Saturday, May 19, 2012

Movie Capitol of The World, Chicago? Essanay & Selig Studios

Published on May 19, 2012 by
When Charlie Chaplin came to Chicago in 1914 it was to become a movie star and Chicago was home to two film giants that made the windy city the movie capitol of the world. In this clip we visit the former sites of these two cinematic pioneers; Essanay studios and Selig Polyscope. Together they gave us the first feature films, serials, cowboy films and in 1907 a color Wizard of Oz.

Essanay Studios: 1343-45 West Argyle

Essanay Studios had a list of stars who got their starts at this studio that boarders a cemetery on west Argyle in Chicago's north side. Besides Chaplin Eassanay's other stars included; Gloria Swanson, Francis X. Bushman and Wallace Beery. Bronco Billy was the first western serial and Gilbert M. Anderson the first cowboy hero. From the outside the tall gates in the center of the block give it the look of a studio and then you see the entryway with the Indian heads a little further west. The site is now home to St. Augistine College and was at one time the home of Chicago's WTTW the public TV station.

The picture of Chaplin that begins the clip was taken from St Boniface cemetery just to the south. It's a beautiful spot with many 19th century monuments. Also in this area just a couple of blocks north is a gorgeous old movie theater building the Calo. It now houses a resale shop. We have posted videos of both spots.

Here is a link to an interesting article that gives more background.

There is also this great podcast.

Selig Polyscope Studios:

A little bit south and west from Essanay was the studios of Chicago's other early film pioneer Colonel (self proclaimed) William Selig. Mr. Selig a traveling magician was fascinated by films but unimpressed with what Mr. Edison was doing made his own camera's and projectors. In 1910 Selig released the first Wizard of Oz film (in color). Some of their other films included The Adventures of Kathlyn one of the first cliffhanger serials and a recreation of Teddy Roosevelt's African safari.

The studios took up the entire block at the southeast corner of Western & Irving Pk. Mr. Selig sold the block in 1920 for $400,000. All that remains is the lower half of what is now an apartment building, at 3900 Claremont, shown in this clip.

Here is a link to more information and another podcast.

Eventually both studios were victims of Chicago's brutal winters as by the late teens they had relocated to Hollywood.

The music for this clip is "Batty McFaddin" by Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons "Attribution 3.0"

And we have also posted one of Chaplin's Essanay films "Burlesque of Carmen on MindsiMedia.

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