Monday, June 06, 2016

Today -100: June 6, 1916: A silence louder than all the brass bands in Chicago

The delegates to the Republican National Convention are arriving in Chicago, and the main problem is how to deal with the fact that the leading candidate, Charles Evans Hughes, won’t express his opinions on any issues. “Not since the invention of silence, one might say, has there been a silence so tremendously potent, a silence so creative and so destructive. ... It is a silence which shrieks, a silence louder than all the brass bands in Chicago.” Hughes is the only candidate who might unite the party’s factions, but the Progressives really want him to answer a few simple questions first, and this he will not do.

So where is the 1916 anti-Donald Trump? At the graduation ceremony of the National Cathedral School (an Episcopalian girls’ school), giving a mostly typical graduation-ceremony-type speech, except for something about the American flag meaning “undivided allegiance” and “America first.” Which is more significant than it might sound, since German-American objections to Roosevelt and Root have led to concern-trolling calls that candidates like Hughes must reject being German puppets, or something. Anyway, Hughes promised to be at this event months ago – one of the grads is his daughter Catherine.

Coming today to a theater near you: “The Fall of a Nation,” written and directed by the Very Racist Reverend Thomas Dixon Jr, author of the novels that D.W. Griffith adapted as The Birth of a Nation. It’s a sci-fi flick about how pacifists and military unpreparedness cause the US to be invaded and conquered by Germany (unnamed but, according to tomorrow’s NYT review, “a country of incredible efficiency whose commanding officers are given to mustaches strangely like the Kaiser’s”). A band of irregular women fighters ride to the rescue, just like the Ku Klux Klan in Birth of a Nation, presumably. The movie is now lost. It was the first feature-length movie, the NYT says, with a musical score specifically composed for it, by Victor Herbert of “Naughty Marietta” fame. The NYT says the film is “marked by a few points that offend against good taste and several points that outrage the intelligence, but many stretches of the film are finely spectacular and it is full of battlefields and such pictures of avenging cavalry sweeping along moon-lit country roads as the movies always do particularly well.”

Ida Rauh (a lawyer, sculptor and theater-manager and Max Eastman’s wife) is arrested along with Bolton Hall (a lawyer, not a general-assembly building), for distributing birth control pamphlets.

The Supreme Court rules that the 1914 Harrison Act banning possession of opium applies only to dealers, not users of the drug.

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