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The Pizarro brothers and Perú

Gonzalo, another Pizarro brother / year8ttincas.wikispaces.com

Gonzalo, another Pizarro brother / year8ttincas.wikispaces.com

Francisco Pizarro was born in 1475 in Extremadura in western Spain, when that country was even more powerful than France. He became a conquistador and an important explorer. He started the adventures that took him half way round ther world by joining Vasco Nuñez de Balboa’s expedition across what is now Panama, eventually discovering the Pacific in 1513. (more…)

The twelve basic tenses in English (British or American)


I work  =  I work hard all day



I worked  =  I worked hard all last year.



I will work  =  I will work hard after I have finished my exams.


Present Continuous or Present Progressive: (made with the verb TO BE)

I am working  =  I am working at the moment on a nuclear project.


Present Perfect: (made by using the vern TO HAVE; this tense indicates a mixture of the past and the present)

I have worked  =  I have worked hard all my life.


Past Perfect: (a sense of something that is now in the past, but no longer exists)

I had worked  =  I had worked hard all my life until I retired.


Future Perfect: (a sense of something that lies in the future, but that also has roots in the past and present, always used with the main verb in the past participle – worked)

I will have worked  = I will have worked hard all my life even when I am too old to work . . . because I love work!


Present Perfect Continuous (use of the verbs To HAVE and TO BE plus the main verb. A sense of the present, past and future in a continuous manner):

I have been working  =  I have been working for a considerable time on this project.


Past Perfect Continuous (something that was continuous, but which had to stop)

I had been working for months on the project, but last year I was forced to retire from it!


Future Perfect Continuous (the same as the Future Perfect, but with a continuous sense):

I will have been working on this project for twenty years by this time next year.

(a sense of someone looking back over the last 19 years, while still working, and looking forward to another year’s work, after which the 20 years will be completed)

SPECIAL NOTE:  The Conditional tense is made by adding the word would:-

I would work all the time if I had a job.

I would be working if only I could find a job

I would have been working hard all day if I had not been so lazy!

I would have worked very well as a public relations officer.


Another special note:-  The –ing suffix indicates the Present Participle of the verb: working. The –ed suffix indicates the Past Participle of the verb: worked.


Transitive: Transitive verbs are those which require to be followed by a direct object: example:- These verbs are bloody difficult.  You could not say ‘these verbs are’

The direct object is ‘bloody difficult’.

Powerful women in history: the Empress Dowager Cixi

The Dowager Empress Cixi of China / en.wikipedia.com

The Dowager Empress Cixi of China / en.wikipedia.com

She was the real ruler in China from 1861 – 1908. She was intelligent, literate, well able to express herself, and able in all matters. She did not like foreigners and said so. She was also the only woman to exercise true power within the Quing Dynasty which ruled China from 1644 to 1912. They were originally Manchus, a hunting tribe from ther north-east, It was the Quing who extended China’s control to Mongolia, Tibet and part of Turkestan. None of these had been a part of China under the Mings (1368 – 1644). The Quings were the first to hold Tibet. (more…)

Disasters waiting to happen: Marcus Licinius Crassus

Olivier plays Crassus in the film Spartacus / morphsplace.com

Olivier plays Crassus in the film Spartacus / morphsplace.com

Crassus was not the first man to combine business with politics and, through lack of foresight, or because he was too proud to think, come a terrible cropper. He was born around 115 BC, both parents patrician. Naturally he went into the Roman army.

Still a young and inexperienced officer, he supported Lucius Cornelius Sulla during a civil war between Sulla and Gaius Marius. When the latter seized the city of Rome in 87 BC, Crassus vanished as fast as he could, but came back to help Sulla take power in 82. Historians agree that the origin of Crassus’ hatred of Pompey lie in the latter’s clear preference for Sulla. (more…)

Disasters waiting to happen: General Gordon


Gordon meets his end at Khartoum / dailymail.co.uk

Gordon meets his end at Khartoum / dailymail.co.uk

Charles George Gordon was born in 1833. When his father discovered that the boy was wilful, obstinate, brave, selfish and over-fond of himself, he decided to send him to rough schools which would smooth things out a bit. They did not. His qualities seemed to indicate the Army, so to the Army he went.

