The early days of moviemaking provide exciting but dangerous experiences for a feisty young woman.
In 1909, Emily Weiss bids farewell to a pleasant life in Philadelphia when husband Adam, who owns a string of nickelodeons, announces that he’s selling everything to set up as a movie producer. The contract he’s signed with his old college pal Howie Kazanow obligates him to produce four one-reelers posthaste or lose everything. The couple go to New York, where Emily’s short-lived stint in show business proves useful in finding actors. They hire Angus Johnson, who has his own camera, to shoot the film, which they develop in their hotel bathroom. Emily and Adam have a real feel for what will succeed, but the business is cutthroat. All movie production is controlled by Thomas Edison’s Patent Trust, which ruthlessly and sometimes violently suppresses independent producers. Once they’ve chosen scenic Fort Lee, N.J., for the shooting site, troubles arise. Adam is arrested for the murder of an extra, and Emily must take control. Realizing that they’ve unwittingly become involved with labor agitators, Pinkerton detectives, Edison’s goons and grudges that go back years, she has to finish the movies and find the killer. Fleming’s debut under her own name (as Kate Gallison, she published Grave Misgivings, 1998, etc.) offers an intriguing look at the background of early filmmaking.
Emily is a strong heroine with a handsome but unappreciative husband. Perhaps future installments will reveal whether her marriage will stand the strain.