Well, it’s time to wrap up the news of the year 1915. It’s been an exciting year, both in and out of the movie theater. The First World War extended far longer than anyone had foreseen and also began to affect areas outside of Europe. The sinking of the Lusitania brought the war to the US, even though the country would remain neutral for two more years. The Gallipoli campaign brought heavy casualties to Turkish and Australian forces. And even African colonies began to get swept up into the war. Meanwhile, a new lease on making feature-length films and a beginning of recognition for film as an art form transformed cinema in the United States, while Chaplin-mania swept the world. American movies were finally beginning to dominate international distribution channels, and “Hollywood” was becoming another word for the American film industry as more and more production moved West.
Here are some of the headlines for December
World War I: Military higher-ups on both sides work to prevent another “Christmas Truce,” seen as bad for morale and likely to encourage spying. Units that broke ranks and attempted to communicate with the enemy faced harsh discipline. Some individual units were made to conduct raids on Christmas day and artillery barrages were scheduled to keep men in their trenches along the front.
Industry: on December 12, the one millionth Ford automobile rolls off the assembly line. Cars will transform American culture at least as much as the movies.
Politics: Yuan Shikai, the President of the Republic of China, declares himself Emperor, filling the gap left by the abdication of Puyi, the “Last Emperor.” This attempt to reinstate monarchy in China lasts only a few months, and is succeeded by years of internal warfare and instability.
Romance: on December 18, President Woodrow Wilson marries Edith B. Galt. The new Mrs. Wilson will become an important factor in American politics as the President’s health declines, becoming de facto head of the executive branch of government after he suffers a crippling stroke in 1919.
Shipping: HMHS Britannic, which shares design features with the Titanic, is launched December 23 as a hospital ship for the British Navy. Although it too sinks, after colliding with an underwater mine in 1916, nearly all crew and passengers will be saved due to improved safety features.
Revolts: The Military Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood formalizes its decision in favor of an “Easter Rising” for Easter weekend, 1916. This has been planned since the beginning of the war, and members of the council have met with German representatives to seek German assistance against British Rule.
December 30, release of “The Golden Chance” by Cecil B. DeMille.