Fort Lee

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2005-04-01
  • Publisher: John Libbey & Co Ltd
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'The fields and woods around historic Fort Lee, just across the Hudson, are the scene nowadays of a continuous performance of extremely animated, open-air theatricals. On almost any fine day one may enjoy historic pageants, sham battles, tragedies, comedies, and the bill is changed daily. Few motorists are attracted to this region and they, with the native population, form the only audience. The manager of these one-night, or rather, one-day, stands is the moving picture man ...'- New York Times, 19 December 1909Over the next ten years, motion pictures came to dominate every aspect of life in this suburban New Jersey community. During the nickelodeon era, D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford and Mack Sennett would ferry entire acting companies across the Hudson to pose against the Palisades. But as films became longer and more elaborate, permanent studios were occupied by men like Selznick, Goldwyn and Fox. Pearl White still clung from the cliffs, but Theda Bara, 'Fatty' Arbuckle and Douglas Fairbanks now worked in the rows of great greenhouse studios that had sprung up across Fort Lee and the neighboring communities. Tax revenues from studios and laboratories swelled municipal coffers, and even the ferryboats were renamed after Mabel Normand and Mae Marsh.Then, suddenly, everything changed. Fort Lee, the film town, once hailed as the birthplace of the American motion picture industry, was now the industry's official ghost town. Stages once filled to capacity by Paramount and Universal were leased by independent producers or used as paint shops by scenic artists from Broadway. Most of Fort Lee's film history eventually burned away, one studio at a time.Why did the "moving picture men" establish themselves so firmly in Fort Lee in the first place? And what made them change their minds? In Fort Lee: The Film Town, Richard Koszarski recreates the rise and fall of Fort Lee filmmaking in a remarkable collage of period news accounts, memoirs, municipal records, previously unpublished memos and correspondence, and dozens of rare posters and photographs - not just film history, but a unique account of what happened to one New Jersey town hopelessly enthralled by the movies.

Author Biography

Richard Koszarski is Associate Professor of English and Cinema Studies at Rutgers University.

Table of Contents

Introduction - City of intrigue and mystery (by Paul Spehr)
Fort Lee: Legend and reality
Into the woods
'The curtain pole'
Edgewater, Cliffside, Grantwood, Ridgefield
Cartoon Department
The film town
Fort Lee talks
Why did the studios leave Fort Lee?; Fort Lee and its films: Color portfolio
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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