Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

May, 1914

Africans exhibited at the 1914 Jubilee Exhibition in Christiania (Oslo), Norway. Image from Oslo Museum,  licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Norway license.

Africans exhibited at the 1914 Jubilee Exhibition in Christiania (Oslo), Norway. Image from Oslo Museum, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Norway license.

Here’s a roundup of what took place during the month of May in 1914.

Politics: On May 1, President Yuan Shikai replaces China’s constitution with a new “consitutional compact,” giving himself dictatorial powers. He justifies this by pointing to the many corruptions and inefficiencies of democratic government in China.

Spectacle: In honor of the centenary of their Constitution, Norwegians hold a “Jubilee Exhibition” in Kristiana, opening on May 5. One of its major features is a “Kongo Village” in which native Africans could be seen. This was not the first time Africans had visited Norway, but it was a very rare opportunity for everyday Norwegians to encounter them in person and see their “exotic” lifestyle.

Women: On May 6th, the British House of Lords rejects Women’s Suffrage

Holidays: On May 14, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation making Mother’s Day officially a national holiday.

Diplomacy: On May 17, the Protocol of Corfu was signed by the Albanian Government and the Provisional Government of Northern Epirus. This is another effort (see previous months) to stabilize the situation in Southeastern Europe subsequent to the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, which had created various tensions between regional governments and minority populations. In this case, many Greeks living in Northern Epirus had rebelled against Albanian rule, leading to an agreement to limited autonomy, ratified in this document, which was never fully implemented, due to the outbreak of World War One later in 1914.

Business: On May 21, failed car salesman Carl Erick Wickman begins using his show car to transport workers in Hibbing, Minnesota to and from mines for 15 cents a ride. This is the birth of Greyhound Bus Lines.

Disasters: The ocean liner “Empress of Ireland” collides with the Norwegian vessal “SS Storstad” in the early hours of May 29 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, leading to a loss of more than 1000 lives.

Opera: The opera Mârouf, savetier du Caire (Marouf, Cobbler of Cairo) by Henri Ribaud opens May 15 in Paris. This will be Ribaud’s most popular opera, based on a tale from The Arabian Nights and using “oriental” themes in the music.

Movies: The release of “The Master Mind” is May 11, and “Mr. Barnes of New York” is also in May, 1914.

Births: Tyrone Power, who would star in “The Mark of Zorro” and “The Black Swan” is born on May 5, and Lilli Palmer, later to appear in “Mädchen in Uniform” and “Body and Soul,” born on May 21.

Italian, The (1915)

George_Beban_(The_Italian)

OK, I admit, I goofed and watched this one a little early. Some source I read referred to this as a 1914 film, probably because it was shot in November, 1914, but it wasn’t actually in theaters until January, 1915 (hence, it would not qualify for a Century Award until next year). I have to say, though, this has me excitedly anticipating next year, because the technical sophistication of this film is far above anything I’ve reviewed so far. It’s also a powerful tear-jerker, telling the story of a hopeful young immigrant whose dreams are thwarted in the New World, and his determination to take revenge on the family of the man he thinks has wronged him. George Beban apparently had a previous successful career playing “ethnic” characters on stage, but this was his first break into movies. His portrayal is ultimately a caricature (emphasized by intertitles with typical Italian broken English), but it is sympathetic almost to a fault. No doubt producers at Paramount were aware that much of the audience for silent films came from immigrant groups, including many Italians, and a hateful portrayal would have worked against them. If you stop to think about it, the portrayal of Italians in later films, including “Marty” and “The Godfather” would be similarly stereotypical, but would nevertheless appeal to Italian Americans’ sense of identity.

Director: Reginald Barker

Starring: George Beban, Clara Williams

Run Time: 74 Min

You can watch it for free: here.