Tomado de The Motion Picture News, vol. IX, no. 1, p. 26, enero 17, 1914.
Putting a Revolution on the Screen
Harry E. Aitken, Head of Mutual Film Corporation, Forms Partnership with General Pancho Villa, Commanding the Constitutionalist Army in Northern Mexico
Pancho Villa, general in command of the Constitutionalist Army in Northern Mexico, will in future carry on his warfare against President Huerta as a full partner in a motion picture venture with Harry E. Aitken, president of the Mutual Film Corporation.
The business of General Villa will be to provide motion picture thrillers in any way that is consistent with his plans to depose and drive Huerta out of Mexico, and the business of Mr. Aitken, the other partner,’ will be to distribute the resulting films throughout the peaceable sections of Mexico and the United States and Canada.
To make sure that that business venture will be a success Mr. Aitken has already dispatched to General Villa’s camp a squad of four motion picture men with apparatus designed especially to take pictures on battlefields.
Another squad of four men with machines of the latest design last week assembled in San Antonio, Tex., and are now on their way to the front. It is the hope of Mr. Aitken to have motion pictures from the field of Villa’s operations early next week, and to show them to motion picture audiences, following them up with a fresh supply every week until Huerta falls.
To supply the motion picture operators the whole field of talent in this country was combed over and men were chosen who for the most part have been under fire before. The leader of the motion picture battery at the front is an Italian who has bullets in his body received in the Balkan War while operating a motion picture machine for a European company.
The story of Mr. Aitken’s partnership with General Villa leaked out a little ahead of time, and the head of the Mutual Film was somewhat surprised to receive a telephone call in the early morning hours at his home, 130 West Fifty-seventh street, New York City, from one of the New York dailies. Mr. Aitken, while confirming the report, said that his own publicity force had not yet been informed of their chief’s new connection, and that he was not quite ready for the news to get out yet. Nevertheless, he admitted that his partnership with General Villa was an established fact.
“It is true that I am a partner of General Villa,” he said. “But it’s a brand new proposition and it has been worrying me somewhat since the arrangements were finally concluded. How would you feel to be a partner of a man engaged in killing people, and do you suspect that the fact that motion picture machines are in range to immortalize an act of daring or of cruel brutality will have any effect on the warfare itself? I have been thinking of a lot of things since I made this contract.
“It was only completed last Saturday, and I received the message from my agents on the ground on Tuesday morning. It is quite a responsibility, and I see it in a different light now than I did before.
“How did I do it? Well, we decided to go in to cover this war for the motion pictures quite a few weeks ago. I sent an agent to Villa’s camp. He lived with Villa in his headquarters for some weeks making negotiations.
Special War Cameras
“Meanwhile there was the question of the cameras. We wanted a camera that would stand up and take pictures of a battlefield and yet operate in such a way that the man with it could keep under cover while the machine was exposed.
“Such a camera was designed, and ten of them were ordered. We next had to consider the question of men. We wanted daring men, of course, and also men who would know how to take care of themselves in military operations. We didn’t want greenhorns in army matters, who would welch out at the first experience under fire.
“We have ten men in our squad at the front, two of them operating cameras to take pictures where the motion picture cameras will not be practicable. We are holding another man here ready to go at a moment’s notice to any point where there may be a chance to catch some good maneuver.
“I expect myself to go to the border in a week or two to look things over and see that our men are fixed up all right. The final negotiations were carried out in Juarez last Saturday, when General Villa was visiting there.
An Unpleasant Possibility
“The first squad of men that went forward left our offices at San Antonio, Dallas and El Paso. What worries me most is the chance that General Villa may want to send films to some part of his army—a privilege he has—and that he may wish to show on the films some horror that will strike terror into the hearts of his men. It isn’t pleasant to contemplate the possibilities of such a situation.”
The motion picture operators, it was explained, were all provided with letters from the proper authorities in Washington, so that their status as American citizens and non-combatants will In- maintained. One part of the contract is that General Villa must not allow any other motion picture men except those of the company in which he is interested on the field during his battles.