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What It Was Like: First Porn

“Bedtime for the Bride”, “The Kiss”, “A Free Ride” and other pioneer movies in the most explicit film genre.



People had the idea to film sex as soon as they learned to make movies. The Lumiere brothers invented cinema and filmed the iconic arriving train in 1896. The first porn movie was made the same year.

Pioneers

The first silent porn movie was made in France. The film Le Coucher de la Mariée (“Bedtime for the Bride”) was made by Albert Kirchner under the stage name of Lear (he also made religious movies). What remained of the 7 minute movie is only the first 1.5 minutes, so now we can only watch the foreplay.


Excerpt from the movie “Bedtime for the Bride” (1896)

A short film called “The Kiss” was shot in 1896, at the same time as the first erotic movie. Actors John Rice and May Irwin kissed for the whole 18 seconds. The movie was first shown in Ottawa on July 21, 1896, as part of the musical comedy, “The Widow Jones”. Contemporary critics called the short movie “the demonstration of bestial lust not appropriate for a civilized man.” After a little more than a hundred years the United States Library of Congress deemed the movie “culturally significant” and included it in the National Film Registry.


Excerpt from the movie “The Kiss” (1896)

XX Century Presents

After the 1900s they started filming intercourse itself. Around 1910 the first hardcore porn movie “Am Abend” (“In the Evening”) was made in Germany. According to film studies scholar Linda Williams, these movies had a lot in common with modern day porn — they showed close-ups of genitals and medium shots of sex. Both the Argentinian film “El Sartorio” (shot between 1907 and 1915) and in the American “A Free Ride” (around 1915) included these types of shots. These films are now a part of the collection at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction.


A Free Ride movie (around 1915)

Shooting and postproduction required a lot of time and effort, and was also punishable by law. Silent porn movies were distributed underground from hand to hand, sometimes they were screened in brothels and private men’s clubs. Sex theme was used in 1940s to boost the morale of the soldiers, but printed materials were used more often, as film industry was expensive.

The Golden Age of the Industry

After World War II the prices of cameras and film decreased, which allowed for mass production of porn. It began to be filmed by professional directors. For example, George Harrison Marks from Britain started his career as a nude photographer, but by 1950s he was making what is now called “softcore” — erotic and pornographic films starring female models.

In the 1960s strip club owners in the US realized it was much cheaper to screen movies than to pay the dancers to perform.

Easing the restrictions for “adult” movies brought about private theaters. For example, in the 1960s strip club owners in the US realized it was much cheaper to screen movies than to pay the dancers to perform. The clubs placed ads in papers to attract new customers.


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1972 marked the beginning of the Golden Age of porn industry — American director Gerard Damiano shot “Deep Throat” starring Linda Lovelace and Harry Reems. After the sexual revolution of 1970s, invention of the digital camera and development of the world wide web sexual content is distributed even more actively, and the restrictions in shooting are minimum.


Excerpt from the movie “Deep Throat” (1972)

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