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1915 on Film

As a nation steeled itself for a long war, cinemas offered desperately wanted information - and welcome distraction. Find out what Britain watched a century ago.

Despite promises, the War clearly wasn't over by Christmas 1914, so the cinema business dug in for the long haul. Newsreels, comedies, animation and dramas all covered war subjects, though producers made sure audiences could enjoy more escapist fare, too. Meanwhile the still-young feature film continued its inexorable advance.

With 20 million people visiting cinemas each week, exhibitors could have a real impact, recruiting and raising funds - notably for ambulances to go to the Front – and organising community screenings of Roll of Honour films to commemorate local men lost or wounded.

Inevitably, film producers focused on war subjects, and although newsreel cameras were still banned from the fighting, images of allied troops away from the Front were a regular feature of newsreels - and of course the home front was covered extensively.

The war profoundly affected drama too. The first ever version of the Edith Cavell story, Nurse and Martyr, was rushed out only a month after her death at the hands of a German firing squad, and the cinema offered escape through the new long features, which continued to grow in popularity with historical subjects like Jane Shore, a lavish medieval spectacle.

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1915 on Film

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United Kingdom

View Gaumont Graphic No. 440
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United Kingdom

View Frontiersmen Inspected by Sir Francis Lloyd
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United Kingdom

View War Scenes in Italy
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War Scenes in Italy 1915

In Milan's Piazza del Duomo a crowd gathers to hear news of Italy's entry into WWI.

United Kingdom

View Sharps and Flats
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The Bamforth Company translate their saucy seaside postcard humour into film comedy.

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Peaceful Sarajevo and the picturesque Pliva Falls at Jajce

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View The Otter
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View Studdy's War Cartoons
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Animated WWI-era comic highlights from the innovative cartoonist George Studdy, creator of Bonzo the dog.

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