The War Extra (1914)

De esta cinta, Emilio García Riera menciona en el volumen I de México visto por el cine extranjero que:

Otros norteamericanos viajaron a México para filmar en junio de 1914 The War Extra, cinta de cuatro rollos sobre las aventuras de un periodista (del diario The Herald) en la revolución. Para esa película, su productor Herbert Blaché aprovechó el trabajo de un camarógrafo que había filmado 2,700 pies de batallas mexicanas, según The Moving Picture World del 4 de julio de 1914 (citado por Margarita de Orellana). La cinta incluía escenas de la batalla de Monclova y de buques norteamericanos de guerra en camino a Veracruz. (pp. 69-70)

Por su parte, Orellana en su multicitada obra La mirada circular nos ofrece una sinopsis de la cinta tomando la información de The Moving Picture World del 22 de agosto de 1914:

El editor del periódico The Herald está desesperado porque no recibe noticias de México. Fred Newton, un ambicioso reportero, le pide que lo envíe a cubrir esa fuente. Sube a bordo del barco Key West y en la travesía encuentra a la flota que se dirige a Veracruz. Se comunica por telégrafo con uno de los buques de guerra y así envía su primera noticia. Atraviesa la frontera en Eagle Pass, Texas, y llega al centro de las actividades de los constitucionalistas en Monclova, donde construye una barraca y conecta su telégrafo a la línea más cercana. Dolores, la hija adoptiva de un comerciante, le lleva alimentos y es salvada por Fred de unos villanos que la raptan. Sin autorización para acompañar al ejército, Fred presencia la batalla de Monclova con unos binoculares y da la noticia antes que nadie a su periódico. En las oficinas de The Herald toda la maquinaria de impresión está funcionando. Se está asegurando el futuro de Fred como reportero. Sin embargo, Fred es tomado por espía y atacado por federales. Lo salva Dolores que llega con unos vaqueros reclutados en la frontera. Ella se va con Fred a Nueva York, donde les dan una gran bienvenida. (p. 199)

The Moving Picture World del 22 de agosto de 1914 (Vol. XXI, No. 8, pp. 1160-1161)
During the staging of “THE WAR EXTRA,” the BLACHÉ players suddenly found themselves in the midst of the bloody battle of Monclova. Cameraman Charles Pin succeeded in photographing the terrible onslaught of the Constitutionalist army upon the doomed city, the smoking ruins of which are also seen in this remarkable photodrama. Following the battle, the BLACHÉ Actors were placed in a special train by General Francisco Murguia and sent under heavy guard to the United States Border Post at Eagle Pass, Texas. The Moving Picture World del 22 de agosto de 1914 (Vol. XXI, No. 8, pp. 1160-1161)

La revista The Moving Picture World del 22 de agosto de 1914 (Vol. XXI, No. 8, p. 1110) nos ofrece datos sobre la filmación:

THE WAR EXTRA (Blaché)

Actual scenes of the bloody battle of Monclova. Combined with a strong story of love and adventure, staged in the very atmosphere of war which it demanded, places the four part drama, “The War Extra,” produced by Blaché Features, in a class by itself.

In order to stage this remarkable drama in the most effective manner it was necessary to send a company of Blaché players to Eagle Pass, Texas, and thence across the border into the middle of the Mexican war zone. During their stay in Monclova the great battle which left that city a mass of smouldering ruins took place around them and was made a part of the photodrama.

The leading character of the story is a war correspondent sent by “The Herald” to get “war news,” and to get it at any cost. The battle of Monclova gives him his great opportunity, and in spite of the fact that he is attacked by Mexican outlaws as a spy and finally driven to the United States border, where he is rescued in the nick of time by a large band of cowboys and the U. S. Border Patrol, he succeeds in wiring his great news to the paper and scoring a “scoop” which gives him both fame and fortune.

