May Days of Melies – The Infernal Cakewalk [Le cake-walk infernal] (1903)

The Cakewalk dance was developed at plantation get-togethers by slaves in the southern United States. Thereafter it was performed in minstrel shows, exclusively by men at first. After a performance of the Cakewalk in a competition at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, an enormous cake was awarded to the winning couple, thus the phrase, “takes the cake“.

Plot summary of the movie per the original Méliès catalogue:

Pluto, having seen the earth, comes back home amazed at the success of that well-known dance, the ‘cake-walk.’ He has brought back with him two noted well-known dancers, who start their favorite dance amidst the flames. A queer and ugly being wishes also to join in the dance, but his limbs break away and dance far from him. All the subjects of His Majesty are seized with the irresistible mania for dancing, and start an unbridled provincial dance. At this sight Satan starts out of the earth a large blaze, which annihilates everything around him, disappearing himself through the flames. This view has beautiful new effects and much improves with colors. For the first time in a cinematograph view one can see some of the will-o’-the-wisp wandering among human beings. The effect is magical.”

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