The Spirit of '76 (1917 film)
The Spirit of '76 was a silent film
Silent film
A silent film is a film with no synchronized recorded sound, especially with no spoken dialogue. In silent films for entertainment the dialogue is transmitted through muted gestures, pantomime and title cards...

 directed by Frank Montgomery
Frank Montgomery
Frank Montgomery was an early American silent film director and actor....

 that depicted the early history of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. It is considered a lost film
Lost film
A lost film is a feature film or short film that is no longer known to exist in studio archives, private collections or public archives such as the Library of Congress, where at least one copy of all American films are deposited and catalogued for copyright reasons...

 as no prints are known to survive.


The film was produced by Robert Goldstein (born September 21, 1883), a Jewish immigrant from Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 who owned a costume shop. The Spirit of '76 was considered controversial at the time because of its depiction of the British atrocities during the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

, such as the Wyoming Massacre, which did not fit well with the vast British Empire being now supported by America in a war against the original supporters of American independence which was furthermore squarely against American interest.

The film depicted scenes in which British soldiers committed not just stock character
Stock character
A Stock character is a fictional character based on a common literary or social stereotype. Stock characters rely heavily on cultural types or names for their personality, manner of speech, and other characteristics. In their most general form, stock characters are related to literary archetypes,...

 atrocities—such as killing babies and dragging young women out to a "terrible fate"—but also pure fiction: the film purportedly showed King George III
George III of the United Kingdom
George III was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until the union of these two countries on 1 January 1801, after which he was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death...

 hitting Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

 squarely in the face and also having Catherine Montour as a mistress.

The Spirit of '76 premiered in Chicago in May 1917, just one month after the United States declared war on Germany. The head of Chicago's police censorship board, Metallus Lucullus Cicero Funkhouser, confiscated the film at the behest of Woodrow Wilson's Justice department on the grounds that it generated hostility toward Britain, America's new ally. Goldstein trimmed the offending scenes, got federal approval for the censored version, and resumed the Chicago run. But when the film premiered in Los Angeles a few months later, Goldstein reinserted the deleted scenes concerning British atrocities. This was considered aiding and abetting the German enemy by the U.S. government, which after an investigation, arrested Goldstein.

The film was again seized and Goldstein was charged in federal court with violating the Espionage Act. At trial, the U.S. prosecutor argued that as the World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 effort demanded total Allied support, Goldstein's film was seditious on its face. Goldstein was convicted on charges of attempted incitement to riot and to cause insubordination, disloyalty, and mutiny by U.S. soldiers then in uniform as well as prospective recruits, and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison (The judgment was later upheld by an appellate court). This sentence was later commuted to three years by President Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...



After the war, the film was finally shown as public opinion, after 116,000 young American war dead, had again turned against the British. Robert Goldstein applied for a US passport in 1921 giving his address as the Hotel Astor in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 and his occupation as "clerk". In 1923 he again reapplied for a new passport giving his occupation as "Agent" for "Goldstein & Company"; the company address was his father's home in San Francisco, California
San Francisco, California
San Francisco , officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the financial, cultural, and transportation center of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region of 7.15 million people which includes San Jose and Oakland...

. He may have perished sometime after 1935 during travel in Europe, when he could not raise the $9.00 to renew his American passport and was later taken to a Nazi concentration camp. However, in June and July 2000, Slate
Slate (magazine)
Slate is a US-based English language online current affairs and culture magazine created in 1996 by former New Republic editor Michael Kinsley, initially under the ownership of Microsoft as part of MSN. On 21 December 2004 it was purchased by the Washington Post Company...

published a two-part article "The Unluckiest Man in Movie History" which says Goldstein was expelled from Germany in 1938.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.