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The Burning of Durland's Riding Academy1902

  • 3.4
Fires reported on the front page of New York newspapers routinely brought filmmakers to the scene. Such films were popular in vaudeville houses and fulfilled the cinema's mandate as a "visual newspaper." The fire at Durland's Riding Academy, on Manhattan's west side, between Sixty-first and Sixty-second streets, certainly met this criterion. The panning camera captured firemen hosing down the still smoldering remains. Since the film was only of local importance, it was renamed FIREMEN FIGHTING THE FLAMES AT PATERSON and sold as footage of a better-known event. Re-labeling films to increase their commercial potential was neither unusual nor "naïve," but consistent with the highly opportunistic business ethics of Edison and other film producers.

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Member Reviews (1)

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Interesting for historical reasons, not interesting or enjoyable in itself, "The Burning of Durland's Riding Academy" shows how long audiences of the time were willing to pay attention to a single static shot (although there are pans, it's remarkable how long the camera will linger at a specific point when there's little or nothing going on visually), as well as their tolerance for cuts (just one that I counted).

Perhaps the most interesting thing for us watching this in the 21st century is the collapse of the wall near the end: the area below it has not been cordoned off, and nearby workers pause just for the collapse, and pick up their chores even before the dust has settled, showing there was far less concern for safety and liability then than there is today.

I wish the note with this identified what event "the flames at Paterson," as this was otherwise marketed, referred to.