Australian Screen

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Melbourne Cup 1896 (1896)

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clip Melbourne Cup race education content clip 3

This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

This clip shows the end of the 1896 Melbourne Cup horse race through the onlooking crowd. Newhaven wins.

Curator’s notes

Never short of a good idea to entertain his audiences, Walter Barnett, the producer of this film, encourages the crowd to wave their hats as the horses come down the straight to the finish line.

The camera remains static and with this the 1896 Melbourne Cup is recorded in history.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This silent, black-and-white clip shows a crowd of well-dressed men and women watching the final leg of the 1896 Melbourne Cup. As the horses approach the finish line, the producer, Walter Barnett, enters the frame, excitedly waving his hat and encouraging the crowd to do the same in an effort to create a sense of spectacle for the camera. Newhaven wins and the crowd disperses.

Educational value points

  • This is a scene from one of Australia’s oldest surviving films. It was shot by Marius Sestier on a Lumière Cinématographe camera with a tripod to achieve a still frame, and was produced by Australian society photographer Walter Barnett. This clip is one of about ten films to record the event. The revolutionary Cinématographe, a camera, projector and printer combined, was invented by film pioneers, Auguste and Louis Lumière in 1895. Sestier’s Melbourne Cup films were later sent to France for distribution and it was not until 1969 that the six surviving films were returned to Australia by the Cinématèque Française.
  • The clip presents a valuable historical record of one of Australia’s most famous sporting events. The Melbourne Cup began in 1861 and has been run every year since. The race was so popular that in 1866 the day was declared a public holiday for all Victorians. Held in Flemington, Melbourne, on the first Tuesday of November, the 3,200-m race is referred to in Australia as 'the race that stops the nation’. It is also recognised as one of the world’s greatest handicap races and one of the richest.
  • The spectators are shown wearing typical late-19th-century English fashion. Most of the women wear long, full-skirted dresses with fitted bodices and large leg-of-mutton sleeves, which made a focal point of the shoulders, giving an illusion of a smaller waistline. The popularity of large, decorated hats and the use of parasols are also apparent. The men’s attire is more conservative and relaxed, with most men wearing jackets and waistcoats, some with bowties and boater hats, and others wearing top hats.
  • The clip is taken from an example of an early 'actuality’ film. Filmmakers of the time saw the Cinématographe camera as a scientific instrument to be used to record actuality, or real life and events, without intervention or manipulation. Despite Walter Barnett’s enthusiastic manipulation of the crowd during the filming, and later, Sestier’s care in developing a sense of story by structuring the short cup scenes into chronological order and screening them as an integrated program, the footage, as a record of the 1896 Melbourne Cup, is recorded as 'actuality’.

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions. All rights are reserved.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • Where permitted, you may embed materials for your personal or non-commercial educational use only.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

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