Chapter One covers the early years of Vitagraph's founders, J. Stuart Blackton and Albert E. Smith, poor immigrants who met in New York as teenagers and pooled their talents to become vaudeville entertainers. An encounter with Thomas Edison's kinetoscope inspired them to become filmmakers. The partners' background in vaudeville would inform the family-friendly variety of their cinematic productions, a key to their success. Smith applied his ingenuity as a magician to several of their early films, which resulted in the development of stop-motion cinematography. In 1898 Blackton and Smith brought a third partner into their company, which they named Vitagraph. William T. Rock secured better vaudeville contracts and opened up other venues for the exhibition of their films. Rock was also instrumental in preventing Vitagraph from going out of business as it combated relentless litigation from Edison's attorneys over patents rights that crippled the company's production activities for several years.
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