Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Category: Context

July 1917

This month, the headlines make it clear how intricately connected the First World War is with the Russian Revolution. Deciding which category some things went under was tough. Also, although Finland has long been a sovereign nation, that independence was most recently reasserted during (and due to) the revolution, so I’ve included Finnish news under that heading for now.

British mortar battery taking up position on July 31.

World War One

Russian General Brusilov begins the major Kerensky Offensive on July 1 in Galicia, initially advancing towards Lemberg.

Greece joins the war on the side of the Allies on July 2.

Battle of Aqaba: Arabian troops led by T. E. Lawrence capture Aqaba from the Ottoman Empire on July 6.

First Battle of Ramadi takes place from July 8 to 13. British troops fail to take Ramadi from the Ottoman Empire; a majority of British casualties are due to extreme heat.

Austrian and German forces repulse the Russian advance into Galicia. Fighting rages from July 20 to 28.

Allied offensive operations commence in Flanders on July 31, beginning the Battle of Passchendaele.

Alexander Kerensky

Russian Revolution

Russian troops mutiny, abandon the Austrian front, and retreat to the Ukraine; hundreds are shot by their commanding officers during the retreat, July 16 to 17.

Serious clashes in Petrograd in July Days (16-18); Lenin escapes to Finland; Trotsky is arrested.

On July 20, the Parliament of Finland, with a Social Democratic majority, passes a “Sovereignty Act”, declaring itself, as the representative of the Finnish people, sovereign over the Grand Principality of Finland. The Russian Provisional Government does not recognize the act, as it would have devolved Russian sovereignty over Finland, formerly exercised by the Russian Emperor as Grand Prince of Finland and alter the relationship between Finland and Russia into a real union with Russia solely responsible for the defense and foreign relations of an independent Finland.

Alexander Kerensky becomes premier of the Russian Provisional Government on July 20, replacing Prince Georgy Lvov.

The Russian Provisional Government enacts women’s suffrage on July 20.

The Parliament of Finland is dissolved by the Russian Provisional Government July 30. New elections are held in the autumn, resulting in a bourgeois majority.

The Silent Parade, n New York City, to protest violence against African Americans.

Labor/racial unrest:

East St. Louis riot occurs on July 2. A labor dispute ignites a race riot in East St. Louis, Illinois, which leaves 250 dead.

Bisbee Deportation occurs on July 12. The Phelps Dodge Corporation deports over 1,000 suspected IWW members from Bisbee, Arizona.

On July 28, the Silent Parade is organized by the NAACP in New York City to protest the East St. Louis riot of July 2, as well as lynchings in Tennessee and Texas.

King George V

Monarchy:

King George V of the United Kingdom issues a proclamation on July 17, stating that thenceforth the male line descendants of the British Royal Family will bear the surname Windsor, denying the Germanic bloodline of House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which is an offshoot of the historic (800+ years) House of Wettin.

Government:

Sir William Thomas White introduces Canada’s first income tax as a “temporary” measure on July 25 (lowest bracket is 4% and highest is 25%).

Diplomacy:

The Corfu Declaration, which enables the establishment of the post-war Kingdom of Yugoslavia, is signed on July 20 by the Yugoslav Committee and the Kingdom of Serbia.

Philanthropy:

The Lions Clubs International is formed in the United States on July 7.

Hoaxes

First Cottingley Fairies photographs taken in Yorkshire, England during July, apparently depicting fairies; a hoax not admitted by the child creators until 1981.

Film:

Big Timber, starring Wallace Reid, released July 5.

The Picture of Dorian Gray (German, Das Bildnis des Dorian Gray) released July (date uncertain).

Births:

Virginia Dale, July 1, actress (in “Holiday Inn” and “Dragnet”)

Faye Emerson, July 8, actress (in “The Mask of Dimitrios” and “A Face in the Crowd”)

Phyllis Diller, July 17, comedian, actress (in “Splendor in the Grass” and “Mad Monster Party”)

Lorna Gray, July 26, actress (in “Flying G-Men” and “So Proudly We Hail”)

June 1917

We’re half a month in already, and most of my Century News for the month falls in the first half of June! Let’s see how things were going in the world a hundred years ago. Looking at headlines from back then can put today’s “crises” into perspective.

German trench during the Battle of Messines

World War I:

A French infantry regiment seizes Missy-aux-Bois on June 1 and declares an anti-war military government. Other French army troops soon apprehend them.

Conscription begins in the United States on June 5.

The Battle of Messines opens June 7 with the British Army detonating 19 ammonal mines under the German lines, killing 10,000 in the deadliest deliberate non-nuclear man-made explosion in history.

The first major German bombing raid on London by fixed-wing aircraft leaves 162 dead and 432 injured on June 13.

Herbert Bayard Swope, first Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

Culture:

The first Pulitzer Prizes are awarded on June 4: Laura E. Richards, Maud Howe Elliott and Florence Hall receive the first Pulitzer for a biography (for Julia Ward Howe). Jean Jules Jusserand receives the first Pulitzer for history for his work With Americans of Past and Present Days. Herbert Bayard Swope receives the first Pulitzer for journalism for his work for the New York World.

Disasters:

A fire at the Granite Mountain and Speculator ore mine outside Butte, Montana kills at least 168 workers on June 8.

Constantine I

Politics:

King Constantine I of Greece abdicates for the first time on June 11, being succeeded by his son Alexander. He will return briefly in 1920-1922.

Legislation:

The United States enacts the Espionage Act on June 15. Although intended to prevent sabotage during wartime, the act will be used during the post-war “Red Scare” to justify persecution of radicals and labor organizers.

Film:

June 9, filming completed on British movie “The Labour Leader” starring Fred Groves (release date unknown).

On June 25, “A Kentucky Cinderella” starring Ruth Clifford is released.

Also on June 25, “The Rough House” with Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Buster Keaton is released.

Births:

Leo Gorcey (actor, in numerous “Dead End Kids,” “East Side Kids,” and “Bowery Boys” pictures), born June 3

Dean Martin (singer and actor, in “Oceans 11” and earlier “Scared Stiff” with partner, Jerry Lewis), born June 7.

Lena Horne (singer, appeared in all-black cast films “Cabin in the Sky” and “Stormy Weather”), June 30.

Susan Hayward (actress, in “I Want to Live” and “I Married a Witch”), June 30.

May 1917

The Century News roundup this week has some interesting trends, in addition to the expected war news and the militarization of the now officially belligerent USA. The Russian Revolution continues, but the big headlines for this month are about uprisings in France and Italy – reasons why people on both sides feared (or anticipated) a coming World Revolution. The Catholic Church has some major events, both at the top and the bottom of its hierarchical structure. And in a film world that is increasingly defined by major stars with huge salaries and unprecedented control of their work, we see important releases from Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, and Roscoe Arbuckle.

Phillippe Pétain

World War One

The Nivelle Offensive, an attack on the Aisne Front that resulted in over 180,000 French casualties, is abandoned on May 9.

Robert Nivelle is replaced on May 15 as Commander-in-Chief of the French Army by Philippe Pétain. Seen as a hero at this stage of his career, he will later lead the collaborationist regime of Vichy France.

The Selective Service Act passes the United States Congress on May 18, giving the President the power of conscription.

During the Stalemate in Southern Palestine the Raid on the Beersheba to Hafir el Auja railway by Desert Column of British Empire troops, destroys large sections of the railway line linking Beersheba to the main Ottoman desert base on May 23.

Over 30,000 French troops refuse to go to the trenches at Missy-aux-Bois on May27. This is one of several mutinies by French soldiers during the year 1917, as conditions at the Front become increasingly inhuman and the sense that generals sacrifice lives without concern spreads among the common people.

Pope Pius XII

Catholicism

The nuncio Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, is consecrated Archbishop by Pope Benedict XV on May 13.

Beginning May 13, 10-year-old Lúcia Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto report experiencing a series of Marian apparitions near Fátima, Portugal, which become known as Our Lady of Fátima. These visions continue until October.

Pope Benedict XV promulgates the 1917 Code of Canon Law on May 27.

Disasters

Over 300 acres (73 blocks) are destroyed in the Great Atlanta fire of 1917 on May 21 in the United States.

A tornado strikes Mattoon, Illinois on May 26, causing devastation and killing 101 people.

