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Early Amateur Sound Film (1937)

| Short, Documentary
A montage of some home movies taken by Archie Stewart (1902-1998), an early enthusiast in taken 16 mm sound films of his family. We see his daughters, Mary and Anne, playing in the ... See full summary »




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Uncredited cast:
Anne Stewart ...
Younger Daughter (uncredited)
Archie Stewart ...
Narrator and Father (uncredited)
Mary Stewart ...
Older Daughter (uncredited)


A montage of some home movies taken by Archie Stewart (1902-1998), an early enthusiast in taken 16 mm sound films of his family. We see his daughters, Mary and Anne, playing in the aftermath of a January, 1936, snowstorm. Next, indoors, the girls bring in a birthday cake and sing to Archie. He has Anne read to him from a children's book, and a year later, has her read aloud to show her progress. Anne and Mary dress up Pat the family dog in a dress and scarf and hold a tea party, chattering away. Archie's high-pitched voice provides narration on and off camera. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Short | Documentary





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Did You Know?


One of the 50 films in the 4-disk boxed DVD set called "Treasures from American Film Archives (2000)", compiled by the National Film Preservation Foundation from 18 American film archives. This film was preserved by Northeast Historic Film. This version has a piano music score and runs 4 minutes. See more »


Happy Birthday to You
Written by Mildred J. Hill and Patty S. Hill
Sung a cappella by the children to their father
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User Reviews

"They tell me it's 1936"
5 December 2008 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

It's really difficult to rate a film like this. While this earlier amateur sound film has no artistic aspirations whatsoever, it is nonetheless a genuinely fascinating time capsule. This 4-minute snippet of the life of an ordinary American family comes without the sparkle and artificiality of a Hollywood movie of the same era – though, of course, what goes on here in front of the camera is obviously staged for the camera's benefit. Archie Stewart (1902-1998), a New york car dealer, was one of the most enthusiastic amateur filmmakers of the early sound era, and he purchased his first sound home-movie camera around Christmas 1935, using it to periodically document the lives of his two young daughters, Mary and Anne. The technology to capture synchronised sound, which was optically recorded onto the edge of the film, was advanced for its time, and would remain rare among amateur filmmakers for decades. Stewart was an active member of the Amateur Cinema League, and in his lifetime amassed more than 70,000 feet of 16mm film.

'Early Amateur Sound Film (1937)' is just a brief selection of footage from Stewart's extensive archives at Northeast Historic Film. The first sequence takes place on January 26, 1935 (or so says Stewart; it's actually 1936), one week after a particularly heavy snowfall. He photographs his children playing in the snow (one is Mary, and the other is called George). In the next sequence, Stewart is surprised with a birthday cake by his daughters, and they sing him "Happy Birthday" in a manner sounds no different from every modern birthday party you've ever attended. Stewart's wife is probably the person filming; she remains unseen, but is apparently offered the privilege of cutting the cake. What follows is two reading lessons with the youngest daughter, Anne, filmed one year apart (the first story is called "The Little Brownie," but I didn't catch the second one). Then the two daughters amuse themselves, as many girls like to do, by dressing up the unfortunate dog, Pat, and treating him to a tea party.

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