See the moving  


Hand-Tinting Annabelle

Annabelle Serpentine Dance

William Heise, Edison Co., USA, 1895

The commercial appeal of filmed performances like Annabelle Whitford’s Serpentine Dance—in addition to the spectacle of a woman engaged in a relatively immodest activity—lay in the novelty of movement that has an almost abstract quality: the subject’s movements, as mechanically reproduced, are not entirely realistic because they’re actually discontinuous (the motion picture is, after all, a series of still photographs running past a shutter that’s opening and closing). Reviewing the premiere of the Edison vitascope at Koster & Bial’s Music Hall on 23 April 1896, the New York Daily News reported that “the last picture was a serpentine dancer. [C]olor effects were used in this, and it was one of the most effective of the series.” Colorists were hired to apply one color at a time to each frame, in part to simulate the play of colored lights that would be cast on the dancer’s skirts when she performed on the vaudeville stage. From almost the very beginning, color was conceived as a complement to movement itself as an effective component of the motion-picture spectacle.

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