The sophisticated technology and artistic appeal that characterizes today’s film industry owes its success to rather humble beginnings. In 1867 American William Lincoln patented the oddly conceived named Zoopraxiscope, also known as the “wheel of life”, a primitive machine that allowed individuals to view moving images through a small opening. Having stirred the imagination of innovative thinkers, the machine was soon eclipsed by motion picture cameras. The years 1895 and 1896 witnessed the emergence of competing versions of the new cameras. Frenchman Louis Lumiere’s Cinematograph, the Edison Manufacturing Company’s Vitascope and Thomas Arnat’s and Charles Francis Jenkins’ Phantascope, to name a few, were mobile and had the capacity to project moving images onto large screens. Theatres grew into popular venues for showing these first motion pictures and were often featured as part of vaudeville acts.
It wasn’t until the late 1920’s that synchronous sound was fully incorporated into motion pictures. Prior to that live narrators and musical accompaniment served to animate the scenes. The English silent film actor Charlie Chaplin was largely responsible for pioneering the development of the film industry. His creative genius and skill at acting gave movie goers their first taste of celebrity appeal. Despite the arrival of “talkie” films, Chaplin remained devoted to his silent routines, believing that words corrupted the true pantomime nature of film acting.
Feature length films developed around the early part of the 20th century, with D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation in 1915 highlighting the story telling capabilities of film and the impact editing had on producing them. All of the elements of skillful acting, artistic enhancements and captivating scripts were well in place by the early 1930’s. From that point on, films have gone on to hold a prominent role in the formation of culture and have provided today’s world with a continual source of entertainment.