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1— Introduction

1. The details of the imaginary Josiah's imaginary excursions accord with the numerous descriptions of moving picture theatres that I have encountered in the trade press. Particularly interesting is a report written by New York City's Commissioner of Accounts Raymond B. Fosdick for Mayor William J. Gaynor (see "Report on New York Picture Theatres," Motography , April 1911, pp. 27-30). [BACK]

2. The term performance has multiple and varied uses/meanings outside the discipline of cinema studies. In "'All the World's a Stage': Performance as Interdisciplinary Tool," a paper presented at the 1989 meeting of the International Communications Association, San Francisco, Barbie Zelizer outlines three usual meanings of the term in academic research: (1) " Performance qua performance offers the most defined frame for academic research interests, with the most identifiable boundaries. It is a performance of Les Misérables or a Jackson Pollock painting"; (2) " Performance as social interaction is a less-defined spatial and temporal frame, as in . . . street-performative activity." Here Zelizer refers to the early work of Erving Goffman ( Behavior in Public Places [Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1959] and The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life [Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1959]); (3) " Performance as sociocultural structure becomes even more spatially and temporally diffuse." Here Zelizer refers to the "social dramas" of Victor Turner ( The Ritual Process [Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1969] and Dramas, Fields, Metaphors [Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1974]), to the "definitional ceremonies of anthropologists" such as Barbara Myerhoff ( Number Our Days [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980]), and to "the wide-ranging, and potentially amorphous, culture-in-action" of Clifford Geertz ( The Interpretation of Cultures [New York: Basic Books, 1973] and Local Knowledge [New York: Basic Books, 1983). Obviously, the second and third categories are not unrelated to the first, and discussions of cinematic acting may indeed benefit from broadening the scope of inquiry to include such uses of the term. In this book, however, I shall, for pragmatic purposes, use the term performance interchangeably with the term acting , thus skirting the theoretical quagmires and endless qualifications that would result from the broader usage. [BACK]

3. Dyer, Stars , p. 151. [BACK]

4. One cannot, of course, ignore V. I. Pudovkin's classic treatise, Film Technique and Film Acting . But Pudovkin's work remains of limited use for film historians and theoreticians because it is primarily addressed to practitioners. He was concerned not with a general theory of performance but with teaching actors and directors to emulate a distinct style of performance in a distinct style of film, that is, with adapting Stanislavski's principles to the Soviet cinema of montage. For those concerned with the history of performance style in the Soviet cinema, however, Pudovkin's work would prove invaluable. Similarly, books such as Edward Dmytryk and Jean Porter Dmytryk's On Screen Acting constitute valuable evidence for investigating performance style in the classical Hollywood cinema. My discussion in this book draws on both theatrical and cinematic period instruction manuals. [BACK]

5. One manifestation of this interest is the ever-lengthening list of books, which includes Eileen Bowser, The Transformation of Cinema, 1907-1915 (New York: Scribner's Sons, 1990); Richard deCordova, Picture Personalities: The Emergence of the Star System in America (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990); Thomas Elsaesser and Adam Barker, eds., Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative (London: British Film Institute, 1990); Tom Gunning, D. W. Griffith and the Origins of American Narrative Film (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991); Miriam Hansen, Babel and Babylon: Spectatorship in American Silent Film (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990); Charles Musser, The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907 (New York: Scribner's Sons, 1990), High-Class Moving Pictures: Lyman H. Howe and the Forgotten Era of Traveling Exhibition, 1880-1920 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), Before the Nickelodeon: Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991); Charles Musser and Paolo Cherchi-Usai, eds., American Vitagraph (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, forthcoming); and William Uricchio and Roberta E. Pearson, Cultural Crisis, Cultural Cure? The Case of the Vitagraph "High-Art" Moving Pictures (Princeton: Princeton University Press, forthcoming). [BACK]

6. While few have written about film performance as Dyer narrowly defined it, the field of performance/acting, broadly defined to encompass such subjects as stars, the institution of stardom and audience reception, embraces a bewildering variety of concerns. During the 1980s several articles appeared that relate to actors, stars, and performance/acting. Two respected film journals, Wide Angle and Screen , have devoted entire issues to the theme, including articles on Joan Crawford's sleeves and Jimmy Stewart's publicity photographs (Charles Wolfe, "The Return of Jimmy Stewart: The Publicity Photograph as Text," and Charlotte Cornelia Herzog and Jane Gaines, "Puffed Sleeves Before Teatime," both in Wide Angle 6:4 (1985): 44-53 and 24-33); and on sexual politics in the films of Katherine Hepburn (Simon Watney, "Katherine Hepburn and the Cinema of Chastisement," Screen 26:5 [September-October 1985]: 52-63). A similarly eclectic collection can be found in Bisplinghoff, "On Acting: A Selected Bibliography." More recently, CineAction! , the Canadian film journal of avowedly leftist goals, published an issue on stardom (No. 7, December 1988). [BACK]

7. Affron, Star Acting , pp. 7, 9. [BACK]

8. Ibid., p. 9. [BACK]

9. Dyer, Stars , p. 152. [BACK]

10. See Gunning, "D. W. Griffith and the Narrator System." [BACK]

11. Ibid., p. 162. [BACK]

12. Ibid., p. 745. [BACK]

13. Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass (New York: New American Library, 1960), p. 186. [BACK]

14. On the misuse of melodrama , see Merritt, "Melodrama: Postmortem for a Phantom Genre." [BACK]

15. Thompson, "Beyond Commutation," 74. [BACK]

16. Frank Woods, "Spectator's Comments," The New York Dramatic Mirror , December 28, 1910, pp. 28-29.

17. Advertisement, ibid., December 13, 1913, p. 36. [BACK]

16. Frank Woods, "Spectator's Comments," The New York Dramatic Mirror , December 28, 1910, pp. 28-29.

17. Advertisement, ibid., December 13, 1913, p. 36. [BACK]

18. Colgate Baker, "David W. Griffith: The Genius of the Movies," in D. W. Griffith Clipping Files, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center (henceforth, DWG Clipping Files). [BACK]

19. Hettie Grey Baker, "The Man Who Made the Movies," in DWG Clipping Files. [BACK]

20. Denig, "Watching the Screen." [BACK]

21. Kristin Thompson, in Bordwell, Staiger, and Thompson, eds., The Classical Hollywood Cinema , p. 190. [BACK]

22. "Notable Films of the Week," Moving Picture World , April 24, 1909, p. 515. [BACK]

23. Ibid., May 29, 1909, p. 712. [BACK]

24. "High Art in Picture Making," New York Dramatic Mirror , May 1, 1909, p. 38. At almost the same time, the Mirror negatively characterized much of the acting in pre-1909 Vitagraph films; reviewing Vitagraph's new The Life Drama of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Empress Josephine of France , the Mirror said, "There is none of the hasty action which has marred so many previous Vitagraph subjects, but each character moves with natural feeling and effective restraint that distinguishes the high-class actor from the melodramatic" (April 17, 1909, p. 13). This review provides further evidence that, though other studios quickly began to move toward the new style, Biograph may have led the way. [BACK]

25. Lux Graphicus, "On the Screen," Moving Picture World , July 3, 1909, p. 11. [BACK]

26. See Graham, Higgins, Mancini, and Vieira, Griffith and the Biograph , pp. 6-7. [BACK]

27. Further research into this period for another project has convinced me that Biograph did indeed play a leading role in the transformation of acting style. Briefly, my impression is that Biograph was among the first, if not the first, American studio to switch to the new style. But European films, particularly those of Pathé, which the trade press touted as an exemplar of performance style, may also have been influential. [BACK]

28. The 1987 Vitagraph retrospective at the Giornate del Cinema Muto, in Pordenone, Italy, has proved something of a corrective, initiating the focus of scholarly attention on the output of another studio. Two books, at least, had their origin at the retrospective. See Musser and Cherchi-Usai, eds., American Vitagraph , and Uricchio and Pearson, Cultural Crisis, Cultural Cure? [BACK]

29. Eileen Bowser, ed., Biograph Bulletins, 1908-1912 . [BACK]

30. See, for example, Linda Arvidson, When the Movies Were Young; Pickford, Sunshine and Shadow; Gish, The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me; and Brown, Adventures with Griffith . [BACK]

31. See Gunning, D. W. Griffith and the Narrator System , and Graham, Higgins, Mancini, and Vieira, eds., Griffith and the Biograph . [BACK]

