Figure 7.4

The Movies Record Vaudeville

Princess Rajah Dance

A.E. Weed, American Mutoscope and Biograph Co., USA, 1904

Pity the Blind, No. 2

American Mutoscope and Biograph Co., USA, 1902

Duel Scene, “By Right of Sword”

A.E. Weed, American Mutoscope and Biograph Co., USA, 1904

Treloar and Miss Marshall, Prize Winners at the Physical Culture Show in Madison Square Garden

Edwin S. Porter, Edison Manufacturing Co., USA, 1904

See the moving picture

See the moving picture

See the moving picture

See the moving picture

Although none of the acts here was filmed during an actual performance, cameramen sought to capture the atmosphere as well as the variety of vaudeville presentations.

The Princess Rajah Dance, which Biograph filmed at the 1904 St. Louis Exposition, featured the revealing costume and suggestive movements typical of the exotic dance with which early moviemakers appealed to male viewers. The Princess’ value-added novelty, of course, was her chair, which she balanced in her teeth throughout the performance.

Pity the Blind, No. 2 recorded a vintage vaudeville gag complete with painted city-street backdrop. The gag consists in the fact that the supposedly blind beggar sneaks a peek at the leg of a woman who adjusts her skirts in the belief that no masculine eyes are in the vicinity.

Dramatic sketches excerpted from longer pieces offered a popular change of pace on the vaudeville program. Duel Scene, “By Right of Sword” picks up its source story as two dashing soldiers fight a duel before a painted backdrop depicting a forested lake.

Acrobatic acts and other demonstrations of physical culture had the advantage not only of displaying partially clothed bodies but of being good “dumb” acts—silent “turns” during which people could mill in and out of the theater. The Edison Co. recorded Treloar and Miss Marshall, Prize Winners at the Physical Culture Show in Madison Square Garden in December 1903.

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