You’d never guess it, but we owe the rise of Hollywood to the ego of Thomas Edison.
Originally the movie capital was New York and Chicago, and Thomas Edison — whose inventions had helped spearhead the film industry — wanted to create a monopoly that would give him control over distribution, exhibition, and pricing. He called this monopoly “The Trust.” But independent artists wouldn’t have anything of it. So they moved to Los Angeles.
Los Angeles was perfect for film making. The mild climate and sunshine allowed outdoor shoots in fantastic settings, significantly lowering costs of making indoor sets. There was a big and cheap labor market.
Back in New York, German Carl Laemmle delivered a big blow to the movie giant Edison had created. He introduced the star system, a direct contract to “The Trust’s” policy of cloaking actors in anonymity. Laemmle pirated actress Florence Lawrene and mobilized a huge publicity campaign. The “celebrity” was born.
Back in Hollywood, David Horsley established the first studio (The Nestor Film Company), quickly followed by 15 other companies. Then, Cecil B. DeMille (photograph above), Jesse Lasky and Samuel Goldwyn introduced the first feature-length film, “The Squaw Man.” Hollywood’s Golden Era had begun.