The Moving Picture Girls

Back in 1914 the first volume in a book series about the moving picture business was published. In the opening scene of The Moving Picture Girls, or First Appearances in Photo Dramas teenage sisters Ruth and Alice were thrilled that their stage actor father, Hosmer DeVere, had gotten a part in a play after a long period of unemployment.

Suddenly there were loud voices across the apartment house corridor. They heard neighbor Russ Dalwood shout that someone should stop sneaking around. There was the sound of a scuffle, and a body crashed against the DeVere’s door, which swung open. They caught a glimpse of Russ pushing a strange man towards the stairs.

Alice closed and locked their door, and wondered aloud if the departing man had been a bill collector. The DeVeres knew all about rude bill collectors. Ruth assured her that Russ earned good money at a moving picture theater, and was able to support his widowed mother and younger brother.

In a few minutes Russ knocked on their door to apologize, and he was let inside. He explained that he was working on a device to fit into moving picture projectors, to keep the film from jerking about. A villain named Simp Wolley was trying to get Russ to sell him all rights to the device, and today he’d snuck into the room where Russ worked on his invention.

When the girl’s father came home he told them of the fine play he had a part in and, though he wouldn’t be paid for the two weeks of rehearsals, soon he’d have a steady income from his theatrical engagement. But alas, that didn’t happen, for during rehearsals Mr. DeVere lost his voice due to a vocal cord infection, and a doctor told him he might lose it permanently unless he did almost no talking for many months.

Alice decided to look for a job. Once outside of the building she met neighbor Russ, and confided the family’s need for money. Russ was now working as a moving picture operator (cameraman) at the Comet Film Company, and he was sure Mr. DeVere could find work in silent films.

Alice knew her father had a low opinion of moving pictures, but agreed to go to the studio with Russ and learn more about film making. She saw numerous movies being filmed at the same time, in the same room, with the directors of each one calling out instructions on how the scenes should be performed.

She was impressed with all she saw, and when introduced to Mr. Pertell, the movie company manager, Alice liked him immediately, for he “seemed so sturdy, kind and wholesome.” The manager had heard of Hosmer DeVere, and would be pleased to hire the famous actor.

She rushed home to tell her father about the offer of movie work, but her father refused to consider such a job for, at the time, acting in films was not considered respectable. But then a man came to say they’d be evicted if the rent wasn’t paid in three days. Then the grocery boy showed up to declare they’d get no more food until they’d paid what was owed. And then Hosmer DeVere decided it wouldn’t hurt to go see that moving picture fellow.

Soon Mr. DeVere grew to like working for Comet Film Company and, since the book series was Moving Picture Girls, Ruth and Alice also began acting.

The novel briefly explains how 1914 movies were made, how the camera was cranked by hand, and that the length of scenes were gauged by how many feet of film it would take to record the action. Plus readers are introduced to the small group of people who worked for the film company.

I found the mild adventures in movie making entertaining, and then there was Simp Wolley, who almost succeeded in stealing Russ Dalwood’s invention. When the short book ended I wanted to know what happened next, so I read The Moving Picture Girls at Oak Farm, where actors and film crew spent a few weeks making a series of movies with rural settings. And in their spare time the Moving Picture Girls helped the farm family locate a large sum of money a relative had hidden before dying in a lunatic asylum.

The plots weren’t too involved, but they kept my interest, and I enjoyed reading about the DeVere family. I also enjoyed learning about a time when a man in charge of a film company could be described as being “sturdy, kind and wholesome.”

If you’d like to know more about the Moving Picture Girls their adventures can be found at:
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/search/?query=moving+picture+girls

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