Uploaded on May 2, 2009
Thomas Edison's "Anna Belle Serpentine Dance"
The "Anna Belle Serpentine Dance" (1895), produced by the Edison Co., was banned because the brief film included titillating glimpses of the female performer's (Annabelle Whitford) undergarments. But content wasn't the only concern. "Indeed," notes Champlin in an article on the film production code for American Film, "it was the instant and immense popularity of the movies that stirred the first fears of their corrupting and inciting power."
The Kinetoscope is an early motion picture exhibition device. Though not a movie projector—it was designed for films to be viewed individually through the window of a cabinet housing its components—the Kinetoscope introduced the basic approach that would become the standard for all cinematic projection before the advent of video: it creates the illusion of movement by conveying a strip of perforated film bearing sequential images over a light source with a high-speed shutter. First described in conceptual terms by U.S. inventor Thomas Edison in 1888, it was largely developed by his employee William Kennedy Laurie Dickson between 1889 and 1892. Dickson and his team at the Edison lab also devised the Kinetograph, an innovative motion picture camera with rapid intermittent, or stop-and-go, film movement, to photograph movies for in-house experiments and, eventually, commercial Kinetoscope presentations.
In April 1894, the first commercial exhibition of motion pictures in history was given in New York City, using ten Kinetoscopes. Instrumental to the birth of American movie culture, the Kinetoscope also had a major impact in Europe; its influence abroad was magnified by Edison's decision not to seek international patents on the device, facilitating numerous imitations of and improvements on the technology. In 1895, Edison introduced the Kinetophone, which joined the Kinetoscope with a cylinder phonograph. Film projection, which Edison initially disdained as financially nonviable, soon superseded the Kinetoscope's individual exhibition model. Many of the projection systems developed by Edison's firm in later years would use the Kinetoscope name.