When Mark Dintenfass arrived in Fort Lee in 1910, the sleepy New Jersey town just a ferry ride away from Manhattan was already a favorite location for nickelodeon-era filmmakers. Why not, he reasoned, build a studio and save on the expense and hassle of travel across the Hudson? Purchasing land and a building in nearby Englewood Cliffs, Dintenfass founded the Champion Studios, where he produced silent westerns and Civil War epics.
Others followed, and soon there were movie studios all over Fort Lee. Sadly, the land rush proved to be a bubble that burst when the American film industry moved west to Hollywood. Based on Richard Koszarski’s book, Fort Lee, the Film Town, The Champion tells the story of that brief golden age and of a modern-day fight to save the era’s last remaining studio — reminding us that the preservation of cinema history involves more than just the restoration of the films themselves.
This deluxe 2-disc DVD set includes a new 2K restoration of Ghost Town (1935) an astonishing and haunting amateur documentary about post-cinema Fort Lee. Disc 1 also features five films made at Champion Studios — thanks to the efforts of the Library of Congress and the Fort Lee Film Commission. Disc 2 includes exciting NJ film rediscoveries — a slapstick comedy from director Mack Sennett, a “melodramatic comedy” starring Madge Kennedy, and the earliest surviving film version of Robin Hood!
This DVD of films from America’s first film town is dedicated to the late Gloria Viola Meyers, who worked for Consolidated Film Industries, a division of Republic Studio, and to all the residents of Fort Lee who worked in the studios, film laboratories and film storage facilities in the birthplace of the American film industry.
2015. 35 minutes. Directed by Marc J. Perez. Based on the book Fort Lee, the Film Town by Richard Koszarski. Produced by Tom Meyers and John L. Sikes. Executive producer, Kristian Fraga. Associate producers Richard Koszarski and Nelson Page. Photography by Donna Brennan, Michael Grand, Marc J. Perez, Dylan Russell. Edited by B.B. Enriquez. Music by Ryan Shore. Narrated by Matt Zoller Seitz with Richard Koszarski, Tom Meyers, Nancy O’Mallon, Armand Pohan and Albert H. Wunsch III.
FILMS FROM FORT LEE WITH NEW SCORES:
GHOST TOWN: THE STORY OF FORT LEE* by THEODORE HUFF AND MARK A. BORGATTA, 1935, 17 MINUTES
THE INDIAN LAND GRAB* CHAMPION STUDIOS, 1910, 11 MINUTES
A DAUGHTER OF DIXIE* CHAMPION STUDIOS, 1911, 10 MINUTES
NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS* UNIVERSAL VICTOR, 1912, 9 MINUTES
FLO’S DISCIPLINE* UNIVERSAL VICTOR, 1912, 11 MINUTES
MARKED CARDS* UNIVERSAL CHAMPION, 1913, 10 MINUTES
THE DANGER GAME** by HARRY POLLARD, 1918, 61 MINUTES, starring Madge Kennedy and Tom Moore
ROBIN HOOD*** by ÉTIENNE ARNAUD, 1912, 31 MINUTES
A GROCERY CLERK’S ROMANCE*** by MACK SENNETT, 1912, 8 MINUTES. Courtesy of Paul E. Gierucki.
*Music Composed and Performed by Ben Model.
**Music Composed and Performed by Donald Sosin.
***Music by Rodney Sauer and performed by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.
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