Tuesday, June 4, 2013

At the movies, 100 years ago

New York City, c1908
As a departure from the usual western movie review today, I’m showing links to videos of street scenes from the turn of the last century. I considered calling this post “The Dead,” thinking of the James Joyce story by the same name but decided it would be too off-putting as a headline.

For me, these vintage films represent the world of the early western writers, such as Owen Wister, whose novel The Virginian was published in 1902. All but one of them were shot in England, and they illustrate the congested urban landscape that western writers typically dismissed as “civilization.”

If you have time for only a couple of these, skip down to “Blackfriars Bridge,” and then follow it with “London Bridge,” which was shot in modern-day London using a 100-year-old hand-cranked 35mm camera. The differences and similarities between them are fascinating.

London Bridge (outtake from documentary, Londoners, 2012, using 100-year-old hand-cranked 35mm camera)

For more of Tuesday’s Overlooked Movies and TV, click on over to Todd Mason’s blog.

BITS is on hiatus for two months. Back in August.

Image credit: 
Flat Iron Building, New York City, Colin Power Cooper, Wikimedia Commons


  1. For some reason, it's almost hard to believe that film is actually that old. It still seems like a fairly recent technology to me. Maybe I'm just weird. These are quite cool.

  2. Fascinating, Ron! I enjoy watching these kind of videos. It's amazing, for instance, how modern-day filmmakers recreate scenes and scenarios prevalent a hundred years ago, as we find in early war or western, Victorian, and other period films.

  3. Interesting that more people are walking in the last one than the one before. Or maybe London is just that more crowded. Manchester, hey I lived there once.

  4. Good luck with the book! And looking forward to your return to blogging...

  5. Contrast also the likes of COPPER and RIPPER STREET, some decades earlier in the first case and about the same time, a little earlier, in the second...

  6. Wow! Ron... these are GREAT! I particularly enjoyed watching how people walked... their gaits, the women swinging their closed parasols, etc. I even saw a young fellow walking along while reading a newspaper... yesterday's version of folks walking and texting at the same time. Lucky he wasn't run over by a carriage! ;-)

  7. It is interesting to see the past in this manner--it seems so long ago but in a way it really wasn't...

  8. Fascinating. I was always enthralled by the early movies, Friese-Green did quite a few, and from some of the early Pathe etc.