Watch Cinema’s Delightfully Awkward First Kiss, 1896

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For decades, it’s been just about impossible to see a movie or turn on the TV without witnessing a romantic kiss. And whether it represents the long-awaited union of two people who were meant for each other, a quick peck between married folks, or a stolen adulterous moment, a passionate smooch still has the power to captivate us. But here’s something we’ve never thought to wonder: What did the first kiss on film look like, and when did it happen? Thanks to Brainpickings, we’ve now seen it for ourselves. Thomas Edison shot cinema’s first smackeroo in 1896, at his Black Maria studio, in an era where kissing in public was still quite risqué. Perhaps that’s why the brief clip, starring the actress May Irwin, is so wonderfully awkward. First, she and her unidentified, mustachioed paramour whisper what we assume are sweet nothings to each other, and it sort of looks like he’s chewing on her face. Then, he bestows on her some curious, rapid-fire kisses. Watch and puzzle over these bizarre, turn-of-the-century mating rituals after the jump, and then read more about the history of the film at Brainpickings.