By Charles Musser
Musser takes us into the long-forgotten global of early cinema--unexpectedly subtle and but noticeably diversified from present movie-making. concentrating on Edwin S. Porter, pretty much remembered because the manufacturer of the nice educate theft, Musser situates Porter's achievements in the bright context of turn-of-the-century pop culture and the industrial pragmatics of the Edison production Company--the top American film-producing entity from 1894 to 1908.
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Additional info for Before the nickelodeon: Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company
It is not clear why the introduction of technology should be privileged in such a history. Although this study deals extensively with management decisions that had as their goals the maximization of profits, the history of early cinema suggests a more appropriate framework for analysis: the examination of business strategies in relation to changing modes of production and representation rather than simply in terms of technology. This approach is dialectical rather than cyclical, and it rejects the notion of technological determinism implicit in industrial organization economics.
Porter and the Edison Company found that the broader their audience, the narrower the boundaries of acceptable subject matter and its treatment became. While Thomas Edison and his managerial staff actively supported the articulation of certain "standards" in the face of mounting protest, propriety was occasionally violatedat least in the eyes of some criticseven within the Kinetograph Department. The solution that finally won the support of Edison and his executive Frank Dyer was to defuse criticism by supporting a National Board of Censorship.
Everson, William Simon, John Fell, Kristin Thompson, and Peter Dreyer provided me with thoughtful readings. Portions of this manuscript have been previously published as articles. I am very grateful to the editors of Cinema Journal, Film and History, Framework, and Iris for the opportunity to reach audiences with some of these ideas before this study was completed. 1 Such opportunities to participate in the wide-ranging discussions revolving around early motion pictures and the practice of film historiography enabled me to refine my arguments and significantly improve the final manuscript.