Thoughts On: Every Year In Film #36 - The Squaw Man


Every Year In Film #36 - The Squaw Man

Thoughts On: The Squaw Man (1914) & The Birth of Hollywood

A look at the birth and rise of Hollywood.

I have never been one for history. As a kid in high school, I'd think of it as a subject with a lot of dates that I couldn't remember and really just pushed it aside completely. Trying to do the best job I can possibly do for the Every Year Series, however, I have had to immerse myself in history more and more so. And in learning about, primarily, 20th century history I have very quickly come to see history and the humanities as more than dates.

The first thing you learn when taking a serious look into any historical topic is that history is not a thing of the past. History affects us in the present. And to figure out where you stand, you apparently have to look back. But, the more you try to grapple with history, not just understand, for example, when WWII started or what happened during the Cold War, the more abstract questions become. This especially happens when you start asking why: why WWII happened and why the Cold War was sparked? One of my favourite why? questions is: Why is there East and West? To all of these why? questions you'll find some answers; WWII happened because Germany was again trying to become a dominant world power; the Cold War happened because the spread of Communism was a real game-changer for the state of all geopolitics; the East and the West are divided as such primarily because of the split of the Roman Empire and its role as a dividing line between empires beyond Europe and within Europe. But, these answers very quickly become dissatisfying, and thus history really becomes a set of arguments and a vast array of contributing factors. History as such reveals itself, especially to a real novice like myself, to be a single, overwhelming scream of events and happenings. What I have then come to realise is not just that history is more than a thing of the past. History is also more than the past, the present and the future. History does not just tell us where we are, where we came from and where we're going - it so often struggles to do this even in the slightest. History is a conceptualisation of human existence as an omniscient, continuous and intertwined body of causality.

I open this entry of the Every Year Series as such because we are now upon a historical explosion: World War I. An impossible amount of history goes into WWI, and WWI spits out an absolutely enormous gob of history itself. WWII is wrapped up in WWI; WWI is wrapped up in colonial conflicts across the entire globe (hence World War); in conflicts (over oil) within and around what we now call the Middle East, with what was the Ottoman Empire; in the emergence of Communism, hence the Cold War (which we are kind of still in); in the start of conflicts between the Far East and the West; in the emergence of America as a global super power; in a proliferation of deadly technology that eventually leads to the ultimate decider of all global interactions in the modern world, the atomic bomb, etc, etc, etc. WWI did not just create these strains of history, but it becomes a kind of major limb of history as the conceptualisation of human existence.

Much of what WWI funnels into the history books is tied to film history. However, let it be noted that film does not interact with the first World War as it did with, for example, the second. Film, generally, not only fails to interact with the Great War until the mid and late-20s, but it also doesn't really play a significant role as propaganda from 1914-18. There are a few key pictures from Britain and America about WWI that may be considered propaganda, but they were more so experimental fabrications that served as dramatised news reels. (We will not touch on actual news reels because we will find ourselves veering so far away from film history and into general history and a history of media that it'd be counter-productive).

In the same way that major conflicting powers had to learn a whole new kind of warfare, a warfare of the trench; had to learn how to integrate high power machine guns and tanks into combat, had to learn how to amass and manage huge, national armies for the slaughter, the major powers had to learn how to use new media as a weapon during WWI. The reality is, however, that this last learning curve wasn't an overwhelming concern; film, specifically, simply wasn't that high on the list. And, if we were to take a step back for perspective, though film was really taking shape around 1913-14 - cast your mind back to the Danish feature films, the Italian epics, the French serials, Griffith's one and two-reelers - the culture around film needed much development. So, though cinema had language to deal with the war - and maybe with some effect - it is hard to judge if filmmakers were sophisticated enough, if studios were willing enough, if audiences were engaged enough, if the authorities cared enough, to push cinema into these new realms. But, one example of somewhat light propaganda that we can then look at depicts The Battle of the Somme:

The Battle of the Somme is a documentary shot by two cameramen, Geoffrey Malins and J.B McDowell, on and near the front-lines of the battle in the days before it begun and just as it starts. The documentary is meaning to be a transparent, elongated newsreel of sorts that would have informed the public in Britain, America and other Ally countries about the state of the war. And though this is often noted as fake, a very small percentage of the film (like the 'over the top sequence') which is said to amount to only 90 seconds is known to have been staged. But, whilst reasons for this are initially logical, they reveal the true nature of the propaganda.

