Fort Lee
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396 pages

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Traces the rise and fall of one of the first film towns in the U.S.

During the 1910s, motion pictures came to dominate every aspect of life in the suburban New Jersey community of Fort Lee. During the nickelodeon era, D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford, and Mack Sennett would ferry entire acting companies across the Hudson to pose against the Palisades. Theda Bara, "Fatty" Arbuckle, and Douglas Fairbanks worked in the rows of great greenhouse studios that sprang up in Fort Lee and the neighboring communities. Tax revenues from studios and laboratories swelled municipal coffers.

Then, suddenly, everything changed. Fort Lee, the film town once hailed as the birthplace of the American motion picture industry, was now the industry's official ghost town. Stages once filled to capacity by Paramount and Universal were leased by independent producers or used as paint shops by scenic artists from Broadway. Most of Fort Lee's film history eventually burned away, one studio at a time.

Richard Koszarski re-creates the rise and fall of Fort Lee filmmaking in a remarkable collage of period news accounts, memoirs, municipal records, previously unpublished memos and correspondence, and dozens of rare posters and photographs—not just film history, but a unique account of what happened to one New Jersey town hopelessly enthralled by the movies.

Distributed for John Libbey Publishing


Introduction. City of Intrigue and Mystery
by Paul Spehr
1. Fort Lee: Legend and Reality
2. Into the Woods
3. Biograph
4. 'The Curtain Pole'
5. Champion
6. Edgewater, Cliffside, Grantwood, Ridgefield ...
7. Éclair
8. Solax
9. Pathé
10. Willat-Triangle
11. Peerless-World
12. Cartoon Department
13. Fox
14. Brenon-Ideal
15. Paragon
16. The Film Town
17. Universal
18. Goldwyn
19. Selznick
20. Fort Lee Talks
21. Why Did the Studios Leave Fort Lee?



Publié par
Date de parution 02 mars 2005
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9780861969425
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 7 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0500€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Richard Koszarski is a member of the Fort Lee Film Commission and Associate Professor of English and Cinema Studies at Rutgers University. His books include An Evening s Entertainment: The Age of the Silent Feature Film and Von: The Life and Films of Erich von Stroheim. He is the 1991 recipient of the Prix Jean Mitry for his contributions to silent film scholarship .
Dedicated to Tom Hanlon and Ted Huff. Who knew that where Fort Lee is concerned, local history and film history are pretty much the same thing .
Richard Koszarski
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Fort Lee: The Film Town
1. Motion picture industry - New Jersey - Fort Lee - History 2. Motion pictures - Production and direction - New Jersey - Fort Lee - History 3. Fort Lee (NJ) - History
I. Title
384.8 0974921
ISBN: 978 0 86196 652 3 (Paperback)
ISBN: 978 0 86196 942 5 (ebook)
Published by
John Libbey Publishing Ltd, 205 Crescent Road, East Barnet, Herts EN4 8SB, United Kingdom e-mail: ; web site:
Distributed Worldwide by
Indiana University Press, Herman B Wells Library-350, 1320 E. 10th St., Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.
2004 Copyright John Libbey Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved. Unauthorised duplication contravenes applicable laws.
Reprinted 2017 without images in colour.
Printed and bound in the United States of America..
Introduction. City of Intrigue and Mystery by Paul Spehr
Chapter 1
Fort Lee: Legend and Reality
Chapter 2
Into the Woods
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
The Curtain Pole
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Edgewater, Cliffside, Grantwood, Ridgefield
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Cartoon Department
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
The Film Town
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Fort Lee Talks
Chapter 21
Why Did the Studios Leave Fort Lee?
Fort Lee and Its Films: Portfolio

T his book, Fort Lee: The Film Town , has been published in conjunction with the film retrospective Fort Lee: The Film Town, 1904-2004 which was seen at the Giornate del Cinema Muto, Sacile, Italy from 9-16 October 2004, and the American Museum of the Moving Image, Astoria, New York, 20 November - 12 December 2004.
The publication of this book has been facilitated by the cooperation of the Giornate del Cinema Muto, and the Fort Lee Film Commission.
Fort Lee: The Film Town was not quite one hundred years in the making, but it may have felt that way for those who contributed so much of their time and energy to various pieces of this project. Special thanks to our very patient publisher, John Libbey, and to:
Alison Abalsamo, Richard Allen, Jack Alter, Rita Altomara, Mary Lea Bandy, Jennifer Bean, Jim Beckerman, Lucille Bertram, Stephen Bottomore, Robert and Mary Boylan, Ben Brewster, Kevin Brownlow, Elaine Burrows, Bruce Calvert, Anne Carr , Jared Case, Kevin Cerragno, Maryann Chach, Pierre Courtet-Cohl, James Cozart, Stacy D Arc, Al Dettlaff, Dennis Doros, Karen Latham Everson, Andrew Farkas, Barbara Hall, Patrick Hammer, Stephen Higgins, Len Iannaccone, Diane Koszarski, Anthony L Abbate, Pei-Hua Lee, Kevin Lewis, Joseph Licata, Patrick Loughney, Ron Magliozzi, Karl and Rick Malkames, Cindy Mamary, Scott Manginelli, Mike Mashon, Madeline Matz, Alison McMahon, Linda Mehr, Russell Merritt, Eric Nelson, Dana Nemeth, David Pierce, David Reese, Herbert Reynolds, David Schwartz, David Shepard, Charles Silver, Anthony Slide, Paul Spehr, Casey Stumm, Catherine Surowiec, Paul Spehr, Julie Tibbott, Edward Wirth, Caroline Yeager, Joe Yranski.
And fellow members of the Fort Lee Film Commission, 2000-2004:
Louis Azzollini, Donna Brennan, Thomas Meyers, Steve Monetti, Kay Nest, Nelson Page, Marc Perez, Armand Pohan and Loretta Weinberg.
Richard Koszarski
Introduction. City of Intrigue and Mystery
Paul Spehr
F ort Lee, New Jersey is the town with the bridge and it is not just any bridge. It is The George Washington Bridge and it is large, impressive, important and busy - very busy. When jammed with traffic, as it often is, commuters curse and revile it, but it has its admirers. Le Corbusier called it the most beautiful bridge in the world. It connects northern New Jersey to Manhattan Island, providing access to the city for thousands of Jerseyites, and access to New Jersey and points beyond for people from New York. More than that it carries Interstate 95, the main artery connecting Maine to Florida and one of America s busiest thorough-fares. Each day thousands and thousands and thousands of cars, truck and busses carry a seemingly endless stream of people and goods through Fort Lee. The opening of the bridge in 1931 changed the small town forever. It was removed from the margins of suburban New York and put squarely into the mainstream. Easy access to the city brought commuters and gave birth to high-rise apartment buildings in which the most fortunate (and prosperous) have an unequaled view down the majestic expanse of the Hudson River to the skyline of Manhattan.
Today, as it celebrates its centennial, Fort Lee is a crossroads for many, a bedroom for a few and, for some, a place of employment. The once predominantly blue collar town has grown to a small city of more than 30,000 people, a heterogeneous community with diverse backgrounds and occupations. Recent emigrants from Europe, Asia and Latin America live near the descendants of families who were in Fort Lee when it was incorporated in 1904. Sushi and croissants co-exist with that great New Jersey tradition, the Diner (and Fort Lee has one of the best!). The newcomers are attracted not only by the convenient commute, but by the mix of urban amenities, small town convenience and near-by green spaces, particularly the large park that borders the Palisades north of the city.
Although it is an attractive residential and business community, not many of the thousands passing through it would call Fort Lee a place of mystery and intrigue, of fantasy and illusion. Most of them have little idea that drama and comedy were the town s major commodity during its first two decades, or that the bridge and the network of highways connected to it slice through an area that was once the location of a dozen or so busy movie studios. Comedy, tragedy, suspense and melodrama were the daily business of those studios and fulfilling the appetites of a growing audience of movie enthusiasts was their particular concern. Although not all the studio names are familiar today, several of Hollywood s major companies trace at least part of their beginnings to Fort Lee. Readers of this book will find chapters on Fox, Universal, Goldwyn, and Selznick. Productions made for Metro and Famous Players-Lasky (distributed through Paramount) were also made here. Many legends of the pioneer years, people who shaped American cinema, worked there: Griffith, Pickford, Bitzer, the Gish sisters, Blach , Loos, Marion, Tourneur, Fairbanks, Walsh, Dwan, Sennett, Arbuckle, Bara, Brenon, the Talmadge sisters, the Barrymores and many, many others. They were the names and faces that made the movies the movies.
The era when the studios were busy on a daily basis ended during the 1920s but movies continued to be a part of the town s commerce. As the character of the town changed, the memory of its former eminence faded, remembered only as a legacy of the past. This was particularly true in the years after World War II when the town s character changed dramatically.
Restoring a forgotten history
The communities of Northern New Jersey have an identity problem. The millions of tourists visiting New York City stay in Manhattan, and except for the sports facilities in East Rutherford, there is little to lure them - or residents of New York - across the river. Outsiders have only vague, often misleading notions of what the communities in Jersey are like and certain negative images have persisted beyond their time - a curious, difficult to understand accent; mobsters burying their dead in the trash and garbage mounds of the meadowlands or the rioting that scarred Newark in the 1960s. And, in truth, many of the towns that commuting outsiders see are hard to tell apart because they run together in confusing succession. They line an elevated peninsula of rock bordering the Hudson River and continue on the other side of the large marshland (the Meadowlands ) that separates the ridge from New Jersey proper. The communities often appear so much alike that it is no wonder that strangers have a hard time telling which is Hoboken, Union City, or Weehawken; Kearney, North Arlington or Lyndhurst; or Fort Lee, Ridgefield and Palisades Park.
But if the communities of suburban and ex-urban New Jersey seem to lack glamor, the movies have it to spare and Fort Lee once had movies to spare. Politicians and civic leaders hoping to lure tourist dollars and shore-up the local image periodically rediscover Fort Lee, the Hollywood that once was; their revived interest is often stimulated by nostalgic newspaper articles, a number of which are reproduced here.
While the interest of local leaders has fluctuated, there have been a number of resident devotees whose genuine interest in the area s role as a center of film production have contributed to preserving New Jersey s film

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