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Frances Agnew.

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TION PICTURE
ACTING



j



HOWTO PREPARE FOR PHOTOPLAYING
WT QUALIFICATIONS ARE NECESSARY
HOW TO SECURE AN ENGAGEMENT



9 p SALARIES PAID TO PHOTOPLAYERS



FRANCES AC NEW



rnia
,1




THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES



- '



\




MISS FRANCES AGNEW.
Author. Actress and Photoplayer.



MOTION PICTURE
ACTING

HOW TO PREPARE FOR PHOTOPLAYING

WHAT QUALIFICATIONS ARE NECESSARY

HOW TO SECURE AN ENGAGEMENT

SALARIES PAID TO PIIOTOPLAYERS



BY

FRANCES AGNEW



ILLUSTRATED EDITION



RELIANCE NEWSPAPER SYNDICATE

PUBLISHERS

1547 Broadway, New York City



COPYRIGHT, igia

RELIANCE NEWSPAPER SYNDICATE, PUBLISHERS
NEW YORK CITY



College
Library



AUTHOR'S NOTE

To MY READERS:

This timely book is tendered to those interested
in the profession of photoplay ing, not only as a
textbook of personal instruction, but also in the
nature of a book of facts regarding the opportuni-
ties of this work, the qualifications, essential talents
and methods of procedure for success as a photo-
player.

The information herein has been gleaned from
the writer's personal experience with various film
companies and on the dramatic stage the different
engagements affording her an opportunity to draw
comparisons and a careful study and investigation
of the subject of motion pictures as an industry,
a present and future profession, and a source of
amusement and instruction to the whole world.

The writer is humbly grateful for the data given
by many of the most famous photoplay ers whose
experience and stellar positions have given them an
insight into every phase of this vast industry, and
especially for the patient encouragement and kind
assistance of the publishers, who alone made this
little book a possibility and a reality.

F. A.

1567798



CONTENTS

PART PAGE

I. EARLY BEGINNINGS OF THE MOTION PICTURE IN-
DUSTRY . . 9

II. THE ART OF PHOTOPLAY ACTING 16

III. QUALIFICATIONS 24

Talent 24

Health 25

Mental Ability . 27

Personal Appearance 29

Personality 3 1

Age 32

Patience, Pluck and Perseverance Plus Ambi-
tion 33

IV. TRAINING 34

Physical Culture 34

Breathing 38

Facial Expression and Pantomime Practice . 40

Observation 43

V. How A MOTION PICTURE ENGAGEMENT is OB-
TAINED 44

Theatrical Agencies 45

Jobbing 53

Film Companies 56

Types 59

VI. SALARIES OF MOTION PICTURE PLAYERS .... 62

VII. Do's AND DON'TS TO THE PROSPECTIVE PHOTO-
PLAYER 65

VIII. HEIGHTS OF SUCCESS AS A PHOTOPLAYER .... 67

IX. PRODUCING A PHOTOPLAY 7 1

The Motion Picture Studio 7*

The Stage foreground and side lines .... 72

Costumes 7*>

Make-up 77



CONTENTS

PART PAGE

X. STATEMENTS OF SUCCESSFUL PHOTOPLAYERS ... 83

Miss Gwendoline Pates (Path6 Freres) ... 83

Mr. Carlyle Blackwell (Kalem) 84

Miss Miriam Nesbitt (Edison) 85

Miss Flora Finch (Vitagraph) 87

Miss Mae Hotely (Lubin) 88

Miss Muriel Ostriche (Reliance) 9

Miss Alice Joyce (Kalem) 93

Mi. John Bunny (Vitagraph) 95



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

PAGE

Miss Frances Agnew, the Author .... Frontispiece

Miss Alice Joyce H

Miss Joyce and Miss Agnew in a Kalem Photoplay ... 18

Mr. John Bunny 22

Miss Mae Hotely 26

Miss Mae Hotely in a Lubin Photoplay 3

Miss Agnew, as Jessica, in "The Merchant of Venice" . . 34

Miss Agnew as an Indian Maid in a Crystal Photoplay . . 38

Miss Gwendoline Pates 42

Miss Pates in a PathS Freres Photoplay 46

Miss Pates in a Pathe" Freres Photoplay 50

Miss Pates in a PathS Freres Photoplay 54

Miss Agnew, as Lucius, in "Julius Caesar" 58

Miss Miriam Nesbitt 62

Miss Miriam Nesbitt in an Edison Photoplay 66

Miss Muriel Ostriche 7

Mr. Carlyle Blackwell 74

Miss Mae Hotely in a Lubin Photoplay 78

Miss Flora Finch 82

Miss Finch in a Vitagraph Photoplay 86

Miss Finch and Mr. John Bunny in a Vitagraph Photoplay . 90

Miss Mae Hotely as an Irishwoman 94

Mr. John Bunny as a Jolly Tar 98



MOVING PICTURE
ACTING



PART I

EARLY BEGINNINGS OF THE MOTION
PICTURE INDUSTRY

IF YOUR grandmother, when a little girl, had
been told that perhaps she "would live to see
the day" when there would be real moving
pictures, she would have been all excitement and
like most women and men, too, to be fair to all
she would have been filled with that often-tragic
possession known as sheet curiosity. Naturally, her
first question would have been "What are moving
pictures ?" She no doubt had a vague idea of mov-
ing or animated pictures. Perhaps, like children of
to-day, she had made her own "movies" by holding
an ordinary picture close to the eyes, staring at it a
moment in a "cross-eyed" fashion, thus producing
the illusion of animation. Staring at a picket
fence, striped materials, etc., without blinking the
eyes, soon deludes one into believing that the rails,
stripes or perpendicular lines are swaying from

9



MOVING PICTURE ACTING

side to side, while in reality it is only an illusion of
the optical organs. Perhaps, also, "grandmother's
big brother" had a magic lantern, a toy which like
the camera or larger projecting lantern has been
likewise improved, so that children of to-day are
also the delighted possessors of toy motion picture
machines.

She knew all this, and had no doubt seen stereop-
ticon slides. How could there be anything greater ?
And yet the world was destined to know and see
something even greater in this line, and if the vast
strides made by men of photographic genius can be
taken as a criterion for the future, the half has not
yet been accomplished.

The earliest beginnings of what might be called
moving pictures, though in the crudest form, of
course, were about 1872, we are told just a few
years after that great civil catastrophe which im-
peded the progress of discovery and invention in
our country and also in foreign lands, since the eyes
of the Old World were centered on the efforts of
every true American to save his nation according to
his own convictions of how that should be done.
Although it is known that prior to this date, even
before the war, similar experiments were made by
various inventors, yet we have little record of the
results of these efforts, and nothing noteworthy was
accomplished.

About this time (1872), an enterprising English-
man, a resident of America, however, conceived the

10



MOVING PICTURE ACTING

idea of making motion pictures by the use of suc-
cessive snap shots. It was his belief that the re-
sults could be accomplished by placing several
cameras in a row and as the object to be photo-
graphed passed, each camera took a "snap." This
method was used to photograph the actions of ani-
mals in motion, and its greatest success was at the
race track. Here, strings attached to each camera
were stretched across the track at such a height as to
make it impossible for the horse to pass without
breaking the string. In so doing the horse really
took a snap shot of his action at that moment.
These "snaps," after development, were pieced to-
gether and shown on the screen in much the same
way that stereopticon slides are exhibited. While
he truly accomplished something in the way of ani-
mated pictures, and at least set the pace for others
to follow, giving the impetus strongly responsible
for present day results in animated photography, it
is quite apparent that his method could be put to
very limited use. In fact, the only experiments he
made were the running and walking actions and
athletic feats of men and animals as they passed
before the row of cameras. It is also obvious that
the films thus produced most uninteresting and
boring in comparison with those now shown must
have depicted very disconnected and jerky move-
ments when thrown on the screen. When we com-
pare this method with that in use to-day and try to
consider how it would have been possible for its

II



MOVING PICTURE ACTING

originator to make pictures of such length as are
now shown, we get a clear idea of its impractica-
bility and also a hazy conception of the enormous
expense it would involve. Imagine using a separate
camera to photograph every action in a picture to-
day ! It would be limited, of course, to progressive
actions across the screen, but even so, to merely
show some of the racing scenes, etc., which it is
our privilege to enjoy, would have necessitated the
use of hundreds, nay, thousands of cameras. What
an undertaking it would have been!

