Monday, August 21, 2017

Oh that solar eclipse

If you're in America, then you've undoubtedly heard the news that there's going to be a total solar eclipse across a swathe of the country this morning or afternoon depending on your time zone. I don't get totality; maybe 60% up here in the Catskills.

But of course it made me start thinking about eclipses in the movies. Using IMDb's keyword search isn't perfct, because it fails to get a lot of movies. There weren't that many classic movies I could think of, though. The first that came to mind was A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. I knew that the original Twain story had a key scene of a guy from the present day remembering there would be an eclipse (how convenient) I haven't actually seen the Bing Crosby movie, but apparently the eclipse is in that one, at least according to the keywords and an internet search.

Another movie that does have a solar eclipse but which didn't make it into the IMDb keyword search is Out to Sea, the Jack Lemmon/Walter Matthau movie from about 20 years ago. Of course, they get the astronomy wrong, since the movie also includes a scene with a full moon. A solar eclipse can only take place at new moon, so about two weeks after the full moon, and the cruise in the movie wasn't that long.

And then there's the stuff you never even knew about. Gotta love Georges Meliès, who did a 1907 film called The Eclipse. Since it's in the public domain, it's available in several prints on Youtube. This one is a bit blurry, but the few intertitles are in English:

Note that the English word "planet" comes from an ancient Greek word for "wanderer", since the planets in the sky didn't move in nice circles around the sky the way the stars did, which would explain "the wandering stars". The French term for "meteor shower" doesn't use a French word for bath, at least according to Wikipedia, so the celestial bath card is a bit odd. And of course there's really not a whole lot happening on earth in this one. I also note that this is five years after A Voyage to the Moon, but Meliès doesn't seem to have advanced much technically.

(NB: L'Éclisse is not French for "the eclipse".)

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