Skip to main content

Firsts in Film History

Do you ever wonder when a certain event happened for the first time in history? Well, I do sometimes. So, I thought it would be fun to find some firsts in film history. Here are 10 of them.

1. The first ever motion picture to be made in Hollywood was In Old California (1910). Directed by D. W. Griffith for Biograph Company, the film was a 17-minute melodrama set in the early 19th century, when California was under Spanish and Mexican rule. It starred Frank Powell, Arthur V. Johnson, Marion Leonard and Henry B. Walthall. The short was considered lost for many decades, until a copy was found in 2004 and screened at the Beverly Hills Film Festival.
LEFT: Marion Leonard, Henry B. Walthall and Arthur Johnson in In Old California. RIGHT: D. W. Griffith in his office at Biograph Company in New York City.
2. The first ever movie to have a Hollywood premiere was Robin Hood (1922). Directed by Allan Dwan for United Artists and starring Douglas Fairbanks as the iconic title character, the film premiered at Grauman's Egyptian Theatre on October 18, 1922. One of the most expensive pictures of the 1920s, it was a massive critical and commercial success.

LEFT: Original release poster for Robin Hood. MIDDLE: Douglas Fairbanks as Robin Hood. RIGHT: Crowd outside of Grauman's Egyptian Theatre for the premiere of Robin Hood.

3. The first motion picture to have a full-length synchronised soundtrack was Don Juan (1926). The film used the Vitaphone sound-on-disc system, which was developed at Western Electric's Bell Laboratories in New York City and acquired by Warner Bros. in 1925. It has a synchronised musical score and sound effects, although it has no spoken dialogue.
LEFT: Estelle Taylor and John Barrymore in Don Juan. RIGHT: The premiere of Don Juan at the Warners' Theatre in New York City, on August 5, 1926.
5. The first all-talking feature film was Lights of New York (1928). Directed by Bryan Foy for Warner Bros., the crime drama starred Helene Costello, Cullen Landis and Eugene Pallette. Like Don Juan, it used the Vitaphone sound-on-disc system and was a box-office success.

LEFT: Original poster for Lights of New York. RIGHT: Cullen Landis and Helene Costello.

6. The first ever motion picture made in Technicolor was The Gulf Between (1917). Starring Grace Darmond and Niles Welch, the film used Technicolor's «System 1,» a two-colour (red and green) process. Because of the technical difficulties in keeping the red and green images aligned during projection, it was the only motion picture made using this process.
LEFT: Grace Darmond photographed for The Gulf Between. RIGHT: One of the few surviving frames of the film, which is considered lost.
7. The first sequel in movie history was The Fall of a Nation (1916). Directed by Thomas Dixon Jr., and based on his own novel, the film was a sequel to D. W. Griffith's controversial epic The Birth of a Nation (1915) and starred Lorraine Huling, Percy Standing and Arthur Shirley. Unlike its predecessor, it was neither a critical nor a commercial success.

Two stills from The Fall of a Nation. The film is now considered lost.

8. The first 3D film to be shown in front of an audience was The Power of Love (1922). It was directed by Nat G. Deverich and Harry K. Fairall, and starred Elliot Sparling, Barbara Bedford and Noah Beery. The film premiered at the Ambassador Hotel Theatre in Los Angeles on September 27, 1922, and used a red-and-green anaglyph system for the 3D experience.
LEFT: A still from The Power of Love. MIDDLE: Harry K. Fairall, who developed the method for making stereoscopic films. RIGHT: An early example of a 3D camera.
9. The first ever full-length narrative feature film was The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906). With a running time of 60 minutes, this Australian picture was directed by Charles Tait and traced the exploits of 19th-century bushranger and outlaw Ned Kelly and his gang. It premiered at the Athenaeum Hall in Melbourne on December 26, 1906 and was a critical and commercial success. The film is now part of the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.
Two stills from The Story of the Kelly Gang. The cast has not been positively identified.
10. The first feature film to be shown on television was The Crooked Circle (1932). Directed by H. Bruce Humberstone, the detective flick starred ZaSu Pitts, James Gleason and Ben Lyon. It was broadcast for the first time on March 10, 1933 by the Don Lee Broadcasting System over their experimental station W6XAO, transmitting an 80-line resolution mechanical television picture to about 12 receiving sets in the Los Angeles area.
LEFT: Poster for The Crooked Circle. RIGHT: ZaSu Pitts and James Gleason.
Do you know any other interesting firsts in film history that I can add to this list?


  1. These are so cool! I wonder if any of the 12 who saw it on tv wrote anything down about it.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Golden Couples: Gary Cooper & Patricia Neal

It was April 1948 when director King Vidor spotted 22-year-old Patricia Neal on the Warner Bros. studio lot. A drama graduate from Northwestern University, she had just arrived in Hollywood following a Tony Award-winning performance in Lillian Hellman's Another Part of the Forest . Impressed by Patricia's looks, Vidor approached the young actress and asked if she would be interested in doing a screen test for the female lead in his newest film, The Fountainhead (1949). Gary Cooper had already signed as the male protagonist, and the studio was then considering Lauren Bacall and Barbara Stanwyck to play his love interest.          Neal liked the script and about two months later, she met with the director for sound and photographic tests. Vidor was enthusiastic about Patricia, but her first audition was a complete disaster. Cooper was apparently watching her from off the set and he was so unimpressed by her performance that he commented, « What's that!? » He tried to con

Golden Couples: Henry Fonda & Barbara Stanwyck

In the mid- and late 1930s, screwball comedy was in vogue and practically every actress in Hollywood tried her hand at it. Barbara Stanwyck never considered herself a naturally funny person or a comedienne per se , but after delivering a heart-wrenching performance in King Vidor's Stella Dallas (1937), she decided she needed a « vacation » from emotional dramas. In her search for a role, she stumbled upon a « champagne comedy » called The Mad Miss Manton (1938), originally intended as a Katharine Hepburn vehicle. Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda as Melsa and Peter in The Mad Miss Manton .   Directed by Leigh Jason from a script by Philip G. Epstein, The Mad Miss Manton begins when vivacious Park Avenue socialite Melsa Manton finds a corpse while walking her dogs in the early hours of the morning. She calls the police, but they dismiss the incident — not only because Melsa is a notorious prankster, but also because the body disappears in the meantime. Sarcastic newspaper editor

Films I Saw in 2020

For the past four years, I have shared with you a list of all the films I saw throughout 2016 , 2017 , 2018 and 2019 , so I thought I would continue the «tradition» and do it again in 2020. This list includes both classic and «modern» films, which make up a total of 161 titles. About three or four of these were re-watches, but I decided to include them anyway. Let me know how many from these you have seen. As always, films marked with a heart ( ❤ ) are my favorites. Sherlock Jr. (1924) | Starring Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire and Joe Keaton The Crowd (1928) | Starring James Murray, Eleanor Boardman and Bert Roach Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) | Starring Henry Fonda, Alice Brady and Marjorie Weaver Brief Encounter (1945) | Starring Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard and Stanley Holloway The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) | Starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman The Girl He Left Behind (1956) | Starring Tab Hunter and Natalie Wood Gidget (1959) | Starring Sandra Dee, Cliff Robertson an

Wings of Change: The Story of the First Ever Best Picture Winner

Wings was the first ever film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Since then, it has become one of the most influential war dramas, noted for its technical realism and spectacular air-combat sequences. This is the story of how it came to be made.   A man and his story The concept for Wings originated from a writer trying to sell one of his stories. In September 1924, Byron Morgan approached Jesse L. Lasky, vice-president of Famous Players-Lasky, a component of Paramount Pictures, proposing that the studio do an aviation film. Morgan suggested an «incident and plot» focused on the failure of the American aerial effort in World War I and the effect that the country's «aviation unpreparedness» would have in upcoming conflicts. Lasky liked the idea, and approved the project under the working title «The Menace.»   LEFT: Byron Morgan (1889-1963). RIGHT: Jesse L. Lasky (1880-1958).   During his development of the scenario with William Shepherd, a former war correspondent, Morga

80 Reasons Why I Love Classic Films (Part II)

I started this blog six years ago as a way to share my passion for classic films and Old Hollywood. I used to watch dozens of classic films every month, and every time I discovered a new star I liked I would go and watch their entire filmography. But somewhere along the way, that passion dimmed down. For instance, I watched 73 classic films in 2016, and only 10 in 2020. The other day, I found this film with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. that I had never heard of — the film is Mimi (1935), by the way — and for some reason it made me really excited about Old Hollywood again. It made me really miss the magic of that era and all the wonderful actors and actresses. And it also made me think of all the reasons why I fell in love with classic films in the first place. I came with 80 reasons, which I thought would be fun to share with you. Most of them are just random little scenes or quirky little quotes, but put them together and they spell Old Hollywood to me. Yesterday I posted part one ; here i

Top 10 Favourite Christmas Films

Christmas has always been a source of inspiration to many artists and writers. Over the years, filmmakers have adapted various Christmas stories into both movies and TV specials, which have become staples during the holiday season all around the world. Even though Christmas is my favourite holiday, I haven't watched a lot of Christmas films. Still, I thought it would be fun to rank my top 10 favourites, based on the ones that I have indeed seen. Here they are.  10. Holiday Affair (1949) Directed by Don Hartman, Holiday Affair tells the story of a young widow (Janet Leigh) torn between a boring attorney (Wendell Corey) and a romantic drifter (Robert Mitchum). She's engaged to marry the boring attorney, but her son (Gordon Gebert) likes the romantic drifter better. Who will she choose? Well, we all know who she will choose.   Holiday Affair is not by any means the greatest Christmas film of all time, but it's still a very enjoyable Yule-tide comedy to watch over the holi

The Gotta Dance! Blogathon: Gene Kelly & Judy Garland

In 1940, up-and-coming Broadway star Gene Kelly was offered the lead role in Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's new musical Pal Joey , based on the eponymous novel by John O'Hara about an ambitious and manipulative small-time nightclub performer. Opening at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Christmas Day of that year, the show brought Gene his best reviews up to that date. For instance, John Martin of The New York Times wrote of him: «A tap-dancer who can characterize his routines and turn them into an integral element of an imaginative theatrical whole would seem to be pretty close, indeed, to unique .»   One of Gene's performances in Pal Joey was attended by established Hollywood star Judy Garland , who requested to meet him after the show. Gene agreed and then accompanied Judy and her entourage, which included her mother Ethel and several press agents, to dinner at the newly-opened Copacabana nightclub, at 10 East 60th Street. They sang and danced until 3 a.m., after whi

Films I Saw in July & August

In the past five years, I shared a year-end list of the films I saw throughout 2016 , 2017 , 2018 , 2019 and 2020 . For 2021, I decided to do this monthly and share a list of the films I saw during each month of the year. These are the films I saw in July and August, which make up a total of 18 titles. As always, films marked with a heart ( ❤ ) are my favourites.   Resistance (2011) | Starring Andrea Riseborough, Tom Wlaschiha and Michael Sheen Siberian Education [Educazione siberiana] (2013) | Starring Arnas Fedaravi čius The Last of Robin Hood (2013) | Starring Kevin Kline and Dakota Fanning The Water Diviner (2014) | Starring Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko and Yılmaz Erdoğan Holding the Man (2015) | Starring Ryan Corr, Craig Stott and Anthony LaPaglia The Last King [Birkebeinerne] (2016) | Starring Jakob Oftebro and Kristofer Hivju The Pass (2016) | Starring Russell Tovey and Arinzé Kene Access All Areas (2017) | Starring Ella Purnell, Edward Bluemel and Georgie Henle

The Sinatra Centennial Blogathon: Frank Sinatra & Gene Kelly

  In January 1944, MGM chief Louis B. Mayer happened to see a young crooner by the name of Frank Sinatra perform at a benefit concert for The Jewish Home for the Aged in Los Angeles. According to Nancy Sinatra, Frank's eldest daughter, Mayer was so moved by her father's soulful rendition of « Ol' Man River » that he made the decision right then and there to sign Frank to his studio. Sinatra had been on the MGM payroll once before, singing with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in the Eleanor Powell vehicle Ship Ahoy (1942), although it is very likely that Mayer never bothered to see that film. Now that Frank was «hot,» however, Metro made arrangements to buy half of his contract from RKO, with the final deal being signed in February of that year. Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in  Anchors Aweigh Being a contract player at the studio that boasted «more stars than there are in the heavens» gave Frank a sudden perspective regarding his own talents as a film performer. The «g

Films I Saw in May & June

In the past five years, I shared a year-end list of the films I saw throughout 2016 , 2017 , 2018 , 2019 and 2020 . For 2021, I decided to do this monthly and share a list of the films I saw during each month of the year. These are the films I saw in May and June, which make up a total of 16 titles. As always, films marked with a heart ( ❤ ) are my favourites.   Pelle the Conqueror [Pelle Erobreren] (1987) | Starring Pelle Hvenegaard The Elementary School [ Obecná škola] (1991) | Starring Václav Jakoubek Female Agents [Les Femmes de l'ombre] (2008) | Starring Sophie Marceau Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe [Vor der Morgenröte] (2016) | Starring Josef Hader ❤ Cold War [Zimna wojna] (2018) | Starring Tomasz Kot, Joanna Kulig and Borys Szyc Dreamland (2019) | Starring Finn Cole, Margot Robbie, Travis Fimmel and Garrett Hedlund Mr Jones (2019) | Starring James Norton, Vanessa Kirby and Peter Sarsgaard Official Secrets (2019) | Starring Keira Knightley, Matt Smith an