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EDISON Early Variety Films,1897-1920 (3-CD Set)

EDISON Early Variety Films,1897-1920 (3-CD Set)

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Early Variety Films, 1897-1920 (3-CD Set)
Over 200+ high quality EDISON silent films produced between 1897 - 1920 in .mpeg format on this exclusive 3-CD Set of the earliest motion pictures of our time!

Volume 1 consists of video subjects and topics include animal acts, burlesque, dance, comic sketches, dramatic excerpts, dramatic sketches, physical culture acts, tableau's, and more! These motion pictures represent a rare animated record of early American film-making from the turn of the century and feature some of the best theatrical performers that were popular at this time!

Volume 2 and 3 consists of films by prolific inventor Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931), who had a profound impact on modern life. In his lifetime, the "Wizard of Menlo Park" patented 1,093 inventions, including the phonograph, the kinetograph (a motion picture camera), and the kinetoscope (a motion picture viewer). Edison managed to become not only a renowned inventor, but also a prominent manufacturer and businessman through the merchandising of his inventions.

This motion picture collection contains an extraordinary range of the surviving products of Edison's entertainment inventions and industries. There are a total of 128 films included on these two volumes that were produced by the Edison Company. The earliest example is a camera test made in 1891, followed by other tests and a wide variety of actualities and dramas through the year 1918, when Edison's company ceased film production.

List of films included on Volume 1 of this 3-CD Set

Animal Acts:

Animals of all types appeared on the vaudeville stage, including sheep, pigs, cats, dogs, horses, bears, elephants, donkeys, monkeys, and birds. The use of these acts stemmed from a fascination at the turn of the century with man's control of nature and the homification of animals. Three typical vaudeville acts depicted in these films are "Laura Comstock's Bag-Punching Dog " named Mannie, Professor Leonidas's troop of cats and dogs featured in "Stealing a Dinner ," and "Jumbo--the Trained Elephant."

Animal acts normally occupied the first or last place on the bill held by "dumb acts." Dumb acts did not rely on sound as a singer or comedian might. Conventional theater wisdom of the time held that these acts would be appropriate for the opening and closing of the show when the audience would be noisily entering or exiting the theater. ...Library of Congress

Laura Comstock's Bag-Punching Dog

Stealing a Dinner

[Animal Act with Baboon, Dog, and Donkey] from Spanuth's Original Vod-A-Vil Movies

Tom Tinker's Pony Patter from Spanuth's Original Vod-A-Vil Movies

Jumbo - The Trained Elephant from Spanuth's Original Vod-A-Vil Movies


The word "burlesque" refers to two kinds of entertainment. In its original meaning, burlesque signified a comedy that parodied its original source. Burlesque eventually also came to denote "leg shows" or acts that focused on a woman's body and featured scantily-clad women, often in the act of undressing. The films in this collection do not represent the full range of burlesque on the variety stage, especially because burlesque often relied on dialogue and song, and was longer in length than films of the time. Still, filmmakers took burlesque subjects as their inspiration and often captured burlesque performers.

Vaudeville acts such as Ella Lola (" Turkish Dance"); the "French chanteuse eccentrique," Karina ; and Princess Rajah recreated their stage shows for the screen, thus providing a glimpse into the type of exotic dance entertainment shown on stage during this period. (Princess Rajah's act was filmed at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition and, like Ella Lola's act, is reminiscent of the hootchy-cootchy dances of exotic performers such as Fatima and Little Egypt.)

Films such as "Pity the Blind, no. 2 ," and "Trapeze Disrobing Act " offer the type of humorous burlesque seen on the vaudeville stage. The latter makes fun of the stereotypical unsophisticated "rube" who came to view burlesque. "Kiss Me" pokes fun at burlesque entertainment by featuring real burlesque posters on a wall with a poster of a woman that comes alive before a fascinated male spectator. ...Library of Congress

From Show Girl to Burlesque Queen


Kiss Me

Pity the Blind, no. 2

Princess Rajah Dance

Trapeze Disrobing Act

Turkish Dance, Ella Lola

Comic Sketches:

Comedy acts in various forms--including monologists, two-person acts with a straight man/woman and a comic foil--and broad farcical sketches were dominant forms of variety stage entertainment. When these comic sketches were translated to silent film, however, the important element of dialogue was omitted. The examples found in this collection, therefore, largely feature non-verbal humor that could be easily understood in screen.

While these examples are certainly typical of vaudeville humor, there is unfortunately no way of knowing whether these particular skits were actually performed on the stage. It is possible that some skits were adapted for use in these motion pictures or that only the less verbal parts of the acts were used. These motion pictures did, however, use typical vaudeville sets, humor, and stereotypical characters from the vaudeville stage.

Some of the acts featured in this collection were based on characters from comic strips, including Alphonse and Gaston, the Happy Hooligan, and Foxy Grandpa. These characters were also used in stage shows. The two Foxy Grandpa selections ("The Boys Think They Have One on Foxy Grandpa..." and "Foxy Grandpa and Polly in a Little Hilarity") were based on a stage musical, starring Joseph Hart and his wife, Carrie DeMar, who reprised their roles on film. Series of films were made with all three of the comic strip characters mentioned above, as well as the character of the Tramp ("The Tramp's Unexpected Skate").

Some of the films feature burlesque comedy that makes fun of the vaudeville theater itself, as in "The Extra Turn ' and " Levi & Cohen, the Irish Comedians," both of which feature bad acts getting panned by the audience.

Popular comedians recreated parts of their sketches: for example, Charles E. Grapewin in "Chimmie Hicks at the Races" and the team of Montgomery and Stone in "Dancing Boxing Match." Montgomery and Stone became famous as the scarecrow and tin-man in the 1903 stage production of "The Wizard of Oz."

Ethnic humor can be seen in abundance in the broad stereotypes of Jews in " A Gesture Fight in Hester Street," and the Irish in " A Wake in Hell's Kitchen" and "Levi & Cohen, the Irish Comedians." ...Library of Congress

Alphonse and Gaston, no. 3

As In a Looking Glass

The Boys Think They Have One on Foxy Grandpa, but He Fools Them

Chimmie Hicks at the Races

The Chimney Sweep and the Miller

Dancing Boxing Match, Montgomery and Stone

Dog Factory

The Extra Turn

A Frontier Flirtation

A Gesture Fight in Hester Street

Happy Hooligan

Levi and Cohen, the Irish Comedians

Mr. Jack in the Dressing Room

The Serenaders

Subub Surprises the Burglar

The Tramp's Unexpected Skate

2 A.M. in the Subway

A Wake in "Hell's Kitchen"


The selections in the dance category reflect the wide variety of dance styles that were performed on the variety stage during this period. It appears that many of the performers used in these films actually performed on the vaudeville stage. The Franchonetti Sisters, advertised by the American Mutoscope & Biograph Company as a "popular team of vaudeville artists," perform the French quadrille dance. Fougere, "the famous Parisian chanteuse," performs her ragtime cakewalk, "Hello, Ma Baby." The cakewalk dance, popular in minstrel shows, is performed in these motion pictures by a professional troupe from New York ("Cake Walk" and "Comedy Cake Walk"). Crissie Sheridan performs a skirt dance similar to those done by the popular Annabelle. Versatile dancer Ella Lola performs two dances, a period-style belly dance (Turkish Dance, Ella Lola) and one based on the "Trilby" craze. (In the play "Trilby" by George Louis Palmella Busson du Maurier, an artist's model named Trilby falls under the influence of the hypnotist Svengali.) Kid Foley and Sailor Lil provide a vivid example of a Bowery dance reminiscent of the Parisian "Apache dance." Cathrina Bartho performs her Speedway dance in "A Nymph of the Waves" that takes advantage of film tricks to make it appear as if she is dancing on waves. Ameta , a specialist in "novel" and "elaborate" dances, according to The New York Clipper, creates a swirling funnel from huge pieces of cloth in a variation on the skirt dance. (The comedy and burlesque sections also contain dance performances including "The Boys Think They Have One on Foxy Grandpa, but He Fools Them," "Karina," "Princess Rajah Dance," and "Turkish Dance, Ella Lola.) ...Library of Congress


Betsy Ross Dance

Cake Walk

Charity Ball

Comedy Cake Walk

Crissie Sheridan

Dance, Franchonetti Sisters

Ella Lola, a la Trilby


Foxy Grandpa and Polly in a Little Hilarity

A Nymph of the Waves

A "Tough" Dance

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