The Man Who Invented Hollywood
By Dr. Ted Baehr, Publisher
He who forgets history is doomed to come to the wrong conclusions could be the summary of the incredible research that Professor Andrew A. Erish reveals in the book COLONEL WILLIAM N. SELIG, THE MAN WHO INVENTED HOLLYWOOD.
Most film histories start with the second generation of filmmakers and come to misguided conclusions that the second-generation invented film techniques that were actually invented before they started and that the second-generation filmmakers are not the instigators of the motion picture as we know it today. Professor Erish shows why this happened. Many of the early movies were not preserved. In the early days of movies, the copyright office required only a few stills from the movie to register the movie. Also, the process of duplicating the movie was so expensive that only the copyright office stills of many movies survived.
The early filmmakers, such as Col. Selig, not only developed the motion picture as we know it today but also comprised people of very strong faith and values. By diligent research of the virtually untouched Selig archives at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, while teaching film history at several universities and colleges in Southern California, Prof. Erish discovered Col. Selig was responsible for an amazing series of firsts, including: the first two-hour narrative feature in America, the first serial with cliffhanger endings, the first western movie with real cowboys and Indians, the first jungle movie genre, the first horror movie in America, the first successful American newsreel made in partnership with William Randolph Hearst, the first American movie studio in Los Angeles, the cultivation of international exhibitions of American movies, and much, much more.
Selig’s films got incredible positive critical review and some of them were blockbusters, not only in terms of Early 20th Century but also in terms of contemporary filmmaking. Selig also made one of the most memorable critically acclaimed movies of all time about the Armenian genocide. Many movie stars came out of his studio, including Guy Oliver, Tom Mix, Tyrone Power’s father, and many of my movie star father’s friends. The first two-hour feature movie made in America, 1914’s THE SPOILERS, was the first American film to earn $1 million at the box office and became the model for many films, including D.W. Griffith’s THE BIRTH OF A NATION.
Why is this so important, besides being fascinating?
Because the second generation of filmmakers wanted to take credit for the inspiration and inventions of the first generation, and often to do so, they disparaged the early filmmakers and defamed them. But even so, there were those second-generation filmmakers like Cecil B. DeMille and Samuel Goldwyn, who gave credit where credit was due.
Some of the books on the history of Hollywood quoted often today are just revisionist history. Some of them I have taught from and believed, such as AN EMPIRE OF THEIR OWN: HOW THE JEWS INVENTED HOLLYWOOD, by Yale Professor Neal Gabler, who should read THE MAN WHO INVENTED HOLLYWOOD. However, the early filmmakers were Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, different nationalities, and men and women of vision and courage, and Col. Selig was pre-eminent among them.
For those who want to know the truth that sets you free, read COL. WILLIAM N. SELIG, THE MAN WHO INVENTED HOLLYWOOD.