February 26, 2012

HollyView: Film Then/Now

An Industry is Born and then Lost
At the turn of the 20th century Chicago, particularly some innovative folks on the north-side of Chicago sparked a new industry that had a home in what was then referred to as the District of Lake View, a fairly infant area of Chicago that was annexed in 1889.
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 along with companies that would support this new industry began to popped up out of nowhere. A few of these companies would be located in the old District of Lake View where their were several rural areas and vacant properties to choose from. 
The Value of Moving Pictures 1909

Chicago Film Companies:
a manufacturer of projectors
This Chicago company had its main office & factory in the current neighborhood of West Ridge & according to a 1923 Sanborn Fire Map also had a factory/office in the community of old Ravenswood at Larchmont & Ravenswood Avenue. 
 with a zoomed 1923 view below
According to Chicagology 'Howell 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. 
image - Chicagology
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 making 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 perpetrator, 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 forced the film industry to standardize within the nascent motion picture industry."
An entire square block of studio space - 200 acre site
from Irving Park Road to Byron Street Western Avenue 
both photos - Calumet 412
text- Vanished Chicago-Facebook
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 it his own work. Intelligent rights of production were not protected back then and competition between companies was hallmark.
The 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. Mr. Selig and his staff would form alliances with 
War Department in Washington D.C. in order to be the center of film-making of the world. 
The Film Company formed a 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 2, 1917
United States entered the conflict in Europe 

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. View more scenes from the Wizard of Oz from a site called CurtainsAlso, view silent screen World War I movies from 'The Silent Movies Era'. 
 1907-1916 in Chicago
photo - Essanay Centers
photo - Classical Movie Hub Blog
photo via Uptown Update
photos - Atlas Obscura
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 work space. 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'. The company's first film was the 'An Awful Skate' and 'The Hobo on Rollers' in July 1907, with Ben Turpin, the studios' janitor. The film was produced for only a couple hundred dollars and grossed several thousand dollars after its' release.
1928 Sanborn Fire Map
photo - Pinterest
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' along with Lake Views' own, Gloria Swanson
Gloria Swanson was born in the District of Lake View.
'According to Ficker AlleyEssanay scenario writer H. Tipton Steck, put his finger on Chaplin’s unique performance style and the effect it had on people: Chaplin’s acting, even in those days, fascinated everyone. He was so dynamic, yet subtle. Whenever he was doing a scene, the other members of the cast would behave as though they were hypnotized. Everybody stood still, watched him. Even the stage hands would leave their work and gather around. It became a standard joke in the company that “this fellow Chaplin had better be dropped. He disrupts the whole organization with his antics.” According to blog called A Time with Charlie Chaplin, ‘Winter in Chicago, during January of 1915, would prove more than he could stand. In February, he packed up his few belongings and headed west to Niles, California, about 20 miles south of Oakland, where Essanay had another studio. Charlie didn't  care for the working environment at either place, but at least the temperatures didn't sink below freezing in Niles. In less than a year, Chaplin would leave Essanay and sign with Mutual Films, to begin one of his most productive and satisfying segments of his creative life. 
photo - Essanay Studios-Facebook
What he accomplished at Essanay, however, was significant. He continued to developed his “Little Tramp” character, refining it, getting a clearer picture of who the character was. He also met one of the most gifted comics of that time, Ben Turpin, who he convinced to move to California. And he met Edna Purviance in San Francisco. Edna became, professionally and personally, an integral part of Chaplin’s life. So, Chicago, while a brief stopping point in his career, had significant long-term benefits for him.’
Charlie Chapin's first film at Essanay Studios
all images snipped from the film

 Other films performed by Mr. Chaplin with this link
photo - White City Cinema
'Essanay produced hundreds of films, including the first Sherlock Holmes, Jesse James, and A Christmas Carol movies. Among the stars who began their careers at Essanay are Charlie Chaplin, Ben Turpin, Wallace Beery, and Gloria Swanson. Louella Parsons, a screenwriter at Essanay, went on to be a famous Hollywood gossip columnist. During this period, four out of every five films in the U.S. were made in Chicago. However, because camera and lighting technology demanded shooting in daylight on open-air sets, in 1912 Essanay moved to sunny California. It was the beginning of an exodus of film studios to the Golden State, where they enjoyed year-round shooting schedules.'
Magazine spread 1909 
 image - Essanay Studio-Facebook
page from Moving Picture World
images - Chicago: Crossroads of America 
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.
A Essanay Rejection Letter 
image - Silent Movies Era on Facebook
Essanay also produced some of the world's very first cartoons - Dreamy Dud was their most popular character
Snips from the film cartoon



