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A researcher from the University of Alicante discovers that the Spanish Carmen Dauset Moreno was the first leading actress of sound films

CarmencitaAlicante, 8 November 2010

A researcher at the University of Alicante, Kiko Mora Contreras, has discovered that the first female star of silent film was a Spanish flamenco and bolero dancer called Carmen Dauset Moreno.

Carmencita is the stage name of Carmen Dauset Moreno, born in Almería in 1868, sister-in-law of the singer from Alicante, Antonio Grau Mora, better known as Rojo El Alpargatero and one of the main drivers of the mining songs of La Union (Murcia).

Carmencita visited the Black Maria Film Studio, in New Jersey, from 10 to 16 March 1894, to perform one of her dances, becoming the first woman to appear in a film from Thomas Alva Edison. This finding also reveals that the film is the first documentary existing on Andalusian dance. So far, the first was considered to be a document from 1896.

In 1889, Carmen Dauset Moreno was lost track of in Spain. Carmencita was at the Nouveau Cirque in Paris during the Universal Exhibition in 1889 when a theatrical agent named Bolosy Kiralfy, hired her to perform at the Niblo's Garden, a vaudeville theater located on Broadway. But her fame spread throughout New York a year later, when she was hired at the renowned theater of the same Koster and Bial's area. From there on, she becomes a famous artist transcending the entertainment scope towards the channels of high society and art. Her followers gave parties in her honour (the "Carmencita Ball"), she attended and performed in charity events, gave dance lessons to the aristocracy, danced at private parties in the richer suburbs of the city, she became the muse of cliques intellectuals, posed in photos of Sarony and advertised Sweet Caporal cigarettes, and was claimed as a model for the famous painter John S. Sargent and William M. Chase. Her huge success led her to tour the United States' inner and west coast areas up to San Francisco. On 26 July in 1891, she ended her contract in Koster. She had been on tour 81 weeks almost without interruption and was a famous woman throughout North America.

The tape where the artist was recorded, which is listed in the Library of Congress of the United States, lasts 21 seconds and is entitled "Carmencita" when it should be called "The Celebrated Carmencita," said Mora. The UA researcher says that, although the recording has no sound, it did have it originally because there were documents that testify to this fact. In the early nineties of the nineteenth century, in Newark, Thomas Alva Edison and his team were doing kinetic experiments to project kinetic images through a kinetograph, with the possibility of bringing the sound through the already invented phonograph. Also, they were developing what would be named Kinetoscope later on, which was a kind of black box with a hole through which the viewer, individually, could be able to watch the scenes.

In 1892, the first film studio of the American industry, the Black Maria Studio, in New Jersey, was built. The opening of the Chicago World Fair in 1893 made Edison's team consider the possibility to provide the Kinetoscope a business vision, focusing on miscellaneous shows. Thus, Edison used the tape with the recording of the Spanish artist to promote the device. Edison's assistants, William Dickson and William Heiss, started shooting fragments in which the most famous stars from Vaudeville Theatre appear in 1894 .

Mora has consulted more than 2,000 documents over three months of intensive work to reach to these results, which will be released shortly, and whose research was presented last 28 October 2010, at the International Ethnomusicology Conference, organized by the Iberian Society for Ethnomusicology (SIBE) and was held at the University of Lisbon.

On the date of the death of Carmen Dauset, the researcher suggests that it was before 1923, although there is no record of the year, as newspapers in Spain did not publish anything.

Kiko Mora Contreras holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Ohio State University and senior lecturer in Semiotics of Advertising, Department of Communication and Social Psychology at the University of Alicante.

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