When Broadway sensations May Irwin and John Rice recreated their kiss from the hit play 'The Widow Jones', in front of a camera at Thomas Edison's Black Maria Studio. That footage directed by William Heise became a notorious special attention for many years. Now, some modern day viewers might be rolling their eye on the idea that this 18 second film clip was something truly special, back in the day, but it was. People in 1896 really did want to see it! Sometimes, they paid a ticket to watch it in groups, on a projector in a really cold or hot tent at the local public park. Other times, audiences went to stag parties to watch it, alone in a room on a Kinetoscope. Either way, Edison made money. It was the most popular short film, in Thomas Edison Vitascope library. It was so famous that it caused a scandalized uproar and occasioned disapproving newspaper editorials and calls for police action in many places where ever the footage was shown. It even got the Roman Catholic Church's attention, as the pope call for censorship and moral reform, when it comes to the film. It was that scandalous. You might be asking, why. It's just a harmless kiss. Well, it's because kissing in public at the time was viewed as a physical and mental disorder. It was disturbance that people often view, would bring moral chaos to marriages and sexual diseases to the common household. Such acts were forbidden & inappropriate, and if acted, could lead to prosecution. Prim and proper prudish society was really that strict. However, it wasn't only snobbish moral code culture that had a problem with the film. The movie also got in hot water with some nonconformist, free-spirit bohemian critics as well; as they found the two leads, physically-unattractive & lacking chemistry with each other. They didn't find the short film, cute or sexy. They found the public display of affection, a very disgusting piece of art, as the kiss didn't feel genuine. Still, the way John Rice prepares his moustache before the act is quite funny. So, at least, it had that, going for it. Regardless, the kiss does look fake. In response in that, Edison Studios & director, Edwin S. Porter remade the short clip for the general audience in March 9, 1900, with two more attractive younger, leading performers with on-screen chemistry. This time, they made the embrace seem more heart-warming by having them, seem playful and flirtatious cuddling, rather than 'forceful pull you in' nuzzling intimacy, like it seem in the original clip. From what I've gather, this short film was released without any controversy. It even please the church. I suppose as far as early silent era, short film, exclusively about two people kissing goes, the 1900 version is certainly better than the original movie. Still, I have to somewhat agree with some modern viewers, that both short films are not much to look. It's really not that romantic or entertaining as a popcorn flick, nor does it bring a good enough insight on how life is like, back then, as a hard-hitting documentary. In the end, the films falls into mediocracy. Films like 1899's British short silent comedy film, produced and directed by George Albert Smith, 'A Kiss in the Tunnel' are far superior; with its innovating ways of narrative editing. The act of splicing stock train footage with clips of two performers, Laura Bayley and the director, himself, kissing onboard was ground-breaking. Also the use of point-of-view (POV) shot from the "perspective" of a moving train was outstanding. Regardless, all this films deserve some praise, as they were generally considered to be among the first romantic films in movie history. All of them are remarkable. While, 1896's 'the Kiss' is understandably jumpy and scratch. I just surprise, a highly flammable nitrate film clip, this old, is still watchable. Most short-length footage from this era, were destroy by accident fires or on purpose, in order to make room for vault space, as short clips perceived as having little or no commercial value after the end of the silent era. There was no thought of ever saving these films. Lucky for us, 1896's 'the Kiss' is one of the films that continues to be shown. In 1999, the short was deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. The original rare footage had a strong case of surviving for many years to come. Even with that, the copies of this short movie is easy to find. You should be able to catch this short on DVDs on a number of different anthologies of early films. If not, you can search for it on the internet. There is tons of footage of this short on YouTube, along. So, nothing really stopping you. It's the question, if you really want to watch this short film. While, 1896's 'the Kiss' isn't really entertaining. It's still, worth watching for anybody curious about the early days of film. So, check it out, if you really want to.
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