Friday Factory Tune: Celluloid Heroes

On this day 120 years ago, the first movie — depending on how you define “movie” — was shown to a delegation from National Federation of Women’s Clubs in one of Thomas Edison’s workshops. As a Library of Congress article relates, the women viewed the prototype for the Kinetoscope.

The device was both a camera and a peep-hole viewer, and the film used was 18mm wide. According to David Robinson who describes the Kinetoscope in his book, From Peep Show to Palace: The Birth of American Film, the film “ran horizontally between two spools, at continuous speed. A rapidly moving shutter gave intermittent exposures when the apparatus was used as a camera, and intermittent glimpses of the positive print when it was used as a viewer–when the spectator looked through the same aperture that housed the camera lens.”

William K.L. Dickson starred in the 3-second movie clip of him passing a hat in front of himself. The filming took place at the Photographic Building at Thomas Edison’s Black Maria studio in West Orange, N.J.

In honor of that historic moment, our Friday Factory Tune this week is The Kinks performing “Celluloid Heroes,” one of their last great songs before the band gave way to the lucrative bombast of “Low Budget.”

Here’s Dave and Ray Davies performing the song on Jay Leno’s show. Time’s running out, guys. You’ve already lost Pete Quaife. Bring the group back together!

UPDATE (8 a.m.): At Tom the Dancing Bug, Ruben Bolling figures out what Thomas Edison would be inventing in today’s world. From The Super-Fun-Pak Comix edition.

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