Corner In Wheat, A (1909)

14 Feb
Director  D W Griffith
Producer  Blackhawk Films; Biograph Company
Contributors  Linda Arvidson; James Kirkwood; Paul Killiam
Length  13 Minutes
B&W/Color  B&W
UO Library Catalog description:  1 reel, SD, 16mm – Describes the rise and fall of a callous financial manipulator, and the social consequences of his actions.
Call #  FILM Ma170
Genre  Short Film
Rare  No
Copyright status  Public Domain
Physical condition  Great
Oregon-related  No


Contains added sound track with commentary by Paul Killiam and background music; original English titles.

Camera, Billy Bitzer.

Cast, Linda Arvidson, James Kirkwood, Christie Miller, Frank Powell.

Movie synopsis: A greedy tycoon decides, on a whim, to corner the world market in wheat. This doubles the price of bread, forcing the grain’s producers into charity lines and further into poverty. The film continues to contrast the ironic differences between the lives of those who work to grow the wheat and the life of the man who dabbles in its sale for profit.  Released on December 13, 1909 and filmed entirely in Queens, NY.  Based on the novel “The Pit” by Frank Norris who as a turn-of-the-twentieth century American author, whose starkly realistic works, too strong for readers of his time, are today acclaimed as classics (“McTeague,” “The Octopus”).

D.W. Griffith was born in LaGrange, Kentucky on January 22, 1875 to Jacob “Roaring Jake” Griffith, a Confederate Army colonel and Civil War hero. He grew up with his father’s romantic war stories and melodramatic nineteenth century literature that were to eventually mold his black-and-white view of human existence and history. In 1897, Griffith set out to pursue a career both acting and writing for the theater but for the most part was unsuccessful. Reluctantly, he agreed to act in the new motion picture medium for Edwin S. Porter at the Edison Company. Griffith was eventually offered a job at the financially struggling _American Mutoscope & Biograph [us]_ where he directed over 450 short films, experimenting with the story-telling techniques he would later perfect in his epic The Birth of a Nation (1915). Griffith and his personal cinematographer G.W. Bitzer collaborated to create and perfect such cinematic devices as the flashback, the iris shot, the mask, and crosscutting. In the years following Birth, Griffith never again saw the same monumental success, and, in 1931, his increasing failures forced his retirement. Though hailed for his vision in narrative film-making, he was similarly criticized for his blatant racism. Griffith died in Los Angeles in 1948, one of the most dichotomous figures in film history.

The American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, was a motion picture company founded in 1895 and active until 1928. It was the first company in the United States devoted entirely to film production and exhibition, and for two decades was one of the most prolific, releasing over three thousand short films and twelve feature films.

Blackhawk Films, from the 1950s through the early 1980s, marketed motion pictures on 16mm, 8mm and Super 8 film. Most were vintage one- or two-reel short subjects, usually comedies starring Laurel and Hardy, Our Gang, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and other famous comedy series of the past. Blackhawk also offered newsreels, documentaries, and silent feature films. With the rise of the video market in the early 1980s, Blackhawk began producing video versions of many of their titles in 1981 and within a few years no longer manufactured film copies. The company was later purchased by NTA, and the film elements still later by archivist David Shepard.

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