Saturday, May 16, 2015

Nicholas McDonald, Cinematographer for the U.S. Signal Corps

We only mentioned him briefly in our latest book on the American cinematographers of the First World War but he deserves some special attention on our weblog: Lt. Nicholas McDonald. Here you see him filming an American artillery barrage northwest of Verdun in October 1918.


A photojournalist for the Chicago Herald & Examiner, McDonald was a good friend and a close colleague of Wilbur Durborough. He became a cinematographer in 1915 and made official pictures of the Canadian Army. The next year, while working for the Selig-Tribune newsreel organization, he covered the attack by General Pershing's forces on Pancho Villa in Mexico. After the American entry into the European war, he was attached to the 1st Division as a Lieutenant of the US Signal Corps photographic unit for that Division. Later, General Pershing promoted him to Captain and assigned him to GHQ of the American Expeditionary Force.

McDonald filmed at Chateau-Thierry, St. Mihiel and the Argonne offensive and twice received citations for bravery. President Poincaré awarded him with the Croix de Guerre. McDonald also covered the Peace Conference at Versailles in 1919. He reportedly did most of the principal photography for the feature film Pershing's Crusaders that was released by the Committee on Public Information in 1918. Here you see him together with another famous war correspondent from Chicago, Floyd Gibbons of the Chicago Tribune. In June 1918, at the Battle of Belleau Wood, Gibbons had lost an eye after being hit by German gunfire while attempting to rescue an American soldier.

After World War I, McDonald worked for Walter Niebuhr's American Cinema Corporation, which we also mentioned in our book. 

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