Edna Purviance's bio

June 6, 2018 - Re-editing Edna Purviance's family biography 2nd Draft. Photo: Leading Ladies © used by ednapurviance.org

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Question for you...

Here is the answer to last Wednesday's question:
Who was the first person to use the word 'documentary' in an article?
John Grierson. He is credited for coining the word 'documentary' for the first time in an article about Robert Flaherty's film 'Moana' in 1926. But we have learned another man looks to have used the word in a much earlier publication. His name is Charles Urban. Check out comments for more.

Now a new question for you... (answer next week)
Who worked in a film with Edna Purviance and Douglas Fairbanks?


Edna's Place said...

Thank you for your comment and for visiting Luke,

I deleted your comment from the site because of the tone it was given, not because of the information. We appreciate all our visitors, and especially those who know something, so nothing personal.

Upon looking at your web site link to Charles Urban, it appears as a detailed site on Mr. Urban, so I will share the link for others to learn about him.

In your statement to this site saying: "Wrong! The first person to use the word documentary was Charles Urban, who used it to describe medical films in his 1907 booklet The Cinematograph in Science, Education and Matters of State", you make it sound like Urban was the first.

But upon reading your actual statement on your web site about Mr. Urban on this same matter of the booklet 'The Cinematograph in Science, Education and Matters of State', (and others) you state:

"In doing so he reveals novel ideas about the application of film to specific audiences, the use of film in medicine, the need for film archives, and includes what is probably the first English use of the word 'documentary' in a film sense.

You used the word 'probably' and not a clear statement it was the first time used, which is a different tone than the one wrote in your comment to this site, making it sound like Mr. Urban WAS the first one to use it.

If Mr. Urban did use the word 'documentary' first, why use the word 'probably' on your site. Did another person use it before him?

It is stated in publications Mr. Grierson was the first person to coined the English word 'documentary' from the word ''documentaire'.

Buried out there could be others who used the English word 'documentary', like in this booklet by Urban you point out, but Urban's booklet wasn't the most public place to use the word. So if he did use it in this early day booklet, thats great, but the general population would have never known.

Newspapers and magazines are public and so get more notice, so Grierson use of the word in an article was more public than Mr. Urban's use in a booklet. But by your own statement on your site, you leave it open if Urban was the first to use the word...

We do thank you for your comment and your knowledge on the matter, your interest in silent films (which you seem to have a great knowledge of) and your link to your site on Charles Urban. Here is the link for others to view: http://www.charlesurban.com/manifesto.htm

Again, thanks for visiting, and to follow up, Mr. Grierson was noted for coining the word 'documentary' from the word 'documentaire'. He is credited with using the word first, and may have been the most public to use the word, as research points out. Like anything, others could have used the word, but Grierson appeared to use it in the most public matter, and got the credit for it. And like anything, research can change things, but that is what makes research fun.

And just so people will know, here is a copy of the anonymous post left by Luke:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Question for you...":

Wrong! The first person to use the word documentary was Charles Urban, who used it to describe medical films in his 1907 booklet The Cinematograph in Science, Education and Matters of State. He was actually quoting a French text (documentaire) from 1903. You can read the text of my website, http://www.charlesurban.com/manifesto.htm


Anonymous said...

Apologies if you didn't like the tone - it was meant cheerily enough. If there's one thing I should have learnt by now, it's that there are no 'firsts' in film history. No sooner do you find the supposed first occurence of something, then something earlier turns up, or you have to question your terms of reference. That said, Urban was very likely the first person to use to term 'documentary' in English - until someone proves otherwise.

Your site is terrific, by the way. Looks great, always informative, and plenty of variety. Keep up the good work.


Edna's Place said...

Very good to hear from you Luke! I really enjoyed your site too! So glad you have come back! And by the way, all is FINE. It is great to have the response and shake a new item I didn't know, so we all learn, until the next researcher uncovers something new. That is always the fun part! : )

It is kind of like Charlie Chaplin and his tramp character. All one can really say, he was the first with his style of tramp character, and his personality is what certainly made him so popular. In Italy we saw a most informative talk by David Robinson about the many tramp styles that Chaplin could have borrowed from during his stage career. Of course he borrowed from what he saw, from people we may never know, even the tramps on the London streets during his childhood.

Again, many thanks for your information on Charles Urban. I know I will have to make room to learn more! Keep up your important interest in silent films! It's what helps keep it alive! And many thanks for visiting! - Linda