Scenes that were closest to the fighting would have been too dangerous to shoot - most of the combat put on screen is very distant. It then makes sense that the chaos of men leaving their trenches would have been staged for the camera. However, whilst the film depicts wounded and dead British soldiers, the devastation of the battle, renowned as one of the worst military exploits of British history, is downplayed and never really come to into real contact with. Not only is the danger and devastation then avoided and kept at a distance, but footage was cut out by British censors at the War Office as to reduce the amount of dead shown, and ultimately to imply that the battle was a success for the British. In reality, however, it is hard to say that it was a success for anyone at all with a third of all men - aprox. one million out of three million - wounded or dead with the Germans suffering casualties and loses between 400,000 and 500,000 and the British around 420,000.

As we see here, the propaganda film around WWI isn't too developed, and nor does it play a big role in the war. In reality, cinema in general throughout Europe was slowed down by the war. Film production in France for example, whilst it was booming around 1913/14, almost came to a halt during and after the war with Feuillade's serials (Fantomas, Les Vampires, Judex, Tin Minh) being some of the only surviving cinematic documents of the time, until French cinema was revived by filmmakers such as Gance with his 1919 film J'Accuse. In the meantime in Britain, their biggest contribution to film history (arguably their biggest contribution to all of film history) was Charlie Chaplin, who, as most will know, was only an export of British theatre and never apart of the industry. And whilst Germany makes an almost unthinkably significant turn-around after WWI in their cinematic industry, it is in no good place during the war; it also struggles, ultimately fails, to match the cinema of America in scope and reach.

If we then want to talk about WWI and cinema, we have to talk about the rise of Hollywood. This rise is the most overwhelmingly significant event of the first world war period for cinema; it is industrial, cultural and technical. It is then between 1910 and 1920 that we see a film industry literally built up from the dirt in California, filmmakers flock to it, a culture exude from it and technical developments made with in. In making its return to America, The Every Year Series, which hasn't put much focus at all on the States, will dedicate 3 posts to this rise. Today, we will look at how an industry started to form in Hollywood, next, we will take a look at the star system and the new culture of celebrity, and then, finally, we will investigate some significant technical achievements.

We have alluded to this rise of Hollywood before in discussing Edison and his Trust, and, to start the discussion today, we will have to do this again. In turn, we find ourselves back at the turn of the century. It was around 1900 that the first major American production companies rose: Edison Studios, Biograph (first known as The American Mutoscope and Biograph Company) and Vitagraph Studios.

These were all initially based in New York and were founded in response to the birth of cinema around 1895; initially, Edison's first experiments with the Kinetoscope and then the Lumières' Cinématographe. New York then became the first centre of American film production - primarily because New York was America's heart of commerce. Over the 1900s, however, this specified, with Fort Lee in New Jersey becoming the major hub of American film production - a proto-Hollywood of sorts. So, whilst Edison's studio is important as the first film production studio in the world, Biograph and Vitagraph are also important as competitors who empowered a movement away from the Kinetoscope with their own cameras that were more like the Lumière Cinématographes and Edison's developing technologies. These three companies would have been major foundations for the New York film industry, attracting actors and commerce already present in the state. Not only constructing blueprints for how to run a major studio and mass-produce film, these companies played a significant part in the founding of national and international distribution schemes and saw the rise of America's first stars. Biograph in particular is most notable in regards to the final point as they saw the start of many significant careers including Griffith's, Lilian Gish's and Mary Pickford's.

Because of the boom that these companies initiated, before 1910 there were a few other significant companies in competition with them: Lubin and Kalem. These were all based in and around New York. Kalem is particularly notable because of their film adaptations: the first film versions of Ben Hur and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Ben Hur, however, is an important film because it was one of the very first movies to be tangled in a copyright lawsuit for illegally adapting a book they hadn't owned the rights to. This set a president of films having to gain rights to material they didn't own. In addition to this both Kalem and Lubin - much like everyone else in the film industry - would have been in constant disputes with Edison Studios. This is, of course, all down to patents and Edison essentially attempting to claim a monopoly in America.

