Monday, Apr. 12, 2010

Thomas Edison

Giving Thomas Edison a spot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is somewhat understandable. Edison invented the vitascope, essentially the first true film projector (actually, others invented it, but Edison's company built and marketed the product), in the late 1890s. So in a way, he's the father of the motion picture.

Yet as was often the case with Edison, he became obsessed with competitors. A decade later, under Edison's guidance — he owned many of the patents related to motion-picture technology — the Motion Picture Patents Company came into existence. Composed of all the big film companies and known as the Edison Trust, the MPCC monopoly eventually became such a hindrance to producers and filmmakers that they fled the East Coast and headed to California. Far enough away from Edison's Menlo Park, N.J., headquarters, they were able to make movies without fear of harassment from the trust. Hollywood was born. So, sure, the motion-picture industry owes much love to Thomas Edison for being a complete jerk. For this we gave him a star?