Come Along Do! (1898)
Director: Robert W. Paul
Come Along, Do! is an incomplete movie, missing its entire second half. The fact that the entire movie lasts less than one minute anyway means that the loss of its final moments isn’t as much of a disaster as if, say, the second half of The Godfather was lost, but nevertheless it makes for something of an unsatisfying watch if you’re unaware of the context. The section of film that does survive shows an elderly couple sitting on a bench under a couple of signs. The sign pointing to the right advertises refreshments, and as the couple are both eating when we join them, it’s a safe bet that that’s where they’ve just been. The other sign, pointing to their left, says ‘Art Section,’ and it’s in that direction that a couple of well-dressed women are heading. The elderly couple decide to follow them, and then — well, then we’re left hanging because that’s where the film now ends. A couple of stills from this missing section show the couple in the art section, with the woman vainly attempting to pull the man away from his detailed inspection of a statue of a nude woman, which is presumably where the Come Along, Do! title comes from.
It’s a shame that this film is incomplete because, believe it or not, it actually occupies an important place in cinema history. It’s the first known fiction film comprised of two separate scenes in different locations. That might not sound like much, but neither is the moment when a baby first plants its arm on the floor so that it can lift its head a little higher. In 1898 cinema was a weak little babe still not certain of a life of any real length, and Come Along, Do! was one of those tiny developments that helped stack the odds just a little further in the weakling’s favour. It was made by Robert W. Paul, a man who’s virtually unknown today but who can justifiably claim to be the father of British cinema.
(Reviewed 19th August 2014)