Motography, July, 1911.
THE WONDERS OF A PICTURE FACTORY.
EVEN the exhibitor who makes his living by and devotes the best part of his life to the showing of motion pictures to the public has usually a very vague conception of the way in which the pictures are made. Of course he knows in a general way that the actors must be trained in their work, that money must be spent for costumes, scenery and properties, that each scene must be rehearsed a number of times before it is taken by the camera. He may even, if he is sophisticated, be able to trace the whole course of the photoplay, from the brain of the scenario writer to the screen, without missing a detail. But he cannot know, until he has seen, the vastness of the modern picture plant—the wonders of its accumulation of properties and its provision for every possible requirement.
Our leading story this month is a description of the Selig factory in Chicago. We have selected Selig as the victim because his plant is in many respects unique, while at the same time it is typical of the bigness of the business. It is a fine example of the lengths to which those broad, big men who have made the business what it is will carry their faith and enthusiasm.
People talk, sometimes, of the ephemeral nature of the photoplay. Is there anything ephemeral about a million dollar plant, built to last forever? Who is a better judge of the stability of a business than the man who has grown up with it, and for whom it has made a fortune from nothing? Mr. Selig’s faith in motion pictures might betoken either good judgment or an overcharge of optimism. But it takes more optimism to make a fortune out of any business.
Men of the trade who have attained wealth or position are generally regarded as lucky because fate threw them into the irresistible rising tide of a phenomenal business. The Selig history shows none of the influence of “luck,” however. Selig and his plant have prospered, and prospered amazingly, in spite of early hardships and possible blunders. But it was foresight, and judgment, and nerve, and enthusiasm, and above all hard work that did it. The Selig personality is ample proof of that. Those who depend on luck grow arrogant as they prosper. Those who achieve grow even kindlier and more appreciative of their employes and associates as success comes. And W. N. Selig is a veritable idol of his associates. Not one of them but believes the Selig plant the greatest, the “Diamond S” pictures the finest, and W. N. himself the best, in the world.
With such assistance, or call it, rather, co-operation, with such a spirit, the Diamond S will be capable of even greater things than it have yet accomplished. Its greatest handicap, paradoxically, has been rapid growth and the constant demand for more space and faster work. There is plenty of room now that the new studio is finished. Private offices and a library are at the disposal of the producers. The property stores yield means to materialize any idea whatsoever, no matter how bizarre or even grotesque it may be. The people of the stock are provided with every comfort and convenience. In a word, conditions are ideal for the production of perfect pictures.
An artist’s representation in natural colors of how the Selig Chicago lot would look after the new studio complex is built in 1911. Note the artificial lake at center rear, where many of the Selig western films woiuld be filmed. This is the largest studio in the world devoted exclusively to the production of motion picture.
Familiarity breeds contempt, and the things that are most commonplace to the Selig forces would seem strangest to the layman. Camels grazing in vacant lots, red Indians pursuing bears across a little lake, or wolves swimming after deer in the same pool of water—these are almost of everyday occurrence and indicate merely the rehearsing of some of those magnificent animal or jungle pictures for which the Diamond S has become famous. Splendid specimens of strange beasts are as common at the Selig plant as they are in any big circus.
With due regard for the immensity of the Selig property, the greatest moral to be drawn from its inspection lies in the realization that it is only one of many. Selig’s product, voluminous as it is, supplies probably less than one-sixteenth of the country’s demand. How vast a field are we occupied in, and how great are its future possibilities !’ The producer who today is amusing the pleasure-seeking- public with light drama tomorrow will make the pictorial text-books of a nation’s schools; while the entertainment feature, developed as literature is now developed, will have its own Rudyard Kiplings and Mark Twains. Credit and publicity for the scenario writer and the producer will inevitably improve the quality of plots and attract better talent into the field. Observant ones will notice that Selig, for one, is giving that kind of publicity in his bulletins. It is only another step to put the names on the film.
Our story of one big motion picture plant, inadequate as the description is, should serve to awaken in the exhibitor a sense of stability and permanency of his business, and in the layman a greater respect for the evening’s entertainment he views so lightly.
“His First Ride”
Selig Polyscope Company
The Selig Polyscope Company was an American motion picture company founded in 1896 by William Selig in Chicago, Illinois. Selig Polyscope is noted for establishing Southern California’s first permanent movie studio, in the historic Edendale district of Los Angeles. The company produced hundreds of early, widely distributed commercial moving pictures, including the first films starring Tom Mix, Harold Lloyd, Colleen Moore, and Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. The business gradually became a struggling zoo attraction in East Los Angeles, having ended film production in 1918. The Chicago studio was located at 3900 N. Claremont (block bordered by Irving Park Road, Western Avenue, Byron Street and Claremont Street).
Described by one film historian as “not a Colonel of the U.S. Army, but a tent- showman colonel.” Selig was born in Chicago in 1864 but moved west and founded a minstrel troupe in California. He returned to Chicago in the mid-1890s. Exposure to the Kinetoscope and similar devices apparently broadened Selig‘s interest in entertainment ventures, and he set up a film supply business on Peck Court. By the end of 1896, Selig was selling not only the Selig Standard Camera and the Selia Polyscope 9 projector but had gone a step further than Spoor by producing his own films. The careers of two other prominent film executives had their beginnings in Chicago. George Kleine was perhaps the most influential movie executive of his day for his role in attempting to mediate the patent wars that entangled filmmakers at the turn of the century. Kleine’s initial contact with the industry had been in the mid-1890s with the founding of the Kleine Optical Company, a movie and equipment supply business. He subsequently organized a large film distribution operation, and, with two other partners, founded the Kalem film studio. In 1906, Carl Laemmle, Sr., left his position with a clothing company in Oshkosh, Wisconsin to come to Chicago where he opened a nickelodeon on Milwaukee Avenue near Ashland. Six years later, he formed Universal Pictures-—supposedly in Chicago, though it never operated here-—and with Irving Thalberg, made that company into an industry giant.
One of the last two Selig films was Pioneer Days, based on the Battle of Fort Dearborn. It was filmed on location in Wilmette, IL.
The original Selig Polyscope Studio at 3900 N. Claremont in 1907.
The Selig Studio after completion of the new building in 1911.
The Moving Picture World, 21 February 1914
CHICAGO PAPERS RECOGNIZING PICTURES.
The Selig Company is authority for the statement that now that the Chicago Tribune has enlarged upon its original scheme with a daily department devoted to moving pictures, as a matter of universal interest, all the newspapers have come into action and moved up to the firing line, so there is a likelihood of every paper in Chicago giving detailed attention to the moving picture industry as a matter worthy of general interest. Some time ago the Chicago Inter-Ocean was the first paper to devote a page to the minor theaters in moving pictures, and it was quickly followed by the Chicago Evening American, but both were on a business basis. The Chicago Evening Journal threatened to have a department in this line, and had it done so, it would have been interesting, for its theatrical news is very newsy and comprehensive. The Examiner announces it will start a Sunday page, devoted to moving pictures and moving picture theaters. Just how far the latter will respond in support of this call is problematical. The Record-Herald has acquired a big proposition from the Universal Film Company in heavy advertising which involves the daily printing of the story of one of their releases with illustrations. The Chicago Daily News, the paper of widest circulation outside of New York, has announced its intention of devoting a department to moving pictures on the same plan that it has its music and drama—free from let or hindrance in business matters of the business office. This new line-up shows the Chicago daily press is vastly and rapidly becoming intimately interested in the motion picture business
From The W.G.N., 1922
During the months which immediately preceded the opening of the World War in 1914, The Chicago Tribune laid a foundation for new records in circulation and advertising. The first step was to capitalize the soaring motion picture craze for Tribune benefit. This. was done in three ways.
