansville office fell from $1,000 to $500 per week, the renter asked Dyer to come up with a solution. Laemmle hinted that he would find his own solution if Dyer could not provide one.[4] Tally's Film Exchange in Los Angeles also threatened to go its own way.[5] If Edison interests could not eliminate their opposition, it was only a question of time before licensed producers and FSA exchanges broke off on their own.

Biograph and its licensees were also unhappy with the state of affairs. Unlike Edison, Biograph was not receiving royalties for its sponsorship of importers. Its goal was to survive and then work out a financial arrangement with Edison. The Kleine Optical Company encountered many expenses in opening up offices across the country, yet faced a restricted market for its goods. The litigation and commercial rivalry that had plagued the American industry for ten years continued unabated and seemed to hurt almost everyone. While in opposite camps, Pathé and Gaumont let both sides know that they were displeased with the state of affairs and urged a reconciliation.[6]

On July 11th, shortly after assuming charge of Edison's film business, Dyer lunched with Harry Marvin and Jeremiah J. Kennedy of Biograph and discussed peace terms.[7] A week later, George Kleine came to New York and met with the Edison vice-president.[8] By the end of the month, negotiations had proceeded far enough for Edison executives to outline terms (see document no. 27). In early August Variety reported: "It seems to be the general impression among the leaders of the motion picture business that a settlement of the fight now on is but a question of days, weeks or months."[9]


Proposed Scheme

(1) Biograph Company to come in as Licensee under Edison patents the same as others.

(2) Kleine to be recognized as Licensee, limiting importation to 5,000 feet of new subjects per week for entire list of foreign manufacture as advertised, including Gaumont. In case any foreign manufacture[r] drops

(Text box continued on next page)


Frank L. Dyer.

out, the amount of film imported to be correspondingly reduced in proportion to his importance as shown by Kleine's output since February 1st, 1908.

(3) Other Biograph licensees to be taken in (Williams, Brown & Earle, Italian Cines and Great Northern Film Company) on same basis as Kleine, the number of feet of new subjects to be based on amount of film put out

(Text box continued on next page)


since February 1, 1908, but not to exceed a total of 2000 feet per week.

(4) Royalties of present licensees and new ones above contemplated not to be increased.

(5) All licensees to be licensed under Edison, Biograph & Armat patents, and royalties under Biograph and Armat patents to be collected preferably from exchanges who in turn will exact them from exhibitors. Royalties to be based on charge for rental service but not to exceed an average of $2.00 per week.

(6) All projecting machines now in use to be licensed under all patents, and name-plate attached, limiting use of machines to licensed films. All projecting machine manufacturers to put on similar licensed plates.

(7) All films to be leased for a limited period and restricted to use with licensed machines.

(8) Cameraphone Company, Gaumont, or any other concern now making or contemplating making, talking pictures to be licensed, but limited to talking pictures and not to sell or lease films separately. Royalties to be ½ cent per foot and $5 per week or less for each machine.

(9) Contract limited to two years, but to be extended from year to year until expiration of last patent.

(10) Expenses for litigation to be borne by respective interests, each defending or prosecuting its own patents.

(11) Expenses for litigation based on price-cutting or violation of license agreements to be borne pro rata by all licensees, up to $25,000. per year.

(12) Price of film, net, to exchanges not to be reduced below nine (9) cents per foot, except by unanimous vote of all licensees. All votes to be on basis of running feet of new subjects.

(13) All film to be bought from Eastman Company, who will collect film royalties.

(14) Question of licenses to machine manufacturers and number of licensees, to be taken up and concluded after film situation is settled.

SOURCE : Addendum to communication from Frank Dyer to H. N. Marvin, July 29, 1908, NNMoMA. The term talking pictures in point 8 refers to films shown synchronously with phonograph recordings.

As the next step, licensed manufacturers met with Kleine, Edison, and Biograph interests. The substance of these negotiations was never reported, but the licensed manufacturers apparently insisted on substantial changes. The li-censors (Edison and Biograph) had planned to include almost every European producer in the new arrangement—but limit their future participation in the American market to current (mid-1908) levels. This would have coopted virtu-


ally all the opposition. The licensed manufacturers, however, wanted to restrict the scope of imported films and increase available supply by expanding their own production capacities.[10] They also wanted to increase their profits by raising the price for films. To further these goals, Biograph abruptly revoked the license of Italian "Cinès," and Edison licensees raised their prices from 9 to 11 cents per foot, effective September 1st.[11]

Agreement between the parties was close enough for the Motion Picture Patents Company to be incorporated in New Jersey on September 9th. Each company was searching for ways to maximize its position in the future combine. Pathé announced plans to open its own rental concern, following the examples of Vitagraph, Lubin, and Kleine, who had their own exchanges. This led to such strong protest among their regular customers that the offer had to be withdrawn.[12] Léon Gaumont visited New York in mid September and entered the negotiations.[13] An agreement was soon reached between Kleine and Gaumont that would allow Kleine to sell 2,000 feet of new Gaumont subjects each week.[14]

Negotiations encountered snags in October. "All talk of merger has dwindled to an extent that not even a whisper is audible in authentic circles," it was reported.[15] The licensed producers seemed to be the principal stumbling blocks. Articulating a viewpoint shared by his colleagues, one company representative "considered that group of manufacturers well able to cope with the demand [for films] for years to come, therefore he would not see the necessity or wisdom of taking in any other manufacturers."[16] Many of these manufacturers worried that additional reels of film supplied by the former independents would reduce their own sales.[17] Adding two weekly releases from Biograph and three through Kleine would increase the number of licensed subjects by approximately 40 percent. Licensed renters, in contrast, were extremely anxious to gain access to a more diverse product line, particularly since many of their customers wanted these films. The potential licensors were not unsympathetic to the renters' position and were ready to incorporate as much of the opposition within their ranks as possible, if only as a way to increase royalties. Offering itself as an impartial observer, Moving Picture World urged the two sides to reconcile their differences for the benefit of the industry.[18]

Griffith's filmmaking activities at Biograph had a somewhat contradictory impact on these negotiations. The high quality of his pictures generally strengthened Biograph's position. Theaters and renters wanted its films. Yet this success discouraged flexibility by Edison-licensed manufacturers. Even while denied access to FSA exchanges, Biograph increased sales per film from 30 + to 50 + prints between September and December 1908[19] Some Edison licensees had been selling as many as 100 prints per subject. If Biograph entered the licensed ranks, its sales would double again, and previously licensed manufacturers seemed likely to suffer.

