A Modern Photoplay for the New Era, as Illustrated in 1914

Both viewers and filmmakers in the 1910s were well aware that movies were turning a corner and becoming THE popular entertainment of the general public. Naturally, many debates as to how to move forward were underway. Probably the most famous and important was the question of censorship but other issues were also controversial.

Was low slapstick ruining the movies? Was there too much melodrama? Too much sex? Violence? Drinking? Gunplay? These were not presented purely as matters of censorship but rather good taste and social responsibility. Should a film also be obligated to “uplift” its audience?

(Anyone who thinks there were good old days during which movies were “just entertainment” with zero political content can see that such a time never actually existed.)

In 1914, Motion Picture Magazine published an illustration of the modern photoplay, how they saw movies developing.

Begone, blood and thunder! Phooey!

So, um, do you want to tell them about the modern superhero craze or shall I?

One can easily see why this kind of motion picture never caught on in the freewheeling 1910s. Slapstick was about to get a shot in the arm as the world was on the verge of developing a strong case of Chaplinitis. The First World War gave filmmakers a license to include rape, murder and mayhem willy-nilly. Vamps would take over the movie scene in just a few short months. Travel and education would stay in the zone of non-fiction with international location shooting for American fiction films paralyzed by the war. (Did you know international location shooting was huge pre-WWI? It was pretty amazing.)

In short, there was indeed a new era of bigger and better movies underway but how it unfolded… Well, Miss Modern Photoplay probably hiked up her skirts, bobbed her hair, picked up a ukulele and went dancing not long after posing for this illustration!


    1. Fritzi Kramer

      Your guess is as good as mine. 😉

      But seriously, I think they may mean “tragedy” in more of the Greek theatrical sense with the addition of some religious moralizing. Have some Madeira, m’dear!

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