Record #380

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Trotti, Lamar - Special Articles

A collection of articles by Lamar Trotti. Of special interest are his articles about the use of motion pictures in the Americanization of immigrants, and his comments on the film We Americans (Universal), which "deals exclusively with Americanization work among the foreign-born in this country." Other topics covered include arbitration, scenario-writing, censorship, children in motion pictures, achievements of the motion picture industry, and applications of motion pictures in education.


Americanization (7), Arbitration (65), Censorship (112), Child actors (2), Children (43), Motion pictures in education (21), Screenwriting/screenwriters (4) Show all keywords…


Long Description:

Continues the collected works of Lamar Trotti.One article on arbitration -- which begins: "The largest single item of preventable waste in civilization today, outside of war, is litigation" -- suggests that arbitration has saved the industry 4 % -- no evidence as to how that figure is arrived at -- but this article is not complete.Another, on scriptwriting, cites a letter from a young fan: "I have found ... that a comedy must have a negro and a Ford car in it."Later, it argues: "Unfortunately an unwarranted and entirely groundless stigma often attaches itself to those books to which the world had applied the title 'classics', and that stigma is the stigma of dullness. For some reason, people are prone to look on a book which bears the name of a venerated author as dreary reading, as something that one is supposed to wade through because one simply must and not because there may be some real, secret reason to explain why the book has survived while a thousand of its contemporaries have been consigned to the limbo of forgotten things. "This aversion emanates from our schools largely, where the so-called classics are retained as a part of the reading courses. As children we begin to look on Dickens and George Eliot and Jane Austen and Scott, as tiresome, dreary old writers of text books, and we read them under duress, as it were, retaining, unconsciously, the impression that these great men and women were writers of books to harness the young. Many of us never get over this feeling, and we go through life missing some of the greatest joy and happiness that is allotted to humanity -- the joy and happiness that lie in good books. ... "The motion picture, in turning often to the classics for its material, has told so entertainingly the stories involved that hundreds and thousands have been sent to the classics to find out if such a story is the story told there. ..."(pp. 6-7)"There are in existence today, and the pile is being added to constantly, certain books and plays which the world dismisses eventually as pornographic writings. That is, there are books and plays which make their play for fame in terms of obscenity and lewdness, and which boldly flaunt their wares under the sacred name of realistic literature. ... We will all agree that a book that you and I, as adults, may well read and enjoy -- a book that has dubious situations and words, perhaps, but which will not affect us in any wrongful fashion -- may be altogether wrong for someone else with a different background and a different understanding. We may view the form of a nude figure -- you and I -- and be uplifted by it, inspired and made better men and women, while to the man with whom we are rubbing elbows, it may convey another and altogether distorted meaning. Especially is this true of the young; and here is the motion picture's concern with books and plays." -- describes the prevalent type as "the salacious, or the licentious" (10)In one of the censorship articles, he quotes the NCWC resolution objecting to the Upshaw bill -- presumably presented to the 1926 hearings:"We object to the bill for the further reason that it removes control of the motion picture industry from the FTC and puts that control into the hands of the Federal motion picture commission. One may well ask himself are the seven members of the commission to be experts in industrial control or in moral censorship, or in both. Why exempt the motion picture industry form the control of the FTC? Why multiply Federal bureaus and commissions? No reason can be offered to show that a new and separate commission will control the motion picture industry better than the present FTC. It is certainly inadvisable to confound and confuse industrial regulations and moral censorship. ... We object also to the provision in the bill which gives to the commission the right to say whether or not a particular film is exportable to other countries. No such blanket authority should be granted."(12) MacMahon adds: "I have failed to notice any widespread clamor for national censorship either of the stage or of the press, and one thing that I have noticed particularly in this hearing is that there has been no evidence submitted to your committee of a universal clamor on the part of the people who see the movies, the 50 m or more who regularly patronize them every week, for Federal America regulation of them. They are not represented here as demanding the kind of regulation of this industry that these two measures propose. It may be unfortunate, perhaps, that the great majority of our people might be classed by the highbrows as lowbrows, but we cannot improve their culture by statute." (13) Later, one of the arguments cited by Trotti against censorship is that "There are no standards an which censors may base their actions." -- which, of course, is not an argument consistently deployed.On Saturday Morning Movies, Trotti reports that they were initially successful, but the programs began to lose their appeal, because of children demanding "timely" entertainment -- which led to a redirection of the project, producing instead of re-edited films a list of current pictures recommended for children. "Many of the theatres are now setting side one afternoon for emphasis of juvenile entertainment and an evening -- usually a Friday evening -- for the entertainment of the so-called 'family group'" (5)Quotes some research on preferences among children by Mary Allen Abbott of Columbia -- "the films disliked by the boys deal with the romance of a girl heroine" -- girls disliked comedy boys "romance in everyday life" -- both disliked documentaries because they had no plot or stars.A statistical piece -- 200,000 miles of motion picture film is manufactured every year. $67 m spent on advertising. Pictures and shown in 70 countries and titles are translated into 37 languages. In the US, contracts for the exhibition of 10.5 m. separate pictures are written every year.On the appeal of motion pictures: "If the working man can get this escape from life (which is another way of describing recreation) at a time which doesn't interfere with his regular working routine and at a cost which is not prohibitive, so much the better." -- this is what motion pictures make possible "Since the development of moving pictures, life has been made more