Short Film Saturday: Barney Oldfield’s Race for a Life (1913)

This week’s short film piggy-backs off last week’s train theme. When I read this fascinating blog post about how the silent film got so closely identified with a woman being tied to train tracks, and why that might not be so accurate, there was a link to one short that’s a famous example of it.

It’s a fairly humorous and straight forward tale. Though D.W. Griffith is most noted for making cross-cutting a staple of film technique, he was by no means the only one implementing early in the development of cinema and here Mack Sennett really does the technique justice and makes the short very compelling. Another interesting thing you’ll note is that this short film is bereft of score. I am fine with that. Very few silents have their proper score attached to them to this day – some never had a specified score and that was left to the discretion of the live accompanist. Chaplin’s work, as he was also a composer, is an exception; furthermore, the restoration of the original Metropolis score is a large part of what made that reconstruction so very brilliant. Anyway, this is quick, fairly humorous short full of silent tropes.


To view the film follow this link.

Short Film Saturday: Trains 18 Years Apart

Here you will find two quick clips that show some early progress in film as a documenting tool.

One of the first shorts ever in 1895 was of a train arriving at a station by the Lumière brothers.

Compare that to this shot 18 years later when a train collision was caught on film. In the meantime, storytelling developed but the journalistic possibilities were always apparent.