First movie First 3D movie First colour movie First 3D colour movie

First movie

1. The technology

2. The human subject

First movie of a person

'The Stride of a Trotting Horse, "Abe Edgington," owned by Leland Stanford; being driven by Marvin, trotting at a 2:24 gait over Mr. Stanford's Race Track at Menlo Park, on 11th June, 1878'

In Muybridge's famous horse experiment of 1878, the subject filmed was the horse, Abe Edgington, pulling a sulky (a lightweight two-wheeled, single-seat cart). The sulky was driven by the trainer Charles Marvin (1839–1907), who was thus the first human to appear in a movie. [Pop Art Machine, Leslie] This sequence, as published, was photographed on 11 June 1878, four days before the first press presentation. Note, however, that the image of Marvin as it appears in the prints from which the animation is derived was retouched by Muybridge, who painted over Marvin's image so as to make a silhouette. As now viewed, only the horse and sulky are photographic. In Muybridge's sequence photographs of the horse Sallie Gardner, ridden by G. Domm (possibly Gilbert Domm) at Palo Alto on 19 June 1878, Domm is not fully in silhouette, though his face does appear to have been blacked out. [Braun]

In August 1879 Muybridge first made sequence photographs of specifically human subjects—members of the Olympic Club, including himself. [Braun]



First movie of a woman

animation of Muybridge's Woman Walking

This animation of Muybridge's Plate 17 (from Animal Locomotion, published in 1887), Woman walking, must be one of the first movies showing a woman. The model for Plate 17 was Lily ____; other women Muybridge filmed included Mamie ____, Nellie ____, and Mrs Tadd. [Herbert, ed.] It's not yet clear who was first before the cameras, but numerically the first images included in Animal Locomotion of a woman moving in time are on his Plate 13, of which the 2D collotype is reproduced here, and my own animation immediately below (at 4fps).

Animal Locomotion includes images of a woman—Mrs Cooper—made as early as June 1884, but these are instantaneous images, not capturing motion. It appears, however, that Mrs Cooper was the subject of Muybridge's sequence photography by August 1884—see Braun.



First movie showing a woman, viewable by its contemporaries

Roundhay Garden Scene is an approximately 2-second movie made in Britain in 1888 by inventor Louis Le Prince (1842–1890). It was recorded at 12 frames per second.

According to Le Prince's son, Adolphe, it was filmed at Oakwood Grange, the home of Joseph and Sarah Whitley, in Roundhay, Leeds, West Yorkshire, on 14 October 1888.

It features Adolphe Le Prince, Sarah Whitley (1816–1888), Joseph Whitley (1816–1891) and Harriet Hartley in the garden, walking around and laughing. Sarah is walking backwards and Joseph's coat tails are flying.



Earliest-born person to be filmed

Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci, later known as Pope Leo XIII (1810–1903), was filmed in 1898 (not 1896, as stated in the clip), by William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson (1860–1935). Pecci was born on 2 March 1810.

According to Dickson, the American Biograph company was approached by a group of Roman Catholic prelates, among them Monsignor Sebastiano Martinelli and Cardinal James Gibbons, who had been impressed by the Biograph and especially by the popular reaction to the scenes of US President McKinley. With letters of recommendation and the encouragement of the Biograph company, Dickson (by then working for Biograph's British division) went to Italy early in 1898, partnered with cameraman Emile Lauste. Up to 2½ months of negotiation followed before Dickson got permission to film a man who hadn't even posed for a photographer for eight years. In April/May 1898 he filmed eight Mutoscope rolls, using seven different camera set-ups: five in the Vatican garden and two in the upper loggia; two of the rolls appear to be a single take cut in half. [Who's Who of Victorian Cinema; [Spehr, pp499-514]



Earliest-born woman to be filmed

At the moment the strongest candidate still appears to be Rebecca Clarke, née Allen. One of six known children of Thomas and Mary Allen, she is now known to have been baptised on 14 October 1810 at Houghton Regis, Bedfordshirejust outside Dunstable.  While her age may have been exaggerated in later life, it seems likely that her birthday was correctly remembered as 5 June.

