George Melies was a French magician and theater owner who saw an early Lumiere expo and instantly became intrigued with the new medium. After the Lumiere’s refused to sell him a camera, he built his own, and began experimenting with what the technology could do. In 1896, Melies opened the first public theater in the world to regularly show movies.
As a filmmaker he became the first person to tell real stories (beyond the simple gags of the Lumiere Brothers). He also became the Father of special effects when, as a new filmmaker, his camera jammed causing a carriage to “disappear.” A magician at heart, Melies ran with it, experimenting with a wide variety of mostly in camera effects.
Melies conducted early experiments with hand coloring film, and also set a president for producing films based on books by adapting several popular novels by H.G. Wells.
Melies was perhaps more responsible than anyone for turning the novelty of film into a true narrative art form. As tastes changed, however, Melies became passé, and spent much of his later years working in his wife’s toy store, forgotten and poor.