However, every little bit accomplished in any
work brings the dreams of ingenious minds closer
to the goal of perfection, and while these experi-
ments revealed no very profitable results at that
time, the stimulus which this one man's efforts gave
to others was wonderful. Men all over the world
immediately set to work for one single accomplish-
ment perfection in motion picture photography.
Each sought to outdo the efforts of others; each
one, no doubt, had dreams of giving the world the
invention which should mark perfection in animated
pictures. Perhaps the greatest of these early ef-
forts was the invention of the "Wizard of Elec-
tricity," Thomas A. Edison. This one of his many
wonderful inventions, exhibited to the world in
1893, was known as the "Kinetoscope" not in its
present state of perfection, but more in the nature
of a grown-up toy. It was operated by dropping
a coin into the slot, and when thus "fed" it gave

12



\



MOVING PICTURE ACTING

to the spectator whose eye was placed to the peep-
hole a momentary glimpse of what appeared to him
then to be not only marvelous but almost impossible.
The automatic actions of the photographs in the
machine made the figures thereon seem almost alive.
Ma'ny doubters refused to believe and declared
themselves duped. Though it was impossible that
human hands could be working the machine, they
still discredited its wonders. Others could only rub
their eyes in astonishment and admiration.

Mr. Edison, however, seemed to have little faith
in his device except as a coin-eating toy, and neg-
lected to patent his invention in Great Britain.
Thus, visitors to America, with a hazy idea of its
far-reaching possibilities, sought to have the ma-
chine copied in England. There, one Robert A.
Paul, to whom they confided their plans, after in-
vestigation learned of Mr. Edison's neglect and thus
found it easy to control the machine in that country.
He planned to extend its wonders by perfecting,
from the foundation thus laid by Edison, a ma-
chine which would throw these animated pictures
on the screen. His efforts in this direction met
with ultimate success and an amusing incident is
told of his first remarkable accomplishment. It
is said that in the wee sma' hours, one morning in
1895, he and his associates were rewarded with
success by seeing the results of their efforts in the
form of the first perfect motion pictures that had
been thrown on the screen. Incidentally, this pic-

13



MOVING PICTURE ACTING

ture was less than fifty feet in length; to-day few
are made containing less than five hundred or a
thousand feet. But it was such a remarkable
achievement and Robert A. Paul had worked
so hard for this accomplishment that he and
his associates could not refrain from expressing
their appreciation of their own work to such an ex-
tent that the neighborhood of their little studio
was much disturbed in its restful morning slumbers.
So great was the exultation that the blue-coated
guardians of peace (or perhaps they did not wear
this regalia at that time) were summoned to in-
vestigate. When they, too, were allowed to view
the remarkable exhibition of real moving pictures,
they undoubtedly forgot the complaints of the
awakened slumberers, and themselves joined in the
shouts of delight, leaving the disturbed citizens in
the neighborhood to give way to their wrath by
lengthy and not too carefully worded discourses
against the prowlers of the night who denied the
laborer his just deserts as an occasional inhabitant
of dreamland!

However, after this climax of success Robert A.
Paul succeeded in producing several other pictures,
truly remarkable at this stage of the art, and an
English manager, ever on the alert for a novelty
which would attract the public and in turn rain gold
into his private coffers, negotiated with him for the
right to use the machine and pictures in his theater.
Though dubious as to the outcome of the device

14







MISS ALICE JOYCE, THE FAMOUS LEADING LADY OF THE KALEM CO.



MOVING PICTURE ACTING

when "tried out" on a critical public, Paul finally
consented to share in the venture. Needless to say,
enormous success was the result. Thus began the
first of the apparently infinite chain of motion pic-
ture theaters. To-day Greater New York City alone
contains more than six hundred of these places of
amusement some most elaborate, others mere
"holes in the wall" with a screen at one end, an
operating box at the other, and spectators' benches
between. This number is being increased daily,
while throughout the whole world, even in the
smallest cities and towns, moving picture theaters
are being opened constantly and a great many of
the large legitimate houses have been turned over
to this form of amusement, thus proving its ever-
growing popularity.

During these years others in different countries
France, Germany and our own United States par-
ticularly were making similar experiments, with
the result that many different devices were put on
the market. However, the invention of Thomas A.
Edison, the genius, while greatly improved, not only
by himself but by many other remarkable inventors,
may be said to have formed the basis of all later
machines. The various motion picture devices
which flash amusement and instruction for the
masses to-day are but improvements on and addi-
tions to the wonderful apparatus which startled the
whole world during the years 1893-1897.



