History of cinema 16 – intertitles

Title cards begin in 1903. A title card, or intertitles, is a still image with text. There are two general types: Dialogue and Expository. The cards expanded the potential of film to tell a longer story and tell narratives.

Robert W Paul developed intertitles in 1896. Cartoonist James Stuart Blackton is also credited of creating them in 1897. “Our New General Servant” is the first movie to utilize intertitles in 1898. These were created by Paul.

Some titles were very straight forward, either plan or with a little filigree.

Another style was more elaborate, using borders and filmmaker logos.

Occasionally they would have painted artwork accompanying the words.

And some were used as another means of expression in creating the film.

Opening sequences began listing the names of production companies by 1911. This was soon followed by listing the names of the Director of Players, creating what we know as credits.

Intertitles allowed international distribution easy as the cards could be replaced by ones in any language. Japan and France took advantage of this. Sometimes, in place of changing the cards, a commentator would be hidden behind the screen and would read translated lines to the audience. Called Benshi in Japan, their performance became as much a part of the experience as not.


© 2023, mikegallagherart. All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: