Inside History: A History of Film (Sample)

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Join Inside History as we talk a closer look at The History of Film. From its humble origins to creating some of the world's most iconic moments. Along the way we will also look at how some films can flop at the box office only to become classics later, explain why Casablanca just might be the greatest War film of all time and how the silent era inspired even modern film makers.


From Lon Chaney to Marilyn Monroe and John Williams we explore not only what happened on screen but also those behind the scenes who have played a part in some of the greatest movies of all time.

With essays on:

George Melies, Casablanca, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Psycho, Leni Riefenstahl, Warner Brothers, Ealing Studios, Lon Chaney, Frankenstein and much more.

Full edition is available at www.insidehistorymagazine.ecwid.com



A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR

There is nothing better than a trip to the movies. The chance to lose

yourself in a story and in doing so, forgetting about the world outside

of the cinema. That is the joy that we, as the viewer, get. But what

about the other side of the camera? Each film that we see has its own

history. Each star that we admire have their own stories to tell. This

issue of Inside History takes you behind the scenes of some of your

favourite movies.

We have tried to cover as much as we could but the history of the

movies is far from a straight forward one. For this reason we have

opted to cover some of the main points of the history of movie

making. From genres, the evolution of design and make-up to films

that made the most impact in the history of film and the stars that

made the screen shine.

Along the way we will introduce you to pioneering film directors and

show you how film and the art of propaganda went hand in hand. We

will explore how one of cinema's greatest icons took on an overempowering

studio system that controlled them. How the art of the

make-up artist changed cinema forever and how two notes of a film's

score can invoke terror, even 46 years after it was first heard. All of

which are visionaries in their own rights and all have cemented

themselves in their medium's rich and colourful history.

Some things have been left on the cutting room floor. As with

anything, sometimes time simply runs out. But from A Trip to the

Moon or a stay at Bates Motel, I hope that what we have chosen to

cover will take you on the many twists and turns of any great movie

script.

N I C K K E V E R N

Editor-in-Chief

A HISTORY OF

FILM

21

INSIDE

HISTORY

EDITOR

N I C K K E V E R N

DEPUTY EDITOR

H36

A N N A H P R I N G L E

DESIGN

N K D M E D I A

CONTRIBUTORS

Tom Daly

Dr. Daryn Egan-Simon

Niall Groome

Vince Guerrieri

David James

Nick Kevern

Hannah Pringle

Olivia Richardson

Don Stradley

Merryn Walters

Charlotte White

Beth Wyatt

IMAGES

Alamy

Bundesarchiv

The Hollywood Archive

Marine Corps Archives and

Special Collections

PictureLux

PxHere

Pikrepo

Pixabay

Unsplash

Wikimedia Commons

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INSIDE

THIS ISSUE

06

08

12

15

18

22

26

The Lumière Brothers & the birth of Cinema

Inside History

Georges Méliès: A Trip to the Moon

Hannah Pringle & Niall Groome

FLORENCE LAWRENCE: THE SILENT STAR WHO RETURNED

FROM THE DEAD

Beth Wyatt

The CABINET of DR. CALIGARI

Merryn Walters

LON CHANEY: THE MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES

Don Stradley

HOW WARNER BROTHERS CHANGED CINEMA FOREVER

Vince Guerrieri

STAN LAUREL WAS NO CHARLIE CHAPLIN – HE WAS FAR FUNNIER

David James

34

38

42

46

50

54

LENI RIEFENSTAHL: Germany's most

controversial film director

Olivia Richardson

Casablanca: THE GREATEST WAR MOVIE EVER

MADE?

Charlotte White

Disney’s animated Propaganda films during

World War Two.

