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The Somme original film


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#1 Barney

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Posted 20 May 2012 - 06:18 PM

Hi

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.

Thanks :)

#2 Mark H.

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Posted 20 May 2012 - 07:17 PM

They didn't withdraw it because there was a backlash. The film was a massive success. It was seen by a large percentage of the British population (and millions around the world) and spawned a rapid sequel 'The Battle of the Ancre and the Advance of the Tanks'. It was the first of a whole series of official war films extending into the Second World War such as 'Desert Victory'. The idea that 'The Battle of the Somme' film was a public relations disaster that undermined morale and turned large numbers of people against the war is a complete myth, which somehow seems to have made it into some school textbooks. The film is readily available in DVD form, with interesting accompanying notes, from the Imperial War Museum.

Edited by Mark H., 22 May 2012 - 08:46 PM.

In memory of my boyhood hero Jim Clark (1936-1968): 'Chevalier Sans Peur et Sans Reproche'.

#3 JohnDClare

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Posted 20 May 2012 - 10:49 PM

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.

That is really interesting, MarkH - I presume you have this from the IWM.
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

Hmmm.
I fear I may be somewhat responsible!

Can't seem to see it on Youtube.

Try here and here.

#4 Mark H.

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 06:37 AM

I'm not denying for a moment that the film had a deep emotional impact on the audience nor that it was controversial. At least one cinema refused to show it, the manager allegedly putting up a sign saying that his establishment was not a' chamber of horrors' and there were complaints from , amongst others, the Bishop of Durham that some of the scenes were distasteful and disrespectful. Others rushed to the film's defence, claiming that it showed a valuable picture of the troops' heroism and sacrifice. Nevertheless the film was a massive popular success, selling an estimated 20 million tickets in its first six weeks of release. Far from being withdrawn because of an outcry, a sequel 'The Battle of the Ancre and the Advance of the Tanks' was produced a few months later as I mention in my earlier post. The original film was re-released several times during the war (with some additional material) and shown all over the world, including the USA and Russia, to encourage support for the allied cause. All this is pretty clear evidence that far from undermining popular support for the war effort, the film was seen by the authorities as bolstering it.

Edited by Mark H., 22 May 2012 - 05:26 AM.

In memory of my boyhood hero Jim Clark (1936-1968): 'Chevalier Sans Peur et Sans Reproche'.

#5 JohnDClare

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 07:06 AM

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?

You have mistaken my tone, Mark H!
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!
:)

#6 Mark H.

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 12:09 PM

Sorry I mistook the tone of your post, John. I thought that it didn't sound like you! I haven't got the relevant books to hand, I've been at a funeral, but I shall give you detailed citations ASAP. A very good recent book on the film is 'Ghosts of the Somme' by Robertshaw et al.
I have now edited my original, overly splenetic post.

Edited by Mark H., 22 May 2012 - 05:27 AM.

In memory of my boyhood hero Jim Clark (1936-1968): 'Chevalier Sans Peur et Sans Reproche'.

#7 Alick Brown

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 10:19 PM

There are also a number of clips with some interesting accompanying notes on the National Archives website:

http://www.nationala...ID=2&subCatID=3
Alick Brown

#8 Mark H.

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 09:17 AM

The most useful sources I have found for the public reception of the film are the viewing guide produced for the video release of the film (which also included the sequel 'The Battle of the Ancre and the Advance of the Tanks') edited by Roger Smither with contributions by Chris McCarthy, Philip Dutton and Stephen Badsey (Department of Film , IWM 1993) and the detailed commentary and interviews(by Roger Smither and others) and booklet accompanying the 2008 DVD release following the film's inclusion on the UNESCO 'Memory of the World' register in 2005. Unfortunately the viewing notes for this release which the IWM used to have online appear to have disappeared. 'Ghosts of the Somme' by Fraser, Robertshaw and Roberts (Pen and Sword 2009) is a superb book on the making of the film but does not cover the release and impact in any detail. Some of the fascinating detective work undertaken by the authors formed part of the TV documentary 'The Real Battle of the Somme' including getting a lip-reading expert to interpret what the men are saying in some of the (silent) scenes.
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.

In memory of my boyhood hero Jim Clark (1936-1968): 'Chevalier Sans Peur et Sans Reproche'.

#9 JohnDClare

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 09:27 AM

ab response Mark H - really interesting and informative - thanks




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