A short guide to filmic firsts
Number 1. Numero uno. #1. No matter how you say it, having the word ‘’first’’ tied to your name indicates success, and film firsts are no exception.
Legendary British filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock had many ‘firsts’ in his six decade career as he mastered the art of suspense and psychological thriller. Directing more than fifty films, Hitchcock’s distinctive directorial style is regarded as one of the best in history.
Much anticipated film Hitchcock (trailer HERE) looks at the director’s life during the making of controversial yet renowned horror film, Psycho. Check out these famous film firsts that are known for much more than being number 1.
The First Film in the US - Monkeyshines No.1 (1889-1890)
Let’s start at the beginning, sometime between 1889-1890, no one is quite sure of the exact date. We are more certain however, that Monkeyshines No.1 was the first film shot in the U.S. Historians think it was filmed purely for the use of a camera test and never intended for commercial use. Despite some questions, it is widely believed that Monkeyshines was in fact the first movie shot with a continuous strip of film. The rest is cinematic history.
First Montage Film - Battleship Potemkin (1925)
Through an absence of words, Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin dramatizes the 1905 mutiny and police massacre that ensued as Russian battleship crewmembers protested against the Tsarist regime. The technique of montage was used for the first time, as a group of short shots were edited to appear in sequential order on screen. This use of montage known in film editing today as ‘‘cutting’’ led to Battleship Potemkin being named the ‘‘greatest film of all time’’ at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair.
First Feature Length Talkie - The Jazz Singer (1927)
As moviegoers grew tired of seeing films without dialogue, American musical The Jazz Singer provided relief as the first feature length film with sound, commonly referred to today as ‘‘talkies.’’ American singer Al Jolson leads as Jack Robin, the son of a Jewish cantor who defiantly leaves home to chase his dream of becoming a jazz singer. The Jazz Singer breaks the silence for all films to come. Need I say more?
First Colour Film - Becky Sharp (1935)
Based on the novel Vanity Fair, historical drama Becky Sharp is best known for its use of Technicolor tri-strip production, creating the first colour film before our eyes. Miriam Hopkins stars as Becky Sharp herself, as she attempts to become part of an upper class family, at the expense of leaving her lower class show biz family behind. Becky Sharp proves that life really is better in colour.
First Flushing Toilet on Screen - Psycho (1960)
There are a great many firsts in Alfred Hitchcock's suspense masterpiece 'Psycho' but revealing them here would ruin the surprises of the narrative. However, one which won't give anything anyway is an interesting little bit of film trivia - 'Psycho' shows the first instance of a real toilet being flushed on mainstream American screens!
The First in Series - Dr. No (1962)-The First James Bond
"Shaken, not stirred." Why yes, we are talking about "Bond, James Bond." Dr. No introduced viewers to the original and arguably best incarnation of Bond throughout its 23 films, Sean Connery. Dr. No marks the first British spy film in which 007 is dispatched to Jamaica to investigate the death of a fellow agent. This was of course the first of Ian Fleming’s novels to be transformed into a movie ('Casino Royale' was made into a seldom seen one-hour TV special a decade previous), leading to a successful series of 23 films. Viewers entered the world of Bond, from his nightly rendezvous with the infamous 'Bond girls' to his notorious cars and weaponry. More than fifty years later, The James Bond series continues today and is heralded as the longest-running continuous film franchise, revealing its timeless nature. It certainly wasn't the first franchise but it's the most enduring.
First Summer Blockbuster - Jaws (1975)
Directed by legend Steven Spielberg, Jaws reigns as not only one of the greatest films of all time, but as a film that is famous for producing many firsts. Following two shark attacks in resort town Amity Island, a marine biologist, professional shark hunter and the local police chief team up to purse the mysterious shark’s demise. Truly a moment in motion picture history, this horror thriller set the stage for films to be deemed as a ‘‘Blockbuster.’’ This was also the first time a motion picture was widely released across the U.S. after heavy promotion through TV advertising, creating the modern Hollywood business model used today. Upon its release, Jaws was the highest grossing film at the time and remains the prototypical blockbuster hit.
Hitchcock (2012) - First Biographical Film about Alfred Hitchcock
Since his death in 1980, the Hitchcock style continues to be adopted and evolved by many in the industry today. One such tribute is seen in upcoming film Hitchcock, which examines the director’s relationship with wife Alma Reville during the making of controversial yet renowned horror film, Psycho. Watch the trailer for Hitchcock HERE!
Be sure to catch the thrill and suspense when Hitchcock comes to cinemas 8 February.
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Saul Bass: 20 Iconic Film Posters book review
By Jennifer Bass and Pat Kirkham
Laurence King Publishing
September 2016, Â£19.95
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