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Power to the Little People

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Power to the 'Little' People

"The nature of their content and control helps to shape the character and direction of American culture as a whole." Robert Sklar points out in his book that since the beginning, U.S. films have developed a mass entertainment for the working class. With the invention of the moving picture, to dramatic productions, and then slapstick comedies, changes were happening everywhere in the first half of the 20th century and movies were growing with them.

The movie is first and foremost and invention. Science came first with the motion picture. The fact that they were trying to describe the rhythm of a horses' steps didn't help them become conscious that other people might be interested in it as well. In 1893, Thomas Edison's kinetoscope came about, and then movies were shown in vaudeville and penny arcades. "The urban workers, the immigrants and the poor had discovered a new medium of entertainment without the aid..."

"As a business, and as a social phenomenon, the motion pictures came to life in the United States when they made contact with working-class needs and desires." Edwin S. Porter's The Great Train Robbery was one of the first great American films. He put on film, what regular people spoke about. For example, when an innocent passenger from the train tried to escape and was shot to death; some fable that one person could have told to another was now being looked upon with their own eyes. "Rescue movies...were races against time. Chases provided at least twice as much opportunity for more shots, locations, and movement."

Slapstick comedies spoofed authority figures; they were made to look foolish, such as the lowlife characters. "Movies gave palpable expression to their feelings of hostility and resentment against those who brought misery into their lives." Mack Sennett's Keystone Studio was the base of silent comedies. One of his performers was Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin's idea of the social order was radical change which he showed many times in his films (e.g. The Kid, The Gold Rush, and The Great Dictator.)

The first films just recorded, later films were cut to show a chain of events, and then stories reflecting on real life came into play. Film historians should not be the only people to know this record of the past. Every generation



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