Edison and Dyer were ready to strike a deal with Biograph's Harry Marvin


and Jeremiah Kennedy, except for the recalcitrant producers. According to Terry Ramsaye, Kennedy ended the long negotiations by threatening "to bust this business wide open" and give a Biograph camera to anyone who wanted it.[20] It was a clear signal to the manufacturers: reach an agreement or competition will be even more extensive. Negotiations began to move forward again. On November 18th the Film Service Association postponed a December membership meeting because "it will be necessary for the association members to meet the manufacturers early in January to consider new business arrangements."[21] While the final details were hammered out, the way for a new agreement was being cleared. On December 1st the manufacturers notified the renters that their relationship would fundamentally change in sixty days. Until then, licensed manufacturers could only terminate their relationship with an FSA exchange if it violated the contract. In the future they could simply terminate the contract with ten days' notice.[22] Whatever the terms of the new combination, renters had little choice but to accept them. When new snags materialized in early December, Edison made additional concessions to the licensed manufacturers. After more than five months of negotiations, agreement was finally reached.

Motion Picture Patents Company Agreements

The Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPCo) was owned equally by the Edison and Biograph companies, with a few shares going to the directors as required by law.[23] Dyer, vice-president of the Edison Manufacturing Company, was elected president and George F. Scull, another Edison lawyer, was elected secretary. Harry Marvin and Jeremiah Kennedy were elected vice-president and treasurer respectively. The MPPCo was formed with the recognition that the patents controlled by Biograph and those controlled by Edison were of equal importance in the eyes of the courts. Each company agreed to deposit its shares of stock with the Empire Trust Company, which acted as trustee, and instructed it "not to release, transfer or return the said certificates so deposited without the consent of" both parties and Thomas Armat.[24]

The Edison Manufacturing Company, the American Mutoscope & Biograph Company, the Armat Motion Picture Company, and Vitagraph Company of America assigned their patents to the MPPCo in return for certain guarantees on the morning of December 18, 1908. That afternoon the MPPCo signed agreements with nine producers and importers: the Kleine Optical Company, Biograph, the Edison Company, and the original Edison licensees, excepting the Méliès company. The Méliès concern was denied a license because it had come under the control of Max Lewis, a Chicago renter, in violation of earlier Edison licensing agreements.[25] Over his objections, Kleine was only allowed to import three reels of film per week, two to be supplied by Gaumont and one by Urban-Eclipse. Gaumont was selected because it owned the patents to the Demeny camera and might have provided independents with a non-infringing apparatus if left outside the trust (the status of the Demeny camera had yet to be tested in


Executives of film companies newly licensed by the Motion Picture Patents Company
 gather at the Edison Laboratory on December 18, 1908. First row (left to right): Frank L.
 Dyer, Sigmund Lubin, William T. Rock, Thomas A. Edison, J. Stuart Blackton, Jeremiah 
J. Kennedy, George Kleine, and George K. Spoor. Second row: Frank J. Marion, Samuel 
Long, William N. Selig, Albert E. Smith, Jacques A. Berst, Harry N. Marvin, Thomas Armat(?),
 and George Scull(?).

the courts).[26] Urban-Eclipse was probably included because Charles Urban controlled G. Albert Smith's kinemacolor process. Other European firms were considered too weak to effectively confront the power of the MPPCo and were entirely excluded.

Based on the MPPCo's control of essential patents, interlocking agreements were made with the moving picture manufacturers and importers, film exchanges, exhibitors, Eastman Kodak, and various projector manufacturers.[27] These not only assured the collection of royalties in different areas but further concentrated power in the hands of the film producers and importers who were the keystone of the contractual system. The nine companies could only lose their licenses if they acted in gross violation of the agreements and ignored specific warnings for a protracted period of time. Their right to a license was effectively assured. Moreover, additional licenses could only be granted with majority approval of the already licensed manufacturers. They still paid royalties to the licensor on raw stock, but the amount was lower than under the old agreement. Royalties remained 5 mills (½¢) per foot for firms buying less than 4,000,000


feet of raw stock each year, but were 4.5 mills per foot for manufacturers purchasing from 4,000,000 to 6,000,000 feet, 4 mills per foot if between 6,000,000 and 8,000,000 feet, 3.75 mills if orders totaled between 8,000,000 and 10,000,000 feet, and only 3.25 mills per foot if a company exceeded 10,000,000 feet per year. The Edison Manufacturing Company, however, did not pay a licensing fee on raw stock. A minimum pricing schedule for films leased to exchanges continued as before. List price was 13¢ per foot and standing orders were 11¢ per foot—figures that assured a healthy profit margin for most producers. The licensed manufacturers had no restrictions on the quantity of their releases. Only Kleine was limited to three reels of film per week.

The MPPCo signed an agreement with Eastman Kodak on January 1st, superseding the one previously in effect between the raw stock supplier and the Edison licensees. Under this reciprocal arrangement, licensed producers and importers would only purchase film from Eastman, and Eastman in return would only sell 35mm motion picture film to licensed manufacturers, excepting a small percentage of film set aside for experimental and educational purposes. As it had done for the previous six months, the Eastman Kodak Company collected MPPCo royalties on raw stock as it was purchased by the licensed manufacturers. This arrangement made it more difficult for independent moving picture producers to operate effectively and secured Eastman's position by turning major users into long-term customers. The company also agreed to supply raw stock for a maximum cost of 3¢ a foot for unperforated film and 3.25¢ for perforated. Such an arrangement reduced commercial uncertainty for both parties.

