D.W. Griffith    "If all the people of today were really educated and knew the history of the world since the beginning of time, there would be no war, there would be no capital punishment--there would be much less evil from America's favorite sins of hate, hypocrisy and intolerance."
—D.W. Griffith in his 1916 pamphlet, The Rise and Fall of Free Speech in America.

    In a 1922 interview in the Socialist paper, The New York Call, D.W. Griffith stated his ambition to make a historical film that attributed war to a few leaders who, for their own glory, arouse the masses to "a false fervor in which they do not think for themselves. 
"The people are influenced by the picture of men going into war with bands playing and flags flying. The glory of war! Ask some of our boys who were over there about the glory of war! Glory to hell! There is no glory in war. Every war has meant a great loss, paid by the masses. When the masses can be made to understand this, talk of glory will fall on deaf ears."

    "The women of the world somehow should stage an immediate sitdown strike directed to prevent this threatening war. They should walk out of offices, factories, stores and homes and refuse to take part in any activity until their men themselves refuse to fight."
—Mary Pickford in a 1938 speech on the eve of World War II.

From the 1920s columns of Will Rogers:

    "When you get into trouble five thousand miles from home you've got to have been looking for it."

    "America has a great habit of always talking about protecting American interests in some foreign country.Protect 'em here at home! There is more American interests right here than anywhere."

    "Our slogan will be now:  Have your civil wars wherever and as far away as you want, but on the opening day we will be there."

    "We've started to pay some attention to our neighbors on the South.  Up to now our calling card to Mexico or Central America has been a gunboat or a bunch of violets shaped like Marines. We couldn't understand why Mexico wasn't just crazy about us; for we always had their goodwill, and oil and coffee and minerals at heart."

    "We will stop these Chinese from fighting themselves if we have to kill them to do it."

    "Take the sugar out of Cuba and we would no more be interested in their troubles than we would a revolution among the Zulus."

    "Speeches is what starts the next war. It's not armament, it's oratory that's wrong with this country."

    "You can't pick up a paper without seeing where the Marines were landed to keep some nation from shooting each other, and if necessary, we shoot them to keep them from shooting each other."

    "The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer-that's what we better regulate instead of Nicaragua, Tacna-Arica, Mexico and China."

    "Us and England are going to get a kick in the pants some day, if we don't come home and start tending to our own business and let other people live as they want to."

    "Well, I guess I am all wet as usual, but a headline like this don't particularly add to my patriotism: 'Cuba picks new president as battleship Mississippi steams into port." Any more than the following would: "United States of America having internal trouble, and His Majesty King George has dispatched his dreadnaughts to stand by in New York harbor to protect British investments in America, and to see that the right man is elected.'  But that couldn't happen for they are both big nations, and it would mean war. The whole thing as I see it all over the world today, is that the little nation has got no business being little."

    "War claims its bitter, useless sacrifice."
—Title commenting on battlefield deaths in D.W. Griffith's THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915).

    "While the women and children weep a great conqueror marches to the sea."
—Title describing Sherman's campaign in THE BIRTH OF A NATION.

    "War, the breeder of hate."
—Title in THE BIRTH OF A NATION characterizing the embittered reaction of Flora Cameron (Mae Marsh) to the news of the death of her brother in battle resisting the Yankee invaders. This hostility will fuel the conflicts in the Reconstruction era South depicted in the controversial second half of the film.

    "The blight of war does not end when hostilities cease."
—Title at the beginning of Part II of THE BIRTH OF A NATION heralding the post-war turmoil in the South engendered by defeat and military occupation.

    "Can we call ourselves civilized when we shut our eyes against the command of the Prince of Peace, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself'?  Picture his agonized soul as he views the mangled bodies of thousands that strew the battlefield of desolate homes and ruined lives.  If only those who profess to follow Him would practice what they preach, we would at last see the rising dawn of Civilization."
—From the foreword to Thomas H. Ince's CIVILIZATION (1916).

    "War-why should this be?"
—Questions asked by villagers as they read about the oncoming war in CIVILIZATION.

    "And Cyrus repeats the world-old prayer to kill, kill, kill. And to God be the glory, forever and ever, Amen."
Title characterizing the Persian monarch's preparations for battle with the forces of Babylon (modem Iraq) in D.W. Griffith's INTOLERANCE (1916).

