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Film Midterm Part III: Business Wars, Griffith, Race Movies, Micheaux, Williams, Sennet. Chaplin


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****Oscar Micheaux facts and figures
1981-1948: 40 feature films
More information about the Clansman
released in 1915. made 18 million. story starts before civil war, shows family through war and after. total secrecy for script as Griffith was paranoid. 6 weeks of rehearsal time when avg. was 1 week. 9 weeks of shooting. 1,544 shots total compared to an avg. of under 100. 3 months to edit. 3 and a half hours long. created own distribution company for the film, opened in every nice theater. charged $2 instead of 5 cents.
Two Principles of Comedy
1. conversion of human being into a machine (cartoons gets violence but not seriously hurt), fast paced, no real emotion and 2. comedy can function as a moral force. Numerous silent screen comedians adopted principles
Who were the big actors in race films at the time?
Dorothy Dandridge and Lena Horne, Paul Robeson were major actors in this. Lena Horne and Paul Robeson (Body and Soul) had worked for Oscar Micheaux first
****How were Charlie Chaplin's movies different from Mack Sennetts?
Shift from gag to scene, drew his jokes out through a scene. (3-10 minutes), pace of his films slowerWhat did Chaplin take from Sennett's films?*Enjoyment of pitting opposites against each other. He was a small man, liked to use large man as his antagonists.
Who did Charlie Chaplin work with?
Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith.
What did Chaplin's company United Artists stand for?
It allowed the artists (actors and film makers) to be a priority.
How did MPPC obtain/maintain a monopoly on the entire film industry in America?
two ways: only distributed films to theaters who agreed only to show MPPC films, and with control of the use of Eastman's Kodak Celluloid film. Independent filmmakers had to get film stock from Europe and couldn't get a theater to show (Edison would trash it if they did.)
'Blood of Jesus'
spencer williams film about a wife who wanted her husband to get religion to make their marriage better, he said he would try, he accidentally shoots her and she 'dies', an angel comes to her in a dream and gives her a choice to make at 'a crossroads', she is tempted by the devil, she is taken to hell and still has to decide to stay there or go back to the living
****Mack Sennet would get his whole staff together and come up with movie ideas using which 3 standard structural patterns?
melodramatic plot (woman captured, must be rescued at the last minute), riffing (come up with a situation, then come up with all the physical jokes that involve that.), parody (parodied the major films of the time).
****'The Tramp' character low-down
jobless, lower social class, often interacted with higher social class, humor often surrounded his inadequacy with higher class, Often makes a social statement/social values (dinner table antics), cheats with cards, cheats on women, but an attractive woman brings out his good character, attractive women are often the embodiment of natural beauty, purity, bringin out the best in him, uses physical types for comic effects.
****Spencer Williams
writer, producer, editor, sound technician. Wrote scripts for films.
Spencer Williams film. Black man who leaves the south to go to Harvard and returns to his own community. Seems to link the filmmaker to W.E.B. Dubois. When he returns to his community, he has to deal with inter and intra racial prejudice. Whites have issues with his skin, and blacks have issues with his 'white' education and manners.
****Two of Spencer Wiliam's films
'Go Down Death', and 'The Blood of Jesus'
Golden Age of Race Movies
1914-1918. 150 companies were created to make race movies. 75% produced one or more films (25% couldn't thanks to MPPC). 33% were completely black owned.
****Spencer's film characteristics
had sound, lots of detail, complex scenes.
****Characteristics of Charlie Chaplin's films
fighting bigger guys/alling/facial exressions/props/social graces are awkward/had no sleeves without his jacket, so he never took it all the way off/constant return to humour/jokes drawn out/colored film (dye-bath, hand tinting)/fell for the woman, but didn't get the girl/morals change whenever he's around the attractive woman/some undercranking and overprojecting/dramatic gestures/senses/tells a social message
****Oscar Micheaux
Wrote novels and drove from farm to farm to sell them. The Homesteader was one of his most famous novels, and the Johnson Brothers wanted to make it into a movie. He wanted to direct it, but they wouldn't let him, so he decided to direct it himself. Film known as 'The Homesteader'.
What was the fate of the MPPC?
it was disbanded in 1917 by the Supreme Court, declaring it an illegal trust.
****First African American Director to produce sound films
Oscar Micheaux
Why did Hollywood start to make it's own race films, and what were they called?
