“Mr. Crane’s Vivid Story”
Scene 2 Pawtucket, Rhode Island February, 1898
A Barnum and Bailey-like circus in a New England town. The usual 19th century appeals, Siamese twins, strongmen, etc
Barker #1: Hey, Charlie, howz bizz?
Charlie: Like an elevator in Man-hatt-an, my friend. Up and down.
Barker #1: Say, aint that Chang and Chang, the Siamese Twins. And whatta crowd!
Charlie: Cast your eyes yonder and behold the Miracle of the Orient. The Linked Chinks.
Barker#1: So what’s the problem.
Charlie: It’s this damn Vitagraph; I’m going broke.
(Gestures to the tent where a rickety projector is showing a clip of boxing match to a sparse and unenthusiastic audience.)
I thought these wops would take to it. You shoudda seen the first time. They filled the place up like the Pope was gonna wash their damned feet. The machine starts up (pointing to projector).
The fellow takes a swipe (gesture). And the whole damn front row heads for cover. They wouldn’t come back until they could touch the screen with their own hands, like the damned Shroud of Turin. But now the place is as emptier than a bottle of whiskey at a mic’s wake. Moving pictures, my arse!
A newsboy runs past: “Extra, Extra, Maine Blown Up in Cuba. Hundreds Dead. To Hell with Spain!”
Barker #1: What the devil? Charlie, whatz it mean?Charlie: (meditatively) I’ll tell you, my friend. This means war for sure. And you know what were gonna do? Before I just chuck these damned Veet-o-graphs, we are loaden’ them up and headen’ straight for Cuba. When we get back, this crowd will pay a silver dollar to see their boys kill some Spaniards!
To learn more about war films see Filming, faking and propaganda: The origins of the war film, 1897-1902)