Found: The first recorded selfie

MacDowell and Depardeiu In Green card

Is this this the first ever couple selfie recorded on film?  

Andie MacDowell and Gerard Depardieu ham it up for their own camera in the  1990 hit rom-com Green Card a full 20 years before Apple introduced the first front-facing camera to the iPhone.

And if you’re wondering how this can be, 10 years before the first camera phone was even sold, the answer is, that’s a Polaroid camera that Gerard’s holding, and the picture is part of the pair’s plot to convince Immigration that they are a couple (which they are not – at least, not at the start of the Peter Weir directed movie).

A Polaroid, kids, was an “instant” camera that produced prints immediately after you took the pic … if you count about five minutes of peeling, flapping and blowing as instant.

We discovered this little piece of social media history when we were digging around for movies in which apartments are the stars. They contribute to the action on screen, sure enough, creating a dark and brooding canvas, one that’s bright and cheery or sounding an odd note that warns us all is not quite right with the world that’s unfolding before our eyes.

And, in many, it’s those apartments that you remember,. long after the memories of dialogue and the performances have faded.

Remember Rear Window, that 1954 classic thriller, considered to be one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best? James Stewart plays a photographer with a broken leg confined to a wheelchair in his New York apartment, who idles away his days spying on his neighbours, much to the despair of his girlfriend, Grace Kelly, until he starts suspecting one of having killed his wife.

Those big windows thrown open during a summer heatwave … that courtyard he overlooks … all the lives of his neighbours in their own apartments he becomes so intimately familiar with … Apartment-living has never before – and never since – looked so claustrophobic.

A few years later, however, apartment life was given a major make-over with Billy Wilder’s 1960 five Oscar- winning comedy-drama The Apartment. Jack Lemmon was the put-upon employee whose bosses used his Upper West Side apartment for their extramarital flings, including with Shirley MacLaine, which overnight put the sexy back into apartment life.

If you’ve ever complained about hearing noise from next door, you’ll sympathise with Lemmon’s neighbours who overhear so much exuberant love-making, they assume he’s bringing home a new woman every night.

The very next year, one of the most stylish apartments we’ve ever seen on screen caught everyone’s eye – and helped make Audrey Hepburn a star. Breakfast at Tiffany’s showed her character Holly Golighty’s absolute chic, in a Manhattan apartment bedecked with antiques, vintage charm and modern good taste.

Hepburn’s iconic pose with that over-sized cigarette holder is something that will never be forgotten, as well as the allure of that apartment, complete with its sassy clawfoot bath.

It was a completely different mood for Roman Polanski’s 1968 horror flick Rosemary’s Baby, filmed inside the Dakota building, where John Lennon lived and outside which he was later to be shot dead.

Ingénue Mia Farrow’s apartment redecoration in sunny yellows became a stark contrast to the darkly menacing devil-worshipping going on all around … Many today may loathe their Bodies Corporate or Owners Corporations, but rarely will they ever be quite that bad.

Another of the movie world’s most striking apartments was one that actually looked quite humble from the outside.

But once Gérard Depardieu stepped inside Andie MacDowell’s apartment in Green Card, the 1991 romantic comedy about a marriage of convenience, we all discovered a beautiful study in shabby chic, with a greenhouse on the balcony that would put most modern rooftop gardens to shame.

Fight Club was among the most controversial films of the same decade with its study of male violence but, from an apartment-dweller’s viewpoint, it was also its most interesting.

Much of the 1999 movie’s action took place in the chaotic, post-apocalyptic home of Brad Pitt’s wild soap salesman character, after Edward Norton’s perfect apartment is destroyed. Few will ever forget the opening scenes in his apartment where IKEA price tags appear as visual effects on each possession in David Fincher’s lauded – and loathed – cult classic.

It’s a truly glorious apartment that takes all the honours in Down With Love, the 2003 rom-com tribute to Doris Day starring Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor.

A veritable meringue of pink and white with its shag carpet, winding staircase, fire pit and elegant balcony, it’s the kind of apartment we all dream of but will rarely, if ever, be able to afford.

Except, of course, in the movies.

Getting back to selfies,  if you’re interested, the first know solo selfie was taken by  Robert Cornelius in 1839.  The exposure took so long that he was able to remove the lens cap (this is pre shutter days) move to his chair and sit very still for a full minute before standing up and replacing the cap.  You’ll find a full history of selfies here.

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