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The Strenuous Life; or, Anti-Race Suicide

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 28, 2015

Charles Musser’s notes tell us a couple of things about the title, and about the setting, that we could never know by ourselves. Pedants really are necessary, or at least they can make the world a little more comprehensible. This is a very nice piece of work. Where some of these Edison films drag, this one has a leisurely pace that actually enhances. The shot where the dad gets the doctor is quite exciting. Those two actors are in on the fiction, but that guy walking past on the street isn’t, and the snow and the horses and the train up on the El that crosses in the background definitely aren’t. We have a very nice close-up when the first baby comes. The lady looks at the camera a couple of times. Am I repeating myself too much. It’s just that this is so important, and so appealing! Errors and discontinuities in early films not only add to their documentary value, but they have dramatic and human benefits as well.