Articles How did the first movie stars appear? How did child labor affect the development of the film industry? The answers are in John Savage’s new book, The Teenagers. The birth of youth culture 1875-1945 ». April 22, 2018
A new book by British journalist John Savage “Teenagers. The emergence of youth culture 1875-1945, which was recently published in Russian by the publishing house “White Apple” (translated by Alexander Belyaev), is devoted to the fascinating history of the formation and formation of youth culture from the second half of the XIX century and until 1945, when the word “teenager” was officially included.
Its author tells about London, New York, Paris and Berlin in times of gangs, bullies and apaches. Explores the nature of the first youth associations – from Boy Scouts and Vanderfogel to Hitler Youth. Looking for an eternal youth with Peter Pan and exploring free love with Rupert Brook. Describes flappers, zooters, golden youth, young unemployed during the Great Depression. About musical genres, dances, idols of the time and fashionable fads.
With the permission of the publishing house, KinoPisc publishes an excerpt from the chapter on how teenagers made a movie a popular entertainment.
Cinematography and animal dances
In the decade that preceded the entry of America into the First World War, the mass entertainment industry developed at an unprecedented pace. The steepest rise was experienced by the cinematography industry, generated by the amazing success of nickelodeons, that is, cheap cinemas (nickel – a five-cent coin – Note. an interpreter). By 1910, they were visited by about 10-20 million people every week. Many of the viewers are children and teenagers, hundreds of thousands of whom were attracted to the futuristic world, of which they wanted to count themselves.
Child labor gave a side effect: consumption began on the part of young people. And directly they were feeding a thriving film business. Betty Smith in the novel about pre-war life “The Tree is Growing in Brooklyn” described what the heroine, the eleven-year-old Francie Nolan, feels on the day of her salary: “Francie got a coin – Francis now has the power.” Entering the store on Broadway, “she walked down the aisles, picking up everything she liked. How wonderful it is – to take something, hold in hand for a couple of seconds, feel outlines, stroke the surface and then gently put it back. She could afford it: a dime in her pocket delegated such a right to her. “
American youth, brought up with the idea that “money is a beautiful thing,” draws a parallel between independence and the ability to spend. By the end of the nineteenth century, newspaper boys, street vendors and school children often visited buffets and confectioneries – they bought sweets, hamburgers and ice cream there. However, their most favorite place is a gallery of slot machines, a temple of entertainment: the facades of huge halls with slot machines and – after the 1890s – with kinetoscopes, devices in which the cinema is looked through the peephole. The American youth “cinema” was fascinated at once. Genre bribed with its novelty, but the main crochet was that this fictional world very well fell on the developing psyche of a teenager. According to Stanley Hall, this period “is marked by a strong intensification of fictional life, and at no other age it so does not affect the mood and character of the waking consciousness.” He believed that the pubertal period was marked by an “immersion in thought, dreaminess” that acted as an “anesthesia.”
Once the peephole was replaced with a projection screen, the movie immediately became popular. It turned out that it was more pleasant to watch movies on the big screen, and sometimes cheaper. Also, young people had a place where they could stay together in the dark.
Arising in the mid-1900s, nickelodeans showed that going to the movies is a sociable event. Cinemas have become so popular that it seemed to observers like Jane Addams that they “arose suddenly, it is unclear how, why it is not clear”. Children and boys in the “new cinema audience” were from a quarter to half. Most of them are the children of newly arrived immigrants, as nickel -odeans opened mainly in working areas and poor urban neighborhoods. Only in the movies, young Americans could see their lives as they are nowhere else.
Also some freedom from adult control was provided by so-called “nickel dump” sessions, usually held at noon or closer to the evening. Addams notes that “young people went to five-cent cinemas companies, and expressing the instinct of the” gang “: they boasted of movies and stunt tricks, seen in” their “cinemas.” They could spend this time because they were still working – the introduction of compulsory education in the upper grades did not abolish child labor. A study conducted in the Iowa in the 1910s showed that more than two-thirds of boys in high school earn money after school. And the most popular types of activities are the newspaperman and the messenger. For girls, the ratio of working and non-working was much more modest – less than a quarter of them provided themselves with earnings. Visiting the “showing moving pictures” was for them the most preferred entertainment: of the interviewed, slightly less than half of the boys and two-thirds of the girls per month watched from one to six movies.