interesting. After the day's work, a man may take his family to a moving picture theatre and find there something that every member of the family can enjoy. He laughs or cries as the emotions of the actors, who represent his own emotions, are portrayed on the screen. And he goes home better fitted for the day's work ahead. For the time being he has been taken out of the practical every day world. His worries have been forgotten. His cares seem less real. He goes back to work with renewed energy."The movies manufacture new desires for things seen on the screen: "as desires increase and demands develop, so is ambition spurred."As much silver is used in film production as in coining money.Australia with a population of 6m has a yearly attendance of more than 100m."People come to the moving picture theatre to live an hour or two in the land of romance. They seek escape from the humdrum of daily life. Civilization crowding in on them gives them no time for mental rest in imaginative releases. There is too great a struggle for livelihood outside. Even the fireside has passed on, replaced by the radiator. But in the motion picture theatre, the world can be removed just as the coat is removed. Worry, care, are gone. Pleasure hides in every shadow, there is music in the air, beauty is everywhere. "The tired shop girl forgets the counter behind which she has been standing all day selling tin cans. The toil-worn skilled machinist forgets the ache in his back. Tired fathers, weary mothers seek release and find it -- in the painting on the wall, in every covered light, in every inch of carpet, and in every foot of film as it flashes across the screen. "Fortunately, the motion picture theatre, with all its beauty, is democratic or, perhaps I should say, because of its beauty it is democratic. The wealthy and those in moderate circumstances rub elbows and both are better for the contact for all alike seek beauty."Some nice phrasing in here, of familiar enough material, of course. But the notion of escape that is being propounded here has some complexity to it, around the idea of pleasure, that we might explore. Part of the argument is clearly that the movies offer opportunity for a greater variety of "imaginative release" than the oppressed worker can imagine him or herself.In Making a Successful Motion Picture, Trotti provides a captivating explanation of block booking:"In this business, producers and exhibitors bear the relation of manufacturer and agent in other industries. When a theatre owner buys our produce he insures himself against unfair competition from the theatre across the street, just as the agent for men's furnishing insures himself again competition when he agrees to handle a particular brand of merchandise. "As it is, the exhibitor buys from several companies. He needs more pictures than any of us produce. "From our production standpoint, we are obliged to establish agencies to make certain that a number of our pictures will find a ready market, otherwise we could not go ahead."At the beginning of the industry's development, exhibitors contracted for a picture service, just as newspapers now contract for a syndicated series of articles by O.O. McIntyre or some other well-known columnist. The service gave them all the pictures they needed for their theatres, pictures being sold without reference to the name of the pictures. The only evidence of quality was an announcement that the program would contain a certain number of pictures of certain stars. "Later, the star series system of selling marked a step away from the program method. Under the star-service method, it was no insisted that exhibitors take the entire program but merely a unit of five, six, or eight pictures to be made by the named star. In most cases, the average picture price under the star series method of selling was higher than the average price of pictures obtained in the programs heretofore sold. "When both the exhibitors and the distributors came to realize that the popularity of a picture was not wholly dependent upon the star, he sale of pictures by titles, authors, and directors became the most acceptable and popular method. That was, in effect, a return of buying a picture-service with the added help of knowing the titles, artists, directors, and authors, and theme, -- as nearly complete information as is possible. "Exhibitors read the advertisements of all the companies and study the press books which elaborate on those advertisements and they can tell fairly accurately how good the pictures of each company ought to be. They know the producing strength of each company, what directors and what stars each one has and what class of pictures each company is making. "It is like locating a mill on a stream. You pick out a river that's been running full for many years and you build your mill on that stream because you figure that you'll get just about the amount of water you need. There isn't any gambling chance in it. "When we sell the exhibitor a series, or block, of our pictures, we do not of course sell his competitors those pictures -- at least not until after the first exhibitor has run them. That keeps his competitor form controlling the market by buying up all the good pictures. It saves the little fellow. "As conditions exist today, it would be physically impossible as well as economically impossible, for exhibitors to see every picture they show far enough in advance for bookings. The exhibitor who changes his pictures three times a week needs 156 features a year and about three times that many short subjects, comedies and such. There are between seven and eight hundred feature pictures produced in a year and about 2500 short subjects. If the exhibitor looked through that great number -- provided there was any possible physical way of showing them to him -- he'd have no time to run his business. He'd spend 800 hours at least looking at feature pictures. That is one hundred full 8-hour days. And he wouldn't have caught a glimpse of a short subject. "Today the exhibitor buys thirty pictures, let us say, from Film Booking Office. The salesman makes one trip and it's all over. If the salesman had to go to see that exhibitor once a week to sell him thirty pictures, you can readily see what his railroad fare and his expenses alone would be, not to mention his loss of time, which is one of our most valuable assets in this highly competitive business. The theatre manager would have to pay the railroad fare and the hotel bill and the loss of time and this would have to be passed on the people in the audience. We'd have to maintain ten salesmen for every one we have today. "When an exhibitor buys a series of pictures he is rather certain to get some pictures that are less popular than he expects and some that will exceed his expectations. He gets some that exceed the producer's expectations too. When the latter happens, the theatre manager profits. When the former occurs, he shares the loss with the producers because the sale has been based on the average of pictures."(11-13)

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