Film exchanges were given until January 20th to sign contracts with the MPPCo. These were to go into effect on February 1st. Almost all the renters from the Film Service Association and a few major "independent" exchanges were given the opportunity to become licensees. The Toledo Film Exchange was not offered a license because its checks had often bounced; the Chicago Film Exchange because of its attempt to acquire the Méliès license; Adam Kessel's Empire Film Company probably because it was bicycling prints; and Harstn & Company because its purchases were too small under the old system.[28] In the earlier agreements between the FSA and the Association of Edison Licensees, manufacturers and renters met, at least nominally, as equals. This was no longer the case. The MPPCo offered renters a license that could be unilaterally revoked with or without cause after fourteen days' notice. As one trade journal remarked: "The position of the renter. . . is not an enviable one. He might work up a large business, the tenure of which is determinable by a fortnight's notice at the discretion of a possibly irresponsible person. Thus, the sword is always suspended over the head of the renter. Not a reassuring state of affairs to an ordinary business man."[29] The MPPCo and the manufacturers, rather than the FSA, established rules and punished the violations of rental exchanges.


Many of the regulations established by the FSA were enforced with new rigor. Again licensed exchanges could only acquire films from licensed manufacturers, just as licensed manufacturers could only deal with licensed exchanges. Film was no longer sold outright but leased. A film or some substitute had to be returned to its original manufacturer seven months after it was acquired. Films could also be recalled by the manufacturer after an exchange violated the licensing agreement. Each branch owned by a renter was now treated as a separate exchange, while the minimum amount of film that an exchange had to purchase was increased to $2,500 per month, double the old figure. Nor could film be shuffled back and forth between exchanges run by the same owner. This eliminated a number of small exchanges and branches, but increased overall demand. It also encouraged a steady, year-round flow of films through the system. The release system was refined: a film could not be shipped from an exchange before 9 A.M. on its release day. A minimum rental schedule was again established, this time determined by the manufacturers. Moreover, a licensed exchange could only rent to a theater that was licensed by the MPPCo. Violations resulted in fines and eventual suspension. As a result, renters found their activities highly regulated and restricted.

Exhibitors were a new and important revenue-generating element in the MPPCo's agreements. The key patents for exhibition were controlled by Thomas Armat, whose attempts to license exhibitors in the 1890s and early 1900s had failed after receiving insufficient judicial support. The MPPCo now asserted that Armat's patents, in combination with others under its control, allowed it to license exhibitors for the use of its members' various inventions. Each exhibitor was required to pay the MPPCo $2 a week per theater, irrespective of its size or profitability. Compulsion was not so much legal as commercial. In practice, a license simply gave the exhibitor the right to use licensed films rented from licensed exchanges. Exhibitors who showed unlicensed films without paying the $2 were not challenged for patent infringement. An exhibitor could not, however, present licensed and unlicensed subjects at the same time. When this was attempted, the MPPCo instituted replevin suits and repossessed its films. The power of the MPPCo over the exhibitor was based on its control of product rather than on potential legal action for patent violation. Originally the exchanges were expected to collect the theaters' royalties for the MPPCo. When the renters protested, however, the MPPCo agreed to assume that role.[30] The problem of coordinating exhibitors and exchanges proved so awkward and unsatisfactory, however, that the original plan was reinstituted within a few months. While renters paid no direct royalties, like Eastman they were given the task of supervising another branch of the industry. Royalties from exhibitors alone were expected to total more than $500,000 a year during the first year of operations.[31]

Incidental to this series of interlocking agreements was the licensing of ten projector manufacturers, who were charged a royalty fee of $5 per machine.


Three of the licensees—Vitagraph, George Spoor & Company, and the Armat Motion Picture Company—were inactive. Several others were licensed film manufacturers, including the Selig Polyscope Company, the Lubin Manufacturing Company, the Edison Manufacturing Company, and Kleine's Edengraph Company (manufacturer of the Edengraph projector, which descended from the machine Porter had used and refined at the Eden Musee). Licensing arrangements excluded some small equipment manufacturers and raised barriers to entry into the field. The MPPCo forced the Viascope Company out of business by court action.[32] Licensed projectors were, in theory, only to be used with licensed films, but no mechanism was set up to assure that this would be the case. Perhaps more important, the manufacturers agreed to sell their machines for at least $150 each, assuring an adequate profit margin for everyone concerned. Since profits from projector sales represented a large portion of Edison motion picture profits, the financial value of this arrangement cannot be ignored.[33]

Royalties came from three different areas of the industry (exhibitors, film producers, and equipment manufacturers) and were divided in the following manner:

1. Net royalty figures to be derived by (a) subtracting Vitagraph royalties, $1 per projecting machine manufactured, from total machine royalties, (b) deducting 24 percent from gross exhibitor royalties for distribution to motion picture manufacturers and importers other than Biograph and Edison, and (c) deducting general litigation expenses from film and other royalties

2. Net royalties to be paid for distribution (a) to Edison in an amount equal to "net film royalties," and (b) to Biograph two-thirds and to Armat one-third of the remainder, up to an amount equal to "net film royalties"

3. Any balance after the division indicated above to be paid to Edison, Biograph, and Armat on a basis of one-half, one-third, and one-sixth respectively[34]

The Edison Company maintained its prominence in the new corporation, which its vice-president headed. Edison received the largest portion of the royalties, and the company's products were protected from price wars and other forms of competition it considered undesirable.

Commercial Warfare Within a New Framework

The MPPCo agreements were used as a weapon by licensed producers who wanted to reassert their authority and solidify their dominance of the industry. The renters, the group that had most clearly challenged the producers' commercial hegemony, were forced to assume a subordinate capacity. While rental rates assured them adequate revenues, exchanges had become a convenient in-


termediary between producers and exhibitors. Astute observers already foresaw the day when the production companies would take over distribution by forming their own exchange.[35] The principal opposition to the MPPCo, therefore, came from renters and was centered in Chicago. In a letter to exhibitors, Max Lewis and his Chicago Film Exchange vehemently protested the new arrangements: "We have not and will not sign the outrageous agreement offered to the Film Exchanges, and we positively refuse to connect ourselves with any movement intended to take the profits from you and others who have worked night and day and made the motion picture industry what it is today."[36] D. B. Baker announced: "The Globe Film Service is not going to sign any such contract as that presented by the Motion Picture Patents Company which is all one-sided. And we are certainly going to continue in business." Baker claimed to have a motion picture projecting machine and camera that operated without a sprocket or loop and used principles not covered by the MPPCo patents.[37]

