Cinematic Firsts: The First Film Made In Hollywood - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

Cinematic Firsts: The First Film Made In Hollywood

Hooray for Hollywood!
Although you'd be forgiven for thinking it, the movie industry did not start in Hollywood. As we've explored in many other Cinematic Firsts articles, motion pictures had been produced all around the world before anyone decided to set-up business in California, USA. The man who broke ground on what was to one day become a multi-billion dollar industry was D.W. Griffith. Considered one of the most influential figures in the history of the motion picture, Griffith pioneered the art of the narrative film, with his 1915 production, Birth of a Nation, being a prime example of this (and also Hollywood's first big budget production).

Like many directors of our generation today, Griffith got his first taste of the industry as an actor, working on-stage in touring companies and transitioning into film by 1907 as an extra on a variety of productions. A frustrated playwright, who had long failed to sell a script, Griffith eventually embraced his new career and accepted a role as a stage extra in the 1908 production Professional Jealousy for the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, and his career in the film industry changed forever.

During filming, Biograph's main director Wallace McCutcheon Sr. grew ill, and his son Wallace McCutcheon Jr. took his place. McCutcheon Jr. did not bring the studio success and Biograph co-founder Harry Marvin gave Griffith the position. Within days Griffith began shooting his first production as director, the short film The Adventures of Dollie...

Across the next year, Griffith directed a total of 48 shorts for the company! Most of which were filmed in and around the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company's indoor studio situated within a converted brownstone mansion at 11 East 14th Street near Union Square, Manhattan. In 1909, Griffith began to look further afield, and on a visit to the west coast of America he discovered the little village of Hollywood, California and decided to shoot there because of the beautiful scenery and friendly people.

Released in March 1910, D.W. Griffith's In Old California holds the title of the first film to be made in Hollywood, what would soon become the new home for the blossoming film industry.

Shot in just two days, In Old California is a melodrama set initially in 1822. It tells the story of a Spanish senorita named Perdita Lergnello who is beloved by Jr. Manuella, a wealthy young Spaniard, who has migrated to the new world in search of adventure. A man of fine qualities, he surrenders his claim upon the girl when he finds out that her heart has been given to Pedro Cortes, a handsome troubadour from the village. Of a poetic temperament, she yields to his plea and marries him.

Twenty years later, we see the result of her mistaken marriage to Cortes. Cortes has proven to be a worthless dipsomaniac and reprobate, spending his time and the money she earns at the tavern. The most unfortunate feature is that they have a son, now nearly nineteen years old. Perdita realizes that his father's example is not favorable to the boy's well-being, resolving to save him. At this time, California is in conflict, and Manuella, Perdita's former lover, is now the new Governor, so she appeals to him to provide a future for her son. The Governor takes the boy into his own company. Perdita's son displays characteristics similar to his father, including drunkenness and theft, accumulating in the robbing of his sleeping comrades-in-arms. Perdita has despatched a letter of thanks to the Governor, which he is reading as the drunken boy is brought before him. The tone of the letter induces Manuella to be more lenient with the boy in the hope that she might live in ignorance of his real nature.

However, later she writes that she is dying, and believing her son has made a name for himself, she asks to be allowed to see him before she dies. At this moment, the boy is brought before him again having been caught thieving. Manuella is thoroughly disgusted with the boy, but in order to have his mother die happy, he decorates him, making him appear before her as a hero. When she breathes her last breath the medals are torn from his breast and he is sent to prison where the punishment for the pain that he has inflicted.
In Old California was believed to have been lost; never seen for 94 years after its initial 1910 release. But a print was discovered in 2004 and was screened to a select few at that year's Beverly Hills Film Festival. In Old California was then scheduled for restoration, with the restored version to be premiered at a later date. Which, given the deterioration and work needed to restore the fragile print that hadn't seen the light of day in 94 years, still hasn't happened.

For years the first film thought shot in Hollywood was Cecil B. DeMille's 1914 feature The Squaw Man (which does hold the record of first feature film made in Hollywood). The discovery of Griffith's film made it the first movie of any length filmed in Hollywood, and to honor this cinematic first a monument was erected at 1713 Vine Street, just north of Hollywood Boulevard, on May 6th 2004.
View all our Cinematic Firsts articles here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad