Century Film Project

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Tag: Century News

March 1918

The War is still at the forefront of this month’s Century News, along with the developing situation in the new Soviet Union, which is transitioning from revolution to civil war. Germany is momentarily ascendant, or at least optimistic, with the collapse of Russia and the beginning of a new offensive prior to the large-scale arrival of troops from the USA, but these hopes will soon be dashed as the offensive stalls and shortages at home raise new tensions. The United States meanwhile shows its dedication by moving its clocks forward one hour, arresting an innocent man and releasing a movie about a little girl looking for a bird.

The Paris Gun

World War One

German submarine U-19 sinks HMS Calgarian off Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland on March 1.

Battle of Tell ‘Asur launched on March 8 by units of the British Army‘s Egyptian Expeditionary Force against Ottoman defences from the Mediterranean Sea, across the Judaean Mountains to the edge of the Jordan Valley ends on March 12 with the move of much of the front line north into Ottoman territory.

Spring Offensive  launched March 21 by the German Army along the Western Front. It fails to make a breakthrough despite large losses on each side, including nearly 20,000 British Army dead on the first day, Operation Michael.

First Transjordan attack on Amman by units of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force begins with the passage of the Jordan River on March 21.

On March 23, the giant German cannon, the ‘Paris Gun‘ (Kaiser Wilhelm Geschütz), begins to shell Paris from 114 km (71 mi) away.

First Battle of Amman launched March 27 by units of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force during the First Transjordan attack on Amman, ends with their withdrawal on 31 March back to the Jordan Valley.

Signing of the armistice between Russia and Germany


The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk ends Russia’s involvement in the war on March 3. This deal is engineered by the Bolsheviks, who came to power largely through the promise to end the war, however Germany treats her defeated foe shabbily, plundering territory and demanding exorbitant reparations, setting a precedent that would be raised at the time of the Treaty of Versailles.

Finland forms an alliance with Germany, formalized on March 7.

Russian Revolution and Civil War

Moscow becomes the capital of Soviet Russia on March 12.

The Belarusian People’s Republic declares independence March 25.

Bolshevik and Armenian Revolutionary Federation forces suppress a Muslim revolt in Baku, Azerbaijan, resulting in up to 30,000 deaths beginning March 30. The “March Days” will continue through April 2 (new calendar).

Karl Muck

Political Arrest

Dr. Karl Muck, music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, is arrested March 25 under the Alien Enemies Act and imprisoned for the duration of WWI. He is accused of “treason” in the press for refusing to play the “Star Spangled Banner” at the beginning of concerts, a false accusation.


The Finnish Army Corps of Aviation is founded March 6 as a forerunner of the Finnish Air Force to be established on 4 May 1928. The blue swastika is adopted as its symbol as a tribute to the Swedish explorer and aviator Eric von Rosen, who donated the first plane. Von Rosen had painted the Viking symbol on the plane as his personal lucky insignia.

The first pilotless drone, the Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane developed by Elmer Sperry and Peter Cooper Hewitt, is test-flown on March 6 in Long Island, New York, but development is scrapped in 1925 after its guidance system proves unreliable.


The United States Congress establishes time zones and approves daylight saving time on March 19 (DST goes into effect on March 31).

Birth Control Literature

Dr. Marie Stopes publishes her influential book Married Love in the U.K on March 26. The book is banned in the United States until 1931.



The Blue Bird,” directed by Maurice Tourneur, released March 31.


Roger Delgado, actor (played the Master on “Doctor Who”), born March 1.

Mickey Spillane, writer (created “Mike Hammer” thrillers), born March 9.


In London at the Wood Green Empire, Chung Ling Soo (William E. Robinson, U.S.-born magician) dies on March 23 during his trick where he is supposed to “catch” two separate bullets – but one of them perforates his lung.

French composer Claude Debussy dies of colorectal cancer March 25 in Paris.


January and February 1918

I let January slip by without posting the Century News, so I’m mixing two months into this one post. After more than three years of nonstop bloodshed, hope and despair are both at all-time highs. With the collapse of the Russian Empire, there’s unrest spreading on both sides, breaking out into declarations of independence, mutinies, and strikes. There’s also the Americans on the way, and the German populace is captivated by the promises made by Woodrow Wilson on the floor of Congress. To make matters worse, a major epidemic is about to begin that kills more people than the war itself. Let’s take a look at the headlines from a century ago:

Trenches on the shore of the Dead Sea.

World War I:

The SS Tuscania is torpedoed off the Irish coast on February 5; it is the first ship carrying American troops to Europe to be torpedoed and sunk.

Capture of Jericho on February 19 by the Egyptian Expeditionary Force begins the British occupation of the Jordan Valley.

The Imperial Russian Navy evacuates Tallinn through thick ice over the Gulf of Finland during February 19-25.

Kurt Eisner

Political unrest:

Kurt Eisner, leader of the Bavarian Independent Socialists (USPD) leads an anti-war march and is arrested and imprisoned for treason. He will be jailed almost up to the end of the war.

The Cattaro Mutiny sees Austrian sailors in the Gulf of Cattaro (Kotor), led by two Czech Socialists, mutiny.


Demonstrators in Estonia

Russian Revolution:

The Finnish Declaration of Independence is recognized by Russia, Sweden, Germany and France on January 4.

Russian Constituent Assembly proclaims Russian Democratic Federative Republic on January 19, but is dissolved by Bolshevik government on same day.

The Ukrainian People’s Republic declares independence from Bolshevik Russia on January 22.

The Council of Lithuania adopts the Act of Independence of Lithuania, declaring Lithuania’s independence from the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic on February 16.

Estonia declares independence, February 24. German forces capture Tallinn on the next day.


Woodrow Wilson delivers his Fourteen Points speech on January 8.



U.S. troops engage Yaqui Indian warriors in the Battle of Bear Valley in Arizona on January 9, a minor skirmish and one of the last battles of the American Indian Wars between the United States and Native Americans


Finland enacts a “Mosaic Confessors” law on January 12, granting Finnish Jews civil rights.

Finnish Civil War begins with the Battle of Kämärä on January 27.

Naval Construction:

The keel of HMS Hermes is laid in Britain on January 15, the first purpose-designed aircraft carrier to be laid down.


The Historic Concert for the Benefit of Widows and Orphans of Austrian and Hungarian Soldiers at the Konzerthaus, Vienna on January 18.


“Spanish ‘flu” (influenza) first observed in Haskell County, Kansas.


Women’s suffrage in the United Kingdom: Representation of the People Act gives most women over 30 the vote.


The last captive Carolina parakeet (the last breed of parrot native to the eastern United States) dies at the Cincinnati Zoo on February 21.

Joseph Kaufman


Joseph Kaufman, actor (in “The Sporting Duchess” and “The Song of Songs”), on February 1.


John Forsythe, actor (in “The Trouble with Harry” and “Kitten with a Whip”), January 29.

Ida Lupino, actress, director and producer (made “The Hitch-Hiker,” starred in “They Drive by Night”), February 4.

Patty Andrews, singer (of the Andrews Sisters), February 16.

December 1917

With the last post of 1917 comes the first loss of American military lives in World War One. We also see developments in Russia continuing apace, with Finland and Estonia breaking off from the old Empire, and the establishment of secret police forces that would soon become a defining feature of the post-revolutionary political scene (as the were of the Czarist one as well). I hope all my readers had a good 2017, and I wish you a happy new year as we move toward 1918, the year of active American involvement in the World War and also the Influenza Epidemic.

General Allenby enters Jerusalem, Dec 1917

World War I

U.S. Navy destroyer USS Jacob Jones is torpedoed and sunk on December 6 in the Atlantic Ocean by German submarine U-53, killing 66 crew in the first significant American naval loss of the war.

The British Egyptian Expeditionary Force accepts the surrender of Jerusalem on December 9 by the mayor, Hussein al-Husayni, following effective defeat of the Ottoman Empire‘s Yildirim Army Group during the Battle of Jerusalem.

General Edmund Allenby leads units of the British Egyptian Expeditionary Force into Jerusalem on foot through the Jaffa Gate on December 11.

Egyptian Expeditionary Force secures the victory at the Battle of Jerusalem on December 30 by successfully defending Jerusalem from numerous Yildirim Army Group counterattacks.