Many renters who took a license were also unhappy. To show his displeasure, Carl Laemmle submitted his license application after the January 20th deadline. This was grounds for exclusion. Although Laemmle was indicating his readiness to strike out independently, the application was accepted. Realizing that "in unity there is strength," Swanson proposed the formation of a Motion Picture Service Company that would purchase as many exchanges as possible and then use its economic clout for the "improvement of rental conditions" and "co-operation with manufacturers for mutual benefit."[38] The organization's purpose was to challenge the power being accrued by the licensed producers. William Swanson, considered a radical in the old FSA, was promptly elected president of the new Film Service Association. Laemmle was elected vice-president. The organization had little power, but the choice of officers indicated the mood among its members. Although the renters recognized that they had to sign with the MPPCo if they wished to continue profitable operations, many voiced hopes that an effective, independent opposition would emerge.[39]

Exhibitors were likewise outraged by the MPPCo's demand for a $2 a week royalty. In Philadelphia 160 of the city's 185 exhibitors organized an association to combat the MPPCo. They contended that "the latest move of the Trust in compelling them to sign an agreement which doubles the rental price and the charging of $2 weekly royalty and the stringent conditions in regard to the licensing of exhibitors" threatened their businesses.[40] A screening of unlicensed films in Chicago was attended by 400 angry showmen, and "it certainly looked as if there wasn't a licensed showman in Chicago."[41] Vaudeville manager Percy Williams refused to take out a license and challenged the Patents Company in the courts. "I have no intention," remarked Williams, "of laying myself open to any royalty demands this moving picture combination chooses to make. I have no assurance that the $2 week fee now exacted will not be shortly advanced."[42] "How paying $100 per year to the film trust would protect me in any way or


increase my business I am unable to see," protested a less prominent midwestern exhibitor.[43] In a full-scale revolt, an estimated 80 percent of the country's motion picture theater managers disapproved of the new arrangement and were ready to join the independents.[44]

Opposition coalesced around several different groups. By early February John J. Murdock, vice-president and general manager of the Western Vaudeville Managers Association and a group of Chicago film men formed the International Projecting and Producing Company.[45] Murdock moved into the void created by Kleine's alliance with the MPPCo. Within a month he had reached agreement with twenty-seven companies in England, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia. The International Projecting and Producing Company claimed to have forty reels of new material available each week, from which it proposed to select twenty-five to thirty reels for release.[46] During late February and March the company showed films in key cities to enlist exhibitors and film exchanges in the independents' cause. In addition, several established film importers, including the Great Northern Film Company and Isaac Ullman's Film Import Trading Company, continued their independent activities.

The Columbia Phonograph Company, Edison's old rival, which had been quiescent in motion picture affairs since C. Francis Jenkins' departure in 1896, again became active. Columbia acquired the patent rights for a camera made by Joseph Bianchi, a former recording expert for the company. Claiming the camera operated on a principle completely different from Edison and Biograph apparatuses, Columbia indicated that it intended to move into production.[47] An alliance between the International Projecting and Producing Company and Columbia was soon being discussed.[48]

The main opposition was to come from a group of Chicago and New York exchange men. Some of these, like the Empire Film Exchange and Chicago Film Exchange, were denied a license. But at the end of February the MPPCo cancelled the licenses of William Swanson's three exchanges.[49] Swanson had been a thorn in the new organization's side, and when the opportunity arose, the MPPCo demonstrated its power and self-confidence by expelling the president of the new FSA.[50] Within a month ten additional exchanges had joined the independents, including those conducted by Robert Bachman and Eugene Cline.[51] On April 12th America's largest renter, Carl Laemmle, informed the MPPCo that he was surrendering his license.[52]

Nonetheless, by early May 75 percent of theaters nationwide were licensed. In many eastern localities licensed theaters exceeded 90 percent of the total. The percentage fell further to the west, and the areas around Chicago were nearly evenly divided, but in the Far West and in the South the MPPCo carried the day. Throughout the country virtually all the leading houses were licensed.[53]

The protracted film war between the independents and the MPPCo is outside


the scope of this study. It is merely important to note that the formation of the MPPCo failed to eliminate competition outside the trust as its members had hoped. The terms Dyer and his associates offered many renters and exhibitors alienated important elements in the film world. Once again there were defectors, and once again a new competitive environment emerged. Many renters, Young Turks who had represented the most dynamic elements of the industry, refused to accept the dominance and regulation of the industry's somewhat older and more established producers. By mid 1909 Carl Laemmle had started the Independent Motion Picture Company, while Adam Kessel and Charles Bauman of the Empire Film Exchange had started the New York Motion Picture Company.[54]

Despite the continued existence of the independents, the Motion Picture Patents Company was able to implement many of its goals and policies. It organized and coordinated all phases of the motion picture business on a systematic, contractual basis, maximizing control and profits in the hands of a select group of producers/owners. The combination did not, however, transform the industry into a thoroughly rationalized modern system. Licensing arrangements permitted an ambiguous relationship between licensee and licensor. Edison's problems with Vitagraph in the late 1890s continued in the MPPCo's dealings with producers, renters, and exhibitors. These groups served their own interests, not those of the licensor. While the MPPCo hoped to control the industry through legal intimidation and by controlling the supply of films, the best it could do was regulate those members who, for the moment at least, saw the alternative as less desirable. The industry had changed radically in ten years, but Edison's attempts to dominate it remained basically the same. The system of management was decentralized, yet depended on the consensus of diverse interests.

Although the MPPCo seemingly assured Thomas Edison of a prominent role in the motion picture industry for many years to come, it also limited the extent to which his company could ever again dominate the industry or dictate terms to rivals. Yet Dyer was able to enhance Edison's reputation or at least avoid any further tarnishing of his "biographical legend." MPPCo policies helped to make motion pictures respectable entertainment for the middle classes. To assure acceptable film subjects, the organization cooperated in the setting up of the National Board of Censorship early in 1909. In theory at least, it also policed licensed houses. Any theater that did not comply with fire laws, that was not clean and as light as proper film projection allowed, was threatened with revocation of its license.[55] MPPCo executives hoped to create an atmosphere in which the film business could be safely and profitably conducted. Likewise, these policies were designed to portray the MPPCo as a benign trust that should not be sued for violation of antitrust laws by the government. This last goal eluded Dyer and the MPPCo, although the others were largely achieved.


