Feeding the Doves (1896)
Director: James H. White
Synopsis: A woman and a young girl each carry containers of bird feed, and they toss occasional handfuls to the chickens and doves in the farmyard.
Believe it or not, Feeding the Doves was actually a remake of a Lumiere movie from a couple of years earlier. There was a lot of that kind of thing going on in the early years of the cinema. One company would have a hit with a particular film, so every other production company would make their own version in an effort to cash in on the original’s success. In some instances, unscrupulous companies wouldn’t even bother shooting their own version — they’d simply obtain a copy of the original and pass off the copies they made as their own work. These rip-offs were known as dupes and led to the practice of many companies ensuring their logo was visible in as many shots as possible in order to foil the fraudsters.
It’s difficult to see what was so popular about Feeding the Doves and the film by which it was inspired; it’s a fairly ordinary picture even for the early days of the cinema. The camera is some distance from the action, which consists of a woman and a small girl throwing feed to a flock of doves and some chickens. In the background, a horse flicks its tail in a desultory fashion. In fact, the whole picture has an air of indifference about it; although it’s impossible to make out the expression on the woman’s face, her body language suggests she’d much rather be doing something else. Filmgoers of the day must have found something of interest about it — perhaps the images of so many doves frenziedly jockeying for position was intriguing to city dwellers who perhaps rarely got to see the natural sights of the countryside — because two further versions were made after this one. That’s right — they were rip-offs of a rip-off…
(Reviewed 25th July 2014)