When the Five O'Clock Whistle Blows in Hollywood is attached;
it appeared in Vanity Fair eight years after Hollywood was declared the film capital of the world. This single page cartoon was created by one of the great American caricaturists of the Twenties: Ralph Barton, and all the kingpins of the young empire are depicted.
Attached is the reminiscence of a movie-goer named Homer Dunne who recalled his feelings upon first attending a "moving photograph show" during the closing days of the Nineteenth Century. He described well the appearance of the rented shop-front, the swanky ticket-taker, the unimpressed audience and has a laugh on himself for failing to understand the significance of the medium.
Cartoonist Ralph Barton and funny man Howard Dietz put together this nifty six-panel comic strip in order to ridicule the Hollywood screen writers and expose that crowd to be the tiresome dullards that they were (they've since reformed) and they also had the odd vision that the gag would be posted on a web page some eighty-six years in the future.
This small notice appeared on the pages of the March, 1916, issue of MOTION PICTURE MAGAZINE reporting that the overwhelming popularity of the new entertainment medium, and the public's curiosity with the manner in which they are produced, is beginning to have an impact on the everyday language of the English-speaking world:
"When a thing takes hold of a whole people its idiom enters the language; its individual verbiage begins to limber-up the common speech."
"So the idiom of active photography has entered the English language, at least wherever the English language is Americanized. The self-conscious valedictorian is told not 'to look into the camera'. The reporter writing of a street murder terms his description of the underlying cause a 'cut-back'."
- and most interestingly, one of the most popular elements of Hollywood verbiage is mentioned as having been noticed by the lexicographers: "close-up".
The N.Y. TIMES reported that the verb "to film" was entered into the dictionary in 1914,.
Here are seven drawings by Henry Raleigh (1880 - 1944) that depict the sorts of silent film characters that were likely to be seen in the 1920s W.W. I movies. These sketches are accompanied by a few dry remarks by the Vanity Fair editors:
"No matter how much we may wish to lose sight of the war, it can't be done. There will always be reminders of it. You suppose that, just because a little thing like peace has been declared, the playwrights, the theatrical managers, and the moving picture producers are going to let a chance like the war get by? Since we have become accustomed to German spies, Red Cross nurse heroines, and motor corps vampires, we could never go back to the prosaic mildness of innocent little country heroines, villains in fur-lined overcoats and cub reporter heroes. No actor will ever again consent to play a society role in evening clothes with flap pockets and jet buttons, when he can appear in a war play wearing an aviator's uniform and going around in a property airplane."
This 1918 silent movie was certainly mocked for its predictability...
As the rosy fingered dawn came upon America in 1913 it found Douglas Fairbanks, the man who would soon be Silent Hollywood's fair haired boy, wowing the crowds on Broadway. The play, Hawthorne of the U.S.A., starred Fairbanks in the title roll and closed after 72 performances; he was also married to a woman who wasn't named "Pickford" - but rather named Anna Beth Sully, who had sired his namesake. Life was good for the actor and he wouldn't turn his gaze West for another two years. By contrast, his future bride, Mary Pickford (né Gladys Smith, 1892 - 1979) had been prancing before the cameras since 1909 and by the time 1913 rolled around had appeared in well-over 100 short films and earned the nickname "Little Mary".