    "Cyrus moves upon Babylon; in his hand the sword of war, most potent weapon forged in the flames of intolerance."
—Title in D. W. Griffith's INTOLERANCE describing the invading Persian superpower's advance towards the capital of ancient Iraq.

    "And perfect love shall bring peace forevermore."
—Title in INTOLERANCE prophesying a future millennium.
 

Mabel Normand    In November of 1916, with the First World War raging in Europe now threatening toengulf the United States (as it finally did in 1917), Mabel Normand, the queen ofsilent comedy, sought to promote peace through her idea for a national environmental movement involving educators and children:

    "During this dreadful war, millions of boys and girls have lost their fathers and their homes. I do not believe that this war would have come if the grown people of Europe had been taught when they were boys and girls that God has put us here to conquer the earth, and not to conquer men; to create and not destroy beautiful and useful things; to love each other and not to hate each other; to save human life, and not to slay human life.

    "Full of this belief, several thousand of us met at the San Diego Exposition recently, where we buried the arms of war and planted the olive symbol of peace. Each boy and girl present promised to make the earth produce at least one plant and to care for and to love that plant as their symbol of peace and happiness. . .

    ". . .We ask you boys and girls to begin the new year of 1917 by gathering together in schools or other public places, there to bury the symbols of hate and war, as we did in San Diego. . .

    "May I not hope that each of you will plant your flower of love on Christmas day and bury the arms of war with the new year's advent?. . .

    "If each child is encouraged to grow a plant and if this plant is made to serve as a symbol to the child of our main work in life and that when we destroy anything that is good, or useful, or beautiful that we are breaking the true law of life a first step is made toward universal peace.

    "Is it possible to promote a permanent peace among nations while the individuals who make up the nations strive and hate and seek to destroy each other?  It may be possible, but it certainly would be made much easier if as children they are taught that the true way to make the world a better place to live in is to work with and for each other to get out of earth all there is in it.

    ". . .I hope soon to see an army of Garden Soldiers in America greater in numbers than the armies that are fighting the battles of hate and destruction in Europe."

    "But I don't think it right that young men should be trained as soldiers to kill their brothers."
—Mary Pickford in the title role of STELLA MARIS (1918) as she observes soldiers marching on a crusade for civilization.

    "Brass bands and clanging sabres make very fine music, but let us remember there is another side of war. After all, does war ever settle any question? The South was ruined thousands of lives were sacrificed-by the Civil War; yet, did it really settle the Black and White problem in this country?"
—From the foreword to D.W. Griffith's HEARTS OF THE WORLD (1918).

J'ACCUSE (1919)    "If these letters reach anyone, I hope they will find fruit in an honest heart--that they will find someone who will realize the appalling crime of those responsible for this war."
—From an actual letter by a soldier quoted in Abel Gance's 1919 silent production, J'ACCUSE, a drama about the devastating effects of World War I.

    "The Yellow Man holds a great dream to take the glorious message of peace to the barbarous Anglo-Saxons, sons of turmoil and strife."

    "The Yellow Man more than ever convinced that the great nations across the sea need the lessons of the gentle Buddha."
—D.W. Grfffith's description of the mission of the Chinese Buddhist hero (Richard Barthelmess) to the warring west in BROKEN BLOSSOMS (1919)

"Two generations have come into the world informed that as soon as they reach a reasonable age--there will be war."
—Tchernoff the prophet (Nigel de Brulier) on the outbreak of World War I in Rex Ingram's THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE (1921).

    "In the enemy's land they too are singing and shouting as they wave their flag--believing they are also right and that God rules for them."
—Tchernoff in THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE.

    "You do not know what war is! I have just come from it--it is like a wild beast whose breath scorches and withers humanity!"
—Marcel Desnoyers (Josef Swickard) to his son Julio (Rudolph Valentino) in THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE.

    "Oh frightful trend of awful dreams,What shall fiends next contrive? An open grave--and as it seems men stand in it--alive."
—Title describing the trenches in THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE."

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Introduction copyright ©1991, 1998-2001 by William M. Drew.  All rights reserved.
 

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