Intimate and interesting scenes connected with the publishing of a war extra by a great American newspaper, follow the arrival of the war correspondent’s account of the great battle in New York. Every department of the paper is immediately set in motion and the excitement is intense from the time the first news of the battle reaches the editorial rooms until the “extras” are sent broadcast throughout the country.

En el mismo número de The Moving Picture World del 22 de agosto de 1914 (Vol. XXI, No. 8, p. 1152) se publicó un extenso comentario sobre la película:

THE WAR EXTRA (Four Reels—August)

Twenty minutes before press time the Herald has received no news from the front in Mexico, where the interest of the nation is centered, and the editor is desperate. He listens to the pleading of the ambitious cub reporter, Fred Newton, and orders him to Mexico, with instructions to send back real news, regardless of the censors.

Accompanied by a telegraph operator assistant, Fred boards a steamer for Key West. He is fortunate enough to pass a battleship and transports bound for Vera Cruz, and communicating with them by wireless he gets some live news for his paper before he has reached the Mexican border. Flushed with success he pushes into Mexico by way of Eagle Pass, Texas, and succeeds in reaching the center of the Constitutionalist activities at Monclova where he builds a shack and runs a wire of his own to the nearest telegraph line.

The Moving Picture World del 22 de agosto de 1914 (Vol. XXI, No. 8, p. 1110)
The Moving Picture World del 22 de agosto de 1914 (Vol. XXI, No. 8, p. 1110)

While delivering supplies to the shack, Dolores, the adopted daughter of a Mexican storekeeper, is set upon by outlaws and her rescue by Fred makes her his devoted friend, but also causes him to be hated by the men he opposed. Prevented from accompanying the main body of the army, Fred and his telegrapher go on a scouting trip. They hear firing and, climbing a tree, witness the great battle of Monclova through field glasses. When the defeat of the Federals by the Constitutionalists is assured, they ride back to the shack and wire the important news direct to their paper.

At the Herald office all of the machinery of the issuing of a great daily paper is set in motion as the news of the battle is received from Fred. The story is edited at the copy desk, set up by linotypes, made up in the forms, and stereotyped and placed on the presses. As the papers are distributed and the bulletin boards announce the scoop of the “young reporter on the firing line,” Fred’s future as a newspaper man is assured.

But, as the dispatch is being received and published in New York, the outlaws, reinforced by Mexican irregular troops who have been told that the Americans are spies, attack the shack which is vigorously defended. Dolores attempts to stop the bandits and, failing, rides to the border to summon assistance. She enlists the aid of a large band of cowboys who arrive at the shack in time to engage the bandits in a fierce battle and rescue the now wounded Fred and his companion and make a dash for safety over the American line. A wild chase, in which many shots are exchanged, is about to end disastrously for the Americans just as they begin to cross the Rio Grande to United States soil, but the American regulars appear upon the scene and fire a volley across the river which sweeps a score of Mexicans from their horses and drives the rest to cover.

As Dolores dare not return, Fred persuades her to accompany him to New York and an enthusiastic welcome by his newspaper friends is quickly followed by his marriage to the beautiful little maiden, who is received with open arms by his mother and sister.

Blaché Features War photographers to Mexico
Publicidad para la cinta The War Extra

Por su parte, Motography del 29 de agosto de 1914 (Vol. XII, No. 9, p. 322) nos da un listado de los lugares de filmación:

Herbert Blaché of Blaché Features, Inc., has announced a four-reel picture entitled “The War Extra” which contains scenes taken at Fort Lee, N. J., Herald Square, The Mallory Line Steamship Docks and The Statue of Liberty in New York, Key West, Florida, Galveston, El Paso and Eagle Pass, Texas and Piedras Negras and Monclova, Coahuila, Mexico.

Y para el número correspondiente al 24 de octubre de 1914 (Vol. XII, No. 17, p. 556), Motography desliza el siguiente dato:

In a four-reel drama entitled “The War Extra,” Blaché gives a peep behind the scenes of a newspaper.

Margarita de Orellana también nos da algunos datos para la ficha filmográfica:

Productor: Blaché Features. Director: Harry Schenck. Intérpretes: Vinnie Burns, Kenneth D. Harlan y Edgar de Pauw.

Solax Feature Co. filma en México (1914)

Este periplo de la Solax Feature Co. fue con el afán de filmar la cinta The War Extra. The Moving Picture World del 6 de junio de 1914 (Vol. XX, No. 10, p. 1389) comienza con la información del viaje:

BLACHÉ SENDS COMPANY TO MEXICAN BORDER.

Under the experienced eye of Harry Schenck, former trumpeter of Troop D, Third Cavalry: vaudeville star, motion picture actor, director and born adventurer, Herbert Blaché has forwarded a large company including Vinnie Burns, Kenneth D. Harlan and Edgar De Pauw to Fort Clark, Texas, one of the important Mexican border posts.

Director Schenck, who is armed with the scenario of a well-known war correspondent novel, the title of which is being jealously guarded at present writing, will be very much at home in the territory where the scenes of the picture are laid as he spent two years at Fort Clark.

Mr. Blaché has formed a valuable connection with a cameraman now in Mexico City, who has forwarded 2700 feet of interesting war scenes to the Fort Lee studio and claims to have several hundred feet more ready for immediate shipment. This is for use in the war feature, which will also include special scenes staged at Fort Clark in which between eight and nine thousand United States soldiers will appear.

Blaché Features War photographers to Mexico
Publicidad de la Blaché Features

The Moving Picture World del 4 de julio de 1914 (Vol. XXI, No. 1, p. 80):

Mexican War in Solax Features.

Manager Joseph Shear, of Solax and Blaché Features, has returned from Mexico with Director Harry Schenck and a large company of Solax players, including Miss Vinnie Burns. Miss Burns proudly exhibits a bullet which ploughed up the ground within three feet of her, passing between her horse and the horse of Mr. Schenck, who rode beside her.

The company entered Mexico by way of Eagle Pass, Texas, and made their way under a strong guard furnished by General Francisco Murguía of Villa’s army to Monclova. They not only succeeded in getting motion pictures of the battle of Monclova, but also several hundred feet of film showing the departure of trains loaded with the troops bound for Mexico City where the decisive battle of the war is in preparation. The stories they tell of the terrible sights they were compelled to witness easily explains the fact that no other motion picture company has ventured into the same locality.

The company’s departure from Monclova was hastened by the punishment of two soldiers who were severely beaten for insulting the Americans. The insults were hurled at Director Schenck, whose inability to understand Spanish kept him in blissful ignorance of the affair until he was invited to witness the flogging of the culprits with the flat of a sword.

The news of this incident caused such bitter feeling that the company was placed upon a special train and escorted across the border into Texas. Several days were then spent in making scenes in which Mexican and American cowboys posed in battle scenes staged especially for the benefit of the camera. Two of the Mexicans became enraged because the story called for their capture by the Americans and fired their guns into the faces of their opponents. The guns were only loaded with blank cartridges, but the affair started a fight which took the combined diplomatic’ services of Manager Shear and Director Schenck to settle.

The Moving Picture World del  (Vol. XXI, No. , p. 80)
The Moving Picture World del 4 de julio de 1914 (Vol. XXI, No. , p. 80)

Miss Vinnie Burns is the only member of the company who is anxious to return to the land of strife. She brought back to the Fort Lee studios a little Mexican dog which bears the name of Jesus Carranza and says that as soon as she can have a rubber stamp made she is going to return to Mexico with a pad and a pen and make a million dollars in Mexican money. As a proof of the value of her scheme, she has a choice collection of Mexican legal tender (Constitutionalist) which any school girl ought to be able to make with the aid of a twenty-five cent rubber stamp. But as the million dollars “Mex” is only worth about two dollars and thirty-two cents (Broadway), making Mexican money is not as attractive as it might seem to the casual observer.

