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History & Evolution of American Silent Film

The technology for making movies was in place by 1895, but the true potential of movie-making was not realized until two decades later with D.W. GriffithÆs 1915 full-length feature film ôBirth of a Nation.ö The narrative form and filmic techniques employed by Griffith may have ensured that movies were a viable art and entertainment form, but the rise of American film as a key industry was based on other developments of the first two decades of the 20th Century, notably World War I. The Great War ôplaced the American film industry in a position of undisputed economic and artistic leadershipö (Cook 48).

According to film historian Donald Cook, ômovies were intended to talk from their inception, so that in some sense the silent cinema represents a thirty-year aberration from the mediumÆs natural tendency toward a total representation of realityö (Cook 6). It is a misnomer to describe the silent film era as silent since live music accompanied the showing of each film, and the actors ôspokeö on screen even though they could not be heard (hence subtitles). It would be more accurate to state that films were silent because the technology or know-how did not exist regarding synchronizing recorded sound with the recorded image. Out of this lack of technology, however, a unique language was created that is known as silent film. This paper will examine the history and evolution of American silent film through 1920, focusing on changes during World War I in terms of technology, uses and the impact of the War on American cinema.

The history of movies is the result of scientific advances that led to the development of modern film technology. As early as 1824, Briton Peter Roget described the principle of the persistence of vision, a principle that led to the development of flip books and then to machines that could animate hand-drawn pictures. Other devices invented by Frenchmen Charles Reynaud and Etienne Marey, Briton Eadward ...

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History & Evolution of American Silent Film. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 03:54, February 22, 2017, from