PART II
THE ART OF PHOTOPLAY ACTING

Utterly apart from and at the same time vitally
related to the subject of moving pictures, their
growth and future possibilities from a scientific
standpoint, is the art of photoplay acting. This
profession, too, may be said to be in its infancy.
In the beginning only the lesser players could be
induced to enter such work. It was far beneath
the dignity of an artist! To give them the benefit
of the doubt, the salaries at that time were very
small, and this may have influenced the better class
of actors against the thoughts of becoming motion
picture artists. Nevertheless, those who were led
into the work were condemned by regular theatrical
managers who refused to consider them for parts
on the stage after such experience. These moguls
denounced the work as tending to make mechanical
figures rather than natural actors; they claimed
that pantomime without the effect of voice work
made the player like a tree, all limbs, to put it
frankly, rather than an artist in full control of every
muscle and mentality necessary for the production
of a real actor. As a result of this attitude toward

16



MOVING PICTURE ACTING

the work, many of the "movie" players were re-
cruited from the amateur ranks even in those days,
and it is estimated that a large percentage of the
screen stars of this age had no other experience,
but were the most timid of amateurs when they
began to pose for the pictures.

As pictures gained in popularity and larger and
more elaborate theaters were built in which to en-
tertain the masses with this form of amusement
and instruction, the film companies naturally derived
a greater profit from the fact that the added num-
ber of theaters necessitated an additional number of
copies of each picture. This steady growth natur-
ally spurred the makers to better productions ; they
sought to place before the public pictures of the
highest standard then known. By judicious adver-
tising and just remuneration they secured the best
of outside ideas and plots for the foundation of
their pictures, thus beginning another interesting
and lucrative profession in connection with this
work that of scenario writing. These plots were
for productions requiring larger casts of players
than they had hitherto used, and the makers, recog-
nizing the fact that the better the players, the better
the acting, and the more readily could they express
almost all the emotions and ideas that can be con-
veyed even in stage work with the vital assistance
of the voice, offered splendid financial inducements
to both talented amateurs and capable professionals.
As a result, the artists in the larger theaters, some

17



MOVING PICTURE ACTING

of them without engagements, others with shaky
contracts, used their common sense and decided
that "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,"
a "sure thing" at a good salary would more than
overbalance the thought that one's standard would
be lowered in becoming a "movie" player. Am-
bitious amateurs, too, plunged into the work with
zeal and enthusiasm the remuneration for one and
all being a certain amount for each day's work.
This was similar to what is known as "jobbing"
that is, working only when needed and being paid
for the time in service. After a while, however,
the companies began to note and gather data as to
the impressions made on the spectators by the per-
sonality and work of different players. Their
names were not given to the public in any way,
but the audiences learned to know their faces and
to follow the work of their favorites in the different
pictures in which they appeared.

Naturally, this interest and admiration for certain
players produced a corresponding admiration and
desire to see the photoplays made by their manage-
ment, and, recognizing this as a good means of ad-
vertising, the manufacturers placed these special
players on a guaranteed salary basis the number
thus engaged forming the regular "stock" organiza-
tion whose services are at the exclusive command
of one company.

The universal popularity and fame gained by
photoplayers, if gifted for the work and endowed

18



MOVING PICTURE ACTING

with an appealing personality, is amazing. Even
some of the lesser screen lights are to-day better
known throughout the country than a number of
the most finished stage stars. They have their ad-
mirers in every part of the globe. They assist in
making many pictures in the studio or surrounding
country, and in a short time these pictures have
traveled far and wide and entertained the masses.

"One man in his time plays many parts," is an
old saying, but a photoplayer "goes this one better."
He plays many parts in many places on the self-
same night. He cannot be in more than one place
at a time personally, yet his acting is enjoyed by
thousands in many different localities at the same
moment. All this has been made possible by the
motion picture machine, which is truly one of the
wonders of the world ! The "movie" actor does not
know his audience, but his audience knows him, and,
with a view to gratifying the desire on the part
of spectators to know their favorites better (natur-
ally prompted by the personal profit in sight, too),
most of the current magazines recognized the wis-
dom of a department for motion pictures, photo-
players, etc., while many other newer magazines are
published solely in their interest, with question
columns which enable a closer friendship, so to
speak, between the delighted spectator and his screen
favorite.

