I've recently started waching a lot of films by a particular French innovator, by the name of Georges Méliès. He was a film maker who lived from 1861-1938, most famous for his 1902 fantasy Le Voyage de la Lune, or A Trip to the Moon in English. He applied theatrical techniques and ideas from magic shows to his films, such as having his actors perform in front of moving painted sets and using special effects to make objects or people 'disappear' in puffs of smoke; the films are today still visually impressive, despite their quite primitive feel. I'm currently working on incorporating some of them into my stage backdrop which will look nice, I think.
Look Méliès up, much of his work is now in the public domain due to copyright expiration, so you can download and view it legally.