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.



  1. Another excellent and very interesting bit of WWI film history.

  2. Wow, all this has been fascinating to watch. I've studied WW1 extensively.