All Classic Video - Life of an American Fireman (1903) - Classic Film
Life of an American Fireman (1903) - Classic Film
Life of an American Fireman is a short, silent film Edwin S. Porter made for the Edison Manufacturing Company. It was shot late in 1902 and distributed early in 1903. One of the earliest American narrative films, it depicts the rescue of a woman and child from a burning building. It bears notable similarities, suggesting influence, to Fire!, made by James Williamson in Hove, England in October 1901.
Life of an American Fireman is notable for its synthesis of numerous innovations in film technique that had occurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Specifically, Porter builds a continuous narrative over seven scenes, rendered in a total of nine shots:
1. The Fireman's Vision of an Imperilled Woman and Child.
2. A Close View of a New York Fire Alarm Box.
3. The Interior of the Sleeping Quarters in the Fire House.
4. Interior of the Engine House.
5. The Apparatus Leaving the Engine House.
6. Off to the Fire.
7. The Arrival at the Fire.
This particular construction of time and space was not invented by Porter, but he did maximize its use and further develop it in his more famous film of 1903, The Great Train Robbery.
Charles Musser, a film scholar, points out that this film represents the social role of firefighters was changing at the time.