Badge of the Cheka

Russian Revolution

The Senate of Finland officially declares the country’s independence from Russia on December 6.

The Cheka, or All-Russian Emergency Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage, is established in Russia on December 20. It begins as a small organization of about 40 officials, but will expand to 200,000 operatives within four years.

A local plebiscite supports transferring Narva and Ivangorod (Jaanilinn) from Petrograd Governorate to the Autonomous Governorate of Estonia, passed on December 23.

National Independence Movements

Annie Besant becomes president of the Indian National Congress in December, to hold the position for one year.

The Raad van Vlaanderen proclaims the independence of Flanders on December 17


Two freighters collide in Halifax Harbour at Halifax, Nova Scotia and cause a huge explosion that kills at least 1,963 people, injures 9,000 and destroys part of the city on December 6 (the biggest man-made explosion in recorded history until the Trinity nuclear test in 1945).


After nearly 20 years of planning and construction, the Quebec Bridge opens to traffic (the bridge partially collapsed on August 29, 1907 and September 11, 1916).


Jesse Lynch WilliamsWhy Marry?, the first dramatic play to win a Pulitzer Prize, opens at the Astor Theatre in New York on December 25.


United States president Woodrow Wilson uses the Federal Possession and Control Act to place most U.S. railroads under the United States Railroad Administration, effective December 26, hoping to transport troops and materials for the war effort more efficiently.


Tom Sawyer, starring Jack Pickford released December 10.

Bucking Broadway, directed by John Ford, starring Harry Carey released December 24.

Little Princess, starring Mary Pickford, released December 25.


Hurd Hatfield, (actor, in “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and “The Boston Strangler“) born December 7

Margaret Marquis, (actress, in “Penrod and Sam” and “My Old Kentucky Home“) born December 12

Frankie Darro, (actor, in “Wild Boys of the Road” and “Pinocchio“) born December 22.

November 1917

It’s practically the end of the month, and I’m only now getting around to an installment of the Century News! Part of the reason I’ve hesitated this month is that so much happened, and it is so momentous, that it’s almost impossible to approach. The second Russian Revolution that started the Russian Civil War and ultimately created the USSR would transform history on nearly all levels. Most relevant for this blog: it would wind up having a huge impact on cinema history, leading to the rise of montage and directors like Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov. More immediately, however, it meant a sudden collapse of the thriving Russian film industry as the blockade prevented new film stock from entering the country and many of the actors and producers went into exile. One thing that this project has discovered is that pre-revolutionary Russian cinema cannot be dismissed as “backwards” or “bourgeois.” Personally, I regard Evgeni Bauer as a genius equal or perhaps even superior to Eisenstein (though there are many who would disagree). Certainly, Soviet cinema never produced an actor of the stature of Ivan Mosjoukine.

It’s hard to discuss this period also without thinking of present-day politics. The rapture over the “Fall of the Soviet Union” has largely given way to fears over a new Russian superpower and its influence on the West. I’d rather avoid making any definite statements about how this is or will play out (that’s not the topic of this blog), but maybe some insights can be gleaned by thinking about how Russian history has played out on the world stage over the course of the past century. Here are some headlines that might start that process.

    Read the rest of this entry »

October 1917

Time once again for a roundup of news headlines from one century ago. A huge amount of war news dominates this month’s Century News. Some may be surprised that there’s nothing about the Russian Revolution, especially in light of the movie “October” and references to the “Red October.” The explanation for this is simple: the Russians were on a different calendar, so their “October” actually extended into our November, which is when the revolution actually occurred. Since the rest of my Century News has been based on the standard Gregorian calendar, I’m waiting for next month for that news.

Morning After the First Battle of Passchendaele.

World War One:

Battle of Broodseinde near Ypres, October 4: British Imperial forces overpower the German 4th Army‘s defences.

First Battle of Passchendaele, October 12: Allies fail to take a German defensive position with the biggest loss of life in a single day for New Zealand, over 800 of whose men and 45 officers are killed, roughly 1 in 1000 of the nation’s population at this time.

Operation Albion, October 12-19: German forces land on and capture the West Estonian archipelago.

At Vincennes outside Paris, Dutch dancer Mata Hari is executed on October 15 by firing squad for spying for Germany.

