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» » Watermelon Contest (1900)

Short summary

Four men each hold a large slice of watermelon, and have a race to see who can finish eating first. All four move quickly, but one man seems to be pulling ahead of the others. Soon the contestants begin to hinder one another's efforts.

User reviews


  • comment
    • Author: Whitehammer
    This feature was made to replace an earlier Edison movie, "Watermelon Eating Contest" (1896), which was so popular that the negatives had worn out. In remaking it, the idea was expanded and given additional detail. Yet for all that, and its intended light-hearted tone, it is still uncomfortable to watch.

    Although the basic idea is still the same, and still relies on the same racial stereotype, this version was clearly given some extra attention when it was remade. There are four contestants instead of only two in the 1896 version, the movie is four times as long (the original lasted barely 30 seconds), and there is much more of a story this time. The technique is actually of rather good quality for its time, but the stereotyping is so prominent that it is still quite uncomfortable to watch.

    Since it represents a considerable technical improvement on the original, in one sense you can see why audiences may have enjoyed it. But for today, it is (like its predecessor) a caution that later generations may well take a much different view of images or ideas that are considered acceptable and even entertaining in their own time.

    If you have the Kino DVD collection of Edison movies, accompanying the 1905 feature "Watermelon Patch" there is some good commentary by Michele Wallace, in which she explains the origins of this and similar stereotypes, and indicates some of the lessons involved.
  • comment
    • Author: Iarim
    One of the many unfortunate American cinematic traditions is the food fight. (Apparently, it's starting to rub off on Europe, as British director Lynne Ramsay begins her troubling film WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN with the event apparently leading up to his conception, which involves actress Tilda Swinton being overcome by tons of tomato sauce in a mob of hell-bent food destroyers). Even in 1900 they must have had starving people in Asia, so how the quartet of actors involved in WATERMELON CONTEST could have lent their talents to accommodate the perverse whims of Tom Edison's money-grubbing henchmen is a mystery to me. And what exactly is the goal of the alleged "contest" taking place? To see who could spit melon chunks the furthest, or to see who could smear the most fruit on the guy next to or in front of him? Obviously, the Edison people were no good at titling their product: this film should be called FOOD FIGHT (and the first rule of a food fight is not to film it!).
  • comment
    • Author: Fog
    This short film runs for two minutes and shows, as the title already accurately describes, four black men eating watermelons and who finishes first is the winner I guess. Unfortunately they're hurrying so much that they probably didn't really have a chance to properly enjoy these tasty melons. The whole bunch wear white shirts and suspenders and while they were eating, they talk to each other here and there and, of course, spit out the pips. They're really giving it all. I don't think I could even come close to beating one of them. Occasionally they act so enthusiastic about eating as fast as they can that you'd wonder if they may have a had a bottle of melon cider already before the camera was filming them. In any case, I'm not sure who finally won, but they finish pretty much exactly at the same time and laugh and joke a lot afterward. Clearly they're having a great time. It's a feel-good movie that will inevitably make you hungry for watermelons, even if you can't see their juicy red color yet. Don't let people destroy your viewing experience by saying you shouldn't watch it because it's allegedly racist. The only negative thing I can say about it is that it becomes a bit repetitive occasionally. Otherwise, it's a decent watch if you love silent movies.
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