Admiral Cigarette (1897)
Director: William Heise
Synopsis: A commercial. Four men sit in animated conversation in front of a billboard for Admiral Cigarettes.
Admiral Cigarette is the earliest example of a filmed advertisement. It was projected onto New York buildings in 1897, and allegedly caused so many people to gather in the street below the buildings onto which it was projected that Edison filmmaker Edwin S Porter, who was serving as projectionist on this occasion, was arrested by police for ‘blocking traffic on Broadway at 34th Street. Ironically, Thomas Edison, whose production company made this movie, later became a staunch anti-smoker and refused to employ anyone who confessed to partaking of the weed.
The film is neither subtle nor effective. It opens with four men, each dressed in different fashions and presumably intended to represent a broad cross-section of late 19th Century American society — one’s a Red Indian, another’s wearing Stars-and-Stripes trousers — sitting on the right of a stage in front of a large canvas on which the legend Admiral Cigarettes is emblazoned. To their left as we look is a giant pack of cigarettes, out of which bursts a lady who looks like a pantomime Dick Whittington. She passes cigarettes amongst the amazed men, and everyone lights up. With smouldering cigarettes lodged firmly in their mouths, the men unfurl a banner which proclaims ‘WE ALL SMOKE’ before pointing up at the Admiral Cigarettes legend above their heads.
(Reviewed 16th August 2014)