Edison Black Maria Studio

The Black Maria

When you think of studios you think Universal, Warner, MGM, all the biggies. The truth is that the seed for Universal Studios was actually planted by Thomas Edison. The American inventor was the first to create a functional studio. Edison’s studio was known as The Black Maria. Was in New Jersey on the grounds of Edison Laboratories and it was built for a little over $600.

The studio was created for the purpose of making Kinetoscope films. Some people have speculated that Edison would often bring in girls to perform in “kinky” trapeze films with revealing outfits.

While the later statement is not thoroughly confirmed one thing is certain, Edison did create some interesting strips.

The Black Maria was an experiment but overtime it became the birthing ground for what we know today. Edison was truly a man ahead of his time.

Way to go you salty dog!

Citizen Kane

The Night Orson Welles was saved

It’s almost certain that you are thinking Orson Welles became some sort of religious devotee by reading the tittle of this entry, not so. The fact is that when he made the classic Citizen Kane Welles made an enemy of the legendary media mogul William Randolph Hearst. Essentially Welles pissed him off by creating a character that was based on him, a person that engaged in gaudy self-barony.

 

Citizen KaneWelles was warned by many people not to try and tangle with Hearst in any respect but he did it anyway. When Hearst realized what Welles had done he was looking for ways in which to smash Welles down. One night Hearst planted a girl in a hotel room, the girl was naked and she was supposed to scream rape and get Welles arrested. Welles was giving a lecture somewhere.

 

On the way back to his room a janitor of the goings told Welles on so he never went to the room. That night Welles was spared but the following years would be a sort of nightmare for Welles as he was somewhat blacklisted as a difficult and casuist individual.

 

Oh Rosebud!

 

The Seven-Year Contract

When you think about stars being under contract to do specific films you think about salaries that number in the millions and on top of that you think of back end points, merchandising and so on. If you go back about sixty years or more the case was completely different.

 

Marilyn MonroeStars that showed promise usually got signed to seven-year contracts for their specific studio. When stars signed contracts they were usually unknowns that were more than likely going to be used as either fillers or B-side attractions. During the 1930’ s, 40’s, and 50’s most of those studio system contracts paid something like $100 per week and were a good way for developing talent. Stars like Marilyn Monroe, and Clint Eastwood were developed that way.

 

Clint EastwoodThe seven-year contract was a way for the studios to also own their people and do with them as they pleased. Today the ball game is different and stars come and go as they please.

 

Those were the days, sort of.

Even Bad Schlock has Merit

Silence of the Lambs is considered one of the greatest films of all time. The story of Hannibal Lecter was simply incredible. A deranged but cool Psychiatrist helps a newbie agent catch a criminal that was making suits with the skins of his female victims. The whole premise is creepy and still puts you on the edge of your seat.

Deranged 1974

Deranged 1974 The funny thing about Silence of the Lambs is that it was somewhat influenced by a schlocky horror film titled Deranged. The film Deranged was a low budget movie based on the case of Ed Gein, a serial killer that skinned his victims. The film itself was extremely cheesy but it was that type of subject that influenced a masterpiece.

Let’s hear it for bad films with good intentions!

 

The Breakaway House

The 1920’s were the era of silent films, barn theaters, and new beginnings. The biggest star in the film business back then was Charlie Chaplin, who along with Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford created United Artists.

In the 20’s sets were built by master carpenters whose job it was to build sets that could easily collapse.

Charlie Chaplin's Break Away House 1924

Charlie Chaplin A funny story about those carpenters is that they were the ones that built Charlie Chaplin’s mansion, the mansion eventually became affectionately known as Breakaway House.

Legend has it that Chaplin’s home was built like a Keystone set and that even door handles would come apart at first touch. Chaplin would eventually relocate to Switzerland and a better built home, but still Breakaway House was the stuff of legend.