TWO REELS AND A CRANK by Albert E. Smith
Kirkus Star


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A personal account of moving pictures, this paces the history of the old company, Vitagraph, from the exuberant young partnership of the author and Jim Blackton, in the '90's, to its finale in 1925. The development from Edison's peep show, to pictures of the Jeffries-Sharkey fight, competition with Biograph, down to Cuba for pictures of San Juan Hill and the faking done on the action at Santiago Bay, waiting for Brooklyn Bridge to fall, and then on to the Boer War where Smith and Richard Harding Davis were companion-news gatherers - these are the beginnings. The Galveston flood, Queen Victoria's funeral, the assassination of McKinley and Roosevelt's inauguration, shooting a surgical operation and the miss at Kitty Hawk continue the amazing progress and the earthquake in San Francisco wound up the topical history. From their studio in 1903, built after many one-reelers had been produced on roof tops and streets, came the serials, the long pictures, and coming stars -- names barely remembered today -- and there were animal pictures, Shakespeare and the Bible among their offerings. And with the coming of the chain picture-theater, Vitagraph bowed out. Not a studied history but an intimate account of brashness, luck, work and opportunity, this is fun

Pub Date: Nov. 13th, 1952
Publisher: Doubleday