Dr Daryn Egan-Simon

HOW IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE WENT FROM BOX OFFICE

FLOP TO FESTIVE HIT

Nick Kevern

EALING STUDIOS: THE SMALL STUDIO THAT MADE A

BIG IMPRESSION

Tom Daly

HOW MARILYN MONROE TOOK ON THE STUDIO

SYSTEM...AND WON

Nick Kevern

28

FRANKENSTEIN AT 90: WHALE, PIERCE, KARLOFF AND

THE MAKING OF AN HORROR ICON

Nick Kevern

58

ALFRED HITCHCOCK & THE MAKING OF PSYCHO

Hannah Pringle


INSIDE

HISTORY


THE BIRTH OF CINEMA

The Lumière

Brothers & the

birth of Cinema

Words: Inside History

On the 28th of December 1895, something amazing was

about to happen. Louis and Auguste Lumiere may not have

known it at the time but they were about to make history.

Selling tickets for their new film about everyday life in France,

the two brothers already felt that were on to something that

would alter the course of people’s lives forever.

In March that year, they had already shown what their new

invention was capable of. It was a simple scene showing

workers leaving their factory after a days work. These moving

images were filmed by a simple device. The Cinematographe

didn’t just show moving pictures, it also could film the live

action wherever it was placed. A camera, that with a simple

tweek could also act a projector. It would be the birth of

motion pictures as we know it today.

The Lumiere Brothers were not the first to try to make images

move. In the 1830’s Joseph Plateau of Belgium and Simon

Stampfer of Austria simultaneously developed a device called

the Phenakistoscope. The Pheanakistoscope uesd a spinning

disk where series of images could be placed. By spinning the

wheel these images gave the illusion of movement. Thomas

Edison would also become involved in the quest to make

images move. He would develop the Kinetoscope which

would allow one person to watch a short film through the

machine’s peephole. Yet, all of these inventions were

designed for individual use. What the Lumiere Brothers had

developed would bring film to a mass audience.

Now an auditorium full of people would gasp as the Brothers

showed their first ever movie. To the audience at the time,

what they were seeing before their very eyes was

mindblowing.

The Lumiere brothers. Auguste (left) and Louis (right)

06 INSIDE HISTORY


The Lumière

Brothers & the

birth of Cinema

Whilst what was filmed produced no sound, piano

accompaniment would be used to fill the void. One scene in

particular caused a panic. The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat

might not sound like the first horror film produced, and

indeed it was not. However to the audience it felt like it could

be. As the train arrived at the station before their eyes there

was panic and terror with some of the audience believing that

the train was coming straight for them.

Soon, the experience would be felt across the world as the

Brothers opened Cinématographe theatres in London,

Brussels, Belgium and New York. The camera would be sold

to aspiring film makers who in turn would learn more about

the Lumiere’s device. The would take film-making to other

levels beyond the train station but in what the brothers had

created they had done more than simply develop a new

camera. In opening theatres and producing a device that was

mobile, light and also acted as a projector...they had just

created what we call today, Cinema.

Cinematographe Camera mode projection invented by The Lumière Brothers

INSIDE HISTORY 07


MELIES

GEORGES

MELIES: A TRIP

TO THE MOON

(1902)

Words: Hannah Pringle & Niall Groome

08 INSIDE HISTORY


As one of the greatest pioneers of the film industry, George

Méliès was the first to explore the realm of fantasy and fiction

in narrative film. As a well-established French illusionist, he

took an experimental approach to the new world of cinema,

making use of innovative editing tricks and optical illusions to

create special effects, never imagined on film. He paved the

way for narrative film with the creation of his most successful

film, the iconic Le Voyage dans la Lune / A Trip to the Moon

(1902).

A Trip to the Moon is a 14-minute narrative film, which follows

a group of scientists as they embark upon their expedition to

the moon. The black and white film was produced on a

budget of ₣10,000 and favoured wide camera angles to give

the impression of a theatre performance. It is no surprise,

considering Méliès background, that this silent film was

intended to be accompanied by a narrator and musical

special effects at the discretion of the exhibitor.

Professor Barbenfouillis – played by Méliès – first approaches

a room of astronomers dressed in clothing, which resemble

that of a magician. When sharing his ideas on the board via a

diagram of a capsule being launched from earth, a discussion

erupts and only a small group agree to join him. As the

scientists embark on their journey, they are fired from a

canon and crash directly into the eye of the Man in the Moon.

