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20110703

Thomas Edison: Boxing Cats, Boxing Babes, and Dancing "Gays"


Welcome to another edition of Silent Movie Sunday.  I was digging through the YouTube attic this afternoon and I came across something interesting.  It goes all the way back to 1894 and the first kinetograph films, an early movie camera invented by Thomas Edison and William Dickson in 1892.   What would you choose to be among the first things ever filmed?  Edison and his crew decided on this: 
"A series of vaudeville performers became some of the first subjects to appear before the Kinetograph at the Black Maria. These included such well-known acts as the strongman Eugene Sandow, the Spanish dancer Carmencita, and Annabelle Whitford performing her famous Butterfly Dance. Acts from Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show were filmed, including Annie Oakley and a troop of Native American dancers who performed in the show. Many of the films were expected to appeal to male audiences, and some even featured scantily-clad women. Other masculine activities, such as boxing and cockfights, were also filmed. Dickson and Heise filmed over 75 motion pictures during 1894."
I have chosen these three shorts mainly because I find them weird and interesting.  All were filmed at the world's first movie studio, Edison's Black Maria.

With the obsolescence of the phonograph and the incandescent light bulb, perhaps Edison's most long-lived contribution to society may be his invention of the cute cat video.  Can't you just picture him with Dickson and his assistant William Heis smoking cigars and drinking bourbon after a hard day's work in the lab, when Edison pipes up and says "Gentlemen, we have just invented the  kinetiscope .  What shall we do with it?  Dickson may have answered "How about we film cute cats boxing?" .  .  .

The Edison Company : Boxing Cats

and Heis may have offered, "I want to see two dames boxing."  Shut Up!  It could have happened that way.

The Edison Company :  Boxing Women

Did you know that the first motion picture recorded with sound was the following short clip of two men slow dancing to the sound of a violin?  The guy playing the music is Dickson himself.  

To learn more about the Edison Company, click here.   That is all for now, happy 4th of July.

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