Timeline of Greatest Film
Milestones and Turning Points
in Film History


The Year 1915

Timeline of Greatest Film History Milestones and Turning Points
(by decade and year)
Introduction | Pre-1900s | 1900s | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s
1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s | 2010s
1910, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919

The Year 1915
Year
Event and Significance
1915
Pioneering film-maker D. W. Griffith's technically brilliant, three-hour Civil War epic, The Birth of a Nation (1915), premiered during a sneak preview held in Riverside, CA (at the Loring Opera House). It was Griffith's first full-length feature film (and career-making film), and was originally named The Clansman, due to its adaptation of the Thomas Dixon novel of the same name. Griffith's film popularized the expressive close-up, POV camera, naturalistic acting, the flashback and other elements (i.e., exciting cross-cutting action scenes including a last minute rescue) that endure today as the structural principles of narrative filmmaking. It introduced the historical epic and period piece as a film genre and defined the language of film. It was the most extravagant and expensive film up to that time (at a budget of approximately $110,000), with a phenomenal ticket price of $2, earning more than $10 million - making it the first true Hollywood blockbuster. (It was the first film to gross over $1 million.) It was the first US motion picture shown in the White House for the President and various staff on February 18, 1915, after which President Woodrow Wilson described it as "writing history with lightning."
1915
Because of its stereotypical racist themes and celebration of the KKK, screenings of Griffith's controversial The Birth of a Nation (1915) were met with protest. It was the first film that was treated as a major cultural event, with theaters charging an unprecedented two dollars per ticket. Due in part to its objectionable content, the film's notoriety and the atmosphere surrounding this "event" film generated immense box-office appeal and led to its profitable success in many cities. By 1920, it had grossed more than $60 million. The offensive film also had caused many groups to file petitions, write protest documents, successfully request the excising of questionable scenes, appeal to legislatures, meet with mayors and governors, picket theaters, suppress film showings, and organize protest marches in an effort to ban the film. The NAACP published a 47-page pamphlet titled "Fighting a Vicious Film: Protest Against The Birth of a Nation," in which they referred to the film as "three miles of filth." And W. E. B. Du Bois published scathing reviews in The Crisis. Race riots reached their peak in the North in 1919.
1915
Producer/director Thomas H. Ince introduced a 'factory system' - a method that would be used to mass produce films. Different films in various stages of production would be systematically rotated through his movie studio. Ince appointed a group of supervisors called producers who each had control over a certain number of pictures. Sometimes, ten or more movies were being produced in his studios at one time.
1915
Charlie Chaplin's first masterpiece, The Tramp (1915), produced by the Essanay Company in Chicago, showed the early development of his well-known character with baggy pants, bowler hat, walking cane, funny stride, and oversized shoes.
1915
Vaudeville star W.C. Fields' film debut was in the silent one-reel comedy short Pool Sharks (1915), in which he showed off his pool-playing ability,
1915
The Bell & Howell 2709 movie camera allowed directors to film close-ups without physically moving the camera.
1915
William Fox led a successful fight against Thomas Edison's MPPC (Motion Pictures Patents Company) - the Edison Trust. A federal court, in United States v. Motion Picture Patents Co., declared the Patents Company (and its subsidiary, the General Film Company) to be an illegal restraint on trade and an illegal monopoly under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, and fined over $20 million. In a few years, the MPPC would officially be dissolved and disbanded in the face of anti-trust legislation. The trust's appeal was dismissed in 1918 and it was officially terminated. The end of the MPPC was one major factor that forced Edison to depart from the "sound film" business, since he lost patent protection for his motion picture inventions.
1915
In Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial Commission of Ohio, the Supreme Court ruled that states may censor films, encouraging scrutiny of movies during future decades.
1915
Theda Bara (an anagram for "Arab Death", but born as Theodosia Goodman) starred in A Fool There Was, personifying the "vamp," the female temptress and sex symbol, and became an overnight sensation. She was one of the first "sex symbols" or stars.
1915
Writer Louis Feuillade directed the epic, nightmarish crime serial The Vampires (aka Les Vampires, Fr.), an almost seven-hour silent film masterpiece (in 10 episodes of varying lengths) that told about an exotic, cross-dressing Parisian gang leader and temptress named Irma Vep (an anagram for Vampire) played by Musidora, whose group of gangsters terrorized the city. It was shot on location in Paris during the war years, and was banned from showings because of its depictions of crime.
1915
Prolific American film director Lois Weber released her feature-length lyrical parable The Hypocrites (1915). She played multiple roles in the production of the film - as actress, director, writer, and producer. The film was controversial for its depiction of full female nudity. The character of the Naked Truth (literally a nude woman), reminded people of their hypocritical greed for money, sex and power. The film was also praised for its use of multiple exposures and complex film editing.
1915
The Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation was founded in Boston, Massachusetts. The company pioneered the development of color film processes known as Technicolor, beginning to be regularly seen in Hollywood films in the 1920s and continuing for many decades.
1915
The first demonstration of a 3D film was in 1915 at the Astor Theatre in New York City. Red and green glasses were required to view test reels of 3D footage - an untitled anaglyphic one-reel demonstration film made by Edwin S. Porter and William E. Waddell. The film consisted of stereoscopic footage of random scenes (i.e., dancing girls, Niagara Falls).


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