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.
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.
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“).