The Moving Picture World del 18 de julio de 1914 (Vol. XXI, No. 3, p. 453) continúa las noticias del viaje:

Kenneth D. Harlan, who accompanied Harry Schenck, Charley Pin and Vinnie Burns into the heart of Mexico, playing the part of the cub reporter who witnessed the Battle of Monclova, has made arrangements with Madame Alice Blaché whereby he will be seen in coming Solax releases. Dan Barker, the well-known comedian is also appearing before the camera under Madame Blaché’s direction.

Picture Stories Magazine de octubre de 1914 (Vol. III, No. 14, p. 80) repite la información de The Moving Picture World:

The Moving Picture World del (Vol. XXI, No. , p. 80)
The Moving Picture World del 4 de julio de 1914 (Vol. XXI, No. 1, p. 80)

Manager Joseph Shear, of Solax and Blaché Features, has returned from Mexico with Director Harry Schenck, and a large company of Solax players, including Miss Vinnie Burns. Miss Burns proudly exhibits a bullet which ploughed up the ground within three feet of her, passing between her horse and the horse of Mr. Schenck, who rode beside her.

The company entered Mexico by way of Eagle Pass, Texas, and made their way under a strong guard furnished by General Francisco Murguía, of Villa’s army to Monclova. They not only succeeded in getting motion pictures of the Battle of Monclova, but also several hundred feet of film showing the departure of trains loaded with troops bound for Mexico City, where the decisive battle of the war is in preparation. The stories they tell of the terrible sights they were compelled to witness easily explains the fact that no other motion picture company has ventured into the same locality.

Across the Mexican Line (1911)

Esta película reviste cierta importancia que trasciende su mera exhibición, pues fue filmada por una de las primeras féminas detrás de cámaras: Alice Guy Blaché para la Solax Company. La primera noticia sobre el film se publica en Moving Picture News del 8 de abril de 1911 (p. 20):

Solax Military Releases

We notice with a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction the announcement of the Solax Company regarding their Friday release.

Beginning April 28th they will start to release their regular Friday military pictures, the first subject of which is entitled Across the Mexican Line. This wide-awake company seem always to be on the alert for an idea that is novel, new and of topical interest. Now what could be more acceptable to the exchangeman and exhibitor than these military pictures dealing with a controversy of current and national importance.

Topics that are before the general public always prove to be big money-getter for the exhibitor, and this is the sole aim of the Solax Company–to turn out pictures that will redound the profit of their patrons, the exchangeman and exhibitor in greatest measure.

Quite aside from the merely entertaining purposes of these pictures they have the added virtue of being of exceptional educational value as many of the productions will be taken at places of historical interest.

This enterprising company will deserve the support and co-operation of all those who are in favor of raising the standard of the picture and making it a medium of not only wholesome entertainment but practical and useful instruction.

Moving Picture News de abril 15 de 1911 (100yearoldmovies.wordpress.com)

The Moving Picture World publicó una brevísima sinopsis y una reseña. La primera en el número del 13 de mayo de 1911 (Vol. VIII, No. 19, p. 1083):

“Across the Mexican Line” (Solax).—This story is based upon the imbroglio in Mexico. It details a love story, coupled with the thrilling adventures of a woman spy. Apparently the Mexican general did not get the information he wanted, and the prisoner was recaptured by the American troops. The climbing of a telegraph pole and sending a message from its top is a novel stunt which pleased the audience. The situations are also interesting.

La reseña, bastante breve también, aparece el 27 de mayo (Vol. VIII, No. 21, p. 1201):

“Across the Mexican Line” (Solax, April 28,).—This film is mentioned again to emphasize the assertion heretofore made that it is sometimes difficult to tell how a picture will take with a different audience. For example, this picture was seen first in New York. It made scarcely a ripple. It was seen again in a crowded house in a small town and was greeted with wild applause. Almost every move the lieutenant made when de Castro surprised him was applauded, while the Mexican was hissed. The girl at work on the telegraph pole sending the message to the American headquarters was almost continuously applauded, and the plunging ride of the American troopers brought forth round after round, closing with an outburst of several minutes when they arrive, stop the execution and capture the Mexicans.

