Patria (1916)

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Personally financed by newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst, the 15-episode serial Patria was an extension of Hearst's long-running campaign against what he called "the Yellow Peril." The plot line suggested that the recent Mexican Civil War was fomented by an unholy alliance between the Mexican and Japanese governments, for the express purpose of conquering the United States on behalf of Japan. The villains were thwarted at every turn by heroine Elaine Channing, aka Patria, played by dancing star Irene Castle (here billed as Mrs. Vernon Castle). Despite its melodramatic excesses, the film never passed up an opportunity to showcase Castle's terpsichorean skills; nor did it shirk in displaying the actress' remarkable athletic prowess -- notably in an early scene in which, though tightly bound to a chair, the heroine nonetheless manages to defuse a sputtering bomb. Milton Sills co-starred as Patria's sweetheart, a secret service agent, while the villainy was in the capable hands of Warner Oland. Upon seeing the first few chapters of Patria, President Woodrow Wilson was so upset by its rabid anti-Japanese sentiments that he personally asked William Randolph Hearst to "modify" the film; as a result, all overt references to Mexico and Japan were removed from the picture, though audiences familiar with the jingoistic Hearst philosophy had no trouble reading between the lines.