Life Of An American Policeman

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Another Edison production from Squaresville, that compensates with length for what it lacks in interest. Two years after exciting audiences with the emblematic shot in 'The Great Train Robbery' and Porter still does not use close-ups, resulting in faceless characters without emotion.

Online: YouTube

With no titles, I had trouble making sense of this. Luckily, I found program notes from a 1963 NYU showing (quoted below, for the benefit of my fellow clueless):

  1. The opening scenes of a policeman's happy home life suggest that we are to follow one policeman through a typical day; but due to the absence of closeups, we never really get a good look at him, and in any case we soon leave him to see what other policemen are up to.
  2. Policeman finds and walks off with a (presumably) lost child (or two?)
  3. Policeman helps mother and child cross the street
  4. Police thwart a suicide attempt (with a rescue scene that drags on way beyond yawnsville)
  5. The runaway sequence in Central Park is a perfect example of how not to build tension in a potentially exalting sequence; by doing every scene in the same static extreme long shot, and letting the gallop up to the camera, the sequence is not only deprived of suspense but of reality too.
  6. ...the final segment in the film is a little comedy vignette showing how a policeman, almost caught sneaking a drink in a stable by the supervising police "roundsman", manages to extricate himself from his predicament by a method rather involved and not sufficiently explained in the title-less sequence.