Thursday, November 20, 2014

Let's Do A Little Throwback Thursday With One Of The First Porn Movies: 1896's The Kiss

Happy Thursday my titillating tantalizers of all things torrid. I figured we would throw it way back with this post and talk about what is considered to be one of the first pornographic films and one of the first films to not only stir up controversy-which I love if you can't tell from this blog and posts-but also one of the first films to be shown commercially to the public: The Kiss.
Now before I begin let's take a look at some pictures. Warning, these may be considered very NSFW and may be too hot to handle for some so send the kids out of the room, get the tissues ready and don't say I didn't warn you.

Wow. Pretty hot, huh? Fellas are you hard? Ladies are you moist? Because I know I am.
Yes this forty-five second film, seventeen seconds of which are devoted to this scandalous kiss caused so much controversy that some prim and proper citizens actually called for police action to be taken. I wonder what they would say about some of the things that are being shown on film and TV today; though in 1999 the film was deemed culturally significant by The Library of Congress and selected for preservation in The National Film Registry. Oh yeah, this kiss is a filmed re-enactment of the final scene from the musical The Widow Jones which starred May Irwin and John C. Rice; the two actors portrayed.

 So who is responsible for this tawdry filth? The answer may surprise. The film was directed by William Heise for Thomas Edison's company Thomas A. Edison INC.
Heise was a very talented director and pioneer of the film industry. As a director he is credited for over one hundred and seventy-five silent shorts and was a cinematographer on three hundred and ninety-six films. He was also integral in the development of kinetoscope for Edison.
And what of the two stars May Irwin and John Rice?

May Irwin was born Georgina May Campbell and was a singer and star of vaudeville who also appeared at New York's famed Metropolitan Theatre. She and her younger sister Flora were encouraged to perform by their mother when their father died. May was thirteen years old at the time. Her and Flora created a singing act and, billed as The Irwin Sisters made their debut performance at the Adelphi Theatre in Buffalo New York in December of 1874.
From 1883 to 1887 she was a member of Augustin Daly's stock company. Known for her improve skills she also performed in London but was most famous for her vaudeville act called coon shouting in which she performed African-American influenced songs.
Besides performer, this pioneer porn princess also wrote lyrics to popular songs of the day including Hot Tamale Alley; George M. Cohan wrote the music. She recorded records for Berliner/Victor and several still survive today.
She was a highly paid performer at the time and when she was just twenty-five she was making $2500 a week. Miss Irwin was also a shrewd investor and because of that became a very wealthy woman who had a summer home on one of The Thousand Islands and a winter home in Florida. She later retired to a farm in upstate New York where there is a street named after.
And what of her lusty beau John Rice? Unfortunately I couldn't find much information about him or any other pictures. I learned that he was born John C. Hilburg and was a Broadway actor. He only has two IMDB credits and five credits on The Internet Broadway Database. He was married to Sally Cohen who could possibly be the Sally Cohen who acted alongside him in The Kleptomaniacs. Mr. Rice unfortunately died of bright's disease, which is an obsolete classification for the kidney disease nephritis.