The American loves a contest, and if his side wins he is all the more enthusiastic. The illustration of that spirit in this picture pleases the audience in the average theater beyond calculation. There is life, action, but above all that illustration of contrast, the winning of a fight and the exemplification of fair play. Apparently managers will have no difficulty in pleasing their audiences with this picture.

Motography de abril de 1991 (Vol. VI, No. 6, p. 297)
Motography de abril de 1911 (Vol. VI, No. 6, p. 297)

De acuerdo a Alison McMahan en su biografía de Alice Guy Blaché, Across the Mexican fue dirigido por esta última. De ser cierto, sería la primera mujer en haber dirigido una película en el país. La dirección de un film bélico y con una historia de amor interracial resultan una combinación explosiva para el público norteamericano. No sabemos quién se enamora de quién: un gringo de una mexicana o un mexicano de una güerita.

Alice Guy Blaché: Lost Visionary of the Cinema menciona varios datos interesantes sobre la filmación de la cinta y la compañía productora:

Guy directed the first films at Solax by herself, but soon hired other directors to work under her supervision. One of them was Mr. Wilbert Melville who was described by The Moving Picture News as the “managing director” of the Solax Company. Melville was credited with the idea of having a regular release of military pictures (which began with Across the Mexican Line on April 28th, though this particular film was probably directed by Guy, as it had been announced before the military series was announced), and he also wrote and directed “practically all of them.” (p. 110)

The Moving Picture World, Vol. XII, No. 11, p. 1008
The Moving Picture World (Vol. XII, No. 11, p. 1008)

La autora nos sigue relatando sobre la cinta y nos informa de la existencia de una copia en Gran Bretaña de esta cinta:

Female Mexican characters were more likely to be fetishized though they were usually played by Anglo actresses, as was the Mexican woman in the first of the Solax military pictures, Across the Mexican Line, (Solax, 1911).

“The situation” referred to is an interracial romance (the Solax film still exists at the NFTVA [National Film and Television Archive de Gran Bretaña], but it is unclear if it can be preserved). Some film companies went to Mexico and shot films using the Mexican war as a backdrop; Solax sent a director, cast and crew to New Mexico to shoot several films and commissioned a cameraman in Mexico to provide them with footage of the revolution. From the Admittedly scarce remaining evidence, this did not seem to have changed the way Mexicans were represented. (pp. 137-138)

Exhibirán ¡Que viva México! en su formato original

Nota de Verónica Díaz publicada en Milenio diario el 22 de octubre de 2013:

La Filmoteca de la UNAM proyectará el material que el cineasta ruso recogió para homenajear a nuestro país

Fotograma de ¡Qué viva México! de Eisenstein
Fotograma de ¡Qué viva México! de Eisenstein

Por primera vez en el país, los materiales fílmicos de ¡Qué viva México!,  tal como los captó Serguéi Eisenstein y en su formato  original de 35 mm, serán proyectados 25, 26 y 27 de octubre en el Centro Cultural Universitario. Sólo ha habido una proyección previa, en la década de los años 60, a cargo de la Cinemateca Mexicana del INAH, pero en 16 mm.

Con estas proyecciones la Filmoteca de la UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) se une a la celebración del 27 de octubre, Día Mundial del Patrimonio Audiovisual, creado por la Conferencia General de la Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Educación, la Ciencia y la Cultura (Unesco) en 2005, para crear conciencia sobre la necesidad de preservar documentos audiovisuales, como películas, programas de radio y televisión, grabaciones de audio y video, que —indica un documento en línea de la organización— contienen los registros primarios de los siglos XX y XXI.

