Flickering Empire

How Chicago Invented the U.S. Film Industry

Michael Glover Smith and Adam Selzer

Wallflower Press

Flickering Empire

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Pub Date: January 2015

ISBN: 9780231174497

240 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $25.00£21.00

Pub Date: January 2015

ISBN: 9780231174480

240 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $75.00£63.00

Pub Date: January 2015

ISBN: 9780231850797

240 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $24.99£21.00

Flickering Empire

How Chicago Invented the U.S. Film Industry

Michael Glover Smith and Adam Selzer

Wallflower Press

Flickering Empire tells the fascinating yet little-known story of how Chicago served as the unlikely capital of American film production in the years before the rise of Hollywood (1907–1913). As entertaining as it is informative, Flickering Empire straddles the worlds of academic and popular nonfiction in its vivid illustration of the rise and fall of the major Chicago movie studios in the mid-silent era (principally Essanay and Selig Polyscope). Colorful, larger-than-life historical figures, including Thomas Edison, Charlie Chaplin, Oscar Micheaux, and Orson Welles, are major players in the narrative—in addition to important though forgotten industry titans, such as "Colonel" William Selig, George Spoor, and Gilbert "Broncho Billy" Anderson.

Long overdue...

Chicago Tribune

An exceptional new book... that immediately joins the ranks of essential film references

Chicagoist

[Flickering Empire] is a goldmine for popular culture historians and early-film buffs.... Recommended.

Choice

A fascinating read from beginning to end.

The Midwest Book Review
Acknowledgements
Foreword, by Susan Doll
Persons Discussed in Flickering Empire
Preface: Hollywood Before Hollywood
Part 1. Thomas Edison, Invention and the Dawn of a New Chicago
1. Edison's Kinetoscope and Pre-Motion-Picture Entertainment
2. The Columbian Exposition
3. The Dawn of Exhibition
Part 2. Chicago Rising
4. Colonel William Selig
5. George Spoor, George Kleine, and the Rise of the Nickelodeon
6. Gilbert "Broncho Billy" Anderson
7. The Edison Trust
Part 3. The Golden Age of Chicago Film Production
8. The Golden Age of Essanay
9. The Golden Age of Selig Polyscope
10. Essanay Signs Charlie Chaplin
11. Chaplin in Chicago: His New Job
Part 4. It All Came Crashing Down
12. The Decline of the Chicago Studios
13. Major M. L. C. Funkhouser and the Chicago Censorship Code
Epilogue
Post-Script: Oscar and Orson
Appendix A: Selig Polyscope's Pointers on Picture Acting
Appendix B: A Complete List of the Extant Chicago-Shot Films Named in This Book and Where to See Them
Appendix C: Some Censored Scenes of Chicago Films Noted in Local Newspapers
Endnotes
Index

Read the chapter, "Essanay Signs Charlie Chaplin":

About the Author

Michael Glover Smith is an independent filmmaker whose most recent films, At Last, Okemah! (2009) and The Catastrophe (2011), have won multiple awards at film festivals across the United States. He has taught film history and aesthetics at Oakton Community College, Triton College, Harold Washington College, and the College of Lake County, and lectures at Northwestern University and Facets Multimedia.

Adam Selzer lives in Chicago and is a tour guide and the author of several books on history and folklore, including The Smart Aleck's Guide to American History.