February 26, 2012

Holly-View: Film Studios

It Began in the North-Side
photo from Silent Movies Era on Facebook
It was all about the 'Latham Loop'
In 1895, a former Confederate officer of the American Civil War, Woodville Latham known as a chemistry professor at the University of Virginia teamed up with W.K.L. Dickson and another former Thomas Edison employee, Eugene Lauste to create the so-called “Latham Loop”- a loop device that was placed in the strip of film just before it entered the gate of the camera so that the projector could quickly pause to display the image and then advance the film, without pulling directly on the film strip and risking a tear. 
This new machine was called the Panopticon and this projector would allow a larger theater audience to view silent movies ultimately replacing Thomas Edison’s (limited in scope) Kinetoscope projector. After that invention was created a more modern but yet still silent film production process was born. Start-ups would begin to popped up out of nowhere - two would be established in the old District of Lake View where their were lots of rural areas to choose north of Irving Park Road. Before this innovation viewing audience look at slides - view this video history of 'slides in rapid motion' with this YouTube link.
manufacturer of projectors
This Chicago company had its main office & factory in the current neighborhood of West Ridge and according to a 
1923 Sanborn Fire Map also had a factory/office on Ravenswood between Byron & Larchmont Avenue within the current neighborhood of North Central then still referred to as the District of Lake View - name after the annexation.
 a zoomed 1923 view ...
"Howell was born in Michigan and traveled to Chicago to work in a machine shop that built and repaired motion picture projectors. In 1906 he applied for his first patent, a device that improved framing for 35mm Kinodrome motion picture projectors. With Bell’s experience as a movie projectionist, contacts in the movie industry, and ready cash, and Howell’s inventive genius and mechanical aptitude, the two men decided to start their own business. Incorporated with a capitalization of $5,000 in February 1907, Bell & Howell Company entered the business of manufacturing, jobbing, leasing, and repairing machines. 
What made the company famous, however, was its development of equipment that addressed the two most important problems plaguing the movie industry at the time: flickering and standardization. Flickering in the early movies was due to the effects of hand-cranked film, which made the speed erratic. Standardization was needed as divergences in film width during these years made it nearly impossible to show the same film in any two cities within the United States. By 1908, Bell & Howell refined the Kinodrome projector, the film perforator, and the camera & continuous printer, all for the 35mm film width. With the development of this complete system, and the company’s refusal to either manufacture or service products of any other size than the 35mm width, Bell & Howell forced film standardization within the motion picture industry."
1896-1918-ish
An entire square block of studio space - 200 acre site
from Irving Park Road to Byron Street
Western Avenue (west side of street) to Claremont
The Main Building 3900 North Claremont Avenue with office space at 3945 North Western Avenue
William Nicholas Selig is safe to say is the father of silent films in Chicago and and then later in California. He was a brilliant marketer and probably would have been a master in today's social media world. Already a brilliant techie in a relatively still new and evolving technology called photography, Mr. Selig envisioned the potential of Thomas Edison's invention, the kinetoscope, and developed a projector for a mass sized audience and established a company bearing his name. In fact, Thomas Edison apparently pirated his first film and called his own
Sileg Polyscope Company in Chicago would produce films such as The Wizard of Oz (turn the music off),
The Coming of Columbus - filmed in Jackson Park, and 
The Spoilers A master of publicity promotion and excellent in networking his product Mr. Selig and his staff would form alliances with Hearst NewspapersChicago Tribune, and the 
War Department in Washington D.C. in order to be the center of film-making of the world. 
1915 article about the partnership with the 
Chicago Tribune
 1916  Reporting the war news in Europe
 February 1916
A sample of the reporting in the 
Chicago Tribune newspaper
  March 1916
A sample of the reporting in the 
Chicago Tribune newspaper
 April 1917
United States entered the conflict in Europe 
- April 2, 1917
Sileg Polyscope Company would be the first to blend Natural History with film-making trying to convince Teddy Roosevelt to film him on his oversee adventuresSileg Polyscope Company like other eastern studios would need warmer year round schedules to be profitable so moved from winterly Chicago to sunny California.
Below are articles from the Chicago Public Library online newspaper section about this innovative start-up.
Note: View more scenes from the Wizard of Oz from a site called Curtains. Also, view silent screen World War I movies from The Silent Movies Era from other companies 
Essanay Studios 
Manufacturing Company
 1907-1910-ish
Video from Save and Restore Essanay Studios
photo from Essanay Centers
View a movie from this studio about its' restoration plans

