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Cinema's Artistic Antecedents

Cinema was not born of void. Earlier inventions, including, but not limited too, the magic lantern, diorama theater, the photograph and vaudeville contributed to the what went on in front of the camera in the earliest days of film history. Visit the show's website, for show notes, and contact me at Enjoy the show!
I am using soundbites for movies as transitions, reminders of what this is all leading up to, and for my own enjoyment (I hope yours too). Once we reach sound film, these clips will be relevant to the topic at hand, I promise. In this episode these clips are:
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
They Live (1988)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)


I have a link here for the website by Dr. Machiko Kusahara that was the guiding light for my research on this episode. I found a few books on the subject online, but unfortunately for me they are all in Japanese, which is even worse than my Dutch. I assume all the images she uses fall under the public domain, but I thought it would be better to direct you to the site its-self you you can get a better Idea how it works. My biggest regret for this episode is not describing in great enough detail how this kind of proto-animation worked, but we will cover it in more detail in the Méliés episode. for good measure, I am going to add a button.


Diorama Theater

This is an excellent illustration of how these worked. In a way, it is sort of like a reverse "moving picture" in that the picture is actually staying still and the audience is doing the moving.

Portrait Photography

I quickly went to the wikipedia page for the daguerreotype to find some free to use images of the kind of portraiture that was was very common in therapy days of photography. The set of images continues some well known historical figures captured in remarkable detail. Dr. Paula Marantz Cohen proposes that it was this that prepared film viewers for the glorious close up. Look at the film here W. D. Griffith's Stella Maris and notice how the she shots are set up similarly to some of the daguerreotype portraits. Try skipping to about 25 minutes in and watching for a few minutes.
P.S.- I haven't actually seen this movie, so forgive me if i put something up here that isn't great. At the very least, Griffith usually produces very watchable films.


This Britannica article was one of my sources for writing the vaudeville section of the show. It contains some pictures and images that may be helpful in getting an idea for what it was like. I will put up actually early recordings of vaudeville acts when we do our episode on the earliest Edison Edison-Dixon films in episode 4. There is also a vaudeville scene in the 1993 Tombstone that provides a pretty good picture of what it was like (but with guns and Kurt Russel). Here are a couple of examples.

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