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Before the Nickelodeon: The Early Cinema of Edwin S. Porter (1982)

This documentary is produced by one of the world's foremost authorities and biographers of Edwin S. Porter. Since little is known of Porter's personal life, the emphasis here is on his ... See full summary »

Director:

Charles Musser
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1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Blanche Sweet ... Narrator (voice)
Jay Leyda Jay Leyda ... Reader - Thomas A. Edison (voice)
Rob Issen Rob Issen ... Reader - Corbett-Courtney Fight (voice)
Robert Sklar Robert Sklar ... Reader - Porter's Naval Record (voice)
Robert Rosen Robert Rosen ... Reader - Vitascope's First Night (voice)
Mitchell Kriegman ... Reader - 'Kiss' Review (voice)
Peter Davis Peter Davis ... Reader - Eden Musee / War Films (voice)
D.A. Pennebaker ... Reader - Film as a Visual Newspaper (voice)
Milos Forman ... Reader - The Biddle Brothers (voice)
Warren Leight ... Reader - Terrible Teddy (voice)
Rick King Rick King ... Reader - Sampson-Schley Controversy (voice)
Anthony Potter Anthony Potter ... Reader - Fighting the Flames (voice)
Louis Malle ... Reader - Melies Catalogue (voice)
Robert Altman ... Reader - 'Jack And The Beanstalk' Promo (voice)
Jim Walton Jim Walton ... Reader - 'Jack And The Beanstalk' (voice)
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Storyline

This documentary is produced by one of the world's foremost authorities and biographers of Edwin S. Porter. Since little is known of Porter's personal life, the emphasis here is on his technique and contributions to the art of the cinema. This film also serves as a documentary on the origins of the American cinema; Porter's work is showcased in the context of the whole American cinema of his day, from mutoscope parlors to the advent of the projected image. Written by Thomas McWilliams <tgm@netcom.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

An Age of Innovation. An Era of Idealism. The Time When American Movies Were Born.


Certificate:

Not Rated
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

October 1982 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color
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Did You Know?

Connections

Features How They Do Things on the Bowery (1902) See more »

Soundtracks

A Bird in a Gilded Cage
(©1900)
Written by Harry von Tilzer
Performed by Joan Morris and William Bolcom
Courtesy of Nonesuch Records
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Not Enough
1 May 2004 | by CineanalystSee all my reviews

This hour-long documentary on the early career of Edwin S. Porter, one of early cinema's most innovative and prolific pioneers and the director of "The Great Train Robbery" (1903), uses much of the research and history also found in Charles Musser's book "Before the Nickelodeon: Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company." Musser is an authority on the early films of the Edison Company and, consequently, the films of Porter, who became the Edison Company's foremost filmmaker for a time. His book is over 500 pages and a valuable source on the subject, but this one-hour teaching tool, also made by Musser, doesn't do it justice.

Perhaps, this documentary could be useful in perking an interest in early cinema; otherwise, it's quick and somewhat dull. Those already interested can learn more elsewhere, such as in Musser's books. The film only covers Porter's films from 1898 to 1902, too, which means that many of his more interesting pictures, such as "The Great Train Robbery" or "Dream of a Rarebit Fiend" (1906), are barely mentioned or not mentioned at all. It would have been better, I think, if they'd made it longer than an hour and covered Porter's entire film-making career--something similar to the highly recommended documentary on Georges Méliès, "La Magie Méliès" (The Magic of Méliès) (1997).

On the other hand, the late silent film star Blanche Sweet, who appeared in many of the films of America's next great filmmaker after Porter, D.W. Griffith, is the documentary's narrator. And, several short films are shown in their entirety, including Porter's "Execution of Czolgosz with Panorama of Auburn Prison" (1901), "Appointment by Telephone," "Jack and the Beanstalk" (both 1902), "Life of an American Fireman" (1903) and others. There's also some instructive discussion on early film editing developments and styles.


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