By 1910, 10 million people a week collected new films. Many reformers believed that the cinema badly affects the youth. Jane Addams quotes the “famous psychiatrist from Chicago,” who claimed that he had “a certain number of patients with children with neuroses,” who, due to frequent visits to the cinema, began “hallucinations and mental disorders.” But even more anxiety was caused by children who “at this age of imitation” seriously modeled their behavior in accordance with the standards demonstrated by them. “
Addams cites the case of three boys, from nine to thirteen, who, seeing the scene of a raid on the stage, decided to “lasso, kill and rob” the local milkman. But, “fortunately for him, the horse was frightened by the flying lasso and flipped aside.” In the sensational trial of 1912 over a teenager who cold-bloodedly killed his comrade during an inept train robbery, reports called Edwin Porter’s famous film “The Great Train Robbery” the cause of the crime – it was “an accurate reproduction of the scene from the movie.”
“The Great Train Robbery”
Such cases, in which the offender said that a particular film spodvig it to a crime, gave an occasion for adults to curse this new genre. However, attempts to control the industry failed because it developed much faster than the organizations that were called upon to manage it. In 1909, the National Committee for Censorship was established, but until 1914 he skipped the rental of 95 percent of all films submitted. The result was relative freedom, which not only blinded America, but also exposed its weak points: in the 1910s a whole series of films appeared that showed the shortcomings of American society.
On the screens began to go “operational” films. In the patent war, the production and distribution of films between already established companies like Biograph and the new independent ones began to show feature films in old theaters. Excellent opportunities for these large sites with a large number of seats and luxury were confirmed by the unexpected success of one of the first feature films, “Trade in Souls” (1913). This movie on “trafficking of white slaves” made a sensation: in the first week it was watched by 30 000 spectators, and a large number of them – girls aged 16-18.
In the same year, the problem of juvenile delinquency was raised by the film “Saved by the Juvenile Court,” which chose rehabilitation as its theme, with Ben Reamer, the reformist judge, playing the main role. This early picture showed the effectiveness of the law in the control of juvenile offenders. But Raoul Walsh’s film “Revival”, filmed with real bandits in the Bowery and the Lower East Side, showed in abundance street teenage gangs and their colleagues of a more mature age.
The film, based on the memoirs of the leader of the Bowery gang, Owen Frowley Kilder, captured the urban slums of the 1890s on the verge of their disappearance. Other early films about teenage problems have somewhat lacquered the topic. In the film of 1914, “John Barley Grain”, based on the same autobiographical novel by Jack London, showed childish drunkenness and other bad habits – and was extolled as “an irresistible argument for abstinence.” In the same year, the tape “Drug Trafficking”, showing death from an overdose of morphine of a typical American teenager, made acute the question of the need to further strengthen control over drug trafficking. However, all these films are more an exception than a rule: they were not conceived at all as a purely documentary film or some form of influence on public opinion.
The cinema of that time is entertainment. And even when it concerned actual topics, it turned out to be outdated or trying to make a sensation. But the reflection of reality was not its goal, the cinema had to be a theater in which actors play fictional plays from the beginning to the end. Despite the fact that at the dawn of the emergence of cinematography people did not always distinguish fiction on the screen from reality, by 1910 it was already clear to everybody that the movies were a “land of dreams”, which in industrial way transformed America’s attraction to fantasies and dreams into a new tool of unprecedented earlier strength. Wizard of Oz found an ideal way to capture the perception of the people of the City of the Emerald.
The attitude of movies to American youth was psychologically intimate. On the one hand, they were a world of dreams, an outlet in a monotonous sequence of everyday life. On the other hand, they demonstrated embellished images of teenage life that fell into the soul. As a consequence, the relationship between the audience and the producers has become very ambiguous: the studios could hold the key, so to speak, as long as they create the product, and at the mercy of the audience there was success or failure. Often, as in the case of the “Trade in Souls,” this became a complete surprise.
Young movie lovers wanted an improved, sublime version of the real world, a world with which you can identify yourself and who at the same time will take you somewhere far away. These desires embodied in a public figure of a new type created by the hype in the press. The fact is that until the 1910s movie actors had no special status, they were mostly anonymous for the most part. If they were represented, then through belonging to the film company – “girl Bioghraph”, for example. In the beginning of 1910, Biograph, to curb deliberately dissolving rumors about the death of her “girl” in a car accident, was named by her Florence Lawrence.
