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Region 1: US, CA





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Full Screen


















vaudeville and burlesque

VarietY Stage Films -- 1897 - 1920

60 Films on one DVD.

Region Free (NTSC), playable on DVD players worldwide.

Excellent Video Quality considering the age of these films (expect some graininess). 

DVD has beautiful label artwork and a built-in easy-to-browse menu.

DVD comes individually sealed in a clamshell case for compact storage. 

vaudeville and burlesque -- VarietY Stage Films -- 1897 - 1920

The 60 motion pictures in this collection include burlesque, dance, comic sketches, dramatic excerpts, dramatic sketches, animal acts, and physical culture acts.  Some of the early films represented are original Edison Kinetoscope films produced at the Edison Labs and Black Maria Studios.  Some of the films were produced for Mutoscope viewers.  Still other films were produced by Hans A. Spanuth in Chicago from 1919 to 1920 for the series "Spanuth's Original Vod-A-Vil Movies."  These motion pictures present a rare animated record of vaudeville acts from the turn of the century.  

The word "burlesque" refers to two kinds of entertainment.  In its original meaning, burlesque signified a comedy that parodied its original source.  Burlesque eventually also came to denote "leg shows" or acts that focused on a woman's body and featured scantily-clad women, etc, etc.  The films in this collection do not represent the full range of burlesque on the variety stage, especially because burlesque often relied on dialogue and song, and was longer in length than films of the time. 

Vaudeville acts such as Ella Lola ("Turkish Dance"), the French chanteuse eccentrique, Karina, and Princess Rajah recreated their stage shows for the screen, and provided a glimpse into the type of exotic dance entertainment shown on stage during this period.  (Princess Rajah's act was filmed at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition and, like Ella Lola's act, is reminiscent of the hootchy-cootchy dances of exotic performers such as Fatima and Little Egypt.)

Comedy acts in various forms--including monologists, two-person acts with a straight man/woman and a comic foil--and broad farcical sketches were dominant forms of variety stage entertainment.  When these comic sketches were translated to silent film, however, the important element of dialogue could not be added.  The examples found in this collection, therefore, largely feature non-verbal humor that could be easily understood on screen.  Some of the acts featured in this collection were based on characters from comic strips, including Alphonse and Gaston, the Happy Hooligan, and Foxy Grandpa. 

The selections in the dance category reflect the wide variety of dance styles that were performed on the variety stage during this period.  It appears that many of the performers used in these films actually performed on the vaudeville stage.  The Franchonetti Sisters, advertised by the American Mutoscope & Biograph Company as a "popular team of vaudeville artists," perform the French quadrille dance. Fougere, the famous Parisian chanteuse,  performs her ragtime cakewalk, "Hello, Ma Baby." The cakewalk dance, popular in minstrel shows, is performed in these motion pictures by a professional troupe from New York ("Cake Walk" and "Comedy Cake Walk").  Crissie Sheridan performs a skirt dance similar to those done by the popular Annabelle.  Versatile dancer Ella Lola performs two dances, a period-style belly dance (Turkish Dance, Ella Lola) and one based on the "Trilby" craze.  (In the play "Trilby" by George Louis Palmella Busson du Maurier, an artist's model named Trilby falls under the influence of the hypnotist Svengali.)  Kid Foley and Sailor Lil provide a vivid example of a Bowery dance reminiscent of the Parisian "Apache dance".  Cathrina Bartho performs her Speedway dance in "A Nymph of the Waves" that takes advantage of film tricks to make it appear as if she is dancing on waves. Ameta , a specialist in "novel" and "elaborate" dances, according to The New York Clipper, creates a swirling funnel from huge pieces of cloth in a variation on the skirt dance. 

Animals of all types appeared on the vaudeville stage, including sheep, pigs, cats, dogs, horses, bears, elephants, donkeys, monkeys, and birds.  Animal acts normally occupied the first or last place on the bill.  "Dumb" acts, as they were called, did not rely on sound as a singer or comedian might.  Conventional theater wisdom of the time held that these acts would be appropriate for the opening and closing of the show when the audience would be noisily entering or exiting the theater.

Physical culture acts include acrobatic performances, contortionists, boxing, strongmen, iron jaw acts, and other exhibitions requiring physical prowess or dexterity.  Several of the acrobatic acts featured here probably would have been the opening or closing acts of vaudeville bills. They were also known as "dumb" acts, because they contained no dialogue and, similar to the animal acts, were deemed appropriate for the opening and closing of shows.

All Films are black and white and silent as originally produced.  There is no background audio.

Here are the 60 film shorts featured on this DVD !!

Animal Acts

Laura Comstock's Bag-Punching Dog
Stealing a Dinner
Animal Act with Baboon, Dog, and Donkey from Spanuth's Original Vod-A-Vil Movies
Tom Tinker's Pony Patter from Spanuth's Original Vod-A-Vil Movies
Jumbo - The Trained Elephant from Spanuth's Original Vod-A-Vil Movies

From Show Girl to Burlesque Queen
Kiss Me
Pity the Blind, no. 2
Princess Rajah Dance
Trapeze Disrobing Act
Turkish Dance, Ella Lola

Comic Sketches

Alphonse and Gaston, no. 3
As In a Looking Glass
The Boys Think They Have One on Foxy Grandpa, but He Fools Them
Chimmie Hicks at the Races
The Chimney Sweep and the Miller
Dancing Boxing Match, Montgomery and Stone
Dog Factory
The Extra Turn
A Frontier Flirtation
A Gesture Fight in Hester Street
Happy Hooligan
Levi & Cohen, the Irish Comedians
Mr. Jack in the Dressing Room
The Serenaders
Subub Surprises the Burglar
The Tramp's Unexpected Skate
2 A.M. in the Subway
A Wake in "Hell's Kitchen"

Betsy Ross Dance
Cake Walk
Charity Ball
Comedy Cake Walk
Crissie Sheridan
Dance, Franchonetti Sisters
Ella Lola, a la Trilby
Foxy Grandpa and Polly in a Little Hilarity
A Nymph of the Waves
A "Tough" Dance
Dramatic Sketches

A Ballroom Tragedy
Fights of Nations
The Society Raffles
Duel Scene, "By Right of Sword"
Physical Culture

Arabian Gun Twirler
Bicycle Trick Riding, no. 2
Expert Bag Punching
Gordon Sisters Boxing
Japanese Acrobats
Latina, Contortionist
Latina, Dislocation Act
Kawana Trio from Spanuth's Original Vod-A-Vil Movies, no. 6
Three Acrobats
Treloar and Miss Marshall, Prize Winners at the Physical Culture Show in Madison Square Garden
Kruger and Ward from Spanuth's Original Vod-A-Vil Movies
Three Jumping Tommies from Spanuth's Original Vod-A-Vil Movies, no. 38
Toto Brothers from Spanuth's Original Vod-A-Vil Movies

 Total Viewing Time:  ~1 hour, 24 minutes.



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