This iconic scene remains an important part of cinematic

history as it demonstrates how Méliès was able to manipulate

the camera with the use of special effects.

Shortly after arriving on the moon, the group settle down and

begin to experience an array of dreams. They wake to a storm

caused by Phoebe, Goddess of the Moon, and begin to

explore the unusual vegetation growing around them. As they

venture around the new world, they are confronted and

eventually captured by a group of indigenous beings - the

Selenites. They are taken to the leader and proceed to use

violence to escape capture. Upon their descent, a Selenite

clings to the capsule. As the scientists return to Earth, they

are greeted by a celebratory crowd as the Selenite is paraded

around and abused with the use of ropes and sticks.

Méliès knew his audience and used the contemporary

attitudes surrounding science, exploration, and colonisation

to create a visual narrative people would enjoy and loosely

understand. His time as an anti-Boulangist cartoonist for

L’Illusionnise and Passez Muscade magic magazines surely

influenced the satirical nature of the film.

Méliès immediately became interested in film as a medium

upon the invention of the cinématographe by the Lumière

brothers in 1895, allowing films to be projected to audiences

for the first time. Méliès was among the attendees as the

brothers held a private demonstration of their invention at

their Parisian home on 28th December 1895. He was

infatuated by the possibilities that it presented and

promptly offered to buy one of the machines. The brothers

wanted to keep control of their invention for the time being

but Méliès was hooked and set about finding another

projector for his theatre. He managed to purchase a more

rudimentary animatograph from British film pioneer Robert

W. Paul, which he then modified to also function as a film

camera.

Early films typically displayed documentary-style snippets of

everyday life and didn’t run longer than a couple of minutes.

Méliès initially started to experiment with the same type of

film, as he began shooting and screening films at his theatre -

Théâtre Robert-Houdin - in 1896. He quickly began to

show an affinity for spectacle and fantasy with some of his

INSIDE HISTORY 09


Georges Méliès (far left) in his original Star-Film studio in

Montreuil, near Paris, France

early films, where he started to experiment with illusions

and camera tricks such as dissolving scene cuts,

superimposition, and many practical effects. His most

notable trick, substitution splicing, was allegedly

discovered by accident after a camera jam whilst filming

on a Parisian street; an illusion cleverly demonstrated

throughout A Trip to the Moon to make various objects

transform or disappear.

Méliès initially struggled to market A Trip to the Moon due

to its unusually high cost for the time. It consisted of 260

metres of film, which was 3x longer than the short clips

being produced by the Lumière brothers and Thomas

Edison. This naturally came with a high production cost

involving intricate set designs, costumes, and the 3

months it took to film. Méliès agreed to lend a copy to a

carnival exhibitor for free to trial it to audiences and it

was met with great applause. The exhibitor immediately

purchased the film, which went on to be a major

international success.

This success was not without problems, as several

producers in the United States – including Thomas

Edison – reproduced the film and sold it as their own.

Méliès responded by expanding his Star Film Company,

establishing an office in New York City. His brother,

Gaston, worked to discourage piracy and the

extortionate profits made at Méliès’ expense.

Méliès had several years of continued success before

fading into obscurity. He struggled with the quickly

evolving methods of film distribution, made poor

financial decisions, and was faced with the onset of

World War I. During the war, Méliès’ film stocks were

occupied by the French military, who melted them down

for silver. Remaining copies were sold cheaply to secondhand

outlets or discarded as his theatre was demolished

in 1923. In the same year, Méliès burned the negatives

for the film out of frustration. This devastating time

caused him to withdraw from film completely.

Journalist Georges-Michel Coissac sparked a revival in

Méliès work towards the late 1920s, as he was finally

recognised for his revolutionary contributions to cinema.

