America's First Great Motion Picture Studio

Screen Classics

by Andrew A. Erish

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

298 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 46 b&w photos

  • Hardcover
  • 9780813181196
  • Published: June 2021



For more than a century, the origin story of the American film industry has been that the founders of Paramount and Fox invented the feature film, that Universal created the star system, and that these three companies (along with the heads of MGM and Warner Bros.) were responsible for developing the multi-billion-dollar business we now know as Hollywood. Unfortunately for history, this is simply not true.

Andrew A. Erish's definitive history of this important but oft-forgotten studio compels a reassessment of the birth and development of motion pictures in America. Founded in 1897, the Vitagraph Company of America (later known as Vitagraph Studios) was ground zero for American cinema. By 1907, it was one of the largest film studios in America, with notable productions including the first film adaptation of Les Misérables (1909); The Military Air-Scout (1911), considered to be one of the first aviation films; and the World War I propaganda film The Battle Cry of Peace (1915). In 1925, Warner Bros. purchased Vitagraph and all of its subsidiaries and began to rewrite the history of American cinema.

Drawing on valuable primary material overlooked by other historians, Erish challenges the creation myths marketed by Hollywood's conquering moguls, introduces readers to many unsung pioneers, and offers a much-needed correction to the history of commercial cinema.