Edison's monopoly may have possibly been attained in the late 1800s. However, with the rise of Biograph, Vitagraph, Kalem and Lubin (among many other independents) the film industry was just becoming too big. What's more, significant production and distribution companies are being set up across America. In Chicago in particular, Selig Polyscope and Essanay were the centre of American comedy from the late-1900s to the mid-1910s. It was Selig and Essanay who then housed the likes of Fatty Arbuckle, Harold Llyod and Charlie Chaplin. In addition to this, from the early 1900s, major European production companies, such as Méliès' Star Film and Pathé, had a presence in America. So, despite the fact that he owned almost all of the cinematic patents, in turn the rights to make film, in America, Edison would not be able to wipe all of these companies out and fight against the 1000s of distribution and pirating companies around America alone. Edison did a good job of strangling the entire film industry though. But, in making it so hard for the other major companies at the time to make film, he damaged the American film industry itself. This was because foreign films began dominating the markets through the other major studios. By 1907, it would have then been increasingly clear that wiping out all of the other companies (if that was possible) would leave Edison competing against the entirety of Europe by himself - and Europe may have drowned out America in this time. He then formed, in 1908, the Motion Picture Patents Company.

The MPPC, or the Trust, was designed to control the American film industry, eradicate all independent companies, and direct cash-flow to Edison's pocket. All of the mentioned companies - Vitagraph, Kalem, Lubin, Selig, Essanay, Star Film, Pathé, and more - were then united under one banner that (somewhat loosely) controlled licences and royalties to everything attached to production, distribution and exhibition. It is then highly noteworthy that George Kleine, founder of the Kalem company and distributor for Biograph and foreign films - the most powerful distributor in America, as well as Eastman Kodak, the major producer of film stock, were apart of the MPPC. Initially, Biograph were not apart of the this Trust. In truth, Edison formed it to unite the major players in the American film industry against them. It was Biograph, after all, who operated with a different camera than everyone else on top of owning the rights to the Latham loop, which gave them power in the courts.

This small but integral element of cameras was an essential mechanism in keeping the film slack as it passed through machinery. All cameras used the Latham loop. Biograph owned this. Because of the power that Biograph wielded, Edison had to come to terms with the company and so they became joint partners of the MPPC a year after everyone else. Nonetheless, despite the fact that the Trust was no longer trying to squeeze Biograph out of existence, its function remained the same. Everyone in the Trust had the rights to use, create, distribute and exhibit film. Moreover, the industry was standardised, through policies controlling pricing and even the length of film (everything had to be one-reel until 1912). This meant that if you weren't apart of the Trust or paying royalties to the right people, you were essentially committing a crime by making, distributing or showing a film. This crime could be punished by copyright laws, or you might just get beaten up by the thugs that Edison's company apparently hired.

This was the American film industry around 1910. It wasn't an easy place for an independent filmmaker. In the modern day, we might compare it to the early days of the World Wide Web around the 90s if its creator, Tim Berners-Lee, had chosen to patent it. If Berners-Lee, like Edison, wanted to control everything, he would have fought against anyone who created a website or platform of any kind that linked to others, restricting our usage of the internet, and reducing it to a tool for very few. In short the internet would be a relatively sucky place. This is not to imply the manner in which the American film industry would have initially grown if Edison never established a patent system, but it builds a picture around how limited and hostile the movie industry would have been.

This, as many of you will know, is a reason (not the one and only, however) why filmmakers ran away from New York to the furthest place in America possible: California. Not only were filmmakers in California days of travel away from New York, but they were close to the boarder. And in Mexico, they could not be persecuted - this is something that those in Chicago didn't have. In addition to this, the Californian industry had the weather and infrastructure on their side. In New York, most film studios, especially in the early days, were set up on rooftops. This allowed them to shoot outdoors without being down on the busy streets, overshadowed by looming buildings. Alas, whilst they'd have the exposure they needed during clear summer days, New Jersey isn't very unfamiliar with cloud, rain and winter. On the other hand, California, the Los Angeles area in particular, has no idea what winter is; it's too busy worrying about where to find water in the middle of a desert. This, for a movie industry who didn't yet have the technology to satisfactorily light scenes (these techniques would be developed around the mid-1910s and standardised in the 20s), made California ideal. And this is forgetting how difficult was to even shoot in New York and how wide open California was.

