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.


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.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Edward Steichen in the Great War

The first modern fashion photographer, best known for his shadowy portraits of movie stars like Gloria Swanson, Marlene Dietrich and Louise Brooks, Edward Steichen (1879-1973) hardly needs an introduction. We mentioned Steichen briefly in our book American Cinematographers in the Great War, because he was in 1917 one of the first cameramen to join the U.S. Signal Corps when America entered the Great War.

From painter to photographer: self portraits by Edward Steichen (1902/1917)

Steichen (second from left) with the Signal Corps in France, 1918

Newest weapon of war 

As mentioned before in an earlier weblog, when Steichen joined the Signal Corps he initially worked with Albert K. Dawson and Edwin F. Weigle, two war photographers who had been with the German and Austro-Hungarian army before the United States entered the war. In his autobiography A Life in Photography, Steichen described how in July 1917 he entered active duty with the goal of becoming “a photographic reporter, as Mathew Brady had been in the Civil War”. He quickly abandoned this romantic notion to help implement the newest weapon of war, aerial photography. While on military duty in France, Steichen helped adapt aerial photography for intelligence purposes, implementing surveillance programs that had a lasting impact on modern warfare.

In his memoirs he later reflected: “The wartime problem of making sharp, clear pictures from a vibrating, speeding airplane ten to twenty thousand feet in the air had brought me a new kind of technical interest in photography … Now I wanted to know all that could be expected from photography.”

Pictures from Steichen's World War I photo album: American bomber over enemy trenches and the ruins of Forges, French Argonnes

Steichen, photographed in 1918 when he was Chief Photographic Section U.S. Air Service

From June until October 2014 the Art Institute of Chicago held an exposition on Steichen's photographic work during World War I. Focusing on rarely seen Steichen photographs drawn from the Art Institute’s collection, this exhibition included a unique album of over 80 World War I aerial photographs assembled and annotated by Steichen himself.

As these pictures show, Steichen's personal and professional experiences during the Great War contributed in developing a more crisp photographic style. Although the exposition has been closed his work for the U.S. Signal Corps in France can still be seen online at the website of the Art Institute of Chicago.

In 2015, the book Camera Aloft: Edward Steichen in the Great War appeared. Author Von Hardesty in this book described how Steichen volunteered in 1917 to serve in the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF). He rose rapidly in the ranks of the Air Service, emerging as Chief of Air Photography during the dramatic final offensives of the war.

Here is a presentation on this remarkable book by researcher Gene Eisman.

Monday, June 12, 2017

World War I in Motion: Archival Clips from the Library of Congress

On June 7, author Cooper C. Graham presented a selection of some of the finest World War I films from the nitrate vaults at the Library of Congress. Digitally preserved from rolls of 35mm nitrate film stock, much of this historical footage has never been seen in nearly 100 years and was found during the research for our book American Cinematographers in the Great War.

Cooper Graham speaks during the June 7th exhibition lecture World War I in Motion in the Whittall Pavilion. Photo courtesy Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has an extensive film collection on the Great War. There are hundreds of reels of U.S. Signal Corps film, propaganda films by the Commitee on Public Information, as well as contemporary newsreels. Last year, Cooper Graham was asked to make an inventory of the huge number of films at the Library dealing with America's entry into the World War in 1917 for a digitization project. The results are by no means complete, and much remains to be done. A former film curator at the Library of Congress, Cooper was familiar with the collections. With the centennial of World War I the time had come to share some of his World War I film discoveries.

Cooper's lecture World War I in Motion was well received by the audience. All chairs at the Whittall Pavillion of the Thomas Jefferson Building (Library of Congress) were filled, with about a third Library of Congress staff. During his talk Cooper discussed selected clips from one of the most interesting film collections at the Library of Congress: the John E. Allen Collection. This collection of ten million feet of nitrate film is one of the most important of its kind.  It contains World War I and World War II era actualities, dramatic pictures from the sound era, quite a number of unique silent films from the New York area studios and the “all-black newsreels” from the 1940s. Together, these collection holdings are of inestimable research value for historians, scholars and educators across the country.

World War I Film Collection

The World War I footage in this collection is of particular interest. While researching the American film cameramen of the First World War we were able to find many scenes shot by these cinematographers in this specific collection, notably newsreels taken by Ansel E. Wallace and Ariel L. Varges for the Hearst organization, as well as scenes shot by cameraman Albert K. Dawson for the American Correspondent Film Company, and an amazing sound rerelease of Frank E. Kleinschmidt's film War on Three Fronts (USA, 1916).

To commemorate the centennial of America's entry into the First World War the Library of Congress has opened the exhibition Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I. Much of the film that is shown at this exhibition comes from the John E. Allen Collection.

Here is a link to the online exhibition on the website of the Library of Congress.

Would you like to know more about Cooper's film research and publications? Here is a link to his personal website. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

First to Film: Leon H. Caverly and the U.S. Marine Corps

On June 14, 1917, - almost one hundred years ago - the Fifth Regiment of the U.S  Marine Corps left New York harbor. True to their reputation the Marines were in the first wave of American soldiers sailing to Europe. On board was official cameraman Leon H. Caverly.