When the Crimean War started in 1853 Gordon was already a junior field officer, and he distinguished himself at Sebastopol for being brave, wilful, obstinate etc. Later he took part in the second Opium War, and was present at the occupation of Pekin (we must learn to say Beijing) in 1860. As Gordon was annoyed with the ancient Empress of China, who had shown no interest in the murder of European missionaries, and less in the assassination of the German consul, and whose ministers had orchestrated the two opium wars anyway, Gordon decided to burn the Summer Palace to the ground, which he did. This act did not do either Gordon or Britain much good, and was to be remembered by the Chinese. (more…)

Disasters waiting to happen: Nuffield


Morris, who became Lord Nuffield / bbc.co.uk

Morris, who became Lord Nuffield / bbc.co.uk

William Richard Morris Nuffield started off well, but ended as the man who almost singlehandedly destroyed the British car industry. I don’t suppose this was his intention, but he did, helped by his opposite number at the Rootes Group.

In the 1950s, Britain had a long line of prosperous carmakers, famous for the typical British design, safety, elegance and comfort. The names of these motor cars filled two columns on a double page spread in Motor Magazine. Now only Morgan, LandRover, Jaguar and Aston-Martin and perhaps Bristol remain British and independent. Rolls-Royce and Bentley are German. The Mini is German. Vauxhall is American, and designed by Opel. Nuffield is solely responsible for the loss of Austin, Morris, Wolseley, Riley, MG & Rover (he started the rot here). Jaguar survived, though it was briefly a Ford. Here is how the disaster happened. (more…)

Humour: tall tales


Madame Charles de Gaulle

Paul Johnson tells us that when General de Gaulle at last decided to retire to his small chateau at Colombey-les-deux-Églises, he and his wife threw a small party to celebrate. Several distinguished journalists were invited, among them a few English reporters. During the conversation, an English lady reporter asked the General’s lady what she most looked forward to now that the general and ex-president of France had retired. “A penis,” said Madame. Silence fell around the table. The general leaned forward tutting. “Your pronunciation, cherie,” he said, not without benevolence; “I sink you mean ‘appiness, no?” (more…)

Great War Commanders: General Allenby

Allenby’s chief claim to fame, though he would not have liked my reminding him of it, was that for a time he was Laurence of Arabia’s commanding officer. This was not easy for anyone, and Edward Allenby’s notoriously bad temper was always on a short fuse: as a Field Marshall he was known throughout the ranks as ‘The Bull’ on account of his great size and violent nature. (more…)

What were ‘The Roaring Twenties’?

'Flappers' / familysecuritymatters.orgThe evocative phrase comes from America, of course, and refers to a period of unparalleled prosperity (for some). Industrial production doubled.  American politicians had almost finished their self-imposed task of bankrupting Britain and dismantling its empire (it would require another World War to finish the job). It was the time of a huge economic boom accelerated by the new mass market for consumer goods, or gaudy advertising that actually sold the product. The automobile factories worked three eight hour shifts.

There were 8 million autos on the roads of the USA in 1920; 23 million by 1930. In that year one in every five Americans owned a motor car. The electrical industry moved by hydro-electric plants and steam turbines forged ahead. Consumption of electricity in the home doubled as domestic appliances – irons, toasters, refrigerators (5000 a year made in 1920: one million a year in 1930), electric fry pans, mixers and blenders – were plugged in kitchens often not big enough to find room for them all.

Radio or wireless, hardly existent in 1920 became super-important, and with it came radio stars with obscene wages and the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), as the first national network in 1926, closely followed a year later by the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). In 1930 40% of US families had a radio, and they listened to it hour by hour.

