The Ordeal (1914)

Genres - Drama, War  |   Sub-Genres - Propaganda Film, War Drama  |  
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This stiff-upper-lip 5-reel drama was inspired by The Ballad of Splendid Silence, a poem by E. Nesbitt. Set during the Franco-Prussian War, the story concentrates on Jean (Harry Springler), a patriotic French soldier who dreams that he has been captured by the Prussian high command. A sadistic general (William H. Tooker), who looks just like Kaiser Wilhelm, brutally interrogates the Frenchman, who steadfastly refuses to give away the location of his regiment. Finally, the General orders that the hero's entire family be shot, yet still the Frenchman refuses to talk. Only by being awakened from his nightmare is Jean able to "save" his family, though there is every indication that he would be willing to sacrifice everything he holds near and dear should he ever be captured for real or, in the words of the original poem, "His country [stands] before his loved ones." Produced during the early months of WWI, The Ordeal was so blatantly anti-German that it was ordered removed from circulation for violating President Woodrow Wilson's neutrality proclamation. The case actually went to court in 1915, with a German-American pressure group arguing strenuously that the film was "an unfair characterization and a misrepresentation of the German army." Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, by the time the case was heard before a judge, the Lusitania had already been sunk by a German U-boat. The Supreme Court issued an injunction against the people who brought about the suit against the film, insisting that they were attempting to suppress the producers' freedom of speech. (The decision was ironic, considering how the basic civil rights of German-Americans would be repeatedly violated once America entered the war).

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Keywords

war, awakening, dream, family, firing-squad, France, General, Germany, nightmare, slaughter