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The History of Cinema: 1912









Mack Sennett's Keystone Kops

  Mar –

Harry Aitken and John R. Freuler form The Mutual Film Corporation, which heralds the beginning of the end for the MPPC’s dominance of the American film industry.   The MFC is an independent exchange which handles the releases of the major independent producers such as Thanhauser, Reliance, American, Majestic, Great Northern, Eclair, Lux and Comet. [ADD]

  17/5 –

Carl Laemmle makes final preparations for the formation of the Universal Film Manufacturing Company which will see the merger of Laemmle’s IMP with Pat Powers’ Picture Plays, Bison Life, Rex, Nestor and Champion to form a formidable rival to the MPPC member companies. [ADD]

  20/5 –

Release of Oliver Twist the USA’s first feature-length film.   H. A. Spanuth produces the five-reel movie, which lasts just over an hour. [ADD]

  4/7 –

Mack Sennett, in partnership with Charles Baumann and Adam Kessell forms the Keystone Production Company with a working capital of $2,500. [ADD]

  12/7 –

Famous Players Film Co., formed by Adolph Zukor, Daniel Frohman, and Edwin Porter, show Sarah Bernhardt’s four-reel epic, Queen Elizabeth, the first full-length foreign feature film shown in the States. [ADD]

  24/7 –

Gaston Melies embarks for Tahiti from San Francisco on the Manuka at the start of a world film tour. [ADD]

  26/7 –

Edison releases Escape from Bondage, the first episode of a series entitled What Happened to Mary, which is the first serial.   11 subsequent episodes are released over the following twelve months. [ADD]

  28/8 –

Mack Sennett begins filming the first of his Keystone Kops comedies.   Amongst his cast are former Biograph actors Fred Mace, Ford Sterling and Mabel Normand. [ADD]

  1/9 –

After winning the exclusive world rights to the distribution of Sarah Bernhardt’s Queen Elizabeth, Adolph Zukor’s Famous Players Film Co. moves into film production. [ADD]

    An Unseen Enemy (1912)
  9/9 –

D. W. Griffith’s An Unseen Enemy is released.   It stars 16-year-old Lillian Gish and her 14-year-old sister Dorothy. [ADD]

  23/9 –

Mack Sennett’s Keystone Pictures Corp. releases its first two films: Cohen Collects a Debt, and The Water Nymph. [ADD]

  1/10 –

Thomas Ince forms Kay Bee Motion Pictures with backing from Charles Baumann and Adam Kessell. [ADD]

  15/10 –

Richard III, starring Frederick Warde, the oldest surviving American feature film (and the second ever US feature) is released.   Believed lost for years, a pristine print was discovered in 1996. [ADD]

  17/10 –

From the Manger to the Cross, Or Jesus of Nazareth is released in New York City.   Directed by Sidney Olcott, it stars Robert Henderson-Bland as Jesus and Gene Gauntier as the Virgin Mary, and was filmed on location in Bethlehem. [ADD]

  1/11 –

D. W. Griffith makes use of the panning technique for the first time in The Massacre, which is released today. [ADD]

  9/12 –

Having made $80,000 profit from its distribution of Queen Elizabeth, Famous Players adopt a new slogan, “Famous Actors in Famous Plays,” and begins producing its own films.   First before the cameras is The Prisoner of Zenda, shot at the company’s converted studio on New York’s 26th Street and starring James Hackett in a recreation of his stage role. [ADD]

  31/12 –

23-year-old comedian Charles Chaplin turns down a contract with Mack Sennett’s Keystone Corporation due to stage commitments with the Fred Karno Troupe. [ADD]


– The Warner Brothers rent a studio on Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles after Harry sells his film exchanges in Baltimore and Pittsburgh to General Film Company for $100,000. [ADD]


– Cinema attendances hit 5,000,000 a day. [ADD]


– William Fox founds Fox Films. [ADD]


– Carl Laemmle’s recently formed Universal absorbs the United States operations of French company Eclair. [ADD]


– The US Government sues the MPPC for illegal restraint of trade, and the federal appeals court rejects the Trust’s control of patent for the Latham Loop and thus the movie camera. [ADD]


Other Key Films of 1912

    The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912)

The Battle of the Redskins (Thomas Ince) [ADD]


The Coming of Columbus (Colin Campbell) [ADD]


From the Manger to the Cross (Sidney Olcott) [ADD]


The Massacre (D. W. Griffith) [ADD]


The Musketeers of Pig Alley (D. W. Griffith) [ADD]


The New York Hat (D. W. Griffith) [ADD]


The Prisoner of Zenda (Edwin S Porter) [ADD]

    Australia - Estonia
    France - Germany
    Gt Britain - Romania
    Russia - Syria



1912: Australia - Estonia

1912: France - Germany

1912: Gt. Britain - Romania

1912: Russia - Syria







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