32. Allen, Vaudeville and Film , p. 212. [BACK]

33. Ibid., p. 213. The increase in dramatic films, as opposed to actualities (early documentaries) or comedies, is of particular significance because this project focuses only on acting in dramatic films. An investigation of comic performance style during this period would require another monograph, given the profound differences between comic and dramatic performance styles. On this point see Naremore, Acting in the Cinema , pp. 76-77. [BACK]

34. Musser, "Another Look at the Chaser Theory," p. 49. [BACK]

35. Ibid., p. 40. [BACK]

36. Allen, "Looking at 'Another Look at the Chaser Theory,'" p. 49. [BACK]

37. Gunning, D. W. Griffith and the Narrator System , pp. 126-27. [BACK]

38. Musser, "Nickelodeon," pp. 4-11. [BACK]

39. Ibid., p. 6. [BACK]

40. Ibid., p. 10. [BACK]

41. Gunning, D. W. Griffith and the Narrator System , p. 59. [BACK]

42. deCordova, "The Emergence of the Star System in America," Wide Angle 6:4 (1985): 5. [BACK]

43. deCordova, "The Emergence of the Star System in America: An Examination of the Institutional and Ideological Function of the Star" (Diss., University of California, 1986), p. 88. [BACK]

44. deCordova, "Emergence of the Star System," 5. [BACK]

45. Musser, "The Changing Status of the Film Actor," pp. 57-62. [BACK]

46. On this point, see Staiger, "Blueprints for Feature Films," pp. 173-94. [BACK]

47. Bordwell, Staiger, and Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema , p. 190. [BACK]

48. deCordova, "Emergence of the Star System," diss., p. 168. [BACK]

49. Ibid., p. 185. [BACK]

2— The Theatrical Heritage

1. Schickel, D. W. Griffith , p. 110. [BACK]

2. Ibid., p. 154. [BACK]

3. Ibid., p. 151, quoting a review by Frank Woods. [BACK]

4. As more and more film scholars become fascinated with this early period, the literature is proliferating rapidly. A good introduction to the pre-1908 period is Fell, ed., Film Before Griffith . [BACK]

5. Staiger, "The Eyes Are Really the Focus," 15. [BACK]

6. Bennett and Woollacott, Bond and Beyond , pp. 6-7. [BACK]

7. Culler, The Pursuit of Signs , p. 103. [BACK]

8. Bennett and others would argue, correctly I believe, that the reader has no more independent existence than the text and that a true investigation of the production and reception of meaning must account for texts, intertexts, readers, and the context of a particular historical moment. In this book, however, I cannot deal in detail with the reception of performance style by the original audiences for these films. The lack of historical data and the theoretical difficulties entailed renders the investigation of the reception of the early silent cinema, or, indeed, any cinema, extremely problematic. In Chapter 7 of this book, I shall use evidence from the trade press to suggest how performance in the Griffith Biographs may have been received by a particular segment of the audience. In another project, I am attempting to develop a preliminary methodology that permits discussion of the conditions of reception for the early American cinema; see Uricchio and Pearson, Cultural Crisis, Cultural Cure? [BACK]

9. On the process of encoding and decoding, see Stuart Hall, "Encoding and Decoding," in Stuart Hall, Dorothy Hobson, Andrew Lowe, and Paul Willis, eds., Culture, Media, Language: Working Papers in Cultural Studies, 1972-79 (London: Hutchinson Education, 1980), pp. 128-38. Because I am defining the codes here as shared intertextual frameworks, I am ruling out investigating the kinds of preferred, negotiated, or oppositional readings theorized by Hall and others such as John Fiske. Again, I cannot fully investigate the reception of performance style. [BACK]

10. For recent discussions of this highly codified performance style see Dyer, Stars , 155-56; Naremore, Acting in the Cinema , pp. 51-60, and Susan Roberts, "Melodramatic Performance Signs," Framework nos. 32/33 (1986): 68-74. For the best historical surveys of nineteenth-century acting, see Downer, "Players and Painted Stage," and West, "The London Stage." For an attempt to apply a semiotic model to the performance of Shakespearean plays see Marvin Rosenberg, "Sign Theory and Shakespeare," Shakespeare Survey Annual 40 (1987): 33-40. [BACK]

11. Downer, "Players and Painted Stage," 574. [BACK]

12. Anonymous, The Art of Acting, or, Guide to the Stage: In Which the Dramatic Passions are Defined, Analyzed, and Made Easy of Acquirement (New York: Samuel French, 1855), p. 16. [BACK]

13. Stebbins, Delsarte's System of Expression , p. 429. [BACK]

14. Ibid. [BACK]

15. Morgan, An Hour with Delsarte , p. 91. [BACK]

16. Eco, A Theory of Semiotics , p. 231. [BACK]

17. Metz, Language and Cinema , p. 131. [BACK]

18. The concept of an idiolect is a vexed one among linguists. See Roland Barthes, Elements of Semiology , pp. 21-22. [BACK]

19. Steele MacKaye, unpublished lecture, quoted in Morris, "The Influence of Delsarte in America," p. 35. [BACK]

20. The New York publishing firm of Edgar S. Werne specialized in Delsartism, flooding the market with instruction books. See, for example, Elsie N. Wilbor, ed., Delsarte Recitation Book and Directory , 2nd edition, 1883. [BACK]

21. Zorn, The Essential Delsarte , p. 164. [BACK]

22. Bill Nichols, "Glossary," in Nichols, ed., Movies and Methods , p. 629. [BACK]

23. Barthes, Elements of Semiology , p. 529. [BACK]

24. Nichols, Movies and Methods , p. 629. [BACK]

25. Pavis, "Problems of a Semiology of Theatrical Gesture," p. 71. [BACK]

26. A. J. Greimas, quoted in Brooks, The Melodramatic Imagination , p. 70.

27. Brooks, ibid., p. 71. [BACK]

26. A. J. Greimas, quoted in Brooks, The Melodramatic Imagination , p. 70.

27. Brooks, ibid., p. 71. [BACK]

28. Barthes, Elements of Semiology , p. 64. Eco, however, disputes the primacy of the verbal. "It is true that every content expressed by a verbal unit can be translated into another verbal unit; it is true that the greater part of the content expressed in non-verbal units can also be translated into verbal units; but it is likewise true that there are many contents expressed by complex non-verbal units which cannot be translated into one or more verbal units (other than by a very weak approximation) (Eco, A Theory of Semiotics , p. 173). I suspect that gestures can be much more readily translated into words than such other semiotic systems as music or painting. Interestingly enough, however, Eco supports his point by referring to Wittgenstein's realization of the inadequacy of words to convey the "meaning" of a "certain Neapolitan gesture" (p. 173). It is, of course, possible that Wittgenstein was simply being overly polite. [BACK]

29. I am not arguing that the histrionic code is actually a digital "language." Clearly, the gestures of the histrionic code, unlike the basic elements of digital forms of communication, do not derive their meaning from their opposition to other elements within a series. Nonetheless, the resemblance of the histrionic code to such digital forms facilitates the development of the analytic model that I present here. [BACK]

30. Fowle Adams, Gesture and Pantomimic Action , p. 43. [BACK]

31. Smith, "The Melodrama," p. 321. [BACK]

32. Boucicault made this remark in a lecture delivered July 29, 1882, which is included in his Art of Acting , p. 35. [BACK]

33. Ibid., p. 33. [BACK]

34. On opposition in natural language, see Barthes, Elements of Semiology , pp. 78-86. [BACK]

35. Garcia, The Actor's Art , p. 51. [BACK]

36. Boucicault, Art of Acting , p. 31 (brackets and emphasis in the original). [BACK]

37. Garcia, The Actor's Art , p. 60. [BACK]

38. Fredericks, The Stage and Histrionic Education , p. 1. [BACK]

39. T. S. Eliot, "Gus the Theatre Cat," in Eliot, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats , p. 42. [BACK]

40. Todorov, The Poetics of Prose , p. 83. [BACK]

41. Barthes, "The Realistic Effect," p. 134. [BACK]

42. Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981), p. 82 (emphasis in original). [BACK]

43. Health, The Nouveau Roman , p. 20. [BACK]

44. Charlton Andrews, "Stage Realism," The New York Dramatic Mirror , May 29, 1912, p. 5. [BACK]

45. James, "The Real Thing," in The Portable Henry James , pp. 102-36. [BACK]

46. James, "The Art of Fiction," in ibid., p. 397. [BACK]

47. Williams, The Long Revolution , p. 48. [BACK]

48. See Auerbach, Mimesis , for a discussion of various aspects of the emergence of literary realism. [BACK]

49. The secondary sources on literary realism I have consulted include George J. Becker, "Modern Realism as a Literary Movement," in Becker, ed., Documents of Literary Realism; Pizer, Realism and Naturalism; Kolb, The Illusion of Life; and D. A. Williams, The Monster in the Mirror .

