Thursday, February 4, 2010

Actors on the Films

This article from the St. Louis Times and reprinted in Moving Picture World advocates creating talking pictures by putting actors behind the screen. The article seems to be floating the idea rather than reporting on it, though 1908 was a peak year of the practice, with numerous commercial troupes being formed, and the practice seems to have been around since at least 1905.
Actors on the Films

The success of phonograph houses in recording for sale the voices of notable singers, including such individual successes as Caruso and Melba, Calve and Nordica, suggests that there is open another opportunity for the actor.

Moving pictures have taken their place among the standard entertainments of the day in which we live and make progress. They are furnishing cheap and wholesome amusement and education for the multitude. Their pictures take audiences on far tours. They show the latest in the world of invention. They amuse and instruct. The next step is the adaption of the idea to the serious drama.

Many of the smaller cities of the country have small chance of seeing players of the Drew and Adams type. Plays such as “Peter Pan” and “My Wife” are a long time in reaching towns of the third and fourth class. Operas seldom if ever get to the smaller cities. The moving picture machine and a pair of clever imitators ought to supply the omission. Let John Drew and his company “My Wife” go before one of the cameras, giving it exactly as presented on the stage at the Olympic. Then, when it is reproduced in Williamsburg or Kokomo, a man or a woman, rehearsed in the lines of the piece, speaking the dialogue as it is acted by the films, will complete the drama for eye and ear.

In the comic operas the tasks would be a bit more difficult, for singing voices would be required; but the expertise, even for this form of the moving picture entertainment, would be trifling as compared with the cast of Marie Cahill’s company or the organization playing “The Merry Widow.”

At this time there is no mechanical reproduction of the best plays, but it will come, as sure as the reproduction of voices for commercial purposes came by way of the phonograph. When Mark Twain had Pudd’n Head Wilson use the thumb print in detective work there was no Bertillon system, but the lines of the thumb are now important in the tracing and recording of criminals.
Source: “Actors on the Films,” St. Louis Times, reprinted Moving Picture World 7 March 1908, 184.