Figure 1.24

Staging Movies

See the moving Picture

Sandow

Thomas A. Edison, Inc.; producer, W.K.L. Dickson; USA, 1894?

See the moving Picture

The May Irwin Kiss

Thomas A. Edison, Inc.; producer, New York World; USA, 1896

See the moving  
Picture

See the moving  
Picture

Strong man Eugene Sandow’s vaudeville “act,” which headlined a touring company called “Sandow’s Olympia,” included poses in which the bodybuilder flexed his arms and shoulders while standing in front of a black background and climaxed with a standing back flip. Managed by future theater impresario Florenz Ziegfield, Sandow was only the most renowned of the musclemen popular with vaudeville audiences at the turn of the century. The black background wall of the studio throws the subject’s form into bold relief, and Dickson, an expert photographer before heading up Edison’s motion-picture team, frames his one-shot subject—from just above the knees up—in the way that least distracts the viewer’s attention. William Heise framed The May Irwin Kiss in order to treat the spectator to a view of performers’ faces that they couldn’t get in the theater. The result was a proximity to the osculatory climax that many viewers found disquieting or even grotesque. Nevertheless, the film aroused widespread curiosity and became Edison’s most popular film of 1896.

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