Leon H. Caverly in France (1918). Picture courtesy U.S. Marine Corps/History Division

First cinematographer 

Caverly was by all accounts the first cinematographer to film the Great War with the American forces in France. We were extremely fortunate in having found Caverly's personal papers describing his experiences as a war photographer. Based on his letters from the front, as well as numerous photographs and films taken by Caverly, we were able to reconstruct his extraordinary life and work as an official cameraman with the U.S. Marine Corps and the 2nd Division of the American Expeditionary Force.

Caverly's story presents an interesting case study on the military cameramen who covered World War I. Our article on Caverly will be published in an upcoming issue of the Historical Journal of Film, Radio & Television

We will keep you posted on this latest project!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Book Review "American Cinematographers in the Great War"

We were pleased to receive a copy from our publisher John Libbey of a review by the Society for German-American Studies on our book American Cinematographers in the Great War.

Reviewer Petra DeWitt described our publication as a "fascinating yet overly detailed study of previously unknown photographers who overcame military opposition, government censorship, and the dangers of battle to record still and moving images of the war and in the process revolutionized journalism."

DeWitt continues to say that the book is of special interest because of the chapter on the publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst and his role in sending American cameramen to wartime Europe for the purpose of bringing back newsreels and images that would attract paying customers to movie theaters and subscribers to his newspapers.

"Must-read for journalism majors"

In the final lines the review concludes: "This study is a must-read for journalism majors and historians of photography or film. The general reader, however, may at times have difficulties following the detailed biographical information interwoven into descriptions of events and evaluations of movies. This work, nevertheless, contributes greatly to the history of propaganda during World War I."

Thank you for this review! Admittedly, our book does go into some detail, but we wanted to reconstruct this story on how the First World War was filmed by these pioneering cameramen from the United States as truthfully as possible.

The full book review can be read and downloaded here.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

War in Warsaw

On August 5, 1915, after almost one hundred years of Russian rule, the German Army captured Warsaw. The fall of Warsaw marked the latest in a series of victories for the Central Powers which had started with the Gorlice-Tarnów offensive in southern Poland in May 1915. Its capture was followed by a major Russian withdrawal, aimed at preventing the risk of encirclement.

Kaiser Wilhelm II bestowing Iron Crosses in Warsaw. In the background is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church. (Photo © Imperial War Museum)

The Kaiser and the Cameraman
The capture of Warsaw was featured before in the article The Kaiser and the Cameraman (2010) by Cooper C. Graham on the experiences of Wilbur H. Durborough at the Eastern Front in 1915. In this article, Cooper described how Durborough and his camera operator Ries filmed Warsaw, shortly after the city had been taken by the German forces. For their movie On the Firing Line with the Germans they captured scenes showing fresh German troops moving through the main streets, the Alexandrovski Bridge, pontoon bridges built by the Germans across the Vistula, Zeppelins flying over the city, as well as scenes showing the Jewish Quarter in Warsaw.

As mentioned before in this weblog, Durborough's film was recently restored by the Library of Congress and is now available in the public domain.

Although Durborough's film doesn't show any evidence of this, the German occupation of Russian Poland turned out to be a highly controversial subject. Under German rule Poland was reordered and put under tight military control. The Germans however failed to regulate Warsaw’s economy, and as a result the cost of living increased by about 600 percent during the German occupation.

This weblog by Courtney Blackington has more information on Warsaw in 1915 and the German occupation, with some references to Cooper Graham's article for Film History journal.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Reconstructing Hindenburg's Victory at Tannenberg (1914)

Although numerous contemporary World War I films have been lost a lot of footage has also been preserved because it was recycled into TV documentaries. During our latest research for our book American Cinematographers in the Great War we came across some striking examples showing how historical film scenes could be retrieved and identified this way. This recycling process took place as early as during World War I.

German infantry charge, photographed by Durborough. This picture was staged at a training ground. Copied from the New York Times July 4, 1915

On the Firing Line with the Germans

Wilbur H. Durborough's film On the Firing Line with the Germanswhich was restored by the Library of Congress in 2015, offers an interesting example. Because of the restoration we were able to reconstruct the original edit from 1915. Scenes from Durborough's feature documentary film turned up in U.S. Signal Corps footage, as well as TV documentaries on the Great War by the BBC, CBS and the recent Armageddon series on World War I. We were surprised to find out that as early as during the Great War the Germans used scenes from Durborough's movie, showing the attack by the German army into Russian Poland, which he accompanied on the Eastern Front.

The same scene, as edited for a contemporary German war film

In a contemporary German World War I film, produced between 1916 and 1918, we found scenes that were supposed to show Field Marshal von Hindenburg's victorious campaign at Tannenberg in August 1914, which rescued East Prussia from the invading Russian army. Part of the footage however, especially the scenes showing German infantry jumping across ditches, was culled from reels 7 and 8 of Durborough's film which wasn't taken until a year after Von Hindenburg had directed his famous battle. The Germans apparently were so pleased with Durborough's film that they used it anyway for their own purposes. Ironically, the infantry charge scenes shot by Durborough and his camera operator Ries were probably staged at a training ground near Berlin or Hannover.

