Birth of a Race (1919)

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More than a year in the making, The Birth of a Race was filmed in Chicago by a cartel of producers who hoped to emulate the success of D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation. Ostensibly a plea for World Peace, the film was timed for release at the end of WWI. After a lengthy "birth of the human race" prologue featuring such historical personages as Adam, Eve, Jesus and Abraham Lincoln, the film jumps ahead to 1914, one week before the outbreak of the war. In the home of the German-American Schmidt family, oldest son Oscar (George LeGuerre) declares his loyalty to the Kaiser, while his younger brother George (John Reinhardt remains faithful to the Red, White and Blue. When America enters the war, George joins up on the side of Uncle Sam, is wounded in battle and is rushed to a field hospital in France. While George convalesces, the hospital is attacked and overtaken by German soldiers, among them his own brother Oscar. To protect the Red Cross nurses from being raped by the marauding Germans, George grabs a gun and opens fire, killing Oscar in the process. George is then invalided home, where he is called upon to rescue his wife Jane from a diabolical German spy. This was a plea for pacifism? Yes, if one interprets the message to be "The only way that we can ensure the Peace of the World is to wipe the German race off the map." Trade-shown in Chicago in December of 1918, Birth of a Race was released on a national basis in April of 1919, when it was steadfastly ignored by the war-weary public.