Kilts, tanks, and aeroplanes: Scotland, cinema, and the First World War



Archibald D & Velez-Serna MA (2014) Kilts, tanks, and aeroplanes: Scotland, cinema, and the First World War. NECSUS European Journal of Media Studies, 3 (2), pp. 155-175.

This article charts commercial cinema’s role in promoting the war effort in Scotland during the First World War, outlining three aspects of the relationship between cinema and the war as observed in Scottish non-fiction short films produced between 1914 and 1918. The existing practice of local topical filmmaking, made or commissioned by cinema managers, created a particular form of engagement between cinema and war that was substantially different from the national newsreels or official films. The article offers an analysis of surviving short ‘topicals’ produced and exhibited in Scotland, which combine images of local military marches with kilted soldiers and enthusiastic onlookers and were designed to lure the assembled crowds back into the cinema to see themselves onscreen. Synthesising textual analysis with a historical account of the films’ production context, the article examines the films’ reliance on the romanticised militarism of the Highland soldier and the novelty appeal of mobilisation and armament, sidelining the growing industrial unrest and anti-war activities that led to the birth of the term ‘Red Clydeside’. The article then explores how, following the British state’s embracing of film propaganda post-1916, local cinema companies such as Green’s Film Service produced films in direct support of the war effort, for example Patriotic Porkers (1918, for the Ministry of Food). Through their production and exhibition practice exhibitors mediated the international conflict to present it to local audiences as an appealing spectacle, but also mobilised cinema’s position in Scottish communities to advance ideological and practical aspects of the war effort, including recruitment, refugee support, and fundraising.

archives; Attractions; Early Cinema; First World War; Historiography; Local Films; Local Topicals; Militarism; Propaganda; Recruitment; Scotland

NECSUS European Journal of Media Studies: Volume 3, Issue 2

Publication date31/10/2014
PublisherAmsterdam University Press

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Dr Maria Velez Serna

Dr Maria Velez Serna

Lecturer, Communications, Media and Culture