The Tale the Ticker Told.

The Porter/Edison Films in Disfavor

As Edison executives were seeking to secure their commercial future through license-related agreements, Edison films were frequently and stridently criticized for their failure to present clear, enjoyable, and effective narratives. The New York Dramatic Mirror , which championed the storytelling methods of Griffith, felt that The Lovers' Telegraph Code (Porter, November 1908) contained "the foundations for a capital comedy . . . although the full possibilities of the situation appear to have been overlooked or awkwardly handled in the construction."[56]Miss Sherlock Holmes (Porter, November 1908) was "an inconsistent and complex story, none too easy to follow, although it is admirably mounted and fairly acted."[57]The Old Maids' Temperance Club (Porter, November 1908) started out "in promising style" but became "flat."[58] One of the most devastating reviews was directed at The Tale the Ticker Told (Dawley and Armitage, December 1908):

This film is a confused, unintelligible series of scenes in which a will, an heir and an heiress, two rivals for a woman's hand, a hunting trip, a bad broker and a good broker, a trip in automobile down Broadway, a scene in the Stock Exchange and a suicide in a broker's office are so mixed up without connection or reason that we can make little headway in figuring out what it is all about. Somehow we divine that one of the rivals puts up a job on the other, gets the worst of it and kills himself. The photography is all right and the scenic qualities are fine, but the story is in an unknown picture language and if one can't understand the story what is the use of all the acting? The tale that this ticker told needs translation.[59]

A Persistent Suitor (Porter, December 1908) "would have been infinitely more humorous if it had been logically and consistently constructed, and if many opportunities for comedy had not been overlooked or carelessly handled."[60]

Positive reviews reiterated the Edison films' usual basic weaknesses by noting


their absence. With An Unexpected Santa Claus (Porter, December 1908), "The Edison Company continues to produce films that are clearly told picture stories, in pleasing contrast to a number issued from the same studio last fall."[61] For Turning Over a New Leaf (Dawley and Armitage, December 1908), Armitage's "camera has been placed closer to the actors than was formerly the Edison practice, thus making identity of the different characters more apparent to the spectators."[62]Where Is My Wandering Boy To-night? (Dawley and Armitage, January 1909)

comes as near to the point of perfection in every essential particular as any subject ever produced by an American company. It lacks every fault that has been apparent heretofore in so many Edison productions. The story, the first and most important consideration in every picture, is simple, consistent and interesting though trite. The characters are introduced distinctly, and their identity is clearly maintained throughout. The scenes follow each other naturally and each tells its part of the story and no more. The acting is done with great feeling, but without being overdrawn. There is not a gesture or movement that appears to be wanting and there is not one too many. The photography is even, and the camera is placed sufficiently close to the actors to make each character always recognizable. Finally the scenic backgrounds are in the usual artistic taste of Edison pictures. In short, the picture is a model that the Edison forces would do well to follow in future work.[63]

This flurry of positive reviews suggests that the Edison films had been bad enough for the Mirror critic to mute many previous criticisms. Certainly this was the case with Moving Picture World , which was careful not to criticize the Edison Company's productions lest its executives withdraw their advertising—along with the advertising of affiliated licensees—as they had done once before.

Edison executives were frustrated by the quality' of their films and wanted to find more qualified personnel. In a letter to the managing director of the Edison Manufacturing Company in Europe, Thomas Graf, Frank Dyer confessed:

In our moving picture business we are very badly handicapped for the lack of skilled camera operators and stage directors. The business has developed to such enormous proportions that it seems to be very difficult to get a good man. Camera men may be found, but to get a good competent stage director, a man with sufficient originality to get up and direct the acting of a picture, seems to be almost hopeless. This is especially true in the case of trick and eccentric pictures. It occurs to me that such a man might be found in Paris, either out of employment or who might be willing to take a better position in this country. The leading manufacturers are there and they must have educated a good many men. I would like to get a first-class man in every respect, one of good intelligence, full of ideas and capable of having them worked out, and especially a man familiar with getting up trick pictures and startling and original effects. For a really good man we could pay $75.00 per week and traveling expenses from


By 1909 film dryers at the Orange, New Jersey, plant had 
gotten larger to handle increased capacity.

Paris, with a guarantee to pay expenses back if unsatisfactory. . . . Time is very essential, as we are being handicapped every day by this defect.[64]

Dyer's letter reveals the depths of his unhappiness and his limited insights into the problem. Like Porter, he did not recognize that the crucial problem involved the construction of narratives that could be readily understood by the spectator.

The commercial basis for Dyer's unhappiness is evident in the superficially impressive figures for film sales during the 1908 business year. Film sales increased 170 percent over the previous business year, from $205,243 to $554,359; profits, however, only increased 97 percent to $230,383. This occurred because the number of productions completed between February 1, 1908, and January 31, 1909—seventy-four in all—quadrupled (increasing expenses), even as the number of prints sold on a per-film basis fell sharply, particularly late in the year as quality declined and the number of films offered by competitors increased.

Dyer and Wilson, unable to locate a foreign director who would solve their production problems, reorganized the Kinetograph Department in January 1909. Porter ceased to make his own productions by mid month and continued


solely as studio manager and head of negative production.[65] Dawley, given a raise to $45, began to make $5 more per week than Armitage. Harry C. Matthews was hired as a stage director at $40 per week and teamed with Henry Cronjager ($25 per week). The director and cameraman no longer received identical wages—an indication that competent directors were not only harder to find but that they were assuming principal responsibility for productions. These two units were based at the Bronx studio, while a third unit was formed (for which George Harrington, William Moulton, and Henry Schneider were hired) and sent to the Twenty-first Street studio to make short comedies.[66] Porter was thus put in a strictly management position.