Click here for a new and extended article on Durborough's photographic work during World War I and the making of his film On the Firing Line with the Germans (1915). 

The original film can be viewed on the German Film Portal and comes from the collection of the German Film Institute. Here are scenes from this film which we posted on our YouTube channel.


Monday, May 22, 2017

The Serbian Retreat by Samson Chernov

After the capture of Belgrade in October 1915 by the Austro-German forces the Serbian army retreated to Albania, an event sometimes called the "Albanian Golgotha". During the long winter march of 1915-1916 the Serbs suffered around 150,000 casualties, including many soldiers who died from cold, starvation and disease. Covering the retreat with his camera was Samson Chernov.

Lost in the Snow - photograph of the Serbian retreat by Chernov, from the collection of the Library of Congress. Right: Samson Chernov, picture taken during World War I

Chernov (1887‒1929) was a Russian cameraman who worked for the French film company Gaumont and became famous for his photographs of the Russo-Japanese War. He came to Serbia in 1912 as a correspondent for two Russian newspapers. During the second Balkan War he reportedly made two short films, After the Capture of Adrianople and The Battle of Bregalnica.

Pioneer of cinematic war reporting

In September 1914, the General Staff of the Serbian Army assigned Chernov as a cinematographer to the film crew of Djoka M. Bogdanović, owner of the cinema Kasina. Bogdanović - like Chernov a pioneer of cinematic war reporting - had produced films on the Second Balkan War, some of which have been posted on the Europeana Weblog.  The crew filmed the events on the front near the Sava river, the city of Šabac in ruins, the crossing of the Serbian army over the Sava river and the destruction of Belgrade.

According to Serbian film historian Dejan Kosanovic, Chernov's films got lost during World War I but a fascinating collection of still photographs taken by Chernov during the Serbian retreat to Albania has survived. Chernov recorded the epic ordeal of the long winter march while at the same time capturing the suffering with images of men wandering around and dying in the streets of hunger and exhaustion.

Upon his arrival at Corfu, Serbian prime minister Nikola Pašić decided to send Chernov to Europe on a publicity tour. On June 5, 1916, in the gallery of the Royal Institute in London, he organized an exhibition on the Balkans in wartime since 1912. After America had entered the war Chernov also lectured in the United States.

The website of the Wilson Center has this interesting article on Chernov's photographic work during World War I. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Close Up: Albert Dawson Training War Photographers (November 1917)

In the collection of the National Archives we recently found a fascinating series of pictures featuring Albert K. Dawson who was captured while he was training the first official World War I cameramen in the United States in the art of war photography. These pictures were all taken in November 1917 shortly after Dawson had been commissioned a Captain in the U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Captain Albert K. Dawson (left) and Signal Corps photographers, November 1917. Soldiers learning to sight with 4x5 Graflex camera. Photograph copyrighted Brown & Dawson.

Born in Vincennes, Indiana, Albert K. Dawson (1885-1967) was one of the most enterprising cameramen of the First World War. Shortly after the outbreak of the Great War he went to Europe and filmed with the German army on the Western Front. In the summer of 1915 he joined the Austro-Hungarian forces during the attack on Russian Poland. He later covered the Bulgarian army in the Balkans. Dawson's movies were released in the United States by the American Correspondent Film Company in 1915-1916. We have described his film adventures in more detail in our books American Cinematographers in the Great War (2014), as well as Shooting the Great War: Albert Dawson and the American Correspondent Film Company (2013).

Training the first official US photographers

From Photographers Association News, December 1917

Because of his recent experiences as a combat photographer Dawson was assigned to train the first official US cameramen. Before these photographers were sent to Europe Dawson gave them a crash course in still and motion picture photography. The Signal Corps had a slow and difficult start with this military photography program. It wasn't until January 1918 that at Columbia University a professional staff was set up for the first school of military photography and cinematography. From November 1917 Dawson trained his recruits at Washington Barracks and the photographs that we found were all taken at this location. At this stage of the war Dawson had been promoted to Captain and as supervising officer he was assigned to the War College in Washington, D.C, where he was in charge of the Signal Corps photographic laboratory, handling the screening of all war-related pictures from France that were shot by military cameramen in the field.

Graflex and Kodak camera training

The photographs that we found seem to have been taken for the Commitee on Public Information, America's wartime propaganda agency. These pictures show Dawson teaching his soldiers how to sight with Graflex and Kodak roll-film cameras. The photographs all have a "Brown & Dawson" copyright, the photographic firm that he worked for. There is also an interesting picture in this collection, showing one of his recruits learning how to handle a 3A Kodak camera. The copyright reference on this picture has Dawson's personal handwriting. Another picture has an interesting reference to the U.S. Engineer's School of Photography at Washington Barracks. Apart from the Signal Corps the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also sent soldiers to Washington Barracks for instructions in photography, as part of a course in military topography. Dawson may also have trained engineers at this place.

As mentioned before in an earlier weblog, the National Archives is doing a terrific job digitizing its World War I collection and as a result these gems from the past are now available for the public just by accessing their website. Apart from Dawson and his squad of Signal Corps cameramen, this picture file at the National Archives also has a number of interesting shots showing American military cameramen training in aerial photography during World War I.

We have uploaded these pictures featuring Dawson and his cameramen on our Flickr photo channel.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Submarine Warfare on Film - "Der Magische Gürtel" (Germany, 1917)

With 194 ships sunk, Lothar von Arnauld de la Perière was the most successful submarine ace ever. The German High Command, realizing they had a star performer in the Imperial Navy, in 1917 assigned a camera team to film his patrol of the U-35 in the Mediterranean. The result is an astonishing movie on submarine warfare during the Great War.

Left: Movie poster Der Magische Gürtel (1917). Right: Submarine commander Lothar von Arnauld de la Perière 

The Enchanted Circle

Produced by the Bild- und Film Amt (BuFA), the film was approved by the German censor in August 1917 and subsequently screened in cinemas to wide acclaim. Ironically, the original German title Der Magische Gürtel is taken from a speech by Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty (1911-1915), who talked of liberating "our splendid Navy from the enchanted circle the [German] submarine has drawn around it."

A camera team joined von Arnauld and his submarine crew for a five-week tour of the Mediterranean in the spring of 1917, filming events as 10 ships were sunk. All the footage was shot on deck, as apparently the cameras weren't sufficiently light-sensitive to film inside the submarine itself. There is strong emphasis on the proper treatment of the crews from the defeated vessels, which were only sunk once the crews were safely in lifeboats.

Scene from Der Magische Gürtel (1917)

In an interview after the war with Lowell Thomas for Raiders of the Deep (1928), von Arnauld described how the cameraman operated:

"It was on this voyage that we had a movie man along. Poor devil! His face still haunts me. Pea green it was most of the time. You see, he had never before gone to sea on a submarine, and he was a sufferer from mal de mer in its most virulent form. Usually he stuck to his camera crank as a real film hero should. Shells and bullets and oncoming torpedoes could not drive him from it. But sea sickness did. There were times when he longed for a shell to come along with his name written on it, to end it all. Then, when Neptune waved his wand and stilled the rolling deep, that cinema man was a hero once more. If we got into a rough-and-tumble gunfight with an armed ship he would take his own sweet time and would coolly refocus his magic box and switch lenses as though it were a hocus-pocus battle on location instead of grim reality." 

The English would later use the movie as an anti-German film. A tinted version that fell into British hands formed the basis for the film's recent restoration by the Imperial War Museum. Unfortunately, this restored film version isn't available online at this moment.

After the war, the Americans also got hold of copies. Rowland V. Lee, a former actor at the Thomas Ince Studio, captured a film print at the American Occupation Headquarters in Coblenz. The footage was first distributed in segments in the Hearst newsreels in November 1919. The theatrical release of this American version - renamed The Log of the U 35 - was in January 1920. The Library of Congress and the National Archives in Washington, DC, hold the orginal footage. The National Archives have a viewing copy of this American version, as well as part of the original German film which can be watched online here. The Library of Congress has some nitrate on the film in several collections.

Here is a copy of the American revamp of this movie - The Log of the U-35- which has been uploaded on our YouTube channel.


Friday, May 5, 2017

"Heroes of Gallipoli" (Australia,1915)

The only known contemporary film of the Dardanelles Expedition, Heroes of Gallipoli was shot in the summer of 1915 with an Aeroscope camera by British war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett and photographer Ernest Brooks. It features intertitles by Australian war historian C. E. W. Bean. The historical film has been digitally restored by Peter Jackson, director of Lord of the Rings.

Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, British war reporter and cinematographer of Heroes of Gallipoli (1915)

Only 20 minutes of footage has survived, about one-fifth of the original 3000m of film, due to the unstable nature of early nitrate film stock. Because of its unique historical value the film has been listed on the Unesco Australian Memory of the World program, one of 60 similar programs around the world.

A remarkable achievement in film making under difficult battlefield conditions, the movie was made at Imbros Island, ANZAC Cove, Cape Helles and Suvla Bay. It features Australian, New Zealand and British troops in military operations, as well as Turkish prisoners of war and excellent footage of the terrain. The film also shows soldiers in action in frontline trenches using periscope rifles—an Australian innovation—and remarkable scenes of a firefight and Turkish shells exploding in the enemy's positions.

Cinematographer Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett (1881–1931) was the eldest son of Sir Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett who was Lord of the Admiralty. Sir Ellis’ interests took him to various theaters of war. At the age of 16 Ellis jr. accompanied his father with the Turkish army in the war against Greece and he served as a subaltern in the Boer War. He was a special war correspondent in the Russo-Japanese war, with the French campaign in Morocco and with the Italian army in Tripoli. In 1912 he was at the Turkish Headquarters during the First Balkan War.