A Kinora reel was made in England some time between 1896 and 1912, with the following description: "Rebecca Clarke and kitten. The well known centenarian of 108, serenely sewing in a chair, is surprised by a kitten which jumps up on her. She caresses the kitten, which struggles and nearly escapes." [The Projection Box] Listed as Kinora reel 145, a still from this reel appears in Anthony.

Aside from the baptismal date, genealogical data consistently overstates her age, but this is not uncommon with individuals of great age: The 1901 census for England lists only one Rebecca Clark(e) born in the period 1790–1810. This Rebecca Clark was a 95-year old widow, born in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, but at that date living in Stoke Newington, London [The National Archives (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO) RG 13/204 f107 p44]. She appears, as the wife of Charles Clarke, in the 1841, 1851, 1861, and 1871 censuses, living first at Eaton Socon, Bedfordshire, then in 1861 and 1871 at St Neots, Huntingdonshire. The 1841 census gives her age as 30, which is consistent with this; if she had indeed been born in 1804 her age in this census should have been given as 35, as enumerators were instructed to round down to the nearest five years. The 1911 census shows her as aged 107, living with her son's family at 164 High Road, Wood Green, London N. [TNA: RG 14/7253 RD132 ED8 SN17] The General Register Office (GRO) death indexes for England and Wales record the death of a Rebecca Clark at Edmonton (the registration district that includes Wood Green) in the 3rd quarter of 1914, aged 110.

Press coverage of what was claimed to be Rebecca Clark's 110th birthday, and of her death, give the following details: She was born Rebecca Allen in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, allegedly on 5 June 1804, and made her living at lace-making and straw-plaiting at Luton until her marriage at Oving, Buckinghamshire, on 12 July 1830. Two of her brothers fought at the battle of Waterloo. She went for her first motor ride on her (alleged) 107th birthday. In her final years she lived at High Road, Wood Green. She died on 6 July 1914. [Western Times, 1914-07-08; Western Gazette, 1914-06-12; Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 1914-07-06; Western Daily Press, 1914-07-08; FamilySearch]

The Kinora reel was probably made after 5 June 1912: not long after what was claimed to be her 108th birthday, but was more likely her 102nd. has made a claim for 'Grandmother Despina', filmed in Macedonia by her grandsons the Manaki brothers in 1905, of which 15 seconds are on YouTube. The subject is claimed to have been 114 at the date she was filmed, so born c. 1791. This can't be accepted, however, as there is no evidence whatsoever of her age or date of birth. Speculation that she was anything like as old as claimed is pointless, as she could just as easily be in her 80s (the Manaki brothers were born in 1878 and 1882).

Mammy Lou, who appeared as the Old Servant in the 1918 film The Glorious Adventure, claimed to be 114 years old at the time of filming. But there appears to be no evidence for her age or date of birth. The film is also now lost, MGM's print having been destroyed by fire in 1967.



Full references for printed works

Barry Anthony (1996) The Kinora. Motion pictures for the home 1896–1914, London: The Projection Box

Ina Bertrand (2005, 2010) 'Australia', in Richard Abel, ed. (2005, 2010) Encyclopedia of Early Cinema. London and New York: Routledge

Marta Braun (2010) Eadweard Muybridge. London: Reaktion Books

Philip Brookman, ed. (2010) Eadweard Muybridge. London: Tate Publishing

Stephen Herbert, ed. (2004) Eadweard Muybridge. The Kingston Museum Bequest. Hastings: The Projection Box

Jean-Marc Lamotte (2005, 2010) 'Lumière, Auguste and Louis', in Richard Abel, ed. (2005, 2010) Encyclopedia of Early Cinema. London and New York: Routledge

Anita Ventura Mozley, ed. (1972) Eadweard Muybridge: The Stanford Years. Stanford, CA: Museum of Art, Stanford University

Philip Prodger (2003) Time Stands Still. Muybridge and the Instantaneous Photography Movement. New York: OUP

Deac Rossell (1998) Living Pictures. The Origins of the Movies. Albany: State University of New York Press

Paul Spehr (2008) The Man Who Made Movies: W.K.L. Dickson. New Barnet: John Libbey Publishing

Dan Streible (2008) Fight Pictures. A History of Boxing and Early Cinema. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press

Virgilio Tosi (2005) Cinema before Cinema. The Origins of Scientific Cinematography, 2nd edn. London: British Universities Film and Video Council.


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This page was last revised on 2018-11-23.