1898: The First Christmas Movie

Long before Miracle on 34th Street and It's a Wonderful Life, there was Santa Claus. Not only was this the first Christmas movie--it was among the first movies on any topic ever made. George Albert Smith, a British pioneer of filmmaking, produced it in 1898. This short film was a technical marvel of its age:

What makes this treatment considerably more interesting than a conventional piece of editing is the way that Smith links the shots in terms of both space and time, by placing the new image over the space previously occupied by the fireplace, and continuing to show the children sleeping throughout (their bed occupies the left-hand side of the screen throughout the entire film). Santa then emerges from where the fireplace used to be, distributes the presents, and disappears via another jump cut.

This is believed to be the cinema's earliest known example of parallel action and, when coupled with double-exposure techniques that Smith had already demonstrated in the same year's The Mesmerist andPhotographing a Ghost, the result is one of the most visually and conceptually sophisticated British films made up to then.

Link -via Nag on the Lake

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I absolutely LOVE old films like this. Today, we're so used to computerized special effects that the old art of doing special effects "manually" is, sadly, being lost.
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