If you were in Salt Lake City 100 years ago today, you could attend a multi-media spectacle at the Orpheum Theater, in which the penultimate attraction was footage from Martin E. Johnson’s trip with Jack London in the South Sea Islands, which he had embarked on five years prior. I posted about this same film last year, and as you can see from this advertisement, the travelogue continued to circulate through the 1910s.
In my previous post I mentioned that Fatimah Tobing Rony discusses the Johnsons in her excellent book The third eye: race, cinema, and ethnographic spectacle.
I’ve since discovered Laura Horak’s excellent introduction to Osa Johnson at the Women Film Pioneers Project
On January 24, 1914, “the Chicago censor board revoked the license” for the film Absinthe, a new feature film directed by Herbert Brenon and George Edwardes-Hall and starring King Baggot and Leah Baird (Moving Picture World, vol 19, page 661).
That didn’t stop Salt Lake City’s Rex Theater from showing the film continuously (on a loop) 100 years ago today.
They even placed a special advertisement for the film in the local newspaper:
The caption reads “King Baggot has the greatest role of his career in the four-part Universal film playing at the Rex theater today and tomorrow. It is a powerful story, working [indecipherable] the results of an intimate, personal study of the curse the drink has brought France.”
According to wikipedia, absinthe was banned in the United States from 1915 to 2007. I wonder if we can thank this film (and the many others of the era that demonstrated the evils of the drink) for swaying public opinion in favor of the ban (and perhaps the prohibition of all alcohol a few years later?)
Some evidence for this theory comes to us from The Moving Picture World, which reported that one enterprising exhibitor–D. M. Hughes of the Majestic in Lockport Illinois–decided to show the film as part of a special “Temperance night” along with a lecture by a local minister, the Reverend Walter MacPherson of Joliet. (Moving Picture World, vol 19, page 1404).
Those interested in the history of film advertising will likely enjoy this advertisement announcing the supremacy of Absinthe‘s advertisements. I especially like the part about how the posters are available in “sensational” and “not sensational”
E. M. Newman was a photographer for National Geographic, world-traveler, and according to this article, a showman. His presented his travelogue on “London Today” 100 years ago today and tomorrow to audiences at the Columbia Theater in Washington, DC. You can peruse many of his photographs at the photo licensing company, Corbis’s website.