Transportation

A new Coast and Geodetic Survey Corps of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey is created on May 22, giving the Survey’s officers a commissioned status that protected them from treatment as spies if captured, as well as providing the United States armed forces with a ready source of officers skilled in surveying that could be rapidly assimilated for wartime support of the armed forces.

Crime

Eli Persons is lynched in Memphis on May 22 in connection with the rape and murder of 16-year-old Antoinette Rappal. Parsons was arrested on the evidence of authorities who claimed they could see his face frozen in the pupils of the victim. His death was a partial motivator for the foundation of the Memphis Chapter of the NAACP.

Civil Unrest

A month of civil violence in Milan, Italy, ends on May 23 after the Italian army forcibly takes over the city from anarchists and anti-war revolutionaries. Fifty people are killed and 800 arrested.

Film

Release of A Romance of the Redwoods, directed by Cecil B. DeMille, starring Mary Pickford on May 14.

Release of One Law for Both directed by Ivan Abramson on May 19.

Release of  Souls Triumphant, starring Lillian Gish on May 20

May 21 – A Reckless Romeo, a ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle short on May 21.

Release of Frank Hansen’s Fortune directed by Viggo Larsen – (Germany). Exact date unknown.

Births

May 1 – Danielle Darrieux, actress (in “5 Fingers” and “The Earrings of Madame de…”).

May 10 – Margo, actress (in “The Leopard Man” and “Lost Horizon”).

May 16 – George Gaynes, actor (in “Police Academy” and “Tootsie”).

May 21 – Raymond Burr, actor (known for “Perry Mason” TV series and also in the American release of “Godzilla”).

May 25 – Steve Cochran, actor (who was in “The Best Years of Our Lives” and “Copacabana“).

April 1917

This is a big month in US history: the month that the United States of America entered the First World War. It had been coming for some time, and the German decision to re-initiate unrestricted submarine warfare in February clinched it, but now Americans were faced with the reality of troops being sent to fight and die in France. A large percent of the population was ready for war, although there would be anti-conscription demonstrations in several large cities. More upsettingly, there was a wave of anti-immigrant paranoia targeting German Americans – including many of Jewish extraction – which resulted in verbal abuse and violence in some areas.

The headlines for this month, a century ago include:

Woodrow Wilson speaks before Congress on the breaking of diplomatic ties with Germany.

World War I

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson asks the United States Congress for a declaration of war on Germany on April 2. War is formally declared April 6.

WWI: Canadian troops win the Battle of Vimy Ridge April 9-12.

The Nivelle Offensive commences April 16.

The Egyptian Expeditionary Force begins the Second Battle of Gaza April 17. This unsuccessful frontal attack on strong Ottoman defences along with the first battle, resulted in 10,000 casualties, the dismissal of the force commander General Archibald Murray and the beginning of the Stalemate in Southern Palestine.

Agreement of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne between France, Italy and the United Kingdom to settle interests in the Middle Eastern signed April 26. This is one of many arrangements by the allied powers that will be in contradiction to Wilson’s Fourteen Points at the end of the war, and hence a sticking point in negotiations for the Treaty of Versailles.

The locomotive that returned Lenin to Russia in April 1917.

Russian Revolution

In Petrograd on April 8, 40,000 ethnic Estonians demand national autonomy within Russia.

On April 12, The Autonomous Governorate of Estonia is formed within Russia from the Governorate of Estonia and the northern part of the Governorate of Livonia.

Vladimir Lenin arrives at the Finland Station in Petrograd on April 16, having been given clearance to ride in a “sealed boxcar” by the German High Command, who are gambling that escalation of the Revolution will knock Russia out of the war and free troops from the Eastern Front for combat in France.

Vladimir Lenin’s April Theses are published on April 17. They become very influential in the following July Days and Bolshevik Revolution.

Pacifism

In St. Louis on April 7, the Socialist Party of America resolves to resist conscription and the war effort. The IWW will also oppose the war, gaining many members from the AFL, whose leader, Samuel Gompers, chooses to support the war.

American WWI propaganda poster.

Propaganda

The Committee on Public Information is founded on April 14, to promote the war effort in the United States.

Disasters

An ammunition factory explosion on April 10 in Chester, Pennsylvania kills 133.