First, The Tribune originated the idea of printing a daily directory of motion picture theaters and their attractions. Advertising men said it couldn’t be done, that a neighborhood theater could not afford to pay Tribune rates to print its program when only a few thousand out of The Tribune‘s hundreds of thousands of readers are prospective patrons. It was stiff pioneering work for the advertising department, but the Motion Picture Directory is now a solidly established feature of The Tribune. It is a service highly valued by readers. It is profitable to advertisers. It brings in more revenue to The Tribune than all other forms of amusement advertising combined. The marvelous development of the motion picture industry is in tum greatly indebted to the large advertising which it used while the older forms of amusement stood conservatively inert.
Second, The Tribune originated the idea of printing a serial story in conjunction with its picturization in the movies. The Adventures of Kathlyn was the first serial· thus filmed. It was advertised extensively and sent the circulation of The Sunday Tribune swiftly upward.
Third, when the World War dwarfed everything else on earth The Tribune not only covered it with staff correspondents, but sent its own motion picture photographer to the front in Belgium, in Germany, in Poland and in Russia. These War Movies of The Chicago Tribune were shown to vast audiences in all the large cities of the United States as well as in Chicago.
The Selig Polyscope Studio at 3900 N. Claremont.
The instructions Selig Polyscope gave their performers in 1910.
ACTION — When the director gives you the word for action at the start of a scene, don’t wait and look at the camera to see if it is going. That will be taken care of and started when the action settles down to where the directors think the scene should start.
LOOKING AT THE CAMERA — Never look toward the director when he speaks to you during the action of a scene and while the camera is running. He may be reminding you that you are out of the picture, or of some piece of business that you have forgotten. Glancing toward the camera near the finish of a scene to see if it has stopped is also a bad habit. The director will inform you when the scene is over.
EYES — Use your eyes as much as possible in your work. Remember that they express your thoughts more clearly when properly used than gestures or unnatural facial contortions. Do not squint. You will never obtain the results you are striving for if you get into that very bad habit.
MAKING EXITS — In making an exit through a door, or out of the picture, never slack up just on the “out of range of the camera. Many scenes have been weakened by such carelessness.
LETTER WRITING — In writing before the camera, do so naturally. Do not make rapid dashes over the paper. You are completely destroying the realism you are expected to convey by so doing. When reading a letter mentally count five slowly before showing by your expression the effect of the letter upon your mind.
READING A LETTER — When a lady receives a letter from her sweetheart or husband she must not show her joy by kissing it. That is overdone and has become so common by usage in pictures and on the stage as to be tiresome.
KISSING — When kissing your sweetheart, husband or wife, do so naturally — not a peck on the lips and a quick break-a-way. Also use judgment in the length of your kiss. Vary it by the degree of friendship, or love, that you are expected to convey.
GESTURES — Do not use unnecessary gestures. Repose in your acting is of more value. A gesture well directed can convey a great deal, while too many may detract from the realism of your work.
STRUGGLING — Avoid unnecessary struggling and body contortions. Many “do so.
SMOKING — Don’t smoke near the camera or where the smoke can blow across the lens. Take just as good care about kicking up a dust. If you are on a horse it is not necessary to ride circles around the camera. Throwing dust into a camera will cause scratches, and bring down upon your head the righteous wrath of the operator.
GOSSIP — Avoid discussing the secrets of the business you are engaged in. Remember that much harm is done by spreading the news of all the happenings of the day in your work. Revealing to outsiders the plots and names of pictures you are working on or have just finished is frequently taken advantage of and causes great loss to your firm, by some rival concern rushing a picture out ahead that they have on hand, of the same nature. All gossip of an injurious nature is deplorable, and will not be indulged in by any people who appreciate their position and wish to remain in the good graces of their employer.
PROMPTNESS — Come to work on time. An allowance often minutes will be granted for a difference in watches, but be sure it is ten minutes “forehead white. The effect of such make-up is hideous in photography. Get in the habit of thinking out for yourself all the little details that go to complete a perfect picture of the character you are to portray. Then, if there is anything you do not understand do not be afraid to ask the director.
BEARDS — In the making of beards one cannot be too careful. This is an art that every actor can become proficient in, if he will only take the pains to do so. Remember that the camera magnifies every defect in your make-up. Just use your mental faculties to give some thought to your character studies and you will win out.
