The revolution in sound recording is obviously the main focus of this site – but as far as a standard history of popular culture is concerned, the 1900s are better-remembered for the beginnings of the film industry – not yet started in Hollywood, but already beginning to differentiate this century from the last. Up to this point the natural home for cinema is France (and possibly Britain) – but 1903 sees the emergence of the first real auteur of American cinema, Edwin S. Porter.
The Great Train Robbery is nearly as much a bold leap forward as A Trip To The Moon, and its influence if anything may be greater. Watching it you get for the first time a sense of what American film-making is going to become. Porter didn’t exactly invent composite editing, or cross cutting, or location shooting, but his use of them is the first iteration of the grammar of film-making we still have today.
Here is The Great Train Robbery – certainly worth a look.
And here is a documentary about Porter, apparently made by a long defunct website.
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