1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
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Mike Gebert

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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostMon Jun 10, 2013 3:12 pm

I think TB Is the main cause of what Mad Magazine called, in its parody of Love Story, "Old Movie Disease," distinguished by the patient becoming more beautiful as she expired. (There was a certain romanticization of TB in that patients tended to get sort of neurasthenically delicate. Which I guess you would fetishize when there was nothing else you could do about it.) I assume that any movie in which the heroine expires romantically and longingly while becoming lovelier than ever— like, say, Joan Fontaine in The Constant Nymph or, uh, Joan Fontaine in Letter From an Unknown Woman— was basically implying consumption aka TB. Maybe I forget other diagnosis like the "weak heart" which would also be consistent with expiring longingly and romantically, but that sort of thing. But you can see why nobody especially wanted to depict, say, cholera realistically on screen.
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostMon Jun 10, 2013 3:13 pm

Danny Burk wrote:
Frederica wrote:Were there any classic films where the subject (or a secondary subject) was an epidemic?


Yellow Fever in JEZEBEL


Ooh, that's right, yes--boy, some swelling violins there. The epidemic as redemption opportunity.
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostMon Jun 10, 2013 3:16 pm

Frederica wrote:Were there any classic films where the subject (or a secondary subject) was an epidemic?

Do marabunta count?
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostMon Jun 10, 2013 3:22 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:But you can see why nobody especially wanted to depict, say, cholera realistically on screen.


As I vaguely recall, the epidemic in The Rains Came is either cholera or typhus--one of those bad sanitation diseases--but all we see of it is some understated perspiring, filmy gauze bed curtains, and nurses waving fans.
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostMon Jun 10, 2013 3:26 pm

gathering wrote:
Frederica wrote:Were there any classic films where the subject (or a secondary subject) was an epidemic?

Do marabunta count?


MARABUNTA!!! Do rampaging ants count as an epidemic? But now you've given me a great excuse to watch The Naked Jungle again! MARABUNTA!!!
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostMon Jun 10, 2013 3:32 pm

Twas the mention of Jezebel that made me think of it. I don't know why. Relentless, creeping menace, I guess.

Must go now and read better things....
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostMon Jun 10, 2013 3:34 pm

Daniel Eagan wrote:Not sure if this is answering anything. It's an interesting topic. How quickly can movies respond to cultural trends?

I do love "Pale Horse Pale Rider."


Ummm, sometimes it seems that movies respond to cultural trends instantly, and other times they seem to completely miss the boat. You know as much as I do, kemosabe.
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostMon Jun 10, 2013 3:45 pm

Stage managing death comes up in a great essay by Vladimir Nabokov where he says that there are three things every successful play must have: a doctor, a pistol, and French doors. His logic is, any modern (ie, post-Ibsen) play is about disillusionment. Disillusionment must end in suicide. But how to do suicide on stage? Hanging or poison run too high a chance of becoming comically grotesque on stage. No, the only efficient way to off yourself is to grab the pistol (which, as Chekhov pointed out, must go off in the third act by its very existence), go out the French doors into the nearest woods or cherry orchard, and then offstage: pow! The doctor of course is there in the cast to pronounce you dead with authoritative finality ("He's dead, Jim"). Nabokov acknowledges that there are other endings but avers that they merely demonstrate that the playwright in question had fallen short of perfection.
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostMon Jun 10, 2013 3:53 pm

The mother in Timothy's Quest dies really fast from something. The hags in the kitchen note that she was just fine the week before but now Flossy's "cashed it in." Influenza? Doesn't seem there'd be a fast death from TB or any of the sexually transmitted diseases and especially without obvious symptoms.....
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostMon Jun 10, 2013 4:08 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:Stage managing death comes up in a great essay by Vladimir Nabokov where he says that there are three things every successful play must have: a doctor, a pistol, and French doors. His logic is, any modern (ie, post-Ibsen) play is about disillusionment. Disillusionment must end in suicide. But how to do suicide on stage? Hanging or poison run too high a chance of becoming comically grotesque on stage. No, the only efficient way to off yourself is to grab the pistol (which, as Chekhov pointed out, must go off in the third act by its very existence), go out the French doors into the nearest woods or cherry orchard, and then offstage: pow! The doctor of course is there in the cast to pronounce you dead with authoritative finality ("He's dead, Jim"). Nabokov acknowledges that there are other endings but avers that they merely demonstrate that the playwright in question had fallen short of perfection.


