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Blacksmith Scene (1893)

 -  Short  -  9 May 1893 (USA)
6.3
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Ratings: 6.3/10 from 1,114 users  
Reviews: 16 user | 3 critic

Three men hammer on an anvil and pass a bottle of beer around.

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(uncredited)
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Title: Blacksmith Scene (1893)

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Cast

Uncredited cast:
Charles Kayser ...
(uncredited)
John Ott ...
(uncredited)
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Storyline

A stationary camera looks at a large anvil with a blacksmith behind it and one on either side. The smith in the middle draws a heated metal rod from the fire, places it on the anvil, and all three begin a rhythmic hammering. After several blows, the metal goes back in the fire. One smith pulls out a bottle of beer, and they each take a swig. Then, out comes the glowing metal and the hammering resumes. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

beer | blacksmith | two word title | See All (3) »

Genres:

Short

Certificate:

Unrated
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Details

Country:

Release Date:

9 May 1893 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Blacksmith Scene #1  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Trivia

One of the 50 films in the 4-disk boxed DVD set called "Treasures from American Film Archives (2000)", compiled by the National Film Preservation Foundation from 18 American film archives. This film was preserved by the Museum of Modern Art. See more »

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User Reviews

Firsts: Staging and Commercial Exhibition
1 December 2007 | by See all my reviews

This is one of the (at least) two films that the Edison Company exhibited in their nearly completed peephole viewer, the Kinetoscope, for the first time to the public at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences on 9 May 1893. The other, which hasn't received comparable historical attention, was "Horse Shoeing" (1893). This historical importance is why the US Library of Congress has made it the earliest film selected to its National Film Registry. The Edison Company, headed by primary filmmakers and inventors William K.L. Dickson and William Heise, had been successfully producing films as early as 1890. Additionally, they had already given a public demonstration with a proto Kinetoscope on 20 May 1891 to some 150 members of the National Federation of Women's Clubs. The film shown was "Dickson Greeting", where Dickson tips his hat--he moves.

The historical significance of primacy doesn't stop there for "Blacksmith Scene", though. Its May 1893 showing tested the Kinetoscope's commercial viability. On 14 April 1894, the first public Kinetoscope parlour opened in New York--their first commercial exhibition. Included among the 10 films that made up the original program was "Blacksmith Scene" (referred to as "Blacksmiths"). "Horse Shoeing" was there, too. Of the more interesting films also shown that day were: "Barber Shop" (1894), which was another interesting early use of the "Black Maria" as a (now) conventional studio set with a proto fictional narrative. And, "Sandow" (1894) flexing and posing in a loincloth offered an example of the voyeuristic and sexualized potential for the new medium--accentuated by the individualized peephole viewer. On 17 October of the same year, "Blacksmith Scene" (referred to as "Blacksmith Shop") was also part of the first Kinetoscope program in England.

In addition to its primacy in the commercial exhibition of motion pictures, "Blacksmith Scene" is also a historically noteworthy film in how it's staged to form an artificial setting and fictional narrative. As primitive as it appears today, it was probably the most complex film made to date. Before its filming, Dickson and Heise had filmed brief displays of sport, such as boxing, which would prove a very popular subject in early American film. Other experiments such as "Dickson Greeting" (1891) and "A Hand Shake" (1892) were mere recordings of the motion of gestures and weren't released commercially. So too were the early experiments by others like Louis Le Prince and Woodsworth Donisthorpe. Thus, the history of film as a commercial industry begins with "Blacksmith Scene".

Although with a slightly less restrictive definition of "motion pictures", one could argue that Eadweard Muybridge, Ottomar Anschütz, Émile Reynaud and others beat Thomas Edison to it. Nevertheless, this film is a departure from anything made before.

The film, "Blacksmith Scene", consists of a stationary long shot lasting around half a minute of three blacksmiths who take a brief break from blacksmithing to pass around a bottle of beer. It's primitive--a silhouette of a man standing in front of the camera and on the left-hand side of the frame is briefly seen before, I assume, being told to move out of the picture. The trademark sunlit shadows and black background of the "Black Maria" become an overused setting in the early Edison films, but in regards to the time of this film, it wasn't hackneyed yet. Nevertheless, there are three actors (in actuality, employees of Edison who worked on the invention of the Kinetoscope) pretending to be blacksmiths, and they act out a fictional scene of blacksmithing.

Moreover, as Charles Musser has pointed out, the film's narrative is nostalgic--recalling a bygone era when drinking while working was commonplace. In this sense, the film is a reconstruction of the past--something that the Edison Company would take further in "The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots" (1895).

"Blacksmith Scene" received widespread distribution--was, in fact, one of the first such films to be seen by many, and as such, was one of the earliest films to influence other filmmakers and to encourage remakes. The Lumière Company remade it as "Les Forgerons" (Blacksmiths at Work) in 1895. Also with the title "Blacksmiths at Work" is James Williamson's film made in 1898. The Edison Company, itself, remade it in 1895 (actually their third blacksmithing scene--the first being a now-lost experiment in 1891). Although not influenced by these commercial films (or vice versa), blacksmithing was also the subject of scientific analyses around this time in films of Albert Londe, as well as Étienne-Jules Marey and Charles Fremont.

(Note: This is the second in a series of my comments on 10 "firsts" in film history. The other films covered are Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge (1888), Annabelle Serpentine Dance (1895), The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (1895), La Sortie des usines Lumière (1895), L' Arroseur arose (1895), L' Arrivée d'un train à La Ciotat (1896), Panorama du Grand Canal vu d'un bateau (1896), Return of Lifeboat (1897) and Panorama of Eiffel Tower (1900).)


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