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Posts Tagged ‘television

“I am big! It’s the pictures that got small.”*…

 

Romaine Fielding

Romaine Fielding got famous making a bunch of films in nothing flat—something like 100 films in just four years, from 1912 to 1915. Some of the films were probably awful. Others were showered with critical praise. Film was a fledgling medium still trying to find its voice, still battling to evolve from novelty to art. But Romaine rose above the melodramatic din of the silent film era. He was, by some accounts, America’s first movie star and, by even more accounts, among the medium’s first true visionaries…

Romaine had already lived a lot of life when he began making films in 1912. There were only a dozen film companies in Hollywood. The magazine that would launch our nation’s rabidity for celebrity culture, Photoplay, had just published its first issue. Romaine was 43 and on his fourth name by then: baby William Grant Blandin became Royal A. Blandin became Romanzo A. Blandin who made the leap finally to Romaine Fielding at the dawn of the 20th century.

There are lots of reasons for adopting pseudonyms and these include shame or aspiration or fear of legal recourse or extralegal recourse or confusion about identity or certainty about identity or general restlessness and for some it is all of this plus the usual feeling of fraudulence and an overdeveloped flair for the dramatic. In 1867 Romaine was born out of wedlock in an Iowa that wouldn’t stand for it and so his first name change was the projection of others’ shame. For the rest of his life he layered on identities, ever grander, though never entirely disingenuous…

After the success of The Toll of Fear (one of the first great psychological thrillers, made in 1913) Romaine made the cover of Motion Picture Magazine. He was voted America’s Most Popular Player by the magazine’s readers, snagging over 1.3 million of the 7 million votes cast by film buffs.

This award was a remarkable accomplishment in the pre-Oscars era. He beat out Mary Pickford, an early cinema powerhouse and eventual cofounder of the famed United Artists studio. He beat out Bronco Billy, who had starred in The Great Train Robbery (1903), arguably the first ever Western film…

The genuinely remarkable tale of an American original: “The Lost Apocalypse of Romaine Fielding.”

* “Norma Desmond” (Gloria Swanson) in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard

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As we see stars, we might spare a thought for Herbert Eugene Ives; he died on this date in 1953.  A scientist and engineer who headed the development of facsimile and television systems at AT&T in the first half of the twentieth century, he is best known for the 1938 Ives–Stilwell experiment, which provided direct confirmation of special relativity’s time dilation (though Ives himself did not accept special relativity, and argued instead for an alternative interpretation of the experimental results).

But relevantly to this post, Ives also led AT&T’s development of video and television. His 1927 transmission–  of images of then-Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover, from Washington, DC to New York– was the first successful long distance demonstration of television. Two years later, he achieved the first successful long-distance transmission of color images.

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Written by LW

November 13, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are”*…

 

 

Food

Food regularly plays a role in religious life, in forms that range from communion wine to Kahlua cheesecake…

A sampling of 34 cloistered comestibles: “A Guide of Heavenly Cuisine.”

* Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

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As we devour with devotion, we might recall that it was on this date in 1993 that the first “Got Milk?” ad premiered.  Created by the advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners for the California Milk Processor Board, it  was later licensed for use by milk processors and dairy farmers nationwide.  The campaign launched with the now-famous “Aaron Burr” television commercial, directed by Michael Bay.

 

Written by LW

October 29, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Life doesn’t imitate art, it imitates bad television”*…

 

And sometime, good television: full episodes of the frighteningly-prophetic Max Headroom at Dailymotion.com— watch ’em while you can!

* Woody Allen

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As we cope with blipverts, we might recall that it was on this date in 1959 that the legendary Edward R. Murrow aired his 500th and final Person to Person interview (with actress Lee Remick).  The series continued for another two years with Charles Collingwood as host.

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Written by LW

June 26, 2017 at 1:01 am

“There’s no reason that anything should ever become obsolete”*…

 

One newspaper article complained of boys walking into walls while looking through kaleidoscopes; another kvetched about scope users running into cyclists on the street. (The draisienne, or “dandy horse,” a pedal-free precursor to the modern bicycle, had recently been introduced.) Large kaleidoscopes were set up on street corners, where passersby could pay a penny for a peek, and parlor scopes became themust-have accessory for the middle and upper classes…

The extraordinary story of a the kaleidoscope, a technological fad that was, in many ways, a precursors of hot devices of today (and of their effects): “Long before iPhones, this 19th-century gadget made everyone a mobile addict.”

