Newark Athlete (1891)
Since I’m temporarily living with limited internet and even more limited access to classic DVDs, I’m taking the chance to revisit some of the very short films from the Age of Attractions. This is actually the earliest movie in the National Film Registry, which makes it pretty important in the history of American film. It was shot in the Black Maria and demonstrates the ability of the Kinetoscope to reproduce movement by showing a man in a gym uniform swinging a pair of things that look like bowling pins, but apparently are Indian Clubs. Although he’s identified as the “Newark Athlete,” he’s not really doing anything especially athletic, and I wonder if they really called a professional athlete all the way to the studio just to shoot ten seconds of him swinging his arms. It also strikes me that, like the boxers Dickson would later shoot for Edison, this man is rather more skimpily clad than one usually saw in the late-nineteenth century, and I wonder if the appeal of sex was already a factor even in these early days of the movies.
Director and Camera: W.K.L Dickson
Run Time:12 seconds
You can watch it for free: here.