Mary Raleigh Richardson, who vandalized a painting in March, 1914
As we proceed through our century films, it’s worthwhile to think about what was going on during the time in history we are considering. What was going on one hundred years ago, and how did it affect film makers and film audiences? This, I hope, will be a regular column for context.
Diplomacy: On March 14th, Serbia signs a peace treaty with Turkey, bringing to an official end to the Second Balkan War against the Ottoman Empire. Fighting had ceased the previous summer, and the other major combatants had been signatories to the Treaties of Bucharest and Constantinople. This brief period of peace in the Balkan region of Europe would end once again in a few months with the outbreak of World War One.
Medicine: On March 27th, Belgian doctor Alfred Hustin performs the first successful non-direct blood transfusion, paving the way for the development of blood banks and the saving of millions of lives.
Sports: On March 19th, the Toronto Blueshirts defeat the Victoria Aristocrats for the Stanley Cup.
Politics & Art: On March 10th, suffragette Mary Richardson damages Velázquez’ painting Rokeby Venus in London’s National Gallery with a meat chopper. This act of feminist vandalism was done in part to protest the arrest of Emmaline Pankhurst the previous days, and also because Richardson didn’t like “the way men visitors gaped at it all day long.”
Crime: On March 16th, Henriette Caillaux, wife of French minister Joseph Caillaux, murders Gaston Calmette, editor of Le Figaro, fearing publication of letters showing she and Caillaux were romantically involved during his first marriage. Due to her being a woman, this will be labeled a “crime of passion” and result in her acquittal of premeditated murder.
The Movies: The Avenging Conscience released March 24, Perils of Pauline released March 31.
Births: March 2, Director Martin Ritt, who would make “Hud” (1963), “The Great White Hope” (1970), and “The Front” (1976).
Deaths: March 25, Frederic Mistral (83), who wrote the Provencal poem “Mireille.”