10 user 4 critic

Life of an American Fireman (1903)

Not Rated | | Short, Action | January 1903 (USA)
Porter's sequential continuity editing links several shots to form a narrative of firemen responding to a house fire. They leave the station with their horse drawn pumper, arrive on the ... See full summary »


(uncredited), (uncredited)

On Disc

at Amazon


Add Image Add an image

Do you have any images for this title?

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Short | Action | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A group of bandits stage a brazen train hold-up, only to find a determined posse hot on their heels.

Director: Edwin S. Porter
Stars: Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson, A.C. Abadie, George Barnes
Cinderella (1899)
Drama | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

A fairy godmother magically turns Cinderella's rags to a beautiful dress, and a pumpkin into a coach. Cinderella goes to the ball, where she meets the Prince - but will she remember to leave before the magic runs out?

Director: Georges Méliès
Stars: Barral, Bleuette Bernon, Carmely
Documentary | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

A man opens the big gates to the Lumière factory. Through the gateway and a smaller doorway beside it, workers are streaming out, turning either left or right. Most of them are women in ... See full summary »

Director: Louis Lumière
Short | Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A chemist carries out a bizarre experiment with his own head.

Director: Georges Méliès
Stars: Georges Méliès
The Kiss (1896)
Short | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  

Two people kiss.

Director: William Heise
Stars: May Irwin, John C. Rice
Baby's Dinner (1895)
Documentary | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  

A baby is seated at a table between its cheerful parents, Auguste and Marguerite Lumière. While the father is feeding the baby with a spoon, the mother is pouring coffee into her cup. The ... See full summary »

Director: Louis Lumière
Stars: Auguste Lumière, Mrs. Auguste Lumiere, Andrée Lumière
Documentary | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

Annabelle (Whitford) Moore performs one of her popular dance routines. She uses her dance steps and her long, flowing skirts to create a variety of visual patterns.

Directors: William K.L. Dickson, William Heise
Stars: Annabelle Moore
Short | Comedy | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

An astronomer falls asleep and has a strange dream involving a fairy queen and the Moon.

Director: Georges Méliès
Stars: Georges Méliès
Comedy | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A gardener is watering his flowers, when a mischievous boy sneaks up behind his back, and puts a foot on the water hose. The gardener is surprised, and looks into the nozzle to find out why... See full summary »

Director: Louis Lumière
Stars: François Clerc, Benoît Duval
Short | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

A greedy tycoon decides, on a whim, to corner the world market in wheat. This doubles the price of bread, forcing the grain's producers into charity lines and further into poverty. The film... See full summary »

Director: D.W. Griffith
Stars: Frank Powell, Grace Henderson, James Kirkwood
Documentary | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

A shot of people walking on The Leeds Bridge.

Director: Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

A boy looks through glasses at various objects, seen magnified.

Director: George Albert Smith
Stars: Harold Smith


Uncredited cast:
Vivian Vaughan ...
The Girl (uncredited)
Arthur White ...
The Fireman (uncredited)
James H. White ...
Fire Chief (uncredited)


Porter's sequential continuity editing links several shots to form a narrative of firemen responding to a house fire. They leave the station with their horse drawn pumper, arrive on the scene, and effect the safe rescue of a woman from the burning house. But wait, she tells them of her child yet asleep in the burning bedroom . . . Written by Thomas McWilliams <tgm@netcom.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Short | Action


Not Rated




Release Date:

January 1903 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Life of an American Fireman  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(2004 National Film Preservation Foundation print)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The print used on the DVD release ("More Treasures From American Film Archives 1894-1931, Program 1) was copied at 18 frames per second from a 35mm print preserved by MoMA (Musuem Of Modern Art). It in turn is from an unaltered nitrate exhibition print first preserved in 1979. See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Still a question about the editing
31 March 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Kenneth MacGowan in his book "Behind The Screen" discusses this film at length. He was familiar both with the controversial print and the paper print in the Library of Congress.He didn't think that the evidence of the paper print was conclusive.At the time, a movie could be copyrighted only as a collection of still photos, which is why the paper prints were made.For that purpose, it didn't matter whether they were in the final edited form,or even if there was more footage than in the released version.MacGowan thought that a hastily assembled negative was used to make the paper print,with all of the footage shot from one angle together.Porter therefore had more time for final editing without delaying the copyright process.

The question is, if the existing copy was reedited, who did it and why? Certainly not during the silent era? by the time such editing became more common, this picture was an obsolete relict of a primitive era.And if reedited then, where are the title cards? They weren't in use in 1903 when the picture was made,but came into general use a few years later. So why "modernize" the movie in one way, but not another? It seems strange that they were not added.

MacGowan admits that there is certainly a question about the complex editing, but points out that Porter took exactly the shots he needed for it.And as to why he never used it again, there are two factors. It may have been too advanced and confusing for the audiences of 1903,just as later audiences found the more complex editing of Griffith's "Intolerance" even more confusing.And there is evidence that Edison disapproved of Porter's editing.Edison involved himself in every aspect of his companies' operation, insisting on personally approving each piece of music that went on his records,for example.Which didn't help sales, as he didn't have very good taste.Edison's word was law, and Porter would have bowed to it without complaint. In addition, the Edison Catalogue of that time specifically stated that after the woman was carried out of the room by the fireman, there was a dissolve to the outside of the building,the woman pleads for the fireman to rescue the child, and he returns up the ladder.The copyright version shows the fireman carrying out the mother and returning immediately to rescue the child in one continuous shot with no dissolve to the outside.Since the catalogue is so specific on this point it would certainly seem that there was inter cutting not shown in the copyright print.

0 of 0 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Discuss Life of an American Fireman (1903) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page