By Ben Wheeler
LIGHTHEARTED but lusty-looking footage from the 1800s of the first ever recorded kiss created a storm of controversy in Victorian society with the Vatican calling for it to be banned after it was initially shown to audiences.
The clip, which was one of the first films ever to be shown commercially to the public, was produced by Edison Studios which was founded by famed American inventor and businessman, Thomas Edison, just two years before the film was released.
Called “The Kiss”, and lasting just over 20 seconds, it depicts a re-enactment of the kiss between actors May Irwin and John Rice from the final scene of stage musical, The Widow Jones.
The kiss itself is rather peculiar as for most of its running time, the two actors in the silent film appear to talk to one another with their lips pressed together before sharing a peck at the end.
And whilst this wouldn’t make a modern audience accustomed to a whole host of sexual activity in contemporary TV and cinema think twice, Edison’s The Kiss was extremely shocking to people living well over 100 years ago.
One critic at the time wrote: “The spectacle of the prolonged pasturing on each other’s lips was beastly enough in life size on the stage but magnified to gargantuan proportions and repeated three times over it is absolutely disgusting.”
The Kiss caused uproar amongst the establishment at a time when kissing in public was greatly frowned upon by Victorian society and could even lead to prosecution.
The scene was denounced as shocking and pornographic to early moviegoers and caused the Roman Catholic Church to call for censorship and moral reform.
It also drew intense criticism in many newspaper editorials, prompting calls for police action in many places where the film was being shown.