By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin May 11, 2011 at 5:00AM
In the online era it might be difficult for young people to appreciate the role daily and weekly trade journals played in the movie industry way back when.
Looking back, they provided an invaluable document of their time, because they weren’t discussing history: they were making it, day by day, week by week. I was a kid when I started poring over back issues of Motion Picture Herald at the Lincoln Center branch of the New York Public Library and I’ve been hooked ever since. Some months ago I wrote about film historian David Pierce’s groundbreaking Media History Digital Library. Now he’s added a long run of The Film Daily to his archives—from 1922 to 1929, some 22,000 pages in all!
To say that this is a boon to film scholars and buffs would be a mild understatement. Until now, one had to go, in person, to a specialized library to—
—gain access to such magazines. What’s more, many of them are only accessible on microfilm, which is often difficult to read and doesn’t capture the full-color advertising pages that dotted “the trades.”
These digital copies are pristine, and even better, they’re searchable. I prefer browsing, but once you start, it’s almost impossible to stop. We all owe film buff and researcher Karl Thiede a big vote of thanks for loaning his copies of The Film Daily to be scanned.
Here’s what David has to say in his official announcement: “Published six days a week, The Film Daily did not always cover topics in depth, but it is an invaluable resource for following the day-to-day progress of the industry or films in production. Among the treasures from this period are special issues devoted to the 20th anniversary of Carl Laemmle in the film business (2/28/1926), the opening of the Roxy Theater in New York (3/13/1927), Sound Pictures (7/22/1928) and Fox Film Corp. and the opening of Movietone City (6/18/1929).
“The highlight of the magazine is the strong emphasis on short subjects. While most of the other trade magazines treated shorts as space allowed, shorts received regular reviews in The Film Daily, including for many years, a quarterly review of short subject production and releases.”
Highlights from this collection include:
Color advertising sections:
Fox Film Corp. 1923/24 season: (7/8/1923)
Selznick Distributing 1924/25 season: (7/6/1924) - with drawings by illustrator Al Hirschfeld.
Fox Film Corp.: 1928/29 season (5/24/1928)
United Artists Talking Pictures: (2/28/1929)
Fox Talking Features: (6/18/1929)
Educational Pictures: (6/20/1929)
Radio Pictures: (7/15/1929)
This is the second installment of David Pierce’s initiative. You can read more about the Media History Digital Library at mediahistoryproject.org/ , and of course they’d be happy to receive both materials and funds to keep it going. This project was financially supported by an anonymous donation in memory of Carolyn Hauer. Scanning was coordinated by Eric Hoyt, a Ph.D. candidate in the Critical Studies Division of the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. The Media History Digital Library is also thanking Rick Prelinger and Casey Riffel for their assistance with this group of materials. The initial release of materials was scanned from the collections of the Pacific Film Archive Library and Film Study Center.
If you want to know more, you can contact David Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org. Now you’ll have to excuse me, as I’m reading about Irish groups protesting what they considered unfavorable stereotyping in the 1927 MGM comedy The Callahans and the Murphys. There’s so much to learn in these pages!
These advertisements give you an idea of the goodies in store when you start diving into the backlog of The Film Daily.