Thus, by the single act of exposing a few of the incidents in which illusions had been created, the picture men robbed themselves of the great sustaining power of mystery. Just so long as the public remained in the dark concerning the technicalities and the mechanics of film making, just so long would it have retained its interest in them. We all have very wholesome respect for everything that we do not understand – the worship of the sun, moon and stars sprang from a great awe of the unknown, But now that astronomy and meteorology have taught us many physical facts concerning our neighbors, we no longer look upon them with the same feverish intensity with which they were formerly regarded.
With the glamour of mystery once removed the pendulum of credulity swung the other way, and the public became so skeptical concerning everything in the way of thrills which appeared upon the screen, that scenes of this nature became a drug upon the market. Nobody would dare to admit that he believed a spectacular stunt to be real, for fear of bringing down the ridicule of the initiated upon his head.
Shorn of the prestige which came with their exhibitions of daring, the actors and actresses who had made them their stock and trade find it necessary to turn to other things. As a result, most of the players have abandoned this form of acting, with a few exceptions, in which cases the players actually risk their lives. In these the public has learned to lay faith, and that is probably the reason for their survival. Their number, however, is very small, and this field is almost limited to Helen Holmes, of the Mutual Company, and Helen Gibson, of Kalem.
It is only natural that the stage stars, when they become motion-picture players, should have been presented in plays which embodied nothing of the thrill variety. The line of demarcation must be clearly drawn between these players and those who had been film favorites since the beginning, in order to more forcibly stamp upon the minds of the public the fact that the introduction of these celebrities meant a new era in film production. Moreover, the stars themselves, with few exceptions, would have rebelled at the idea of casting aside all the art which their experience on the stage had developed in order to provide shivers for the public.
So the powerful dramas which had proven successful on the stage, were adapted to the requirements of the screen, and the stellar roles were entrusted in many cases to those who had made them famous on the stage. The appearance of these stars, and the presentation of well-known plays on the screen, attracted a new audience to the motion-picture theater – those who had previously scorned the “movies,” as they were pleased to call them with contempt.
But there were very few houses which were suitable for the presentation of these bigger pictures, and into which newcomers were willing to go, and, as a natural result, “legitimate” theaters were taken by the film men for the exploitation of these features. As the consequence of this step, enterprising men foresaw that the movie picture was more than a passing fancy, and realized that the business was gradually molding into permanent form, invested millions in the erecting of great motion-picture playhouses or renovated suitable theaters.
Hence, it may truthfully be said that the progress of the film industry has been due to natural and healthy growth, in which film, theater, and public have all reacted one upon the other in gradually building up new standards, and in advancing the ideals of the producers.