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Omelette Filmes Critical Thinking

The Last Days of a President: Films of McKinley and the Pan-American Exposition, 1901
Critical Thinking

Overview | History | Critical Thinking | Arts & Humanities

Chronological Thinking

This film collection focuses on pivotal events of 1901, a year that marked the start of a new millennium. Students can use the films as a springboard to compare aspects of American life and technology at the beginning and end of the twentieth century. They can examine these films for evidence of the significance of a shift to a new century, then speculate on what life will be like in the twenty-first century. Ask students to imagine the types of buildings, exhibits and simulations that would be featured at a world's fair held in 2001 and one hundred years later, in 2101. Students might also make a time line of world's fairs and illustrate their predications for the future.

Search on exhibitions and exhibition buildings to find examples of Pan-American Exposition elements and architecture.

Historical Analysis and Interpretation

The Pan-American Exposition is a cultural artifact that illustrates values and perspectives of the era. Students can study the films to view the past from the perspective of people living at a particular time in history. For example, students can discuss why shows such as the re-enactment of a Native American battle and exhibits such as the Eskimo village were so popular with Americans in 1901.

Search on Eskimos, Indians and Japanese to find films showcasing these different groups.

Some films follow President McKinley as he and his entourage toured the Exposition. These films provide a perspective of how Americans viewed their place in the world. In the film A Trip Around the Pan-American Exposition, the President takes a boat trip on Exposition waterways to exhibits of different cultures. These exhibits were American-built and provide visual evidence of racial stereotypes, imperialism, and perceptions of America's superiority over other nations. Students can analyze what it means to put people and cultures on display and if there are right and wrong ways to exhibit a people's culture. Ask students to share their views on cultural exhibits and village tableaus they have seen at museums and theme parks. Students might then be asked to make their own exhibit focusing on a people's culture.

Students can use the films to launch a study of cause and effect relationships and the issue of historical inevitability. Because McKinley was assassinated, Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt became President. How did the two presidents differ in personality and policies? How did McKinley's assassination change the course of American history?

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Historical Research Capabilities

President McKinley was shot on September 6, 1901 and died two weeks later on September 14. In the collection, students can view films of McKinley as president and of McKinley's funeral. Who was in charge of the country during that interim period? Throughout American history, what other presidents were unable to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities? How has the U.S. government dealt with the problem of presidential disability? Students might also research the topic of presidential succession, including the Twenty-fifth Amendment ratified in 1967.

Search on speech to see films of President McKinley addressing the public and burial to see films of the rituals surrounding McKinley's death.

Historical Issue Analysis and Decision Making

The topic of assassination lends itself to an analysis of a wide range of controversial social and political issues. In the film, The Martyred Presidents, images of three assassinated presidents—Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, and William McKinley— fade in and out of what appears to be a tombstone. After students have viewed this film, have them analyze how Americans deal with political assassination and how they honor martyred presidents and other assassinated leaders.

One film in the collection recreates the execution of Leon F. Czolgosz, the 28-year-old unemployed millworker who shot President McKinley at point-blank range. A self-avowed anarchist, Czolgosz told witnesses to his electrocution: "I killed the president because he was the enemy of the people - the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime."

This film can be used to introduce a debate on current issues such as gun control, the death penalty, and media coverage of court trials and executions.

Search on assassination to find films related to the fatal shooting of President McKinley.

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Inventing Entertainment: the Early Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies
Critical Thinking

Overview | History | Critical Thinking | Arts & Humanities

Chronological Thinking | Historical Comprehension | Historical Analysis and Interpretation | Historical Issue-Analysis and Decision-Making | Historical Research Capabilities

Critical Thinking

The film and audio recordings collected in Inventing Entertainment provide opportunities to chronicle the evolution of the motion picture industry and its influence on popular entertainment. Footage of vaudeville performers provides a catalyst to assess the demise of theatrical film during the early-twentieth century. Films of the Western genre can prompt a discussion on how certain styles transcend the media after entering the nation's cultural vocabulary. Additional films can be analyzed to discuss the merits of public executions and to research historic firsts in technology and popular entertainment.

Chronological Thinking Skills

An August 1910 article on Thomas Edison, "Who's Who in the Film Game," describes the motion picture camera as "the absolute foundation of an amusement business that encircles the world, giving employment to thousands and numbering its daily devotees by hundreds and hundreds of thousands." The Special Presentations, "The Timeline for Inventing Entertainment," and "The Life of Thomas Edison" provide an opportunity to chronicle the early history of the motion picture industry and the relationship between technology and the development of narrative forms.

The filmography, "Chronological Title List of Edison Motion Pictures," features examples of motion pictures from the first three decades of the industry's history, beginning with the Dickson Greeting (1891). Non-fiction "actualities" of vaudeville performers, documentaries, and comic sketches featuring trick photography gradually gave way to longer narratives such as an adaptation of the fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk and original tales such as the famous Western, The Great Train Robbery (1903).

The motion picture industry of the early twentieth century provided an opportunity to create these new types of narratives but many studios based projects on the proven success of their competitors. The Special Presentation, "The History of Edison Motion Pictures," explains that competition often resulted in different studios remaking the same film. For example, How a French Nobleman Got a Wife . . . (1904) was a remake of the Biograph Studios film, Personal (1904), but Edison's picture became the most successful film of the year.

  • How did competition and technological innovations in the motion picture industry influence the narratives of the films and establish certain genres?
  • Why do you think that Edison's studio copied other studios' work?
  • Do you think that copying other people's stories is a concern in the contemporary film industry?

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