10 May, 2021

Starry-Eyed At The House Of Reels

The big screen. Up there dreams are built and spilt, lives are lived, loved and lost and all of us are along for the ride.

Starry-Eyed At The House Of Reels

It began with a sneeze. On January 7, 1894, an American gentleman called Fred Ott sneezed into a camera. Thomas Alva Edison (who was hardly an inventor; he ran a factory packed with young engineers who worked to develop their own and his ideas, and if something came out of it, he patented it in his name) then applied for a copyright for Edison Kinetoscope Record of a Sneeze immediately at the US Library of Congress.

Things turned hectic after that. Other inventors and innovators rushed in, and many with ideas far beyond recording a sneeze. Patent applications flew thick and fast, mainly from the French, and in 1896, Edison (as canny a visionary as was ever born) caused a huge uproar by rele­a­sing The Kiss Between May Irwin and John Rice. The film—if it can be called that—showed the two named worthies kissing, and imm­ediately caused conser­vative Americans to cry out for censorship.

This was a new art form, and the possibilities were endless (they still are). In 1902, the French filmmaker Georges Mel­ies made and...

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