The Missing Reel: The Untold Story of the Lost Inventor of Moving Pictures

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9780140159738: The Missing Reel: The Untold Story of the Lost Inventor of Moving Pictures

Why did a pioneering inventor of the movie camera vanish without trace on the eve of his success? In September 1890 the French inventor Augustine Le Prince boarded a train in Dijon, France, for Paris. For three years he had struggled to perfect a motion picture camera and projector in his Leeds workshop. Now he was on his way home to New York to present the world debut of moving pictures. But Le Prince never reached Paris; and in New York his wife Lizzie waited in vain. He was never seen again. Instead of Le Prince's triumph, it was Thomas A.Edison who claimed first place in the race for one of the most lucrative technological discoveries of all time. This is the untold story of Le Prince's disappearance, of the inventor's restless obsession and of his family's tragic determination to prove that he was the true father of film. It is a detective story and a literary tour de force, reconstructing the optimistic mood of a time when it seemed art and science could save humanity. It is the dramatic tale of ruthless skulduggery on the part of the American corporate battalions. And it is a story of individual hope and betrayal which spans a century and two continents from the streets of 19th century Leeds to the deserted beaches of Fire Island in the 1920s, to London, Paris, New York in the 1890s and an attic in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1988.

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From Library Journal:

Industrial piracy has been around for as long as there have been people with good, patentable ideas and others unscrupulous enough to steal them. This book deals with one such plausible case involving no less a famous personality in the history of American technology than Thomas Edison, who ultimately received the patent for inventing the motion picture. Curiously enough, Edison himself is quoted in the book as having said that "everyone steals in industry and commerce . . . I have stolen a lot myself." Admittedly, there are a number of versions as to who really invented the motion picture. This fast-paced investigative report examines the travails of Augustin Le Prince who was also working on developing cinematography and who died under mysterious circumstances prior to Edison's patent. Of interest to film buffs, this book is recommended for undergraduate and public libraries.
- Sarojini Balachandran, Auburn Univ. Lib., Ala.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Publishers Weekly:

French inventor Louis Aime Augustin Le Prince vanished while on a train journey from Dijon to Paris in 1890; before his disappearance--he was then presumed dead--he had been on the brink of going public with his one-lens camera and projector. British filmmaker Rawlence here cites evidence left by his widow in her memoirs that Thomas Edison was linked to Le Prince's death. This absorbing, technically and legally overloaded whodunit jumps back and forth between past and present, including suspenseful accounts of the author's research and interviews with Le Prince's descendants on several continents. Rawlence discusses the cut-throat politics of the infant film industry and shady U.S. Patent Office dealings, along with what he considers Edison's dubious business practices. No smoking gun is decisively uncovered, however, and readers are left to draw their own conclusions about Le Prince's fate. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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