Light up in Wonder

Written by Patrick Gooch
Review by Chiara Prezzavento

It’s 1894 when Sam Lockhart, a young Brighton gardener, is hastily recruited by an eccentric character to prune a hedge in front of a strange piece of machinery. What Sam doesn’t know is that the man is George Albert Smith, with his pioneering camera for moving pictures. Smitten with this glimpse of an exciting new world, Sam plunges headlong into the whirlwind of Smith’s groundbreaking efforts, becoming a writer and a producer, as the new form of entertainment, cinema, develops on both sides of the Atlantic. But then an unscrupulous businessman, Charles Urban, begins to exploit the naïve Smith, and Sam must make some hard choices. This book is truly a mine of information about the joys and struggles of early cinema, both in England and America. So much so, indeed, that the (rather flat) characters are forever spouting information in endless awkward dialogue. While learning a good deal of fascinating detail on projectors, patent law, and silent film production, one is left wishing that Mr. Gooch had written a nonfiction work instead.