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Victorian Entertainment

"We are not amused", said Queen Victoria - or so we're told. Her subjects, though, were eager for all manner of entertainments. The first films made their homes in the fairground and the music hall, and the first filmmakers - several of them originally showmen or magic lanternists - were more than happy to supply the laughs, drama and thrills that audiences demanded.

Comic skits, sight gags, dramatic scenes and the like were hugely popular. Non-fiction subjects outnumbered entertainments, but it was the second that inspired early filmmakers to many of their greatest innovations, from 'facials' (the first close-ups) to 'tricks', the prototype for modern special effects.

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The Beggar's Deceit
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The Beggar's Deceit

Comedy19001 minsSilent

A copper pursues a cheeky beggar who can't possibly escape justice - or can he?

Spiders on a Web
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Spiders on a Web

19000 minsSilent

Dare you watch this footage of larger-than-life spiders - one of the earliest nature films of its type?

Come Along, Do!
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Come Along, Do!

Comedy18981 minsSilent

A museum visitor takes an interest in a nude sculpture - to his wife's annoyance - in a sadly incomplete early film comedy

Railway Collision
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Railway Collision

Drama19001 minsSilent

An impressive early film special effect

Comic Faces - Old Man Drinking a Glass of Beer
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Comic Faces - Old Man Drinking a Glass of Beer

Comedy18971 minsSilent

How many faces can one man pull while drinking one glass of beer? Far more than you might think

How It Feels to Be Run Over
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How It Feels to Be Run Over

Trick film19001 minsSilent

A terrifying first-person brush with death at the hands of a dangerous driver

The Magic Extinguisher
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The Magic Extinguisher

Trick film19012 minsSilent

You'll never guess quite what this chap can hide under his cone...

A Quick Shave and Brush-up
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A Quick Shave and Brush-up

Comedy19001 minsSilent

A Victorian gentleman's quaint morning routine - complete with cut-throat razor, scent and powder

Catching the Milk Thief
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Catching the Milk Thief

Comedy18991 minsSilent

A tramp helps himself to a farmer's milk in this knockabout Victorian comedy

Clown and Police
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Clown and Police

Trick film19002 minsSilent

A Victorian vaudeville routine is given the big screen treatment with camera tricks galore.

A Photograph Taken from Our Area Window
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A Photograph Taken from Our Area Window

Comedy19011 minsSilent

Street-level storytelling with a saucy twist in this voyeuristic Victorian comedy

Children in the Nursery
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Children in the Nursery

Comedy18981 minsSilent

Seen but not heard? Three children get up to mischief after mother puts them to bed in this Victorian entertainment.

Artistic Creation
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Artistic Creation

Trick film19012 minsSilent

This burlesque film fantasy has striking sexual overtones - and a surprising feminist twist

Footpads
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Footpads

Crime18961 minsSilent

A simple special effect enlivens an early crime film

The Child, Dog and Pram
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The Child, Dog and Pram

Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent

This Victorian girl is engrossed in her games, and no wonder, with a dog, two cats and a doll to play with

Grandma's Reading Glass
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Grandma's Reading Glass

Trick film19001 minsSilent

A boy examines things through his Grandmother’s magnifying glass, and early film takes a huge step forward.

Answering a Call
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Answering a Call

Non-Fiction19011 minsSilent

Fire! These early 20th-century firemen ride to the rescue on horse-drawn engines, bicycles and even a tandem

Explosion of a Motor Car
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Explosion of a Motor Car

Comedy19002 minsSilent

A hapless copper is left to pick up the pieces after a gruesome collision of early trick cinema and cartoonish comedy

Herbert Campbell As Little Bobby
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Herbert Campbell As Little Bobby

Comedy18991 minsSilent

A not-so-little variety star shows off his appetite

Lady and the Boat
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Lady and the Boat

Comedy18991 minsSilent

It's not easy for a Victorian lady to maintain her dignity on the water - and this clown certainly doesn't help

Hanging out the Clothes; Or, Master, Mistress and Maid
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Hanging out the Clothes; Or, Master, Mistress and Maid

Comedy18972 minsSilent

A philandering husband gets hung out to dry on laundry day

Lady and Puppies
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Lady and Puppies

Interest film19011 minsSilent

Four wriggling puppies make for more than an armful - as a young woman discovers in this charming short film

Man in Bedroom
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Man in Bedroom

Trick film19012 minsSilent

A Victorian gentleman undresses for bed. Rest assured that this film contains absolutely no nudity!

Miss Bayley
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Miss Bayley

Non-Fiction19000 minsSilent

Backstage at a music hall, an actress prepares for her performance.

Grandma Threading Her Needle
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Grandma Threading Her Needle

Comedy19001 minsSilent

Granny's eyesight may be failing, but she won't rest until she has threaded her needle, and given us a giggle too

Robbery
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Robbery

Crime18971 minsSilent

A Victorian gentleman is robbed at gunpoint, not just for his wallet but for his hat and suit as well. Oh, the humiliation

Scandal over the Teacups
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Scandal over the Teacups

Comedy19001 minsSilent

Well, did you ever? Two women share juicy stories, and enjoyably shocked reactions, over tea

Soda Syphon Joke
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Soda Syphon Joke

Comedy19001 minsSilent

Ooh la la! This chap becomes a little too engrossed in his French magazine, and ends up taking a cold shower

The Bathers
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The Bathers

Comedy19002 minsSilent

A simple special effect gives an eerily comic twist to this film of Victorian gentleman taking some outdoor exercise

Winning the V.C.
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Winning the V.C.

War19001 minsSilent

A Boer War skirmish… filmed in Blackburn

Stop Thief!
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Stop Thief!

Comedy19012 minsSilent

After him! A tramp stealing meat kicks off one of the very first film chases

The Biter Bit
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The Biter Bit

Comedy18981 minsSilent

Film's first joke? A fresh take on an old prank.

The Burning Stable
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The Burning Stable

Drama19002 minsSilent

All hands to the pump as firemen and passersby tackle a fire and save the horses from a stable smothered in smoke

As Seen through a Telescope
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As Seen through a Telescope

Comedy19001 minsSilent

A peeping Tom gets a shocking glimpse of stocking in this early take on film voyeurism.

Man by Bed
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Man by Bed

Trick film19011 minsSilent

When the bed itself is tossing and turning, how is a man supposed to get his rest?

Two Old Sports
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Two Old Sports

Comedy19001 minsSilent

A conversation between two gents perks up when they see a picture of a beautiful actress in a magazine

The Haunted Curiosity Shop
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The Haunted Curiosity Shop

Fantasy19012 mins

The strange objects in this shop are brought uncannily to life thanks to a series of early camera tricks

The House That Jack Built
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The House That Jack Built

Comedy19001 minsSilent

All's well that ends well - which is exactly what happens when movie magic undoes a boy's wanton vandalism

The Kissing Couple
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The Kissing Couple

Drama18991 minsSilent

This sequence of increasingly enthusiastic smooches was hot stuff in 1899

Three Linotype Machines
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Three Linotype Machines

Advert19001 mins

Early advertising film demonstrating the machinery which revolutionised the printing industry

Tommy Atkins in the Park
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Tommy Atkins in the Park

Comedy18981 minsSilent

A soldier takes boisterous revenge when an unwelcome stranger interrupts his romantic moment

The Sports and Nations' Dance, Grand Finale and Curtain, On Open Air Stage at Crystal Palace
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The Sports and Nations' Dance, Grand Finale and Curtain, On Open Air Stage at Crystal Palace

Non-Fiction18992 minsSilent

A Victorian stage spectacle filmed at the magnificent Crystal Palace in south London

Mister Moon
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Mister Moon

Trick film19011 minsSilent

Musical comedian Percy Honri is a ukulele-playing man-in-the-moon in this early skit

Lover Kisses Husband
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Lover Kisses Husband

Comedy19001 minsSilent

A husband catches his wife with another man and takes his revenge

Cheese Mites
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Cheese Mites

Interest film19032 minsSilent

What’s in your cheese? The microscopic mites here are unpleasant today but caused a sensation in 1903, in one of the Britain’s earliest exhibited scientific films.

Are You There?
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Are You There?

Comedy19011 minsSilent

Innovative early film, which invents its own 'split-screen' effect

A Prize Fight or Glove Fight between John Bull and President Kruger
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A Prize Fight or Glove Fight between John Bull and President Kruger

Comedy19002 mins

The two sides of the Boer War slug it out

Shelling the Red Cross
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Shelling the Red Cross

War19001 minsSilent

A dramatised Boer War scene

Policeman in Schoolroom
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Policeman in Schoolroom

Comedy19011 minsSilent

A pantomime kitchen scene

The Bill Poster
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The Bill Poster

Comedy18991 minsSilent

An early film in-joke

The Death of Poor Joe
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The Death of Poor Joe

Drama19001 minsSilent

A scene from Bleak House is the first ever screen adaptation of Charles Dickens

The Dull Razor
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The Dull Razor

Comedy19001 minsSilent

Close-up of a close - and painful - shave

The Bride's First Night
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The Bride's First Night

Comedy18981 minsSilent

Saucy comedy about a bride modestly disrobing whilst the husband peeks from behind a screen

The Puzzled Bather and His Animated Clothes
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The Puzzled Bather and His Animated Clothes

Trick film19011 minsSilent

An entertaining early film 'trick'

Deonzo Brothers
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Deonzo Brothers

Performance19011 minsSilent

The fabulous Deonzo Brothers in a spectacular barrel-jumping stage act

The Dispatch Bearer
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The Dispatch Bearer

War19001 minsSilent

Mitchell & Kenyon enter the action genre, reimagining a Boer War skirmish - with Blackburn standing in for South Africa.

Two A.M.; Or, The Husband's Return
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Two A.M.; Or, The Husband's Return

Comedy18961 minsSilent

A drunken spouse gets his just desserts in a timeless scene

The Lassie and Her Dog
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The Lassie and Her Dog

Comedy19013 minsSilent

A pet dog submits to his mistress’s beautifying ministrations

Two Laughing Men
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Two Laughing Men

Comedy19001 minsSilent

Two men lose it laughing at something in a magazine

Will Evans, The Musical Eccentric
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Will Evans, The Musical Eccentric

Comedy18991 minsSilent

Music hall chairs: impressive acrobatics in a Victorian music hall act

Two Wrestlers
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Two Wrestlers

Sport19001 mins

An early demonstration of Greco-Roman wrestling for the benefit of the camera

Attack on a China Mission - Bluejackets to the Rescue
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Attack on a China Mission - Bluejackets to the Rescue

War19001 minsSilent Location: Brighton

Fictional treatment of a contemporary atrocity story from the 1900 Boxer rebellion in China.

Weary Willie
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Weary Willie

Comedy18981 minsSilent Location: West Yorkshire

Comic hijinks with a malodorous tramp

The Artist's Model
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The Artist's Model

Comedy18981 minsSilent

A mischievous model turns on the artist

Woman, Dog and Pups
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Woman, Dog and Pups

Interest film19011 minsSilent

Beautifully-preserved early film of a young girl feeding some excitable puppies

Afternoon Tea al Fresco
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Afternoon Tea al Fresco

19001 minsSilent

An overeager guest disrupts teatime in this enigmatic slice of Victorian drama.

The Magic Sword A Mediaeval Mystery
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The Magic Sword A Mediaeval Mystery

Fairy tale19013 minsSilent

This innovative 'trick' film is a fantastical children's pantomime in miniature

Arrest of Goudie (1901)
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Arrest of Goudie (1901)

Crime19016 minsSilent Location: Berry St, Liverpool

Crimewatch Mitchell and Kenyon style, in the first ever film to recreate a true crime.

Beheading a Chinese Boxer
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Beheading a Chinese Boxer

War19001 minsSilent

A grisly early fictional reconstruction inspired by atrocity stories from China's Boxer Rebellion.

Aunt Selina - Takes Snuff, Sews and Plays with Her Cats
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Aunt Selina - Takes Snuff, Sews and Plays with Her Cats

Comedy19001 mins

This ‘facial’ comedy showcases the rubber face of Tom Green.

Attack on a Mission Station
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Attack on a Mission Station

War19001 minsSilent Location: Blackburn

Dramatised account of Chinese rebels' violent confrontation with Christian missionaries, made in the wake of the Boxer Rebellion.

Countryman and the Cinematograph
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Countryman and the Cinematograph

Comedy19010 minsSilent

A country yokel gets a shock in an early example of a 'film within a film'.

Collapsing Bed Scene
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Collapsing Bed Scene

Comedy18970 minsSilent

A mysterious fragment of Victorian footage.

Fire!
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Fire!

Drama19015 minsSilent

A dramatic rescue from a burning building by heroic firemen is one of our most important films

E. H. Williams' Merrie Men
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E. H. Williams' Merrie Men

Performance18993 minsSilent

Fascinating fragments of a typical Victorian seaside entertainment

His Brave Defender
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His Brave Defender

Crime19011 minsSilent

When a couple's home is burgled, the missus proves her mettle by confronting the culprit, come what may

Gentleman Fishing
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Gentleman Fishing

Comedy18961 minsSilent

A splash of Victorian comedy that still reels you in

Has He Hit Me?
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Has He Hit Me?

Comedy18981 minsSilent

The 'Two McNaughtons' roll out their popular music-hall routine

Kitty Mahone
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Kitty Mahone

Performance19002 mins

Victorian Music hall star Lil Hawthorne sings the popular 'Kitty Mahone' in this earliest surviving 'sound film'

The Indian Chief and the Seidlitz Powder
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The Indian Chief and the Seidlitz Powder

Comedy19012 minsSilent

A witty warning that medicine is not to be messed with: mix the wrong dose of powders and your bellyache may blow up

Kidnapping by Indians (1899)
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Kidnapping by Indians (1899)

Drama18992 minsSilent Location: Blackburn

Out-takes of the world's earliest ever 'Western' film.

The Kiss in the Tunnel
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The Kiss in the Tunnel

Comedy18991 minsSilent

A classic saucy sketch, a chance for canoodling in the carriage as the train hits a tunnel

Long Night Dance
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Long Night Dance

Drama19002 minsSilent

There's more than footwork going on in this dance lesson

The Miller and the Sweep
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The Miller and the Sweep

Comedy18971 minsSilent

A battle of soot versus flour

Policeman Beaten
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Policeman Beaten

Comedy19001 minsSilent

A woman beating out a carpet; a frisky policeman; a husband’s return… whatever will happen next?

Morning Wash (c.1900)
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Morning Wash (c.1900)

Comedy19002 minsSilent

An old joke but a merry one.

Old Maid's Valentine
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Old Maid's Valentine

Comedy19001 minsSilent

Early comedy in which a cruel joke is played on an old maid

Policeman and Burglar
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Policeman and Burglar

Crime19021 minsSilent

A bracing fight scene, played out in an early purpose-built film studio.

The Postman and the Nursemaid
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The Postman and the Nursemaid

Comedy18991 minsSilent

A comic old faithful

The Tramp and the Baby's Bottle
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The Tramp and the Baby's Bottle

Comedy18992 minsSilent

It's a lovely day in the park, for romance and daylight robbery - but will this tramp make a clean getaway?

The Twins' Tea Party
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The Twins' Tea Party

Comedy18961 minsSilent

These two little lovelies were captured on screen by RW Paul and were the hit of his 1896 Alhambra show.

Snowballs (1901)
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Snowballs (1901)

Comedy19012 minsSilent Location: Glasgow

Young scamps launch a snowball attack on a hapless bobby.

Sporting Colliers and the Bobby (c.1901)
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Sporting Colliers and the Bobby (c.1901)

Comedy19012 minsSilent

A policeman breaks up a gambling den, but is caught pocketing the proceeds.

Mr Moon (1901)
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Mr Moon (1901)

Comedy19013 minsSilent

Rare production footage of an early 'trick' film with a famous music hall performer.

Unfaithful Wife (c.1900)
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Unfaithful Wife (c.1900)

Drama19001 minsSilent

A faithless wife, with a penchant for men in uniform, entertains a sailor before her policeman husband comes home.

Waif and the Wizard; or, The Home Made Happy
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Waif and the Wizard; or, The Home Made Happy

Trick film19012 minsSilent

A boy asks a magician to entertain his sick sister in this edition of RW Paul’s Sentimental Songs with Animated Illustrations.

A Woman Undressing
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A Woman Undressing

Pornography18961 minsSilent

A treat for Victorian voyeurs - and Britain's oldest erotic film?

The Would-be Conjuror
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The Would-be Conjuror

Comedy19001 minsSilent

A yokel is so impressed by a conjuror's magic trick that he attempts to repeat it on his wife

Comic Costume Race
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Comic Costume Race

Non-Fiction18961 minsSilent

Plenty of laughs to be had as these Victorian clowns attempt to run a charity race - if they can get their wigs on

Let Me Dream Again
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Let Me Dream Again

Comedy19001 minsSilent

Harsh reality interrupts an older man's reverie of flirting with a pretty young woman

The Spirit of His Forefathers
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The Spirit of His Forefathers

Advert190012 minsSilent

One of the earliest surviving British adverts

King John
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King John

Drama18991 minsSilent

The first ever Shakespearean film - once thought to be lost - with Herbert Beerbohm Tree in the title role.

Scrooge; Or, Marley's Ghost
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Scrooge; Or, Marley's Ghost

Fantasy19016 minsSilent

Debut film outing for Dickens' Yuletide classic