Realized that there was a black audience that would pay to see black protagonists in films. Made 'plantation musicals' that weren't political or critical. Counteracted the documentary situation.
****Similarities between Spencer Williams and Oscar Micheaux
contrasted urban and rural, made race films.
What were the business wars in film history?
1897-1908 Thomas Edison cooks up 500 legal actions/disputes. 200 go to court.
Who had a big problem with the film 'Birth of a Nation' and what was the controversy?
NAACP boycotted it. couldn't suppress it. however, they did force Griffith to remove 558 ft of the most racist footage. there was a rape scene (white man/black woman). conclusion of movie was the deportation of all black people. riots in Atlanta and Chicago. 8 states refused to release film or license it.
****Homesteader Themes and Budget
lynching, kkk, passing, interacial marriage, Budget: $15,000
''Birth of A Race'
Micheaux's reaction to counter the impression of black people portrayed in Birth of A Nation.
How many feature films did Williams make from his own screenplays?
9 feature films from his own screenplays
****What are the 2 different phases of Micheaux's career (1918-1930)
silent film primarily, deals realistically with social issues, deal with issues in the south like lynching Within Our Gates involved lynching, we thought it had been lost until a few years ago, but a copy was found in Spain (1930-48) genre films like gangster films, comedies, melodramas
Lincoln Motion Picture Company
1916 one of the first and most important race movie companies, owned by George and Noble Johnson, based in LA. made everything:documentaries-melodramas.
What was D.W. Griffith's most well Known film?
'The Clansman', also known as 'Birth of A Nation'.
what is vertical integration?
a three tiered system of movie production, distribution, and exhibition created by Edison's Motion Picture Patents Company to monopolize all the money. Gave nine production companies a monopoly on all exhibition opportunities.
****Mack Sennett
filmmaker who made the Keystone cop comedies. 1912- Founds his studio.
How did the KKK development coincide with the movie 'Birth of a Nation'?
1915-increase # of lynchings and membership. 1924- membership was 5 million.
****What is significant about Mack Sennett?
One of the first silent screen comedians*What are the two favorite film genres of 1903-1917?*comedy and melodrama are the favorite film genres of this time
****How much time did Mack Sennett give to each joke in his films?
Made sure that he started, went through, and completed every joke between 30-100 seconds. Films went from joke to joke to joke without any real plot.
Detail Charlie CHaplin's career moves
Essenay ($1250 a week plus $10000 sign in), Mutual Corp. ($10000 a week plus 150,000 sign in), First National (got first million dollar contract in film history), creates United Artists.
Spencer Williams played a role in Amos n Andy
played Andy 1951-1953
****How did Sennett get Chaplin to change his mind about acting in his films?
Sennett comes back and offers $150 a week and a guaranteed contract for a year. 1914 went to work for keystone comedies
****Differences between Spencer Williams and Oscar Micheaux
Williams didn't like the city, beleived in going back to your roots, liked religious themes, Micheaux liked urban areas, critical of religion. Micheaux was more challenging of the status quo.
What did the independent filmmakers do in response to the MPPC monopoly?
they moved out west, laying the foundations for what would become hollywood.
****What were Spencer William's views of city life?
He had issues with city life. Made the city look very decadent in his films, like evil, and wanted to move to the midwest and improve the midwest. The city was typically a metaphor for temptation.
Race Movies die out after WWII (1948) for a number of reasons
movies become more expensive to make, Hollywood has started to make their own version of race movies.
'Modern Times'
Chaplin film from 1936. Film has sound/pictures. Tramp is still mute. Tramp works in a factory. Ends up being the hilarious guinea pig for a new lunch contraption. Movements are ridiculous, VERY jerky. Social commentary - the conditions of factory work.
****'Within Our Gates'
Oscar Micheaux film 1919, most controversial film. - told story in a literal way, **contained a lynching scene, **an attempted rape scene, and negative portrayal of a black baptist minister.
****Characteristics of Keystone Comedies
believed in Bergsons first principle-conversion of humans into machines is funny, Comic effects of motion-Under cranks the camera from 16 down to between 8-12 fps and over projects it at 16-24 frames, the effect makes everything move more quickly
****How did Oscar Micheaux portray women?
gives women a central role in the film. They are women who think, who are assertive, very forward looking. "sister martha jane" black woman character in the film. Her daughter is victimized by the black minister. Puts her in a powerful position, she eventually brings down the minister.
