The King of the Movies: Siegmund Lubin
The King of the Movies is a full-length (90 minute) documentary feature film on the life and work of America’s first movie mogul: an unlikely Jewish-German immigrant by the name of Siegmund Lubin. He was a renegade who made the first films to combat racism and marketed some of the most racist films of the early silent era. Lubin gave with one hand - helping Sam Goldwyn, Cecil B. DeMille, and the Warner Brothers as they entered the business – while taking away with the other, in one of the first documented cases of film piracy. Like the films he conceived, Lubin’s life is a story about imagination and invention… action and drama…intrigue and tragedy. One might call it “the world’s first blockbuster.”
Lubin’s story is the tale of a complex visionary and entrepreneur who commercialized the early movie industry. In 1882, an Eastern European Jewish immigrant arrived in Philadelphia with a leather case full of eyeglasses, which he peddled on the streets. Thirty-five years later, he was the head of America’s first film empire, producing movies that were distributed all over the world. At the height of his career in 1914, he was America’s first movie mogul, living a lavish lifestyle. When he died nine years later, he was impoverished and forgotten. The documentary will be based on the book The King of the Movies: Film Pioneer, Siegmund Lubin by Joe Eckhardt, Emeritus Professor of History at Montgomery County College near Philadelphia, PA. Through nearly 30 years of research, Eckhardt has collected 35 of Lubin’s films and located others in various collections.
ABOUT SIEGMUND LUBIN
When Hollywood was still a series of barren, desert hillsides north of Los Angeles, the Lubin Film Studios of Philadelphia was thriving as the most prolific producer, distributor and exhibitor of motion pictures in the world. A seldom-mentioned, essentially forgotten pioneer of the American cinema and of international film distribution, Siegmund Lubin was the:
· First to mass-market moving picture equipment and films…
· First to build and operate a chain of movie theaters….
· First to participate in all aspects of the movie industry at once…
· First to attempt the commercial exploitation of synchronized sound with films…
· First to invest heavily in special effects…
· First to create an "empire" of movie studios…
· First to promote the idea of home movies…
Helped out Sam Goldwyn and Cecil B. DeMille with their first independent film and loaned the Warner brothers capital to get started in the movie business in New Castle, PA.
Invented film piracy, overtly duping the films of his competitors and marketing them as his own. Outraged competitors, especially Thomas Edison, sued him. Then, they turned around and imitated his inspired solution to a problem they all faced…. the voracious new public appetite for films.
Filmed The Passion of Christ fifty years before Mel Gibson was born. To film the scene where Jesus walks on water, he hired a professional acrobat who billed himself as the "Human Fly". Using a tightrope strung over a ravine, Lubin filled the ravine with smoke and directed "The Fly" to walk across through the fog to create the desired effect. But the Fly, dead drunk before filming began, fell off the cliff and broke both his legs.
Pioneered product placement. During a thrilling "firemen to the rescue" sequence in an early film, Lubin allowed a friend to run out of the crowd toward camera, holding up a sign advertising his restaurant.
Championed the early careers of superstars in the early American motion picture industry, among them Florence Lawrence, Oliver Hardy, Henry King, Marie Dressler, Alan Hale, Sr .L. C. Shumway, Edward Sloman, and Albert Hackett.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
HENRY NEVISON, PRODUCER/DIRECTOR
A Philadelphia native and graduate of Temple University’s School of Communications and Theater, Henry Nevison is internationally recognized for his achievements as a producer, director and editor. With more than 30 years experience his credits include programming for The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, A&E Biography, major museum installations and a diverse list of clients representing Fortune 500 corporations and major cultural institutions.
JOSEPH P. ECKHARDT, PROJECT HISTORIAN/AUTHOR
Joe Eckhardt, Professor Emeritus of History at Montgomery County Community College near Philadelphia, PA, has made it his passion to uncover the facts and the mystery behind this enterprising impresario. He is the author of The King of the Movies: Film Pioneer, Siegmund Lubin, a dramatic, highly detailed account of Lubin’s life and career.
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