Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Fight That Started the Movies: The World Heavyweight Championship, the Birth of Cinema and the First Feature Film by Samuel Hawley

Samuel Hawley has BA and MA degrees in history from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and worked in East Asia as a teacher for two decades before becoming a full-time writer. His nonfiction books include The Imjin War, about Japan's 16th-century invasion of Korea and attempted conquest of China, first published in 2005 and reissued in 2014 (Chinese translation forthcoming); Speed Duel: The Inside Story of the Land Speed Record in the Sixties, now being developed by Company Pictures into a TV miniseries; and I Just Ran: Percy Williams, World's Fastest Human, named one of the five "Best Sports Books of 2011" by the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). Hawley has also written fiction, starting with the novel Bad Elephant Far Stream and continuing with the thriller Homeowner With a Gun, now in development as a feature film. In his latest book, The Fight That Started the Movies. Hawley returns to nonfiction to tell the epic story of how the world's first feature film came to be made.
On March 17, 1897, in an open-air arena in Carson City, Jim Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons fought for the heavyweight championship of the world. The contest was recorded by film pioneer Enoch Rector from inside an immense, human-powered camera called the “Veriscope,” the forgotten Neanderthal at the dawn of cinema history. Rector’s movie of the contest premiered two months later. Known today as "The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight," it was the world’s first feature-length film.

The Fight That Started the Movies is the untold story of Corbett’s and Fitzsimmons’ journey to that ring in Nevada and how the landmark film of their battle came to be made. It reveals how boxing played a key role in the birth of the movies, spurring the development of motion picture technology and pushing the concept of “film” from a twenty-second peephole show to a full-length attraction, “a complete evening’s entertainment,” projected on a screen.

The cast of characters in the tale is rich and varied. There are inventors Eadweard Muybridge, Thomas Edison, William Dickson and Eugene Lauste, figuring out how to photographically capture and reproduce motion. There are the playboy brothers Otway and Gray Latham, who first saw the commercial potential of fight films, and their friend and partner Enoch Rector, who pushed that potential to fruition. There are fighters Jim Corbett with his “scientific” methods of boxing; Bob Fitzsimmons with his thin legs and turnip-on-a-chain punch; hard-drinking John L. Sullivan and the original Jack Dempsey and the gifted but ultimately doomed Young Griffo. There are loud-mouthed fight managers and big-talking promoters, and Wild West legends like Bat Masterson and Judge Roy Bean when the story heads to the Rio Grande river. And finally, there is the audience, our collective ancestors, discovering that movies were more than just a curiosity to gape at, but a new and enduring form of entertainment to rival the theatre.
As much as I am known for my literary fanaticism among very few of my friends I am also favoured for my movie knowledge extraordinaire. Just kidding, I know bits and pieces of the movie history, but not even close to the understanding I wish I had. Now, having read this wonderful, full of facts book, I can safely say it is an ideal match for students of Movie History, as well as for movie lovers from the common public.
This is what I'd love to call the ideal read - well written, easy to read, interesting and informative. It doesn't go hard on you with numerous facts, but rather makes you hunger for more with every page. It is an absolutely captivating read!
Even if you are not a history geek, or even a cinema lover you'll definitely be grabbed by this wonderful, well-researched, and splendidly written read. It throws light on little known( at least to me) historical tidbits and boxers and early movie people. Absolutely, wonderful!5FOXGIVEN