For good discussions of the various meanings of realism see the entry in Raymond Williams, Keywords , and his "A Lecture on Realism." [BACK]

50. W. D. Howells, "The Editor's Study," Harper's Monthly 72 (May 1886), p. 972. [BACK]

51. James, "The Author of Beltraffio," in Eight Tales From the Major Phase , p. 60. [BACK]

52. Ibid., p. 229. [BACK]

53. James, "Art of Fiction," in Portable Henry James , p. 389. [BACK]

54. Benson, "Realism in Fiction," p. 605. [BACK]

55. Perry, A Study in Prose Fiction , pp. 222-23. [BACK]

56. Barthes, "The Realistic Effect," p. 133. [BACK]

57. Ibid., p. 134 (emphasis in original). [BACK]

58. Howells, "The Editor's Study," p. 972. [BACK]

59. James, "Art of Fiction," in Portable Henry James , p. 401 (emphasis in original). [BACK]

60. I am distinguishing between dramatic and theatrical realism. Dramatic refers to the play text and theatrical refers to the production/performance. The two are not necessarily synonymous. A realist text could have a non-realist production, and, as was often the case with the melodrama, a non-realist text could have a realist production. [BACK]

61. Walkley, Drama and Life , p. 36. [BACK]

62. Calder, "What's Wrong with the American Stage?" p. 80. [BACK]

63. Ibid., p. 81. [BACK]

64. August Strindberg, "Naturalism in the Theatre," preface to 1888 edition of Miss Julie , in Becker, Documents , p. 398. [BACK]

65. Calder, "What's Wrong," p. 80. [BACK]

66. McArthur, Actors and American Culture: 1880-1920 , p. 172. [BACK]

67. Chaney, "The Failure of the American Producer," p. 6. [BACK]

68. Ibid. [BACK]

69. Andrews, "Stage Realism," p. 5. [BACK]

70. West, "The London Stage," p. 33. [BACK]

71. Albert Goldie, "Subtlety in Acting," The New York Dramatic Mirror , November 13, 1912, p. 4. [BACK]

72. Downer, "Players and Painted Stage," p. 562. [BACK]

73. Henry Irving, "The Art of Acting," in Cole and Chinoy, eds., Actors on Acting , pp. 358 and 359. [BACK]

74. "Irving as Becket," New York Daily Tribune , November 9, 1893, reprinted in Young, Famous Actors and Actresses of the American Stage , p. 556. [BACK]

75. Irving, "Art," in Cole and Chinoy, eds., Actors on Acting , p. 359. [BACK]

76. Edward Gordon Craig, Sir Henry Irving (New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1930), pp. 56-57. [BACK]

77. André Antoine, Le Théâtre Libre , excerpted in Cole and Chinoy, eds., Actors on Acting , p. 214. [BACK]

78. Ibid., pp. 213-14. [BACK]

79. Tommaso Salvini, Leaves from the Autobiography of Tommaso Salvini , excerpted in Cole and Chinoy, ibid., p. 455. [BACK]

80. Charlton Andrews, "The Decline of Acting," The Theatre , July 1913, p. 36. [BACK]

81. William Gillette, "The Illusion of the First Time in Acting," in Matthews, ed., Papers on Acting , p. 131. [BACK]

82. Mukarovsky, Structure, Sign, and Function , p. 52. [BACK]

83. Roman Jakobson, "Realism in Art," in Matejka and Pomorska, Readings in Russian Poetics , p. 41. [BACK]

84. Goldie, "Subtlety in Acting," p. 4. [BACK]

85. Hammerton, The Actor's Art , pp. 48-49. [BACK]

86. Gillette, "Illusions," in Matthews, Papers , p. 132. [BACK]

87. Williams's characterization of Strindberg appears in The Politics of Modernism: Against the New Conformists (London: Verso, 1989), p. 65. For Strindberg's remarks, see Preface to Miss Julie , in Pre-Inferno Plays , translated by Walter Johnson (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1970), p. 85. [BACK]

88. Belasco, "Belasco Attacks Stage Tradition," p. 166. [BACK]

3— The Histrionic and Verisimilar Codes in the Biograph Films

1. Bennett and Woollacott, Bond and Beyond , p. 65. [BACK]

2. Tom Gunning also uses the term "gestural soliloquy" for this performance device in his dissertation, "D. W. Griffith and the Narrator System," and his book D. W. Griffith and the Origins of American Narrative Film . [BACK]

3. Cross, Next Week East Lynne , p. 135. [BACK]

4. On the use of props, see also Naremore, Acting in the Cinema , pp. 84-87. [BACK]

5. Elam, The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama , pp. 72-75. [BACK]

6. See Gunning, "D. W. Griffith and the Narrator System," p. 747; Bordwell, Thompson, and Staiger, The Classical Hollywood Cinema , pp. 189-91, and Staiger, "The Eyes Are Really the Focus," pp. 18-20. Chapter 7 of this book will look at trade press discourse on the verisimilar code, which also emphasizes the extreme importance of the face and eyes.

This footnote seems a good point to enumerate my disagreements with the Staiger article. I must first dispute Staiger's assertion that "the employment of theatre workers in filmmaking provides one of the strongest explanations for the appearance of a particular acting style" (p. 19). One cannot, when discussing this period, simply refer to the theatre. One must specify which theatre: the "first class" Broadway house; the popular-priced theatre largely given over to the melodrama; the resident stock companies; or the touring combinations sent out by the theatrical syndicates. Without further investigation, the fact that many film directors had theatrical backgrounds proves nothing. In which theatre, employing what performance style, did they work? Griffith's theatrical experiences, as I will show in a later chapter, exposed him mainly to the histrionic code, though he may, of course, have seen performances employing the verisimilar code.

Of course, Griffith's attitudes, and those of his colleagues, toward acting constitute another issue, but here again Staiger oversimplifies. In the period in question, the film industry's perceptions of the relation of film to theatrical acting underwent several shifts. In 1907-1908 some critics rejected theatrical acting as unsuitable by virtue of its "repose," presumably believing that the new style would fail to "get it across." In the next few years the film industry sought, as Staiger says, to emulate the "first class theatre" but also, as she omits to mention, to distance itself from the popular-priced theatre, where the histrionic code still reigned. By 1912 the film industry had developed a consensus as to what constituted appropriate film acting, convincing itself that it could not only outdo the popular-priced theatre but could surpass the verisimilar code as seen on the legitimate stage. It is true that "by 1912, companies were filming popular stage successes with current theatrical stars" (p. 19), but the reaction of the trade press was far from laudatory as suggested by a review of Nat Goodwin's Fagin in Oliver Twist: "The well defined action of the best motion picture actor is missing throughout" ("Nat Goodwin Disappointing," The New York Dramatic Mirror , June 5, 1912, p. 27). It should teach that if players of note are to enter film production it is necessary that they study to employ the art and technique of the picture, which at its best is decidedly removed from the stage. [BACK]

7. Two methodological caveats, with which I did not wish to clutter the text, may be relevant here. The fact that most gesture is analogic rather than digital under normal circumstances prevents the analyst from segmenting gestural signification. The analyst armed with a Steenbeck flat-bed editing table can stop the flow of gestrue at will. Although the technology enables us to note each small gesture, the reader should realize that this segmentation is an artificial process, and that one of the essential features of the verisimilar code is its analogical nature.

