Let's Go to the Movies (1949)

  |  Documentary, Short, History

Let's Go to the Movies (1949) Poster

What goes in to the phrase, "Let's go to the movies"? An off-screen narrator takes us back to the earliest days of film: clips remind us of early stars and blockbusters. He explains how ... See full summary »


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17 May 2016 | AlsExGal
| Let's go see how the movies came to be would be a better title
This little short celebrating the American movie industry and all of the workers behind it was rather interesting. It didn't use all of its time talking about individual movies, instead it took a different point of view - that of technical developments. Thus the short starts with Edison's kinetoscope and mentioned that Edison didn't bother to spend the hundred dollars it would have taken to secure his rights to the machine overseas. This was puzzling since nobody in history with maybe the exception of Bill Gates has so diligently pursued a monopoly on their achievements. The short talks about "The Great Train Robbery", shows how the illusion of motion is achieved on screen using an old Charlie Chaplin short, and mentions a film of Mary Pickford's that I thought was now lost - "Feud in the Kentucky Hills". A very good print of "Birth of a Nation" is shown as being one of the first feature films. The battlefield scene is shown as an example of an innovation in films.

At this point, the short jumps to the late 1920's with "The Jazz Singer" as the first feature with dialogue in it, and then jumps to two years later to John Barrymore in "The Show of Shows" doing a Shakespearean scene. I think this was to show how fast and far sound film came. There was never a revolution in technology in film that shook things up like the coming of sound.

Then the short jumps to the present - 1949 - and talks about how film itself is made from cotton that is processed and from silver. I believe the process they are showing here is for silver nitrate, the deterioration factor of which is ironically why so many pre 1950 films are gone forever. Safety stock did not become the standard until 1953.

Finally all of the technicians and scientists used to make a movie are saluted, and this is rather sad today since the migration to digital media means a much less labor intensive procedure is involved, thus fewer employees are needed, and that is pretty much the story of all American industries present day.

One technical innovation the short did not mention was color. In particular how the industry was finally able to go from two strip color which only involved red and green and colors that you could derive from those two colors, to being able to realistically bring all colors to the screen starting in about 1935.

So I'd watch this for what a film historian would say about film's present and past from a technical viewpoint. If you are looking to see all of the films that were milestones for artistic rather than technical reasons you will likely be disappointed. For that I'd watch the Turner Classic short "One hundred years at the Movies". I don't think that one is currently on DVD, but somebody always has it on youtube.


Plot Summary


Documentary | Short | History


Release Date:

13 May 1949



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