1898’s Something Good-Negro Kiss, starring dance partners and vaudeville actors Gertie Brown and Saint Suttle, was recently discovered by a team of experts from the University of Chicago and the University of Southern California. The 29-second film showcases the Black couple sharing a sweet kiss, recorded for posterity.
The short film is, according to UChicago, based on the 1896 film by Thomas Edison, The Kiss starring May Irwin, herself a minstrel performer, and John Rice. As the title suggests, the film features the first on-screen kiss. Something Good-Negro Kiss, therefore, is thought to be the earliest on-screen kiss featuring Black actors. The film has been added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry along with 24 other films, including Jurassic Park and Brokeback Mountain.
The University of Chicago’s African-American cinema expert Allyson Nadia Field was part of the team who helped identify the film, and she said both The Kiss and Something Good-Negro Kiss showcase the varying attitudes towards Blackness in cinema.
“This artifact helps us think more critically about the relationship between race and performance in early cinema,” she said to UChicago. “It’s not a corrective to all the racialized misrepresentation, but it shows us that that’s not the only thing that was going on.”
Also this week, Twitter user Kyle (@kyalbr) saw the film as an opportunity to mesh the newly-found piece of history with another artifact of Black Love, If Beale Street Could Talk, the film based on James Baldwin’s novel. Using the film’s score, he gave the short film a brand new life, heightening the already happy and carefree tone of the film.
Hi, I’m me.
And when I found out film scholars announced today that they restored an **1898** microfilm they believe is the earliest cinematic depiction of African-American love
did you fucking think that I *wouldn’t* immediately score it using IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK? pic.twitter.com/tI3k3HV7xq
— KYLE (@kyalbr) December 14, 2018
If the replies to Kyle’s mashup are any indication:
Beautiful, sweet, joyous, romantic, funny. This really is everything.
— Shontel Horne (@ShontelHorne) December 14, 2018
That was gorgeous! I may or may not be crying in my cubicle right now. ❤
Narrator: She’s crying.
— Danielle (@urbanmomconfess) December 14, 2018
The nation could’ve had this all along, and still it gets cursed with D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation”…????????????????
— WordsOnScreen (@kimberlymallen2) December 14, 2018
They’re gorgeous, their smiles are gorgeous, the music is gorgeous, and thank you for posting this.
— NotPiffany (@NotPiffany) December 14, 2018
The joy and happiness those two are radiating makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
— Uldihaa (@Uldihaa) December 14, 2018
Stunning and beautiful. Such pure love captured on film. I just don’t know how anyone could see this and only see skin color, and not true love! I’m crying.
— Th3Pre4ch3r (@Pre4ch3r) December 14, 2018
This is magnificent, thank you for making my day.
— Frederick Joseph (@FredTJoseph) December 14, 2018
They reveal something we already knew: Black love is not only amazing, but needs to be shown more in film.