Although with the Steenbeck it becomes possible to annotate movement, assigning a specific meaning to each gesture or combination of gestures is much more difficult with the verisimilar than with the histrionic code, partly, of course, because the former is not predicated on a one-to-one correspondence between gesture and meaning. In the absence of a lexicon restricted by convention, gesture and especially a combination of gestures can take on an infinity of meaning, with the narrative context alone limiting the connotations. For this reason, the analyst's personal judgments becomes a greater factor with the verisimilar than the histrionic code. Suppose that an old man enters a shot, head bowed, shoulders sagging, arms hanging limply at sides. Does this signify defeat, despair, resignation, sadness, or simply momentary weariness? The problem becomes intensified with facial expression: two people can debate the meaning of a particular close-up for hours, as in the often-cited instance of Garbo's expression in the closing shot of Queen Christina . Even facial expression combined with posture can defeat attempts at quick and facile interpretations. Certainly no one would dare to impose a single, precise meaning on the final shot of Vertigo as Jimmy Stewart, having witnessed the second death of his beloved, teeters on the brink of oblivion. [BACK]

8. Marsh, Screen Acting , p. 54. [BACK]

9. Boweser, ed., Biograph Bulletins , p. 428. [BACK]

10. Throughout the Biographs, actors use diectic gestures, leading me to include them in the histrionic code. However, I have no evidence that the diectic gesture was frequently employed in the theatrical histrionic code. Because theatrical performers could have used verbal shifters and might not have needed diectic gestures, it may be the case that the standardized and conventional use of diectic gestures originates with silent film. If so, it would be inaccurate to label conversational gestures as either histrionic or verisimilar. However, between 1908 and 1913, while actors continued to point, their pointing movements became smaller, less emphasized, and more flowing. [BACK]

11. The importance of the face and eyes to the verisimilar code may tempt one to conclude that the increasing closeness of the camera between 1908 and 1913 accounts for the transformation of performance style. The reverse could just as well be true, however: the new performance style may have brought about the closer camera, a possibility we will consider in Chapter 4. [BACK]

12. Metz, Language and Cinema , p. 103. Some data about changes in signifying practices during Griffith's Biograph years, particularly those practices most often associated with performance, editing, and camera distance, may be helpful. In "D. W. Griffith and the Narrator System," Gunning tells us that the average number of shots per thousand feet of film was 16.6 in 1908 and 87.8 in 1913 (p. 761). As for scale, the long shot, with space above and below the characters' heads and feet, was standard in 1908. By 1910 the characters were framed at the ankle, and by 1911 characters were framed in three-quarter shot, which became the predominant scale of the classical Hollywood cinema. As Gunning points out, however, beginning in 1909 characters increasingly step forward to be framed between ankle and knee, so that camera distance does not remain a constant even in the earlier films.

Intertitles do not survive for many films. Because the earliest Biography with intertitles at the Library of Congress is A Change of Heart (September 1909), there has been confusion about the presence of intertitles in the earlier Biographs, our knowledge of which derives primarily from the Paper Print Collection. Gunning has concluded that most, and probably all, of the Griffith Biographs originally had titles. We do know that dialogue titles became increasingly frequent, a factor bearing directly on the construction of character.

For further information about film style in this period see Bordwell, Staiger, and Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema , pp. 155-240, and Barry Salt, "The Early Development of Film Form," in Fell, ed., Film Before Griffith , pp. 284-89. [BACK]

4— Performance Style and the Interaction of Signifying Practices

1. Despite the slipperiness of the word melodrama , a provisional definition is in order here. I define melodrama as the nineteenth-century theatrical genre characterized by stock one-dimensional characters, verbal hyperbole, episodic narratives motivated by coincidence, heightened emotional situations, and spectacular staging. Because none of these criteria necessarily separates melodrama from comedy it is necessary to include other distinguishing characteristics. In comedy, the humor often depends on the spectators' perceived superiority to the protagonists, while melodrama encourages spectator identification. Pathos, from which much of the identification stems, is often missing from comedy. Working together, identification and pathos can engender an emotional catharsis for the spectator, especially as the dualistic moral structure of the plays, pitting pure good against pure evil, always ends in a "poetically just" resolution. These criteria, while in no sense definitive, can at least serve as a basis for judging how closely Biograph narratives adhere to what we shall for convenience refer to as "pure melodrama." (I thank Robert Stam for helping me to refine this definition.) [BACK]

2. Bordwell, Staiger, and Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema , p. 13. [BACK]

3. Ibid., p. 17. [BACK]

4. Gerould, "Russian Formalist Theories of Melodrama," p. 160. [BACK]

5. One might wish to take issue with Balukhatyi's assertion that melodramatic characters interested the spectator solely because of their importance to the plot. Evidence suggests that melodrama audiences certainly responded passionately to the characters, cheering the hero and hissing the villain. We should not, however, be so condescending as to think these reactions totally naive: there may well have been an element of self-conscious awareness in the audience's participation. Douglas Reid, in a study of the popular theatre in Victorian Birmingham, writes: "the simple-minded proletarian audience stereotype understates, indeed ignores the common sense of the common people. . . . There is a hidden assumption . . . that because many melodramas . . . were written as though their audiences were simpletons, therefore they all were simpletons" (Reid, "Popular Theatre in Victorian Birmingham," in Bradby, James, and Sharratt, Performance and Politics in Popular Drama , p. 80; emphasis in original). [BACK]

6. Culler, Structuralist Poetics , p. 230. [BACK]

7. Todorov, The Poetics of Prose , p. 66. [BACK]

8. Ibid., p. 68. [BACK]

9. Chatman, Story and Discourse , p. 114. [BACK]

10. Quoted in James L. Smith, Melodrama , p. 7. [BACK]

11. Ibid., p. 8. [BACK]

12. Barthes, Elements of Semiology , p. 64, and The Fashion System , p. xi. [BACK]

13. Bordwell, Staiger, and Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema , p. 15. [BACK]

14. Barthes, The Fashion System , p. 13. I suspect that Barthes, were he alive today, would wish to reconsider the claim that "words determine a single certainty" in light of recent assertions of verbal and textual indeterminacy. But for the sake of argument, we might perhaps agree that, in any society at any particular moment, gestures are relatively more polysemic than words. [BACK]

15. Hanford C. Judson, "What Gets Over," The Moving Picture World , April 15, 1911, p. 816. [BACK]

16. Frank Woods, "Spectator's Comments," New York Dramatic Mirror , November 13, 1909, p. 15. [BACK]

17. The Kuleshov experiment, the probably apocryphal staple of Film 101 courses, involves Lev Kuleshov, one of the most important directors of the Soviet silent cinema, who was said to have intercut the expressionless face of actor Mozhukhin with various objects, such as a coffin, food, and a child. Audiences reportedly remarked on Mozhukhin's subtlety of response, suggesting the effectiveness of film editing for closing off possibilities of meaning. [BACK]

18. David Alan Black, "Genette and Film: Narrative Level in the Fiction Cinema," Wide Angle 8:3 and 8:4 (Fall 1986), p. 20. [BACK]

19. Ibid., p. 22. [BACK]

20. A hypothetical example of the intrinsic narrator's ceding of authority through the employment of character-centered signifiers may aid clarification. A film begins with a long shot of an anonymous prisoner sitting on a bunk looking sad. Suppose that a camera movement shows the posters of Marx and Lenin adorning the cell walls. Then suppose that the character picks up a snapshot. Now presume a cut to a close-up, followed by a cut to a picture of two small children, followed by a reaction shot of the prisoner crying.

In this hypothetical scene, signifiers from four signifying practices--performance, mise-en-scène, camera work, and editing--convey narrative information. The long shot of the prisoner reveals little about the character's mental processes except the general affect of sadness. The camera's move to the political posters reveals her political predispositions. The prisoner's handling of the prop in conjunction with her point-of-view shot and her crying give insights into the character's emotions at that particular moment. [BACK]

21. Bowser, ed., Biograph Bulletins , p. 156. [BACK]

22. Ibid., p. 134. [BACK]

23. Gunning discusses After Many Years in terms of the narrator system; see "D. W. Griffith and the Narrator System," pp. 172-81). [BACK]

24. Bowser, ed., Biograph Bulletins , p. 33. [BACK]

25. Linda Arvidson's account of Griffith's dispute with the front office over "the first picture to have a dramatic close-up" (Linda Arvidson, When the Movies Were Young , p. 66) has led people to believe that the shot of Annie is a close-up in the modern sense, that is, a shot of her head and face, or what in 1908 would have been termed a bust shot. The shot is, in modern terms, a medium close-up.