Diplomacy

WWI: Brazil severs diplomatic relations with Germany on April 11.

Journalism

The Times and the Daily Mail (London newspapers both owned by Lord Northcliffe) print atrocity propaganda of the supposed existence of a German Corpse Factory.

Film

Several film studios, including Universal, Paramount, and the Balboa Amusement Company, responded to war news by setting up recruitment drives or actually training actors for military service.

Thomas Lincoln Tally, in a meeting in New York, co-founds the First National Exhibitors Circuit.

Teddy at the Throttle, starring Gloria Swanson, released April 15.

The Cure, starring and directed by Charlie Chaplin, released April 16

The Butcher Boy, directed by and starring Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle with Buster Keaton in his first screen appearance, released April 23.

Births

Valerie Hobson, actress (in “Bride of Frankenstein” and “Kind Hearts and Coronets”) born April 14.

Celeste Holm, actress (in “Gentleman’s Agreement” and “All About Eve”) born April 29.

Maya Deren, director (made “Meshes of the Afternoon” and “Ritual in Transfigured Time”) born April 29.

Alice Guy-Blaché: Mother of Film

For many years, film historians and critics ignored the contributions of women to early cinema. Despite this, one name often did show up, at least in parentheses or a footnote: that of Alice Guy, who had been the head of production at Gaumont, one of the world’s leading film studios, from 1896 to 1906, after which she moved to the United States to found Solax with her husband, Herbert Blaché. As women’s history and the influence of feminism finally began to make some headway into film studies (much later than in other fields), various writers “discovered” Guy and turned out hagiographical re-assessments of her work. Suddenly, from a footnote, she became the “inventor” of narrative cinema, the one person with the insight to see the camera’s potential for telling stories, the most important director of her time.

Alice Guy

I rather think the time has come to make a realistic assessment of Guy’s work. She is, to begin with, much more than a footnote. She was one of a handful of creative people who created the body of “early film” in the final years of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. During that time, she made at least 350 movies (these are what survive in archives today), and quite probably closer to 1000. She took chances with new technologies, and made some important experiments in both color and sound film. Her output is comparable to any male producer of the time, and it is clear that recognizable “pioneers” of cinema, such as Georges Méliès and William K. Dickson, borrowed from and learned from her works, as she also borrowed and learned from theirs. If you are interested in the history of film, you owe it to yourself to check out some of what she did.

On the other hand, she did not invent sliced bread. Some of her defenders have made some pretty strong claims, claims which I would say do not hold up. There are not 300 extras visible in her magnum opus, “The Birth, the Life, and the Death of Christ.” I counted maybe 30-45. “The Cabbage Fairy” is not the “first narrative film.” It has no story, in the sense of a beginning, a middle, and an end, whereas the Lumière brothers’ “The Sprinkler Sprinkled,” which came out four months earlier, does. As Fritzi Kramer, kind hostess of this blogathon, likes to point out, the “first” anything in film is notoriously difficult to prove and probably not as important as it sounds in the first place.

Alice Guy was a secretary to Léon Gaumont in 1895. At the time, his still photography company had failed, but he was still managing the inventory with a small staff, and was looking into motion picture technology. He invited Guy along to a demonstration by the Lumières, and agreed to put Guy in charge of what he no doubt thought would be a pretty minor film-production operation, “so long as it did not interfere with her other duties.” As Guy proved the lucrative advantages of film production, that quickly became her primary responsibility.

Whether it’s the first narrative movie or not, “The Cabbage Fairy” is a very interesting contribution to early film. Lea at Silentology has recently discussed the importance of the féerie show in French theater, and its apparent influence on the work of Méliès. Féerie was a ballet spectacle that was usually based on fairy tales or mythological sources, and emphasized stage magic, elegant costume, and fantastic situations over plot. “The Cabbage Fairy” may not be a narrative in the strictest sense, but it is a tableau that fits the concept of féerie perfectly, right down to having a fairy as its central figure! Guy did beat Méliès to the punch in this area, at least, and I have no doubt that Georges watched Alice’s movie with profound interest, although he probably would have made a féerie movie sooner or later, given his interests and talents, whether or not he saw it.

I watched and reviewed about 80 of Guy’s films from Gaumont last year, which may not make me an expert, but it gives me some sense of that period of her career. Honestly, it took me a while to warm to them. A lot of the really early stuff is just short dance movies or “trick films” that aren’t as well-executed as those of Méliès. As I worked through them, though, I began to see that they weren’t so much copies of other filmmakers work as they were part of a “discourse” between the pioneers of early cinema. Like blues or jazz musicians, they were listening to each other, then “riffing” off of what the others did. Somewhere along the way, Guy developed a more discernible voice, especially in her comedies. She had a quirky, idiosyncratic sense of humor that often involved taking logical premises to some crazy kind of extreme. The later comedies I would even call “surreal,” although that term hadn’t actually been invented yet, when they start involving mattresses that take on personality, beds that steer themselves through the streets of Paris, or footraces in which the participants trade clothing!

One of the more recent academic discussions or Guy talks about the importance that cross-dressing has in her films. This is probably nowhere more obvious than in her movie “The Consequences of Feminism,” which shows a future world in which effeminate men are dominated by masculine women. It cleverly pretends to be a critique of feminism when it is in fact a feminist critique of patriarchy and rape culture. In a “A Sticky Woman,” a masher is punished for kissing a woman at the post office when his mouth sticks to hers – because of all the stamps she has been licking! A lot of her movies take on a different aspect when you consider that she was a woman in a leadership role in a male-dominated industry at a time when women were expected to submit to male authority.

The final thing to consider about Guy’s Gaumont period was her early experiments in sound film. There are a few examples on “Gaumont Treasures,” and also a clip of Guy at work on a sound stage. These are comparably static images, as one might expect from a sound film in 1905 (it was still a problem in the early thirties), and generally just show a single song or dance number. It’s still fascinating to be able to hear the voices of performers in such early films, and gives a bit of insight into the musical culture of the period as well. Felix Mayol, in particular, is a very unusual discovery from the early twentieth century – a gay man with a very sophisticated sense of humor.

Who’s this?

In many ways, then, Guy pushed the boundaries of cinema at a time when nothing was established. She took chances, she tried new techniques, and she helped to define what “the movies” would really be about for the next 100 or more years.

This has been my contribution to the Early Women Filmmakers Blogathon, hosted by Movies Silently. Click on the link to check out all of the other contributions!

March 1917

This is the month that the “February Revolution” kicks off in Russia (they were on a different calendar, so it happened in March, so far as we’re concerned), and things start to change dramatically in Europe and the world as a result. Meanwhile, the USA is drifting closer to war and things are finally stabilizing in Mexico after years of revolution. Here are some of the headlines you’d have been reading 100 years ago:

World War One:

First Battle of Gaza: On March 26,  British Egyptian Expeditionary Force troops virtually encircle the Gaza garrison but are then ordered to withdraw, leaving the city to the Ottoman defenders.

Russian Revolution:

Riots break out as women calling for bread in Petrograd protest on March 8, the unrest  spontaneously spreading throughout the city.

The Duma declares a provisional government on March 12.

Emperor Nicholas II of Russia abdicates his throne and his son’s claims on March 15.

Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia refuses the throne on March 17, and power passes to the newly formed Provisional Government under Prince Georgy Lvov.

Mexican Revolution:

Venustiano Carranza is elected president of Mexico on March 11; the United States gives de jure recognition of his government.

Diplomacy:

The U.S. government releases the text of the Zimmermann Telegram to the public on March 1.

Republic of China terminates diplomatic relations with Germany on March 14.

Colonialism:

The United States takes possession of the Danish West Indies on March 31, which become the US Virgin Islands, after paying $25 million to Denmark.

Politics:

The enactment of the Jones Act on March 2 grants Puerto Ricans United States citizenship.

 

Jeannette Rankin of Montana becomes the first woman member of the United States House of Representatives, her term beginning on March 4.

Hjalmar Hammarskjöld steps down as Prime Minister of Sweden on March 30. He is replaced by the right-wing businessman and politician Carl Swartz .

Religion:

The Georgian Orthodox Church restores the autocephaly abolished by Imperial Russia in 1811.

Music:

Livery Stable Blues“, recorded with “Dixie Jazz Band One Step” on February 26 by the Original Dixieland Jass Band in the United States, becomes the first jazz recording commercially released on March 8.

Film:

Release of “Poor Little Rich Girl” starring Mary Pickford, March 5, reputedly the third-highest grossing film of 1917.

Release of “The Tornado” on March 3, debut film of John Ford.

Births:

Desi Arnaz (actor, in “I Love Lucy” and “The Long, Long Trailer”), March 2; Googie Withers (actress, in “The Lady Vanishes” and “Dead of Night”), March 12; Virginia Grey (actress, in “Another Thin Man” and “The Naked Kiss”), March 22.

February 1917

Most of the headlines for this month relate to the First World War, and increasing international tensions that will bring the US into the war soon are becoming visible. At the end of the month, we see the first hints of what will be known as the “February Revolution” in Russia (because they were on a different calendar, most of this revolution occurs in March for our purposes).

Nekhl in the Sinai Peninsula

Nekhl in the Sinai Peninsula

World War One

Germany announces its U-boats will resume unrestricted submarine warfare, rescinding the ‘Sussex pledge‘ on February 1.

The United States severs diplomatic relations with Germany on February 3.

Beginning of the Raid on Nekhl on February 13 by units of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, to complete reoccupation of the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula.

mata_hari_2Espionage

Mata Hari is arrested in Paris on February 13 for spying.

Politics

The new constitution of Mexico is adopted on February 5.

SS Mendi

SS Mendi

Disasters

British troopship SS Mendi is accidentally rammed and sunk off the Isle of Wight on February 21, killing 646, mainly members of the South African Native Labour Corps.

Diplomacy

United States ambassador to the United Kingdom, Walter Hines Page, is shown the intercepted Zimmermann Telegram on February 24, in which Germany offers to give the American Southwest back to Mexico if Mexico declares war on the United States.

nicholas_iiRevolution

On February 26, Mikhail Rodzianko sends Tsar Nicholas II a telegram with the following warning: “Serious situation in the capital, where anarchy reigns. General discontent increasing. In the streets, uninterrupted firing, and one part of the troops is firing on the other. It is necessary to nominate without delay a person possessing the confidence of the people and who would form a new Government. To wait is impossible.” The Tsar never replies.

buster-keatonFilm

Buster Keaton first meets Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle in New York and is hired as a co-star and gag man.

February 2: The Marriage of Luise Rohrbach, directed by Rudolf Biebrach, starring Henny Porten, Emil Jannings – (Germany).

February 18: Release of “The Bad Boy” starring Robert Harron, Mildred Harris, and Colleen Moore.

Births: Zsa Zsa Gabor, actress (in “Queen of Outer Space” and “Moulin Rouge”), February 6; Lucille Bremer, actress (from “Meet Me in St. Louis” and “Behind Locked Doors”), February 21.

Fred Mace

Fred Mace

Deaths: Fred Mace, actor (in “The Water Nymph” and “Bangville Police”), February 21, found dead in his hotel room, reportedly of a stroke at age 38.

January 1917

A new year has begun! This will forever be the year best known for the Russian Revolutions, but of course at this point in the year no one knew the days of Czradom were numbered. The First World War continues, and the USA is less determined about its “neutrality” than ever before, and by the end of the year there will be American Doughboys in France. The film industry will embrace both events as inspirations for movies, but in the meantime, the concept of “Hollywood” is finally entrenching itself as an industry, rather than as a collection of entrepreneurs and artists. This promises to be an exciting year for the Century Film Project! Let’s take a look at some of the headlines for January.

Firing line at Battle of Rafa

Firing line at Battle of Rafa

World War One:

The Battle of Rafa: The last substantial Ottoman Army garrison on the Sinai Peninsula is captured on January 9 by the Egyptian Expeditionary Force‘s Desert Column.

British armed merchantman SS Laurentic is sunk January 25 by mines off Lough Swilly (Ireland) with the loss of 354 of the 475 aboard.

Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson

Diplomacy: President Woodrow Wilson gives his “Peace without Victory” speech before Congress on January 22.

Disasters:

The Ratho rail crash occurs on January 3. NBR H class locomotive 874 Dunedin in charge of the Edinburgh to Glasgow express train collides with a light engine at Queensferry Junction, leaving 12 people dead and 46 seriously injured. The cause was found to be inadequate signaling procedures.

On January 19, a blast at a munitions factory in London kills 73 and injures over 400. The Silvertown explosion as it comes to be known, is a major cause célèbre for improving conditions in munitions factories and for workers in England generally.

On January 26, a combination of easterly gales and exceptionally high tides breached the sea-defences of the village of Hallsands, and by the end of that year only one house remained habitable. The villagers’ fight for compensation took seven years.

kingsland_explosion_newspaper_photoTerrorism: Unknown saboteurs set off the Kingsland Explosion at Kingsland (modern-day Lyndhurst, New Jersey) on January 11. This is one of the events leading to United States involvement in WWI.

Mexican Revolution: On January 28, The United States formally calls off its search for Pancho Villa. On January 30 Pershing‘s troops in Mexico begin withdrawing back to the United States.

Colonialism: Denmark sells the Danish West Indies (now the Virgin Islands) to the United States for $25 million on January 16.

Sports: The University of Oregon defeats the University of Pennsylvania 14–0 in U.S. college football‘s 3rd Annual Rose Bowl Game on January 1.

Finance: Royal Bank of Canada takes over Quebec Bank on January 2. The lack of an independent provincial bank will be an obstacle to Quebecois Separatism in years to come.

Law Enforcement: On January 25 anti-prostitution drive in San Francisco occurs and police close about 200 prostitution houses.

easy_street_1917Film:

Great Expectations” starring Jack Pickford released January 8.

Easy Street” by Charlie Chaplin, released on January 22.

Ernest Borgnine, born January 24, 1917.

Ernest Borgnine, born January 24, 1917.

Births:

Vera Zorina, dancer, actress (in “Goldwyn Follies” and “Follow the Boys”), January 2.

Jane Wyman, actress (in “Brother Rat” and “Stage Fright”), January 5.

Hilde Krahl, actress (in “Der Postmeister” and “A Devil of a Woman”), January 10.

Lally Bowers, actress and singer (in “We Joined the Navy” and “Dracula: AD 1972”), January 21.

Ernest Borgnine, actor (in “Marty” and “Escape from New York”), January 24.

December 1916

After more than two years of bitter fighting and mass slaughter, there will be no Christmas Truce on the front lines of World War I this year. The war is grinding on with no end in sight, although in general the Allies seem to be coming out ahead of the Central Powers in one battle after another. No one knows for sure, but the war still has almost two more years to go before Armistice. This month’s roundup of headlines mostly reflects the ongoing massacre in Europe. On the lighter side of entertainment, Christmas, 1916, seems to have been a great day to spend in a movie theater!

Soldiers in a trench at Verdun

Soldiers in a trench at Verdun

World War I:

On December 13, an avalanche on Mount Marmolada crushes an Austrian barracks, killing approximate 100 soldiers. An estimated 9000 men will be lost to avalanches in the Dolomites this December.

The Battle of Verdun ends in France with German troops defeated on December 18.

El Arish occupied by the British Empire Desert Column during advance across the Sinai Peninsula on December 21.

The Desert Column captures the Ottoman garrison during the Battle of Magdhaba on December 23.

A Sopwith Camel.

A Sopwith Camel.

Technology:

The British Sopwith Camel aircraft makes its maiden flight on December 22.

Youth:

Robert Baden-Powell gives the first public display of the new Wolf Cub section of Scouting December 16 at Caxton Hall, Westminster.

Insurrection:

The criminal Humberto Gómez and thirty seven mercenaries seize Arauca in Colombia December 30 and declare the Republic of Arauca. The action is largely an act of revenge on the police commissioner, who is killed in the raid.

Grigory Rasputin

Grigory Rasputin

Assassinations:

The mystic Grigori Rasputin is murdered in Saint Petersburg on December 31 (December 17 by the Russian Old Style calendar).

Disasters:

The Hampton Terrace Hotel in North Augusta, South Carolina, one of the largest and most luxurious hotels in the United States at the time, burns to the ground on December 31.

