Edwin S. Porter

Robin Williams Teddy Roosevelt

As with any Ken Burns documentary, PBS’s The Roosevelts (having finished its second of seven two-hour episodes last night) features a trove of archival material including photographs, documents, newspaper headlines, excerpts of diaries and books reads by actors ranging from Meryl Streep to Billy Bob Thornton, and new footage from the preserved estates of the title characters. Yet what dominated yesterday’s entry (which takes place roughly between 1901 and 1909) was silent film footage of the United States’ 26th President, often brought to life for a sound-sync audience through music or even foley effects. While Burns’s films are known for their archival display, they don’t always contextualize how certain information is made available at certain points in history. Yet as The Roosevelts promises to cover over a century of ground between 1858 and 1962, the way information spread is a story that will inevitably be told, explicitly or implicitly. Between the early days of the moving image alongside the rise of industrialization in the late 19th century to Hollywood’s important role in rallying Americans during WWII, the story of how media develops in turn shapes how history is known.

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santa claus 1907

Later today, we have a Christmas-themed edition of Scenes We Love, in which you’ll find a number of favorite movie moments of varying genres and content. Some of them involve Santa Claus. So, in lieu of finding a short film made by or featuring someone related to a new film out this week, I thought it would be fun to look at some of the earliest cinematic appearances of the jolly old holiday mascot. If you want to go back further than your usual classics-honoring tradition of watching Miracle on 34th Street, definitely check out these five ancient shorts.

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