Annabelle Serpentine Dance (1895)
Director: W. K. L. Dickson, William Heise
Cast: Annabelle Moore
Synopsis: Annabelle Moore performs one of her popular dance routines. She uses her dance steps and her long, flowing skirts to create a variety of visual patterns.
Made before there existed even a screen or projector to throw an image upon it, Annabelle Serpentine Dance is filmmaking at its most primitive. Shot against a black background in Thomas Edison’s Black Maria studio in Orange, West Jersey, the film consists of a young girl dancing in a flowing dress for less than twenty seconds. The camera remains static throughout, and so the movements of the girl are restricted by the confines of the screen. She remains elegant and graceful, nevertheless. Anabelle Serpentine Dance was the first film to be hand-tinted — each frame painstakingly coloured in by hand — and the effect is quite impressive, adding a warmth and glow to what would otherwise be a rather ordinary early film.
The girl in the picture is quite interesting. Her name was Annabelle Moore, and she was quite a star in her day. She was no more than 16 years old when Annabelle Serpentine Dance was filmed, and she went on to become a star with Florenz Ziegfeld’s stage extravaganzas in the early years of the twentieth century. A couple of years after this movie was released she would cause a minor scandal by revealing that she had been asked to appear nude at a private dinner party at Sherry’s Restaurant. She declined the offer, but the affair ended up in a court case, during which she apparently confessed that she had later written to the man making the request to accept his offer. She retired from the stage in 1910 (or 1912, accounts vary) after marrying a doctor, and ended up dying alone and penniless in 1961.
(Reviewed 23rd July 2014)