Pornography has served as a spur to the development of every new technology from the Gutenberg press to the Internet, but it was the Lumière brothers’ first commercial cinema display in 1895 Paris that inspired creative smut on an international scale. The first “blue movies” were staid – like pictures of a couple embracing in Kiss in the Tunnel (1899) – or static, women simply staring at the camera in various states of undress. But soon some anonymous geniuses recognized the narrative potential of the art form. In 1907, directors in France, Germany, and the United States began making one-reel films that included live sex acts with prostitutes, to be shown at bachelor parties. This struck a popular chord, particularly in cutting-edge New York. The oldest surviving American stag movie is A Free Ride (1915), also known as A Grass Sandwich, which was shot in New Jersey and played for years in X-rated Manhattan cinemas.
The plot line, not surprisingly, is simple: A wealthy man-about-town gives a girl a lift in his flashy convertible but stops ten miles from her destination; he then offers to drive her the rest of the way in exchange for sex. She indignantly refuses, and walks home. In the next scene, the caddish driver gives her a lift again. This time, he stops 20 miles from home, with the same offer. Again, she refuses. On the third day, he drops her 50 miles from home. This time she relents, and they make love on the grass.
As the girl brushes down her dress, she admits that she had been happy to walk ten miles, or even 20 miles. “But I’ll be Damned if I Will Walk 50 Miles Just to Stop You —” cut to her gleeful face — “From Getting a Dose of the CLAP.” •
SOURCE/FURTHER READING: Stags, Smokers & Blue Movies: The Origins of American Pornographic Film, exhibit Museum of Sex, NY, 2005.