Peter Bogdanovich to Direct ‘The Inventor and the Tycoon’ Miniseries

Hot news out of the blue,  from The Wrap:

By Tim Kineally, June 5.



Project will explore the origins of cinema

“The Last Picture Show” director Peter Bogdanovich will explore the story of the first picture shows for his next project.

Bogdanovich has signed on to direct a TV miniseries adaptation of Edward Ball’s 2013 book “The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of Moving Pictures.”

The book explores the true story of motion-picture pioneer Edward Muybridge and industrialist-politician Leland Stanford, and their effect on the early days of cinema.

Bogdanovich is developing the project with Cohen Media Group, and is also serving as co-executive producer, along with Charles S. Cohen, Cohen Media Group president Daniel Battsek and Fred Roos (“The Godfather Part II”).

Bodganovich called “The Inventor and the Tycoon” a “fascinating story about the origins of cinema/beginning of movies and the amazing series of coincidences that led to that creation.”

Set in frontier-era California, Ball’s book explores how Muybridge — a murderer as well a technological pioneer — and his patron Stanford teamed to launch the age of visual media.

“Part of the screen art of Peter Bogdanovich is to make the American past look beautiful, feel intense, and to people it with rare characters,” Ball said of the adaptation. “Between Edward Muybridge, the murderer who gave us motion pictures, and Leland Stanford, the robber baron made in Gold Rush California, this 19th-century story has big American aura suited to his hands, and to CMG’s program for memorable, ambitious television.”
How this news will affect the several plans for a feature film about Muybridge (one of which has already been filmed) remains to be seen.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert, with thanks and acknowledgement to The Wrap, and Getty Images.


Eadweard – Cast & Creators on Global News tv (Canada)

global2Sara Canning, who plays Flora

Picture 14

“Just based on the photographs [of Muybridge] I’ve tried to fund an essence of who this madman was …  I’ve done a lot of just staring into his eyes….” says co-writer and producer Josh Epstein, explaining on Global News tv how he tried to get a hold on Muybridge’s character and personality.

The seven-minute tv clip is here:

More location photos soon…..


Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Attitudes of Animals in Motion (1881) at Stanford Digital Repository


Recently added to the digital repository of Stanford University, is the rare album The Attitudes of Animals in Motion (1881).

If you don’t have the 2010 Taschen book that includes a version of this album, now’s your opportunity to see all of this hugely important work online. It comprises photographic sequences arranged from the results of Muybridge’s two working seasons at Leland Stanford’s Palo Alto farm.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

The Tycoon and the Inventor

A couple of years ago I spent a pleasant lunch chatting with author Edward Ball about Eadweard Muybridge, who was to be the subject of his next book. A while back I heard that it was to be published by Random House, and the title The Octopus and the Inventor: Eadweard Muybridge, the Killer Who Created the Movies cropped up (the ‘octopus’ being Leland Stanford) but then things went quiet. I notice that Doubleday have now listed the book as forthcoming, with the title The Tycoon and the Inventor.

This from Amazon:

From the National Book Award-winning author of Slaves in the Family, a riveting true life/true crime narrative of the partnership between the murderer who invented the movies and the robber baron who built the railroads.

One hundred and thirty years ago Eadweard Muybridge invented stop-motion photography, anticipating and making possible motion pictures. He was the first to capture time and play it back for an audience, giving birth to visual media and screen entertainments of all kinds. Yet the artist and inventor Muybridge was also a murderer who killed coolly and meticulously, and his trial is one of the early instances of a media sensation. His patron was railroad tycoon (and former California governor) Leland Stanford, whose particular obsession was whether four hooves of a running horse ever left the ground at once. Stanford hired Muybridge and his camera to answer that question. And between them, the murderer and the railroad mogul launched the age of visual media.

Set in California during its frontier decades, The Tycoon and the Inventor interweaves Muybridge’s quest to unlock the secrets of motion through photography, an obsessive murder plot, and the peculiar partnership of an eccentric inventor and a driven entrepreneur. A tale from the great American West, this popular history unspools a story of passion, wealth, and sinister ingenuity.

Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Books (24 April 2012)
Language English
ISBN-10: 0385525753
ISBN-13: 978-0385525756

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

The Horse in Motion – Abe Edgington boudoir print at auction

A rare example of one of the six boudoir prints entitled The Horse in Motion, published in 1878 in San Francisco by the Morse Gallery, is to be auctioned online by Be.Hold – ending 22 September.  From the online auction catalogue for the ‘Collectors’ Joy’ sale:

‘It shows 6 images of  Leland Stanford’s “Abe Edgington.”  There is extensive text on the recto and verso about Muybridge’s work with the “Electro-Photographic Apparatus” as well as advertising of his awards. He announces “Arrangements made for Photographing and Recording the action of Animals in motion, in any part of the World.” This is a rare object. It is in fine undamaged condition, with only the slightest sign of aging.’

Suggested bid at present: 1,100 dollars.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Weird Adventures airs on BBC tv

Andy Serkis. Photo (c) BBC

Apart from re-enactments in a 1960s US programme introduced by Ronald Reagan, Eadweard Muybridge as a character of considerable importance in the story of the creation and recording of the modern world has been absent from television. The Weird Adventures of Eadweard Muybridge is the first programme to attempt to tell the full story. It does touch on most aspects, leaving out the bits with very little visual material – the five years spent as a bookseller in New York, totally avoided in the commentary – and his various activities during the five ‘lost years’ back in Europe in the 60s. But for a one-hour programme, it packs a lot in.

Philip Brookman talks with Alan Yentob. Photo (c) BBC

The talking heads include Philip Brookman, whose exhibition in Washington did so much to introduce Muybridge to a wider public; author Rebecca Solnit, in splendid hat, musing on Muybridge in San Francisco as she wanders through the harbour; print collector Michael Wilson marvelling at the artistry of the travel photographs; Jonathan Miller not getting it at all, and insisting that Muybridge was simply an entertainer; recent biographer and long-time chronophotography specialist Marta Braun talking about the Animal Locomotion sequences; art curator Ann Dumas of the Royal Academy of Arts explaining the connection with the ballet dancers of Degas; and Kingston Museum curator Peta Cook introducing the sacred scrapbook, and zoopraxiscope discs.

A nice touch was Stanford Red Barn (Palo Alto) horse trainer Rachel Williamson confirming that the 1870s horse photos are still used today in the equestrian world.

Rachel Williamson. Photo (c) BBC

I got my fair share of the running time, mostly talking about the complexities of the image projections at a Muybridge lecture, and I also managed to get the last word in. [voice from across the room – “you always do…”]

‘Andy Serkis as Muybridge’ said the blurb, and he appeared reading Muybridge’s own words, wearing just a hint of period costume, but no stick-on beard. Serkis was also one of the expert talking heads, since he’s very familiar with the subject, having been developing a Muybridge feature film project for some years. And of course, he’s best known for being Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy – his physical image altered by CG techniques, in a modern development of the motion capture and image manipulation used by Muybridge for converting his photo sequences to painted animations.

No recent news on the feature movie, but perhaps it will happen someday.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

New book from Taschen!

Well I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s in print. With all of the Animal Locomotion plates, and the complete (previously unpublished) Attitudes of Animals in Motion album, its evidently a substantial tome!

Eadweard Muybridge, The Human and Animal Locomotion Photographs.
Eadweard Muybridge, Hans Christian Adam
Hardcover, 33.2 x 24.3 cm (13.1 x 9.6 in.), 804 pages
(44.99 Pounds)
ISBN: 978-3-8365-0941-1

Multilingual Edition: English, French, German
Details from

Life in motion – The forerunner of the moving image

This resplendent book traces the life and work of Muybridge, from his early thinking about anatomy and movement to his latest photographic experiments. The complete 781 plates of Muybridge’s groundbreaking Animal Locomotion (1887) are reproduced here. In addition, Muybridge’s handmade and extremely rare first illustrated album, The Attitudes of Animals in Motion (1881) is reproduced in its entirety. A detailed chronology by British researcher Stephen Herbert throws new light on one of the most important pioneers of photography.

