The Sidewalks of New York is a documentary film that begins with the tale of the famous song of the same name, and builds every moment toward the fascinating story behind Governor Al Smith, the most forgotten historical figure in American history. The elections of 1924 and 1928 are featured prominently in the story's second half, and along the way a handful of songs from the same time period are played to portray that, while this film is somewhat about the tune 'The Sidewalks of New York', the other songs do their part to lift up and bring the story home, all joining together to complete one of the most inspiring tales in New York history.
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Today September 6, 2016, I am proud to announce that production began in early 2016 for The Sidewalks of New York, a new documentary that will tell one of the most fascinating stories in New York history. I am thrilled to be able to shed light on such an interesting tale, and to allow people to discover several long forgotten historical figures.
It's important to remember that even in this digital age, one cannot find everything online. So much history is still locked away in the attics of homes and basements of museums. And sometimes, as with The Sidewalks of New York, there's an incredible story available to anyone with an internet connection, but it's in pieces. An article here. A photo there. An address in an old directory. History is much more than meets the eye. We just need to spend some time looking.
The Sidewalks of New York takes the bold step of being a documentary without interviews, instead opting for a sweeping presentation with a beautiful soundtrack. I am completing all research and opinion gathering, spanning century-old sources including books, newspapers, magazines, city directories, census records, photographs and films, many of which will appear in the film. These sources will provide the legitimacy and trust that audiences usually receive from interviews.
I was inspired to create this film after watching the entirety of New York: A Documentary Film, created by Ric Burns and Steeplechase Films. With the advent of today's incredible technology and access to information, no longer do documentaries necessarily require multiple crew members and even slightly sizable budgets, nor must the documentaries be restricted to the unwritten rules of the past. We can create films that are singular, representing only the vision of the one creator. It’s exciting that now, for the first time in history, anyone can create a documentary and show it to the world for free.
In the past, free films often had the stigma as likely being free for a reason. The tools so readily available to today's creators provide the ability to reach the world with amazing tales. And time spent on a project can often equal a great level of quality storytelling. I hope I am able to accomplish this with The Sidewalks of New York.
The film comes in at about an hour long, shorter than most documentaries but certainly longer than most online videos. Instead of editing down to a shorter running time to sacrifice moments in history and satisfy a very broad audience, my thought process has always been to not let that be a factor. I make this film for those who love New York history, and it’s directed, written and edited so that it moves quickly with a variety of strong and eye-opening moments, and overall is hopefully an enjoyable experience.
The teaser for The Sidewalks of New York is set to release soon, and a release date for the film's YouTube debut will be announced the same day. Visit jordanliles.com, follow Jordan Liles Films and subscribe on YouTube.
The Charlie Chaplin speech from The Great Dictator is far from his only interesting moment, and there’s so much more to his movies and his life including the fact that he was chased through Santa Barbara by the press after he and Oona O’Neill received their marriage license.
There was no time for a Charlie Chaplin speech at the Santa Barbara Courthouse in 1943 as he and Oona quickly fled from the press, and of all the Charlie Chaplin movies shown 71 years later in the same courtyard, the choice was made to screen Modern Times for the public on August 22, 2014.
Charlie Chaplin began his movie career in 1914, the same year that marked the beginning of World War I. He wrote this in his autobiography:
"At the beginning of the First World War, popular opinion was that it would not last more than four months, that the science of modern warfare would take such a ghastly toll of human life that mankind would demand cessation of such barbarism. But we were mistaken. We were caught in an avalanche of mad destruction and brutal slaughter that went on for four years to the bewilderment of humanity."
In 1915 the United States "alleged that it was 'too proud to fight'. This gave the nation its cue for the song I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier." Here's the song with lyrics:
But Chaplin said that the song was no longer popular once the Lusitania was torpedoed and went down in 1915. The United States entered the war in 1917.
"By 1918 America had already launched two Liberty Bond Drives, and now Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and I were requested to open officially the Third Liberty Bond campaign in Washington."
In the same year that the war ended Chaplin was asked to speak publicly with fellow actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks to help promote the buying of Liberty Bonds. While Chaplin (b. 1889) hadn't yet written a serious speech up to this point in his life, his practice of delivery to crowds at railroad stations went ok... sort of. He felt he became "more eloquent and dramatic" with his "confidence growing as the crowd grew smaller and smaller".
After traveling through Washington D.C. where the three actors met with United States President Woodrow Wilson and Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt, Chaplin headed south to speak while Pickford and Fairbanks went up north. Later they concluded the tour with all three meeting and speaking together in New York, pictured at the top of this article.
"The climax of our tour was a final bond drive in New York on Wall Street, outside the sub-Treasury, where Mary, Douglas and I sold more than two million dollars' worth of bonds.
New York was depressing; the ogre of militarism was everywhere. There was no escape from it. America was cast into a matrix of obedience and every thought was secondary to the religion of war. The false buoyancy of military bands along the gloomy canyon of Madison Avenue was also depressing as I heard them from the twelfth storey window of my hotel, crawling along on their way to the Battery to embark overseas."
During the war Chaplin shot more of his comedy films. While he wrote that some criticized him for not participating in the fight, Chaplin said others proclaimed that his "comedies were needed more than his soldiering". Later in 1918, Chaplin was in his room at an athletic club when the news broke that the war ended.
"In the streets below pandemonium broke loose; automobile horns, factory whistles, trumpets began howling and went on all day and night. The world went mad with joy - singing, dancing, embracing, kissing and loving. Peace at last!
Living without a war was like being suddenly released from prison. We had been so drilled and disciplined that for months afterwards we were afraid to be without our registration cards. Nevertheless, the Allies had won - whatever that meant. But they were not sure that they had won the peace. One thing was sure, that civilization as we had known it would never be the same - that era had gone. Gone, too, were its so-called basic decencies - but, then, decency had never been prodigious in any era."
I recommend My Autobiography by Charlie Chaplin for more information on his involvement surrounding World War I, and details from his fascinating life. Also see other articles I've written that are tagged with "Chaplin". And here's some additional reading.
Source: Chaplin, Charles. Charles Chaplin: My Autobiography. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964.