The Somme original film
Posted 20 May 2012 - 06:18 PM
Does anyone know where I can get a copy of the official film that was shown in cinemas about the Somme. It was the one mentioned on JD Clare's site, where they had to withdraw the film because there was such a backlash. Can't seem to see it on Youtube.
Posted 20 May 2012 - 07:17 PM
Edited by Mark H., 22 May 2012 - 08:46 PM.
Posted 20 May 2012 - 10:49 PM
That is really interesting, MarkH - I presume you have this from the IWM.
The film was a massive success. ... The idea that 'The Battle of the Somme' was a public relations disaster that undermined public morale and turned large numbers of people against the war is a complete myth.
I can't remember where I read about it, but there were stories of women having to be helped out of cinemas in distress, and people shouting out 'they're dying!'.
So thank you for this revision.
...which somehow seems to have made it into some school textbooks
I fear I may be somewhat responsible!
Try here and here.
Can't seem to see it on Youtube.
Posted 21 May 2012 - 06:37 AM
Edited by Mark H., 22 May 2012 - 05:26 AM.
Posted 21 May 2012 - 07:06 AM
You have mistaken my tone, Mark H!
I assure you that I'm not part of some sinister Imperial War Museum propaganda machine! I'm a bit puzzled by your comments about the IWM. Are you implying, John, that the work of such researchers as Dr. Stephen Badsey is unreliable?
Far from questioning what you said, in fact I have gone in and changed the page on my website as a consequence of your post.
I was just interested to know where your information came from - I have read the wikipedia article, which says the same thing, but I was interested when you spoke of the 'myth' - I wondered where you had picked up your information.
As for the IWM, in the 1990s I wrote a book on WWI, and we passed the script to the IWM to vet, and they were fabulously helpful.
To be honest, I'm more interested to try and remember whence I got the (mis)interpretation which I put on my website that the film backfired - I didn't make it up!
I suspect there's some book which is the culprit sat on a shelf somewhere trying to make itself inconspicuous - like all tertiary historians, I'll have read it somewhere in a book I regarded as authoritative, and reproduced it to mislead generations of historians!
History changes all the time; you just can't rely on the past nowadays!
Posted 21 May 2012 - 12:09 PM
I have now edited my original, overly splenetic post.
Edited by Mark H., 22 May 2012 - 05:27 AM.
Posted 22 May 2012 - 09:17 AM
The 1993 viewing guide reproduces some of the correspondence the film generated at the time of release, including an exchange of letters in 'The Times' in September 1916 (p 37). Of course, how representative these views are can be questioned. It includes an extract from the letter written by the Dean of Durham deploring the fact that 'crowds of Londoners feel no scruple at feasting their eyes on pictures which present the passion and death of Britsh soldiers in the battle of the Somme ... I beg leave to enter a protest against an entertainment that wound the heart and violates the very sanctities of bereavement.'(1st September 1916)
Responses to this included:
'If the Dean had lost what I had lost, he would know that his objections are squeamish and sentimental' ('Orbatus' 2nd september)
'I never understood their sacrifice until I had seen this film . I came away feeling humiliated and ashamed , for at last I was able to realise what Britain's soldiers are doing for her' ('Forty Six', 2nd September)
'The criticism of Dean Henson's is, I believe, a mistaken one, but I think most people resent the introduction into the evening's programme of the wretched stuff which sometimes precedes and follows the war films. This arrangement may be 'business' but it is not respectful to our fighting or fallen heroes '('Chaplain , 4th Septemeber)
'The tears in many people's eyes and the silence that prevailed when I saw the film showed that every heart was full of love and sympathy for our soldiers and I believe that no better means could be found of making English men and women determined to stop the repetition of such a war as the present one' (James Cooper, 4th September).
The booklet also reproduces some extracts from short impromptu essays written by schoolchildren in early 1917 under the supervision of Dr C. W. Kimmins, a school inspector, and later used in the National Council of Public Morals' 'The Cinema: Its Present Position and Future Possibilities'.
The viewing guide reports , as I mention earlier, that there were as many as 20 million admissions to the film in six weeks of its release in August 1916, meaning that it was seen by almost half the British population. It was sent to allied and neutral countries to rally support for the British cause. Its success stimulated the rapid production of a sequel: 'Battle of The Ancre' released in January 1917, which showcased the new British 'wonder weapon' the tank and the production by the Germans of a direct response 'Bei Unseren Heiden an der Somme' ('With Our Heroes on The Somme').
I would therefore contend that, obviously, the public response to the film was complex but overall the effect was seen to be a positive one for morale. To quote Roger Smither in his foreword to the book 'Ghosts of the Somme':
'The film's greatest importance , however, and the reason for its astonishing success with British cinema audiences on its release in 1916, was the feeling among members of those audiences that the film was making it possible for them to share some of the reality of what their husbands , sons, brothers, neighbours and other loved ones were experiencing in the actual Battle of the Somme.'
Edited by Mark H., 22 May 2012 - 08:44 PM.
Posted 22 May 2012 - 09:27 AM
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