Besides this, it is the privilege of many of the
screen stars to go and see their audiences personally

19



MOVING PICTURE ACTING

not only "from the front" where they can sit as
one of them, seeing but unseen, and gathering a deal
of information as to the varied opinions of their
acting while it is being shown on the screen but
also from the stage, as oftentimes, especially in the
last year, a "movie" favorite is invited to come in
person to a theater in the vicinity in which they
may be located, to be seen "in the flesh," and
speak a word to the audience regarding the
motion pictures, also giving laughable accounts
of interesting happenings while working in the
pictures.

To see a well-known player taking a prominent
part in a first-run film and then see and hear the
player personally is a treat to the fortunate au-
diences, and naturally, when it is advertised that
Mr. or Miss Blank of the Blank Film Company will
appear on the evening of such-and-such a date, the
box office receipts show the spectators' appreciation
of the pleasure accorded by the manager, thus mak-
ing it a profitable deal for him. Though a very
few players have been known to give their services
in such cases for the glory and free advertising it
brought, yet the majority of them are independent
of this course and only make such appearances for
a stipulated remuneration these appearances sub-
ject to the consent of the management of the film
company by whom they are employed. The amount
received ranges from $10.00, $15.00 and $25.00
upward for each appearance, according to the size

20



MOVING PICTURE ACTING

of the theater (an amount not to be scorned when
it is remembered that this is clear profit "on the
side"). Some of the more prominent players have
added as much as $100.00 to their regular weekly
salary as the result of such personal appearances
in the motion picture theaters.

There are also opportunities when the manage-
ment of the company allows a player to accept a
vaudeville offer made by some booking agent or
theater manager who wishes to feature the motion
picture player on a special vaudeville bill. These
appearances are made in all the larger cities at
various times and net the "movie" star a very large
salary, since his fame in the pictures acts as a big
advertisement and drawing card in the theater for
which he is billed. Thus the deal is a mutual suc-
cess. Mr. John Bunny, for instance, draws a salary
of $1,000.00 a week for occasional weekly engage-
ments in vaudeville. Others of less fame and enter-
taining ability receive in proportion according to the
"goods they have to offer" in the way of a novel
vaudeville act and their power as a box office
magnet.

Such personal appearances break the monotony
of regular picture work and give the photoplayer
that which is lacking in the studio applause! It
is not always conceit which incites players to long
for this indication of public appreciation; more
often it is a yearning for encouragement and a de-
sire to know that his efforts to "make good" have

21



MOVING PICTURE ACTING

not been in vain. "Applause is the spur of noble
minds, the end and aim of weak ones."

It is not every city or town, of course, that has
the privilege of seeing and hearing the players per-
sonally in this way. In places where a stock com-
pany is located to take pictures it is not so difficult
for the theater manager to make such arrangements,
but other cities or towns not among the list possess-
ing the desired scenery for special photoplays can-
not enjoy this privilege except in cases where a
player goes on a tour to lecture on the subject
of motion pictures, or accepts special vaudeville
offers, or secures leave of absence from the film
company for the purpose of making an extended
vaudeville tour throughout the country.

It is amusing to watch the efforts of a photo-
player to extricate himself from the throng of ad-
mirers who storm the theater and wait outside for
Mr. or Miss Blank, and when at last in sight, even
a smile or friendly word is highly cherished because
it came from that player. This is only another of
the heights of popularity all over the country which
this work affords.

As the general public has watched the growth
and in a measure become familiar with the origin
and expansion of the profession of photoplaying
for both men and women, "stage-struck" humanity
the world over has in many cases changed its
adoration from the legitimate theaters to the mo-
tion picture houses. Others who have little interest

22




MR. JOHN BUNNY, THE GREAT STAR OF THE GREAT VITAGRAPH CO.



MOVING PICTURE ACTING

in regular dramas, comedies, etc., as shown in the
legitimate theaters or "opery house," have become
intensely interested in motion picture work. Thus
"the lure of the screen," we may call it, rather
than the lure of the footlights, is becoming stronger
than many can resist, and again and again do we
hear the question "How can I get a chance?" or,
in stage parlance, "break in."

By way of explanation, in passing it is well to
note that the word "legitimate" in theatrical par-
lance is the term used to denote the ordinary speak-
ing stage or dramatic and musical branch of the


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Online LibraryFrances AgnewMotion picture acting; how to prepare for photoplaying, what qualifications are necessary, how to secure an engagement, salaries paid to photoplayers → online text (page 1 of 6)