Louis Lumière awarded him the Knight of the Legion of

Honour in 1931 and named him “the creator of

cinematic spectacle”. Incomplete copies started to

emerge around this time, and in 1997 a complete

version was finally reconstructed. In 2011, a full

restoration of a hand-coloured print was completed and

featured in the Martin Scorsese film Hugo (2011). This

centred around the life of Méliès and paid homage to the

remarkable impact that he made at the beginning of

cinematic history.

10 INSIDE HISTORY



THE "BIOGRAPH" GIRL

FLORENCE

LAWRENCE: THE

SILENT STAR

WHO RETURNED

FROM THE DEAD

Words: Beth Wyatt

In February 1910, American newspapers reported on a tragic

event which stunned movie fans. The Canadian actress

Florence Lawrence, a star of the silent film industry, had been

killed in a road accident. Lawrence’s untimely death was a

huge blow to her many followers, who had admired the

actress through her ‘Biograph Girl’ days into the phase of her

career where she became known by her real identity. You can

only imagine their surprise when Lawrence appeared in St

Louis the following month, very alive and well, having

previously read about her own death in a New York

newspaper. The star’s manager, Carl Laemmle, had

orchestrated the ‘accident’ as a publicity stunt and it was a

roaring success from his point of view, helping to cement

Lawrence’s popularity and status as the first motion picture

celebrity. But for the actress herself, these events were not

such a happy occasion.

While it wasn’t a given that Florence Annie Bridgwood, of

Hamilton, Ontario, would shine on the screen, acting was in

her blood. Her mother Charlotte Bridgwood – known by the

stage name Lotta Lawrence – was a talented actress in the

theatre, both manager and star of the Lawrence Dramatic

Company. Florence had early exposure to treading the

boards, engaging in routines with her mother and playing

speaking roles when she was old enough. Her first taste of

motion pictures came in her early twenties, when Florence –

often known as Flo – appeared with her mother in the Edison

Company short Daniel Boone, or Pioneer Days in America

(1907) and Vitagraph’s The Shaughraun, an Irish Romance

(1907). These were to be the beginnings of a career which

would span more than 250 movies, encompassing genres

from romantic comedy, and slapstick comedy, to society

dramas, and literary adaptations. At Vitagraph, Lawrence

began to display her huge talent and versatility. While

definitive proof of many of her roles at the studio has not

survived, as the historian Kelly Brown has noted, she was

quite possibly in productions of Macbeth and Julius Caesar,

and may have played important female roles including

Cleopatra, Salome, and Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and

Juliet.

But it was her work at the American Mutoscope and Biograph

Company from 1908 which would propel Lawrence to fame.

Having accepted a salary of $25 a week – $10 a week more

than her contract at Vitagraph – the actress went on to star in

the majority of the 60 shorts directed by D.W. Griffith in 1908,

and became a familiar face to audiences through the Mr. and

Mrs. Jones comedy shorts from 1909. While there would be

competition at Biograph from other stars including Mary

Pickford – who film critic Helen O’Hara has described as

writing “the rule book on being a movie star,” – Lawrence was

able to enjoy regular work. One of her critically lauded parts

was as Katusha opposite Arthur V. Johnson’s Dimitri in a

production of Leo Tolstoy’s The Resurrection, released on 9

May 1909. As Brown has discussed, a review in Moving

Picture World gave high praise indeed: “[…] And then the

acting of the leading woman and the prince – how fine and

tragic the former is! How excellent the latter! We do not know

the lady’s name, but certainly she seems to us to have a very

fine command of her emotions and to be able to express

12 INSIDE HISTORY


INSIDE HISTORY 13


these emotions before such an unemotional thing as a

camera. A very ordinary person indeed can act before a

crowded house of interested men and women, but it

takes a genius to do so with real feeling on a moving

picture stage.”

In her work, Lawrence was billed as the ‘Biograph Girl’,

following the practice of anonymity whereby stars were

known by the names of the studios they were contracted

to. Florence Turner, who was in the ascendancy at a

similar time to Lawrence, was, for example, the

‘Vitagraph Girl’. After her fans clamoured to know her

real name, Lawrence became the first major star to be

identified, and soon the actress was able to command

twice the usual Biograph salary.

