Rip Van Winkle is an 1896 film starring Joseph Jefferson. This film, one of the earliest uses of film to tell a narrative story—maybe the earliest—was an adaptation of Jefferson's stage play, itself an adaptation of the Washington Irving short story. It was directed by film pioneer William K.L. Dickson.
The film is seven short scenes depicting Rip Van Winkle wandering into the forest, meeting some strange people, drinking with them, then passing out. He wakes up after a twenty-year nap, now with a long white beard. Initially the clips were exhibited as part of vaudeville shows. In 1903 the Biograph film company released the seven clips together as a single 4 1/2 minute film.
Rip Van Winkle is not really that interesting as a dramatic film, but it is important due to its status as one of the first narrative films made anywhere. It has a place in the National Film Registry.
You can watch it here.
- Don't Go in the Woods: After throwing back a drink with a buddy, Rip is just standing around when a dwarf shows up with a keg, and suggests Rip follow him into the woods. Rip does so. It turns out to be a bad idea.
- Informed Attribute: The "dwarf" that brings Rip a cask of alcohol is clearly a grown man who is crouching down in order to look short.
- Little People Are Surreal: A weird dwarf brings Rip a cask and lures him into the woods.
- No Ending: The film ends abruptly, as Rip climbs to the top of a rock and looks back towards Sleepy Hollow.
- The Oldest Ones in the Book: Literally, as far as narrative film goes. Joseph Jefferson was born in 1829. His is one of the the earliest birthdays of any actor in the Internet Movie Database.
- Rip Van Winkle: Duh. Sure enough, Rip wakes up with a long white beard after drinking the dwarves' liquor and falling asleep.
- Robe and Wizard Hat: The strange men that Rip drinks with in the forest, "Hudson's crew"—the original story suggests that they're the ghosts of Henry Hudson and his crew—are dressed this way.