Disaster at Gallipoli

In 1915, Ashmead-Bartlett was eager to join the ill-fated Dardanelles campaign, also known as the Battle of Gallipoli, the unsuccessful attempt by the Entente Powers to control the sea route to Russia during World War I. The campaign began with a failed naval attack by British and French ships on the Dardanelles Straits and continued with a major land invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula on April 25, 1915, involving British and French troops as well as divisions of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Lack of sufficient intelligence and knowledge of the terrain, along with a fierce Turkish resistance, hampered the initial success of the invasion. Gallipoli turned into a military disaster that led to the death of 45.000 Entente soldiers.

C.E.W. Bean and Ashmead-Bartlett in Gallipoli

Reporting from the Front

While Ashmead-Bartlett was in London, he paid a visit to his literary agent who suggested that he should take a movie camera with him for his return visit to Gallipoli. He started taking lessons before he left Britain and used the Aeroscope camera at Anzac Cove, Cape Helles and Suvla Bay, but it wasn't until he ran into war photographer Ernest Brooks on August 4, 1915, that he realized he had been operating it incorrectly. Brooks took over as camera operator after Ashmead-Bartlett survived a scare at Suvla. Here is Ashmead-Bartlett's own story on this incident, as quoted by Brian Best in his book Reporting from the Front:

The original footage of Heroes of Gallipoli has been uploaded on our YouTube channel, as well as scenes from the restored version by film director Peter Jackson.


Monday, May 1, 2017

Shooting the Great War in Turkey

In November 1914, the Ottoman Empire entered the First World War. The Turkish government was aware that propaganda activities were necessary to promote the war effort. The first step was to demolish a Russian monument in the suburbs of Istanbul and film the event so that it could be shown to a large audience. First an Austrian company was commissioned to do the filming. However later it was decided that such a patriotic event had to be filmed by a Turk.

Captain von Schroeder explaining the workings of a German cinematographic camera to Enver Paşa, the Turkish minister of war. Photo © Imperial War Museum 

The task was given to Fuat Efendi, who was then under arms as a reserve officer. The problem was that while he had mastered film screening, Fuat Efendi did not know how to shoot film. It is told by several Turkish film historians that Austrian experts taught Fuat Efendi and on November 14, 1914, the Russian monument was demolished with Fuat Efendi recording the event. Thus the first motion picture shot by a Turk in Turkey was made.

Army Cinematography Office

In 1915, during his visit to Germany, the minister of war, Enver Paşa, watched footage taken by the German Army for purposes of propaganda and training. The Germans had even made a film of Enver’s visit to a shooting range in Germany. Deeply impressed by what he had seen, Enver Paşa ordered the establishment of a cinematography branch in the Ottoman Army, modeled after its German counterpart.

The Central Army Cinematography Office was established in 1915. In its early stages, this office shot footage which was not directly related to military propaganda. Some of the first films were titled Enver Paşa’s Horses and The Newly Born Child of Enver Paşa’s Wife. Apart from meeting Enver Paşa's demands for self-promotion, these early films seem to have little historical value. The Army Cinematography Office was dissolved in 1918. During its short life, it managed to produce a significant number of documentaries and newsreels, using mostly camera equipment from Germany and Austria.

As described in our book, American Cinematographers in the Great War, the Germans were particularly interested in showing war films in Turkey to boost public morale, and in 1916 they sent Hearst cameraman Nelson E. Edwards to Constantinople (Istanbul) to cover the Turkish side of the war.

The website Turkey in the First World War has more on these early films.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Nelson Edwards and the Newsreels: An American Life

In 2012, authors Cooper Graham and Ron van Dopperen published an article on newsreel pioneer Nelson E. Edwards. Edwards (1887–1954) was among the first newsreel cameramen in American film history. From 1914 he filmed for Hearst International News Service and covered the Mexican Revolution. In 1916 he filmed the Turkish and the German side of the World War. He was also chief cameraman for Fox Newsreel during the year of its birth, and thereafter a longtime stringer for Paramount News.

Christmas postcard from the Edwards' family, 1938

The essay describes Edwards's life and work, as well as some of the background of Hearst's first attempts to get into the newsreel business, based on research in Edwards's personal documents, reports in the press and interviews with his family. Nelson Edwards's film work during World War I also featured in our book American Cinematographers in the Great War (2014).

Family collection

During our research on Nelson Edwards we were very fortunate in having contacted Nelson Edwards' s family who were most helpful and provided us with invaluable information from Nelson's personal scrapbooks.

Nelson Edwards was raised in Kansas and many of his relatives are still living in the area. The family background is interesting.

More can be found in this weblog on the Edwards family.

Monday, April 24, 2017

American History TV Shows "On the Firing Line with the Germans" (USA, 1915)

On April 15, C-SPAN3 on American History TV first broadcasted On the Firing Line with the Germans. Watch Wilbur Durborough's historic World War I film report on his experiences in wartime Europe and on the Eastern Front while the German army pushed the Russian enemy out of Poland.