Another new industry was aviation, following the first non-stop solo flight over the Atlantic to Irelandby a pilot with film star looks called Lindbergh. Newly set-up American airlines with (formerly) famous names like TWA (Trans-World Airlines) were carrying half a million passengers by the end of the decade. The construction industry changed the skyline of America with buildings with deep foundations that soared upwards to over twenty storeys. They were called, not unpoetically, ‘skyscrapers’. Manhattan and Los Angeles excelled in this new mode of living and office working. The electric elevator was installed in buildings with steel-frame construction.

This huge economic development brought in high employment (unemployment never rose above 5%),there were ever rising wages for all classes, and a great increase in bank credit, with a wicked invention called ‘Hire-Purchase’, or ‘Live Now Pay Later’ encouraging workers to sign away their working lives.

With the bigger wage packets came more leisure, especially at picture palaces or cinemas, as the Hollywood film industry converted ordinary humans into the New Gods, like Charlie Chaplin (left). Dozens of newspapers sprang open in every city. Fortunes were being made (and lost). Going to the movies when you were not glued to the radio became a national pastime.

Even greater crowds than before watched sport in bigger and bigger stadiums. Boxers, baseballers and basketball players became household names. Jazz, which had originated in New Orleans among black musicians, spread right across the country and was taken up by white musicians too. Tap-dancing using special shoes became the rage, though it was difficult and required hours of training.

But the Roaring Twenties were also the cause of a general drop in traditional codes of behaviour. Young women no longer met young men in the security of their home with Mother looming and Father grimacing. They met in cars, and ‘necking’ became popular and rife, frequently extending into something more serious. The uninhibited nature of the jazz dances contributed a great deal to a new immorality, or freedom, depending on your point of view.

Women began to reject their former ‘standards’ and conventional restrictions, especially in their appearance. Skirts grew shorter, every woman wore flaming lipstick. Some women even drank and smoked in public! What a shock! But they had seen it on the big screen, so it was  ‘OK’. Actually, women’s emancipation was slow and uncompleted. Women played little or no part in politics. Most girls in their twenties did not have sex before marriage, and if they did it was with a fiancé. Few women broke into all-male professions such as medicine and law.

The Roaring Twenties taught America, especially rustic America, how backward it was! It was also the epoch of the big-time gangster and gangland slaughter on unprecedented scale. In  rural districts the Ku Klux Klan had five million members. Prohibition (q.v.) arrived, and huge numbers of Americans of every class broke the law daily. Prohibition also boosted the mobsters; Chicago, Miami and New York became dangerous places to live and work. Al Capone (left) seemed to ‘own’Chicago.

Not everyone benefited by the tremendous boom: farming was depressed, and manpower was less as the young people headed for the big city, anxious to leave the wide-open-spaces to the snakes. Inequality, between men and women, and between black and white, became notoriously worse than before 1920. 60% of families lived during the Roaring Twenties on or below subsistence level. The heedless and moneyed class danced the Black Bottom and the Charleston, while life for the lower classes became bleak indeed. And then suddenly the Twenties were over and the grim Thirties took their place, with a second world conflagration awaiting everybody in 1939.

By | 2012-09-14T09:42:50+00:00 September 14th, 2012|History of the Cinema, Philosophy, US History, World History|0 Comments

Seven (magnificent) Westerns

The Magnificent Seven: all these actors are dead except Horst Buckholtz / blogofmanly.com

The Magnificent Seven: all these actors are dead except Horst Buckholtz / blogofmanly.com

The genre started right at the beginning of movie making with The Great Train Robbery, a silent Western. These mostly imaginary films had a great run right through the Thirties, Forties and Fifties, earning cowboy actors vast sums. One of them made it in both films and television, though it is mostly his horse and his wife who are remembered. I refer to Roy Rogers, Trigger and Dale. (more…)

By | 2012-08-24T07:56:33+00:00 August 24th, 2012|History of the Cinema, US History|0 Comments
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