But, before we can talk about the people who built Hollywood as a film industry, and before we can even talk about the films they made, we have to touch on the founding of Hollywood as a place. Los Angeles in the early 1820s passed over to Mexico from the colonial Spanish after they won their war for independence. Hollywood was not Hollywood. It was a small ranch town with a population of under a thousand people that was in the Cahuenga Valley. A couple of decades later in the mid-1800s came the Mexican-American war, which saw the Americans take over the area. Moving into the 1870s, with California now a star on the spangled banner, the rail system had made its way down to the south. And coming upon the turn of the century, oil was found in Los Angeles. This saw a huge boom of commerce with California becoming the biggest oil producer in the world, the population soaring over one-hundred thousand around the turn of the century. And so from the 1890s to the 1920s, the area expanded, undergoing rapid industrialisation.

Taking a step back before the oil was discovered, we find ourselves at a time of relatively slower growth with the railroad bringing more people into what is essentially a flourishing agricultural community that produced grapes, lemons, oranges, bananas, pineapples and more. The railroad brought with it a real estate developer, H.J. Whitley, and in the 1880s, he came upon the patch of land and decided to buy it up. Land was somewhat cheap, it was fertile, it was expansive and not yet heavily populated. Whitley saw an opportunity to build a town here. As he was on the land with his wife, he apparently came upon a Chinese man hauling a cart of wood. He asked him what he is doing, and the man supposedly replied in broken English "haulie wood". Whitley heard "hauling wood" as "Hollywood", and thought the name fit well; 'Holly' represented his English heritage and 'Wood' his Scottish heritage. And so the name stuck - or, at least, that's how the legend goes. Other sources suggest that the name comes from native bushes that look like holly.

Alas, Hollywood had a name, it had a community, the estate business was booming, rich Americans were setting up homes and oil had been discovered. This was a sweet little spot. Filmmakers had more than enough reasons to turn to it. The industry wasn't born over night, however.

Around 1910, films were being made in numerous places all across America. But, the main hubs were certainly New York, its neighbour Pennsylvania and, further in-land, Illinois. This was a period that signified the height of the Edison Trust's power. However, Edison didn't go unchallenged. Whilst the independents struggled and dispersed across America (we can imagine that a great deal of the thousands of distributors, exhibitors, etc. grafted their way ok), a certain Carl Laemmle lead a fight against Edison and his conglomerated majors. He had started up his own film exchange where he rented films to theatres in his area. Laemmle was inspired to do this having previously set up his own theatre that didn't do too well - and no thanks to the sources he was receiving film prints from. The Laemmle Film Service was a success, but, as it grew, it caught Edison's attention and, believing that he owned the rights to use film and movie projectors, he felt entitled to royalties that Laemmle was not paying. Laemmle refused, and thus he was laden with hundreds of lawsuits.

In the meanwhile, Biograph was doing business as usual. Griffith was a director by now, squeezing out his one reel films like sausages - at a rate of around 1 a week. He was learning and developing as a director as well as building a troupe of actors, which included Mary Pickford. Here is an example of a Griffith-Pickford picture, Ramona:

Ramona is a tragic romance one-reeler. It projects a particularly Griffith-esque theme of injustice whilst dealing with elements of the Californian history we have already discussed. But, whilst the theme of injustice is used here to show evils committed against 'Indians', Griffith is, of course, most noted for his glorification of the KKK as defenders of freedom and enforcers of justice. It's the likes of Ramona that paint a clearer picture of the kind of man Griffith was; certainly clumsy and slightly bigoted, from our perspective, with his depiction of races not his own, but not malicious in nature. This is something he tried to show audiences after The Birth of a Nation with the likes of Intolerance and Broken Blossoms.

That aside, as is told to us in the opening titles, this was shot in California. Biograph had not set up shop in California, but had sent a crew over to the West Coast. Around 1910, whilst Hollywood had not yet been established, this may have been an increasingly common venture for East Coast studios to make - especially during the winters. Alas, this is not the first film made in the state. The earliest film made in not just California, but Hollywood specifically, is thought to be D.W Griffith's In Old California.

