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For Valentine's Day: See the first movie kiss between Black actors

Allison Adato
·2 min read
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A Celebration of Black Film with Robert Townsend & Radha Blank

Keith Murphy sits down with directors Robert Townsend (The Five Heartbeats) and Radha Blank (The 40-Year-Old Version) to discuss what it means for a movie to be a "Black Film."

At the dawn of movie-making, having people kiss on camera was a risqué way to pull in audiences still getting used to this new medium. The first of these tiny love stories was Thomas Edison's 1896 short, The Kiss, which featured two white performers. Two years later, Black vaudeville actors Saint Suttle and Gertie Brown smilingly puckered up in short by director and studio-founder William Selig titled Something Good-Negro Kiss. Rediscovered in 2017 by Dino Everett, a film archivist at the University of Southern California, Something Good is thought to be the earliest kiss between Black people on film.

Courtesy of USC School of Cinematic Arts Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive

"It was remarkable to me how well the film was preserved, and also what the actors were doing," Allyson Nadia Field, an expert on African-American cinema who helped identify the film, told UChicago News. "There's a performance there because they're dancing with one another, but their kissing has an unmistakable sense of naturalness, pleasure, and amusement as well."

The 29-second clip, which was added to the National Film Registry in 2018, is one of more than 100 movies, from the silent era to today, featured in EW's new special edition A Celebration of Black Film. Something Good-Negro Kiss belongs to the USC film archive, and can be viewed here.

Courtesy of USC School of Cinematic Arts Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive

EW's A Celebration of Black Film is available on Amazon and wherever magazines are sold.

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