* Rebecca McNutt

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As we watch shapes shift, we might recall that it was on this date in 1951 that the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) televised the one-hour premiere of commercial color television with a program appropriately titled Premiere.

In 1950, there were two companies vying to be the first to create color TVs — CBS and RCA. When the FCC tested the two systems, the CBS system was approved, while the RCA system failed to pass because of low picture quality.  But CBS’s technology had some pretty serious flaws:  it was very expensive, it tended to flicker, and probably most fatally, it was not compatible with the black and white TV set already in American households.  RCA continued to tweak its approach, and ultimately overtook CBS to become the standard setter for color TV in the U.S.

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Written by LW

June 25, 2017 at 1:01 am

“It’s morning in Baltimore, Lester. Wake up and smell the coffee”*…

 

WHERE’S WALLACE? THAT’S ALL I WANNA KNOW…
WHERE THE F*CK IS WALLACE?”

—D’ANGELO BARKSDALE

An interactive homage to what was arguably the best television series ever: “Where’s Wallace.”

* Cedric Daniels (Lance Reddick), to Lester Freamon (Clarke Peters) in “A New Day (episode 11 of season 4), The Wire.

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As we return to Baltimore, we might spare a thought for Jackson DeForest Kelley; he died on this date in 1999.  After a long career paying character parts, largely in Westerns, Kelley was offered the role of half-alien Spock in a proposed sci-fi series being developed by Gene Roddenberry– Star Trek– but declined.  He later reconsidered his involvement and accepted the role of Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy.

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Written by LW

June 11, 2017 at 1:01 am

“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood”*…

 

Back in 2011, on his blog devoted to all things Mister Rogers, neighborhoodarchive.com, Tim Lybarger recorded the color of every sweater Rogers wore in each episode between 1979 and 2001. “When I realized such a resource didn’t exist… I just felt like somebody needed to do it…might as well be me.”…

Dive more deeply into the sartorial habits of a true American hero at “Every Color Of Cardigan Mister Rogers Wore From 1979–2001.”

* Fred Rogers (the first line of the lyrics of his theme song for his series, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood)

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As we agree to be his neighbor, we might recall that it was on this date in 1990 that Americans were invited into a very different kind of neighborhood: NBC premiered Seinfeld.  (In fact, the pilot– with a different title [The Seinfeld Chronicles] and a different female lead [“Claire the waitress” instead of Elaine]– was broadcast in July of 1989; but NBC didn’t pick up the series until the following year.)

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Written by LW

May 31, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Invisible threads are the strongest ties”*…

 

Tommy Westphall was an austistic child on the TV series St Elsewhere who, it was revealed in the closing moments of the final episode of that series, had dreamt the entire run of the show.

What’s this about his Mind?

St Elsewhere has direct connections to twelve other television series – many of them direct crossovers of character to and from the series. Others make mention of specific parts of the St Elsewhere fictional universe, placing them within the same fictional sphere.

So?

If St Elsewhere exists only within Tommy Westphall’s mind, then so does every other series set within the same fictional sphere…

Explore The Tommy Westphall Universe— 419 shows (so far).  A larger version of the chart above and a full list of the constituent series are available there.

* Friedrich Nietzsche

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As we wonder at the wisdom of E.M. Forster’s words, we might recall that it was in this date in 1964 that Another World premiered on NBC.  Produced by Irna Phillips (who parlayed her radio experience into the first day-time soap opera on television, and who was mentor to William J. BellJames Lipton, and the great Agnes Nixon), Another World ran through 35 seasons (8,891 episodes), until June, 1999.  It was the first soap opera to talk about abortion when such subjects were taboo; the first soap opera to do a crossover (with the character of Mike Bauer from Guiding Light, another of Irna’s shows); the first to expand to one hour; the first soap to launch two spin-offs, Somerset and Texas, as well as an indirect one, Lovers and Friends (later renamed For Richer, For Poorer; and the first soap opera with a theme song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, “(You Take Me Away To) Another World” by Crystal Gayle and Gary Morris, in 1987.

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