Porter and Griffith: The Early Social Drama

Uncle Tom’s Cabin
R: Edwin S. Porter. P: Edison Manufacturing Co. USA 1903

The Ex-Convict
R: Edwin S. Porter. P: Edison Manufacturing Co. USA 1904

“An uncredited but quite obvious adaptation of a well-known vaudeville piece, Number 973, by Robert Hilliard and Edwin Holland. Starting from the Hilliard-Holland one-act playlet, Porter visualized the storyline into a total of eight scenes. Unlike Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Ex-Convict was not filmed theater but an adaptation that took advantage of the filmmaker’s ability to place a scene in an appropriate location (outside a store, home, or factory, and on the street) and to move quickly from one setting to the next. The naturalistic locales and the accelerated pace heightened the emotional intensity of the viewer’s reaction to the pathetic story, achieving a level of realism impossible on the stage. In the process of adaptation, Porter also added important new elements, notably the ex-convict’s family.”

The Kleptomaniac
R: Edwin S. Porter. P: Edison Manufacturing Co. USA 1905

“Historians since Terry Ramsaye have remarked on Porter’s articulation of social problems in The Ex- Convict and The Kleptomaniac (January 1905). These two features were part of a larger group of films, made between November 1904 and December 1905, that directly and indirectly confronted significant social issues in American life. Despite a shift away from actualities, Porter continued to conceive of cinema as a form that could inform and instruct as well as entertain. His films were still linked, albeit less directly, to the concept of a visual newspaper, for he focused on problems raised in the antitrust editorials and political cartoons of the New York Journal-American and the New York World . These pictures, which represented one of several ideological positions evident in American popular and mass culture, were the most ambitious cinematic expressions from this period.
Although several Porter/Edison films, if viewed separately, are ideologically consistent with then emerging trends of Progressive thought, as a body of work they express the often contradictory worldview of the old middle class and small-town America confronted with an era of large-scale manufacturing and monopoly capital. In short, these films remained consistent with Porter’s own experience of America while growing up in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, and with a viewpoint expressed twenty years earlier in his hometown newspaper, ‘The Keystone Courier’.”
Charles Musser: Before the Nickelodeon. Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company.Berkeley / Los Angeles / Oxford 1991, p. 292

What Shall We Do With Our Old?
R: David Wark Griffith. D: W. Chrystie Miller. P: Biograph. USA 1911

TRAUM UND EXZESS, S. 136 und S. 218 f.