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'A Century Ago': Academy offering screening of films from 1913

Short films from 1913 will be shown in Hollywood on Friday, offering a look at studio films' growing sophistication at the time.

By Susan King

10:00 AM EST, December 6, 2013

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Cinema was in a state of transition 100 years ago. Films and movie audiences were becoming more sophisticated.

On Friday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will explore this seminal time with "A Century Ago: The Films of 1913" at the Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood.

Randy Haberkamp, the academy's managing director for programming, education and preservation, has been presenting these centennial celebrations for the past decade. But this one will be the last where it will primarily be made up of one-reelers — short films that lasted 10 to 12 minutes.

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"There were still a lot of one-reel films being made in 1913," he said, "but there were a lot of two reels, three reels and four reels and even longer in Europe."

Even a century ago, studios were keenly aware of the box office and were in fierce competition with one another. So story lines were more intricate and, added Haberkamp, "production design, locations, props and costumes were more complex." And production in Hollywood continued to grow.

European imports such as the lavish Italian spectacle "Quo Vadis" — admission to the film in New York was a staggering $1 — were also inspiring filmmakers.

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And stars such as Mary Pickford, Mabel Normand, Lillian and Dorothy Gish, "Broncho Billy" Anderson and Norma Talmadge were also driving audiences to the movies.

"People were very aware of actors in the movies," Haberkamp said. "There were fan magazines and motion picture story magazines. There were postcards people would collect and trade pictures of their favorite stars."

Haberkamp will be showing about eight one-reelers Friday evening, including the comedy "Barney Oldfield's Race for a Life," starring Normand and Mack Sennett; a rare D.W. Griffith film, "The Lady and the Mouse," starring Gish; "The Evidence of the Film," in which a film editor solves a crime, and "Suspense," directed by Lois Weber and Phillips Smalley, which uses split-screen to tell its story.

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 He'll also be including highlights from feature-length films such as the infamous "Traffic in Souls," a melodrama about the white slave trade, and the Danish import "Atlantis," which re-created the sinking of the Titanic just a year after the luxury liner hit the iceberg.

Most prints will be in 35-millimeter and are from the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the British Film Institute, EYE Film Institute Netherlands, the Archives Francaises du Film and the Library of Congress.

Michael Mortilla will be providing live musical accompaniment. And the films will be presented on a 1909 hand-cranked Powers Model 6 Camergraph Motion Picture Machine, restored and cranked by Joe Rinaudo.

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'A Century Ago: The Films of 1913'

Where: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Linwood Dunn Theater, 1313 Vine St., Hollywood

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Price: Sold out, but there will be a standby line.

Information: http://www.oscars.org 

susan.king@latimes.com

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