Film poster On the Firing Line with the Germans (1915)

Durborough's film is the only American World War I feature film that has survived and an invaluable source on World War I film history. Together with his camera operator Irving Ries, Durborough spent five months with the German army. They covered operations both at the home front, in East Prussia and on the Eastern Front where in a gigantic pincer movement the Russian army was driven out of occupied Poland. We have described Durborough's film adventures in more detail in our book American Cinematographers in the Great War (2014).

Now available for the public

Based on research by authors Jim Castellan and Cooper Graham the Library of Congress recently restored Durborough's 1915 war film which is now available for the public after almost one hundred years. Lost and long forgotten, this movie provides us with an extraordinary opportunity to witness the First World War as seen through the lens of an American camera correspondent.

We recently produced a new, extended story on Durborough's photographic work during World War I. You can read this Durborough Film Annotation here.

In the TV show by C-SPAN George Willeman and Lynanne Schweighofer tell about their work on restoring this remarkable film. While the movie is shown Cooper Graham and Jim Castellan give comments on the historical background and on how this film was made.

Here is C-SPAN's program on American History TV.  Enjoy!


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Filming the Final Voyage of RMS "Lusitania" (USA, 1915)

On May 1, 1915, an American cameraman captured the final departure of the RMS Lusitania, the British ocean liner en route from New York to Liverpool, England. Of the more than 1,900 passengers and crew members on board, more than 1,100 perished, including over 120 Americans. This unique footage is now at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

RMS Lusitania leaving New York. Scene from Hearst Selig News Pictorial No. 38, released on May 12, 1915. Copied from Motography, 22 May 1915

The original footage comes from a contemporary American news film and shows passengers arriving at the dock and going aboard the ship. The Lusitania's flag is raised. Passengers, including author Elbert Hubbard, pose at the ship's rail. The film also has an interesting scene showing Captain Turner watching the Lusitania's departure. You can see him on film in a very short flash, looking at the camera, perhaps a little startled, when he suddenly notices that he is being covered by a movie man located on the roof of Pier 54, just slightly above him. The ship then turns toward open water and proceeds toward the North Atlantic. Six days later the Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine on this fatal voyage.

Historical value

This unique newsreel film has been preserved because it was edited into a compilation movie by the U.S. Signal Corps in the 1930s as part of a film series on the First World War. Its historical value is undisputed. The film has an intertitle mentioning the approval by the Pennsylvania Board of Censors, so it clearly was released in the United States. But there are no references to a production company. Both Pathé and the Hearst-Selig newsreel organization at the time claimed to have produced original footage showing the Lusitania's last departure. These films may have been used later on, without the original intertitles. But it seems more likely this film was an independent release.

Scene from the Lusitania film (1915)

The trade paper Moving Picture World in its issue of May 29, 1915, has two very interesting references to a "special film" on the Lusitania's final departure which was sold on a state-rights basis and that was booked in film theaters across the country. Around May 10, 1915, for instance the film was shown in Detroit and in Kentucky. In addition, the records of the Pennsylvania State Board show there were two independent films that were censored at this time by this State Board: The Lusitania produced by Warner, distributed by Crescent, 1 reel, approved 5/20/15, and The Lusitania, produced by an unknown company, distributed by Electric, 1 reel, approved 5/17/15.  "Warner" may refer to the Warner Brothers, who were already in the movie business in Pennsylvania during the 1910s. In short, the film print at the National Archives appears to be a copy of one of these independent releases, which would also explain why there are no references to a regular newsreel company.

There is some debate whether this film actually shows the last voyage of the Lusitania, but Eric Sauder in this weblog on the history of the Lusitania presents a very strong argument in favor of this:

""Next to be considered is the well-known film footage which shows Lusitania backing away from Pier 54 in New York that purports to be her 'final departure.' Because of changes in the lifeboat arrangement and various structural alterations made to Lusitania after August of 1914, there can be no doubt that the film footage is from her last few months of service. We also know from existing evidence that it could not have been taken between August and November, 1914. The film clearly shows a light-painted superstructure and not the dark 'war grey' that is plainly seen in the Illustrated London News photos.  

Since the film must have been taken after November, 1914, a closer examination reveals clues that narrow down the date even further. For example, noting the water level against the pilings under Pier 56, opposite the cameraman, it is definitely very near high tide. A quick check of the tide charts published in The New York Times each day tells us that for Lusitania's monthly sailings between December, 1914, and May, 1915, it was near high tide only twice -- April and May. The December, January, February, and March sailings were closer to low tide.

Is it the last voyage? Can't say for sure, but there's a 50/50 chance. I'd sure like to think it is, though...."

Here is this news film, as shown by C-SPAN3 on American History TV.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

"On the Firing Line with the Germans" - 1915 Film Preview

Next Saturday 10pm & Sunday 4pm ET C-SPAN3 will broadcast On the Firing Line with the Germans, a 1915 silent film. Here is a teaser of C-SPAN’s upcoming TV show that was posted on the internet today.