Para Francisco Gaytán, subdirector de rescate y restauración de la Filmoteca de la UNAM, esta no es una celebración menor, se trata de un tema a cuya reflexión nuestro país ha llegado tarde, con la consecuencia de haber perdido ya una cantidad importante de sus materiales, al menos fílmicos.

“El Estado mexicano ha fallado en lo relativo a los documentos audiovisuales, muy tarde hizo la Cineteca Nacional, la Fonoteca Nacional, y esas tardanzas han significado que se vayan esfumando muchos materiales valiosos, que se pierdan.

“No ha tenido la visión a largo plazo ni la perspectiva para saber cuáles documentos audiovisuales debieran estar dentro de su esfera de responsabilidad para rescatarlos y conservarlos, por el simple hecho de que el propio Estado mexicano ha pagado por la hechura de muchos de esos documentos, por ejemplo para los documentales que ha encargado con el objeto de difundir su obra de infraestructura.”

Gaytán revela que desde hace una década ha trabajado junto con Ángeles Sánchez, de la Cineteca Nacional, un inventario de toda la filmografía nacional. El panorama de lo que se ha filmado y lo que existe actualmente revela que de al menos 24% no se tiene conocimiento de dónde está. Aunque ello no signifique que esté perdido, lo más probable es que sí.

Foto: redalyc.uaemex.mx
Foto: redalyc.uaemex.mx

Difundir para festejar

Precisamente dentro de este marco se ha programado la proyección de ¡Qué viva México!, un material que después del MOMA (Museo de Arte Moderno de Nueva York) en donde lo depositó Upton Sinclair, llegó a la Filmoteca de la UNAM en la década de los 80 a través de un convenio de la Filmoteca Española.

“Esta es una compilación que hizo el cineasta estadunidense e historiador de cine soviético Jay Leyda, quien conoció a Eisenstein y colaboró con él en la filmación de la también inconclusa cinta El prado de Bezhin de 1936”, señala Gaytán.

El material tiene como antecedente que después de haber llegado en 1930 a México Serguéi Eisenstein contó con la amistad y consejo de Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo, Gabriel Fernández Ledezma, Arcady Boytler, Fito Best y otros más, todos personajes de la cultura mexicana que le informaron y transmitieron ideas para el filme; con estos elementos y con gran entusiasmo, los tres cineastas se lanzaron a rodar lo que ya Eisenstein había concebido que serían cinco historias: Prólogo, Sandunga, Maguey, Fiesta, Soldadera, y un Epílogo.

“Cuando ya habían rodado por más de un año en 35 mm —relata Fernando Gaytán—, todo se vino abajo cuando Sinclair, furioso por los retrasos y el gasto que había rebasado el presupuesto, dio por terminado el contrato e hizo regresar a Estados Unidos todos los rollos de negativo; Eisenstein retornó a la Unión Soviética y jamás pudo editar el filme; Sinclair permitió posteriormente que se editaran varios cortos como Thunder over México por Sol Lesser.”

Mary Seaton, biógrafa de Einsenstein, editó Time in the sun, ninguno de estos filmes los vio el autor. Sin duda esta es la más importante de las películas nunca terminadas de que está llena la historia del cine mundial.

Números del filme:

  • 4 Episodios de la cinta: Sandunga, Maguey, Fiesta y Soldadera.
  • 21, 713 pies, material del filme.
  • 4 horas de material editado por Jay Leyda.
  • 1932, año de rodaje de la película.
  • 1960, primera proyección en México en 16mm.

** Las proyecciones se realizarán en la sala Carlos Monsiváis del Centro Cultural Universitario, a las 12:00; la entrada es libre.

Aurelio de los Reyes platica con Cristina Pacheco

El pasado 18 de octubre, Cristina Pacheco invitó a Aurelio de los Reyes a su programa del canal 11 del Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Conversando con Cristina Pacheco para platicar de la exhibición de cintas mexicanas en Le Giornate del Cinema Muto 2013 de Pordenone que recién terminó, donde el investigador obtuvo el Premio Jean Mitry.