David Horsley

David Horsley

County Durham, England
Death 23 Feb 1933 (aged 59)
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot Garden of Memory, Lot 218
Memorial ID 6589592 · View Source
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Film Industry Pioneer. David Horsley received notoriety for being one of the pioneers in the American film industry starting at the beginning of the 20 th century. He was America's first independent movie maker, opened New Jersey's second studio and eventually, opened Hollywood's first motion picture studio as Centaur Film Company. Essentially, he was “ The Man Who Invented Hollywood.” In 1908 he made his first one-reeler movie, “A Cowboy's Escapade,” shooting with a movie camera that he had actually constructed. He struggled in the movie studio industry for years, creating hundreds of black-and-white silent movies. Eventually, a better financed and more organized businessman purchased his studio. His influence and perseverance made Hollywood the film capital of the world. Born into a third generation coal-mining family residing in a village in northern England, his left arm was amputated a few inches below the elbow after a childhood train accident. His family immigrated on October 17, 1884 to the United States shortly after the accident, ultimately settling in Bayonne, New Jersey. After delivering newspapers and being a Western Union messenger, he attended night school and started building bikes for an income. In 1903 he purchased land and built a pool hall , the Ideal Billiard Parlor, that was in bankruptcy within a few years. During this time, the economic climate in the United States was not stable. Using the land and the pool hall as the studio, he and a friend, who was experienced in film making, built in 1907 the second movie studio in New Jersey. At the same time, Thomas Edison's Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC) or Edison's Trust had begun its seven-year monopolizing of the film industry. Not wanting to use Edison's patented products, he built his own camera circumventing Edison's patents and sold it to other studios, who had been renting their cameras from Edison at $2 a week plus the purchase of film. Being blackballed by the monopoly, Horsley had no choice but to import his film from England as he was not licensed to purchase it in the United States. New Jersey's cold winters, which limited outside filming, led him to relocate to Southern California by 1911. From the beginning William Horsely, his brother, was his silent business partner. The move west would distant him from Edison's New Jersey based company. For his studio, he purchased on October 27, 1911 the abandoned old Blondeau tavern at the corner of two dirt roads called Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street , thus bringing the film industry to Hollywood, California. His company distributed under two names: Nestor Film Company from 1910 to 1920 and Centaur Film Company from 1916 to 1919. On May 20, 1912, the Universal Film Manufacturing Company was formed to absorbed many independent film companies in exchange for stock; this included Horsely's company. An independent studio owner, Carl Laemmle, was the driving force in forming Universal and, along with his partners, becoming the biggest force in the young film industry. The Horsley brothers were a major stockholder in the company and he acted as treasurer. In 1913 Leammle purchased Horsley's portion of the company. At this point, Horsley was financially secured for life. Horsely returned to England and was there at the beginning of World War I. He purchased from a bankrupted zoo a menagerie of animals including 58 lions, two elephants and even a polar bear and brought the animals to California to formed Bostock Jungle Films, a zoo and a studio. By 1919 he was bankrupted as he could never meet the daily cost of feeding the animals and renting the studio property much less make a profit. He had started in 1915 with $400,000 in cash, and by 1919 he was $38,000 in debt. Although he continued to work in the film industry for the rest of his life, he never reached the professional status of when he started in Hollywood. He did become a silent partner in his brother's successful film business. His son, David S. Horsley, followed in his father's footsteps becoming a cinematographer, who was known for using special effects.

Bio by: Linda Davis

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: AJM
  • Added: 8 Jul 2002
  • Find a Grave Memorial 6589592
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for David Horsley (11 Mar 1873–23 Feb 1933), Find a Grave Memorial no. 6589592, citing Hollywood Forever, Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .