The Crystal Ball

August 15, 2010 at 6:19 am (General blather)

Pauline Frederick knows all and sees all. But sorry… no predictions from her.

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A number of prominent figures in the silent era made bold predictions about the future. Some of them were right on the money. Others, well… not so much.

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“The time will come, and in less than ten years… when the children in the public schools will be taught practically everything by moving pictures. Certainly they will never be obliged to read history again.”

(D. W. Griffith, in a 1915 article written for The Editor magazine, reprinted in Richard Dyer MacCann, The Silent Screen, page 16.)

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“The territory around Los Angeles has been filmed to death. Here in the East are all the properties and the background, interior or exterior, that we require for luxurious settings.

“In the future I can’t see any other center possible for the picture producer who seeks the best of everything to score artistic successes.”

(D. W. Griffith, speaking from his new studio in Mamaroneck, New York. Quoted in Diana Altman, Hollywood East: Louis B. Mayer and the Origins of the Studio System, page 118.)


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“Mark what I say. If a law is not passed barring children from attendance at motion pictures that have not been sanctioned by a board devised for that purpose, then the motion picture industry will die.”

(Erich von Stroheim, interviewed in Classic, September 1922, page 82.)

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“No. I am not going to marry anybody. I don’t think a woman in my position has any right to marry. I never expect to marry while I am on the screen.”

(Norma Shearer, interviewed by Adela Rogers St. Johns, “‘I’m Not Going to Marry,’ Says Norma Shearer,” Photoplay, May, 1927. Shearer married Irving Thalberg on September 29, 1927.)

The newlyweds return from their belated European honeymoon. May 8, 1928.

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“Within the next year… we shall see some full-length talking pictures of more than passing merit– and from 1930 on, silent movies will be as obsolete as Model T Fords.”

(Robert Sherwood, writing in June 1928, cited by Scott Eyman, The Speed of Sound, pg. 178.)

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“I do not believe the present talking-picture craze is more than public curiosity in a novelty. It is a novelty and a badly-done one. I prophecy they will not last more than four or five months.”

(United Artists president Joseph Schenck, quoted in Exhibitors Herald, 8/18/28, page 19.)

An outing to Catalina Island on July 24, 1936. In the future for this foursome: Joseph Schenck (left) was a decade away from a prison term on a tax rap. Merle Oberon was about seven months away from a serious auto accident. Norma Shearer’s new film Romeo and Juliet was a month away from its world premiere; her husband Irving Thalberg had less than two months to live.

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“The talking picture has its place, as has color photography, but I do not believe it will ever replace the silent drama any more than I believe color photography will replace entirely the present black-and-white.”

(Irving Thalberg, unattributed quote in Diana Altman, Hollywood East, page 154.)

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“Television is not a thing of the future! Another year will see it alongside radio in the home.”

(Mary Pickford, quoted in “The Real Reason Mary Pickford Turned to Radio,” in Radio Mirror, December 1934.)

Waiting for the television revolution: Mary Pickford at a rehearsal for her radio program Mary Pickford and Company. November 17, 1934.

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– – – Christopher Snowden


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