Monday Dec. 28, 2020’s Smile of the Day: First Motion Pictures
On this Day:
The Lumiere brothers, filmmakers, hold the first commercial film screening at Salon Indien du Grand Café, Paris.
Auguste Marie Louis Nicolas Lumière (19 October 1862 – 10 April 1954) and Louis Jean Lumière (5 October 1864 – 7 June 1948), were manufacturers of photography equipment, best known for their Cinématographe motion picture system and the short films they produced between 1895 and 1905. Their screening on 22 March 1895 for around 200 members of the “Society for the Development of the National Industry” in Paris was probably the first presentation of films on a screen for a large audience. Their first commercial public screening on 28 December 1895 for around 40 paying visitors and invited relations has traditionally been regarded as the birth of cinema. Either the techniques or the business models of earlier filmmakers proved to be less viable than the breakthrough presentations of the Lumières.
The Lumière brothers were born in Besançon, France, to Charles-Antoine Lumière (1840–1911) and Jeanne Joséphine Costille Lumière, who were married in 1861 and moved to Besançon, setting up a small photographic portrait studio where Auguste and Louis were born. They moved to Lyon in 1870, where son Edouard and three daughters were born. Auguste and Louis both attended La Martiniere, the largest technical school in Lyon. Their father Charles-Antoine set up a small factory producing photographic plates, but even with Louis and a young sister working from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. it teetered on the verge of bankruptcy, and by 1882 it looked as if they would fail. When Auguste returned from military service, the boys designed the machines necessary to automate their father’s plate production and devised a very successful new photo plate, ‘etiquettes bleue’, and by 1884 the factory employed a dozen workers.
They patented several significant processes leading up to their film camera, most notably film perforations (originally implemented by Emile Reynaud) as a means of advancing the film through the camera and projector. The original cinématographe had been patented by Léon Guillaume Bouly on 12 February 1892. The cinématographe — a three-in-one device that could record, develop, and project motion pictures — was further developed by the Lumières. The brothers patented their own version on 13 February 1895.
The date of the recording of their first film is in dispute.
The Lumière brothers saw film as a novelty and had withdrawn from the film business by 1905. They went on to develop the first practical photographic colour process, the Lumière Autochrome.
The brothers stated that “the cinema is an invention without any future” and declined to sell their camera to other filmmakers such as Georges Méliès. This made many film makers upset. Consequently, their role in the history of film was exceedingly brief. In parallel with their cinema work they experimented with colour photography. They worked on a number of colour photographic processes in the 1890s including the Lippmann process (interference heliochromy) and their own ‘bichromated glue’ process, a subtractive colour process, examples of which were exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900. This last process was commercialised by the Lumieres but commercial success had to wait for their next colour process. In 1903 they patented a colour photographic process, the Autochrome Lumière, which was launched on the market in 1907. Throughout much of the 20th century, the Lumière company was a major producer of photographic products in Europe, but the brand name, Lumière, disappeared from the marketplace following merger with Ilford (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
One a scale of one to ten, how obsessed with Harry Potter Firms are you? About nine and three quarters.
Second, a Song:
“Over the Rainbow” is a ballad composed by Harold Arlen with lyrics by Yip Harburg. It was written for the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and was sung by actress Judy Garland in her starring role as Dorothy Gale. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and became Garland’s signature song.
About five minutes into the film, Dorothy sings the song after failing to get Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, and the farmhands to listen to her story of an unpleasant incident involving her dog, Toto, and the town spinster, Miss Gulch (Margaret Hamilton). Aunt Em tells her to “find yourself a place where you won’t get into any trouble”. This prompts her to walk off by herself, musing to Toto, “Some place where there isn’t any trouble. Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto? There must be. It’s not a place you can get to by a boat, or a train. It’s far, far away. Behind the moon, beyond the rain…”, at which point she begins singing.
Composer Harold Arlen and lyricist Yip Harburg often worked in tandem, Harburg generally suggesting an idea or title for Arlen to set to music, before Harburg contributed the lyrics. For their work together on The Wizard of Oz, Harburg claimed his inspiration was “a ballad for a little girl who… was in trouble and… wanted to get away from… Kansas. A dry, arid, colorless place. She had never seen anything colorful in her life except the rainbow”. Arlen decided the idea needed “a melody with a long broad line”.
By the time all the other songs for the film had been written, however, Arlen was feeling the pressure of not having the required song for the Kansas scene. Arlen would often carry blank pieces of music manuscript in his pockets to jot down short melodic ideas. Arlen described how the inspiration for the melody to “Over the Rainbow” came to him suddenly while his wife Anya drove:
“I said to Mrs. Arlen… ‘let’s go to Grauman’s Chinese … You drive the car, I don’t feel too well right now.’ I wasn’t thinking of work. I wasn’t consciously thinking of work, I just wanted to relax. And as we drove by Schwab’s Drug Store on Sunset I said, ‘Pull over, please.’ … And we stopped and I really don’t know why —bless the muses— and I took out my little bit of manuscript and put down what you know now as ‘Over the Rainbow.’
In March 2017, “Over the Rainbow” sung by Judy Garland was entered in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as music that is “culturally, historically, or artistically significant”. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) ranked it number one on their Songs of the Century list. The American Film Institute named it best movie song on the AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs list.
“Over the Rainbow” was given the Towering Song Award by the Songwriters Hall of Fame and was sung at its dinner on June 12, 2014, by Jackie Evancho. In April 2005, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp honoring Yip Harburg that includes a lyric.
It was sent as an audio wakeup call to astronauts aboard the STS-88 space shuttle mission on Flight Day 4, dedicated to astronaut Robert D. Cabana by his daughter Sara (per Wikipedia).
On the album Facing Future (1993), Israel Kamakawiwo’ole included “Over the Rainbow” in a ukulele medley with “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. Kamakawiwoʻole called the recording studio at 3 a.m. He was given 15 minutes to arrive by Milan Bertosa. Bertosa said, “And in walks the largest human being I had seen in my life. Israel was probably like 500 pounds. And the first thing at hand is to find something for him to sit on.” A security guard gave Israel a large steel chair. “Then I put up some microphones, do a quick sound check, roll tape, and the first thing he does is ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’ He played and sang, one take, and it was over (per Wikipedia).
Here is Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole performing Over the Rainbow. This video has had over 1 billion views on YouTube. I hope you enjoy it!
Thought for the Day:
“Filmmaking is a chance to live many lifetimes.” – Robert Altman
Have a great day!
© 2020 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky