Who invented Hollywood?

Mar 9, 2012

Col. William N. Selig: The Man Who Invented Hollywood Credit: By Andrew A. Erish

One of the least-known figures in movie history is Colonel William Selig, who as early as 1890’s was deeply involved in the pioneering art form of cinema. Selig began his show-biz career as proprietor of a string of all-Black traveling minstrel troupes.

With the dawn of the new medium of motion pictures, Selig began shooting single-camera movies, developing them in his parent’s basement and selling them to vaudeville houses. His fledgling film business, Multoscope and Film Company, released its first one-a-half-minute film in 1899. By 1909, Selig had foreseen the commercial potential of films, and that Southern California was the ideal location to establish the new industry.

He pioneered across genres with a number of impressive firsts: the first two-reel narrative feature made in America; the first American movie serial with cliffhanger endings; the first westerns, jungle-adventure and horror films and the first newsreels. In his carefully researched and surprising new book, film historian Andrew Erish makes a strong case that Col. Selig truly deserves the credit for inventing Hollywood.


Andrew A. Erish, author of “Col. William N. Selig, the Man Who Invented Hollywood” (University of Texas Press). Erish teaches film history and aesthetics at Chapman University and is a guest lecturer at the Los Angeles Film Studies Center.

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