Specific dates are a little hard to come by but, one-hundred, twenty-five years ago in May, Edison Studios produced three silent actuality films of German bodybuilder Eugen Sandow (born Friedrich Wilhelm Müller). It was directed by Scottish mutoscope inventor, photographer and Edison employee William K. L. Dickson.
Florenz Ziegfeld wanted to display Sandow at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Ziegfeld found that the audience was more fascinated by Sandow’s bulging muscles than by the amount of weight he was lifting so, Ziegfeld had Sandow move in poses which he dubbed “muscle display performances”…and the legendary strongman added these displays in addition to performing his feats of strength with barbells. He added chain-around-the-chest breaking and other colorful displays to Sandow’s routine and Sandow quickly became Ziegfeld’s first star. The [Edison] film was of only part of his act and featured him flexing his muscles rather than performing any feats of physical strength.
From Film Threat:
Did you ever stop and say to yourself: “Hey, who was the very first movie star?” You never did? That’s funny, because I did. In researching the answer, I found myself going all the way back to the dawn of motion pictures, where a scantily clad muscleman flexing his biceps was the unlikely pioneer in the realm of celluloid stardom. The year was 1894 and the American motion picture industry consisted solely of Thomas Edison and his team of inventors. Edison had the technology in place but, he was missing one key element: the film contents. […] there was one man who had no problem filling that void. In between the expected presentations for feats of strength, there were posing sequences where Sandow arched and twisted his body in a manner that detailed the excesses of his musculature. Today, we call that bodybuilding, and no one thinks twice about it but, in the 1890s, it was a startling and exciting physical display. Reportedly, Sandow made a nice side business by accepting money from women who wanted to feel his mighty muscles! Sandow’s fame in the United States grew fairly quickly and he became a major headliner on the vaudeville circuit. Edison realized he could also cash in on Sandow’s fame and, in early 1894, he sent word to Ziegfeld about having Sandow appear in a kinetoscope film. Edison then handed Sandow over to William K.L. Dickson, who was in charge of the film production at Edison’s studio. Sandow stripped off his clothing, donned his tighty-whitey posing trunks and stood before the hand-cranked kinetoscope camera. And, to employ the ultimate cliché, history was made.
I am going WAY back this time…back to the days of moving pictures and short films. Sticking with my five year increments, one-hundred & thirty years ago, William Friese-Greene, an English inventor, and professional photographer, shot a silent, actuality film in the Autumn of 1889. It was titled Leisurely Pedestrians, Open Topped Buses and Hansom Cabs with Trotting Horses.
[…] shot by inventor and film pioneer William Friese-Greene on celluloid film using his ‘machine’ camera, the 20 feet of film […] was shot […] at Apsley Gate, Hyde Park, London. [It] was claimed to be the first motion picture [but] Louis Le Prince successfully shot on glass plate before 18 August 1887 and on paper negative in October 1888. It may, nonetheless, be the first moving picture film on celluloid and the first shot in London.
It is now considered a lost film with no known surviving prints and only one possible still image extant.
An article in This Is Bristol UK from December 17, 2009, (via The Wayback Machine) has an interview with David Friese-Greene, the great-grandson. From the article:
My great-grandfather was an idealist and a brilliant inventor, with 71 patents to his name but, he was a dreadful businessman. He died without ever having made a penny out of his inventions. He married his first wife Helena Friese when he was just 19 and incorporated her surname with his, because he felt it sounded more impressive. Tragically, Helena died at the age of 21 […].
It was during the late 1880s, shortly after Helena’s death, that Friese-Greene first began to experiment with the idea of creating moving pictures. […] in 1890, he patented [a] new device, which he dubbed the chronophotographic camera. Unfortunately, he was so pleased with his creation that, he wrote to the great American inventor, Thomas Edison, telling him what he had come up with and, even, included plans and designs […]. William never heard back from the inventor of the electric light bulb, though, the following year, Edison patented his own version of a movie camera and went down in many history books as the inventor of cinema.
In fact, William died a pauper but, [was] still passionate about his most famous creation. He was at a cinema industry meeting in London, which had been called to discuss the poor state of the British film industry in 1921. He had got to his feet to speak about his vision of how film could be used to create educational documentaries when he fell down dead. It is said he had just 21 pence in his pockets when he died.
There is additional information on this WordPress blog: William Friese-Greene & Me
Seventy-three years, ago, today, the long forgotten variety show Hour Glass debuted on NBC. It was the first hour-long musical/skit/comedy in television history. Co-hosts were Helen Parrish and Eddie Mayehoff. Edgar Bergen appeared on November 14 performing his ventriloquism, a rare thing for radio personalities. He later became host of the program.
Hour Glass was sponsored by Standard Brands, promoting Chase and Sanborn Coffee and, Tenderleaf Tea. The program included comedians, musicians, entertaining films (such as a film of dance in South America) and a long, live commercial for the sponsor’s products. Such famous names as Doodles Weaver, Bert Lahr, Dennis Day, Jerry Colonna, Peggy Lee and Joe Besser appeared on the program.