What did Edison try to do with legal disputes, and what was the result?
1897 he filed suit against anyone in the U.S. who'd run a loop of film through a camera or a projector. He didn't win, because there were too many people sued.
How did exhibition work in vertical integration?
theaters themselves exhibited the films.
****What ideas are Spencer Williams interested in?
Spencer Williams is interested in the ideas of religion and temptation. 'Blood of Jesus' most important film in this aspect
****How did Chaplin get his start?
Sennett sees Chaplin in his vv act in 1913. thinks Chaplin would be perfect for movies, offers him $75 a week to be in keystone comedies, Chaplin didn't want to risk his career for something as risky as 'film'
How did production work in vertical integration?
production involved the people making the movies. they provided the films
Henri Bergson
wrote paper: Le Rire/The Laugh (1900) about comedy. He was a philosopher. Wrote about two principles of comedy.
What was the MPPC?
Motion Picture Patent Company created by Edison in 1908 to control the most important patents for film production. The nine companies involved agreed only to share patents and products with each other.
****What general themes does Oscar Micheaux mix?
intersected religion with urban life. Urban vs Rural. Urban vs South. Minister vs congregation
How did Micheaux keep his budget low?
He would use settings like nightclubs to film scantily clad women. The nightclubsprovided free sets and background actors in return for free publicity.
****Spencer Williams Made films about
religious subjects/temptation. Acted in his own films.
'Go Down Death'
Spencer Williams film. contemporary story around a narrative of religion. story of a guy who owns a juke joint that is losing business he thinks because the local church is talking **** about him. Pictures are taken of him kissing a woman and having fun with a group. He hides them, but then his aunt finds the pictures, but the guy finds her finding the pictures and pushes her. She hits her head and dies. He starts seeing things, hearing voices, and loses his mind. Southern Baptist imagery runs through his visions.
****What conflicts did Sennett and Chaplin have with each other?
Sennett wanted Chaplin to roll around , fall, be like everyone else. Chaplin began to disagree with Sennett about the types of films he should make. Chaplin wanted close ups, wanted to make his own films, Sennett disagreed.
How did distribution work in vertical integration?
distribution involved the method of circulating films from the production studios to the theaters. this was carefully controlled.
The Clansman
D.W. Griffith's most well known film. Based on a novel about plantation family after civil war, written by Thomas Dixon. Protagonist creates KKK to save south.
English comedian, wrote vaudeville acts.
****Charlie Chaplin's character
the tramp-Had the character of a drunk. Very gymnastic. Fell a lot for his act.
*******How do Sennett and Chaplin reflect Bergsen's 1st and 2nd principles?
#1. Physical comedy for physical comedies sake/Sennett, #2. Comedy for the sake of social cause/Chaplin
What was the starting budget for 'The Clansman'?
40,000. average film budget was 10.000. ended up costing 110,000
****'The Tramp'
Chaplin Film 1915 with S&A. some jerky movement. Slapstick antics. Falling. Cars nearly run over tramp often. Musical score reflects the humor. Small gestures are very comedic - sweeping dirt off butt. Film reflects all of Chaplin's hallmarks.
****vaudeville shows
variety shows.
****Describe Chaplin's character 'The Tramp'
big pants, tight jacket, a mustache, big shoes, and a ridiculous appearance to create character recognition.
****How did Oscar Micheaux portray black ministers?
reconstructed the bad black minister figure in that way to make black audiences more critical of who they choose as their leaders
****Birth of Race movies
Mississippy filmmakers decided they wanted to make positive films in reaction to 'Birth of A Nation'. by 1918, 8 different independent companies produce race movies.
Spencer Williams gangster film. North vs South, migrating to the north = lure to a negative lifestyle. Evils that the 'north' might provide. (This sounds weird) Looks at city life as being a place where awful things happen
****Mack Sennett's themes
Conversion of humans into machines, Characters rarely experience emotion, Characters never seriously hurt, Depended on improvisation, Gags, 30-100 seconds
Why did Charlie Chaplin have huge issues with high social class?
because he was poor when he was young.
Where were race movies shown?
churches, outdoors on screens, community centers, by business owners.
****What were Spencer Williams methods with ideas?
he made them literal.
What president endorsed the film 'The Birth of A Nation'?
Woodrow Wilson

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