4 user 3 critic

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 »


Charles Musser
1 nomination. See more awards »


Learn more

More Like This 

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  

A history of the Edison Company, the pioneering film production company begun by Thomas A. Edison. Included are more than 140 complete films produced by the company between 1891 and 1918, ... See full summary »

Stars: Thomas A. Edison, Steven Higgins, Paul Israel
Short | Action | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A group of bandits stage a brazen train hold-up, only to find a determined posse hot on their heels.

Director: Edwin S. Porter
Stars: Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson, A.C. Abadie, George Barnes
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

40 international directors were asked to make a short film using the original Cinematographe invented by the Lumière brothers.

Directors: Theodoros Angelopoulos, Vicente Aranda, and 39 more credits »
Stars: Pernilla August, Max von Sydow, Merzak Allouache
Civilization (1915)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

Christ takes on the form of a pacifist count to end a senseless war.

Directors: Reginald Barker, Thomas H. Ince, and 5 more credits »
Stars: Howard Hickman, Enid Markey, Lola May
Mother's Day (1980)
Horror | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.4/10 X  

Two brothers kidnap and brutalize three women for the pleasure of their demented mother.

Director: Charles Kaufman
Stars: Tiana Pierce, Nancy Hendrickson, Deborah Luce
Biography | Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Chronicles the rise of Chess Records and its recording artists.

Director: Darnell Martin
Stars: Adrien Brody, Jeffrey Wright, Beyoncé
Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A spoiled heiress running away from her family is helped by a man who is actually a reporter in need of a story.

Director: Frank Capra
Stars: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly
Drama | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A senator, who became famous for killing a notorious outlaw, returns for the funeral of an old friend and tells the truth about his deed.

Director: John Ford
Stars: James Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles
Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

When a rich woman's ex-husband and a tabloid-type reporter turn up just before her planned remarriage, she begins to learn the truth about herself.

Director: George Cukor
Stars: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart
Dreamgirls (2006)
Drama | Music | Musical
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

A trio of black female soul singers cross over to the pop charts in the early 1960s, facing their own personal struggles along the way.

Director: Bill Condon
Stars: Beyoncé, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy
Comedy | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A Chicago teenager is looking for fun at home while his parents are away, but the situation quickly gets out of hand.

Director: Paul Brickman
Stars: Tom Cruise, Rebecca De Mornay, Joe Pantoliano


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)


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


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


Not Rated






Release Date:

October 1982 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


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


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

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

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.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 4 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Free Movies and TV Shows You Can Watch Now

On IMDb TV, you can catch Hollywood hits and popular TV series at no cost. Select any poster below to play the movie, totally free!

Browse free movies and TV series

Stream Popular Action and Adventure Titles With Prime Video

Explore popular action and adventure titles available to stream with Prime Video.

Start your free trial

Recently Viewed