Tearing Down the Spanish Flag
R: J. Stuart Blackton. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1898
Filming Locations: Brooklyn, New York City
“Almost as soon as war was declared, J. Stuart Blackton and Albert E. Smith of the Vitagraph Co. produced what is often called the world’s first war movie. The film was called Tearing Down the Spanish Flag, and it caused a sensation. The film was simply a close-up of Blackton’s hands pulling down a Spanish flag and replacing it with the American standard. ‘It was taken in a 10 x 12 studio room, the background a building next door’, Blackton explained in a lecture at the University of Southern California in 1929. ‘We had a flag pole and two 18-inch flags. Smith operated the machine and I, with this very hand, grabbed the Spanish flag and tore it down from the pole and pulled the Stars and Stripes to the top of the flag pole. That was our very first dramatic picture and it is surprising how much dramatic effect it created… the people went wild.'”
Filipinos Retreat from Trenches
R: James White. P: Thomas A.Edison Inc. USA 1899
From Edison films catalog:
“An incident of the Battle of the Trenches at Candabar [sic]. The enemy threw up a high earth embankment during the night, and are defending it with great stubbornness. The pits are crowded with Filipinos, who fire volley after volley. The artillery of the Americans plays havoc with their ranks and they fall back, leaving many dead. Their retreat is hotly covered by a company of U.S. Infantry, with mounted officer. They tumble over the embankment into the trench, fire a volley and advance. The officer carefully examines the earthworks, his horse picking his way cautiously over the bodies of the fallen foe.
Reenacted by the New Jersey National Guard in the Orange Mountains near West Orange, New Jersey.”
Love and War
R: James H. White / P: Thomas Alva Edison. USA 1899
“An illustrated song telling the story of a hero who leaves for war as a private, is promoted to the rank of captain for bravery in service, meets the girl of his choice, who is a Red Cross nurse on the field, and finally returns home triumphantly as an officer to the father and mother to whom he bade good-by as a private. The film presents this beautiful song picture in six scenes, each of which has a separate song, making the entire series a complete and effective novelty.” (Edison Films, 1901)
“The catalog description for the 200-foot, six-scene Love and War also reveals a narrative coherence not apparent from simply watching the film. (…) Here again, the title and story line were familiar ones. Only four scenes were copyrighted under this title, but two other films, including the concurrently made Fun in Camp , were apparently added to previous Love and War to fill out its advertised length. For both “song films” the careful fit between words and picture required the production company to exercise a high degree of creative control. However, both films lacked the spatial and even temporal complexity of the multishot actualities.”
Charles Musser: Before the Nickelodeon. Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company. Berkeley-Los Angeles- Oxford 1991, S. 150 f.
More about the Spanish-American War and the media:
The Library of Congress: A Guide to the Amerivan-Spanish War