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Corbett and Courtney Before the Kinetograph
IMDB Rating: 5.5/10 from 390 votes
Release: /

Corbett and Courtney Before the Kinetograph

Genre: Short, Sport
Director: William K.L. Dickson,
Stars: ,
Synopsis: James J. Corbett and Peter Courtney meet in a boxing exhibition, with special conditions that will allow the Thomas Edison Company to film the match and show it on their Kinetograph. The match consists of six one-minute rounds. The popular James J. Corbett had earlier defeated the great John L. Sullivan and must be considered a heavy favourite. But, at least for a while, Peter Courtney seems to be holding his own. Written by Snow Leopard

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Critic Reviews

At least one portion of this Edison Company film survives, and it constitutes quite an interesting part of early cinema history. The idea itself is of interest as one of many early attempts to make movies more profitable, and the quasi-legal status of the movie in its time is of considerable interest as part of the history of the movies, and also as part of the life of Thomas Edison himself.

The basic idea is fairly simple, but resourceful. Boxing hero James J. Corbett takes on an underdog named Courtney, in a match with some special conditions that allowed it to be filmed with the limited resources and techniques of the mid-1890s. The rounds were only one minute each, since even at that they used up three times the amount of film that was normally used for one movie, and it was filmed in the 'Black Maria' studio, with the trainers and other onlookers all squeezed in along one side of the ring, behind the two fighters in the foreground.

The financial end of it speaks to Edison's business sense, as the Edison Company then showed each round as a separate feature, each one of course being paid for separately. It is supposed to have made an enormous profit for all involved, even though the action in itself (at least in the one portion that seems still to exist) doesn't really look like anything special now.

What is even more interesting is that the whole thing was technically illegal, since prize-fighting was then against the law. In one of the extras to Kino's DVD collection of Edison features, film historian Charles Musser gives a fascinating account of the legal difficulties and how the Edison Company maneuvered around them. It's a side of early film-making that you rarely hear of, and this background adds some real interest to the movie.

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