61 Films From 1897-1920 Demonstrating Animal Acts,
Burlesque, Comic Sketches, Dance, Physical
Culture, Dramatic Sketches, and Tableaus
The 61 motion pictures in the American Variety Stage collection
include animal acts, burlesque, dance, comic sketches, dramatic
excerpts, dramatic sketches, physical culture, and tableaus. These
motion pictures present a rare animated record of vaudeville acts
from the turn of the century.
Although not filmed during an actual theatrical performance, the
films sought to recreate the atmosphere of a theater performance
by showing the types of vaudeville acts and performers popular at
the time. The use of vaudeville acts as material for motion pictures
made sense for early filmmakers.
Early films were very short; thus the abbreviated nature of the
early vaudeville act, or "turn," made an ideal subject
for films. Vaudeville and other types of popular entertainment offered
a pool of ready talent for filmmakers who frequently chose to record
the less expensive, and, therefore, less famous. It is important
to note that very few of the films in this collection present a
vaudeville act exactly as it would have been performed on stage.
All the motion pictures were silent and could not include the verbal
humor, music, and ambient sounds of the live variety stage. Therefore,
filmmakers had to adapt stage performances and feature the most
visual elements of them on film. The challenge was to find acts
with strong visual components that would work well on films.
This collection of 61 silent variety stage films represents an
excellent cross section of entertainment offered to the masses at
this time. It has a total run time of 1 hour, 25 minutes.
Here are some sample clips from the DVD