A Winter Straw Ride (1906)
With December progressing apace, it’s time I come back to my seasonally-oriented movie reviews. This one depicts outdoor activities of an earlier generation and seems a lot more fun than “A Holiday Pageant at Home.”
Two horse-drawn sleds are loaded up in front of a stationary camera. The first seems to contain younger girls, the second is apparently grown women; possibly the pupils and teachers of an all-girls school are going on a sleigh ride before the school holidays. The succeeding shots show the two teams of horses approaching the camera as the sleighs dash over the snow. In one shot, a group of boys pelt the riders with snowballs. The sleighs cross a bridge and the girls wave at the camera. They enter a field and one of them tips over when going through a snowbank, and every gets out to right it, with some assistance from nearby onlookers, then they are off again! The next scene shows the girls and women chasing a group of men and boys. They catch an older man that looks like Teddy Roosevelt and smush his face in the snow, then continue the pursuit. The rest of the film is the boys running and the girls pursuing them. At one point, they all slide down a snowbank, until it collapses under their weight, revealing that there was no hill underneath, it had been piled up by the wind. Finally, in the last scene, the boys come to a steep ravine they cannot climb out of. The girls and women catch up and the chase devolves into a massive snowball fight.
I was ready for a cup of hot cocoa after I watched this one! It was made by Edwin S. Porter for the Edison Manufacturing Company, presumably shot somewhere in New Jersey during the winter months. The snow doesn’t look that thick on the roads in some places, which may explain why they went into the fields. I don’t quite get why they abandoned the “straw ride” theme to run after boys for half of the movie, but Porter seems to have been fond of using the “chase” format to give some plot to his largely storyless vignettes. There is little camera movement, although the camera does pan a little as the sleighs go by and one critical pan takes place when they catch the man in the snow, and all editing is simply to put one scene after the other. Close-ups are essentially incidental, as the subjects run past the camera. Everyone in the movie seems to be having a good time, and when we can make out faces, they are smiling and laughing. This bit of snow sport seems much more in keeping with the spirit of Christmas than the rigid Victorian world of “Holiday Pageant” to me.
Director: Edwin S. Porter and Wallace McCutcheon
Camera: Edwin S. Porter
Run Time: 6 Min, 30 secs