Monday, January 7, 2013

Beyond the Black Maria: in Search of The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Title Fight

Still frame from Corbett-Fitzsimmons, 1897. (Public domain)

The sixth film on my list is The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Title Fight, a documentary depicting the eponymous boxing match. Released in 1897, it was the first feature length film to be exhibited to the public and was instrumental in establishing cinema as a mainstream form of entertainment.
Most of the oldest films in the National Film Registry can be found on the Library of Congress' YouTube channel, but not Corbett-Fitzsimmons. A broader search of the internet brings up some pieces that could possibly be the film in question, though the quality of each is poor and the authenticity difficult to verify. After this initial hiccup, I called Scarecrow Video in Seattle's University District to ask if the film I'm looking for resides in their vast and eclectic collection; it does not. This is the very first time that Scarecrow's immense catalogue has been stumped by one of my searches. The man I spoke with was very helpful nonetheless and did some web searching of his own, but came up against the same dead ends I have discovered. Some reports and reviews claim that only 11 seconds of the film survives, while the Wikipedia article on the subject claims a New York resident by the name of Jean A. Le Roy owns the most complete print, but there is no citation provided and a google search of the name gave no illumination. I may have to place a phone call to the Library of Congress in order to augment this:

My search will continue, but unfortunately I will have to skip The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Title Fight for the time being in order to continue apace on my year-long journey through the National Film Registry. Hopefully I can turn it up, and before the year is out.  

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