Saturday, July 13, 2013

Timing? It's all about timing.

When you look at Charlie, Gene and Steve and their success, you can talk about intellect, skill, talent, artistry and many other qualities, but timing was key to their phenomenal success.

Charlie came to the early "flickers" at a time just after, about 10 years, its birth.  By the time he got there, it was time for pictures, of the kind we take for granted today, to be developed.  The early movies were more recording of live events with no narrative quality.  People were so thrilled just to see moving pictures and almost didn't care what they watched.  Charlie entered the industry under Mack Sennent, the producer of the Keystone comedies, at just the right time.  Sennent's movies were crude, fast paced slapstick.  Once Chaplin found his way in the movie making business, he realized the movies and the public needed more. He gave them much more and helped define a generation of comedic movies with his unique brand of pathos.  He made us laugh and cry.  He slowed the Keystone pace down to allow the gags to build and the characters to develop.  Each movie built on the previous skills he was honing.  He made 38 movies in 10 months and learned all of the skills necessary to take his movies to a level well beyond the others; Lloyd and Keaton. Starting with The Kid, Chaplin movies became timeless treasures that we celebrate 100 years later.

Gene was on Broadway in the late 30s and early 40s at a time when musicals were moving away from the goofy plot, boy gets girl and they both sing a happy song.  After two "foot in the door" Broadway shows, he got the lead in Pal Joey, a Rodgers and Hart show.  It was different with Gene playing a cad.  He had already realized that he could create a character through dance, something novel.  The show caught the attention of those movie guys on the west coast; Louis B. Mayer and David O. Selznick.  Who was this guy on Broadway?  By late 1942 Gene was in Hollywood ready to shake up the world of the goofy Hollywood musicals.  Hollywood was still playing with sound and people were thrilled just to see and hear music on screen with a simple plot that had dances thrown in haphazardly.  When Gene caught the eye of Arthur Freed and his magical musical unit, everything changed.  The time was ripe for a change and Gene provided the talent and energy. Dancing and musicals moved from the simple stage productions with inane plots to stories with dance helping to tell the story.  Gene and his apprentice, Stanley Donen, used the camera as part of the dance instead of simply a recording device.  Starting with Cover Girl, it all changed.  He moved beyond Astaire and danced in jeans a tea shirt with that "every man" style we know and love.  Singin in The Rain and An American in Paris are as timeless as Chaplin's feature films.

When Steve Jobs med Steve Wozniak, the tech world was on the threshold of a huge change.  The microprocessor was in it's early childhood and mainframe computers were used by huge companies.  No one could imagine computers being something that average people would use.  Jobs and Wozniak were beginning to envision a different world.  Starting with the Wozniak designed Apple I, the PC market was born.  Computers would quickly move from the corporate world to the home office and living room.  Had it not been for Steve Jobs and others, namely Bill Gates and Intel, the PC market might have been delayed many years.  Once the Apple PC took off, it quickly needed "the next big thing".  Jobs somehow convinced Zerox and their Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) to share or part with their Graphic User Interface (GUI) and put into his Macintosh PC.  Microsoft Windows followed and the already fast moving PC market exploded.  He did it again in the cell phone market at just the right time, in 2007, with the Iphone, and again in 2011 with the Ipad.

Talent? Yes.  Skill? Yes.  Genius? Yes, but don't forget timing.

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