20000 Leagues Under the Sea1Film:

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” is released December 24. It is estimated to be the second-highest grossing movie of the year, after “Intolerance.”

The Americano,” starring Douglas Fairbanks, is released December 24.

Joan the Woman,” directed by Cecil B. DeMille, is released December 25.

Snow White,” starring Marguerite Clark, is released December 25. Walt Disney will later cite this film as an inspiration for the animated version.

Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas

Births:

Kirk Douglas (actor, known for “Spartacus” and the later “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”) born December 9.

Betty Grable (actress, who was in “Down Argentine Way” and “How to Marry a Millionaire,” and numerous World War II pinups) born December 18.

Roy Ward Baker (director, who made “Five Million Years to Earth” and “The Vampire Lovers”) born December 19.

November 1916

This month’s Century News is a bit late, due to distractions and the US election of the present year. The biggest news of 1916 for Americans was also a Presidential election, but there was plenty of other news for the headlines of that month as well, including the end of the bloodiest battle of World War One in Europe.

Map of allied progress in the Battle of the Somme.

Map of allied progress in the Battle of the Somme.

World War One:

Douglas Haig ends the British and allied offensive in the Somme, ending the Battle of the Somme on November 18. Each side has lost about half a million soldiers, and the allies have advanced nearly six miles along a wide front, although the keys cities of Péronne and Bapaume remain in German hands.

Hospital ship HMHS Britannic, designed as the third Olympic-class ocean liner for White Star Line, sinks in the Kea Channel of the Aegean Sea after hitting a mine on November 21. 30 lives are lost. At 48,158 gross register tons, she is the largest ship lost during the war.

On November 23, Bucharest, the capital of Romania, is occupied by troops of the Central Powers.

Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson

Politics:

In Russia, liberal politician Pavel Miliukov delivers his “Stupidity or Treason” speech to the State Duma on November 1, contributing to the downfall of the current government and drawing attention to the powerlessness of the Duma in the face of an increasingly revolutionary public.

Woodrow Wilson narrowly defeats Charles E. Hughes to retain the White House on November 7. “He kept us out of war” was used to apply to his policy regarding both Mexico and World War One (although the US had been militarily engaged with the former, and would soon be in the latter).

Republican Jeannette Rankin of Montana becomes the first woman elected to the United States House of Representatives, also on November 7.

Prime Minister of Australia Billy Hughes is expelled from the Labor Party on November 13 over his support for conscription.

Funeral for a worker killed in Everett, Washington.

Funeral for a worker killed in Everett, Washington.

Labor:

The first 40-hour work week officially begins in the Endicott-Johnson factories of Western New York on November 1.

An armed confrontation in Everett, Washington, between local authorities and members of the Industrial Workers of the World results in seven deaths on November 5. The Everett Massacre will also lead to the prosecution of several Wobbly leaders, although the charges are dropped in 1917.

Diplomacy:

The Kingdom of Poland (1916–18) is proclaimed by a joint act of the emperors of Germany and Austria on November 5. It exists as a puppet state of the Central Powers, which now occupy much of Polish territory.

The altar in Honan Chapel.

The altar in Honan Chapel.

Architecture:

Honan Chapel, Cork, Ireland, a product of the Irish Arts and Crafts movement (1894–1925), is dedicated on November 5.

Journalism:

Radio station 2XG, located in the Highbridge section of New York City, makes the first audio broadcast of presidential election returns on the night of November 7-8. It is estimated that 7000 people listened to the broadcast.

goldwyn_picturesStudios:

Samuel Goldfish (later renamed Samuel Goldwyn) and Edgar Selwyn establish Goldwyn Pictures on November 19. The studio is later to become one of the most successful independent filmmakers and eventually forms part of MGM.

Births:

Evelyn Keyes actress (Suellen O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind” and also in “Before I Hang” with Boris Karloff), November 20.

Deaths:

Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria dies of pneumonia at the Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, aged 86, after a reign of 68 years, on November 21, and is succeeded by his grandnephew Charles I. His own son, Rudolph, had committed suicide with his mistress in 1889.

Writer Jack London dies of kidney failure at his California home aged 40 on November 22. As early as 1908, D.W. Griffith had adapted “The Call of the Wild” to film, and many other London works would be made as movies through the century to come.