See the moving picture

FIGURE 7.15

Filmed Theater as Feature Film

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Edwin S. Porter, Edison Manufacturing Co., USA, 1903

Composed of 14 sequences, each introduced by its own title and each staged on its own set, the Edison-Porter Uncle Tom is strictly filmed theater. Stage versions of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s antislavery novel had been touring the country for nearly half a century, and by 1903, observes American historian Charles Musser, Uncle Tom was “a story that native-born Americans outside the South knew intimately.” Porter added a few special effects, such as the ascension of Little Eva into heaven, but otherwise settled for excerpting the well-known melodrama. Like most stage productions, the film cast white actors in blackface for major black roles and relegated black performers to roles as extras. (For more on the Edison-Porter version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, see Figure B4.13.)

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