The Man Who Invented Cinema: A True Story of Obsession, Murder and Cinema
Faber & Faber
Name the inventor of cinema. If you said American technology pioneer Thomas Edison – who gave the world the electric light and the phonograph – think again. Louis Le Prince, a Frenchman based in a workshop in Leeds, was about to unveil the first motion picture camera in 1890 when he disappeared.
The Prince was last seen at a train station in France, boarding a train bound for Paris to begin a journey back to England and then to New York, where he would demonstrate his revolutionary process of setting a still images. Her body was never found and her fate was one of the great mysteries of the Victorian era. Until now.
UK-based author, screenwriter and film producer Paul Fischer recreates the incredible story of a forgotten genius and the race to capture and project moving images in The Man Who Invented Motion Pictures. “It’s a ghost story, a family saga and an unsolved mystery,” he promises upfront – and, he might have added, a stunning real-life thriller.
“Moving photographs,” as The Prince called them, were a technological leap as transformative and momentous as the advent of the printing press. “The past,” writes Fischer, “would become available for the future.” A future The Prince did not live to see.
As movie sleuths so often ask, who benefits from The Prince’s disappearance? When, less than a year later, Edison introduces his Kinetograph motion-picture camera – the film industry’s humble precursor – the distraught and embittered Le Prince family are convinced they have found their suspect.
Their day in court came in 1898 when Edison and a rival company clashed in a motion picture camera patent dispute. Le Prince’s son, Adolphe, who believed his father had been “eliminated”, testified and claimed that the Le Prince camera predated the prototypes of Edison and everyone else.
How far could the powerful and contentious Edison have gone to cement his legacy as the inventor of cinema? Was the Prince murdered or did money problems drive him to suicide? Was his corpse the unclaimed, beaten one, fished out of the Seine shortly after his disappearance?
Fischer sorts the facts from the guesswork as he offers a solution to this 130-year-old cold case. It’s a gripping story, elegantly written and brilliantly told, with twists and turns and a surprise ending worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster.
Dean Jobb’s latest book, The Case of the Murderous Dr Cream: The Hunt for a Victorian Era Serial Killer (Algonquin Books), has been shortlisted for the American Library Association’s 2022 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Non- fiction.