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‘Fire, Blood and Steel’: Memory and Spectacle in The Guns of Loos (Sinclair Hill, 1928)

  • Michael Williams

Abstract

The Guns of Loos (Sinclair Hill, 1928, henceforth Loos) is set against the backdrop of the eponymous battle of 1915, as two soldiers, John Grimlaw (Henry Victor) and Clive (Donald Macardle), find their mental and physical fortitude tested on the battlefield. Public and private spheres meet and compete as both men are also fighting to win the affection of Diana (Madeleine Carroll in her screen debut), a Red Cross nurse in England. All this is juxtaposed against the growing tension of a workers’ dispute at Grimlaw’s Steel Works, which now operates as a munitions factory. This chapter explores the ways in which the film’s complex iconography addresses the mythic home/front divide, particularly through the duality of its protagonists, and issues of history, remembrance and modernity as the audiences of 1928 were invited to recall the events of 1915.

Keywords

Adopted Mother Picture Show Uneasy Body Home Front Musical Arrangement 
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Notes

  1. 2.
    Vera Brittain, diary entry for 4 February 1916, in Alan Bishop (ed.), Chronicle of Youth: Vera Brittain’s War Diary 1913–1917 (London: Book Club Associates, 1981), p. 314.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Richard Van Emden and Steve Humphries, All Quiet on the Home Front: An Oral History of Life in Britain during the First World War (London: Headline, 2004), p. 228.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    Edith Nepean, ‘A Stoll Triumph’ (’Round the British Studios’), Picture Show, 26 November 1927, 21.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (London: Penguin, 1969; trans. R. J. Hollingdale), p. 43.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    Pat Barker references this condition in her Regeneration trilogy: see The Eye in the Door (London: Penguin, 1994), p. 134.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    Christopher Isherwood, Lions and Shadows: An Education in the Twenties (1938), pp. 75–6, quoted in Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (London: Oxford University Press, 1975), p. 110.Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    Edith Nepean, ‘Round the British Studios’, Picture Show, 26 November 1927, 21.Google Scholar
  8. 14.
    Christine Gledhill, Reframing British Cinema 1918–1928: Between Restraint and Passion (London: BFI, 2003), p. 15.Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    See Michael Williams, Ivor Novello: Screen Idol (London: BFI, 2003); ‘The Songs Everyone is Singing’, Picture Show, 29 April 1922, 18.Google Scholar
  10. 29.
    ‘Home Fires’ was, incidentally, adopted by the Unionist Party in the General Election of 1923, as it campaigned for the preservation of British wages against cheaper overseas labour. See Sandy Wilson, Ivor (London: Michael Joseph, 1975), p. 27.Google Scholar
  11. 30.
    See Cathy Caruth (ed.), Trauma: Explorations in Memory (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Michael Williams 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Williams

There are no affiliations available

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