This historic World War I film was shot by American journalist Wilbur Durborough and his cameraman Irving Ries. They traveled with the German army to East Prussia and Poland where they covered the offensive on the Eastern Front. You will learn about how the once-lost film was rediscovered and restored by the Library of Congress.

Watch the entire film, with commentary by authors Cooper Graham and Jim Castellan who helped reassemble a fascinating World War I movie that had become a jigsaw puzzle of fragments.

For the TV schedule of this show check out this link to C-SPAN's website.


Monday, April 10, 2017

"Fighting the War" (USA, 1916)

According to the Internet Movie Database, the Mutual Film Corporation in 1916 released Fighting the War, a two-reel short produced by Donald C. Thompson. Taken from a 35 mm print and made available for the public domain after 100 years, the movie jumps right into the European war with footage of Algerian and Scottish troops moving to the front lines during the Battle of Verdun.

Donald C. Thompson. Copied from Moving Picture World, 6 November 1915

The footage runs for 23 minutes and captures troop movements and preparations, munitions handling, equipment transport, large artilliary guns, life in the French trenches, enemy gas measures, observation balloons, French and British aircraft, and actual battle footage on the ground and in the air. Among the surprises for World War I laymen is the French Army’s use of compressed air machinery for rapid tunnelling under the German trenches, presumably to lay explosives.

French infantry attack. Scene from Fighting the War (1916)


A close examination shows that Thompson sold parts of a film to Mutual, which he had marketed before: War As it Really Is (1916). Although not all scenes from Fighting the War are identical the shots showing French infantry during a trench engagement had been shown before in Thompson's movie War As It Really Is. There are no contemporary references in the trade press to Mutual releasing Fighting the War. The film also isn't listed in the catalogue of the American Film Institute, so it remains an enigma how this movie was distributed in the United States.

Scenes from Thompson's film War As It Really Is (1916) have been shown in an earlier weblog.

Here are some scenes from Fighting the War, uploaded on our YouTube channel.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Reporting from the Front - Jack Reed

John Silas "Jack" Reed hardly needs an introduction. Best remembered for his first-hand account of the Bolshevik Revolution, Ten Days That Shook the World, Reed died in Russia in 1920 and was buried at the Kremlin Wall Necropolis. His war reports also reveal a tantalazing glimpse on how for the first time in World War I the Germans made official movies at the Western Front.

Jack Reed (1887-1920)

When the First World War broke out Reed immediately went to Europe as a correspondent of the Metropolitan Magazine, visiting England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and Belgium. While in Europe Reed was frustrated by wartime censorship and the difficulty of accessing the front. He spent most of his time drinking with French prostitutes and pursuing an affair with a German woman. The pair went to Berlin in early December 1914. And this was when he got an invitation by the German Foreign Office for a trench tour to the Western Front, together with a number of other American reporters.

Filming the Western Front

This trip to the Western Front by the American journalists was filmed by American cinematographer Albert K. Dawson and an Austrian newsreel cameraman, Hans Theyer. The film project was set up by the German authorities to show the world that the Belgian people were treated decently, thus trying to disprove the stories on atrocities committed by German soldiers in Belgium. Scenes from this movie were found by the authors while researching our book American Cinematographers in the Great War. You can read more on this historic film in our latest book.

Dawson in Belgium, January 1915. The original caption reads: "An American correspondent arrested by a German guard in a Belgian city". The picture was probably staged and may have been taken in Brussels. Copied from the files of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. 

The Worst Thing in Europe

Although Jack Reed doesn't mention their names, his report has a reference to Dawson and Theyer. Here is an excerpt from the article The Worst Thing in Europe, which he published in The Masses on March 13, 1915:

In a city of Northern France occupied by the Germans, we were met at the train by several officers and the Royal automobiles. The officers, genial, pleasant, rather formal young fellows in the smart Prussian uniform, were to be our guides and hosts in that part of the German front. They spoke English well, as so many of them do; and we were charmed by their friendliness and affability. As we left the station and got into the machines, a group of private soldiers off duty loitered about, looking at us with lazy curiosity. Suddenly one of the officers sprang at them, striking at their throats with his little "swagger stick."
"Schweinhunde!" he shouted with sudden ferocity. Be off about your business and don't stare at us!"
They fell back silently docilely, before the blows and the curses, and dispersed...
Another time a photographer of our party was interrupted, while taking moving pictures, by a sentry with a rifle.
"My orders are that no photographs shall be taken here!" said the soldier.
The photographer appealed to the Staff Lieutenant who accompanied us.
"It's all right," said the officer. "I am Lieutenant Herrmann of the General Staff in Berlin. He has my permission to photograph."
The sentry saluted, looked at Herrmann's papers, and withdrew. And I asked the Lieutenant by what right he could countermand a soldier's orders from his own superior.
"Because I am that soldier's commanding officer. The fact that I have a Lieutenant's shoulder-straps makes me the superior of every soldier in the army. A German soldier must obey every officer's orders no matter what they may be."