Two weeks later, in a newspaper article about Lawrence, it was noted that “producers <cinema> only now the public’s request for information about actors began to satisfy, having understood the value of their personalities. ” It was predicted that “in due time these actors will hire entire services of press agents, like everyone who draws close attention to themselves.” At the same time, Variety magazine called the twenty-year-old Lawrence “starry film actress”. By the beginning of 1912 she had become a “girl with a million faces”.
Florence Lawrence personified an unearthly creature – Wilde star boy like Peter Pan – in the guise of a young attractive woman, which was multiplied in hundreds of thousands of copies and reached the end user in a greatly enlarged form on the movie screen. In this new paganism, the role of god / goddess was assigned to the actor / actress. Very soon their heroes turned into the Olympic gods of the twentieth century: a complex entangled system of values, abstract human impulses that can be used both in the life of the country and in individual needs.
The center of this system was adolescents, as adolescence just expresses both sexual attractiveness and idealized innocence. The youth of the star engraved on celluloid is forever, like Dorian Gray and Peter Pan, and this quality can be attributed to real artists. Writer Booth Tarkington wrote about the most popular actor of the time, dashing and muscular Douglas Fairbanks, that he “will never grow old until mercury gets old.” Moreover, youth was considered such a valuable quality that it, at least in the first years of the system of stars, was created artificially. The films had the power to blur the line between reality and fantasy.
One of the most popular actresses of the time, Ted Bar, after success in “Once upon a time was a fool” (1915), she auditioned exclusively for the role of classical femme fatale, a femme fatale: thickly painted eyelids, aura of “unrestrained eroticism”. The press service of the studio represented her as “nurtured by snake blood, the daughter of a princess, married to a sphinx.” In fact, her name was Teodosia Goodman, and she was the daughter of a tailor from Ohio. But the mask worked fine for her, and when she decided to perform in a different role, her career came to an end.
“Once upon a time there was a fool”
Similar in the new system is a usual trap, no more. The demands of the new gods of the film industry all grew and grew. In addition to the external appearance necessary for the transformation of a real person into an image, and the corresponding psychological confusion, the images were created exclusively on the conditions of the studio. So, Mary Pickford played wonderful curly girls from 12 to 16 years old, and in real life she was twenty and a little, she wore long nails, smoked, already managed to break up with her husband and make a romance. That is, the stars were like a Frankenstein monster.
The screen age did not match the real age also in Charlie Chaplin. He created an archetypal image of a comic tramp – baggy pants and a tight tight jacket. According to critic Parker Tyler, this costume symbolized “an adult, as seen by a child standing at his feet and looking up enviously.” Chaplin began to make films in 1914 and very soon became famous for the film “The Tramp”, which perpetuated this image of him. Chaplin, choosing as the “god of the crowd” of society’s dumping, consciously played on one of the worst nightmares of the bourgeoisie.
Closure of borders led to demonization of the image of the traveler. By the middle of the 1910s, a tramp was a relic of a wild past that many Americans would have been happy to forget. The scandalous stories of the homeless riots in New York in the winter of 1914 further intensified the danger of vagabonds for America’s orderly social life. Entering the image of the most despised, the most insignificant and using all his talent and all possible technical means, Charlie Chaplin showed the bottom of the society as an excuse for laughter.
The fact that the star can make an outsider attractive, made me love the movie even more. Criminals have long become idols of America, and for a teenager who can be more attractive than the personality that your parents hate? In the autobiographical novel Death in the Family, James Agee describes how his mother Puritan reacted by first watching The Tramp: Chaplin “took his cane by the straight end, and bent it up <actresses> a skirt up to the knee – that’s what her mother thought was disgusting, she looked at her feet, everyone laughed, and she pretended not to notice anything. “
The early films, balancing between scandal and moralizing, ideally embodied that American entity, which Rupert Brooke called “a combination of savagery with total and total resolution.” When the “quarter of vice” was closed in San Francisco in 1913, young photographer Hal Mohr captured the last festivities. The poster “The Last Night on the Coast of the Barbarians” promised at last a wide variety of entertainments: “Hasten to see the famous dances grater trot and bani hag. Hurry to see the Negro Dance Hall – dancing in an unprecedented style! “