Hans Christian Adam  studied psychology, art history and communication in Vienna. As a specialist in historical images, he has published numerous articles and books, including titles on travel and war photography. He is the author of TASCHEN’s Edward Sheriff Curtis: The North American Indian, Karl Blossfeldt, Eugene Atget: Paris and Berlin, Portrait of a City.

This posting by Stephen Herbert

Ronald Reagan, Muybridge and Stanford, and Death Valley Days

Ronald Reagan on the set of Death Valley days

“As the early morning  bugle call of the covered wagon train fades away among the echoes, another true Death Valley Days is presented by the famous Borax family of products….”

We haven’t heard much on this blog about Muybridge’s tv appearances – so here’s something new.

In 1964, the LA Times announced, “Reagan to Narrate ‘Death Valley Days’” – a popular tv show that had already been running for more than a decade, featuring stories from the Old West. [18 Oct 1964]. Director of the show was Reagan’s brother, Neil [South Florida Sun – Sentinel 13 Dec 1996]. In syndication the show was variously titled: Call of the West; The Pioneers; Trails West; and Western Star Theater.

The programme's sponsor - Borax

Do check out the commercial slot on Youtube:

Death Valley Days was invariably sponsored by Pacific Coast Borax Company, (later: U.S. Borax Company). Advertisements for the company’s best-known products, 20 Mule Team Borax, a laundry additive, Borateem detergent, and Boraxo powdered hand soap, were often done by the programme’s host. Death Valley was the scene of much of the company’s borax mining operations. Wikipedia says: “Death Valley Days is, judging from sheer number of episodes broadcast, by far the most successful syndicated television Western, the most successful television Western ever in the half-hour format, and arguably the most successful syndication of any genre in the history of the U.S. television market…”

The episode that interests us was entitled ‘The $25,000 Wager’ (1964). Season 13: Episode 10. Air Date: December 24th, 1964
[NOTE: an audio tape of the soundtrack sold on eBay recently, and this gave the date as 14 Feb 65, probably a syndication date.] In ‘The Bet That Created a Future Industry’, a recent item on the web [23 March 2008], a viewer remembered details of the plot and cast:

“….this episode [told of an event that] settled one of the great mysteries of the animal kingdom and created the name and reputation of one of America’s best remembered photographers – and began a thread that helped lead to the development of an industry now centered in California.

Hedley Mattingly played Muybridge

[British-born actor] Hedley Mattingly (later District Officer Hedley on Daktari) plays the photographer. He is at a local race course one day with his wife, a family acquaintance, and several important figures including California’s governor (it is 1873) Leland Stanford (Harry Holcombe). Stanford is watching his horse race a friend’s, and they start discussing the beauty of the animals, and the grace with which the horses go around the track.  Stanford wondered if the horses ever had all four hoofs off the ground at the same time. His friend [Charles Cropper played “MacCrellish”] says he did not think it was possible: horses require two of their legs to be on the ground at one point of time while the others rise. It is necessary for their balance. But Stanford felt it was possible. He had run, and occasionally both of his legs were off the ground. Why not a horse.

Leland Stanford was played by Harry Holcombe (The Minister in The Graduate)

But how to find out? It was decided after the wager on this problem ($25,000.00 – a big sum of money now but more so then) to have the photographer try to photograph a horse in gallop. He was appalled at this assignment, but agreed to do it. After all, Stanford was the Governor of California.

Diane Brewster played Flora.

Diane Brewster played Flora. Ironically, given the Flora/Muybridge age difference, this Photoplay cover asks: “Why do they marry older men?” (Diane Brewster played doomed wife Helen Kimble in The Fugitive tv series.)

