Film / TV

cinema’s first black kiss rediscovered

December 18, 2018
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Filmed all the way back in 1898, the silent film Something Good–Negro Kiss is said to be the earliest cinematic depiction of Black love ever captured.

The film was recently rediscovered and restored by University of Southern California archivist Dino Everett after it was found amongst a Louisiana film collector’s collection. According to Black film expert Allyson Nadia Field of the University of Chicago, the film was shot on counterfeit Lumière Cinématographe by William Selig, a pioneer in filmmaking and former vaudeville performer.

Dressed like what was, at the time, typical minstrel costumery, performers Saint Suttle and Gertie Brown recreated Thomas Edison’s The Kiss (1896), one of the first motion pictures ever made. The title, Something Good-Negro Kiss is said to have been a subversion of anti-Black propaganda at that time.

“It is really striking to me, as a historian who works on race and cinema, to think that this kind of artifact could have existed in 1898. It’s really a remarkable artifact and discovery,” says Field.“This artifact helps us think more critically about the relationship between race and performance in early cinema. It’s not a corrective to all the racialized misrepresentation, but it shows us that that’s not the only thing that was going on.”