Jeez, those Russians. What an upbeat, cheerful lot they are.
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostMon Jun 10, 2013 4:52 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:... I assume that any movie in which the heroine expires romantically and longingly while becoming lovelier than ever— like, say, Joan Fontaine in The Constant Nymph or, uh, Joan Fontaine in Letter From an Unknown Woman— was basically implying consumption aka TB. Maybe I forget other diagnosis like the "weak heart" which would also be consistent with expiring longingly and romantically...


Always assumed E. B. Browning had suffered from a weak heart, but Wiki suggests her chronic ailment may have been a genetic disorder. Nevertheless, she died "beautifully":

"Browning said that she died "smilingly, happily, and with a face like a girl's. … Her last word was—… 'Beautiful'".

(Wish I'd seen how Norma Shearer handled this terminal scene, but--though I adore her in almost every other film--I've never been able to watch this picture all the way through to its sorrowful conclusion.)
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostMon Jun 10, 2013 5:12 pm

Scarlet fever in "Little Women" killed off Beth. Wikipedia sez "...silent versions released in 1917 with Minna Grey and 1918 with Dorothy Bernard.[2][3]"
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostMon Jun 10, 2013 7:58 pm

A while back in this thread the question came up about the shock effect of the pandemic. "The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History" by John Barry is a good place to pull some shock. Here are a few:
The lowest estimate of the pandemic's worldwide death toll was thought to be twenty million at the time and epidemiologists today estimate at least fifty million. The flu wiped out entire Eskimo villages and South Sea island populations. It struck primarily healthy adults between 25 and 35 years of age. And it stuck fast. It was not unheard of for a person to report having a headache before leaving work and not make it home alive.
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostTue Jun 11, 2013 6:49 am

I think creating silent feature films of the pandemic would have been considersed in bad taste. Undoubtedly there would have been dozens of news reels about it and some probably still exist, though it's not the type of thing for commercial DVD release.

If someone had a made a film about 9/11 immediately in the aftermath, it undoubtedly would have been considered distatasteful. These days every body wants to every thing in a rush, but in the case of 9/11 movies we still had to wait a respectful 5 years and even then, we only got two.

Given the higher degree of manners almost a century ago , it's not surprising nobody touched the subject in the silent film era. By the time the silent era had ended, they had the depression. Then there was World War II. It's no surprise that the pamdemic got lost in the shuffle.

However, the pandemicdoes have some modern coverage. It was central in 1918, the third part of Horton Foote's The Story of a Marraige trilogy that originally appeared on American Playhouse.
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostTue Jun 11, 2013 7:30 am

Most recently, Downtown Abbey had an arc about the pandemic. Several household members are stricken.
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostTue Jun 11, 2013 9:07 am

Dana wrote:A while back in this thread the question came up about the shock effect of the pandemic. "The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History" by John Barry is a good place to pull some shock. Here are a few:
The lowest estimate of the pandemic's worldwide death toll was thought to be twenty million at the time and epidemiologists today estimate at least fifty million. The flu wiped out entire Eskimo villages and South Sea island populations. It struck primarily healthy adults between 25 and 35 years of age. And it stuck fast. It was not unheard of for a person to report having a headache before leaving work and not make it home alive.


I have read Barry's book and a few others, it's been a while though--I remember liking it quite a bit. John Kelly draws some interesting comparisons in is book The Great Mortality between the Spanish Flu epidemic and the Black Plague...although I have some issues with Kelly's mortality estimates, but whatever. The mortality figures were higher during the Flu epidemic, but as a percentage of the total population the figures weren't even close, nor were there much in the way of social and economic changes in the aftermath of the flu. Those systems changed radically after the Black Plague.

Shock there definitely was after the Plague, that's writ large in all the records, but it isn't after the epidemic. The responses I've read indicate a bit of ptsd-level exhaustion, but also awareness that death from illness was a normal occurrence, even in large numbers and even for very young people. It's an awareness we lack because we've had access to antibiotics for several generations and we have good public health systems. (Although, we may want to rev up the hibernating awareness, given the antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria cropping up lately .)

So again, just for discussion's sake, I wonder if we're not projecting our own profound shock regarding the Epidemic onto the people who lived through it. In the grand scheme of things it didn't take place that long ago.
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostTue Jun 11, 2013 9:17 am

Some thing I read said that Americans were basically spared a lot of detail about the deaths from the pandemic because its start overlapped with the conclusion of WW I, and the US and most European countries were still reeling from the deaths and destruction caused by the war. News of the pandemic was often suppressed in war-torn countries but was freely reported in neutral Spain, which is why it was called "Spanish Influenza," because it seemed to be at its worst in Spain. Ironic.

What is truly frightening about the pandemic is that it was truly global.
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostWed Jun 12, 2013 2:18 am

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is possibly an interesting example of the public's reaction to events of 1918. WWI ended in November 1918. Yet the flu epidemic which had receded in the summer returned in September 1918 with a greater "killing power" than the first wave of the pandemic. No one knew what caused it or where it came from, or when it would return again. Simultaneous outbreaks occurred in India, Africa, New Zealand, and the United States and continued across the globe into 1919. Even after it receded, it was thought that it might return.

Normally after a war there is slight lull in war-related books and films because people have had enough, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was published in the United States in December 1918 and was an immediate bestseller, it was the number one bestseller for 1919 and it remained on the best seller list for 15 months despite the $2.00 price tag. It is reputed that Metro paid Ibanez $200,000 for the film rights. Why? Because this not just a war story -- its very title refers to Biblical prophecy and the end of the world when God sends forth the Four Horsemen:
The first horseman -- Conquest....
The second horseman -- War.....
The third horseman -- Pestilence...
and the fourth horseman -- Death.

Not only were people reeling from a four-year war they've got a plague worse than the black death killing millions. The whole world was living in fear, they probably did think it was the end of the world.
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostWed Jun 12, 2013 8:44 am

forgottenvisions wrote:The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is possibly an interesting example of the public's reaction to events of 1918. WWI ended in November 1918. Yet the flu epidemic which had receded in the summer returned in September 1918 with a greater "killing power" than the first wave of the pandemic. No one knew what caused it or where it came from, or when it would return again. Simultaneous outbreaks occurred in India, Africa, New Zealand, and the United States and continued across the globe into 1919. Even after it receded, it was thought that it might return.

Normally after a war there is slight lull in war-related books and films because people have had enough, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was published in the United States in December 1918 and was an immediate bestseller, it was the number one bestseller for 1919 and it remained on the best seller list for 15 months despite the $2.00 price tag. It is reputed that Metro paid Ibanez $200,000 for the film rights. Why? Because this not just a war story -- its very title refers to Biblical prophecy and the end of the world when God sends forth the Four Horsemen:
The first horseman -- Conquest....
The second horseman -- War.....
The third horseman -- Pestilence...
and the fourth horseman -- Death.

Not only were people reeling from a four-year war they've got a plague worse than the black death killing millions. The whole world was living in fear, they probably did think it was the end of the world.


I don't know if FH is the best example to use. Publishing history is a bit iffy, but it was translated from Spanish into French in 1917, and not published in the English language until December of 1918. It was written before the pandemic.

When you say "they probably did think it was the end of the world"--what are you basing that on? What we've all been exploring here is that there isn't much contemporary artistic response to the flu, at least not the response we expect. The war generated literature and film all over the place but the flu didn't.

I did an oral history recording with my grandfather years ago. We discussed the war, he had not been called up because he already had a wife and children at that time. In the middle of the conversation he remarked, "I had the flu." And that was it, that's all he said, no indication of horror or shock or fear at all. We spent more time talking about Minor League baseball.
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostWed Jun 12, 2013 9:38 am

My family, both my father's in Missouri and my mother's in Boston, lost over 10 members. My paternal grandfather and my mother both lost a brother and sister (mom wasn't born till '26). I remember growing up listening to relatives talk about "the flu". It was a big part of their lives. It wasn't till years later that I learned about the epidemic in school and connected it to the flu my relatives had talked about.
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostWed Jun 12, 2013 9:41 am

Jim Reid wrote:My family, both my father's in Missouri and my mother's in Boston, lost over 10 members. My paternal grandfather and my mother both lost a brother and sister (mom wasn't born till '26). I remember growing up listening to relatives talk about "the flu". It was a big part of their lives. It wasn't till years later that I learned about the epidemic in school and connected it to the flu my relatives had talked about.


That might be the difference--my grandfather is the only family member I can remember even mentioning the flu, and none of my relatives died of it.
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostWed Jun 12, 2013 10:09 am

Frederica wrote:When you say "they probably did think it was the end of the world"--what are you basing that on?


Well, possibly (though of course I can't speak for her), a mature experience of life, the world, and human beings--that judgment usually referred to as "common sense"...which, because it can't be referenced by a footnote, you apparently have no use for.

Some 40 yrs ago I was shot in the guts--pretty traumatic at the time; however, it's an event that rarely crosses my mind today, and (though I remember every detail vividly) arouses no strong emotion when I reflect on it now. Is it not possible that your grandfather's recollection of the flu was similarly dulled?
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostWed Jun 12, 2013 10:49 am

entredeuxguerres wrote:
Frederica wrote:When you say "they probably did think it was the end of the world"--what are you basing that on?


Well, possibly (though of course I can't speak for her), a mature experience of life, the world, and human beings--that judgment usually referred to as "common sense"...which, because it can't be referenced by a footnote, you apparently have no use for.

Some 40 yrs ago I was shot in the guts--pretty traumatic at the time; however, it's an event that rarely crosses my mind today, and (though I remember every detail vividly) arouses no strong emotion when I reflect on it now. Is it not possible that your grandfather's recollection of the flu was similarly dulled?


I'm sorry, when you're talking about acceptable historical methodology and practice, you don't reference "common sense," or "a mature experience of life," because they are both subjective. Those vary from person to person, from culture to culture, and from era to era. And yes, I do want to see references, citations, studies, or at least a vague attempt to study the issue in something beyond anecdotal terms. It is actually a question in which I've been long interested, but I've never seen a serious attempt to respond to the questions.

And no, that was not the reason for my grandfather's lack of interest in his own case of flu. But thank you so much for your standard condescension.
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostWed Jun 12, 2013 11:32 am

Frederica wrote: ...But thank you so much for your standard condescension.


You're so very welcome! (Plenty more of it is available, reserved all for you.)
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostWed Jun 12, 2013 11:43 am

entredeuxguerres wrote:
Frederica wrote: ...But thank you so much for your standard condescension.


You're so very welcome! (Plenty more of it is available, reserved all for you.)


Don't sell yourself short, you're successful at being snotty on a broad spectrum. It doesn't actually add very much to the conversation or encourage engagement, information sharing, or discussion, but perhaps none of those results were your goal.
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostWed Jun 12, 2013 2:35 pm

Frederica wrote:Don't sell yourself short, you're successful at being snotty on a broad spectrum. It doesn't actually add very much to the conversation or encourage engagement, information sharing, or discussion, but perhaps none of those results were your goal.


No, indeed; provoking little miss know-it-all was my goal; seems I succeeded.
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostWed Jun 12, 2013 2:37 pm

Frederica wrote:
drednm wrote:This could be interesting

http://www.scribd.com/doc/66595728/Hova ... AND-MEMORY" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank

but I'm not paying to read it.....


I'll see if I can get it.


So far no luck, but the same writer has also written this:

Of Bodies, Families, and Communities: Refiguring the 1918 Influenza Pandemic.
Hovanec, Caroline1
Literature & Medicine. Spring 2010, Vol. 29 Issue 1, p161-181. 21p.

*ESSAYS
*INFLUENZA Epidemic, 1918-1919
PALE Horse, Pale Rider (Short story)
THEY Came Like Swallows (Book)
DOCTOR'S Son, The (Short story)

An essay is presented which explores the writings about the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic. The short novel "Pale Horse, Pale Rider" by Katherine Anne Porter contains an account of Porter's own illness and recovery during the pandemic. William Maxwell's novel "They Came Like Swallows" dramatizes the effects of the influenza on a Midwestern family. This essay also discusses John O'Hara's short story "The Doctor's Son," which fictionalizes his experiences during the outbreak.
1Ph.D. candidate, Department of English, Vanderbilt University
02789671
67066476
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostWed Jun 12, 2013 3:44 pm

entredeuxguerres wrote:
Frederica wrote:Don't sell yourself short, you're successful at being snotty on a broad spectrum. It doesn't actually add very much to the conversation or encourage engagement, information sharing, or discussion, but perhaps none of those results were your goal.


No, indeed; provoking little miss know-it-all was my goal; seems I succeeded.


AAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! You could have just said "phhhhbbbhththttttttt" and stuck out your tongue.
Fred
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostWed Jun 12, 2013 4:42 pm

Frederica wrote:AAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! You could have just said "phhhhbbbhththttttttt" and stuck out your tongue.


Or, if I really, really, sought to make a fool of myself, I could just have cried (a propos of nothing) MARABUNTA!!! (Repeating it 3 or 4 times for maximum inanity.)
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Re: 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic Effects

PostWed Jun 12, 2013 8:14 pm

entredeuxguerres wrote:Or, if I really, really, sought to make a fool of myself, I could just have cried (a propos of nothing) MARABUNTA!!! (Repeating it 3 or 4 times for maximum inanity.)

You know nothing, entredeuxguerres.
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