Here's a silly, short film clip that must have been quite racy when it was new. Called Par le trou de serrure (What Happened to the Inquisitive Janitor), it's exactly that – a nosy hotel employee spying on guests.
It's the work of director Ferdinand Zecca (1864-1947) for the Société Pathé Frères of Paris, the largest film equipment and production in the world in the early twentieth century. In 1902, Pathé had recently acquired the patents of the Lumiere brothers - we've shared examples of their pioneering films here and here - and were swiftly expanding into the international market by showing their short silent films in their own movie theaters around the world, from Paris to London to New York to Moscow. Regardless of the language of the patrons, short films like this one must have been immensely popular.
This particular film is also considered noteworthy for its first known use of the "keyhole matte" technique. The audience gets to see exactly what the peeping-tom janitor sees - even the keyhole through which he's spying.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.