Sunday, June 25, 2017

New Trailer Online: "Shooting the Great War" (USA, 1914-1918)

Since starting this weblog a lot of fascinating World War I footage has been found which could be identified to one of the film correspondents described in our book American Cinematographers in the Great War.

Here is a compilation of some of these films. Contemporary music - Gustav Holst's Mars, composed at the outbreak of World War I - has been added to this clip. Enjoy!
             

                            

Friday, June 23, 2017

Wilbur H. Durborough and the Mexican Revolution (1913-1914)

When in 1913 the Mexican Revolution hit the headlines many cameramen from the United States flocked to the country. To satisfy America's public demand for coverage the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) sent Wilbur H. Durborough to join Pancho Villa's army. As described in our book American Cinematographers in the Great War, Durborough became quite friendly with Villa and obtained some excellent pictures of Villa's troops.



W.H. Durborough (second from right) and Arthur Ruhl (second from left) in Mexico, 1914


Mexico's first superstar

Villa became Mexico's first superstar when in 1914 he signed a movie contract with Mutual, agreeing to keep other film companies from the battlefield and to fight in daylight wherever possible. Despite all exclusive provisions this did not deter other film companies such as Pathé and Universal to try to cover Villa's army. The list of newsreel men, photographers and cinematographers who crossed the Rio Grande and entered Mexico at this period is long and impressive. In fact, the Mexican Revolution turned out to be a training ground for many cameramen who soon afterwards went to Europe to film the Great War.

Despite excellent research on this subject, notably by Mexican film historian Margarita de Orellana, some tantalizing new pieces of information on this remarkable episode in film history are still being discovered. Recently we found a photograph on eBay which has an NEA stamp on the backside and is dated July 16, 1914. The caption says: "Durborough in Mexico". The picture shows Durborough holding his Graflex camera, together with three men looking at what appears to be a corpse.

We haven't been able so far to identify the other men, except for Arthur Ruhl who was a reporter for Colliers and the New York Tribune. Ruhl was with Durborough when the U.S. Marines landed at Vera Cruz and attacked the waterworks at El Tejar. The picture may have been taken at this occasion.

Durborough had been with Pancho Villa before the U.S. Marines attacked Vera Cruz and he had covered similar scenes before. In December 1913, he photographed the Battle of La Mesa when Villa's men fought the Federalist Army. After the battle he photographed this burying party:




Burying the dead on the battlefield of La Mesa. Photograph by Wilbur H. Durborough, copied from the Evansville Press, 3 December 1913




We recently prepared a new, extended story on Durborough's photographic work during World War I. You can read this Durborough Film Annotation (2nd edition) here.






Photo-journalist Otis Aultman

When Durborough first went to Mexico he also had his picture taken together with Pancho Villa. Mexican historian Luis Arturo Salmeron recently posted this photograph on his Twitter account. The photograph was taken by Otis A. Aultman, another interesting figure who had gone to Mexico at the time. 



Left: Otis Aultman behind his movie camera in Mexico. Right: Wilbur H. Durborough and Pancho Villa at Tierra Blanca, 1913


Aultman was born in 1874, in Holden, Missouri. As a young man he learned photography from his older brother. In 1908, after a divorce from his wife, he moved to El Paso. There he first worked for Scott Photo Company and later started his own firm. Aultman was a man in the right place at the right time. He photographed the battle of Casas Grandes, the first battle of Juárez in May 1911, and the Orozco rebellion in 1912. He was a favorite of Pancho Villa, who called Aultman "Banty Rooster" because he was only 5'4" tall. Aultman worked for the International News Service and Pathé News and experimented with cinematography. In 1916 he appears to have been one of the first photographers to arrive at Columbus, New Mexico, after the famous raid on that town by the Villistas.



Monday, June 19, 2017

The Cameramen of the 35th A.E.F Division (1918)

When the United States entered World War I photographic field units were assigned to each division of the American Expeditionary Force. The authors recently came across more information on these military cameramen. We even recognized some familiar faces of two American "star" photographers who went over there to cover the Great War and get the picture.

Official photographers

The pictures that we found are from the website of the National World War I Museum and Memorial. These pictures were taken between August 1918 and January 1919 and show the official photographers of the 35th Division, American Expeditionary Force (A.E.F.). Built around a nucleus of Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri National Guard units, the 35th Division trained for World War I in the vicinity of the old Sante Fe trail, and therefore adopted the insignia which represents the Sante Fe Cross.



Cameramen of the 35th A.E.F Division, Alsace, August 1918


The 35th Division landed in France on May 10, 1918. After training a few miles from the hard-pressed British line near Amiens the Division was sent to a quiet sector in the Alsace. It was in this area near the German border that this picture above was taken.

Motion picture cameraman Thomas J. Calligan - his name was misspelled in the caption - is also in a picture from October 1918. This photograph was taken shortly after the 35th Division had to be taken from the line at the battle of the Meuse-Argonne. Because of a combination of incompetent leadership, inexperienced soldiers and having to fight superior troops of the Prussian Guards the 35th Division collapsed, suffering 7,300 casualties. We will return to this sad episode in an upcoming blog.


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Filming General Traub

On October 18, 1918, Private Thomas Calligan cranked a Bell & Howell 2709 movie camera at Sommedieu near the Verdun frontline. His photographic officer directing this scene was Lt. Edwin F. Weigle. Together they filmed their divisional commander, Major-General Peter Traub. Weigle's film adventures during World War I have been described in more detail in our book American Cinematographers in the Great War. Edwin Weigle was a news photographer who worked for the Chicago Tribune. After the outbreak of war he filmed in Belgium, Germany as well as on the western and the eastern front. Until January 1919, Weigle was the photographic officer of the 35th Division and in command of his team of camera operators. Weigle was also one of the first cameramen assigned to set up the photographic division of the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1917.

Here is a picture showing how Weigle and Calligan took Major-General Traub's picture.




On the very same day, Calligan also took this picture of General Traub inspecting their movie camera together with Weigle.






"The Camera Kid"

Weigle stayed in France until February 1919 and arrived back in Chicago as a Signal Corps Captain in June 1919. When he left a new photographic officer was assigned to the 35th Division. And here we have another familiar name. The new lieutenant in charge of Weigle's photographic team was Adrian C. Duff. Nicknamed "The Camera Kid" because of his youth, Duff made national headlines in February 1912 when he got in a plane with aviator Frank T. Coffyn and for the first time in history photographed New York City from above. Like his colleague Weigle he had covered the attack by the U.S. Marines on Vera Cruz in April 1914, as well as the German bombardment of Antwerp later that year. Duff died in a tragic car accident in New York City shortly after the war.




Photographic Unit, 35th Division, A.E.F.  From left to right: Pvt. H.C.T. Sproule, Pvt. Roland C. Price, 2nd Lt. A.C. Duff, U.S. Signal Corps, Pvt. Thomas J. Calligan. Picture taken at Commercy, Meuse (France) on January 22, 1919


Here is a link to a previous weblog on Duff's extraordinary life and work.


We have uploaded all photographs showing these cameramen of the 35th Division on this Flickr picture album.