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A screen shot from 'Animal act with baboon, dog and donkey.'

Watch a film with a baboon, dog and donkey made in Chicago in 1919

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Early Movies in Chicago
Did you know that before the movie industry moved to Hollywood it had its beginnings in New York City and Chicago, Illinois? If the "windy city" of Chicago seems like an odd place to make movies, (or motion pictures, as they were commonly called), it actually made a lot of sense at the time. The reason the film industry started in these cities is because there were plenty of trained professionals (acrobats, dancers, actors, and stagehands) from vaudeville, the performing arts theater that was popular at the turn of the century.

The types of vaudeville acts that worked the best for early films were called "dumb" acts. In this film, a baboon "plays" a violin, a dog jumps rope and a donkey plays at biting and kicking two men. Can you guess why they were called "dumb" acts?

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VIDEO CREDIT: Spanuth, Hans A., Producer. "Animal act with baboon, dog and donkey." Commonwealth Pictures Corporation 1919. The American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920, Library of Congress.