The full story by Jack Reed on his trip to the Western Front in January 1915 is available for download here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Making Movies in a Minefield under Shell Fire

In November 1915, American cinematographer Frank E. Kleinschmidt traveled to Trieste where he filmed the operations of the Austrian navy. From Trieste Kleinschmidt flew on a military expedition to the Italian coast and covered a mine-sweeping trip across the Adriatic Sea. Both his film report and a written account on his extraordinary experiences with the Austrian sailors have been preserved.

Frank Kleinschmidt (left) with Austrian sailors near Trieste. Picture courtesy Wichita State University Libraries

Kleinschmidt's film adventures during World War I have been described in more detail in our book American Cinematographers in the Great War. He was in 1915 the only neutral American cameraman to film a submarine in action and fly above the Balkan front, taking motion pictures of the attack by the Central Powers on the Serbian capital, Belgrade. Kleinschmidt’s camera also recorded some stunning scenes of actual fighting in the trenches on the Eastern Front.

War on Three Fronts (USA, 1916) 

Kleinschmidt's film War on Three Fronts (USA, 1916) has a scene picturing the seaplane he was in, taking off on a scouting trip from Trieste. Shortly afterwards he accompanied a mine-sweeping operation three miles off the Italian coast. A small flotilla of barges and tugboats was sent out under cover of fog, with only a 75-mm Hotchkiss gun at the bow to protect them against the Italian navy. It was extremely dangerous work. The Austrians were instructed to bomb their own ships as a last line of defence, in case they were under attack. As is shown in his film, the mines were inspected under water with the aid of a special tube and carefully hoisted from the sea.

Illustration from St. Louis Post Dispatch, 29 July 1917

Chase across the Adriatic Sea

Mine-sweeping in 1915 clearly was a primitive and time-consuming business. Nine mines had just been dealt with when suddenly hell broke loose. Kleinschmidt said he saw a flash of lightning through the fog and the next moment the first Italian shell flew past him. The second impact struck a barge nearby and exploded six mines they had recovered. The Italian navy chased the mine-sweeping party all the way to Trieste and the Austrian sailors had a very close call. Kleinschmidt’s account of the escape back across the Adriatic still conveys a sense of terror:

“I had just taken my moving picture camera out of its case and set it on the tripod when a shell struck three foot from the launch, raising a big geyser. The columns of water descending douched us and stopped our motor. I had to dry off the sparking plugs while the engineer got busy cranking. Happily the motor sprung right on again, and I got back to the camera and commenced cranking. I tried to keep the No. 10 and the ‘San Marco’ in the view finder in case they should get hit, and endeavored to get the spouting of the shells. I got about one hundred feet of it, but it is a tame illustration of all the excitement of a race between life and death.”

Unfortunately, the remaining footage of War on Three Fronts has no scenes showing their escape across the Adriatic but the film does have the scenes showing how the mines were lifted out of the water.

For a copy of Kleinschmidt's complete report (originally published in Scientific American under the title "A Sea Fight in the Adriatic" on July 14, 1917) check out this link. 

Here you can see a collection of pictures on Kleinschmidt and his fascinating war film.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Cooper Graham and Jim Castellan Host American History TV

In April 2017 authors Cooper Graham and Jim Castellan will host a show of Reel America on American History TV. The show is set to commemorate the centennial of America's entry into World War I and will be broadcasted nationwide through C-SPAN3's service which is available throughout the United States in 49 million digital cable TV households.

Cooper Graham and Jim Castellan on the set for American History TV, watching On the Firing Line with the Germans, Wilbur H. Durborough's World War I feature film. Photo courtesy Richard Hall, C-SPAN

On Reel America each weekend archival film is shown that relates to C-SPAN's mission of politics and public affairs. Cable network C-SPAN in 2011 expanded its programs with a new history-based service, airing weekends on C-SPAN3. "American History TV" features programming geared toward history lovers with 48 hours every weekend of people and events that document the American story.

Special episode: On the Firing Line with the Germans (USA, 1915)

For this special episode Cooper and Jim will comment on Wilbur H. Durborough's historic World War I film On the Firing Line with the Germans (USA,1915)) which has been restored recently by the Library of Congress. While the film is being shown they will provide the audience historical insight and context to the silent film, based on their research of Durborough and his film which enabled the Library of Congress to reconstruct this lost film. This show is also a must-see if you are interested in watching the experiences of an American cameraman in wartime Europe while covering the offensive of the German army on the Eastern Front. Cooper and Jim will be joined in this program by George Willeman and Lynanne Schweighofer from the staff of the Library of Congress, who have been instrumental in restoring Durborough's film.

The program will debut April 15 at 10pm and April 16 at 4pm ET on C-SPAN3’s American History TV. The show will also be streamed online on C-SPAN's website which has an extensive video library. We will keep you posted on this TV show.

For the TV schedule of this show check out this link to C-SPAN's website.

Here is a trailer on C-SPAN3's history show with scenes from Durborough's war film.