As for the intercutting between Annie and Enoch, the idea was not entirely original with Griffith. An 1869 production of Enoch Arden had included, in a separate scene, "The Vision of Enoch in the Tropical Land," while twenty years later, the actor-manager Newton Beers produced a seven-act, sixteen-scene version complete with special scenery and revolving stage, which approximated cross-cutting. Wendy Dozoretz, "Toward an Understanding of Griffith's Growth as a Film Director: A Comparison between After Many Years and Enoch Arden ," manuscript, November 1976). [BACK]

26. David Bordwell discusses the cross-cutting between Annie and Enoch in terms of the transitional cinema's not having standardized the eyeline-match cut. See his "Textual Analysis, Etc.," Enclitic (Fall 1981/Spring 1982), p. 128. [BACK]

5— D. W. Griffith and the Biograph Company

1. Crofts, "Authorship and Hollywood," p. 17. [BACK]

2. Ibid. [BACK]

3. Griffith, "Pictures vs. One-Night Stands," p. 447. [BACK]

4. Letter from Marshall Neilan to Barnett Braverman, April 19, 1944, in the Barnett Braverman Research Collection of the David W. Griffith Papers at the Museum of Modern Art (henceforth, Braverman-DWG Papers). Braverman was a journalist who devoted many years of his life to researching a never-completed biography of Griffith. His notes, deposited in the Griffith collection at the Museum of Modern Art, contain many letters from and interviews with those associated with Griffith during the Biograph years. The notes are disorganized, making accurate attribution of quotes diffi- soft

cult. In addition, it is hard to be sure whether Braverman is quoting verbatim or paraphrasing, and whether the quotations are from interview notes or written correspondence. I have nonetheless relied heavily on Braverman's notes, since they constitute much of the surviving evidence about Griffith at Biograph. [BACK]

5. Merritt, "Rescued from a Perilous Nest," pp. 2-30. George Pratt contributed to a chronology of Griffith's career, which appears as an appendix. [BACK]

6. Ibid., p. 3. [BACK]

7. Boston Transcript , May 8, 1906, in the Nance O'Neil Clipping File, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center (henceforth, O'Neil-NYPLPA). [BACK]

8. Boston Transcript , 1904, O'Neil-NYPLPA. [BACK]

9. Review of Magda , an English translation of the German playwright Hermann Suderman's Heimat. Evening Sun , May 23, 1904, in O'Neil-NYPLPA. [BACK]

10. San Francisco Bulletin , September 20, 1898, in O'Neil-NYPLPA. [BACK]

11. Goddard, "Some Players I Have Known," p. 238. [BACK]

12. Boston Transcript , May 8, 1906, in O'Neil-NYPLPA. [BACK]

13. David W. Griffith, "A Fool and a Girl," playscript in DWG Papers. [BACK]

14. Publicity stills from "A Fool and a Girl," NYPLPA. [BACK]

15. Griffith may not, however, have employed precisely the same style in film as he did on the stage, especially since he always seems to have made a clear distinction between the two media. [BACK]

16. Graham, et al., D. W. Griffith and the Biograph Company , pp. 13-20. [BACK]

17. Interview with Eddie Dillon, Braverman-DWG Papers. [BACK]

18. Billy Bitzer, unpublished memoirs, in the DWG papers (henceforth, Bitzer-DWG Papers). A condensed version was eventually published as Billy Bitzer: His Story . Higgins, et al., list no film in which Griffith appeared as a bartender, providing us with another salutary warning about the accuracy of memoirs written decades after the event. [BACK]

19. Bitzer, His Story , p. 69. [BACK]

20. Bordwell, Staiger, and Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema , pp. 116-21. [BACK]

21. Gunning, "D. W. Griffith and the Narrator System," pp. 93, 95. [BACK]

22. Graham, et al., D. W. Griffith and the Biograph Company , pp. 1-2. [BACK]

23. Charles Musser, "Early Cinema and Its Modes of Production," paper presented at conference of the Society for Cinema Studies, Iowa City, Iowa, 1989, p. 3. [BACK]

24. Ibid., p. 7. [BACK]

25. Ibid., p. 8. [BACK]

26. Ibid., pp. 10-11. [BACK]

27. Lawrence, "Growing Up with the Movies," p. 96. [BACK]

28. Henderson, David W. Griffith: The Years at Biograph , p. 34. [BACK]

29. Linda Arvidson, When the Movies Were Young , pp. 108-9. [BACK]

30. Gish, The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me , pp. 35-37. [BACK]

31. Arvidson, When the Movies Were Young , pp. 66-67. [BACK]

32. Interview with Stanner E. V. Taylor, Braverman-DWG Papers. [BACK]

33. Frederick Jones Smith, "The Evolution of the Motion Picture: From the Stand- soft

point of the Scenario Editor," The New York Dramatic Mirror (henceforth, NYDM ), January 4, 1913, p. 25. [BACK]

34. Arvidson, When the Movies Were Young , p. 218. Griffith married Linda Arvidson, an actress, before he began working at Biograph; she joined the Biograph troupe shortly after he did, before he had become a director. Reportedly, Griffith initially told her not to reveal their marriage, and she continued to use her birth name for professional purposes. They separated in 1911 and were formally divorced in 1936. [BACK]

35. Pickford, Sunshine and Shadow , p. 119. [BACK]

36. Stanner E. V. Taylor interview, Braverman-DWG papers. [BACK]

37. Patrick Loughney, untitled presentation, University Interdisciplinary Seminar on Cinema and Interdisciplinary Interpretation in Columbia University, The Museum of Modern Art, May 12, 1982. [BACK]

38. Patrick G. Loughney, "In The Beginning Was the Word: Six Pre-Griffith Motion Picture Scenarios," Iris 2:1 (1984), p. 18. [BACK]

39. Gunning, "D. W. Griffith and the Narrator System," p. 631. [BACK]

40. Tom Gunning agrees with this analysis and indicates that Jay Leyda had reached the same conclusion. Gunning, private communication. [BACK]

41. Frank J. Marion and Wallace McCutcheon, The Nihilists (shot February 28, 1905), photocopy in possession of Patrick Loughney. [BACK]

42. Edward W. Townsend, "Picture Plays," The Outlook , November 27, 1909, p. 706. [BACK]

43. J. Sidney McSween, "Players of the Film Drama," The Theatre , October 1912, p. 113. [BACK]

44. Townsend, "Picture Plays," p. 706. [BACK]

45. Epes Winthrop Sergent, "The Technique of the Photoplay," The Moving Picture World , July 22, 1911, p. 108. [BACK]

46. Arvidson, When the Movies Were Young , p. 31. [BACK]

47. Ibid., pp. 92-93. [BACK]

48. Gish, The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me , p. 85. [BACK]

49. Interview with Edwin August, Braverman-DWG Papers. [BACK]

50. Interview with Lionel Barrymore, Braverman-DWG Papers. [BACK]

51. In Bitzer-DWG Papers. [BACK]

52. In a private communication, James Naremore has pointed out that Griffith's rehearsal methods bear a resemblance to Stanislavski's. But because Stanislavski, according to Naremore, was "not conscientiously studied in America until the late twenties" (Naremore, Acting in the Cinema , p. 52), there is no question of direct influence. Speculation about such parallel but unrelated developments, which requires greater knowledge of the Russian theatre than I possess, would be a fascinating research project for someone familiar with both Griffith and Stanislavski. [BACK]

53. In Bitzer-DWG Papers. [BACK]

54. Lawrence, "Growing Up with the Movies," p. 107. [BACK]

55. Pickford, Sunshine and Shadow , pp. 114-15. [BACK]

56. Frank Woods, "Spectator's Comments," NYDM , June 4, 1910, p. 12. [BACK]

57. Interview with Mary Pickford, "Daily Talks," Philadelphia Telegraph , June 6, 1912, in Mary Pickford Clipping Files-NYPLPA. [BACK]