Dyer introduced a director/unit system of production. The cameraman no longer worked with the stage director but for the film director. There was nothing automatic about this shift. Although the photographer and stage director had different responsibilities, they could have easily retained co-equal status. And yet, the director needed to be in closer consultation with the studio head than the cameraman. Story and script, actors and sets—all the "non-filmic" elements—were his responsibility. We know, for example, that Porter collaborated with Dawley on the script for The Star of Bethlehem (March 1909). The move to a multi-unit production system with a supervising producer thus encouraged the emergence of the director as unit head. An efficiently run studio with a well-established hierarchy as well as clear lines of authority and accountability required the implementation of the director system.

The reorganization of production occurring in the industry at this time was primarily a move from the collaborative system to a director-unit system rather than, as Janet Staiger has suggested, from a cameraman system to a director system.[67] Such a shift had occurred at Vitagraph early in 1907, where there were three collaborative teams: J. Stuart Blackton, Albert E. Smith, and Jim French (their senior employee) each acted as cameraman for one of the units and worked closely with stage directors (including William Ranous). A reorganization took place when Smith left for Europe. French was charged with managing the studio operations. Blackton assumed the role of production head and oversaw the work of the three directors, and the three directors had cameramen in their charge. The shift to a director-unit system came about because a military-type model of command facilitated the management of a large and growing studio.

The shift at Vitagraph gives us insight into the transition occurring two years later at Edison's Bronx studio. While documentation is scanty, the Edison Company was in the midst of a tortuous transitional phase: the director-unit system was emerging but not yet fully established. Moreover, Porter, who felt awkward handling actors, was not adept at giving orders and delegating authority, a necessity for any manager who hoped to run a multi-unit studio successfully. In short, he was still committed to a collaborative mode of work. Moreover, he


was unhappy with the frenetic pace of production necessitated by the mass entertainment system. The studio manager "always believed that the bane of the producer was the turning loose of so many reels a week, on certain days, regardless entirely of surrounding circumstances." This did not allow "sufficient time to do those things which ought to be done and to avoid those things which ought not to be done."[68]

The extent of this shift to the director-unit system can easily be exaggerated. The cameraman retained a large amount of authority. He developed the negative and still edited the picture. On the other hand, the increased rate of production resulted in the creation of a script department. In late January 1909 Stanner E. V. Taylor, who had scripted Griffith's The Adventures of Dollie , was hired at $35 a week to form it. While Alex T. Moore remained as manager of the Kinetograph Department (still making $100 per week), he was increasingly squeezed between Porter on one hand and Wilson on the other. Negative film production, of course, was only one of many departments under Wilson. These also included equipment manufacturing, the production of release prints, and sales.

While Porter concentrated on his job as studio head, Edison films continued to be greeted with frequent complaints. A few films received mild praise, but most were strongly criticized. Drawing the Color Line (January 1909) "is very well carried out, although it might have been made stronger if the different situations had been properly led up to."[69]Pagan and Christian (Dawley, January 1909) was "a beautifully elaborate production that may find more popularity in lecture course entertainments than in regular picture houses." Made at the height of the censorship crisis in New York City, the film dealt with a commendable theme, but "the story is somewhat obscure in its details and drags in the action."[70]A Bachelor's Supper (Dawley, February 1909) was criticized for "the unnatural manner in which the story is worked out."[71]The Saleslady's Matinee Idol (Dawley, February 1909) was condemned because "the producers do not appear to have realized the value of their best scenes—at least they have failed to make the most of them and have introduced other scenes that are either confusing or inconsistent." The critic again emphasized the absence of effective intercutting: "If short scenes had alternated back and forth between the stage and the balcony, showing the progress on the stage and the effect on the balcony audience concurrently, the effect would have been greatly increased."[72] This is precisely what Griffith did in A Drunkard's Reformation , which he began to film a few days after this review appeared.

The criticisms leveled at the Edison films were applied to productions by other companies as well. After listing several specific failings in a potentially excellent production, a review of Selig's Love and Law concluded, "A few titles would have cleared up some of the obscurity, but care in construction, to make sure that the story would be conveyed easily to all spectators, would have been


better."[73] With The Castaways , Vitagraph was chided because "the scenes of the story are disconnected and give the impression of being hastily strung together."[74] Many films, however, received a positive response. Biograph continued to enjoy the most frequent kudos, but Woods often praised subjects like Kalem's The Girl at the Mill and used them to illustrate his points—in this instance that "it is the simple, uncomplicated story, if well told, that gives the best results in moving pictures."[75]

The dissatisfaction with Edison productions came from many quarters. In early February, Jonathan M. Bradlet, who had written several scenarios for the Edison Company, wrote Frank Dyer a polite letter outlining a few criticisms of specific films:

It appears to me, that in several of your productions, the studio does not pay enough attention to the distribution of the light. For instance in "KING'S PARDON "the top light is entirely too strong, it is difficult to see the features of the Judge sitting at the high bench, while the faces of the other persons, sitting below the Judge, in a less strong light, are visible.

Your studio grows a little careless in the details, for instance, in "UNDER THE NORTHERN SKIES " the supposed murdered man is a too willing corpse. He steadies himself on his legs and gently passes his arm over the shoulders of the man carrying him away.

You would be surprised to see how the spectators pay some attention to these little details. When a man is supposed to be dead, they want him to appear dead and not to help himself.

With these two cases you can ask Mr. Porter to put more care.[76]

In a postscript to his letter, Bradlet voiced sympathy for Porter's predicament. "I do not blame Mr. Porter but the foolish exhibitors refusing to show repeaters and forcing the Manufacturers to produce too much," explained Bradlet. "If repeaters could be shown you would sell more copies; as there would not be such a tremendous demand for new subjects, the producers would have more time to take care of the details of the new productions." But other companies operated under the same constraints with better success. When an Edison sales representative went on a business trip, he wrote the home office, "I can sell machines but film is out of the question. Our films are being roasted everywhere, particularly the short subjects at 21st St Studio and you know they are not what they should be."[77]

By late February, Edison executives were thoroughly disenchanted with Porter and the films he was producing. Some of these faults can be seen in a surviving fragment of The Uplifting of Mr. Barker (Dawley, February 1909).[78] The actors are heavily made up and their exaggerated gestures often have no clear meaning. This acting style may have been encouraged by a distant camera that reduced the actors to quite small proportions in the frame. The sets and actors are presented frontally, the lighting is fiat and the performers seem more like cartoon characters than real people. Scenes are often drawn out. Even the


