The Man Who Invented Motion Pictures: A True Tale of Obsession, Murder, and the Movies

S. & S. Apr. 2022. 416p. ISBN 9781982114824. $28.99. CRIME
Fischer (A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator’s Rise to Power) brackets the story of French artist and inventor Louis Le Prince—and his undeniable yet overlooked role in film history—with true crime trappings. Working in his studio in 1880, Le Prince dropped two photographic plates and noticed the blurring of the images created the illusion of movement; within the decade he had a working motion-picture camera and projector prototype, as well as a collection of the world’s first live-action motion pictures. Then he boarded a Paris-bound train in Dijon on his way to join his family in New York, where his motion pictures would have their debut. But after boarding the train in Dijon, Le Prince was never heard from again. Fischer presents Thomas Edison as a sinister figure singularly interested in Le Prince’s disappearance—a bit of misdirection, as Fischer has a more likely suspect in mind—but the sensational end of Le Prince’s life remains unsolved. Fischer’s book also successfully chronicles the history of photography and explores how moving pictures were the next logical step—and how several inventors were in competition to get there first.
VERDICT Fischer combines firsthand accounts with dynamic writing to bring the Victorian era to life. A remarkable cast of characters (including Le Prince’s equally fascinating wife, Lizzie) makes for compelling reading.
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