Baby's Toilet was listed in the Hepworth Manufacturing Company's 1906
catalogue under two headings: 'Comic Films' (under the subheading of 'Babies')
and 'Domestic Scenes'. The same year's iconic Hepworth title Rescued by Rover
was also categorised as a Domestic Scene. The latter is regularly cited as a
landmark in the development of fictional narrative. By contrast, Baby's Toilet
borrows the emerging form of industrial non-fiction films, themselves
responsible for developing the language of documentary (even if their
documentary motivations are highly debatable).
As in, say, Hepworth's own A Day in the Hayfields (1904), separate shots are
combined to depict a process, here domestic rather than industrial. A baby -
Hepworth's daughter, Elizabeth - is bathed, dried, weighed, dressed, bounced and
fed by a nurse. Hepworth's lecture notes of many years later imply that he was
influenced by the Lumière Brothers' domestic footage of ten years before. A
hundred years on from his own production, and long after Elizabeth Hepworth's
own death, the affecting innocence of infancy remains a basic human theme.
Baby's Toilet has lost none of its charm.
*This film can also be viewed via the BFI's YouTube channel.