The story follows the photographer’s experiments with cameras, and the false ends many ideas lead to. But there is a second story told (though from what I recall bowdlerized). The photographer’s wife Flora (Diane Brewster), was having an affair with a family acquaintance David Neal (Lew Brown). This comes to the photographer’s attention, and complicates his search for an answer to the question.

Lew Brown as 'David Neal'

Lew Brown played ‘David Neal’ – the name given to the ‘family acquaintance’ (in real life, Harry Larkyns).  (Lew Brown played Andy Coe in 21 episodes of Gunsmoke)

In the end the photographer set up cameras worked by trip wires all over the race course. Stanford’s horse ran down the course, and all the pictures were developed. And sure enough they showed the horse does have all four hoofs off the ground when the horse is galloping. Stanford won the bet.

To prove that the pictures were not doctored, the photographer created a machine that flicked their images on a screen in order to show the horse in gallop down the track. The device, a zoopraxiscope (I believe that is how it is spelled) was the world’s first motion picture camera [projector]. Stanford congratulates the photographer, who was Eadward [sic] Muybridge, and said he showed that pictures could be made to move.

The romance also was ended, but in the episode I don’t think they went into how it was ended. Muybridge is unique – he is remembered for his remarkable slow motion studies of men and animals, and he is recalled as one of the fathers of motion pictures (Edison, while working on his camera in the 1890s, met with Muybridge to check out his “rival” only to find that Muybridge had no further desire to develop motion pictures). But Muybridge is also one of the few actual killers honored by the U.S. Government by a postage stamp. You see, he killed his wife’s lover (as Congressman Daniel E. Sickels did in 1859). And like Sickels he was acquitted by the notorious “unwritten law” about killing adulterers threatening one’s marriage. That part I don’t recall was in the episode – Muybridge’s violent act occurred shortly after the bet was settled.

Aside from that odd postscript the episode kept to the story quite well. And it was memorable enough to remain on this viewer’s mind some forty years after seeing it.” [theowinthrop on IMDb]

On 4 April 1965 the Chicago Tribune reported: “Actor Reagan Sees a Happy Future … No one knows for sure what the future holds for Ronald Reagan, Illinois born actor, tv host, performer, and a battler for the freedoms intended us by the founders of this nation [it says here]. He may continue as host and sometime star of Death Valley Days, a series with emphasis on the American Heritage and dramatizing footnotes on American history…..[etc.]

Yeah, what did become of him?

Another reviewer explains why Reagan soon left the series:

“Because he announced his candidacy on January 1, 1966, Death Valley Days aired prior to – and during – Reagan’s gubernatorial run. His opponent (the sitting governor) felt that weekly TV exposure gave Reagan an unfair advantage. As a result, California stations were forced to drop the series to conform with equal time laws.” [‘Ronald Reagan on TV’ by Billy Ingram – See also: ‘Reagan Out as Host of Death Valley Days’, LA Times 10 January 1966]

So while telling the story of one Governor of California, Reagan was about to become another.

Sadly I have so far been unable to find any stills from the Muybridge-Stanford episode, but it definitely still exists – in fact, it’s available on DVD. The one tiny problem is that it’s part of a rather large DVD Box Set – all 558 episodes of the series (1952-1975). The set is sold by TV-DVD – though what kind of lifestyle would one have watching that lot (18 seasons, 46 DVDs) ?

I’ll settle for reading the plot given on :

“Two men make a $25,000 bet which leads a young photographer to create a new art form — the movies.”

Leland Stanford Jr, on his pony

Lantern slide sequence, integrated into a single mask.

See it moving here:

The forthcoming talk by Brian Clegg at the British Library in London will include fifteen minutes of Muybridge animations and image combinations – motion, panoramic, and stereoscopic – by Marek Pytel, presenter of visual wonders . Marek is a masterful animator of these and many other sequence images. More on Marek here:

Brian Clegg is Muybridge’s most recent biographer, and his talk has a similar title to the book: The man who stopped time: Eadweard Muybridge – pioneer photographer, father of cinema and murderer. British Library, Monday 1st February, 6.30pm, price £6. More details and bookings here: