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Col. William N. Selig, the Man Who Invented Hollywood [Kindle Edition]

Andrew A. Erish

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Book Description

All histories of Hollywood are wrong. Why? Two words: Colonel Selig. This early pioneer laid the foundation for the movie industry that we know today. Active from 1896 to 1938, William N. Selig was responsible for an amazing series of firsts, including the first two-reel narrative film and the first two-hour narrative feature made in America; the first American movie serial with cliffhanger endings; the first westerns filmed in the West with real cowboys and Indians; the creation of the jungle-adventure genre; the first horror film in America; the first successful American newsreel (made in partnership with William Randolph Hearst); and the first permanent film studio in Los Angeles. Selig was also among the first to cultivate extensive international exhibition of American films, which created a worldwide audience and contributed to American domination of the medium.

In this book, Andrew Erish delves into the virtually untouched Selig archive at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Library to tell the fascinating story of this unjustly forgotten film pioneer. He traces Selig’s career from his early work as a traveling magician in the Midwest, to his founding of the first movie studio in Los Angeles in 1909, to his landmark series of innovations that still influence the film industry. As Erish recounts the many accomplishments of the man who first recognized that Southern California is the perfect place for moviemaking, he convincingly demonstrates that while others have been credited with inventing Hollywood, Colonel Selig is actually the one who most deserves that honor.

Product Description


"This may well be the film book of the year, simply because it so effectively documents the life and career of one of the least known though most seminal figures in all of film history." - Huffington Post

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3123 KB
  • Print Length: 315 pages
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press (1 Mar. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00992AI9I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A groundbreaking study of a key early filmmaker 29 Feb. 2012
By Russell A. Potter - Published on
This new study of the Selig studios by Andrew Erish makes a strong and vital contribution to scholarship on early film history. Given the pioneering role of Selig in establishing the generic forms, production techniques, and dramatic conventions of film -- particularly in his development of the very idea of a full-length "feature" film -- it's astonishing to realize that there has been so very little written about his operation. It's all the more remarkable given that the raw material for such research -- Selig's papers, which include trade advertisements, contracts, scenarios, and stills -- have been preserved under ideal conditions at the AMPAS library. No one before Mr. Erish had really made use of them; he has produced a wide-ranging, meticulously researched, and readable study, one no library or private collection of books on film history should be without.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ESSENTIAL! 17 April 2012
By L. filosa - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Finally-a definitive and extensively researched study of this early and egregiously forgotten innovator.If you like film-buy it and read it. If you study film-you need it in your library. Simple.
Now, would someone please write the essential study of Seijun Suzuki? please? In my lifetime? Mr. Erish? Anybody?
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The true Hollywood story 10 July 2012
By John W. Selig - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Finally, a rewriting of history that refreshingly replaces fiction with fact. This, instead of the oh-so-familiar-tripe trotted out as history. We live in an age where your version of the truth can easily find a following with a sympathetic story, fine sounding fable or just a keyword. In our youth we are at the whim of our parents, elders, teachers, caretakers, or others to give us the straight story ...then we're on our own. At this point we can scratch the proverbial surface for a better view or, as many do, give it a spit-shine and call it "my truth" ...regardless of it being so.

Andrew Erish has deeply etched the high polish of prevailing Hollywood "history" with rock solid truth. Exposed are the petty, self-serving individuals who conveniently removed William N. Selig's name from the historical marquee and shamelessly replaced it with their own. This journey through the Colonels life leaves no doubt that the glitter of Hollywood lore has been hiding the man responsible for it's beginning. The inventor of Hollywood, Col. William N. Selig.

On behalf of my family and many others, our deepest gratitude to Professor Erish.

John William Selig
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ESSENTIAL for film historians. 14 Jun. 2013
By bookworm - Published on
This is a wonderfully written and researched volume covering territory that, oddly, has hardly been traversed by historians of the early film industry. Andrew Erish makes a nearly airtight case that it was indeed William Selig (the "Col." was an appellation affected by many 19th-century showman; Selig began as a magician in the 1890s) who "invented Hollywood," contrary to what certain second generation moguls would claim, wanting "to be credited for aspects of motion picture production that preceded their entry into the business."

Modern biographers often assume a position of superiority, as though they are, somehow, more "authentic" than those about whom they write. Andrew Erish is a refreshing departure from this tendency. While he pulls no punches about some of the less savory aspects of Mr. Selig's career, he introduces us to a genuinely lovable and basically honorable man. (Well, as honorable as a professional showman can be: When he couldn't film Theodore Roosevelt hunting big game in Africa, he borrowed some animals from a zoo, hired a Roosevelt impersonator and some African Americans from Chicago's South Side, and made his own version! The former President was livid, because Selig's version, shown in nickelodeons for over a year, was so much more exciting that the actual filmed record!)

Selig was not without serious concerns, however. His 1918 film "Auction of Souls" dealt with the "Armenian genocide": the now-forgotten persecution of Armenian Christians by Turkish Muslims. "Fearful of reprisals from hostile Muslims, the British Foreign Office approved the exhibition only after the crucifixion scene [a row of young women nailed to crosses] and all references to Christians in the subtitles were removed from the film," writes Erish. "Ninety years later, much of the world continues to yield to similar threats and pressures in failing to acknowledge one of the most tragic events in human history."

Selig's contribution to film history has been neglected, according to Erish, because many supposedly sceptical writers have taken "self-serving memoirs" at face value. "Just as damaging to our understanding of cinema has been decades worth of prioritizing theory over history within academic film studies," writes Erish. "Minimizing history in the service of artificial constructs that fall in and out of fashion leads to misinformation and misunderstandings. To be fair, generations of cinephiles have been conditioned to ignore or dismiss the pioneer filmmakers. The world of cinema studies needs to recognize, accommodate, and celebrate the need for serious historical inquiry that can exist independent of theory. A more complete and accurate historical record inevitably leads to deeper understanding and the opportunity to craft more plausible theory." Well, that needs to be engraved in bronze in the faculty lounges of every "film studies" department!

Andrew Erish is one courageous, unpretentious academic who can take his place with the finest film scholars. The late William K. Everson would be proud!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reimagining Film 15 Jan. 2013
By G.I Gurdjieff - Published on
While this is not a bargain priced book, it is definitely a good one. The author did a very thorough job of researching the Colonel and had the advantage of having access to a large amount of materials that helped tell this story. The resulting book tells the story of Selig who was far more than a film maker; Selig was a visionary. He saw the potential in film and its unlimited vistas. Selig started out in show business while still in his teens. Eventually, he landed in Chicago where he operated a photo studio. It was there that he realized the vast potential of film as an entertainment media. Due to the way films were being produced, Selig decided he could make better and cheaper movies and was instrumental in developing certain popular themes that continue to this day. This book looks to Selig and his studio in Edendale as the real start of the movie industry in Hollywood and details Selig's involvement in the motion picture industry.
What I particularly liked about this book was its lack of redundancy. Because I knew absolutely nothing about Selig all the information was new and explained quite a lot about how the film industry operated in its infancy. As for Selig, he was a huge presence that was responsible for a lot of film firsts and innovations. There was a huge amount of material covered and I learned a lot and gained an appreciation for all this man was responsible for.
The material covered could have been dry, but it wasn't. There was something exciting and fresh about how pictures were made in the early days.
This is a lively book that tells an interesting story. I think this book would be a hit with anyone who is interested in films studies, though its subject is interesting in his own right.
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