Executive Producer: David Reid
Producer: Joan Brown
Director: Cyril Coke
FLICKERS/Episode 1/Intro by Alistair Cooke
Good evening, I'm Alistair Cooke. Tonight we make a rollicking change of pace, a drastic change from high drama to farce: Flickers. Between about 1910 and 1920 the word flickers--flicks in England--the pictures were magic words to children. They were also a cause of groaning and lamentation to their parents who saw in the arrival of the motion pictures the end of Western civilization as they knew it and what they called the good old values.
Now of course in the theater and in the movies we've seen parodies of the early days of Hollywood. Hollywood was a California sheep town without a post office, where immigrant glove salesmen and rag and bone merchants set up rudimentary rooms in fields and filmed ten-minute epics with hand-cranked cameras. But before that they had small studios in Long Island and New Jersey and before that they'd made a lot of money enticing people into empty stores and villainous basements to peer into slot machines at a nickel a peak. At these slot machines you saw about a hundred still pictures flop over rapidly from a rack to represent a train puffing into a station, or a lady seen through a keyhole undressing--almost--in ten seconds flat.
But we are not going to go into the dinosaur days of Hollywood. Our story is about the earliest days of films projected on a screen, in and about London between 1910 and 1912. By that time the peep show business was all over, thanks mainly to Edison's kinescope, a machine that projected pictures onto a screen by running strips of celluloid between a magnifying lens and a lamp. And this business attracted an entrepreneur who shot very, very brief hundred-foot films: comedies and family rows and fire engines--anything that moved fast. Now the middleman between the filmmaker and the audience was the film renter. And more than anything this is the story of a film renter--Arnie Cole--a jumpy, spontaneous, vulgar, indestructible Cockney who I think of as coming from the more immoral creations of Charles Dickens. We find him with his lady friend and his Welsh assistant, stuck without a train ticket on a railroad station.
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