SLEEVES — Avoid playing too many parts with your sleeves rolled up. Cowboys and miners use the sleeves of their shirts for what they were intended. If you are playing tennis, or courting a girl at the seaside, you may display your manly beauty to your heart’s content. Do not let common stage usages govern you in this matter.
PROFANITY — Let the gentleman exercise care when in the presence of ladies and children to use no profanity. It is just as easy to.
USE NO PROFANITY IN THE PICTURES — There are thousands of deaf mutes who attend the theatres and who understand every movement of your lips.
PARTS— Do not become peeved if you are not given the part you think you ought to have. The director knows what type person he wishes to use in a particular part, and if it is not given to you it is because some other person is better fitted for it. We should all work for the general good. By giving our employer the best we have in us, we are greatly benefiting him, and by so doing are enhancing our own value.
The Wardrobe Room.
The private office of Selig’s scenic superintendent.
The Inspecting and Finishing Room where positives of prints are checked and prepared for distribution exchange.
The Camera Room. Note that the studio did not use the industry standard Bell & Howell Standard Cinemachinery Type 2709 camera at this time.
Selig-Tribune News Service
Just two weeks after a partnership between the Selig Polyscope Company and the Chicago Tribune was formed, Patrolman Bror Johnson was shot and killed during a daring daytime robbery. A film was made reenacting the murder and was shown to the public in hopes of finding clues on the murderer.
Chicago Tribune, December 26, 1915
Chicago Tribune, January 26, 1916.
Today the motion picture theaters of Chicago and the United States will present what is regarded as the greatest news scoop in the history of news presentation by means of the motion camera.
This feature, which also is the first use of the motion picture in the search for criminals, is produced by the Selig-Tribune service with the cooperation of Chief Healey and the Chicago Police department.
It is the reenactment of the robbery of the Thomas Cook & Son Tourist agency and the murder of Policeman Bror Johnson.
Healey Calls It Achievement.
“I regard the Selig-Tribune film of the robbery and murder in the fight of an achievement in criminology,” said Chief Healey. “I only wish that every criminal could be so photographed. It would be a vast step toward the capture of criminals, as it would bring to the notice of the public peculiarities in gait, the poise of the body, and other features that are impossible of description even by the best Bertillon measurement.”
When Chief Healey asked the Selig-Tribune to undertake the picture it was with the idea that the capture of the slayer of Policeman Johnson is of vast significance.
Criminals Must Be Caught.
“Criminals must not get the idea that they can kill policemen and go scot free,” said the chief. “For this reason I urge the capture of Johnson’s murderer. Every method should be used, and I think the motion camera is a huge asset.
“Not only is the picture valuable from a point of identification, bu it will teach the public the hazards that a policeman encounters in the performance of his duty.”
The complete story of the crime is told faithfully, with a view to giving the public proof of the vigilance and devotion of policemen. It is the hoper of men high in the police department that several needed reforms be made soon, and the Selig-Tribune film is an exact corroboration of their claims.
The films will be shown today in the theaters designated in the advertisement of the Selig-Tribune.
Chicago Tribune, July 15, 1926
Selig Film Plant Sold.
The property formerly used by the Selig Polyscope company at Western, Claremont and Byron has been sold by the Union Trust company, as trustees, to Max Goldstine, Peter J. Schaefer and others for an undisclosed consideration, through Mark Levy & Brother. It fronts 440 feet on Western and Claremont and 264 on Byron.
There are nine buildings on the property, all used for manufacturing purposes, containing a total floor area of approximately 71,711 square feet. This property was bought by Selig when the film industry was in its infancy and Selig was an important cog in General Film, which then controlled the picture industry.
The buildings were all erected for film uses but as Hollywood gradually captured the movie business Selig moved west. The property was sold in 1922 and taken back in 1924 under a foreclosure decree for approximately $275,000. The new owners have no immediate plans for the improvement or disposition of the property.
The Selig Studio
3900 N. Claremont
Block bordered by Irving Park Road, Western Avenue, Byron Street and Claremont Street
1912 Rand McNally Atlas