True film buffs can't learn enough about the history of the movies: in a gallant effort to satiate such insatiable critters, Dorling Kindersley has come up with a fat new book called CHRONICLE OF THE CINEMA. This 920 page tome begins its story on February 8, 1894 at the Riley Brothers magic lantern shop in New York where the films of Thomas Edison received a private screening at 16 Beekman Street & it continues year by year through this spring's Academy Awards ceremony. As detailed as this book is, it does tend to travel the high road: The career of Sir John Mills is acknowledged but there's nary a syllable about his much-loved (and Oscar-honored) daughter Hayley. On the other hand, the birth, suicide bid, four films & death of French actress Martine Carol are reported in some detail. Maybe one of the five male and two female editors dug the star of "Lola Montes", but squirmed through "The Parent Trap"?.
This Chronicle is a treat to look at with lush, colorful posters and carefully selected stills of each year's best-received Movies. The research that went into the book is formidable, with articles written in the styles of their respective eras with headlines to match. The contributions of Alice Guy, a young film pioneer in Paris, receive appropriate credit in eight articles between 1897 and 1907 and the works of the great George Melies are covered extensively in some thirty listings between 1896 and 1938. A full page photograph of lovely early star Florence Lawrence, then 24, appears in 1910 followed by a brief mention of her death 26 years later. Other books will tell you how her career never recovered from a serious injury doing stunt work and how she took her own life with ant paste alter being reduced to bit work in an industry that once bid furiously for her services. Some silent screen goddesses were luckier: Lillian Gish, Mary Pickford & Gloria Swanson all lived long lives in care and comfort, published their memoirs, continued to work on screen and, in Pickford's case, behind the camera as a producer. Technical advances (Technicolor, Cinemascope, special effects wizardry) also receive their due: this is the sort of book you won t ever finish because you'll be referring to it constantly.
Copyright 1995 Monica Sullivan
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