But, whilst prints of the film are said to still exist, none seem to have been digitally archived for public access. So, to take a step back, Griffith's trip to California in 1910 is one of the earliest documented trips to the South-West Coast. It was also one of the last times Mary Pickford worked with Biograph, for it was at the end of 1910 that she left the company. After writing two screenplays for Selig, Mary Pickford signed a contract with Independent Moving Pictures, a studio started up by Carl Laemmle, who, you will remember, is still entrenched in lawsuits with Edison.

Laemmle's IMP was new competition against Edison, started up in the same year his Trust began to come together. IMP became famous for taking famous faces and giving them names. Biograph girls such as Mary Pickford then became actual movie stars credited on the screen by IMP - something that most other studios of the times refused to do. It is Florence Lawrence alongside King Baggot, not Mary Pickford, however, that were two of the first major stars that America produced.


Whilst much could be said about these two figures, what is probably worth noting above all else is the fact that, though Lawrence worked for almost every single major studio and Baggot was called the "King of the Movies", their names have not echoed too well through the chambers of film history. These were two of the first people to have their names publicised widely - we shall return to why momentary. However, they existed in a rather quiet and quaint period of film history; that is, the period we are studying now. In truth, 1900-1920 is a relatively anonymous era for film history. But, America around the mid-1910s is a particularly quiet time. There are of course a selection of bombs that were dropped by Griffith and Chaplin, but the majority of the American movie industry was cautiously developing whilst Europe was at war. You will then not find the huge blockbusters and the immense razzle and dazzle that characterised the 1920s in 1914.

Chaplin and Griffith very easily eclipse what is often called the least-studied era of film history. They are framed as precursors to 20s filmmaking, which saw Europe strike back at Hollywood, incredibly significant technological leaps made and the greatest silent movies put to screen. But, the American stars we still know to this day, Chaplin, Fairbanks, Keaton, Pickford, Swanson, Lloyd, were names that were most famous in the 20s and, some, transcended the silent era. The earlier stars of the mid-1910s were stars of a different calibre who were in smaller scale films and a smaller-scale industry. We do not know names such as Florence Lawrence or King Baggot like we do Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin for this very reason - even though they were stars in their own right and contemporaries of one another. This is something to keep in mind as we progress. So many films from this period have been lost, and even those that survive are entirely overshadowed by the films of Griffith and Chaplin. American cinema in this period then exceeds much of what we know and talk about today.

Alas, what Griffith, Chaplin, Pickford and Fairbanks would do in the 1920s with United Artists would not be possible if Carl Laemmle had not made stars out of Baggot and Lawrence. It was Independent Moving Pictures who, as said, were amongst the first to credit their stars and publicise them. And this was done in response to Laemmle's lawsuit. He used his actors and the image that they could contrive as a marketing strategy. This worked. Laemmle earned the public opinion he needed to define the independent market positively; this was not just a hoard of pirates, outlaws and thieves, but an establishment that housed some of the nation's favourite personalities. Such would have contributed to his eventual victory over Edison that, in 1915, saw the Trust considered an illegal entity.

There is more to the dissolution of the MPPC that this, however. From 1910-15, the foundations of a movie industry were set in California. This was a time in which movie celebrities rose, a time in which Kodak pulled away from the Trust and feature films started to emerge in Europe. Whilst there are examples of feature film production in America in this period, the MPPC ensured that feature-length film production was not a norm in America until approximately 1914. And then the World War started. Europe stopped making so many films. Imports of European cinema into America through the big companies in the Trust were significant sources of income. The need for non-European films necessitated the independents - especially those in California who were making Westerns. The majors in New York and their business model were becoming increasingly dated.

Let us then go back again to Griffith's period in California during 1910. Many of his films made here were successes. They had an aesthetic reminiscent of bygone times that, though they would have been set around 50 years in the past, would have shown great contrast to big city life in places such as New York. What's more, they often emphasised older values. And we see this especially with the Western, which has historically been a genre that represented the American version of nationalism, patriotism, and all that comes along with it. American patriotism is founded in the glorification and romanticisation of the past. It has always presented itself as quite different from nationalism - which was putting Europe in an awful lot of mess in 1914, and would continue to do so for the next 30+ years. It was 'Old California' that gave filmmakers the opportunity to contrive a patriotic vision of America for Americans, which foreshadows the later separation of the European and American silent film. One of the first studios to then follow Griffith and set up shop in 1911 was the Nestor Film Company.

Nestor were the first studio to move away from New York, shedding their previous name of Centaur, and set up in Hollywood permanently. Companies such as Kalem opened up branches along the West Coast in the same year that Nestor made their move, and they did so to start shooting Westerns. Alas, Nestor is the first known studio to have put roots down in Hollywood specifically.

Soon after Nestor came Laemmle's Independent Moving Pictures. Laemmle was still based in New York at this time and so, as he was setting up branches in California, he was busy with Edison; his new distribution company was in trouble and he was trying to build the image of the independent movie business with his stars. To aid the situation, there emerged a new corporation that conglomerated many independent studios into a vertically integrated (they controlled production, distribution and exhibition) system. This corporation was called The Universal Film Manufacturing Company.

It was between 1910 and 1912 that movie companies started flooding to California and L.A. (Let it be emphasised that 'Hollywood' is so often a catch-all phrase for a much wider area). This is then the time that saw a huge out-pour of new corporations and subsidiaries that evolved into world famous entities. For example, from the collapse of Laemmle's Motion Picture Distributing and Sales Company came Universal Studios after Nestor and IMP combined as well as Mutual Film Corporation, the conglomerate that signed Charlie Chaplin.

Around this time, many of the major and minor studios in New York were buying up lots and shooting films in and around the Hollywood area. Between 1911 and 1915, the major foundations of a new movie industry that would rival the first American film industry in New York were set. One of the most noted films of this era, the subject of this post, comes from 1914. This film is The Squaw Man.

The Squaw Man is a film that follows an Englishman, James, who is outcast from his family in England because of his corrupt cousin. He makes his way across the Pacific to New York, but doesn't find a very warm welcome. He then journeys further to the West Coast, Wyoming. It's here that he meets further hostility in the form of a few rough cowboys - one of whom, an outlaw, tries to kill him. He is saved, however, by a Native American woman who he falls in love with. Over the course of the film, they have a son and James' cousin back in England dies. As he passes, however, the cousin takes the blame for the corruption that James was outcast for. When the family journey to find him, officers in Wyoming find evidence that confirms that James' wife saved him by killing the outlaw. They choose to arrest her. The two then send the son away to England, and the mother, pursued by the local authorities, kills herself.

This is a film about innocence and stoicism being exploited. In turn, it forms a loose allegory about colonisation by seeing a persecuted Englishman move to America and integrate into the native culture. However, as opposed to highlighting the negative consequences of America being colonised, this attempts to make a statement on the 'good colonisers' coming too late. And so this forms a more general statement on the tragedy of tardy justice and morality.

The Squaw Man also falls into a tradition of silent filmmaking that is based upon books, plays, fairy tales, etc. As we have discussed many times before, these films, especially those pre-1920, are not adaptations as we know them today. This is because they use ellipses for an audience that has at least heard of this story beforehand, or has read or seen it. The Squaw Man is based off of a famous play from 1905 that was novelised in 1907. And in such, the story inherits the rounder sense of story that has a strong chronology and cause and effect. However, it does not deal with emotion and smaller details of information too well due to the undeveloped cinematographic direction. It then appears that this is reliant on some kind of familiarity pre-the viewing. And, as a result, it is difficult to say that this is a particularly significant achievement in a more general artistic sense. Nonetheless, The Squaw Man is a very significant film for at least two reasons. The first is that this is the first feature-length film to come out of Hollywood (not out of America, but the Hollywood area). The second is that this is the first film made (co-directed, let that be emphasised) by Cecil B. DeMille - famed director best known for Golden Era epics such as Cleopatra and The Ten Commandments.

Much like the film comes from a play, so does DeMille come from the theatre. It was then in 1913 that DeMille moved away from Broadway to make The Squaw Man. DeMille did so because he had found some success on Broadway but was struggling to support his family. In such, he had helped form the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company with Jesse Lasky and Sam Goldfish. After their first hit, success alluded them on the stage and the company was failing. Lasky and Goldfish then convinced DeMille to move into moving pictures, and so he ventured on to the West Coast with a crew and with intentions of making a film. DeMille eventually found a good location in Los Angeles and bought up a barn, which had some offices and a laboratory in it - and still stands to this day.

DeMille soon went to work with his crew and co-director, Oscar Apfel, on The Squaw Man, hoping for success by adapting this long-running play. And some success they found - far more than they were hoping for. The money made from The Squaw Man supported the new studio, allowing them to expand production. In 1916, the company merged with another studio, Famous Players, to become Famous Players-Lasky. And Famous Player-Lasky would eventually become Paramount.

What The Squaw Man represents is a moment in time that bridges a gap from the theatre, New York and its confines into a new realm. It was a film that arguably could not have been made in New York, it spawned a company that could not have survived in New York and it supported filmmakers who were struggling in New York. It also had the reach and the realism that a play did not. The Squaw Man is a major statement on the fertility of this new place called Hollywood. This was a new town that even failing businessmen and artists could venture to and find opportunity. DeMille and the Squaw Man then come to be archetypes of these times that manifested enough times over so that what we know to be Hollywood today could be founded.


Now that we're coming towards the last part of the post, we're going to have to step back quite a bit. We opened this post by talking about World War I and history as a conceptualisation of human existence as an omniscient, continuous and intertwined body of causality; a huge scream of events, people, places and times. What we have tried to do so far is answer the question: How did Hollywood rise? An answer is very difficult to come across. The most basic response concerns Edison's monopoly and World War. But, to tell the story of Hollywood's rise is a task I have been struggling with for very long time and still feel I have not gripped all too well. It is a story of countless names and innumerable business. It is a story of a movement that no one coordinated. And by the time anyone knew what was happening, everything was all too complicated to make real sense of.

However, what may be clear so far is that Hollywood was a new start. The New York industry was functioning a little like a system of cogs drenched in tar thanks to Edison. At least, this is the picture that we formulate as we hear about the lawsuits and tyranny that characterises the era. And this is a picture that is difficult to overcome considering how few truly notable films are shown to come out of this sphere - especially as we move through the 1910s and into the 20s with the true rise of Hollywood. It is hard to tell if we are engaging historical bias when considering Hollywood a new start for the American film industry, but, it became a flourishing industry at the perfect time. Maybe the industry built up in Chicago could have been this new start around 1907. Alas, it didn't have the context of WWI to support it (as grim as that thought is). That said, Hollywood was not just a good place to run to around 1913. It was a place populated by countless names and studios that all transformed into brands we all know to this day.

Adolph Zukor, Hary Cohn, Sam Goldfish, William Fox, Louis, B. Mayer, Jack, L. Warner, Carl Laemmle. Many of these names may not sound too familiar, but, they are all at the foundations of companies such as Paramount, MGM, 20th Century Fox and Universal. These businessmen all had their start in Hollywood and the surrounding Los Angeles area between and around 1910 and 1920. They were mostly immigrants, almost all Jews, who did what those in New York couldn't; they conglomerated and vertically integrated systems of mass filmic entertainment. There is a stigma attached to mentioning this because the fact that Hollywood was founded by Jews is so often used for antisemitic rhetoric. However, an idea of great interest emerges from Neal Gabler (author of An Empire of Their Own) and his commentary:

They [the mentioned Jewish businessmen] created their own America - an America which is not the real America - it's their own version of the real America. But, ultimately, this Shadow-America becomes so popular, and so widely disseminated, that its images and its values come to devour the real America. And so the grand irony of all of Hollywood is that Americans come to define themselves by the Shadow-America that was created by Eastern-European Jewish immigrants who weren't admitted to the precincts of real America.

What you begin to see when you track the beginnings of Hollywood as we have is an industry funnel towards Paramount, MGM, Fox and Universal and take off from there. I am ending on the fact that Jewish businessmen started these industries not to draw attention to their religion, culture and background, but how that saw them integrate into American culture. In certain senses, these men contrived the American dream and put it onto film. It was because of who they were that they could do this, and it is because they managed this, that Hollywood rose.

Many more names and moments take us towards the rise of Hollywood and American cinema more generally. However, I hope today that we have tracked an initial movement of filmmakers from New York towards Hollywood. We shall continue to explore this in the next posts, and so, until then, I highly recommend some further reading. Sources that I found particularly useful were Before The Nickelodeon by Charles Musser and American Silent Film by William K. Everson. There was a lot that I didn't include in this post, and so, if you have any questions, the comments are open. Thank you as always for reading.

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