The Kiss (movie, 1896)

The Kiss ( Le Baiser ) is an American film directed by William Heise , released in 1896 .

It is considered the first representation of a kiss in the cinema. The scandal was enormous, the censored film and the leagues of virtue took advantage, on the other side of the Atlantic, to impose a first draft of a moral code for filmmakers and producers 1 . The Union of Christian Women for Temperance launched a national campaign against the kiss on the mouth, deeming it degrading and unhygienic 2 .


The actors reproduce the end of the st act of the musical The Widow Jones ( The Widow Jones ), written by John J. McNally, with the last lines (visible on the movement of the lips but not sound) and the ultimate kiss between the widow and Billie Bikes.

Technical sheet

  • Original title: The May Irwin Kiss
  • French title: Le Baiser
  • Director: William Heise
  • Scenario: John J. McNally
  • Country of origin: United States
  • Format: Black and White – Silent Film
  • Genre: Romance
  • Duration: 47 seconds
  • Release date: 1896


  • May Irwin : Jones’ widow
  • John C. Rice : Billie Bikes


In mid-April 1896, a journalist had the idea to make them visit the Black Maria , the first film studio in history (which, at that time, was totally out of date and competed with the outdoor scenes popularized by Louis Lumière ), the two main actors of the musical the Widow Jones , the day before the premiere, were approached by Thomas Edison , who asked them to return to immortalise the late st act and a kiss which everyone assumed that it would provoke enthusiastic or hostile reactions among the expected audience. This film was a success in the Parlors Kinetoscope, the best request of the year. Under the title Anatomy of a kiss , the Sunday World from April 26 devoted almost a whole page to the realization of this reel of 47 seconds 3 . This is the first kiss in the history of cinema . Apart from its commercial success, this film provoked manifestations of puritans . The scandal lay in the fact that director William Heise had filmed the couple of actors”Mid-chest, giving an impression of proximity that seemed at the time to be the worst obscenity. And the spectators had discovered that the actors, out of the effect of scene that gave the illusion that they formed a young couple, under the magnifying glass of the Kinétoscope their true age, the quarantine, an age limit to devote himself to the procreation! Scandal desire just for fun 4 ” .

Notes and references

  1. ↑ Arnaud Schwartz, The Kiss, 1896, November 12, 2012  [ archive ] on the newspaper’s website Cross (accessed 17 January 2017)
  2. ↑ Paul-François Sylvestre, the first kiss on the mouth cinema August 7, 2012  [ archive ] on the website of the weekly L’Express (accessed 17 January 2017)
  3. ↑ ( in ) WKLaurie Antonia Dickson & Dickson, preface by Thomas Edison, History of the Kinetograph, Kinetoscope and Kineto-Phonograph , facsimile edition, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2000 ( ISBN  0-87070-038-3 ) , 613 pages, page 118
  4. ↑ Marie-France Briselance and Jean-Claude Morin, film grammar , Paris, New World Publishing, 2010, ( ISBN  978-2-84736-458-3 ) , 588 pages, quote from page 72

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