Before World War I American film industry had logged behind the film industries of Europe particularly those of France and Italy. But during the war, film making almost stopped in Europe, partly because a chemical used in celluloid was needed for making gunpowder. The American film industry thrived during the war because there was money for making films; and also because of popular the genius of D. W. Griffith. In 1915 Griffith made The Birth Of Nation, a film about the American Civil War and in 1916 he made Intolerance. These three hour's films were American's answer to the spectacular Italian films such as Quo Vadis that had earlier astonished the world. For Intolerance Griffith had built a set of an ancient Babylonian city, which was over a mile long, and he photograph it from a balloon. Griffith was a genius, not just because he could show huge and thrilling scenes on the screen, but because he was aware of the artistic possibilities of film.
The actors in the old-sealers had mostly been unknown and their performances very poor. Because the films were silent, actors made up for lack of speech by frantic and unnatural gestures and movements. A new and better style of acting was adopted by a young American actress called Marry Pickford who showed that a simple natural style was more effective on the screen than dramatic arm-waving and chest-thumping. Her fame spread across the Atlantic. In 1918, she signed a contract for more than a million dollars. The stars system was born.
About the same time, some of the slapstick comedians developed unique comedy styles, and also became world-famous stars. Charlie Chaplin, the little man with the derby hat, cane, and boggy pants, became the most famous (he, too, sealed a million-dollar contract). But others such as Buster Heaton, Harold Lloyd, and Harry Langdon were also widely acclaimed. They were great artists whose work is still popular today. By 1920 the cinema had became the most popular form of leisure activity outside the home.
Film studios such as Metro-Goldwin Meyer, Paramount, Warner's, 20th Century Fox, and United Artists developed a system for producing films on the same principle that Henry Ford used for his cars- the assembly like Hollywood, on the west coast of the United States, became the center of the film industry. Its climate, light and physical surroundings were suited to the film industry, which shot much material out of doors. Film making thrived. In succeeding years, many great films were made in Hollywood, beginning with the silent films, followed, in the mid-twenties, by the first sound pictures.
The first animated cartoon drawn in the United States especially for film was done in 1906 by J. Stuart Blackton. The first full-length animated feature film was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs made in 1937.
The stars of the films being produced in Hollywood became known throughout the world. Among them were famous Cagney, Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich, who had first appeared in films in Germany, the Swedish Greta Garbo and the young Shirley Temple. Some of the most famous stars were Mickey Mouse and characters from Walt Disney's cartoon. Leading film makers included John Ford, Howard Hawks, Frank Capra and George Cukor.
During World War II some of the best Americans directors in the US were recruited by the War Department, because films were needed to help raise the morale of servicemen. Among the best films of this war period were Frank Capra's ''Why We Fight'' series (1942-45). Walt Disney's animated films; and documentaries about important battlers directed by Garson Kanin, John Huston, Billy Wilder. Orson Welles's masterpiece ''Citizen Kane'' (1940) was the story of a newspaper tycoon. After the war high-quality films continued to pour out of the United States. They included Charlie Chaplin's ''Limelight'' (1952), the fine Western Shane (1956), a drama of the New York docks called On The Waterfront (1954) and many high-spirited musicals of which An American In Paris (1951) was outstanding. Alfred Hitchcock made his best films during this period. ''Psycho'' with its famous murder-in-the-shower scene was probably the most successful. Despite these successes the great studios began to get into financial difficulties because of declining audiences.
However, the late 1960s saw a turning point in the American film industry with the release of a number of films appealing to the youth market, which drew enormous audiences. The most famous of these were Arthur Penn's ''Bonnie and Clyde'' (1967) and Dennis Hopper's ''Easy Rider'' (1969). Realising that they could no longer rely on their traditional family audiences, film makers increasingly concentrated on films for the so-called 'teenage market', science fiction and fantasy 'blockbusters' with computer enhanced special effects Dolby sound such as George Lucas's ''Star Wars'' (1977) and Steven Spielberg's ''Raiders Of The Lost Ark'' (1981) became very popular.
Today Americans still continue the custom of eating popcorn at the movies. Americans use 500,000 pounds of popcorn every year. All corn does not pop. A seed or kernel of corn must have 14 percent water in it to pop. Other kinds of pop have less water and do not pop. When you put a kernel of corn on a fire, the water inside makes the corn explode. This makes a 'pop' noise. That is why we called it popcorn. The American Indians popped corn a long time ago. The Indians knew there were three kinds of corn. There was sweet corn for eating, corn for animals, and corn for popping. The Indians introduced corn to the first settlers, or Pilgrims, when they come to America in 1620. One year after they came, the Pilgrims had a Thanksgiving dinner. They invited the Indians. The Indians brought food with them. One Indian brought popcorn. Since that time Americans continued to pop corn at home. But in 1945 there was a new machine that changed the history of popcorn. This electric machine popped corn outside the home. Soon movie theatres started to sell popcorn to make more money. Popcorn at the movies became more and more popular. Many people like to put salt and melted butter on their popcorn. Some people eat it without salt or butter. Either way - Americans love their popcorn!
The Oscars are awarded every year by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science. These statuettes are awarded to actors, film directors, screenwriters and so on for outstanding contributions to the film industry. The Oscars were first awarded in 1927. The first winners were chosen by five judges. Nowadays all of the members of the Academy vote. The ceremony is attended by most Hollywood stars, although some famous stars, such as Woody Allen, refuse to go, even if they win an award. The oldest winner of an Oscar was 80-year- old Jessica Tandy for her performance in the film "Driving Miss Daisy" in 1990. The youngest was Shirley Temple when she was only five years old. The statuette is of soldier standing on a reel of film. Nobody is really sure why it is called an Oscar, although some people say that it is because when the first statuette was made, a secretary said, "It reminds me of Uncle Oscar!"
When people think about of Hollywood, they probably think of film stars like Marilyn Monroe, Gary Grant and James Dean. Hollywood is the center of the international movie industry and American movies are distributed all over the world. They are made in English but often dubbed into other languages. In some countries 90 percent of the movies that people see are US production. Sometimes, a film is not very popular with Americans, but people in other countries like it. The first films were made in Hollywood in 1911. Between 1930-1945, the five largest Hollywood's studios produced most of the movies and owned most of the movie theatres in the United States. Making films is expensive. On the average, it costs 36 million dollars to produce a movie. Some of this goes to pay the salary of well-known movie stars and large sums can be spent on special effects like computer-generated imagery (CGI). Marketing the movie to the public may cost another 17 million dollars or more. To cover these costs film companies receive money for movie theatre tickets and the sale or rental of videos. They also sell CDs of the soundtrack and toys, books, or clothes associated with the movie. Indeed, there was a time when Hollywood was the most famous place in the USA, if not the world.
The Hollywood story begins at the end of the last century.
1887. A man called Harvey Wilcox bought a large ranch in a district north-west of Los Angeles in California. His wife called the land 'Hollywood'.
1902-04. The first cinemas ('nickelodeons') opened in the USA.
1911. Two brothers from New Jersey built Hollywood's first film studio.