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1897: Emile Reynaud: Cinema's Casualty

Emile Reynaud

The birth of the cinema had marked the beginning of the end for French artist Emile Reynaud and his Theatre Optique.   The Lumieres' first screening in December 1895 had taken place just down the road from the meticulous painter’s own shows.

In truth, Reynaud did begin experimenting with photographic methods of illuminating the Theatre Optique - although more because of the need to lighten his crippling workload than through any sense of technological progress – but his first effort wasn’t unveiled until late in 1896, when the movies were nearly a year old and had already travelled around the world.   Early in the year, two clowns, Foottit and Chocolat performed a sketch, Guillaume Tell (William Tell) for Reynaud, who captured their performance on his Photoscenograph camera.   Reynaud spent most of the rest of the year retouching and hand-colouring the images he had taken, and mounting them onto bands for his show.   Later the same year, in November, Reynaud persuaded the actor Galipaux to perform the sketch that made him famous, Le Premiere Cigar, for his camera.   The film of Galipaux’s sketch was ready for projection in the early summer of 1897, and was as beautifully crafted as the animations that had preceded it.   Sadly for Reynaud, the cinema had dealt a deadly blow to his beloved Theatre Optique, and it would never again attract the large numbers that had flocked to the Musee Grevin in the decade’s early years. [ADD]





France: 1897



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