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Overview (3)

Date of Birth 5 January 1875Sheffield, Yorkshire [now South Yorkshire], England, UK
Date of Death 13 August 1941Los Angeles, California, USA  (hit by a bus)
Birth NameJames Stuart Blackton

Mini Bio (2)

J. Stuart Blackton came to the US with his family from Sheffield, England, in 1885 at age 10, settling in New York. He became friends with Albert E. Smith - who later became his business partner and headed Vitagraph Studios - in 1894 and they started a short-lived vaudeville act together. Blackton went to work as a reporter for the "New York Evening World" newspaper, and an interview with Thomas A. Edison one day in 1896 piqued his interest in the film business. He later quit his job at the paper and bought a Kinetoscope projecting machine from Edison. He and his ex-vaudeville partner Smith joined forces and exhibited films all over the city, a venture that proved so profitable they quickly moved from exhibition to production. They made their first film in 1898, The Burglar on the Roof (1898), for release through Edison, but soon became disenchanted with that company (in addition to becoming involved in legal wrangling with it) and began their own company, American Vitagraph, with partner William T. Rock in 1900. Blackton acted in some productions but his main focus was in directing. He eventually left that field and became supervisor of all of the company's productions. He left the company in 1917 to go into independent production. He also worked as a director for hire for many studios, but did a lot of work for Warner Bros. He died in a car accident in California in 1941.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: frankfob2@yahoo.com

In the US from the age of 10, he first worked as a journalist-illustrator for the New York World. Interviewing Thomas A. Edison, he so impressed the inventor with his drawings that Edison suggested he allow some of them to be photographed by the Kinetograph camera. The result was a short film, Edison Drawn by 'World' Artist (1896). Fascinated by the new medium, Blackton bought a Kinetoscope from Edison, went into partnership with a friend, Albert A. Smith, and exhibited films with it. In 1897 they added a third partner, William T. Rock, and the young partners converted the projector into a motion-picture camera and established the Vitagraph Company. They started film production in an open-air studio on the roof of the Morse Building at 140 Nassau Street, New York City. Their first film, The Burglar on the Roof (1898), was about 50 feet long, with Blackton playing the leading role. In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, they produced Tearing Down the Spanish Flag (1898), probably the world's first propaganda film. Smith operated the camera and Blackton was again the actor, tearing down the Spanish flag and raising the Stars and Stripes to the top of a flagpole. Blackton and his partners continued filming fake and real news events, ranging from Spanish-American War footage to coverage of local fires and crimes in New York City. They constantly expanded their activities and soon moved into the world's first glass-enclosed studios, in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Blackton directed most of the production of this early period, including such story films as A Gentleman of France (1905) and Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman (1905), two milestones in the development of the American feature film. Blackton pioneered the single-frame (one turn, one picture) technique in cinema animation, turning out a number of animated cartoons between 1906 and 1910, including the immensely successful Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906), The Haunted Hotel (1907), and The Magic Fountain Pen (1909). He also introduced (in 1908, before Griffith) the close shot, a camera position between the close-up and the medium shot. Like Griffith, he emphasized film editing, setting his films apart from most of the products of this very early period. His film editing was especially noteworthy in his 'Scenes Of True Life' series, a realistic group of films he directed beginning in 1908. Next to Griffith, Blackton was probably the most innovative and creative force in the development of the motion picture art, not only as the director of hundreds of films but also as organizer, producer, actor, and animator. He pioneered the production of two- and three-reel comedies and starred in one such series as a character called Happy Hooligan. Beginning in 1908, he also pioneered the American production of distinguished stage adaptations, including many Shakespeare plays and historical re-creations. When the output at Vitagraph became too heavy for one man to handle, he initiated the system (later to be adopted by Ince) of overseeing the work of several underling directors as production supervisor. In 1917 he left active work with Vitagraph and began independent productions. During WWI, he directed and produced a series of patriotic propaganda films, the most famous of which, and which he also wrote, was The Battle Cry of Peace (1915), based on a hypothetical attack on New York City by a foreign invader. Blackton later went to England, where he directed a number of costume pageants, two of them experiments in color. When Vitagraph was absorbed by Warner Bros. in 1926, Blackton retired. He lost his entire fortune in the 1929 crash and was forced to seek work on a government project in California. Later he was hired as director of production at the Anglo-American Film Company, where he worked until his death. Between 1900 and 1915, Blackton was president of the Vitaphone Company, a manufacturer of record players. In 1915 he organized and became president of the Motion Picture Board of Trade, later known as the Association of Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America. He was also publisher and editor of Motion Picture Magazine, one of America's first film-fan publications.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Anonymous

Spouse (4)

Evangeline Russell (September 1936 - 13 August 1941) (his death)
Helen Stahle (1931 - 12 December 1933) (her death)
Paula Blackton (1906 - 27 March 1930) (her death) (2 children)
Isabelle Mabel MacArthur (1898 - 1906) (divorced) (2 children)

Trivia (6)

Discovered Victor McLaglen in London and took him to Hollywood.
Former President of the Motion Picture Board of Trade
He was the first actor to portray Frederick Opper's comic strip character, Happy Hooligan.
Died in 1941 in Los Angeles several days after he was hit by a bus while crossing a street. He had long since lost whatever money he made during his salad days in the silent era, and died penniless. A friend from those days, director William P.S. Earle, bought a plot in Forest Lawn Cemetery and had Blackton's ashes interred there.
With Albert E. Smith and William T. Rock, formed the pioneering film production company Vitagraph Company of America.

Personal Quotes (1)

[about the early days of the motion picture industry] Picture making can hardly be said to have developed. The art itself is an evolution--its branches developed. Everything was so absolutely new that the first producers had to evolve their own standards.

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