Interesting Facts About Films

Royalty and the Film

Royal interest in colour films was shown as early as July, 1909, when King Edward VII and H.M. Queen Alexandra witnessed a command exhibition of pictures in ldnemacolour at Knowsley, Lancs.

In November, 1918, H.M. the Queen of England took part in a film called Women Who Win, produced for the Women’s Service League. The picture showed her Majesty talking for a few moments to a munition worker at the Agricultural Hall, London.

In 1916 a film version of Tom Brown’s Schooldays won the distinction of being the first picture to be given a command exhibition in Great Britain.

By Royal command, Mr. Cecil M. Hcpworth presented at Balmoral Castle before their Majesties the King and Queen of England and several other Royal personages, his film, Through Three Reigns, which gave an authentic record of events from 1898 to 19ц.

In November, 1930, at the church-cinema, Lambeth Road, London,

H.R.H. the Prince of Wales showed his personally-taken film record of his tour in Africa.

H.R.H. the Duke of York witnessed at the Albert Hall, London, on February 26, 1929, a special presentation of The Epic of the South Pole, describing Scott’s last expedition to the Antarctic.

City Lights, starring Charles Chaplin, was shown at Balmoral Castle by Royal command

Early Pictures

Cohen at Coney Island, directed bv Mack Sennett, was the first Keystone comedy.

The first war and propaganda picture to be shown in the United States was The Battle Cry of Peace, which J. Stuart Blackton made. It was finished in 1915, the leadshaving been taken by Norma Talmadge and Charles Richman.

Starring Lady Doris Stapleton with David Devant, the famous magician, as the hero, The Great London Mystery was the first British serial. Released in January, 1922, it contained sixteen episodes.

Towards the end of 1911 the Edison company began putting on the screen instructive pictures of the type now known as “ educational ” films.

One of the earliest American films starring a stage actress of world-wide fame was Queen Elizabeth, in which Sarah Bernhardt was the premier attraction. It had its first showing at the Lyceum Theatre, New York, on July 12, 1912.

Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, which was made in 1913, was the first picture taken under the sea. A submarine tube

ordinarily used for observation work was adapted for cinema photography.

Ix was the practice in 1914 in Western films to paint log cabins on the scenery. In The Miner's Sweetheart, a one-reel drama, in which Harry Myers made his film debut, a real log cabin was used for the first time.

The earliest war pictures, though containing no fighting scenes, were those showing the marching and landing of troops taken during the Spanish-American War.

In 1909 the Selig company made the first “ jungle ” film. It was entitled Big Game Hunting in Africa, and showed trained lions in a make-believe jungle. The film was regarded as genuine even in Africa.

One of the first poems to be screened was Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake, which was produced by Vita-graph in 1909, with Edith Storey in the role of Ellen. The picture ran to the then amazing length of four reels.

The first close-up ever taken was in an Edison experimental film in which Fred Ott, a member of the staff, was shown sneezing.

At one time pictures made by Paul in England dominated the American market.

Quo Vadis was the first film made in eight reels.

Ten Commandments, directed by Cecil B. De Mille, was one of the earliest full length films to use colour.

In 1907, the Kelem company produced a short version of Ben Hur in sixteen scenes. It was described as “ positively the most superb moving spectacle ever made in America,” and occupied the screen for seven minutes.

Shakespeare was first put on the screen by the Vitagraph company, Othello having been released in 1902 and Romeo and Juliet in 1903.

The Great Train Robbery was the first big story film produced in America in 1903. The chief character was Max Anderson, who afterwards became famous in silent Western films as Broncho Billy.

The Black Diamond Express, produced by Vitagraph in 1898, was the first picture play to show railway scenes.

The first screen kiss was pictured in New York in 1896, by May Irwin and John C. Rice in a five hundred feet film version of their stage success, The Widow Jones.

One of the earliest British picture plays, entitled The Soldier's Courtship, was produced on the roof of the Alhambra, London, in 1896, by Robert W. Paul. '

The first music-hall in London to show films as part of the programme was the Empire, in February, i8g6, followed by the Alhambra, in March of the same year.

