The Vitascope of President McKinley at his Ohio home is, I must say with all due respect, less than engaging. He's a stolid man, not, in my opinion, the most impressive American President--but he has shown himself forward-thinking, at least in terms of his willingness to display himself. During the campaign, Bryan jack-rabbited himself around the country delivering hundreds of speeches--but McKinley remained on his front porch, bringing voters to him, delivering speeches--while famed Republican orators like Roosevelt went on the campaign trail for him. Even before he was President, McKinley made himself a stationary subject.
With cinema, however, McKinley has a new opportunity. And while he by no means cuts a dramatic figure, he is using Edison's Vitascope to travel by proxy across the country, keeping all of us mindful of his solid bulk, becoming himself a performer, joining all those who have been captured with only minimal interference by the camera. His stroll outside his home is staged, but it is he strolling, marking a halfway-point between actuality and fiction.