The Uplifting of Mr. Barker.

surviving fragment supports the Dramatic Mirror's suggestion that "a pair of shears judiciously used on the film would have improved it."[79] In one scene at a society ball, Mr. Barker fights with his daughters' two escorts and pushes them into a fountain. How this comes about is unclear and there is a long exchange between the three that is impossible to decipher even after repeated viewings. The Mirror's critic may have been generous when he said the film is "funny only in spots."[80]

Films that were completed but not yet released would receive even more negative assessments. The Landlady's Portrait (Matthews, February 1909) was "a mixed-up 'comic' without point or story and we must confess our inability to find in it a single excuse for a laugh."[81]A Bird in a Gilded Cage (Matthews, February 1909) was "greatly weakened by faulty construction, aimless action and the omission of necessary connecting scenes or subtitle."[82]The Colored Stenographer (Matthews, February 1909) was condemned because "there is in this subject so much aimless action, having no apparent connection with the story, that a really good comedy idea is obscured and weakened. We can liken it only to a writer who starts out to tell a certain tale and who continually


digresses to tell little side stories of no interest, and only calculated to draw attention away from the main issue."[83]Mary Jane's Lovers (Matthews, February 1909) was "another good comedy idea weakened by bad handling."[84]A Midnight Supper (Matthews, February 1909) was "certainly not the kind of work the Edison company should be offering to the public," and Love is Blind (Matthews, February 1909) was "not much better handled" and "whatever point there is to the subject is lost in the hurried action."[85] Edison films were being constantly attacked for the incoherence of their narratives.

Porter Is Demoted

Frank Dyer and other Edison executives screened and approved all completed productions prior to distribution: they were well aware of their films' continued deficiencies. By late February, as Dyer prepared to expand the Kinetograph Department to four production units (three in the Bronx), he concluded that a new head of negative production was needed. On February 26th he accordingly removed the maker of The Great Train Robbery from his position as studio manager. John Pelzer, manager of sales, was temporarily placed in charge of the studio. Porter was sent on a trip to Savannah, Georgia, with James White who had been rehired in December 1908. The reunited makers of Life of an American Fireman filmed A Road to Love; or, Romance of a Yankee Engineer in Central America (March 1909), a film that was "pleasing notwithstanding the apparent carelessness with which it was produced."[86] After his Georgia sojourn, Porter judiciously stayed away from the Bronx studio, making The Doctored Dinner Pail , a comedy trick film in the French style, at East Orange during mid March.

Meanwhile, Dyer had located a new studio chief, his friend Horace G. Plimpton—a carpet dealer.[87] On Saturday March 27th, Wilson announced that Plimpton would become manager of negative production (for $100 a week) and John Pelzer would return to his duties as manager of sales. Edwin Porter would act as photographic expert under Plimpton's direction. Alex T. Moore resigned—or was dismissed. Later characterized by some as lazy, Moore was not needed at Edison and did not continue in film production. A memo was circulated to various departments elaborating on these changes:


Regarding the attached notice, in order that there may be no conflicting authority between the respective departments, it is to be understood that Mr. Plimpton will have entire charge of and be responsible for the production of all negatives until they are turned over to the Orange factory for printing.

Mr. Porter, acting under Mr. Plimpton's directions, will give such advice regarding negative production and questions relating thereto as his experience may suggest, and


A Road to Love; or, Romance of a Yankee Engineer, made by Porter and White 
outside the studio system in March 1909.

will do such other special photographic work as may be possible; and when requested by Mr. Weber, shall investigate and make any recommendations concerning the Orange plant and our machines and output. He will act solely as a consulting and advisory man.

Mr. Pelzer, as Manager of Sales, will confine himself to the selling end of the business, and Mr. Farrell shall act as his assistant. Mr. Jameson [sic ] will be the foreman of the Printing and Developing Plant.

It is hoped that all departments will co-operate cheerfully and in a friendly spirit to advance and improve the quality of Edison pictures.
Frank L. Dyer

Although Dyer and Wilson thus reduced Porter's role to that of consultant, he retained his substantial salary of $75 a week.

Under Horace Plimpton, the Bronx studio continued to expand, and its production procedures were increasingly systematized. A unit-director system with clear lines of authority emerged. In March 1909 Plimpton added a third unit at the Bronx studio, with Maurice George Winterbert St. Loup ($60 per week) as director and Otis M. Gove ($35 per week), who had earlier worked at Biograph, as cameraman.[89] In May, St. Loup was let go, and William F. Haddock ($40 per week) replaced George Harrington at the Twenty-first Street studio. In early June a fourth director, Ashley Miller ($40 per week), and a fourth cameraman,


Staff at Edison's Bronx studio, ca. 1909-10. The four directors sit in front
 (Ashley Miller on left, Dawley with cigar).

C. L. Gregory ($25 per week), were hired. The number of production units had quadrupled in the space of a year. This was made possible by the enlargement of the Bronx studio, a process begun in 1908 and completed by mid 1909. All regular production was eventually centralized in the Bronx.

During most of his time at Edison, Porter had served simultaneously as cameraman, director, studio manager, film editor, negative developer, and equipment designer. By mid 1909 the Kinetograph Department had developed a highly specialized and hierarchical structure. Under Plimpton were four directors (Dawley, Haddock, Miller, and Matthews) and four cameramen (Cronjager, Armitage, Gove, and Gregory). Plimpton created a camera department headed by Armitage, who coordinated or reassigned such tasks as negative development and editing.[90] It was not until late January 1910 that Edison hired its first film editor—Bert Dawley, J. Searle Dawley's brother. Following Plimpton's arrival, additional actors were hired on a full-time basis, including William Sorelle, Edward Boulden, John Steppling, Herbert E. Bostwick, and Laura Sawyer. The stock company was well established, and the basic elements of the studio system were in place.

