A two-reel short from Alliance (produced in England and not the USA as some sources indicate)covering the history of "moving pictures" from 1848 to the (then) present, and even going into ... See full summary »
This film is an absolute travesty by a man who had been involved in film-making from its earliest days and was therefore in a position to know better. It is, however, a good example of how rapidly, after the advent of "sound", the history of cinema began to be rewritten in a way that greatly exaggerated the importance of the early US film industry and which came to regard the silent era (forty years of film history, my God!) as a kind of primitive and aberrant curiosity.
Blackton's account of cinema pre-history is fair enough (simple but well put together) but his account of the period through which he himself lived is a disgrace. He manges to tel the history of early cinema without a single mentioo of Étienne-Jules Marey (Muybridge is there) or Georges Demenÿ, or of the Lumières,and Georges Méliès. He gives pride of place (reasonably enough) to his own early animation-films but makes no mention of Émile Cohl. Thomas Edison, whose actual personal iivolvement in the development of cinema was very small, is treated with ridiculous and sycophantic reverence while the real inventors associated with Edison are slighted (Dickson is briefly described as Edison's "assistant" and Armat, needless to say, is not mentioned at all).
The treatment of silent film (in a series of dismissive clips) and the huge achievements of the silent era (not indicated at all) are appalling, especially when linked to lavish praise of the real rather trivial achievements of the still-infant sound era. The film seems to have been released in different versions; the one I have seen contains quite different clips from those described here and is presumably a later edition since it includes footage from 1934. But the basic format remains the same.
Watching such a propagandist piece of falsified history, one appreciates better how it came to be that, until very recent years, the knowledge of the early years of cinema was so poor and the history of the silent era so deformed. Thank goodness that era of false consciousness is now largely behind us and we can again appreciate the achievements of early cinema (including those of Mr. Blackton himself) at their true value. We can also see by comparison how poor the majority of early US sound films were (The Blue Angel, a German film, is a ery different matter).