Upon later joining Carl Laemmle’s Independent Motion

Picture Company (IMP), the actress became embroiled in

the infamous publicity stunt, which led her to make

history once again as the subject of the first ever film

publicity tour. Laemmle timed the truth of his own lie

about Lawrence’s death to the release of her latest

project. On 25 March 1910, the star was paraded in St

Louis with another actor, King Baggot. Crowds – who had

been warmed up by Laemmle’s publicity blitz in the local

newspapers – rushed towards Lawrence, in one version

of events pulling at her dress and ripping off its buttons.

The actress was caught up in the crush and was said to

have become disturbed and frightened. This all came

after the bizarre experience of reading about her own

death in a newspaper. In her autobiography Growing Up

with the Movies – serialised in four issues of Photoplay

between November 1914 and February 1915 – Lawrence

described this as “the most astounding adventure of my

life […] half-consciously I glanced at the paper and was

startled to see several likenesses of myself staring me in

the face, topped by a flamboyant headline announcing

my tragic end beneath the wheels of a speeding motor

car. To say that I was stunned would be putting it

mildly”. She added: “I shall never forget that trip to St.

Louis. It simply overwhelmed me.”

After working at IMP for almost a year, making about 50

films, Lawrence collaborated with other studios including

the Victor Company, which she founded with her

husband Harry Solter in 1912, with support from

Laemmle. In another first, the company was one of the

earliest in America to be led by a woman. But Victor

would only last for a few years, and Lawrence’s career

was beginning to stall. Her difficulties were compounded

by ill mental and physical health. This included an on-set

accident during filming for Pawns of Destiny in spring

1914. Solter – who also worked in film, including

directing his wife in multiple productions – tasked her

with a scene in which she carried her male co-star down

a flight of stairs, as part of a narrative where their

characters were affected by a fire. While the nature of

Lawrence’s injuries is unclear, it appears she sustained a

Bioscope actress Florence Lawrence, c. 1908. (Public Domain)

back injury from the stunt. Not long afterwards, the

couple’s volatile marriage fell apart, and they instigated

divorce proceedings in 1916, following a previous split in

1912. Solter would fall ill in the spring of 1920, and

he died after experiencing a severe stroke. Lawrence

remarried twice, to automobile salesman and former

soldier Charles B. Woodring, and the physically abusive

Henry Bolton, who she divorced after a few months of

marriage.

The former star’s attempts to resurrect her career during

the 1920s foundered, with efforts including having

cosmetic surgery on her nose seeming to have little

effect. Lawrence branched out into business, opening

Hollywood Cosmetics with Woodring, and assisting her

mother with her own entrepreneurial ideas. Both sides

attempted to capitalise on Lawrence’s once brightly held

fame, as Brown has discussed. Hollywood Cosmetics’

range included products with the actress’s image on the

cover, and Lotta Lawrence drew on her daughter’s

career in marketing materials for her ventures. But the

business world proved to be as tough to crack as the

movies, and Lawrence was forced to return to vaudeville

shows. In the mid-1930s, she was able to gain some

work in the ‘Talkies’, making $75 dollars a week for small

parts at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Just a few years later, in

late December 1938, Lawrence died. She had taken her

own life at the age of 52. The American media paid little

attention – as the historian Greg Jenner has noted, the

public only cared when Florence Lawrence died the first

time. The actress’s legacy has been one of obscurity,

alleviated to an extent by the efforts of film scholars. But

as the first major film celebrity, star of hundreds of silent

films, and a producer and studio founder in her own

right, she deserves a place in Hollywood history.

14 INSIDE HISTORY


T H E

C A B I N E T

O F

D R . C A L I G A R I

Words: Merryn Walters

Images: Flickr

WikiMedia

Some films make history. Others

predict it. You don’t have to be a fan

of horror films to appreciate the

enduring influence of The Cabinet of

Dr. Caligari. It is dark and it is deep.

