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Twins' Tea Party, The (1896)


Main image of Twins' Tea Party, The (1896)
35mm, black and white, silent, 32 feet
DirectorR.W. Paul
Production CompanyPaul's Animatograph Works

Two infants squabble over a piece of cake.

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Contemporary accounts (compiled by John Barnes in The Beginnings of the Cinema in England) suggest that this charming one-shot film of two infant girls reluctantly sharing tea was one of the most popular items exhibited in R.W. Paul's programmes at the Alhambra Theatre in 1896. The paper The Era commented on 5 September that "the droll gestures of two children at a nursery tea-party evoke much merriment." When distributed in the US, the Edison catalogue described it as:

One of the prettiest pictures of child life we have yet offered. Two pretty children are seated in their high chairs playing "Tea Party" with their dishes arranged about them. They become engaged in a dispute over the possession of a piece of cake and one of them cries, giving the most perfect and child-like facial expressions we have yet had the pleasure of seeing.

This was one of the very first 'facials', a popular genre in early British cinema that exploited what to 1896 audiences was the astonishing novelty of being able to see moving images of recognisable people in medium close-up as they reacted to a particular situation. This in itself was enough to hold the attention, and R.W. Paul, G.A. Smith and their contemporaries would produce many similar items over the next five years or so, including an 1898 remake of this particular title.

Michael Brooke

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'R.W. Paul: The Collected Films 1895-1908', with music by Stephen Horne and optional commentary by Ian Christie.

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Video Clips
Complete film (0:20)
Children in the Nursery (1898)
Paul, R.W. (1869-1943)