Film Bias

Reflections on early American film.

Monkeyshines


Monkeyshines (1889 or 1890), an experimental film made to test the original cylinder format of the Kinetoscope, is believed to be the first film shot in the United States.

Monkeyshines, No. 1 was shot by William K.L. Dickson and William Heise for the Edison labs. Scholars have differing opinions on whether the first was shot in June 1889 starring John Ott or sometime between November 21-27, 1890 starring G. Sacco Albanese. Both men were fellow lab workers at the company; contradictory evidence exists for each claim. Monkeyshines, No. 2 and Monkeyshines, No. 3 quickly followed to test further conditions.

These films were intended to be internal tests of the new camera system, and were not created for commercial use; their rise to prominence resulted much later due to work by film historians. All three films show a blurry figure in white standing in one place making large gestures and are only a few seconds long.

Newark Athlete


Newark Athlete is an 1891 American short film directed and produced by William K. L. Dickson. The film, roughly ten seconds in length, displays a young athlete swinging Indian clubs. It was filmed in May or June 1891, in Edison's Black Maria studio. The film was made to be viewed using Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope.

In 2010, Newark Athlete was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". It is currently the oldest film chosen to be in the Registry.

Blacksmith Scene


Blacksmith Scene is an 1893 American short black-and-white silent film directed by William K.L. Dickson, the Scottish-French inventor who, while under the employ of Thomas Edison, developed the first fully functional motion picture camera. It is historically significant as the first Kinetoscope film shown in public exhibition on May 9, 1893 and is the earliest known example of actors performing a role in a film. In 1995, Blacksmith Scene was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". It is the second-oldest film included in the Registry, after Newark Athlete (1891).

Rip Van Winkle


Rip Van Winkle is a 1903 American short black-and-white silent compilation film written and directed by William K.L. Dickson. It is adapted from the play by his friend and investor Joseph Jefferson with Dion Boucicault based on the story of the same name by Washington Irving. The film features Joseph Jefferson as a ne'er-do-well, who wanders off one day into the Kaatskill mountains where he drinks some of a group odd men's mysterious brew and passes out only to find when waking up that 20 years have passed. The film is compiled from a series of films produced in 1896. These films were added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1995 and featured on the DVD release More Treasures from American Film Archives, 1894-1931.

The Kiss


The Kiss (also known as The May Irwin Kiss, The Rice-Irwin Kiss and The Widow Jones) is an 1896 actuality, and was one of the first films ever shown commercially to the public. The film is around 18 seconds long, and depicts a re-enactment of the kiss between May Irwin and John Rice from the final scene of the stage musical, The Widow Jones.

The film was directed by William Heise for Thomas Edison. At the time Edison was working at the Black Maria studios in West Orange, New Jersey. In 1999 the short was deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Men Boxing


Men Boxing is an 1891 American short black-and-white silent actuality film, produced and directed by William K.L. Dickson and William Heise for the Edison Manufacturing Company, featuring two Edison employees with boxing gloves, pretending to spar in a boxing ring. The 12 feet of film was shot between May and June 1891 at the Edison Laboratory Photographic Building in West Orange, New Jersey, on the Edison-Dickson-Heise experimental horizontal-feed kinetograph camera and viewer, through a round aperture on 3/4 inch (19mm) wide film with a single edge row of sprocket perforations, as an experimental demonstration and was never publicly shown. A print has been preserved in the US Library of Congress film archive as part of the Gordon Hendricks collection.

Carmencita


Carmencita is an 1894 American short black-and-white silent documentary film directed and produced by William K.L. Dickson, the Scottish inventor credited with the invention of the motion picture camera under the employ of Thomas Edison. The film is titled after the dancer who features in it. This video is one of a series of Edison short films featuring circus and vaudeville acts. It features a dancer going through a routine she had been performing at Koster and Bial's Music Hall in New York City since February 1890. According to film historian Charles Musser, Carmencita was the first woman to appear in front of an Edison motion picture camera and may have been the first woman to appear in a motion picture within the United States. In the film she is recorded going through a routine she had been performing at Koster and Bial's Music Hall in New York City since February 1890.

Bucking Broncho


Bucking Broncho is an 1894 silent film from Edison Studios. Its star was Lee Martin who was an actual cowboy "bronco rider" and a member of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. Martin's part was uncredited and his only film. The film is a demonstration of expert horse riding before a crowd of onlookers. This film is preserved by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and available in the DVD collection More Treasures from American Film Archives (2004).

Fred Ott's Sneeze


Fred Ott's Sneeze (also known as Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze) is an 1894 American, short, black-and-white, silent documentary film shot by William K.L. Dickson and starring Fred Ott. It was the first motion picture to be copyrighted in the United States. In the five-second film one of Thomas Edison's assistants, Fred Ott, takes a pinch of snuff and sneezes. According to the Library of Congress, "It was filmed for publicity purposes as a series of still photographs to accompany an article in Harper's Weekly." In 2015, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."