58. Arvidson, When the Movies Were Young , p. 92. [BACK]

59. Ibid. [BACK]

60. Pickford, Sunshine and Shadow , pp. 143-44. [BACK]

61. Edwin August interview, in Braverman-DWG Papers. [BACK]

62. Karl Brown, Adventures with David W. Griffith , pp. 27-28. [BACK]

63. Gish, The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me , p. 85. [BACK]

64. Letter from Mary Pickford to Barnett Braverman, June 18, 1943, Braverman-DWG Papers. [BACK]

65. Marsh, Screen Acting , p. 115. [BACK]

66. Interview with Claire McDowell, Braverman-DWG Papers. [BACK]

67. Gish, The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me , pp. 95-96. [BACK]

68. Interview with Blanche Sweet, in Rosenberg and Silverstein, eds., The Real Tinsel , p. 195. [BACK]

69. Ibid. [BACK]

70. Letter from Dorothy Bernard Van Buren to Barnett Braverman, October 10, 1944, in Braverman-DWG Papers. [BACK]

71. Barrymore interview, in Braverman-DWG Papers. [BACK]

72. Gish, The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me , p. 85. [BACK]

73. Bitzer, His Story , p. 75. [BACK]

74. Gish, The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me , p. 37. [BACK]

75. Arvidson, When the Movies Were Young , p. 217. [BACK]

76. McDowell interview, in Braverman-DWG Papers. [BACK]

77. Loos, A Girl Like I , p. 80. I must remark that, having had the pleasure of seeing Blanche Sweet both on film and in person, I find it hard to imagine her being anyone's "passive instrument," even at the age of sixteen. [BACK]

78. Interview with Christy Cabanne, Braverman-DWG Papers. [BACK]

79. Mary Pickford to Samuel Goldwyn, Pictorial Review , March 1923, p. 7, quoted in Braverman-DWG papers. [BACK]

80. Interview with Mae Marsh, in Rosenberg and Silverstein, The Real Tinsel , p. 211. [BACK]

81. Colgate Baker, "David W. Griffith." [BACK]

82. McDowell interview in Braverman-DWG Papers. [BACK]

83. Henderson, David W. Griffith , pp. 73-74. [BACK]

84. Interview with Lillian Gish, Reel I (Winter 1971), p. 10. [BACK]

85. Marsh, Screen Acting , p. 117. [BACK]

86. Brown, Adventures with Griffith , p. 15. [BACK]

87. Gish interview, Reel I , p. 10. [BACK]

88. Gish, The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me , p. 87. [BACK]

89. Blanche Sweet, personal conversation, April 12, 1983. [BACK]

90. Gish, The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me , p. 97. [BACK]

91. Pickford, Sunshine and Shadow , pp. 124-25. [BACK]

92. Interview with Raoul Walsh, Braverman-DWG Papers. [BACK]

93. Linda Arvidson claims that the film was called The Dispatch Bearer ( When the Movies Were Young , pp. 58-59). The Vitagraph filmography in The Vitagraph Company of America: Il Cinema prima di Hollywood (Pordenone, Italy: Edizioni Studio Tesi, 1987) lists no film of that name made in 1908. [BACK]

94. Lawrence, "Growing Up with the Movies," p. 99. [BACK]

95. Gish, The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me , pp. 100-101. [BACK]

96. Colgate Baker, "David W. Griffith." [BACK]

97. Griffith, "What I Demand of Movie Stars," p. 40. [BACK]

98. Ibid. [BACK]

99. Gish, The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me , p. 87. [BACK]

100. Interview with Mae Marsh, in Braverman-DWG Papers. [BACK]

101. Gish, The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me , p. 97. [BACK]

102. Edward Martin Woolley, "The Story of David W. Griffith: The $100,000 Salary Man of the Movies," McClure's , September 1914, DWG Clipping Files--NYPLPA. [BACK]

103. Marsh, Screen Acting , p. 108. [BACK]

104. Gish, The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me , p. 97. [BACK]

105. Brown, Adventures with Griffith , pp. 115-20. [BACK]

106. Griffith, "Movie Stars," p. 40. [BACK]

107. Griffith, "What I Demand of Photoplay Stars," p. 6. [BACK]

108. Welsh, "David W. Griffith Speaks," p. 49. [BACK]

109. Bitzer here is simply repeating a widespread, yet unfounded, myth that Richard deCordova disputes: "Almost all of the early actors came from provincial stock companies, not Broadway. Few had much of a reputation to lose" (deCordova, "The Emergence of the Star System in America: An Examination of the Institutional and Ideological Function of the Star" [diss.], p. 155). Certainly Biograph boasted no major theatrical actors among its company when Griffith arrived, and, unlike Edison and Vitagraph, it never did employ stage stars during Griffith's tenure. [BACK]

110. Bitzer-DWG Papers. [BACK]

111. Bitzer, His Story , p. 70. [BACK]

112. J. Stuart Blackton, "Hollywood With Its Hair Down or Hollywood Memories: Forty Years of Movies," manuscript in the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, p. 112. The nine-foot line did not at all approximate the modern close-up, framing the actors instead from the ankles to the top of the head. [BACK]

113. Russell Merritt offers a more psycho-sexual analysis of Griffith's rejection of the theatre. See his "Rescued from a Perilous Nest." [BACK]

114. Welsh, "Griffith Speaks," p. 49. [BACK]

115. "A Poet Who Writes on Motion Picture Films," The Theatre , June 1914, p. 312. [BACK]

116. Baker, "David W. Griffith." [BACK]

117. Welsh, "Griffith Speaks," p. 49. [BACK]

118. Biograph's financial records for this period have not survived, but Charles Musser argues that "Biograph had been in a period of protracted crisis when Griffith took over. Although not all historians might agree, I believe that his accomplished output in 1908 did much to rescue Biograph from commercial disaster." "Early Cinema and Its Modes of Production," paper presented at conference of the Society for Cinema Studies, Iowa City, Iowa, 1989, p. 10. [BACK]

6— Henry B. Walthall

1. Most of Biograph's male actors sank into a post-Griffith obscurity, making it difficult to find information about them. Others, including Bobby Harron and Arthur Johnson, died young, leaving little in the record. [BACK]

2. George Blaisdell, "At the Sign of the Flaming Arcs," The Moving Picture World, January 10, 1914, p. 175. [BACK]

3. Owen, "The Little Colonel," pp. 27, 30. [BACK]

4. Interview with Edwin August, in the Barnett Braverman Research Collection, David W. Griffith Papers, the Museum of Modern Art. [BACK]

5. Blanche Sweet interview, in Rosenberg and Silverstein, eds., The Real Tinsel, p. 197. [BACK]

6. Arvidson, When the Movies Were Young, p. 102. [BACK]

7. Bitzer, His Story, p. 72. [BACK]

8. Blaisdell, "Sign of the Flaming Arcs," p. 175. [BACK]

9. Moving Picture World, September 16, 1911, p. 790. [BACK]

10. "Bennie Chats With the Players," p. 114. [BACK]

11. Cohn, "The Reformation of Wally," p. 31. [BACK]

12. "Letters and Questions Answered by the Spectator," New York Dramatic Mirror, August 16, 1911, p. 21. [BACK]

13. Ibid., June 26, 1911, p. 28. [BACK]

14. Gish, The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me, p. 150. [BACK]

15. D. W. Griffith to The Los Angeles Times, quoted in Slide, The Idols of Silence, p. 63. [BACK]

16. Gish, The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me, p. 286. [BACK]

17. Myrtle Gebhardt, "The Unknown Quantity," Picture Play, July 1926, in The Scarlet Letter Clipping File, NYPLPA. [BACK]

18. Donnell, "I Remember When," p. 40. [BACK]

19. "Henry B. Walthall: A Gentleman of Hollywood," p. 26. [BACK]

20. Gebhardt, "Unknown Quantity." [BACK]

21. Kalton C. Lahue, Gentlemen to the Rescue: The Heroes of the Silent Screen (New York: Castle Books, 1972), pp. 223-24. [BACK]

22. Joe Franklin, Classics of the Silent Screen: A Pictorial Treasury (Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel, 1959), p. 240. [BACK]

23. Bitzer-DWG Papers. [BACK]

24. Gebhardt, "Unknown Quantity." [BACK]

25. Slide, The Idols of Silence, p. 59. [BACK]

26. Bitzer, in DWG Papers. [BACK]

27. I am aware that the concept of genre remains a vexed one among film scholars, and I am not prepared, in this chapter, to offer a fully elaborated theorization of Biograph genres. Generally, however, the costume melodrama resembles the nonpsychological narrative of external motivation and unmediated causality. As we have seen, the contemporary melodrama ranges along the continuum from psychological to nonpsychological. [BACK]