The Chicago film industry was the central hub for silent motion picture production and exhibition a decade before Hollywood became the undisputed capital of film making. In the early 1900's, Essanay Studios (podcast), founded by George K. Spoor and Gilbert Anderson, was one of the earliest and successful studios to produce movies in Chicago, employing stars such as Charlie Chaplin who filmed his first movie called 'His New Job' in at the Lake View District studio along with Lake Views' birth own, Gloria Swanson. 
Magazine spread 1909 
 image - Essanay Studio-Facebook
As early as 1907 this studio was originally located on Wells Street in the City of Chicago, the birth of new method of projected cinema. As the company gain popularity so too the need to move to a more expanse workspace. In 1908 the company moved to a rural area beyond the urbanized section of Chicago into the former township of Lake View regarded at the time as the 'Lake View District'. 

images - Chicago: Crossroads of America 
by Olivia Mahoney via Jackie Arreguin
Essanay Company discovered a home at 1333–45 West Argyle Street, presently the site of St. Augustine College. Essanay's first film, 'An Awful Skate' and 'The Hobo on Rollers' (July 1907), with Ben Turpin (studios' janitor) was produced for only a couple hundred dollars and grossed several thousand dollars after its' release.
Charlie Chapin in his first film at Essanay His New Job
Other films performed by Mr. Chaplin with this link
Charlie with Ben Turpin in the same movie
Gloria Swanson, in character, as Charlie Chaplin 
Group picture of some of the actors of the studio:
Beverly Bayne; Bryant Washburn; Gloria Swanson; Ben Turpin; Wallace Beery; Dick Travers; Ruth Stonehouse; Francis X. Bushman; Frank Owens; Charles Hitchcock; Matthew Betts; Bobbie Boulder; Rapley Holmes; Gerda Holmes; Frank Comerford; Frank Klauser.
Essanay rejection letter 
photo - Silent Movies Era on Facebook
During this period, four out of every five films in the U.S. were made in Chicago. Most all the camera and lighting technology demanded shooting in daylight in open-air sets, so in 1912 Essanay moved their production and studio presence to sunny and warmer California in 1917. It was the beginning of an exodus of all other film studios from Chicago to the Golden State, where they enjoyed year-round shooting schedules. 
Only the plain brick building on Argyle Street remains as a reminder of a period when Chicago was at the epic-center of world movie-making industry. Read an creative script read of the history of this studio by  Paul Peditto per Google Books.
As a side-note, Charlie Chaplin had a brief residency at the Brewster Apartments located on Diversey Parkway and Pine Grove where he would commute to the studio during production. 
Kitty Kelly was a movie critic for the Chicago Tribune This is an example of her work from 1915 

photo - Chicagology via Uptown Update
Sherlock Holmes movies 1916
 The studio is gone but not the man 1947 

(click on article to enlarge)
 100 year review by the Sun-Times
Restoration News in 2012
A 'restoration and reuse' project was underway to restore the old main studio building. 
View the promotional material below.

(click on article to enlarge)
According to DNAinfo ''notified the restoration group that funds from the college would no longer be available due to its three million dollar cost. The college was their primary contributor.' The restorationists created a Facebook page to keep their dream and project afloat in the hearts and minds of Chicagoans.
The Rothacker Film Company
In 1910 Rothacker Film Company was the first company to specialize in making films for industrial and commercial education, publicity, and advertising. The studio was built in 1915 in the District of Lake View. 
Florsheim Shoes was one company that understood the potential of advertising their products on film as of 1921. A dairy company that was once located on Broadway north of Addison (Walmart Express location) used Rothacker to exploit their product into the minds of the public using film to do it. In fact, this was the first film company to air the first one-reel picture film on an aircraft. The film was called ‘Howdy Chicago’ created for a publicity organization to market the commercial highlights of the City of Chicago to potential investors and businessman in first decade of the 20th century.
 1894 Sanborn Fire Map depicting the location of the film company at the top left of this image
1894 Sanborn Fire Map depicting the (zoomed) location of this film company
from old District of Lake View
(Western - Lakefront, Fullerton - Devon)
950 W. Edgecomb (Cuyler) Street
6227-35 N. Broadway Avenue
6242 N. Broadway
Lake View Born - Gloria Swanson
1914 as an extra in 'The Song of Soul' 
produced in the Essanay East studio building
photo - Ebay
GloriaSwanson was born Gloria Josephine Svensson on March 27, 1892 to Joseph Svensson and Adelaide Klanowski in the new District (former township) of Lake View. Her exact birth address is still a bit of a mystery. One account has her family residing near Waveland and Kenmore Avenues. Another account according to history journalist John R. Schmidt, has her born near Damen Avenue and Grace Street. In either case, she was raised in the Swedish Lutheran tradition of the day and attended Hawthorne Scholastic Academy.  


