Hollywood of the Rockies: Colorado, the West, and America’s FilmPioneers

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Hollywood of the Rockies: Colorado, the West, and America’s FilmPioneers
Series Title:
Hollywood of the Rockies: Colorado, the West, and America’s FilmPioneers
Emrich, David
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Center for Colorado and the West
Publication Date:

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Auraria Library
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Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


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Hollywood of the Rockies: Colorado, the West, and Americas Film Pioneers | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/7/2015 3:54:53 PM] Home Hollywood of the Rockies: Colorado, the West, and Americas Film PioneersHollywood of the Rockies: Colorado, the West, and Americas Film PioneersSubmitted by nwharton on 9-11-2013 07:22 AMAuthor: Michael Spencer Publishing: Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2013. 159 pages. Black-and-white photographs, illustrations, index. 6 x 9. $19.99 paperback. Reviewer: David Emrich Colorado has a rich history of film production that extends back nearly to the very beginning of film technology. Filmmakers documented Denvers Festival of Mountain and Plain in October 1897, barely a year and a half after the first motion picture films appeared in the United States. The films of the festival, shot in front of the state capitol, were seen all over the world. Remarkably, they survive todayunlike more than 80 percent of movies shot in the first thirty years of movie making before Hollywood became the center of the industry. In Hollywood of the Rockies, Colorado, the West and Americas Film Pioneers Michael Spencer recounts the story of these first filmmakers as they traveled through Colorado and began to discover the West. He places the first generation of filmmaking in Colorado within the broader context of Americas early movie history. Many people think movies were always made in California. But between 1894 and 1914, most films were shot east of the Mississippi. The book weaves back and forth between the story of the changing national movie landscape and the four most prominent filmmakers in Colorado: Buck Buckwalter, Broncho Billy Anderson, Tom Mix, and Otis B. Thayer. Buck Buckwalter, a Denver still photographer, produced films from 1902 until 1908 for the Selig Polyscope Company, a major producer of the era. The first great cowboy star, Broncho Billy Anderson, passed through Colorado four different times between 1908 and 1910. Tom Mix, the greatest cowboy star of the 1920s, worked in Colorado with another troupe from the Selig Company in 1911 and 1912. And Otis B. Thayer, someone we would call a truly independent producer today, built four different film companies between 1913 and 1922 in Colorado. Spencer describes both the makers of the films and a few of the films themselves. He shows how these early pioneers not only presented the West to the world, but also how they developed the genre of the Western. One of the frustrations encountered in books about movies is that there is no opportunity to see a clip of the movie that is described. (A perfect use of eBook, even for those of us who prefer reading type on paper rather than on screen.) Personally, I wish Spencer had provided more description of the movies themselves. Spencer, a part-time Denver resident, has written and produced films and network and cable television programs. He takes his story briefly up to changes in the film industry following World War II. Although dozens of films were shot in Colorado from the 1950s to the 1990s, recent years have seen a marked EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanKatherine Lee Bates wrote the lyrics of America the Beautiful after an awe-inspiring trip to the top of Pikes Peak in 1893.


Hollywood of the Rockies: Colorado, the West, and Americas Film Pioneers | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/7/2015 3:54:53 PM] Auraria Library 303-556-4587 1100 Lawrence Street Denver, Colorado 80204 In the News Partners & Donations About Us Contact Us decline in production. The failure of the Colorado legislature to provide the economic structure necessary to compete with almost all other states, as well as Canada and many countries around the world, has eviscerated the Colorado film industry that Spencer describes. The author concludes that the long history of feature filmmaking in Colorado is at a crossroads. This addendum to the core subject of silent filmmaking is a welcome contribution for people like me who are currently in the industry, but it might have been more appropriate if the book had detailed more of the glory years of film production in the state. The author does a good job of telling this history in a concise and reader-friendly manner. The book is well illustrated with photos of Colorado companies as well as Denver movie theatres and national personalities. While Hollywood of the Rockies does include some new research, much is a retelling of what has been written before. That being said, Spencer does give credit to these sources in a Suggested Reading section. As an introduction to early movie making and the role Colorado played in it, it is an enjoyable read. For a quick look at Colorado movie history, search for Colorado Film History2, a five-minute montage of 65 of the more than 400 films shot in Colorado in the last 115 years. v=IwttmjonajY Reviewer Info: David Emrich, whose father started in the business in 1952, is a second-generation Colorado filmmaker. His firm, Postmodern Company, produces documentaries and other media for, among other organizations, the National Park Service and the National Science Foundation; develops corporate content for TV and the web; and designs kiosks, apps, and websites to show clients works. Emrich has contributed to projects that have won national Emmys and an Oscar. He has served on the advisory boards of the Colorado Film Commission and the Colorado Film School, and he is the author of Hollywood Colorado: The Selig Polyscope Company and the Colorado Motion Picture Company