[KS] Travelogue: Book on Seoul and First Movie ever Filmed and Played in Korea by E. Burton Holmes, 1901

Frank Hoffmann hoffmann at koreaweb.ws
Wed Feb 22 21:04:48 EST 2012

Thanks to Kwang-On Yoo for putting our attention 
on this -- especially this early movie.

E. Burton Holmes (1870-1958) seems to be the 
inventor of the term "travelogue"--at least did 
he fill that term with some content in modern 
times. From 1902/03 onwards, AFTER returning from 
his Russia/China/Korea tour, he used a small 35 
mm Warwick Bioscope camera (see here for photos 
and illustrations of that and earlier cameras: 
as did most early filmmakers, because of its 
convenient size. As the older ones among you are 
aware the 35 mm film became the standard for 
several decades. The earlier films he did with 
Oscar Depue, e.g. the famous, very early Hopi 
snake-dance documentary at Oraibi from 1898 or 
1899 (if you ever visited an exhibition about 
Navajo or Hopi Indians' culture you will have 
likely seen that film there)--well, those very 
early movies were done with one of Léon Gaumont's 
cameras. In 1897 Holmes had sent Oscar Depue to 
France to buy such a camera. This was a very 
bulky camera (see above link) that used 60 mm 
wide film.

The short movie that Kwang-On Yoo pointed to 
seems actually a segment from the 1922 
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer release "The Burton Holmes 
According to the description there should be a 
longer sequence in that movie showing scenes from 
Inch'ôn Bay (but that short posted clip does not 
have that). Anyway, what is noteworthy is that 
(a) all 1901 material was re-mastered on 35 mm 
film, and (b) some sequences may not be from 1901 
but from 1912, when Holmes was again in Korea. 
The court dancers are indeed from 1901, but not 
sure about the remaining scenes.

The main point, however, is that there must 
be--very likely--much more material from 1901 and 
1912. Please remember that the just mentioned 
1922 MGM movie was just taking some short scenes 
from some of Holmes movies ... and Holmes, by 
1922, had already done travel film for 25 years 
at that time, every summer a new destination. In 
2003 tons of film rolls by Holmes were 
rediscovered in a sealed-up storage room across 
the street from Holmes former enterprise. See 
These are now all at the George Eastman House 
(Eastman Kodak) in Rochester 
(http://eastmanhouse.org). Maybe someone into 
film history (or into studying that early 1900s 
period) might want to dive deeper into this and 
find out if there is more material on Korea that 
survived? If you carefully compare the dance 
scene in the online movie Kwang-On Yoo pointed us 
to ...
   (at minute 2:05 to 2:39)
with the small intro clip on the Holmes collection at the museum ...
   (at minutes 5:45 to 6:08)
... you will see that there must be more: e.g., 
the the scene with the male dancer is not fully 
part of that other clip, and in that clip (at the 
Daum site) top and bottom were obviously also cut.


Frank Hoffmann

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