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Monday, January 02, 2006

BLACKTON, James Stuart

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Born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England  January 5, 1875
Died in Los Angeles, CA August 13, 1941


Pioneer Filmmaker

Bio Summary

James Stuart Blackton,  was a cartoonist for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and did a brisk business in a vaudeville act called Lightning Sketches, where the cartoonist draws as he lectures. Mostly crude ethnic jokes. He sometimes did his act in a dress as Madamoiselle Stuart.

In 1900 the Eagle sent him to interviewand draw the great inventor Thomas Edison at his Menlo Park Lab. Once talking to Edison, they got on to the subject of making animated zoetrope trickfilms to be photographed onto the new motion picture film. Blackton talked to Edward Muybridge first, then tired a brief experiment called The Enchanted Drawing, where some of his lightning sketches moved. Later in 1906 He made Humorous Phases of Funny Faces for Edison, then more films like Lighting Sketches and the Haunted Hotel.

He was a co-founder of Vitagraph Motion Picture Company. He not only ran the company, he produced, directed wrote and starred in the films as well. He played the comic strip character "Happy Hooligan" in a series of shorts. He made a fortune when he sold Vitagarph to Warner Bros, lost it all in the Stock Market Crash of 1929. In 1941, a poor vagrant, he was hit by a bus on Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles and was killed. In his memoirs he neglected to mention that he had invented animation.

Early Life/Family


Career Outline

Comments On Style



Blackton was quite a character. He started an early film fanzine- Motion Picture World, faked a "live newsreel" of Admiral Dewey and the battle of Manila Bay using toyboats, sparklers and cigarsmoke. No one had ever seen a live on the spot news film so he got away with it. As a one man band at Vitagraph, he was free to experiment and try new ideas. This sense of innovation led him to create the animated film.





Related Links

A-HAA: Biography: James Stuart Blackton
Wikipedia Entry for J. Stuart Blackton

Bibliographic References

Contributors To This Listing
Tom Sito, Graphic Answers

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