Gloria was a beautiful and talented child and her mother was constantly making her beautiful clothes. Her mother worried that her ears were too large and she was always making her special muffs and hats to hide them. Her father was employed by the U.S. Army transport service so the family moved frequently during her childhood. They lived in Key West, Florida and San Juan, Puerto RicoWhen Gloria was 15 she and her mother moved back to Chicago to continue her elementary education at Hawthorne School when Gloria's aunt suggested that they make a trip to start-up studio called Essanay Studios.
photo - Ebay
postcard - Ebay 
Essanay Studios, as mentioned before, was a start-up film studio in Chicago that also had studios in California. Gloria was immediately fascinated with film-making but she thought that movies themselves were crude and vulgar. Swanson continued to make two film reels for Essanay and it was there that she met Wallace Beery.
lovers in 1916
unknown source
Wallace Beery and Gloria Swanson met and fell in love at the Essanay studio lot. According the writer Robert J. Avrech in his article GloriaSwanson’s Not So Hollywood Wedding NightWallace Beery advised his girlfriend on all aspects of her career. He told her how to play scenes, how to read a contract, how to meet the right people.  They were married and he convinced the budding star to move to the Essanay new studios in California. He was 30 and she 17 years old.  
Gloria Swanson will be forever remembered as Norma Desmond in the classic movie called Sunset Boulevard. 
My Famous Script Segment of the Movie:
Joe Gillis: You're Norma Desmond?
You used to be in silent pictures. 
You used to be big! 
Norma Desmond replied with : I AM BIG! ...
... it's the pictures that got small 
Scenes from the movie (Movies in the Park) 
while sitting in Butler Field located in Grant Park 
photos - Garry Albrecht
Gloria Swanson 1929
in her 2nd grade Hawthorne School classroom 
photo - Under Glass by Mark Jacob and Richard Cahan 
Gloria Swanson era of starring in movies would waned by the mid 20th century but she would remain active and would have cameo roles in TV series such as Ben Casey and 
Carol Burnett Show and would appear on talk show like the Dick Cavett Show. She was once a guest on the 
What's My Line ShowGloria Swanson died in her sleep on April 4, 1983 of apparent heart attack. She was 89.
The Moving Picture World
Moving Picture World’ was a weekly movie industry periodical published during the silent film era. The magazine was founded in 1907 as the official organ of the Moving Picture Exhibitors' Association. There was not any 'issue copyright' renewals for this publication so ceased publication in 1927. 
 
This magazine highlighted the struggles during the early years of film production. There was a interesting article in the magazine called 'Chicago Letter' by Jas S. McQuade.
‘Chilling winds, heavy snowfall and ever-dropping temperatures ultimately is what kept Chicago from becoming the film capital of the United States. It’s the quintessential and often told story of Chicago’s harsh weather dictating the path of history’ writes the Examiner.com.
But while most of the well known production companies are no longer based in Chicago that does not mean the film industry has forgotten the city. TV shows like Boss, 
Mob Doctor, Chicago FireDoubt, and Crisis have been filmed in our city. The 2013 was a banner year for new shows and movies filmed in Chicago. According to a publication called Movie Making, Chicago was listed as number one city to live and work for 2014.  
the filming of Doubt - photo Lake View Patch 2013 
 the filming of Doubt - photo Lake View Patch 2013 
the filming of Doubt - photo Lake View Patch 2013 
 the filming of Doubt - photo Lake View Patch 2013 
the filming of Doubt - photo Lake View Patch 2013 
View this clip for Lake View Patch on a new 2014 series called Chicago PD that was filmed at Roscoe and Sheffield. 
There are countless independent film companies still based in Chicago according to Production Hub while checking out the countless movies that has been filmed in Chicago! 
In 2016 Chicago Filmmakers began renovating a old firehouse for their students and productions in Edgewater in what was once referred to during the dawn of the 20th century the District of Lake View - the old township/city of Lake View.
TV Spin-offs in Chicago

first aired in 2012

first aired in 2015
first aired in 2016
this one first aired in 2017

Post Notes: Read and view my post about a Swedish girl named Gloria May Joesphine Svensson to be later known as 
Gloria Swanson and who starred in the movie production called Sunset Boulevard in my blog post called 
'Lake View's own: Gloria Swanson'. View all the silent films produced in Chicago including other lesser known independent studios. 

Important Note: 
These posts are exclusively used for educational purposes. I do not wish to gain monetary profit from this blog nor should anyone else without permission for the original source - thanks!
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