by Robert Joyce Tasker
Imagine a fire… hot, blistering, roaring and raging through a tenement district, impelled on a hurricane of its own making — the television broadcasting station cuts in on their program with this startling announcement. “Searing thousands of impoverished tenement dwellers, a monster fire has broken out on the East Side. Television cameras are now being focused on the scene of the tragedy. Stand by for the television broadcast of the terrific East Side fire… “
On your screen comes a whirl of smoke. People run like purposeless ants. The red tongue of flame licks up through the smoke. A crash… charred timbers snarl themselves in crazy figures… precipitate themselves earthward in a shower of stinging sparks and flames… shrieks spell some piteous creature’s end…
Impossible? It was considered a joke… ephemeral… wild… impossible. But no wild fancy this. Crank scientists once boasted that instantaneous transmission of sight and sound were possible. We guffawed at them, you and I. Were their peculiar, elusive minds less occupied by mad dreams which become facts tomorrow, the scientists might now be laughing at you… and me. For television is here.
Civilization’s great leap forward
In England, television has become so far developed that during any hour of day or night, owners of television receiving sets throughout Europe or the British Isles can receive the transmissions from London or Brookman’s Park. Plays, events, personages, are seen and heard. John L. Baird, British inventor, godfather of television, sells television receiving sets for the equivalent of $125.00.
One step further… the great American electrical laboratories are busy with the perfection of television cameras for news service. The possibilities tapped are staggering. Nothing in all the world can be kept from the public… if… If the public wakens to the things which television can do for it, how the literal truth of things which happen can be brought over the television… and if the public demands of the government that the new medium of news transmission be kept unpolluted — then the greatest educational, informative, enlightening step of all time will have been made. Civilization will have made a great leap forward.
Nothing in all the world can be kept from the public… if… If the public wakens to the things which television can do for it, how the literal truth of things which happen can be brought over the television… and if the public demands of the government that the new medium of news transmission be kept unpolluted — then the greatest educational, informative, enlightening step of all time will have been made. Civilization will have made a great leap forward.
The unvarnished truth
The great moving picture, All Quiet on the Western Front, stunned us… for it showed people whom even yet some of us were inclined to believe brutish… and showed them as humans, such as we are… struggling with things none of us can quite comprehend… fighting blindly… uselessly.
With the war hysteria now totally gone, we realize — cynically — how propaganda, and a meager, lying part of the truth, came to us through official channels. Now… while our minds are cool… let us demand that there shall be television broadcasting from every battlefield. The facts must not be concealed.
Imagine watching the battlefield… seeing your own son, crusted with mud and vermin… drawn and exhausted, fighting the unseen enemy, who lies in wait beyond the cold, gas-soured muck and slime… . and suddenly comes the alarming scream of a shell… an explosion… your own son lying mangled before you. That would end war forever.
But, beware! We have other great mediums which might give us unvarnished truth… truth of the sort we are trying to give you here… and those mediums have become perverted to what television may mean! Don’t let it be perverted! Let every American citizen feel that here is something which is intrinsically his… that he must keep it his.
If every man feels that, then it will be easier for petty politicians to keep their new possession inviolate, a little more difficult to sell television into the hands of falseness. What the talking picture did to the world theatrical, is nothing to what television is going to do. Whereas the talking pictures came slowly, television is certain to hit with a crash, over all America.
Still a need for motion picture theaters
The first violent effects, if television went onto the air with no limitations, would be that theatres would fall by the wayside. No matter what the plan of procedure turns out to be, there is going to be a painful reorganization. Business in America faces the possibility of a huge loss in buildings and equipment… losses which business is perfectly justified in evading, if possible. Fortunately, a perfectly logical plan was foreseen by businessmen for preserving much of the wreckage.
Over a year ago, Harold B. Frank, President of the Fox West Coast Theatres, wrote, “It is really not to be expected, after all, that the American family will be content to sit at home by the fireside and be entirely satisfied with the entertainment that may be sent through the air by means of television.
Without arguing the point further, let me say merely that this fact is recognized by even so an important organization as the Radio Corporation of America, which is conducting experiments with television. Only recently, the corporation has become interested in a theatrical enterprise involving many millions. It is only fair to deduce that those who are closest to television apparently feel that the motion picture theatre is here to stay.”
To explain those factors of which Harold B. Franklin wrote at more length elsewhere in his book, “Sound Motion Pictures,” the present plan is to have but twelve projection rooms in all America. Each projection room, with many machines, each projecting a different program, will control a circular area, the twelve stations being scattered over the entire continent. The theatre will ask for whatever picture it wishes to show, and will be plugged in on that circuit.
It is as simple as that. The only movies available to the home fans will be “second run” subjects, or unimportant pictures, a condition which prevails now.
Invasion of the talking pictures
To attack the effect of television from another phase of theatrical life, let me show what is coming to the legitimate stage. Everyone knows of the unhappy state in which the legitimate stage has been since the invasion of the talking pictures.
The first result was, that with painfully rare exceptions, stage plays were designed in hope that the movies would pick them up. Consequently, the patrons of legitimate houses were treated to the sorry spectacle of movie themes behind footlights. The two mediums call for treatment as different as the opera and the revue. The attempt to squeeze a little profit from the plays by using movie themes produced such junk that patronage declined still further.
At the present time, the traditions of the theatre rest entirely in the keeping of amateur players and little playhouses. Even these institutions are suffering from the sour odor clinging around the professional stage. The amateur houses, from which has emanated much of our best movement in the theatrical world, will never recover full strength until their sickened Siamese twin, the legitimate stage, is cured — or amputated.
Television is the knife that will effect the amputation. When the demand begins, as it will shortly, for players in flesh and blood — the only type available for television-by-air to the home — the legitimate stage will move over, bag and baggage, producer and designer, player and musician, to the stronghold of television.
The Screen Mirror realizes that this exposition of television strikes a lone, clear note — for no one seems to have caught the mysterious significance of monster fortunes maneuvering in the dark background. We step forward boldly for we are dealing with facts. Television, the greatest force that will come into your life… is here — and to stay!