Picks and Pans Review: Before Hollywood

updated 03/16/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/16/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Jay Leyda, et al.

That legendary fragment of Los Angeles is celebrating its 100th anniversary, but there were movies even before there was a Hollywood, and that's the subject of this volume of wonderful old photographs. The first copyrighted motion picture was the Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze. It starred Fred Ott, an employee at Thomas Edison's New Jersey studio, and the plot was just what the title suggests. The book includes photos of old movie houses, reproductions of posters and movie magazine covers from the same era. The exterior of the Onset (Mass.) Pastime theater promised "Refined Entertainment for Man, Woman and Child." In a chapter titled "Dream Visions in Pre-Hollywood Film," a man in a nightshirt clings to an airborne bed in the 1906 The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend. Special effects have always had a place in filmmaking. A 1909 movie, Princess Nicotine; or, The Smoke Fairy, featured a tiny female dancer on a gentleman's table. And there was an outcry against such nickelodeon hits as Terrible Ted, called "schools of crime" because of the violence. This volume, which has brief essays and reviews of early works by a number of film experts, shows that while sound and color revolutionized movies technically, the tales they tell have changed little. (Hudson Hills, $35)

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