Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Creel Committee - Films in World War I

When the United States entered World War I in 1917 films became an important tool for official propaganda purposes. The organization behind these operations was the Commitee on Public Information (CPI) or the "Creel Commitee". Named after its chairman journalist George E. Creel, the CPI launched a massive publicity campaign to get America behind the Great War.

Advertisement Under Four Flags produced by the CPI. From Moving Picture World, 11 January 1919

"The World's Greatest Adventure in Advertising"

Creel was a firm believer in the power of the media and he called his publicity campaign "The World's Greatest Adventure in Advertising". Although films were a relatively new medium at the time the CPI did not neglect the movies. America's participation in the Great War was widely shown on screen. Using official footage shot by military cameramen of the U.S. Signal Corps the CPI produced three feature documentary films, as well as numerous shorts and a newsreel, The Official War Review. Film stars such as Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks were also mobilized by the CPI to urge people to buy War Bonds and enlist for the American Army.

More information on Creel's film program can be read in a chapter of our book American Cinematographers in the Great War.

Here is a short clip uploaded to our YouTube channel on these films by the Commitee on Public Information.


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