Wednesday, June 20, 2018

World War I Films in Color

In 2014, the same team that collaborated on the renowned World War II series Apocalypse produced a similar documentary series on the Great War. As with the previous production, the new series has some remarkable colored footage including scenes from Wilbur H. Durborough's film On the Firing Line with the Germans (1915).

Durborough and General von Schlieffen in East Prussia, June 1915

Online Release On the Firing Line with the Germans (USA, 1915)

As described in a previous weblog, Durborough's film has been restored by the Library of Congress and the movie was uploaded on the internet in November 2016. After almost one hundred years an original World War I film is back on the screen. To coincide with this online release the authors prepared an extended story on the making of Durborough's remarkable war film. Based on our previous book American Cinematographers in the Great War, we added new information that was found in early 2016 in the German archives as well as in the American and Dutch newspapers.

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.

If you are interested to see Durborough in color here is a scene from Apocalypse World War I, episode 2, showing his film work at the Eastern Front in 1915.


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

American War Correspondents at the Front

The National Archives in Washington, D.C. once again revealed an interesting collection on World War I. An excellent series of pictures showing American war correspondents at the front was found recently by the authors.

Adrian C. Duff  (U.S. Signal Corps) with his movie camera camera, together with American reporters. St. Nazaire, France, 2 July 1918. From the National Archives in Washington, D.C. 

Photographic Files at the National Archives

The photographs are from Record Group 165 "Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs". This group is part of the files of the Historical Branch, War Plans Division, War Department General Staff, and was assembled by the Committee on Public Information (CPI), America's propaganda agency during the First World War.

In these pictures are some correspondents that we mentioned in our book American Cinematographers in the Great War. Most of the journalists were newspaper reporters, such as Herbert Corey who was in Germany at the beginning of 1915 and after the American entry into World War I went to France. We also found a wonderful series of photographs showing Irvin S. Cobb who covered the Great War for the Saturday Evening Post. Cobb wrote a book about his experiences, published in 1915, titled Paths Of Glory. After a second visit to France with the American Expeditionary Force he succesfully publicized the achievements of the unit known as the "Harlem Hellfighters". One of the pictures that we found shows Cobb with General Doyen (U.S. Marine Corps) in France.

Cameraman Albert K. Dawson

As far as cameramen are concerned, we found two pictures in these files, showing Albert K. Dawson who accompanied the German and the Austrian army during the First World War for the American Correspondent Film Company. The picture showing him before his tent during the siege of Przemyśl in May 1915 is without a doubt the best image reproduction we have ever seen. There is another photograph showing Dawson in a German military car when he visited Belgium in January 1915.

Albert K. Dawson (right) in military car at Antwerp, January 1915. Third from left: Josef Schumacher of the Zentralstelle für Auslandsdienst (ZfA). Photo (c) Brown & Dawson. From the collection of the National Archives. Download link to original high res photograph here. 

This picture is also in our book American Cinematographers in the Great War, and the reproduction has Dawson's personal handwritten comments on his trip through Belgium. The high res scanned image from the collection of the National Archives for the first time reveals the identity of the man in the middle: Josef Schumacher, who was in charge of pictorial publicity for the Zentralstelle für Auslandsdienst, Germany's foreign propaganda agency during World War I. This once again confirms the story we have described in more detail in our previous publications about the use of Dawson's pictures by the Germans for propaganda purposes.

Finally the picture file at the National Archives also shows cameraman Adrian C. Duff who was a news photographer and joined the U.S. Signal Corps in 1917. Duff made national headlines in 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.

There is more on Duff and his World War I pictures in this previous weblog. 

We uploaded this collection to our photo channel on Flickr, and you are free to download these photographs here.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Watching American World War I Newsreels

Watch silent movies with new musical scores by renowned silent film accompanist Ben Model. Some of these are from DVD releases (uploaded with permission) and some are rare one-of-a-kind 16mm prints of lost films in Ben Model's collection.

American troops on parade in Paris, 4 July 1918

Parade 4th of July in Paris

To give you a feeling what it must have been like to watch a newsreel during World War I here is Ben Model's presentation of a 1918 newsreel showing U.S. troop on parade in Paris on the Fourth of July.

The original footage comes from a contemporary British Gaumont newsreel which was issued for home use after the Great War on 16 mm format around 1948. American troops as well as Red Cross nurses are seen parading along the Champs Elysee and the Place de la Concorde. The film segment ends with footage of President Poincare and General Foch. The musical score is by Ben Model © 2012.

You can watch all of Ben Model's silent film presentations on his YouTube channel here.