A Brazilian ship is destroyed by a German U-Boat on October 23, encouraging Brazil to enter World War I.

Brazilian President Venceslau Brás signs a declaration of war against the Central Powers.

Brazil declares war against the Central Powers on October 26.

Ottoman force attacks Desert Mounted Corps units garrisoning el Buqqar ridge on October 27 during the Battle of Buqqar Ridge fought in the last days of the Stalemate in Southern Palestine.

Battle of Beersheba, October 31: The British XX Corps and Desert Mounted Corps (Egyptian Expeditionary Force) attack and capture Beersheba ending the Stalemate in Southern Palestine.


The Miracle of the Sun is reported on October 13 at Fátima, Portugal. Thousands of people gathered to see a prophecy fulfilled of miracles performed by the Blessed Virgin Mary. They reported to have witnessed extraordinary solar activity, such as the sun appearing to “dance” or zig-zag in the sky, careen towards the earth, or emit multicolored light and radiant colors. According to these reports, the event lasted approximately ten minutes.


Carl Swartz leaves office as Prime Minister of Sweden on October 19 after dismal election results for the right-wing in the Riksdag elections in September. He is replaced by liberal leader and history professor Nils Edén.


Dallas Love Field airport is opened October 19.


Cleopatra,” starring Theda Bara released October 14. This (mostly) lost film is among the most iconic of 1917, and images of Bara from the film still circulate on the Internet.

Satan Triumphant” (Satana likuyushchiy) released October 21. One of the last movies of the pre-Soviet Russian Empire.

The Adventurer,” a Charlie Chaplin short is released on October 22. This was the last of the films Chaplin produced under his contract with Mutual Studios, and for the first time since he started making movies, it left him with no contractual obligations to fulfill. He would soon sign for a million dollars to First National.

Coney Island,” a ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle / Buster Keaton short is released October 29.


Helmut Dantine, actor (in “Mrs. Miniver” and “Casablanca”), born October 7.

June Allyson, actress (in the 1948 version of “The Three Musketeers” and “The Glenn Miller Story”), born October 7.

Alice Pearce, actress (in “On the Town” and TV’s “Bewitched”), born October 16

Marsha Hunt, U.S. actress (in 1940’s “Pride and Prejudice” and “Johnny Got His Gun”), born October 17. Apparently she’s still alive! Happy birthday Marsha!

Joan Fontaine, actress (in “Suspicion” and “Rebecca”), born October 22.

Florence La Badie


Movie star Florence La Badie dies on October 13, from septicemia as a result of injuries sustained from a car crash in August. Several of her movies have been reviewed on this blog.

September 1917

This is a slow news month, but news from Russia carries some hints of further discontent that will explode once again in November. The war continues unabated, of course, with Allied troops now receiving materiel (but not many men, yet) from the United States. They have two successful actions to report this month. And, color processes take a major step forward in film!

Russian Revolution

Leon Trotsky

Russia is declared a republic by the Provisional Government. on September 14

Leon Trotsky is elected Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet on September 23. The Soviets are worker’s councils (“Soviet” means “council in Russian) originally formed by the socialist Mensheviks to coordinate worker demands and actions. During 1917, they have become increasingly radicalized and drifted towards Bolshevik sympathies.

The Mossovet (Moscow Soviet of People’s Deputies) votes to side with the Bolsheviks on Sepember 25

Australians at the Battle of Polygon Wood

World War One

Battle of Polygon Wood (part of the Battle of Passchendaele) near Ypres in Belgium begins on September 26. Over the next two weeks, British and Australian troops capture positions from the Germans. Casualties will be about even (around 15,000) on each side.

Second Battle of Ramadi. On September 28 and 29, British troops take Ramadi from the Ottoman Empire.

Surviving frame from “The Gulf Between”


Release of The Gulf Between, the first film made in Technicolor System 1, a two-color process on September 13.


Rolf Wenkhaus, child actor (in Emil and the Detectives), born September 9. He would die serving in the Luftwaffe during World War II.

Herbert Lom, actor (in The Pink Panther films and The Phantom of the Opera), born September 11.

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


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.


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%).


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.


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


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


Big Timber, starring Wallace Reid, released July 5.

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


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.


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.


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

Constantine I


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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


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.


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.


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.