Sunday, August 3, 2014

William K.L. Dickson, 1860-1935

Today marks the birth anniversary of William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, who directed something like 150 movies in a period of about a decade. Of course, Dickson probably shouldn't be remembered as a director, but as an inventor, the man who came up with the practical design for Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope, probably the first movie camera in the United States. Dickson's first film for Edison, in 1890, is called Monkeyshines No. 1, and would be nothing to write home about if it weren't for the fact that it was made back in 1890:

Moviemaking advanced quite a lot in a few short years, and Dickson shows up in 1894 in what is sometimes considered the first sound movie. Edison, having inveted the gramphone, wanted to use it to record sound to be synchronized with film. The experiment wasn't a success, but the Library of Congress eventually found the sound reel and synchronized it to the action around 15 years ago. I think that's Dickson on the violin:

One other Dickson short you're likely to have seen is of the butterfly dancer Annabelle. Dickson and Edison had filmed her in 1894 after they had seen her at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, and after Dickson left Edison's employ around 1895 to go into public exhibition of moving pictures, Dickson went back and filmed Annabelle again, this time having the images hand-tinted. The tinted film shows up in the 100 Years at the Movies piece that TCM runs once in a rare while:

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