Delightfully macabre. Indeed, the

innovative mise-en-scène of this early

silent movie saw the fairer sex

fainting in the aisles when it was first

released in 1919. Today though,

Robert Wiene’s classic is also seen as

a prophetic metaphor for the acts of

the far right in the first half of the

20th century – but don’t drop your

popcorn, let’s start with the plot.

10 INSIDE HISTORY


The film opens with a subtle framing

device – for which the German language

has a most glorious term,

Rahmenerzählun – and we are

introduced to our protagonist, Francis, as

the narrator of events. We then meet

Alan, and the embedded story starts to

unfold as the two friends are shown

visiting the annual travelling fair. They

meet a performing mystic, the

eponymous Dr. Caligari, and Cesare, his

sleepwalking, fortune-telling sidekick – a

somnambulist or somniloquist.

From a trance-like state for a pfennig or

two, Cesare will shuffle forward and

answer the audience’s most pressing

questions about the future. Alan asks:

“How long will I live?”

The unexpected and frankly alarming

response, “Until dawn…” turns out to be

entirely prophetic. This leads to

escalating anxiety for everyone in the

village, and not surprisingly makes

Cesare a prime suspect for Alan’s demise

the next day. Simple but effective. More

murder ensues.

However, is Cesare guilty of these

crimes? Or should we blame evil Dr.

Caligari, controlling the sleepwalker,

intentionally directing the monstrous

acts? The curtain lifts on analogies that

should be clear to all. Still, there’s a lot to

unpack here. This is German

expressionism at its finest.

B E H O L D , T H E D A R K A R T S

In the early 1920s, Germany was

beyond broken and demoralised. Four

years of horror had culminated in

national shame, isolation and

exhaustion, and political and financial

discord were the order of the day for

the new Weimar Republic (Germany’s

government from 1919 to 1933). With

some degree of irony though, the

German film industry wasn’t doing too

badly. A ban on imports of foreign

cinema had been the catalyst for

domestic creativity, leading to an

increase in the output of films. At the

same time, the visual arts had become

both an outlet and a mirror for social

unease during the interwar period,

and the result was a cinematic

interpretation of German

expressionism – a movement that

emerged against a backdrop of

economic hardship, post-traumatic

stress, suppressed identity and

isolation. This was brutal. There was

nothing subtle or gentle about it.

German expressionism emphasized

those darkest, most painful inner

feelings. In both art and film, madness,

insanity and betrayal were common

subjects. The film movement

itself was best characterised by the

aesthetics of expressionism – jagged,

geometric shapes and symbolism that

graphically externalized the inner

psyche. Stage sets and backdrops

brought warped representations of

reality to life through which the actors

moved with exaggerated, tragic pace.

However, this commitment to brutal

artistic direction wasn’t all by choice.

Cinematography may have been

gathering momentum towards its

heyday, but German film-makers

simply could not afford to spend

money on exquisite costumes, or the

elaborate stage sets that had started

appearing in Hollywood.

Rather than film on location, footage

was often shot on a closed set, making

no attempt to obscure the fact a

performance took place on stage.

Classic moments from this film

show Caligari walking slowly towards

the camera, the outline of his cloak in

perfect alignment with staged

doorjambs that give us the impression

of a warped, rhomboid doorway. An

amber tint removes all doubt about the

emotionless intent of the deranged

protagonist (Caligari wasn’t shot in

colour, but the celluloid film was

soaked in green, yellow, and blue dye

with hand-drawn interstitial captions

appearing in a bizarre, ethereal font).

The effect at the time was chilling and

has had a profound impact on art

direction ever since.

Have you ever enjoyed the disturbed

gothic visions of Tim Burton or mused

on Wes Anderson’s eccentricities and

colourful, organised symmetries? Then

you’ve witnessed the next generations

of German expressionism. When it

came to communicating emotions, the

simplicity of this aesthetic was an ideal

medium for connecting with the

audience. A perfect way to reflect the

dark mood of the day.

Psychologically, civilians were living in

the shadow of internecine warfare, the

insanity of conflict that – for many of

the population – had seemed to have

no clear moral or political objective. A

malaise had settled everywhere, and

the subliminal questions about

Caligari’s projected culpability

resonated strongly with the audience.

