SourceLab (An Idea)

Post Script: What About that Movie? Where Did it Come From?

We've created a prototype edition of this film, which we're testing in classrooms here at Illinois. Please have a look: we'd love any thoughts or reactions you may have, as we are still designing our editions, and the purpose of this prototype is to see what people think.

In brief, however, here's what we were able to discover about the clip:

When he published this clip on YouTube, user Gilbert Kantin identified a Smithsonian Magazine article from 2010, "The Faces of War," as its source.  This article–which describes the development of plastic surgery more generally after the war–provides the clip as an illustration.  It says the action takes place in a studio run by an American Sculptor named Anna Coleman Ladd.  But it does not add much more about the film itself, as source.

By contacting the magazine, two University of Illinois students (Amanda Marcotte '15 and Alex Villanueva '17) were able to learn the following.

“Red Cross Work on Mutilés at Paris, 1918,” as the film is formally known, was shot by a special movie division of the Red Cross.  As part of its efforts to mitigate the horror of war–and to present Allied governments as doing something about it–the Red Cross apparently produced scores of such films.  They were shown widely in movie-houses, as shorts preceding the main feature.  Only a few of these films survive today, however.

This particular footage is now preserved by the Otis Historical Archives of the National Museum of Health and Medicine, in Silver Spring, MD.  It indeed shows work in a studio run by Coleman Ladd (who features in the film).  The Red Cross sponsored the studio, explaining why the organization took pains to document its work.

Comparing a digital copy of the original footage, sent to us by the Otis Historical Archives, with the YouTube version provided by Gilbert Kantin, we have been able to confirm that they are identical, and the latter is a full copy.  That said, we have also, with the permission of the Otis Historical Archives, placed a copy in the public, fair-use archive, Critical Commons.  That copy is the one presented in our prototype edition.


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