Thursday, March 31, 2016

Paris Under Siege WW1

A collection of archival newspaper articles compiled by Canadian historian Robert J. Young,  reveal civilian war experiences in France during WW1.  Under Siege (2000), charts the population's gradual shift from early hopes for an end to the fighting, to overwhelming desperation and rage at the devastation wrought by the enemy.  I discovered Professor Young's book while researching the experiences of Australian soldiers in France during WW1and the articles paint a grim picture of everyday life for impoverished Parisians who were "miserable, cold, hungry, and unclothed" during the bitter winter months of 1918.

Under Siege by Robert J. Young (Publisher: Berghahn, New York & Oxford)

On another note entirely, my research also unearthed the silent film Seventh Heaven (1927), which shares the story of a Montmartre street waif, Diane, and her 'remarkable' sewer man lover, Chico. Set during WW1, the film powerfully evokes the terrible living conditions and loss of hope experienced by poor Parisians, but there are also many heartwarming moments as the star crossed lovers appeal to the heavens to keep them together. There are exciting street scenes of Parisian soldiers marching off to war, and recreations of trench warfare in the Somme which are lightened by slapstick comedy moments.  Interestingly, Janet Gaynor won the first ever Best Actress Academy Award for her stellar performance as Dianne, an honest and kind-hearted prostitute.  For anyone interested in taking a look, here's the link to this wonderful old movie directed by Frank Borzage, who also won an Academy Award   

Still from Seventh Heaven (1927)