Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: Kk

King John (1899)

King John

This is the first known example of an adaptation of Shakespeare’s work to moving pictures. It is, of course, silent, and so doesn’t do much justice to the brilliant dialogue of the Bard. It exists today in a two-minute clip from what was probably a rather longer film. Watching it is sort of like looking at an artist’s interpretation of Shakespeare on canvas, or like the above illustration. If you’re familiar with the play, it is a sort of snapshot of a key scene, but it isn’t really a reenactment of the play. It was produced through the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company, an affiliate of the US Biograph studio.


Directed by: WKL Dickson & Walter Pfeffer Dando

Starring: Herbert Beerbohm Tree

Run Time: 2 min.

You Can Watch it for Free: Here

Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914)


Director: Henry Lehrman

Starring: Charles Chaplin

This is the big start for Charlie Chaplin. It is a simple, seven-minute comedy reel in which an odd fellow blunders in front of cameramen trying to film a local soapbox racing event, and then refuses to go away, even when rather forcefully asked to do so. It was the first time that Chaplin appeared in his “Little Tramp” outfit on film, so is a milestone of sorts. It’s also an example of Keystone Studios taking advantage of a local news event as the setting for one of their comedies, which gave them the opportunity to make what looked like “big” productions for very little money. In later years, Venice police would have chased them off the track for filming without a permit, but here, Charlie is nearly hit by several race cars, and his only adversary seems to be the other actor. Much has been made about the “breaking of the fourth wall,” which refers to the point in the movie where we see the cameraman filming Charlie by virtue of a second camera, although I’ve seen examples of this going back as far as the 1890s. Cameramen were always fascinated by filming other cameramen.

Run time: 6min 21 sec

You can watch it for free: here