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22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, KStJ, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

The Influence of the Movies

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The Influence of the "Movies" is the sixth article of the series American Impressions by Miss Conan Doyle written by Mary Conan Doyle, the first daughter of Arthur Conan Doyle, in the Los Angeles Evening Express on 1 june 1920.

The Influence of the "Movies"

Los Angeles Evening Express
(1 june 1920, p. 26)

[Miss Doyle, daughter of the distinguished English novelist, is writing a series of articles for the Evening Express during her sojourn in Southern California. Her sixth letter appears herewith.]

It is impossible to be in this town any length of time without coming under the spell of the "movies" — this wonderful new art, as yet in its childhood. And it is very noticeable how it completely dominates the older arts.

At present, though, I don't think any "picture" can quite equal the power and thrill of the spoken drama — at its best. But then the old drama has been evolved through centuries, while the "movie" is so new it has hardly found its own true medium yet.

I've seen this in the continual experiments that are being tried in order to see just what can be "got over."

Personally I don't think this art will find its soul until it reaches color. And that will probably come at the psychological moment when all detail-technique has been mastered. But that it is really to be ranked as an art and not merely an amusement is apparent in the great percentage of serious pictures that are produced.

One hears a lot about the educational film too. There was the same movement some time back. In the drama — but it all boils down to the same thing in the end — the public must be entertained first, then, if a little propaganda is slipped to alongside, very good, but it mustn't interfere with the show.

Incidentally, this is going to be a wonderful new form of "registered" inspiration! So far, books, painting and sculpture have been the only arts when the inspiration was caught and pegged down, as it were, and these arts are rather the expression of personality than the personality revealed.

But the actor and musician, who depend on the direct hit all the time, can command technique, had not reckon on giving the same quality of inspiration night after night.

Now the "movie" star gets his best on record all right. The only question is, whether that best is quite such a thrilling one with no audience to work for or respond to.

However, occasionally they get more "audience" than they want. As, for instance, when a tight crowd stands watching an unfortunate youth dangling uncomfortably from a fire escape, and craning his face round, peeved and anvious, in search of the director! At such moments an audience is distinctly out of place.

There is a great scope for a wide international interest in film work. At present a company has just been started to work on radical lines. We are to have foreign scenes acted in the country they belong to, by inhabitants. That will give a true insight into either nations customs and atmosphere.

I think the lines on which the "movie" business is developing is making for good, all around.