Friday, May 26, 2017

Born Today May 26: Arthur Marvin


Silent cinematographer Arthur Weed Marvin was born on this day in Warners, New York (for some reason the year of his birth is erroneously cited as being 1861 in a minority of sources). He was a camera operator at Biograph and he was the brother of Harry Marvin, the inventor of the Biograph camera and one of the founders of the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company.  The very first film that he operated that camera on was A Bowery Cafe' in 1897; it was a short narrative film--which was the vision that the founders of the company had for their films.  Despite the narrative focus, very many of the films that Arthur shot were newsreel documentaries, possibly to field test the camera itself.   The first of these was The Christian Herald's Relief Station, Havana in 1898.  During 1899, he spent considerable time making a series of shorts featuring heavy weight boxing champion James Jeffries.  Also in 1899, he tested the camera in series of on-location shoots in the St. Clair Tunnel located in Michigan.  He would make his directorial debut in 1900 with the first known film adaptation of a Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with Sherlock Holmes Baffled.  Toward the end of his life, he would go on to shoot a few very early D. W. Griffith films, when Griffith was hired by Biograph.  Probably the best known of these is The Adventures Of Dollie, which happened to be Griffith's directorial debut.  The last film that he shot was Priscilla's Engagement Ring, a 1911 film featuring Mack Sennett. Marvin died on the 18th of January 1911 at the age of 51.  He died in Los Angeles, making him one of the earliest cinematographers to make the "film migration" out to the west coast.   He body was shipped back to New York, where he is buried in the Calvary Cemetery in Queens.  The next year, his nephew (Harry's son) lost his life aboard the Titanic, a tragic event that he thankfully didn't live to witness.  

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