The Gay Shoe Clerk

USA 1903. Dir Edwin S. Porter.

Porter’s fictional short The Gay Shoe Clerk is a story about a shoe clerk who gets attracted to a young lady while assisting her shopping for shoes, and consequently punished by her chaperone’s umbrella. Filmed at the beginning of the century, at a time when amorous behaviour was timid and revealing legs was for the most part reserved for music hall entertainment, Porter’s film is a daring staging of a more boisterous reality. Through the close-up of the shoe and leg, Porter gives the opportunity to the entire audience, not just those few in the front rows, to voyeuristically participate in this titillating adventure. His film enables the male spectator to identify with the audacious clerk while safely seated in the dark theatre and hence in no immediate danger of castigation.