 The man still behind the scenes 
in 1947 
1988 photo - Chicago Public Library 
via Explore Chicago Collection
According to ‘chitographer.com’ the Essanay building in Chicago was eventually taken over by independent producer Norman Wilding, who made industrial films. Wilding’s tenancy was much longer than Essanay’s. In the early 1970's a portion of the studio was offered to Columbia College (Chicago) for a dollar but the offer lapsed without action. Then it was given to a non-profit television corporation which sold it. One tenant was the Midwest office of Technicolor. Today the Essanay lot is the home of St. Augustine’s College, and its main meeting hall has been named the Charlie Chaplin Auditorium.
 below photo - DNAinfo
photo - Showcasing Chicago One Image at a Time
 photos - Showcasing Chicago One Image at a Time
'In 2012 Gary Keller the then vice president of Essanay Studios and strategic initiatives at St. Augustine College, had been leading an effort with supporters from the film, digital media and business world to restore and reuse Charlie Chaplin's former stomping grounds. Keller’s vision was for the complex to gain a new life as a performance arts venue, film production studio, education center, and community gathering space. The project was expected to take up to three years. It had looked like the Essanay project had some wind in its sails this fall. The building was highlighted as one of Uptown’s historic gems during Open House Chicago in October, the same month that Keller and cohorts launched a fundraising campaign and threw a gala to draw awareness and funds toward the restoration. On Dec. 2, the studio hosted a holiday party in that same vein.' 
3 photos - via DNAinfo
Gary Keller, vice president of Essanay Studios & strategic initiatives at St. Augustine College
But it was not to be “We’re a small institution, we don’t have the deep pockets that other institutions do,” said St. Augustine President Andrew Sund. “We can’t keep using college resources and hoping that eventually fundraising will work, because we’re really just taking it away from other projects."' The restoration effort failed in 2013. Much like the tenure of the studio itself in Chicago as well as the residence of Charlie Chaplin himself the restoration project would suffer the same time limit.
1339 W Diversey Parkway
In 1910 Rothacker Film Company was the first company to specialize in making films for industrial & commercial for education, publicity, and advertising. One company called Florsheim Shoes understood the  potential of advertising their products on film as of 1921dairy company called Wieland Dairy that was once located on the 3600 block of Broadway used Rothacker's company to exploit their product into the minds of the public using film to do it. In fact, this was the first film company to present 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.
 1923 Sanborn Fire Map of the general area

with a zoomed view below
A New Name after 6 Years
A Casting Call in 1920
950 W Edgecomb (Cuyler) Street
Unlike many other Chicago-based studios and production companies, Advance Motion Picture Co. focused primarily on industrial, commercial and educational films.
6227-35 N Broadway 
Formed by Samuel Hutchinson, Charles Hite and John Freuler,  the American Film Manufacturing Company was incorporated in 1910 and held the distinction of being the only independent film company in Chicago.
6242 N Broadway
Established in early 1917, the Sunshine Film Company was based in Chicago, though the company spent most of its time leasing studios & properties from other production companies.
'There are, however, some discrepancies regarding her early years, due to several conflicting historical accounts. Some sources hold that she and her family resided near Waveland and Kenmore Avenue, while another historian holds that she was born near Damen Avenue and Grace Street. In her autobiography, Swanson herself mentions that she was born at 341 Grace Street, although, when she visited the city in her later years, she could not find the house.' 
Read more from link title above.
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 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 apparently attended Hawthorne Scholastic Academy. 
Gloria Swanson was born Gloria May Josephine Svensson in Chicago, Illinois on March 27th, 1897, into a military family which moved frequently. She was educated in Chicago, Puerto Rico, Florida, and San Juan, among other places. At age 18 she broke into the movies in bit parts. In her early years she played mostly comedic roles and slapstick, which she disliked, but she would do anything to get her foot in the door and to be noticed. Studios like Essanay, Triangle, and Mack Sennett's Keystone hired her. In 1916 her parents separated. During this time period at Essanay she meet and married another actor. Wallace 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. Shortly after that mother and daughter moved to Hollywood. It wasn't until director Cecil B. DeMille noticed Gloria and took her under his wing as a dramatic actress for Famous Players-Lasky that her career began taking off. 
 photo - Silent Movie Era on Facebook
photo - Ebay
photos below - Ebay
Gloria Swanson in 1929
in her 2nd grade (apparently) Hawthorne School classroom 
photo from Under Glass by Mark Jacob & Richard Cahan 
with more photos from Chicago History Museum
Sunset Boulevard

Gloria Swanson will be forever remembered as Norma Desmond in this classic movie of all time
photo - Brandons movie Memory
This movie fictionally mirrored her carrer
 GIF images - Giphy
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 that movie 
(Movies in the Park) 
while I was sitting in Butler Field located in Grant Park 
photos - Garry Albrecht
 The last few minutes of the movie

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 from an apparent heart attack. She was 89.
Some Articles about Her:
Her Marriages by 1923
Her Proformance in 1931
Her Death in 1983
Chicago Movie/Film News from ...
‘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 'issued copyright' renewals for this publication so ceased publication in 1927. This magazine highlighted the struggles during the early years of film production. 
 a segment of the publication
Moving Picture World Oct-Dec 1913
Movies Filmed in Chicago
from 1896- 2017
the title link as a complete list
‘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 was 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. 'Chicago’s sandy beaches, city streets, parks, public art, and skyscrapers have all been captured on the big screen, from the North Shore to Union Station, the “L” to Wrigley Field, and Lake shore Drive to the Willis Tower. The city has the nation’s largest municipal harbor system, and its popular waterfront and nightlife are very familiar to Second City natives Jon Favreau, Michael Mann, and The Wachowskis. And it scored particularly high on Film Community and Culture, with the Music Box Theatre, Nightingale Chicago, Gene Siskel Film Center, and many other independent art houses regularly showing rarely seen film noir, avant-garde gems, microcinema, and relics of Hollywood’s Golden era in their original format.' 
the filming of Doubt - photo Lake View Patch 2013 
photo - Lake View Patch
outside a tavern on Roscoe/Sheffield for Chicago PD
View this clip  of 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. Check 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 as the District of Lake View - the old township and city of Lake View.
TV in Chicago:
Chicago Fire
first aired in 2012

Chicago Med

first aired in 2015
walking down Broadway toward Addison in 2019
Chicago PD
first aired in 2016

Chicago Justice
 first aired in 2016 for only two seasons
The Good Fight
first aired in 2017
Proven Innocent
first aired in 2019
article - Block Club Chicago
 July 2020

by the National Film Preservation Board
a sample of a long list

Post Notes: 
This post is indirectly related to another post called Theaters Past - for if it was not for the invention of projection and film silent and then talkie moving picture theaters prior to the TV era would not have happened. 
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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