Another short Edison film documenting the Spanish-American War, this movie comes from a location most Americans would never see. As with “Shooting Captured Insurgents” and “Troop Ships for the Philippines,” this shows the embryonic film industry’s eagerness to participate in nationalist celebration as the country entered conflict.
We see a dock from a slight angle, as if the camera is on shore and slightly off-set. Uniformed soldiers are marching down the dock towards us. Some of them carry flags. In the background, we see a large rowboat approaching the dock, full of more soldiers, and behind that a ship is moored to a larger dock, apparently intended for unloading cargo. As the men walk towards us, an officer comes into view, walking away from the camera down the dock, apparently reviewing the new arrivals.
There are a lot of movies of parades of various kinds from this period, especially from the USA. Apparently filmmakers, looking for subjects that moved rather than standing still, found them an easy sell for early exhibitors, and cheap to produce: So long as the parade was already scheduled, all you had to do was show up with a camera. To us today, watching people march past a camera gets boring pretty fast, but in cases like this it clearly connected the audience to news-worthy events that otherwise they could only read about, or see depicted in still images. It’s not like we don’t see images of parades on our screens today, we simply associate them with a broader multi-media experience, at least including narration. And, the audiences of 1898 would likely have had a live narrator, speaking to them about the historic significance of the event and the names of battalions and leaders, etc. The Edison catalog entry for this film claims that this image shows the first US troops to land on Cuban soil during the war, which may be mere ballyhoo, but would have piqued people’s interest at the time.
Director: William Paley
Camera: William Paley
Run Time: 40 secs
You can watch it for free: here (no music).
Note that the quality of the copy on the “Invention of the Movies” DVD is much lower than that of the Library of Congress online version linked above, however, this version plays at a higher frame rate, making the movement appear more natural.