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Corbett and Courtney Before the Kinetograph (1894)

Not Rated | | Short, Sport | 17 November 1894 (USA)


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Credited cast:
James J. Corbett
Peter Courtney Peter Courtney


James J. Corbett and Peter Courtney meet in a boxing exhibition, with special conditions that will allow the Thomas Edison Company to film the match and show it on their Kinetograph. The match consists of six one-minute rounds. The popular James J. Corbett had earlier defeated the great John L. Sullivan and must be considered a heavy favourite. But, at least for a while, Peter Courtney seems to be holding his own. Written by Snow Leopard

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

boxing | bare chested male | See All (2) »


Short | Sport


Not Rated




Release Date:

17 November 1894 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Corbett-Courtney Fight See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(.08 30fps)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


All six rounds of the this actual boxing match were filmed and distributed for viewing to the public. Only part of the first round is preserved; the last five have apparently been lost. See more »

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User Reviews

The Forerunner to the Corbett-Fitzsimmons Bout
16 November 2017 | by He_who_lurksSee all my reviews

1894 was a big year for the Edison company, for it was the very year where their fame began to spread. While the earliest public showings of films in America had actually been in 1893 the year before (or arguably 1891, if you consider the 149 women in Edison's laboratory being shown "Dickson Greeting" a public demonstration) it was 1894 when the company really began to prosper after the completion of the Black Maria studio the previous year. Oftentimes, to get in on the popularity of the various sensations of the era, a performer or athlete would often be hired to come down to the studio in order to be filmed performing their routine. You had people like Eugen Sandow, the famous strongman being filmed several times; Annabelle Moore the serpentine dancer, Annie Oakley, the famous sharpshooter, etc.

Another kind of act that the company was really into shooting was boxing, and this was probably because of how low-brow (and even illegal in certain places) it was considered to be at the time. Thus, by filming the matches in secret and then distributing them for public viewing, audiences would be allowed to view such sport without getting in trouble. Ultimately, this is what would lead to the rise of the sport as we know it today--and that's why it was such a common theme among filmmakers (and it's not just Edison I'm talking about either, Veriscope also created what is now considered to be the world's first feature length boxing movie, "The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight").

"Corbett and Courtney Before the Kinetograph" is another one of those boxing movies, and is apparently the second boxing match Edison filmed that showed actual boxers ("The Leonard-Cushing Fight" is reportedly the first). Before the company had officially formed, some of the earliest camera tests made in 1891 and 1892 were of boxing matches. There was the famous "Men Boxing" (1891) but that film was a mere experimental work never released, and featuring amateurs instead of professionals; another early movie in the genre was "Boxing" of 1892, but as that short is now probably lost, there is little actually known about whether or not it showed a real championship match. (I'm guessing it was just another mock demonstration as that movie also was a camera test). As far as I know, the boxing genre went as far as 1895 for Edison, and was, I suppose, left off probably so Heise could spend more time with filming documentary (since the Lumière Brothers began filming real life the same year). Variations on the boxing theme include the camera test of "Monkey and Another, Boxing" (apparently featuring two monkeys boxing), and "Boxing Cats" of the same year.

This particular boxing match has some special historical interest to it. Here we see two boxers long dead (especially Courtney, who died about a year after it was filmed) participating in a frivolous match taking place in the boundaries within the Black Maria. Unlike "Men Boxing", there is a referee and a small crowd watching in the sidelines, probably added to enhance the effect. But the bout itself is real since it in truth consisted, as most of the boxing movies did, of six rounds. Alas, the single round that remains intact doesn't tell us anything about the winner of the championship. I suppose that, Courtney being the underdog, he probably lost to Corbett but this remains a mystery to my knowledge.

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