Covering the 1890s to the mid-1910s, this work focuses on the period during which filmmaking progressed from the early flickering moving images that lasted only a matter of seconds to multiple-reel, feature films running more than an hour. By offering an international perspective and encompassing not only the production aspects of early motion pictures but also their distribution, exhibition, and reception, this work fills a gap in the reference literature on film.
Contributed by Abel, a film professor at the University of Michigan, and a team of nearly 140 scholars, the alphabetically arranged entries include key figures; technical innovations; film companies; kinds of films (Comedy, Newsreels, Polar expedition films); aspects of film production (Costume, Lighting, Sound effects); historical overviews of early cinema in specific countries; film publications; and related social and cultural institutions, practices, and concerns. Of the more than 950 entries, approximately 560 treat inventors, directors, producers, scriptwriters, actors and actresses, and other people involved in filmmaking. Most entries for individuals are relatively brief (between 100 to 200 words), but particularly significant figures, such as Charles Chaplin and Thomas Edison, receive treatments ranging from 450 to 1,000 words. Articles in other categories, for instance, those on specific film genres and national cinemas, often span several pages. Especially notable are the essays on individual countries, which reflect how quickly the technologies for making and showing motion pictures spread to diverse locations throughout the world, such as Cuba, New Zealand, and Vietnam. All entries are signed, and many provide bibliographic references.
Additional features include an extensive general bibliography of sources pertaining to early cinema and 132 black-and-white photographs and other illustrations. Liberal use of cross-references, a thematic guide that arranges article headings into broad subject categories, and a commendably detailed index (which is essential for locating information on individual films since there are no entries for film titles) facilitate access.
Scholarly but not pedantic, this encyclopedia will be a valuable resource in larger academic and public libraries and other institutions that are developing comprehensive collections related to film studies. Unfortunately, its substantial price may prohibit its purchase in many instances. Marie Ellis
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'A unique reference that will be welcomed by serious students of film history. It is a fascinating story and this reference will help students and other interested readers explore its full scope.' - Against the Grain
'This definitive new encyclopedia provides an essential reference tool...This work represents a long-awaited accumulation of knowledge on the international emergence of cinema. Highly recommended for all reference collections.' - Choice
'It's a great pleasure to report that such an Encyclopedia has now been published, and that the job has been uncommonly well done ... both for the newcomer and for the specialist, the Encyclopedia of Early Cinema is highly recommended ... this is a book that deserves a place on virtually any film enthusiast's bookshelf.' - Nineteenth Century Theatre & Film