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The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight (1897)

The first known feature film! A very unusual filmed record of the Corbett-Fitzsimmons fight originally ran over 90 minutes in length.

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Cast

Credited cast:
James J. Corbett ...
Himself
Bob Fitzsimmons ...
Himself
Billy Madden ...
Himself - Sullivan's Manager
George Siler ...
Himself - Referee
John L. Sullivan ...
Himself - Master of Ceremonies
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Storyline

This legendary fight was filmed on March 17, 1897, using 63mm film that produced an aspect ratio of about 1.75:1. Using three adjacent cameras, Enoch Rector recorded the entire fight, simultaneously creating the world's first known feature film, as the resulting footage lasted over 90 minutes in length. About a quarter of the film survives today. Written by Mark Toscano <fiddybop@yahoo.com>

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1.65 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

19th century historical figure Wyatt Earp was a reporter for the New York Herald and wrote extensively on the event, both before and after. Earp was convinced that the film would prove that Fitzsimmons had fouled Corbett by hitting him in the jaw after the knockout blow to the solar plexus, and his outrage that the referee, George Siler, failed to notice this. Fitzsimmons responded to the Herald claiming that having seen the film, he didn't believe a single frame could prove this accusation true. 'William Barclay 'Bat' Masterson' also attended and is oft identified in existing footage as the man wearing a bowler hat sitting ringside at the center of the frame who appears to be manning the bell. See more »

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User Reviews

 
Fight!
20 January 2016 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The first known feature film! A very unusual filmed record of the Corbett-Fitzsimmons fight originally ran over 90 minutes in length. (The one I saw went for around 19 minutes.) The first feature film and the first film in widescreen, shown as early as 1897. That is rather remarkable considering how primitive many of the 1896 films we have preserved today look. This was a huge leap forward.

What is also interesting is the boxing technique. While I am not well-versed in boxing, what I see here does not look all that different from modern fights. My understanding was that boxing used to be more of an underground thing, but if this film is any indication that is clearly not the case.

Interestingly, Wyatt Earp was a reporter for The New York World at the time, which published his commentaries on the fight on March 14 and March 18. He disagreed with referee George Siler's decision when Fitzsimmons allegedly hit Corbett in the jaw, which should have resulted in a foul, coming after a knockout blow to Corbett's solar plexus.


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