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Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Book Choice --- One Thousand Nights At The Movies

I am this week on a walking tour of nickelodeons and don't anticipate return to present day until final page is reached of One Thousand Nights At The Movies: An Illustrated History Of Motion Pictures, 1895-1915, a new and lavish telling of an industry/art form's beginning. This seven pound heavyweight (reinforce your coffee table!) from dual authors Q. David Bowers and Kathryn Fuller-Seeley is the closest I've been to time travel and walk-in among hundreds of past century theatres illustrated here. Of a jaw-drop 670 illustrations, none were familiar from past books. I didn't know this much imagery from past exhibition existed. It's one thing to regard relic photos from B&W reproduction's distance, and maybe that's OK for folks imagining that life itself was black-and-white back then, but Bowers/Fuller-Seeley go that yards better by laying out many of their vintage venue displays in captivating color. Lovely enhanced postcards, tinted treasures --- all from Bowers' collection --- and Fuller-Seeley comes of longtime expertise in showmanship study, having written much on past moviegoing.

All my favorite topics get airing: storefront Bijous, traveling shows and outdoor presentation, music/sound effects, color/talk experiments, acres more. One Thousand Nights At The Movies digs deep into grassroots: each turn of a page brought me closer to hundred-year-ago-ing. Never academic-dry is this trip --- startling imagery and lively text doesn't allow for that. Among things I'm learning is how much was cost of outfitting your Nickelodeon, and fact that Sears-Roebuck could supply electric fronts out of catalogues several generations back of ones I perused for electric trains. Nuts, bolts, and everyday reality of running a theatre is dealt in a you-are-there manner never so richly achieved by prior film histories. One Thousand Nights At The Movies is seven pounds I'll be carrying a lot in weeks (and thereafter) to come.

I'd mention too that coverage doesn't stop with theatres. There is wealth of detail on studios and stars, all keyed to visual kick of full color trade ads, magazine art, and kickin' poster graphics that would look great hung over home/hearth. The vanished names are here, captured with gently applied tints that is artistry all its own, and I love how rivers ran eventually to small towns where so many now lost silents saw final playdate. At an epic and oversized 414 pages, One Thousand Nights At The Movies is the Intolerance of film books (each chapter a Babylonian set of its own), and surely took years in the making. Others than myself are noticing too ... Amazon has sold out, restocked, then sold out again several times, though other dealers list through them. Barnes and Noble online has it, as does Bookfinder.com.

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