The Battle Cry of Peace

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Date: 1917

Region: North America

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Film Video


Artist: J. Stuart Blackton

Confronting Bodies: U.S. Government

Dates of Action: April, 1917

Location: United States

Description of Artwork: The silent film drama,The Battle Cry of Peace, was promoted as to be both a peace and preparedness film. The plot was based upon (a "fleet of a hostile European power suddenly attacked the United States, and bombarded New York. Invading forces were landed and soon took possession of the city amid scenes of carnage and horror. The leading characters of the play were all killed." Censorship, Princeton 1991 pg. 172

The Incident: Blackton (the film's producer) stated that the aim of the picture was to arouse in the heart of every American citizen a sense of his strict accountability to his government in a time of need-and to bring to the notice of the greatest number of people in the shortest possible time the fact that there was a way to insure that peace for which all Americans so earnestly prayed. He held that as a nation we must have the power to enforce and to insure peace." Censorship, Princeton, 1991 pg. 172. As the United States moved from a peace mode to war preparations the film had to undergo major renovations. "In April 1917,...it was announced that all prints of The Battle Cry for Peace had (to be) recalled by Vitigraph and were to be reedited and retitled, so that the picture would stimulate recruiting. Certain of the original titles were deleted because it was felt they might be construed as arguments against war...In Pittsburgh the proprietor of a motion picture theater was arrested in the Spring of 1917 and had for court action under $5,000 bail on a charge of high misdemeanor, after distributing handbills advertising that picture. The authorities held that the handbills alone were calculated to prevent enlistment." Censorship, Princeton, 1991 pg. 172

Results of Incident: The Battle Cry for Peace, was only one of many films censored during this time. Although many of these films were acceptable prewar, the United States Government maintained strict enforcement over any films that could be interpreted as challenges to the war efforts.

Source: Censorship, Princeton, 1991 Pg. 172