They did then, they have done ever

since.

A T W A R W I T H C I N E M A

On film, Cesare is the abject

manifestation of a catatonic population

that’s destined to enact the will of an

authoritarian figure. And at this point,

reflective cinema-goers might ask

themselves, “is this art reflecting life, or

life reflecting art?”

In his book, ‘The Great War and

Modern Memory’ the literary historian

Paul Fussell explores the idea that

bloody conflict is such a liminal

experience, it may only be the act

of pretence or fictitious recall that

makes it bearable.

The phrase, ‘theatre of war’ takes on a

whole new meaning. Soldiers cannot

articulate the reasons why they take

part in perverse and cruel acts until

they hypothesise their participation as

an act of submission to others will,

rather than murderous exertions of

their own intent – Caligari and Cesare,

incarnate.

Fussell draws from Freud’s insights:

“We cannot, indeed, imagine our own

death; whenever we try to do so we

find that we survive ourselves as

spectators ,” and then he

continues, ‘it is impossible for a

participant to believe that he is taking

part in such murderous proceedings in

his own character’. It comes as no

surprise to discover that the film’s

scriptwriters, Hans Janowitz and Carl

Mayer, had both suffered traumatic

experiences before and during the war.

Janowitz had seen a murderer escape

from the scene of his crime – a

Hamburg fairground – in 1913. Mayer

had an unhappy childhood and had

16 INSIDE HISTORY


spent time in the care of an army psychiatrist whom he

heartily disliked. Both men empathised with each other’s

views on authority and obedience when they saw a

hypnotised strong man performing huge feats of strength

at a fair; acting out, without control. It’s easy to see how

Caligari and Cesare came to life from both their

imaginations and their first-hand experiences.

Still, while war in the abstract is horrific, and the

manifestation of a fascist figurehead through the medium

of German expressionism is no less abhorrent, it was

somehow … transiently tolerable. This film became an

accessible, remote exposition of the psychological reality

for soldiers, survivors and surrogates of war – first-hand,

they had all experienced conflict as order through chaos,

and culpability as a complex concept. First-hand, everyone

in the audience had already been subject to the effects of

an unassailable, fascist authority on a passive population.

However, there is a twist in the tale. In the final scenes, our

protagonist – the narrator, Francis – is revealed to be a

patient in an asylum, and the director of the asylum –

Caligari – is treating him for hallucinations. Caligari looks to

the camera, the audience draws breath, and the mad

doctor’s final words appear on screen, “Now I also know

how to cure him!” This heinous denouement absolves

Caligari from the responsibility of his work and, at the

same time, continues to manifest him as the authoritarian

figure from whom there is no escape. It’s enough to make

you order more popcorn.

Conrad Veidt – talented actor, acting as a murderous

somnambulist

D R A M A T I C , H O R R I F I C , P R O P H E T I C

There is little wonder, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is revered

as a seminal work for the cinematographic arts. Its

aesthetic alone has influenced countless films. But it is also

seen as a profound, prophetic commentary on the

potential to manipulate people. Indeed, in his book, “From

Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of German Film”,

the sociologist Siegfried Kracauer sees this film as a key

reference for the evolution of the far right: the core

pathology of fascism is a cultural perversion that sees a

population become subservient in the extreme.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was a silent classic. The

audience depended on interstitial captions for

momentum. Let’s give Kracauer the final word: “To

understand today’s society, one must hear the confessions

of the products of its film industries. They are all blabbing a

rude secret, without really wanting to.” Watch this film, see

its hidden meaning. Don’t hide behind the sofa.

Merryn Walters is a writer and military historian. Her work often looks at the

persuasive influence of language in war. Merryn is undertaking an MA at the

University of Wolverhampton and is the Communications Director for the

International Guild of Battlefield Guides.

Learn more about the making of

The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari by

visiting our selection of Film History

books at our online bookshop

INSIDE HISTORY 17


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