Kitty Mahone (1900)

Here you can watch and listen to Britain’s oldest ‘sound film’.

This is Lil Hawthorne (1877-1926), a well known American singer from Nashville, Illinois, performing the song ‘Kitty Mahone’. The film was made by British entrepreneur Walter Gibbons, a film pioneer who would go on to own several large theatres. In 1900 he launched his ‘phono bio tableaux’ - a series of synchronised songs recorded by music hall stars on disc together with a film of their performance.

Sadly this is the only remaining film in the series, making it a unique record of a major Victorian star in both sound and vision.

Kitty Mahone appeared almost 30 years before the ‘talkies’ arrived in the UK. Why do you think Gibbons’ method didn’t start catch on?

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This video is from the free online course:

The Living Picture Craze: An Introduction to Victorian Film

The British Film Institute (BFI)

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