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Tribute to the Father of Editing in World Cinema


Edwin Stanton Porter was an early film pioneer who was most famous as a director with Thomas Edison's company. Edwin .S. Porter discovered that he could tell stories through moving images. He wrote the story and directed the film The Great Train Robbery (1903). It was for about ten minutes. The film was of great historical importance since it was the first that told a story.

The whole film was made of twenty shots including outdoor chase scenes and then it was joined together in the order of the story. The film was about crime, pursuit and capture and it‘s perhaps the first great American chase film and the first film in the world which made use of the idea of logical editing.

The most significant creative figure in the earliest years of American filmmaking, Edwin S. Porter was born on 21 April 1870 in Connellsville, Philadelphia. He left school at fourteen, working at a variety of occupations, chiefly as a telegraph operator, but with a spell in the theatre, and also picking up a considerable knowledge of electricity that was to prove his passport into the world of film. Between 1893 and 1896 he served in the American navy. On his discharge he teamed up with Charles H. Balsey and Richard S. Paine, two friends who had acquired territorial rights for the Edison Vitascope from Raff and Gammon for California. Porter however soon set off again, teaming up with showman Harry J. Daniels with the International Film Company's Projectograph projector to travel the Caribbean. He returned to New York by the summer of 1897, assisting for a while at Richard Hollaman's Eden Musée theatre, moving on with Daniels once more to tour Canada, then returning in the autumn to work as an operator at the Eden Musée. Here he was instrumental in the exhibition of the Passion Play extravaganza and the Eden Musée's imaginative display of Spanish-American war films throughout 1898.

Edwin S Porter, All Lights Film Magazine, ALFM, All Lights MagazinePorter left in 1900 to resume his career as a travelling showman, but when a fire destroyed his small projector business, Porter joined the Edison Manufacturing Company full time. Initially employed as a mechanic, Porter gradually turned to the production of films, working in partnership with George S. Fleming, and in a short time becoming responsible as cameraman and director for the greater amount of Edison product. From basic beginnings, Porter absorbed much from his contemporaries, adopting trick work and narrative innovations, and in 1903 he directed two seminal American films, The Life of an American Fireman and The Great Train Robbery. The former film had a simple but effective multi-scene narrative in which a dramatised rescue was intercut with actuality film of a real fire brigade. The latter film, lasting twelve minutes, was the classical Hollywood film in embryo: a exciting story that built up its suspense by linked scenes, owed nothing to the theatre, was wholly comprehensible, offered the thrill of enacted crime, and ended with the revolutionary shock as one of the gunmen point his gun at the camera and fires. The film caused a sensation, was a huge financial success, and its mythic power has yet to dim.

Porter continued to work for Edison until 1909, although his work seemed increasingly journeyman as the cinema started to progress beyond him. In November 1909 he left Edison to form his own production company, Defender, next forming the Rex Film Company before selling his interest in 1912 and joining Famous Players, run by Adolph Zukor. Pursuing the prestigious and seemingly profitable strategy of 'famous players in famous plays', Zukor made Porter his chief director, but the features he made from such literary sources as The Prisoner of Zenda and The Count of Monte Cristo (both 1913) showed little cinematic virtuosity. Porter was always more of a technician than an artist, enjoying best those films that involved camera trickery (such as The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend of 1906) and finding most contentment experimenting with projectors and other film equipment. Porter sold his share in Famous Players in 1915 and invested in the Precision Machine Corporation, producers of the Simplex projector. Made president of the company, he lost his fortune in the 1929 stock market crash, and spent the remainder of his life in obscurity, experimenting with film devices that were destined to

FILMOGRAPHY

1899 - The America's Cup Race

1900 - Why Mrs. Jones Got a Divorce; Animated Luncheon; An Artist's Dream; The Mystic Swing; Ching Lin Foo Outdone; Faust and Marguerite; The Clown and the Alchemist; A Wringing Good Joke; The Enchanted Drawing

1901 - Terrible Teddy the Grizzly King; Love in a Hammock; A Day at the Circus; What Demoralized the Barber Shop; The Finish of Bridget McKeen; Happy Hooligan Surprised; Martyred Presidents; Love by the Light of the Moon; Circular Panorama of the Electric Tower; Panorama of the Esplanade by Night; The Mysterious Cafe

1902 - Uncle Josh at the Moving Picture Show; Charleston Chain Gang; Burlesque Suicide; Rock of Ages; Jack and the Beanstalk; Happy Hooligan Turns Burglar; Capture of the Biddle Brothers; Fun in a Bakery Shop

1903 - The Life of an American Fireman; The Still Alarm; Arabian Jewish Dance; Razzle Dazzle; Seashore Frolics; Scenes in an Orphans' Asylum; The Gay Shoe Clerk; The Baby Review; The Animated Poster; The Office Boy's Revenge; Uncle Tom's Cabin; The Great Train Robbery; The Messenger Boy's Mistake; Casey and His Neighbor's Goat

1904 - The Ex-Convict; Cohen's Advertising Scheme; European Rest Cure; Capture of Yegg Bank Burglars; City Hall to Harlem in Fifteen Seconds via the Subway Route; Casey's Frightful Dream; The Cop Fools the Sergeant; Elephant Shooting the Chutes at Luna Park

1905 - The Kleptomaniac; Stolen by Gypsies; How Jones Lost His Roll; The Little Train Robbery; The White Caps; Seven Ages; The Life of an American Policeman

1906 - The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend; The Life of a Cowboy; Three American Beauties; Kathleen Mavourneen

1907 - Daniel Boone; Lost in the Alps; The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere; Laughing Gas; Rescued from an Eagle's Nest; The Teddy Bears

1908 - Nero and the Burning of Rome; The Painter's Revenge; The Merry Widow Waltz Craze; The Gentleman Burglar; Honesty Is the Best Policy; Love Will Find a Way; Skinny's Finish; The Face on the Barroom Floor; The Boston Tea Party; Romance of a War Nurse; A Voice from the Dead; Saved by Love; She; Lord Feathertop; The Angel Child; Miss Sherlock Holmes; An Unexpected Santa Claus

1909 - The Adventures of an Old Flirt; A Midnight Supper; Love Is Blind; A Cry from the Wilderness; Hard to Beat; On the Western Frontier; Fuss and Feathers; Pony Express; Toys of Fate; The Iconoclast; Hansel and Gretel; The Strike; Capital versus Labor

1910 - All on Account of a Laundry Mark; Russia €”the Land of Oppression; Too Many Girls; Almost a Hero; The Toymaker on the Brink and the Devil

1911 - By the Light of the Moon; On the Brink; The White Red Man; Sherlock Holmes Jr.; Lost Illusions

1912 - A Sane Asylum; Eyes That See Not; The Final Pardon; Taming Mrs. Shrew

1913 - The Prisoner of Zenda (co-d); His Neighbor's Wife; The Count of Monte Cristo (co-d); In the Bishop's Carriage (co-d); A Good Little Devil (co-d)

1914 - Hearts Adrift; Tess of the Storm Country; Such a Little Queen (co-d)

1915 - The Eternal City (co-d); Zaza (co-d); Sold (co-d); The Prince and the Pauper (co-d); Bella Donna (co-d)

1916 - Lydia Gilmore (co-d)