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The Forgotten Stars of Silent Film

June 18, 2014 • Deirdre Black

Reading the Atlantic online yesterday, I stumbled across an article on the dismal preservation record for American-made silent films.

In an article entitled The Forgotten Stars of Silent Film, Adrienne LaFrance claims that “Some 70 percent of the movies made in the United States between 1912 and 1929—nearly 8,000 titles—are lost to history.”

In an attempt to flesh out information about the surviving films , a series of screenings will take place over a long weekend next month at the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Virginia. Anyone and everyone is invited to attend and “shout out” details as the films role.

There have been 204 such screenings in the past through which 100 films have been identified. For more information about the films and the silent film survey, visit the American Silent Feature Film Database.

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70th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion

June 2, 2014 • Deirdre Black

This June 6 marks the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, and so the media outlets have been providing lots of footage and reports about it for the last few weeks. It’s hard to believe that so many years have passed since that event and even harder to believe that so few of those who served are still alive to remind us of the trauma.

The recent interviews of WWII veterans are are almost just too much to bear, not least because of the pain and suffering those vets continue to endure. They aren’t able to really say much in the interviews, so that doesn’t account for the effect. It’s really just seeing them try to talk about it and all the visible pain that persists that is so horribly moving. And despite the horrors and victories that came with D-Day, the war, of course, went on and on.

I cannot help but think of my own father as I watch these interviews. He enlisted on his eighteenth birthday and served for nearly four years as a gunner, first on the Q-ship Asterion and then on the USS Atlas, an LST. He rarely spoke of the war. Even when asked direct questions, he would only offer up a phrase or two about the fine men with whom he served.

Incredibly, this year my brother located an actual “secret” US Fleet file for the Atlas written just after the landings at Utah Beach. He found it posted at the USS Atlas page on facebook of all places. Characterized as the “Chronological Narrative of Operations through June 17, 1944,” the document comprises 14 pages of log entries and briefs.  Even without embellishment, it reads “scary”… unknown planes overhead, bombs dropping, communication failures, and big guns being fired without authorization. The following comment made toward the end of the document gives needed context:

AtlasExcerpt

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The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898-1906

May 30, 2014 • Deirdre Black

Recently posted at the Library of Congress website is a collection of rare films of New York City . The collection is called The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898-1906 and contains forty-five films of New York dating from 1898 to 1906. Twenty-five of these films were made by the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company and the remaining twenty by Edison Company productions.

The films are silent and most last no longer than a few minutes.  Regardless, each provides a wonderful glimpse of  New York’s bygone days.  You can see see immigrants landing, people shopping at street markets, and fire brigades on the move. There are buildings being torn down, skyscrapers going up, and men generally working in dangerous situations. There are pirates scuffling with police, newspaper boys brawling over news bundles, and what happened on 23rd Street is simply hilarious (and predates a similar scene with Marilyn Monroe by about 50 years).

Above all, the films provide a richness and authenticity of life as it was lived in that City… from the views and the articles of clothing to the hustle and bustle of activities and horse drawn carts.

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US Census Bureau: Women’s History Month 2014

March 5, 2014 • Deirdre Black

The newsroom at the U.S. Census Bureau has posted a nice little fact sheet for Women’s History Month 2014 at its  Profile America: Facts for Features page.  This resources provides some interesting facts as well as a downloadable pdf version of the page and some graphics.

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Presidential Proclamation for Women’s History Month 2014

March 1, 2014 • Deirdre Black

I realize a monthly formula centered on American people’s histories may be wearing on some. Nevertheless, I’m sticking with it for March, which is Women’s History Month.

I think it is most appropriate to begin the month with  Barack Obama’s Presidential Proclamation for Women’s History Month, 2014.

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