New version of first ever African-American screen kiss discovered in Norway

OSLO (Reuters) - A new version of the first known on-screen kiss between two African-American actors has been discovered in the collections of the National Library of Norway.

The 1898 film, directed by U.S. film industry pioneer William Selig, stars vaudeville actors Saint Suttle and Gertie Brown and shows them courting and kissing in front of a cloth backdrop.

The only previously known copy of “Something Good - Negro Kiss” was acquired from a collector in Louisiana in 2017 and added to the U.S Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 2018 for its cultural value.

It depicts a tender scene between two African-American actors at a time when caricatures of Black life were more common.

The version identified by Norway’s National Library differs in that it is longer and the actors are filmed from a greater distance.

“It is more complex, there is more of a prelude before the kisses, with wooing, refusal and negotiation,” said Eirik Frisvold Hanssen, head of the National Library’s film section.

“It is not as clean as the American version but we get to see more of the actors and how they behave.”

It was taken to Norway by a young Norwegian man, who likely bought a copy at the time in the United States and brought it back home, the National Library said. It is among the oldest films in the library’s collections.

Reporting by Ilze Filks, writing by Gwladys Fouche; Editing by Mike Collett-White