November 28, 2014
Rimusicazioni Film Festival 2014: Breath of the Nation – Schaecht’rock
The Breath of a Nation (1919)
Production Company: International Films Service Co. (Educational Films Corp., distributor). Producer/Director: Gregory La Cava. Writer: Unknown; based on newspaper cartoon characters created by Thomas A. Dorgan. Animators: Grim Natwick (and Gregory La Cava?). Transfer Note: Copied at 22 frames per second from a 35mm tinted print preserved by George Eastman House. Running Time: 6 minutes.
The title of this 1919 cartoon puns on the historical epic of four years previous, The Birth of a Nation. But its subject is tied precisely to its year and, indeed, to its release on June 29. Lobbying by the Anti-Saloon League had brought congressional enactment of an ostensibly temporary “wartime” national prohibition law, which came into effect on July 1, 1919. Hence the cartoon opens with flipping calendar pages: “June 30” with its drawing of a beer stein and “July 1” with its raspberry float. With the Eighteenth Amendment coming into force in January 1920, the prohibition era was effectively under way.