Although publicity coming from the MPPCo and the Edison Company continually emphasized the increasing expense of their films, documentation suggests differently. Edison executives kept precise accounts for each film, totaled


the expenses of each director, and compared the results on a monthly basis. The average negative cost varied from $1.28 per foot for Dawley in June 1909 (inflated by the cost of one film, The Prince and the Pauper ) to $.30 per foot for Haddock in October. The average cost per negative foot was $.508 (just over $500 to produce a one-reel film) for June—October 1909, a reduction of 37 percent over the cost of a negative foot for 1906 ($.81).[91] Moreover, the average cost per negative foot declined over the course of the June—October period. By mid 1909 Plimpton had set up rigorous cost controls and other forms of accountability by director. If their units performed poorly either as to production costs or production results, the directors were chastised. If the problem persisted, they were replaced—as Matthews was replaced by Frank McGlynn in August 1909.[92] Despite these efforts to control costs and improve quality, the Edison Company's performance remained disappointing. Although the number of Edison productions increased almost threefold from 1908 to 1909, film sales increased only 22 percent from $554,359 to $675,306. Fewer prints of more subjects were being sold. With film profits remaining virtually unchanged at $234,798, much more energy was being used to attain the same financial results.

The Edison studio was operated like a factory. Creative personnel made templates or negatives of selected subjects as inexpensively as possible. This process involved the highly coordinated efforts of many specialists (actors, set designers, cameramen), who worked with several separate units, each of which was the responsibility of managers (the directors). These unit managers reported to and worked with one head supervisor (Plimpton). The negative was developed and a positive copy of each film was assembled by the camera department (headed by Armitage). The picture was screened for quality control in West Orange by a select group of executives—including, in principle at least, Thomas Edison. Once approved, multiple copies were printed up and assembled according to specification in West Orange by low-paid workers. Clearly the cinema had undergone a radical transformation from the days, just ten years earlier, when each exhibitor selected his own one-shot films and ordered them in a way that satisfied his own sense of authorship. By mid 1909, Edison executives were applying many principles of scientific management to film production.[93]

Porter's situation after his demotion was a delicate one. Above and beyond its formal regulation of the industry, the MPPCo provided a framework within which licensed manufacturers reached informal or secret understandings and acted in concert. Manufacturers agreed not to hire personnel away from other licensed producers, nor to hire those that had been discharged for "justified reasons" or simply left. Sidney Olcott, for instance, was dismissed by Kalem in April of 1909 because, according to Frank Marion, "he had a notion that all the manufacturers were clamouring for his services and was therefore beyond all criticism from us." "I don't know that you have a notion of taking him on, but if so I trust you will appreciate that it would have a very bad effect on the


discipline of our establishment," Frank Marion told Dyer. "I suppose this can come well within the defines of our mutual understanding as to employees."[94] Dyer, who desperately needed just such a director, nonetheless reassured Marion by return mail. Olcott, Dyer acknowledged, would be useful, but "the belief that they can leave us at will" could not in any way be encouraged.[95] In the case of Olcott, the director was properly chastened and soon rejoined Kalem in his old capacity. Directors, actors, and other production personnel had to look beyond Edison-affiliated producers for an increase in salary, recognition, or a more sympathetic employer. These restrictions applied to Porter, too.

Porter's continued Edison employment at a good salary may have been designed to discourage him from leaving and joining the independents. Although newly formed independent companies would have benefited from Porter's years of experience, the veteran filmmaker may have been reluctant to join them too precipitously, since their future was so unpredictable. Rather Porter spent his next six months at Edison working on a series of miscellaneous projects. Some of his time was devoted to testing film stock—particularly a nonflammable stock developed by Eastman Kodak. "After making several tests of the new Eastman negative and positive film, we find the speed, quality and action during the course of operation is about the same as our present film," he concluded. "The texture of the stock is much harder and not so flexible and do not think it will stand the wear and tear as our old, but this can only be determined by time."[96] Porter's reservations about the new Eastman stock soon proved accurate. When the nonflammable film was put on the market, renters protested that it wore out very quickly and they could not recoup their costs. Porter, moreover, may have devoted some time to refining the projecting kinetoscope. Although kinetoscope sales for 1908 had declined 18 percent from the previous year to $341,848, they still represented almost 40 percent of the Edison Manufacturing Company's film-related business.

Porter also made a handful of films outside the studio system. In May he directed a comedy, The $10,000 Painting , shot by Armitage and released on June 25th as An Affair of Art . For whatever reasons, this film was not well received. "Oh, Great Edison, what horrors are perpetuated in thy name!" commented the Dramatic Mirror . "This picture is pretty nearly the worst excuse for comedy we have ever seen on a screen."[97] In August, Porter was sent out west for two months (what better way to keep him away from the independents!); he filmed a "fruit industrial" and Bear Hunt in the Rockies in Marble, Colorado. Bear Hunt , his last Edison film, was released on January 11, 1910, and received a generally warm reception:

This fine film has educational as well as some dramatic value. It depicts with fidelity what appears to be a real bear hunt in the Rocky Mountains. The natural scenery is superb, and the bear is a sure enough bear. A considerable party sets out on the hunt on horseback, and with pack horses conveying their camp material. In the party are


two ladies—actor ladies evidently, as they fail at times to conceal their professional training. One of them goes fishing, and is having luck, when a bear appears. She pretends to be frightened and starts to run, but in front of the camera comes the fatal desire to pose, and we realize that the danger from the bear is mere pretense. When she arrives at the camp she again poses, facing the camera, while she tells her experience to those standing behind her. The dogs are now called, and the bear is pursued, treed and shot. We are mercifully spared a scene showing the details of butchering. Later a cub is roped, and led home by the party. Taken as a whole, the film is decidedly entertaining.[98]

Porter's last Edison film recalls one of his first—Terrible Teddy, the Grizzly King —and one of his favorites—The "Teddy" Bears .

Although Porter and White were permitted to operate outside the studio system with minimum resources, they remained only as relics of a bygone era. Porter's methods of production and representation were at odds with developments both at Edison and in the industry as a whole. This awkward situation did not endure. Perhaps Porter was in contact with the increasingly active independents, or was finally judged expendable. In any case, on November 10th Horace Plimpton notified others that Edwin S. Porter and his assistant William J. Gilroy were being dismissed.[99] A few days later they were off the payroll. Though considered America's leading filmmaker in the era before the nickelodeon, Porter had been fired.


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