28. Roland Barthes, "Rhetoric and the Image," in Barthes, Image, Music, Text, p. 53. [BACK]

7— Trade Press Discourse

1. Bordwell, Staiger, and Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema, p. 194. [BACK]

2. Frank Woods, Spectator of the New York Dramatic Mirror and foremost champion of the verisimilar code, often received correspondence from industry readers sup- soft

porting or contesting his positions. Sometimes the opinions expressed in his columns directly influenced filmmakers' decisions, as suggested by the following anecdote: Woods told of a company filming a scene in which a son, having been reunited with his mother after a long absence, goes upstairs to bed, turning to look at his mother once before exiting. A dispute arose. "One party contended that the turn to the front at the exit should be eliminated, citing the Spectator as proof. The other party held that the turn toward the mother was, in this instance, the most natural thing . . . citing the Spectator's views on the naturalistic" (Frank Woods, "Spectator's Comments," The New York Dramatic Mirror, March 22, 1911, p. 28; henceforth, citations to Woods's columns in the NYDM will be identified as Spectator). [BACK]

3. As I have discovered in my work on the Vitagraph Company (see Uricchio and Pearson, Cultural Crisis, Cultural Cure? ) the trade press often simply reprinted, with only slight variation, studio publicity. Hence, one should not view the trade press as a completely separate and dissenting voice. The congruences between industry and trade press discourse and among the various journals themselves account for my reliance on The Moving Picture World and The New York Dramatic Mirror . Although other journals existed ( The Nickelodeon, The Views and Film Index, and Show World among them), my research has revealed no significant dissenting views. Moreover, The Moving Picture World and The New York Dramatic Mirror (henceforth, MPW and NYDM ) were undoubtedly the most prominent and influential of the journals.

Also, given the disjunction between the written descriptions in film reviews and the film texts themselves, one would not use the trade press alone to trace the emergence of the verisimilar code. As we shall see later in the chapter, the press had reason to valorize the verisimilar code even before it became dominant. While reviewers may have used such terms as "natural" or "true to life," they rarely detailed the expressions and gestures that led them so to characterize the performance. Even when the reviews do contain hints of description, asserting that the actor exercised restraint or that the facial expression was marvelously clear, we are certainly not dealing with absolutes but with the entire range from the histrionic to the verisimilar. For example, restraint could mean that the performers used the checked rather than the unchecked histrionic code, not that they used the verisimilar. The debate on acting (mostly one-sided) taking place in the editorials and regular columns of the trade press is more valuable than the reviews, although unclear terminology and inadequate description still remain a problem.

An example may help to illustrate this point. The performers in The Maniac Cook, released January 4, 1909, rely almost exclusively on the histrionic code, often in its unchecked form. Yet the MPW said of the film, "All of the motions are correct and natural, perhaps too realistic, as when the cook arranges the legs of the child and takes the knife to cut them. . . . It is no mere moving picture on a screen but the real art of the actor as displayed on our best stages" ("Comments on Film Subjects," January 9, 1909, p. 10). [BACK]

4. MPW, July 13, 1907, p. 298. [BACK]

5. "How Moving Pictures Are Made: A Chicago Newspaperman Gets a Peek Inside the Selig Studios," MPW, May 14, 1908, p. 434. [BACK]

6. "The Moving Picture Field," NYDM, June 20, 1908, p. 6. [BACK]

7. "Comments on Film Subjects," MPW, January 16, 1909, p. 69. [BACK]

8. F. Oppenheimer, "The Moving Picture," The Theatre, January, 1909, p. 14. [BACK]

9. Valentine Karly, "Drama by the Foot," The Saturday Post (Philadelphia), quoted in Spectator, May 29, 1909, p. 15. [BACK]

10. Spectator, October 21, 1909, p. 32. [BACK]

11. Ibid., June 4, 1910, p. 16. As we saw in Chapter 5, Griffith at first insisted on the histrionic code in the belief that exchanges and exhibitors demanded it. Woods's statement lends credence to his position. [BACK]

12. "Rules for Moving Picture Actors," NYDM, November 14, 1908, p. 11. [BACK]

13. Spectator, July 10, 1909, p. 15. [BACK]

14. MPW, June 4, 1908, p. 5. [BACK]

15. Rollin Summers, "The Moving Picture Drama and the Acted Drama," MPW, September 17, 1908, p. 213. [BACK]

16. "The Pointer," MPW, September 17, 1910, p. 621. [BACK]

17. C. H. Claudy, "Too Much Acting," MPW, February 11, 1911, p. 54. [BACK]

18. "Views of the Reviewer," NYDM, June 19, 1912, p. 27. [BACK]

19. Louis Reeves Harrison, "Dumb Eloquence," MPW, January 11, 1913, p. 133. [BACK]

20. Spectator, March 27, 1912, p. 24. [BACK]

21. "Earmarks of Makers," NYDM, November 14, 1908, p. 10. [BACK]

22. Spectator, September 11, 1909, p. 14. [BACK]

23. Ibid., May 7, 1910, p. 18. [BACK]

24. Reviews of Licensed Films, NYDM, May 14, 1910, p. 20. [BACK]

25. Spectator, May 28, 1910, p. 20. [BACK]

26. Summers, "The Moving Picture Drama and the Acted Drama." [BACK]

27. Louis Reeves Harrison, "The Eloquence of Gesture," MPW, November 4, 1911, p. 357. This quotation clearly reveals the culture-bound nature of verisimilitude: restraint has different meanings in different cultures. To this American writer, simplicity of gesture and restraint signify reality because of his conviction that this is the way Americans "naturally" behave. One infers that an actor portraying a Frenchman sans excessive gesticulation could be condemned as "unrealistic." Paradoxically, by 1911, an actor playing an American had to use the verisimilar code to be thought "natural," while an actor playing one of the "Latin races" probably had to use the histrionic. [BACK]

28. Epes Winthrop Sergent, "Technique of the Photoplay," MPW, August 26, 1911, pp. 525-26. [BACK]

29. C. H. Claudy, "The Pictures from the Public Viewpoint," MPW, March 23, 1912, p. 1050. [BACK]

30. Bannister Merwin, "The Future of the Photoplay," MPW, June 1, 1912, p. 805. [BACK]

31. In the long-shot tableau style, however, facial expression can be discerned in a good-quality 35mm print, even in the absence of editing. The poor-quality 16mm prints, however, to which early film scholars are so accustomed, make the discernment of facial expression particularly difficult. Moreover, a lifetime's viewing has trained me to associate the importance of facial expression with closer shots. Viewers in 1908, not accustomed to a closer camera, may well have watched facial expression even in the long shot. [BACK]

32. Summers, "The Moving Picture Drama and the Acted Drama," p. 213. [BACK]

33. Reviews of New Films, NYDM, March 13, 1909, p. 16. [BACK]

34. MPW, May 1, 1909, p. 56. [BACK]

35. Ibid., May 8, 1909, p. 72. [BACK]

36. Carl Anderson, "A Biograph Appreciation," MPW, July 31, 1909, p. 165. [BACK]

37. Louis Reeves Harrison, "Eyes and Lips," MPW, February 18, 1911, p. 348. [BACK]

38. Agnew, Moving Picture Acting, p. 40. [BACK]

39. "D," "Hackett on the Screen," NYDM, February 26, 1913, p. 28. [BACK]

40. E. H. Southern, "The 'New Art' as Discovered by E. H. Southern," The Craftsman, September 1916, p. 579. [BACK]

41. Spectator, April 21, 1909, p. 22. [BACK]

42. Lux Graphicus, "On the Screen," MPW, July 3, 1909, p. 11. [BACK]

43. "Notable Films of the Week," MPW, April 24, 1909, p. 515. [BACK]

44. Claudy, "Too Much Acting." [BACK]

45. Louis Reeves Harrison, "What is Dramatic?" MPW, August 3, 1912, p. 421. [BACK]

46. Spectator, January 25, 1911, p. 29. [BACK]

47. Michael Davis, The Exploitation of Pleasure (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1911), p. 4. [BACK]

48. On the subject of cheap amusements, see Lewis Erenberg, Steppin' Out: New York Night Life and the Transformation of American Culture, 1890-1930 (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1981); John Kasson, Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century (New York: Hill and Wang, 1978); Kathy Peiss, Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986); Roy Rosenzweig, Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983); and Robert Sklar, Movie-Made America: A Cultural History of American Movies (New York: Vintage, 1975). Between 1908 and 1914, there were at least fourteen studies of the problem of leisure in several major urban centers; see Alan Havig, "The Commercial Amusement Audience in Early 20th-Century American Cities," Journal of American Culture 5 (Spring 1982), pp. 1-19). [BACK]

49. Some scholars have disputed the view that immigrants and the working classes formed the majority of the nickelodeons' audiences. On this point, see Russell Merritt, "Nickelodeon Theaters, 1905-1914: Building an Audience for the Movies," in T. Balio, ed., The American Film Industry (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1976), pp. 83-102; Robert Allen, "Motion Picture Exhibition in Manhattan, 1906-1912: Beyond the Nickelodeon," in Fell, ed., Film Before Griffith . For a response, see Robert Sklar, "Oh! Althusser!: Historiography and the Rise of Cinema Studies," Radical History Review 41 (Spring 1988), pp. 10-35. [BACK]

50. The Reverend Fellowes Jenkins of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, quoted in "Mayor Hears Evidence," The New York Daily Tribune, December 26, 1908. [BACK]

51. For detailed accounts of the Motion Picture Patents Company see Gunning, "Griffith and the Narrator System," and Robert Anderson, "The Motion Picture Patents Company" (Diss., University of Wisconsin, 1983). [BACK]

52. Motion Picture Patents Company, "Announcement to Exhibitors," February 1, 1909, quoted in Gunning, "Griffith and the Narrator System," p. 452. [BACK]

53. Motion Picture Patents Company, "Advertisement," quoted in Gunning, ibid., p. 447. [BACK]

54. Nancy J. Rosenbloom, "Between Reform and Regulation: The Struggle Over Film Censorship in Progressive America, 1909-1922," Film History 1 (1987), p. 309. See also Daniel Czitrom, "The Redemption of Leisure: The National Board of Censorship and the Rise of Motion Pictures in New York City, 1900-1920," Studies in Visual Communication 10:4 (Fall 1984), pp. 2-6. [BACK]

55. For a history of the People's Institute see Robert Bruce Fisher, "The People's Institute of New York City, 1897-1934: Culture, Progressive Democracy, and the People" (Diss., New York University, 1974). [BACK]

56. Letter from Charles Sprague Smith to Andrew Carnegie, May 28, 1904, in Box 3, People's Institute Records, Rare Books and Manuscripts Department, New York Public Library (henceforth, Institute Records). [BACK]

57. "A People's Theatre," n.d., in ibid. [BACK]

58. Davis, The Exploitation of Pleasure , p. 5. [BACK]

59. Charles Sprague Smith, Tenth Annual Report of the People's Institute , in Box 3, Institute Records. [BACK]

60. W. Stephen Bush, "The Film of the Future," MPW , September 5, 1908, p. 172. [BACK]

61. "Elbert Hubbard on the Moving Pictures," MPW , January 10, 1910, p. 10. Reprinted from The New York American . Hubbard wrote the popular series "Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great," edited three journals, and gave public lectures. See Freeman Champney, Art and Glory: The Story of Elbert Hubbard (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1968). Hubbard was so enamored of film that he declared himself a "moving picture fiend" (quoted in General Film Company, Education and Entertainment in Motion Pictures: Catalogue , New York, n.d.). [BACK]

62. Bush, "The Film of the Future," pp. 172-73. [BACK]

63. Lucy France Pierce, "The Nickelodeon," The Nickelodeon , January 1909, p. 8. [BACK]

64. Views and Film Index , March 14, 1908, p.3. [BACK]

65. Otto Peltzer, The Moralist and the Theatre (Chicago: Donald Fraser and Sons, 1887), p. 16. [BACK]

66. Smith, "The Melodrama," p. 320. [BACK]

67. Davis, The Exploitation of Pleasure , p. 22. [BACK]

68. Ibid., p. 28. [BACK]

69. Louise Bolard More, Wage-Earners' Budgets: A Study of Standards and Cost of Living in New York City (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1907), p. 6. [BACK]

70. Of course, not all wage-earners attended only the vaudeville theatres. There is evidence, for example, that a good many poorer New Yorkers had access to Shakespearean productions. See Pearson and Uricchio, "How many times shall Caesar bleed in sport: Shakespeare and the cultural debate about moving pictures," 243-61. Uricchio and Pearson, Cultural Crisis, Cultural Cure? provides detailed discussion of theatrical attendance patterns in New York City. [BACK]

71. Davis, The Exploitation of Pleasure , p. 30. The high-priced theatres did have 50-cent and even 25-cent seats in the gallery for matinee performances, and period discourse about the patrons in this section suggests that they belonged to what the Russell Sage survey would have characterized as the "clerical" and "working" classes. [BACK]

72. John Collier, "Cheap Amusements," Charities and the Commons 20 (April 11, 1908), p. 74. [BACK]

73. "An Absorbing Problem," NYDM , April 25, 1908, p. 3. [BACK]

74. Roy L. McCardell, "The Chorus-Girl Deplores the Moving Picture Triumph Over the Drama," MPW , April 11, 1908. [BACK]

75. "Good and Bad Melodrama," NYDM , May 9, 1908, p. 2. For the rest of the NYDM 's 1908 series on this subject, see: "What is the Cause: A Great Falling Off of Patronage in the Popular Price Theatres," April 18, p. 5; "The Popular Price Theatre," May 16, p. 4; "The Melodrama Theatre: The Discussion as to Its Decline in Popularity and Its Needs Continued," June 6, p.4; and "Popular Price Drama Waning," November 28, p. 4. [BACK]

76. "Harvard Professor Praises Pictures," The Edison Kinetogram , June 15, 1911, p. 15. [BACK]

77. W. Stephen Bush, "Signs of a Harvest," MPW , August 5, 1911, p. 272. [BACK]

78. "The Film Maker's Responsibilities," MPW , August 5, 1911, p. 271. [BACK]

79. H. F. Hoffmann, "What People Want: Some Observations," MPW , July 9, 1910. [BACK]

80. MPW , April 3, 1909, p. 399. [BACK]

81. "Censorship of Films," NYDM , April 3, 1909, p. 13. Richard Mansfield was a leading actor-manager. [BACK]

82. deCordova, "The Emergence of the Star System in America: An Examination of the Institutional and Ideological Function of the Star" (Diss.), pp. 104-8. [BACK]

83. Ibid., p. 176. [BACK]

84. "Room for Improvement," NYDM , August 22, 1908, p. 9. [BACK]

85. Bordwell, Staiger, and Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema , pp. 163-66. [BACK]

86. Editorial, NYDM , January 4, 1911, p. 3. [BACK]

87. George Blaisdell, "At the Sign of the Flaming Arcs," MPW , January 4, 1913. [BACK]

88. Robert Grau, "The Moving Picture Show and the Living Drama," The American Monthly Review of Reviews , March 1912, p. 329. [BACK]

89. McLaughlin, Broadway and Hollywood , p. 2. Because touring companies had previously enabled even Broadway failures to make a profit, the decline of these companies put the profit-making burden on the Broadway show, affecting, McLaughlin argues, the kinds of productions staged. [BACK]

90. "Observations by Our Man About Town," MPW , April 27, 1912, p. 323. [BACK]

91. C. H. Claudy, "The Educational Photo Play," MPW , June 10, 1911, p. 1300. [BACK]

92. Spectator, October 2, 1909, p. 32. [BACK]

93. Ibid., May 31, 1911, p. 28. [BACK]

94. Summers, "The Moving Picture Drama and the Acted Drama," September 19, 1908. [BACK]

95. "Notable Films of the Week," MPW , April 24, 1909, p. 515. [BACK]

96. Lux Graphicus, "On the Screen," MPW , July 3, 1909, p. 11. [BACK]

97. Hans Leigh, "Acting and Actors," MPW , October 2, 1909, p. 443. [BACK]

98. Spectator, October 2, 1909, p. 32. [BACK]

99. Ibid., August 21, 1909, p. 22. [BACK]

100. Ibid., May 22, 1909, p. 16. [BACK]

101. Ibid., June 19, 1909, p. 16. [BACK]

8— Conclusion

1. Bowser, ed., Biograph Bulletins , p. 77. [BACK]

2. Health, The Nouveau Roman , p. 20. [BACK]

3. Belsey, Critical Practice , p. 51. [BACK]

4. On the term realism , see Raymond Williams, "Keywords," p. 216. For the historical context of "realistic" representation, see Raymond Williams, "A Lecture on Realism," and his Problems in Materialism and Culture , particularly the essay "Social Environment and Theatrical Environment," pp. 125-47. [BACK]

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