Rescued by Rover is a 1905 film which along with the likes of The Great Train Robbery (1903) helped to bridge the gap between films that were a mere curiosity or fairground attraction towards the narrative structure which dominated the following century and continues today. The film makes use of the recent invention of the cut or edit to slice together the action surrounding a baby which is kidnapped by a beggar woman. It mostly follows a dog as it seeks out the missing child to alert its owner, the baby’s father. Although by today’s standards the plot is fairly predictable and quite repetitive, for the time it was groundbreaking. Just five years earlier the Hepworth Manufacturing Company was producing films which although interesting were single shot amusements, now in 1905 they had produced a proper narrative film which is much more coherent than any contemporary film I’ve seen so far.
There are several areas in which this film is inventive or pioneering. The first is perhaps the most important. Rescued by Rover was the first film to ever feature paid actors. Before this time roles were filled by the crew, friends or sometimes passers by. Here though two actors, one of which was May Clark, are employed in a cast which also features Director Cecil Hepworth’s wife, child, dog as well as himself. The film is also noted as being the first to create an animal star. The dog, Blair, became famous for several years following the film’s release and is also one of the best trained I’ve seen on screen.