Theme Month! March 2017: The First Decade of Cinema

I’m very excited about this one! We’re going to be studying the most neglected period of movie history: the early days when most films were just a few minutes long and projecting them was a new innovation.

For our purposes, we are going to fix 1895 as the dawn of cinema as it was the year that movies were taken out of the peepshows and onto the silver sheet. Despite the fame of the Lumiere brothers, Woodville Latham & Sons of the United States and Max Skladanowsky of Germany both beat them to the punch in the race to project films but all of these breakthroughs neatly happened in 1895.

We’re going to be focusing on films made between 1895 and 1905, a bit over a decade of wonderful and, sadly, neglected entertainment. I mean, besides The Kiss, The Great Train Robbery and A Trip to the Moon, most of these films have fallen into obscurity with the general public. Never fear! We’re going to have a grand time touring this relatively untouched era.

Yes, movies had color too.

Most films from this period were short, some just a few seconds long. We’ll be covering pictures that range from just under a minute to a full seven minutes. I should note, though, that feature films are older than most people think. According to The Emergence of Cinema by Charles Musser, the first feature film was The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight (1897), a recorded boxing match that ran 90 minutes. The first fiction feature film is reckoned to be The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906), a six-reel Australian production.

To whet your appetite, here are some early motion pictures I have already reviewed:

The X-Rays (1897)

Cyrano de Bergerac (1900, with sound!)

A Trip to the Moon (1902)

The Great Train Robbery (1903)

The Palace of the Arabian Nights (1905)

Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend (1906)

Max Learns to Skate (1907)

My selections for the month will cover quite a few different studios and famous talents of the period. I aimed for variety and will be giving special focus to France and Britain.

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8 Replies to “Theme Month! March 2017: The First Decade of Cinema”

  1. I was originally attracted to silent cinema because they gave me the chance to see the world of 100+ years ago. I was open-minded about it as an art form, but that wasn’t the reason I was drawn to it. I still love the earliest silents for different reasons than I love the films of the late 10’s and 20’s. They have a special place in my heart. I think I’m going to enjoy this month’s theme 🙂

  2. Yay!! It is about time that I mentioned that you inspired me to create a 2nd group on Facebook devoted to the Silent Era : 1894-1929. Two years ago. Do you think that I should change the title to reflect the beginning as you define it to be 1895 ,instead of 1894? My first group is called : 1929 Movies : Silent and Sound : A Year In Transition! And of course I share your articles in the groups that I run and ones that I am a member of! ! Love your research, reviews and witty satirical humor! !

    1. Thank you so much! I wouldn’t worry too much about the dates as there are at least five dates for every landmark in silent film. 1895 just happened to work for me this time. 🙂

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