The "Wid's" article bypassed more than an entire decade separating Thomas L. Tally's initial exhibitions from the arrival of the Selig unit on the West Coast. In truth, much had happened in
The "Wid's" article also failed to mention the many early short documentary films or "actualities" shot in
It was the Miles Brothers--Harry, Herbert, and Earl C.--of San Francisco who took the first step toward California production. The Ohio-born brothers had entered the cinema field by exhibiting films in Alaska during the Gold Rush. Then in San Francisco during the summer of 1902, they became a major force in the industry when they established a film exchange, the first in the United States. Soon, from buying, exhibiting and renting to fellow distributors films made by others, the brothers graduated to producing their own films. They became well-known for the quality of their actuality films at a time when audiences were enthralled by these cinematic opportunities to vicariously visit distant places, much as moviegoers a half century later would be thrilled by Cinerama. As Geoffrey Bell noted in his history of early Bay Area filmmaking, "The Golden Gate and the Silver Screen," the actualities shot by the Miles Brothers were particularly innovative. Instead of utilizing a static camera, wrote Bell, "the Miles team began to use the camera lens as the eye of a moving spectator." In "A Trip Down Mt. Tamalpais," for example, the camera was mounted in front of the train descending from the Marin County peak, revealing panoramas of the valley and the bay that captivated the spectators of the day. "A Trip Down Market Street," shot in April of 1906 with the camera mounted on a trolley car, used one continuous take in a full reel of film to provide a vivid depiction of San Francisco's bustling thoroughfare. Historian David Kiehn, who identified the film as a Miles Brothers production, also discovered through his research that Harry Miles put his technical ingenuity to good effect by equipping the camera with a thousand foot magazine capable of shooting the entire journey down the long street without need of reloading.
As popular as the actualities were with audiences, filmmakers were confronted with a fresh challenge when, one year after the Miles Brothers opened their exchange, Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Company took the American cinema in a new direction with the highly innovative and tremendously popular narrative films, "The Life of an American Fireman" and "The Great Train Robbery." The increasing production of dramatic one-reel films that followed in the wake of these 1903 successes led to the opening of thousands of nickelodeons across the country within the next few years, beginning in 1905. Intent on making their own narrative films, the Miles Brothers by the start of 1906 were in the process of constructing in
Over the next year, the brothers released other actualities, including some very popular prize fight films. However, their wider ambitions for locally produced narrative films in encouragement and opportunities to the pioneer moviemakers trekking westward.
encouragement and opportunities to the pioneer moviemakers trekking westward.
By an irony of history, the same event that retarded the development of production in the Bay Area apparently led directly to
It is unclear how Gove became involved in the new medium of motion pictures shortly after retiring from his political career, although it was a logical evolution of his many active years as a photographer. As with Eadweard Muybridge, his work can be said to link the two arts of photography and cinema. In its
After completing these films, Gove went to
Gove began filming in the south with "The Annual Field Day of the Vaquero Club," an actuality shot on June 10, 1906 in which the mayor of Los Angeles and other dignitaries appeared. The following week, Gove started filming "A Daring Hold-Up in
"A Daring Hold-Up in
In 1907, months before D. W. Griffith joined the company as an actor, George E. Van Guysling was replaced as Biograph's general manager by Jeremiah J. Kennedy. Both Van Guysling brothers then left the film industry for other enterprises. Seymour Tally initially followed his father's lead by becoming an exhibitor and studio executive but eventually left films to devote his time to other interests. Otis M. Gove, however, continued on with his cinematic activities for a number of years. After making "A Daring Hold-Up in
Gove then returned to the East for more filming. In 1907, just before his departure from the firm, he shot a short comedy for Biograph entitled "An Arcadian Elopement" which he filmed on location in