When Was The First Movie Ever Created?
Movies are a wonderful way to escape for the everyday stress of a demanding job or just kick back and relax. While they can certainly be entertaining, few people have asked themselves exactly when the first movies were created. So how did the ‘motion picture’ come to exist and who/what did it start with?
The Horse in Motion (1878)
Before what we know as film was first created, we had to have ‘moving pictures’. Also known as Sallie Gardner at a Gallop, the collection of “automatic electro-photographs” was meant to analyze the gait of a horse at full gallop.
Commissioned by industrialist Eadweard Muybridge, he wanted Leland Stanford to help him answer a question that had been nagging him for some time: did a horse feet ever leave the ground simultaneously at any point?
In the process of creating this collection of moving pictures, Muybridge found that the hooves did indeed leave the ground. This only occurred, though, when all four were “collected” under its belly. This provided evidence to the contrary of horses in old pictures depicted galloping.
Many more similar ‘moving pictures would come later on, such as the elephant rising and coming back down on all fours.
We also have Muybridge to thank for his work in photography and our modern ability to capture motion in a single image.
Roundhay Garden Scene (1888)
Not more than two years later, a French inventor named Louis Le Prince would begin producing his greatest works in Roundhay, Leeds, England. Verified as by Guinness Book of Records as the oldest surviving film in existence, it is only about 2.5 seconds long. Le Prince recorded the film using a single lens camera that he invented himself.
Mystery buffs would love the craziness surrounding the film too. Less than 5 years after the movie, one cast member died, another killed, and the inventor disappeared into the shadows.
Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge (1888)
This was Louis Le Prince’s second film (that the world is aware of). It is also considered the second film ever to be made. It was done no more than a week or two after Roundhay Garden Scene.
Any cinephiles reading might be disheartened to know that the original film was lost to time. Today, anyone interested might find a digitized version of the photos at major library institutions or film museums. While you can watch the film on YouTube, it seems to take away from its history when you don’t visit a museum to see it.
Today’s bridge design was made by T. Dyne Steel and the structure was built by W. H. Barlow. In 1875 on that same bridge, citizens of the town of Leeds observed from the metal road bridge as a local 19th-century theater burned before their eyes.
This would be Le Prince’s third and final film, as continued work was not in the cards. No one for certain why, but the film is grainier and harder to make out than the first two the photographer made.
The Tour Cut Short
During his work from 1889 to 1890, Le Prince sought out the help of mechanic James Longley to create a machine that would project his films. They were able to create a ‘model’ of a single lens projector, but a three-lens was the final design. Workers at the pair’s shop attested to seeing the test runs, but a public display of the machine was never made.
After his work with the above-mentioned project, Le Prince had made arrangements to tour England with his new works before returning to the United States for another tour.
According to his brother, he was to meet his brother with friends after he stepped off the September 16 train to France to spend time with family before leaving once again. Much to their dismay, Le Prince never stepped off the train. Both he and his luggage has disappeared from the face of the Earth, it seemed.
There are a few rumors, with at least two involving murder. The grandson of his brother suggested it was suicide. Another theory suggested that Edison, struggling to compete with other inventors, may have engineered Le Prince’s disappearance in order to acquire the patents for the Frenchman’s inventions.
Jean Mitry suggested in a 1967 film that the Frenchman never boarded the train in Dijon, where he was coming from.
Le Prince was declared dead in 1897 by French government officials. In 2003, a photo from the time of his disappearance was found in police archives showing a drowning victim who eerily resembles the inventor.
What is your opinion? Was Louis Le Prince murdered? Did he commit suicide? Or was he simply an unfortunate drowning victim who slipped and conked his head before sinking?