Before Hollywood There was Fort Lee, N.J.: Early Moviemaking in New Jersey
This enormously interesting DVD, produced in cooperation with the Fort Lee Film Commission, is perhaps the most detailed look we shall ever have at early Fort Lee film production, a center of the American film industry when Hollywood was still orange groves. Thomas Hanlon's 1964 documentary Before Hollywood There was Fort Lee, New Jersey uses rare still photographs, almost-complete versions of such films as Edison's Rescued from an Eagle's Nest (1907) and Biograph's The Curtain Pole (1909) and poignant footage from 1935 of the great glass studios in ruins to show the rise and fall of silent filmmaking in the village on the Hudson.
D.W. Griffith's location work in Fort Lee is represented by The New York Hat (1912), featuring Mary Pickford and Lionel Barrymore.
Maurice Tourneur's 1917 feature A Girl's Folly, had not been rediscovered when Hanlon's film was produced, but it's a movie about filmmaking in Fort Lee which uses the then Peerless Studio as background. The whole thing ties together with a pleasant little story co-authored by Tourneur and Frances Marion, then just starting her spectacular screenwriting career.
Director Maurice Tourneur is further represented by an enchanting hour-long feature of 1914, The Wishing Ring, taken in the village environs as well as in the Paragon Studio. What historian Kevin Brownlow has called "its freshness and impish vitality" is hardly diminished by nine decades, and artistically this may be the most accomplished film produced anywhere in the world by 1914. Variety wrote that "the whole atmosphere of the tale is light and as graceful as a minuet and colored with the nicety of a pastel." The tinted print has a charming digital stereo score by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.
Before Hollywood There was Fort Lee, New Jersey (Abridged for This Edition)
The New York Hat
A Girl's Folly (Abridged for This Edition)
The Wishing Ring
Produced for DVD by David Shepard
Mary Pickford, Maurice Tourneur, Lionel Barrymore