The Columbia History of American Television attributed the program’s short life to its cost, saying, “Standard Brands invested $200,000 in this series over its ten-month tenure at a time when that level of investment just couldn’t be supported and sustained, leading to the Hour Glass’s abbreviated run.” Another factor was that James Petrillo, president of the American Federation of Musicians, forbade musicians from performing on television without an agreement between the AFM and the networks, thus, limiting directors, and performers, to use of recorded music.
From the Television Academy Foundation:
It is historically important, however, in that it exemplified the issues faced by networks, sponsors and advertising agencies in television’s formative years. The program was produced by the J. Walter Thompson agency […]. The lines of responsibility were not completely defined in those early years and the nine-month run of Hour Glass was punctuated by frequent squabbling among the principals. Each show was assembled by seven Thompson employees working in two teams, each putting together a show over two weeks in a frenzy of production. It must have been the curiosity factor that prompted some stars to appear on the show because they certainly were not paid much money. Hour Glass had a talent budget of only $350 a week, hardly more than scale for a handful of performers. Still, Standard Brands put an estimated $200,000 into the program’s nine-month run, by far the largest amount ever devoted to a sponsored show at that time. In February 1947, Standard Brands canceled Hour Glass. They were pleased with the show’s performance in terms of beverage sales and its overall quality, yet, were leery about continuing to pour money into a program that did not reach a large number of households (it is unclear if the show was broadcast anywhere other than NBC’s interconnected stations in New York and Philadelphia). The strain between NBC and Thompson played a role as well. Still, Hour Glass did provide Thompson with a valuable blueprint for the agency’s celebrated and long-running production, Kraft Television Theatre.
More information from Eyes of a Generation
Five years ago, today, the #1 movie at the box office was The Other Woman, a comedy starring Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Don Johnson, Kate Upton, Taylor Kinney and Nicki Minaj. Released April 25, it was directed by Nick Cassavetes (the son of John Cassavetes & Gena Rowlands). Melissa Stack was hired to write a screenplay that was based on the 1996 movie The First Wives Club.
After discovering her boyfriend is married, Carly Whitten tries to get her ruined life back on track. But, when she accidentally meets the wife he’s been cheating on, she realizes they have much in common and her sworn enemy becomes her greatest friend. When yet another affair is discovered, all three women team up to plot mutual revenge on their cheating, lying, three-timing SOB.
From Justin Chang (Variety):
[…] an ungainly, often flat-footed yet weirdly compelling romantic dramedy about two gals who become unlikely best friends when they realize they’re being screwed (literally) by the same man. Like a watered-down “Diabolique” or a younger-skewing “First Wives Club,” this latest mainstream rebound from director Nick Cassavetes taps into the pleasures of sisterly solidarity and righteous revenge. Beneath the wobbly pratfalls and the scatological set pieces, there’s no denying the film’s mean-spirited kick, or its more-than-passing interest in what makes its women tick.
From Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter):
A female solidarity adultery comedy that’s three parts embarrassing farce to one part genuinely comic discharge.
From Christy Lemire (Roger Ebert):
Trouble is, Cassavetes, working from a script by Melissa K. Stack, veers wildly between cautionary tale, revenge comedy, scatological raunchfest and female empowerment drama. In theory, the joy of watching this kind of movie comes from seeing such a smooth operator squirm as his schemes are revealed and destroyed. […] plot contrivances abound […], along with not one but, two instances of characters, um, graphically relieving themselves at inopportune moments. The joke isn’t funny the first time and this kind of gross-out strain of comedy clangs uncomfortably with the feel-good message […]. Any semblance of intelligent humor or insight into female aging that may have existed gets tossed out the window of Carly’s high-rise office by the end […]
[There are, literally, NO good trivia bits for this movie. ~Vic]
Ten years ago, today, the #1 movie at the box office was 17 Again, a comedy starring Zac Efron, Matthew Perry, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, Michelle Trachtenberg, Jim Gaffigan, Margaret Cho & Melora Hardin. Released April 17, it was directed by Burr Steers (Gore Vidal‘s nephew).
At 17 Mike O’Donnell is on top of the world: he’s the star of his high school basketball team, is a shoo-in for a college scholarship, and is dating his soul-mate, Scarlet. But, at what’s supposed to be his big game where a college scout is checking him out, Scarlet reveals that she’s pregnant. Mike decides to leave the game and asks Scarlet to marry him, which she does. During their marriage, Mike can only whine about the life he lost because he married her so, she throws him out. When he also loses his job, he returns to the only place he’s happy at, his old high school. While looking at his high school photo, a janitor asks him if he wishes he could be 17 again and he says yes. One night while driving he sees the janitor on a bridge ready to jump and goes after him. When he returns to his friend Ned’s house, where he has been staying, he sees that he is 17 again. He decides to take this opportunity to get the life he lost.
♦ Visual effects were not used when Zac Efron does the basketball tricks during the cafeteria scene. He really did accomplish them on his own.
♦ This is a remake of the 1986 Disney TV movie “Young Again” starring a very young Keanu Reeves in one of his earliest roles.
♦ In one scene, Mike wakes up and begins describing his “dream” of being in high school again only to find his daughter, Maggie, caring for him. This is an homage to the counterpart scene in Back to the Future (1985), in which Marty McFly wakes up and finds his teen-aged mother caring for him.