In France films were shown publicly for the first time on December 25, 1895, at the Grand Cafe, Boulevard de Madeleine, Paris, by the brothers Lumiere.

The first public exhibition of films in England was given at the Polytechnic, Regent Street, London, in October, 1895, the programme consisting of miscellaneous scenes.

Film Artistes

Sixty-eight per cent of the total crowd engagements in Hollywood go to men, 28 per cent to women, and the rest to children.

An average of 710 engagements a day at 8 dollars apiece were given to extras in Hollywood last year. There are 17,000 registered actors in Hollywood among whom this work is distributed.

Elinor Glyn used the expression ” IT ” for the first time when trying to describe Clara Bow’s personality. When asked what it meant she replied : " The indefinable something.”

Joan Crawford is the star whose figure most resembles that of the Venus de Milo.

John Miljan has been ” killed ” in films in over 40 different wTays, including being choked, hanged, shot, stabbed, poisoned, and boiled in oil.

Buddy Rogers was light heavy

weight Boxing Champion at the University of Kansas.

George O’Brien won the light heavyweight Championship of the Pacific Fleet in 1918.

Anna May Wong has never been hissed in a film.

Constance Bennett, contrary to common supposition, has never been on the stage.

Twenty men, aged from 54 to 77 years, appeared in Horse Feathers.

Robert Ames and Robert Williams, both featured in Rebound, died within two months of the film’s completion.

Pete Robinson, shown in Freaks (not exhibited in this country), is 55 years of age, and weighs 58 lb.

Fredric March devoted five hours a day to making up for the part of Mr. Hyde in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The motion picture industry in America employs 300,000 people.

Salaries received by stars are higher than those obtained in any other profession.

Crowd artistes in Britain are paid one guinea per day, which sum is increased if they have to speak a few lines into the microphone.

B.I.P. established a British record by employing 1,000 extras during the month of February, 1931.

New York has supplied Hollywood with more stars than any other city. Hollywood itself comes second.

Sophie Tucker once gave 14 shows a day in a small cinema with a seating capacity of 200. Seven of the shows were as a white woman and seven as a black.

Jameson Thomas made his debut before the camera in 1914 in a British film which was never completed owing to the outbreak of the war.

Dick Grace and Phillips Smalley have both continued acting in film’s after having broken their necks. Grace broke his neck as the result of a crash in Wings, and Phillips Smalley’s accident occurred when he was involved in a motor-car collision in Brooklyn.

The first Japanese actor to appear in

a British talking film was Kyoshi Takase, who had a part in the Archibald Nettlefold production, Red Pearls, released in 1930.

Jack Mulhall achieved the distinction of playing the first dual role in talkies when he appeared as a policeman and a crook in the First National picture Pat and Mike and carried on a conversation with himself !

In the two-reel comedy Only Me, Lupino Lane played the entire cast himself by appearing as twenty-three dissimilar characters.

Charles Farrell, before his screen career, was valet to a midget in vaudeville known professionally in America as “ Little Billy.”

Though Chinese artistes have often appeared in films the first of that nationality to star in a picture was Lady Tsen Mei. This was in For the Freedom of the East, produced towards the close of the war.

The first famous stage actor to appear in a screen play was Joseph Jefferson, who acted in Rip Van Winkle, produced in 1897 by the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company.

Bert Williams was the first negro comedian to star in films. One of his comedies, Darktown Jubilee, made a great hit.


Largest cinema in the world : Rox\, New York. Seating capacity, 6,500.

Largest cinema in France: Gaumont Palace, Paris. Seating capacity. 6,000.

Largest cinema in Britain : the Trocadero, Elephant and Castle, London. Seating capacity, 5,500.

Projection speed : Silent films, 60 feet per minute ; talking films, 90 feet per minute.

The weekly attendance in American cinemas is 130,000,000 and the annual takings /110,000,000.

The following figures will indicate the number of cinemas owned in different countries : Germany. 5,267 ;

U.S.A., 20,500; Switzerland, 325.

Europe as a whole possesses only

7,000 cinemas more than the American total.

The screen is dark during one-third of a film performance. This is due to the shutters which fall in front of the projector after every picture or “ frame.”

In the projecting-room of a cinema there are generally two or more projectors. As one reel is finished the other is thus able to begin without interruption.

The world's largest screen is in the Paramount Theatre, New York. It measures 31 ft. by 42 ft. An averagesized face shown on this screen would be 30 ft. long.

In New York there is a school for cinema managers. The course lasts six months.

The cooling-plant in a large cinema often costs £120 a week to maintain.

Paramount own 600 cinema theatres in U.S.A.

Entertainment Tax

Where fee of admission (excluding the amount of duty) exceeds 2d. and does not exceed 2id., £d. ; exceeds e|d. and does not exceed 6d., id. ; exceeds 6d. and does not exceed 7^d., iid. ; exceeds yhd. and does not exceed iod., 2d. ; exceeds iod. and does not exceed is. o^d., 2|d. ;

exceeds is. o|d. and does not exceed is. 3d., 3d.

Threepence for the first is. 3d. and id. for every 5d. or part of 3d. over is. 3d.

This duty is not payable when: (1) The proceeds are devoted to philanthropic or charitable purposes, without deduction of expenses ; (2) the entertainment is wholly educational; (3) the entertainment is for children only and the charge is not more than id. ; (4) the entertainment provided is partly educational, or partly scientific, n nd by a society and not run for profit; s '1 is provided by or on behalf of a

’ or educational institution.

The Film-Strip Itself

The average length of film used for a screen test by B.I.P. is 200 feet.

Arrowsmith, starring Ronald Colman, contained 224 scenes, most of which were “ shot ” three times.

Average length pictures consist of

160.000 separate photographs.

Width of standard film; 35


A recent census proved the average cost of American films to be £70,000. Average cost of British films, approximately £20,000.

A successful film is sometimes booked by 50,000 cinemas throughout the world. This will give some indication of the world-wide popularity that may be attained by a motion picture star.

One single picture (frame) in a film occupies the screen one sixteenth of a second. It takes the eye one-eighth of a second to observe a picture. Thus, before it has had time to take in one scene the next appears and thereby creates the illusion of continuous movement.

One hundred and fifty copies of American films are made for distribution. Of a successful film as many as 300 reproductions are made.

Old razor blades are used by screen editors for cutting film.

The length of an average picture :

7.000 ft.

It was not until some time after motion pictures were invented that films were shown on a screen. They were formerly shown in little boxes, set in motion and lighted by the insertion of a coin.

Silver, horses’ hoofs, and hides form the basic substance with which film cellulose is treated. The silver is sensitized and coated on the film strip. To make the silver powder adhere a solution, made from ground horses’ hoofs and hides, is used.

In the silent days pictures of average popularity had their titles translated into 36 different languages. These served 73 different countries.

Film Production

Average time devoted to making American films : 22 days.

Atlantic, directed by was

the first multi-lingual talkie.

A day’s work in the studios consisting of eight hours often represents only six minutes' screen material.

Hell’s Angels, one of the most expensive films produced in America, cost £800,000. The following figures will indicate how this was spent: negative and developing, £62,000; flying sequences, £422,600; sets and costumes; £104,000; artistes’

salaries, £66,000 ; technicians’ salaries, £44,000 ; Zeppelin sequences, £102,400. This film was at first made as a silent, but owing to the growing popularity of talkies, it was decided to duplicate many of the scenes in sound.

The number of regular feature films made by Britain, France, and Germany last year were as follows : Germany, 164 ; France, 143 ; Britain, 141.

With 900 films in 1931, Japan holds the record for the number of films produced in one year. Most of these, however, were silent, and intended for national use only.

The following figures will show the proportion of money spent on different items in a film production : Actors, 25 per cent; directors and cameraman, 10 per cent; scenarios and stories, 10 per cent; sets, 19 per cent; overhead, 20 per cent; costumes, .03 per cent; ground, .08 per cent; film stock, .05 per cent.

Films are invariably shown in the studio about 100 times before finally achieving their “ first night.”

A “ shot ” is sometimes rehearsed 40 times before the actual take.

Seventy-five pictures scheduled for one year’s productions cost Paramount £4,500,000.

The Covered Wagon, starring Mary Miles Minter, cost nearly £1,000,000, a figure that has never been surpassed.

For several years the only lighting used in the making of motion pictures was sunlight.

Producers in Great Britain and

U.S.A. determine the cost of a picture before work is begun on it.

Blue eyes are considered photographically to give a wider range of expression than eyes of any other colour.

In Warner Bros.* spectacular film. Noah’s Ark, produced at a cost of £400,000, an army of 7,500 extras was sprayed with bronze rainproof toning which gave them the colour of the ancient Semites.

The first artificial jungle for a sound picture was used in Condemned, starring Ronald Colman, when a realistic jungle was made measuring 640 feet long by 380 feet wide, with a river, using 200,000 gallons of water, running through it.

Christmas Cheer, a two-reel comedy released in 1929 and starring “ Sunny Jim,” the four-years-old actor, was the first all-talking picture made specially for Christmas presentation.

Sound in Films

There are many words banned in talkies owing to their unsuitability for reproduction, words such as soldiers, kiss, and pleasure. In addition to these, artistes often add their own list of words which they personally find difficult to pronounce.

There are eighteen sound systems on the market.

When talkies were first introduced all the camera equipment was placed in closed boxes with glass fronts through which the “ shooting ” was done. (It was not an unusual incident for cameramen to faint in these boxes owing to the intense heat.) These have since been discarded, and only the top part of the camera is now enclosed in a sound-absorbing box.

To avoid the usual noise of rain, which through the microphone sounds like thunder, hoses fitted with finely

punctured nozzles arc attached to water valves. These eject the water in vapour form and m addition to giving the desired appearance, create no noise.

The sound of a kiss, unless exaggerated purposely, is rarely picked up by the microphone.

The first complete recording plant for a talking motion picture made at sea was used for “ So Long, Letty.” The equipment was placed on a barge which accompanied the yacht bearing the artistes.

Film Studios

The largest studios in Europe are the U.F.A. Studios in Germany.

Warner Studios have four miles of paved streets, 21 miles of lead-covered cable for recording, and 4,222 horsepower delivering plant, enough for a city of more than 10,000 people.

Warners have 44 buildings in their studio grounds, most of which arc designed in the Spanish style.

Warner Studios stand in 78 acres of ground. Warner Ranch adjoining studio occupies 1,100 acres.

First National was bought by Warner Bros, in 1928.

There are 22 studios with 145 sound stages in Hollywood.

Gaumont-British, A.R.P., and B.I.P. have laboratories adjoining their studios.

First National’s sound library contains a million feet of film, kept in a fire-proof vault. Almost every kind of sound necessary to a film can thus be obtained at a moment’s notice.

Paramount own 1,500 vehicles which are used entirely for production. These include aeroplanes, motor-cycles, ox-carts, wagons, post-chaises, hansom cabs, and the like.

B.I.P. Studios at Elstree have 10 sound stages. Nine of these measure So feet by 60 feet and one (the largest in England) 300 feet by 100 feet.

B.I.P., A.R.P., Gaumont-British,

and Gainsborough Studios have their own restaurants. The largest of these is the B.I.P.

On the 600 acres owned by Universal studios there are mountains, prairies, streams, and swamps.

Universal have their own emergency hospital with its own doctor and nursing staff.

There are 100 buildings on Universal’s studio grounds.

The dressing-rooms at Universal can accommodate 7,500 artistes.

Fox Movietone have a research library looked after by trained librarians.

Fox Movietone have 5 miles of paved streets within the studio grounds. Fox use 54 miles of underground cable to conduct electrical power.

Universal own the largest studios in the world, with an area of 230 acres.

Studio Devices

Artificial snow was taken to the Arctic circle for the filming of Eskimo.

Street Scene was the first film produced in its proper sequence. Often the end of the film is produced first, but in this instance production followed the story from beginning to end.

Glycerine is sometimes used for screen tears.

To avoid reflection of light, glass is removed from spectacles worn by players on the screen.

Visitors to studios are often surprised to see artistes wearing yellow dress shirts, collars, and other clothes which ordinarily are white. The reason for this is that white reflects light into the lens.

Flaked corn is sometimes used as falling snow.

The first film sets were called " flats.” These were wooden frames over which were stretched canvasses depicting the necessary scenes.

“ Honeycomb set ” is the name given to the new type of set which is built with one room leading to another, thus enabling the camera to follow the players as they move from room to room.

A noiseless artificial wind machine was first used in Ramon Novarro’s film In Gay Madrid.

Film studios use a special device to manufacture spiders’ webs.

The food provided for film scenes is invariably real.

Animals in Films

Leland Stanford, at one time Governor of California, was the first to prove, by the use of the camera, that a thoroughbred horse often has all four legs off the ground when in full gallop.

Silver Star, the famous equine star, earned £200,000 in three years.

Birth of a Nation, directed by D. W. Griffith, used 3,000 horses during production, thus establishing a record which has never since been surpassed.

The greatest variety of animals assembled together for a film was obtained for the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production Tarzan, the Ape Man. Among the animals used were a large herd of elephants, a dozen hippopotami, zebras, gnus, spotted hyenas, hundreds of monkeys, baboons, lions and leopards.

The Gay Lion Farm in California which has for years supplied lions for films was started in 1920 by Charles Gay, a Frenchman, and his English wife. ^

The first all-dog talkie was produced at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios in 1929. It was entitled Hot Dogs with a hundred canines of all sizes and lands dressed as human beings. Human voices were synchronized with the action.

Ken Maynard’s horse, Tarzan, is insured for £2,000.

When at the height of his popularity Rin Tin Tin earned £500 per week for his master.

Том Mix gave £3 12s. od. for his first horse, Tony, the sale being effected on September 4, 1916, when Tony was a raw, ungainly looking colt, but gave promise of becoming an unusually bright animal.

Tom Mix now has five horses, all of which are called “ Tony.”

One of the earliest animal films was a one-minute farce produced in 1907 by Biograph entitled Wanted, a Dog, in which the chief actor was supported by a cast of sixty dogs of different breeds.

Colour Films

On February 26, 1908, the

general public saw colour films for the first time at the Palace Theatre, London.

• As a direct outcome of the above the Kinemacolour process for films was evolved and afterwards shown before a scientific gathering at the Royal Society of Arts on December 9,


In 1920 Dr. Herbert T. Kalmus made the first Technicolor camera (the process still used in a number of Hollywood productions) after experiments lasting over a year and at a cost of £28,000.

Beginning on February 22, 1911 the Scala Theatre, London, showed films in Kinemacolour for t w c years—the longest run so far foi colour films at any single theatre in the world.

On the Continent colour films were shown for the first time when an exhibition was given on March 24,

1909, at the Institute of Civil Engineers in Paris.

America’s first glimpse of colour films was in New York on December 11, 1909.

In 1921 J. Stuart Blackton produced The Glorious Adventure, the first picture play in colours to be made in England.

Though special light filters have been used for most films, some have been carefully coloured by hand. Two examples of the latter method are the fire scenes in Foolish Wives and the night scenes in the Garden of Geth-semane in The King of Kings.

For the Technicolor scenes in No, No. Nanette, a goose which appeared

m the him was completely covered with gold paint.


The first demonstration in a cinema was carried out in this country by the Baird Television Company, in conjunction with the Metropole Cinema, Victoria, London.

The Derby was transmitted on June i, 1932, and was seen by a thrilled audience on a special screen 10 ft. wide and 8 ft. high.

Wide Screen

It is probably only reticence on the part of producers that is responsible for the slow progress made by the wide screen. Doubtless it is felt that the cost of new equipment coming so soon after the talkie revolution would impose a burden on exhibitors which they are not at present prepared to shoulder.

The Bat Whispers, shown at the Regal Cinema recently, was photographed on a film 65mm. wide, then reduced to standard size, thus achieving the wide film effect with sharper definitions. The screen on which this was shown was 31 ft. wide and 16 ft. high.

Some General Facts About Films

A photograph copyright lasts fifty years after the making of the negative.

The cost of a motion picture camera sometimes amounts to £1,000.

Max Factor is Hollywood’s most celebrated make-up expert. He has amassed a fortune by the manufacture of grease paint.

Hollywood Boulevard is officially called Santa Claus Lane every Christmas.

Founder members of Hollywood's first cricket team were: Ronald

Colman, P. G. Wodehouse, Anthony Bushell, Murray Kinnell, Boris Karloff, and C. Aubrey Smith (elected President). Karloff had the distinction of scoring the first century.

Screen newspapers arc never real.

Dummies are used to overcome the copyright difficulties that would otherwise be entailed.

A process has been devised by which film scrap can be converted into imitation leather, used sometimes to upholster cars.

Grease paint sticks have largely been replaced by coloured creams.

Permanent investments in the American film industries amount to £300,000,000.

Cartoons and their creators: Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney ; Felix, Pat Sullivan ; Flip the Frog, Ub Iwerks.

Martial law compelled all residents of San Francisco (among them many film stars) to clear up the debris after an earthquake. This they had to do for a certain number of hours over two days.

Hollywood Bowl, a large open-air amphitheatre, seats 20,000 people, and has such perfect natural acoustics that it is possible to hear a person talking in natural tones at a distance of 500 ft.

Three-quarters of American film stories are chosen specially to suit certain stars.

Hollywood has ten schools of equitation, and riding is more popular in that city than in any other of America with an equal population.

Unless taken from a book, the original story of a film seldom consists of more than 500 words, and is known as the synopsis.

All employees at Paramount Studios are covered by life insurance.

In the silent days music was always provided on the set to inspire artistes.

The film industry ranks fourth in importance in U.S.A.

In March, 1927, a course of lectures on the Motion Picture industry was inaugurated at Harvard University. Simultaneously, it was announced that the Fine Arts Department would in future select the best pictures of the previous twelve months and preserve them in a special library.

The usual arrangement made between exhibitors and renters is a percentage of the takings.

Whereas agents generally charge artists iо per cent for engagements, the Central Casting Bureau in America renders its services free and does 98 per cent of Hollywood’s crowd casting.

Vitagrapii, Edison, Biograph, Es-sanay, Selig, Lubin, Pathe-Freres, and Melies combined in 1909 and became known as the Motion Picture Patents Company; its object was to fight infringement of its patent rights.

Roy McCardel was the first American newspaper reporter to adopt scenario writing as a profession. He began with the Biograph Company at the then princely salary of £20 per week.

Several passenger planes in America are equipped with a cinema-projector which shows 16 mm. films regularly during trans-continental flights.

Songs and theme music are selected at Universal by a special committee, consisting of one member from each department in the studios.

Two thousand people are continuously employed at Universal City.

When talkies first became popular the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences instituted a sound class which was attended by many famous

directors, technicians and cameramen anxious to learn about the new medium.

Employees at Universal City have their own amateur dramatic society.

The studio make-up expert invariably touches up the stars’ faces after every shot.

Several propaganda films were made by the British Government during the War, among them being Eat Less Bread, featuring Norman McKinnell.

The five most remunerative films in Great Britain in 1931 were: Africa Speaks, Plunder, Hell’s Angels, One Heavenly Night, Trader Horn.

Columbia Pictures are released by United Artists.

British Movietone News is released by Fox.

Ideal Cinemagazine, edited by Andrew Buchanan, is released by Ideal.

If the fifty-six films directed by Cecil B. de Mi lie were placed end to end they would encircle the world and leave a good length over.

At the First National Vitaphone studios in Burbank all cameramen and property men must undergo tests for colour blindness before being assigned to work on a Technicolor film.

The world film encyclopedia, 1933

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