Motion Picture News (Sept-Oct 1916)

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October 21, 1916 MOTION PICTURE NEWS 2517 What Is Artistic Future of Motion Picture Louis Tracy, Author of Pathe's " Grip of Evil," Criticizes Weak Plot Construction of Average Production and Makes Plea for Elimination of Trite and Hackneyed Situations — Educated Public Demands Better Artistic Standards <<'~p'HERE is a spice of the prophet I in all of us," says Louis Tracy, author of " The Grip of Evil," produced by Pathe. " I suppose a man or a woman is secretly flattered by being asked to give an opinion as to the course of future events. With this confession of human weakness, coupled with the proviso that most modern prophets fail badly — witness the total collapse of seers and clairvoyants, and the rest of the tribe, in their efforts to prognosticate the duration and outcome of the present war in Europe— in a word, qualifying my comments with a very modest assumption of any valid reason to speak with authority, I am glad to be given an opportunity to express certain theories which I have evolved as to the future of the rnotion,, . picture. " Let me be quite candid. I have no thorough knowledge of the motion picture itself. But all art is kin, and the man who has written more than fifty books, striving in each to unfold a panorama of life expressed in words which shall create pictures in the reader's mind, should have formed at least a close acquaintance with the telling of a story, whether in print or on the screen. For one thing, he should long ago have discarded the outworn equipment with which every young writer starts. This is the first real achievement of the author who emerges into the limelight— he gets rid of the load of hackneyed situations and trite phrases that his immature wit deemed new and wondrous. He is compelled to dig into his own resources. If the crude ore thus obtained yields a fair percentage of metal, he takes his place unchallenged on some shelf of Olympus, and the height of his perch is measured thenceforth by the growth and range of his genius. " Though the author thus arrived, so to speak, may never obtain high rank among the immortals, he must at least be a skilled craftsman. To vary the metaphor, he is in the position of the trained worker in wood, who, given any chunk of timber, will produce therefrom a well-made and artistic piece of furniture, and, if shown a fine bit of hammered iron, appreciate its beauty of line and design. " To my thinking, therefore, the production of a picture and a book aim at the same goal, though necessarily following following different paths, and I so often see the complete failure of the motive sought on the screen that I am driven to the conclusion that the motion picture world suffers from a dearth of penetrative yet artistic imagination. " This is a strong statement, and my chief difficulty is that I don't like to adduce proof. Yet, bereft of any real evidence, my opinion lacks force, and I can depend only on generalities to support it. The other evening, however, in a wellknown New York picture house I watched the development of a drama which, to my thinking, contained every fault inherent to crude and unimaginative production. The camera work was excellent, but the plot and construction were beneath contempt. I wondered whether or no the crowded audience shared my views. It did. It commenced to dissolve by twos and threes. Soon whole platoons discovered that in these days of car strikes it was well to get home early. Frankly, the picture was a complete failure, and the failure was due, not to the want of art in the screen work, but because of a monstrous disregard both of commonsense and human nature shown by the producer, who had been content to string together a series of situations which, he fondly believed, contained the necessary ' punch.' Now, there is nothing new in comedy or drama. Plenty of the jokes current in New York today were retailed in Athens two hundred years before the Christian era, while there is only one dramatist living who would regard himself as superior to the ancient Greeks, an opinion of his worth which is peculiarly his own. In my own domain, that of story-teller pure and simple, I have a long way to travel before I essay even a workmanlike copy of the human interest or the picturesque setting of many of the great romances set forth in the Bible. But, throughout the ages, Art ever aims at a high standard, and, in any new phase or development, quickly sheds the elements of ignorance and ugliness. I am as sure as a man can be sure of anything that the motion picture industry has nearly purged itself of its first errors in this respect. " An educated public is no longer content with the dramatic genius of the producer who thinks he has attained the height of his art when striking situations succeed each other: 'Click! Click! Click' with so many accompanying snappings of finger and thumb. " In fact, it has given out long since, and the public are getting wise to the condition. What, then, will be the outcome? I am not afraid to answer — not afraid even to prophesy. I believe that the trained author, artist, actor, and stage manager will come into their own again. The standard of production must be raised. The public must be given a sureenough story. The attention of the audience must be held by the display of true emotion, and its inteerst stimulated by situations drawn from real life. " In this regard, at any rate, I am in a position to furnish direct testimony as to the tendency of the hour. A little while ago no motion picture company would dream of paying an author of some repute the price which would warrant him in giving the best of his work to the newspaper serial version published nowadays almost contemporaneously with the appearance of a picture in the local theatres. But the Pathe Exchange and the Photo-Drama Company of New York, broke through the supposed limitations of the industry when they commissioned me to write " The Grip of Evil " and " The Yellow Menace " respectively. I have reason to believe that the experiment has proved successful." CIVILIZATION AIDS IN N. Y. PEACE WEEK Last week was Peace week in New York, and no less than six peace organization held meetings in the Course of the week. They selected the Park theatre, Columbus Circle, where " Civilization " is being shown as the scene of their evening meetings. The itinerary was as follows : Monday, the Society of Friends; Tuesday, New York State Committee Opposing Conscription; Wednesday, Woman's Peace Party; Thursday, Neutral Conference Committee; Friday, National Organization Against Militarism ; Saturday, Anti-Militarist Labor Conference. As an evidence of his practical sympathy with the objects of the societies, Mr. Ince donated a percentage of each evening's receipts towards the funds of the organizations. Some of the most prominent supporters of the peace propaganda attended the performances of " Civilization " and spoke in support of their points of view. These included Dr. Frederick C. Howe, U. S. Commissioner of Immigration, Hamilton Holt, editor of the New York Independent; Dr. Frank Crane, well-known writer. CHANGES IN OCTOBER RELEASE SCHEDULE The Knickerbocker Star Feature announces the following changes in the October schedule of releases : The release of October 6 will be Jackie Saunders in the " Better Instinct " in two reels. For October 13 the release will be Joyce Moore in " From the Deep," as previously announced. For the last two weeks of the month a two-reel feature will be released on October 20, featuring Frank Mayo and Joyce Moore in " Treading Pearls." It is a story of the sacrifice of one sister in an effort to keep the other on the straight road. The last feature of the month will be released October 27, featuring Marie Empress, the famous stage star, in " The Chorus Girl and the Kid." CIVILIZATION HAS BIG WEEK IN NEWARK " Civilization " last week, at one theatre in Newark, N. J., took in over $7,000. It was offered to Werner & Hall, the owners of the New Jersey rights at $500 per day, and for the moment the sum looked big and the offer was turned down. But on the figures shown the picture would have stood a much higher rental and have yielded, on the returns, a handsome profit.